The Earl of Falmouth
was well aware of the disadvantages under which he rose to address the House, after the excellent speeches of other noble Lords who had preceded him, but he was anxious to record his opinion upon a subject of such unprecedented moment. He felt a due respect for the talents of those who had followed the noble Earl at the head of the Treasury, in supporting the Bill; but he did not think they had added anything which ought to induce such an assemblage as he was addressing, to let it go to a second reading. A noble Viscount (Melbourne) seemed to confess, that the difficulty in the way of finding seats for members of the Government was, under such a Bill, insuperable, for he talked of a supplementary measure as the remedy; and here was One of the proofs given by the Government itself, that it would be final! Then a noble Marquis (Lansdown), to whom he had often listened with admiration and instruction, had avoided, with superior skill, the real point at issue—namely, whether anything like such a change was warranted by experience or example. He had told its opponents, indeed, that they had adopted the principle of Reform, and that their supposed projects were mere quackeries; but he had given no authority, from the past or the present, in favour of the Bill, and he had not shown, that his own panacea would cure the alleged evils. Another noble Viscount (Goderich) followed, but he, too, in what might be very good merely as a speech, had made a similar failure, and had been becomingly answered by a reference from his noble friend (Lord Haddington) to the recorded opinions of their joint leader, Mr. Canning. And then came the noble Earl (Radnor), who had closed the debate of the former evening. Having listened to his remarks attentively, he really could not believe they had any other object than to keep the House in good humour, and relieve the tædium of Debate, for they appeared to him to quarrel with each other irreconcileably, though the confusion that prevailed in a part of them, between the moral and the physical, certainly made it somewhat difficult to remember and reply to them. First, he disliked all changes, but this dislike led him to advocate the most sweeping changes ever proposed. 68 Then he was convinced, however, that all things in this world must change; for instance, we must all grow old. Now he (Lord Falmouth) would not contradict that, but he hoped their Lordships were not to be put in another schedule A, and utterly annihilated, merely because they might be growing old. Then the noble Earl said, the Radicals would be satisfied, but in the next breath he told the House, Mr. Hunt would not be satisfied. If he had seen the noble Earl in his place, he should like to have asked him whether he himself was satisfied; for he had said, when the Bill was first brought, forward, "I am a Radical, and nothing but the Vote by Ballot will satisfy me." He would tell the House why the noble Earl would not be satisfied. The noble Earl had written a letter, not long ago, to a Mr. Whittle at Manchester, which he held in his hand as printed in Cobbett's Register. In that letter he said, that he approved of every thing Mr. Cobbett had ever declared upon the subject, and that he had intended to have brought him into Parliament for Downton; that borough of which the noble Earl said, that he himself was the constituent unit, and where he had a part of a ditch that gave a vote. Did he then mean to compliment his friend by making him the Representative of a ditch? But Mr. Cobbett, unfortunately for the noble Earl, had addressed the people of Manchester in print. The noble Earl entirely approved of Mr. Cobbett. How far Mr. Cobbett was satisfied might be seen by that address. The noble Earl advocated the Ballot, yet the noble Earl assured them, that both himself and the Radicals were satisfied with this Bill, which, with all its radicalism, had not gone quite so far as the Vote by Ballot. He could only look upon the noble Earl's speech as one of propitiation towards his noble leader, who some weeks ago had given him a pretty severe lecture, when he distinctly said, he was dissatisfied, and could not be otherwise without the Vote by Ballot. With regard to the speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, he had heard it with astonishment and regret, as containing all that could be urged in favour of the violent and dangerous measure, for which he had confessed that, he more than any other man, was responsible. He never heard a more striking illustration of the difference between an oratorical effort, and that sound reasoning which it ought 69 to contain. That younger politicians, unused to power, should think themselves qualified, when suddenly thrown into office, to write down old Constitutions, and create new ones, or that those who had at once consented to abandon the principles of the deceased lender, towards whom they had professed an almost, filial affection—that these politicians should rash into mere experiments, even upon the most vital subjects, might not be very surprising; but, although he had searched in vain in the mass of debates elsewhere for a single statesmanlike argument to recommend them, he had to the last been unable to persuade himself that the noble Earl too, scholar as he was, historian as he was known to be, would not be able to point out a single example, ancient or modern, of such a constitution as the Bill, if passed, would engender. True it was, that the arguments used elsewhere, had there put on their gawdy gowns; they had been clothed in the language for which the noble Earl was so distinguished, and which might well form a veil impervious to common eyes; but to their Lordships it would not be impenetrable; and he would confidently ask them, whether, when stripped of the eloquence in which his speech had been arrayed, it was not, like all the rest, a speech of unsupported theory, and unproved expediency. Where were his statesmanlike appeals to history for so sudden, so desperate a change? Where were his precedents? In England, in the seventeenth century, or in France, in these our days? In the past or in the present? In the records of nations, or even the opinions of eminent individuals? He had quoted. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox as friends to Reform; but had he ventured to say, that either of those great, men had ever dreamt of such a measure as that? He should have shown, that an assembly exclusively democratic ever did or could work well in conjunction with a Monarchy and an Aristocracy; that the power of the public purse alone in the hands of such an assembly must not inevitably destroy the necessary balance. Had he done so? or, by way of perfecting his admirable invention, did he mean, that that House should share in the control of the public purse? His whole course of reasoning was obviously incompatible with the existence of the British Constitution. He (Lord Falmouth) would say, as you want a republic, in God's name have one, but do not affront the understandings 70 of rational men, by asserting that this Bill is, for the preservation of a system composed of King, Lords, and Commons. America, the darling example of the demagogues, had a Republic about as old as the noble Earl's (Grey) political life. They had in England a Monarchy in its present form (dating from 1688), about three times as old. He would say, choose between them if you please, but as to the anomalies that are so objectionable, recollect, America has also her anomalies. In the American Constitution, before any change could be even proposed, the assent of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress most be obtained, and afterwards it could not be adopted without the concurrence of three-fourths of the federal States. Here, then, was a conservative principle in a pure democracy. The framers of the American Constitution knew well the principle of change to be found in the fickleness of the people, and that violent changes are the greatest of national calamities. Though they preferred a Republic to the Monarchy under which they were smarting, they guarded against entire dependance upon popular feeling; they adopted the principle of settlement, and they did wisely. But what would this Bill do here? Would it settle any thing? would it not unsettle every thing? he was astonished that any man could read it without seeing a principle of mutability in every page of it. What did the Americans themselves say of it? His noble friend (Lord Haddington) had read some passages last evening from an American work, published in July, at Boston, and called, The Prospect of Reform in Europe, proving, that this Bill had either no principle at all, or that it was founded on what had been aptly called the Rule of Three system. Those passages were unanswerable, but if he had gone further he would have found others still more applicable to the question as affecting the Monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Church Establishment. It was a republican book, of no common ability, remarkable for deep observation, and the closest reasoning. He would therefore beg permission to read from it a little further than his noble friend had gone. [The noble Earl then read several passages, which forcibly argued that this Bill would be destructive of the three branches of the Constitution, observing, that the work should be good authority, as coming from an American, so competent in all respects to deal with the 71 subject, and that whilst this American rejoiced at the prospect of Reform in England, he ridiculed the assertions that a Republic must not be the natural and inevitable consequence of passing such a Bill.] It would be useless to comment at length upon the details of the Bill. Like other noble Lords, he should avoid doing so, because it had been clearly demonstrated, both in the preceding debates, and in some of the ablest pamphlets ever written, that the whole was one mass of injustice and inpracticability. The disfranchising clauses it was impossible to justify; but supposing them to be tolerated, there was a striking vice in the enfranchising clauses. Had the noble Earl shewn, that a delegated Representation was ever a part of the Constitution? One of the essential features of ours was, that it was general, but this Bill, if passed, would make it almost entirely local. This was further lost sight of in what he would call the departmental Frenchified provisions; and were they to be duped or frightened into imitating what had produced one continued scene of change, confusion, and misery in revolutionised France? Rather let them profit, whilst it was not yet too late, by her baneful example. The noble Earl had quoted the oases of the Scotch and Irish Unions to justify disfranchisement. He was afraid it was not easy to defend all the details of those great measures, but their sins were perhaps unavoidable; they had consolidated the interests of the British empire most advantageously; and after all, the noble Earl's whole argument on this point went only to justify injustice by injustice. He had referred to our ancient history to shew, that this Bill proposed a return to the old usage of the Constitution; but he did not shew how or when. He could not do so, for he must well know, that when the king, in those times, issued or withdrew his writs, they were often petitioned against by the enfranchised towns; that population and wealth never were the only guides for enfranchisement, and that writs were often granted as favours to individuals. The fact was, that the Constitution, in its present, as he (Lord Falmouth) would assert, enviable form, had its proper date in the events of 1688. Since then it was, that the charters had been held sacred, and, as their Lordships knew, there had been no instance of disfranchisement without a proved delinquency—not delinquency established 72 by the dictum of the noble Earl, but proved at the bar of that House; and if it was not so to be proved, he would ask, what became of the great principle of British law, that all men are to be held innocent until proved to be guilty? As to the franchise being, not property but a trust, he would take it to be a trust; but it was a beneficial trust; and he would ask, whether they were prepared to take every such trust, for instance, the advowsons of church livings, by so arbitrary and unjust a Bill? But then, said the noble Earl, in substance, it is the will of the people, and he had given a history of the period since he entered upon office, by way of proving how calmly and rationally the people had determined upon it. The noble Duke (Wellington) had, to be sure, given rather a different version of this history, and he too would say something upon that head. Were the late returns to Parliament, indeed, the result of calm deliberation? What was the fact? Was not the exercise of the royal prerogative, which the noble Earl advised at such a moment of unprecedented excitement, of all others the least likely to produce the results of calm deliberation? Promises of cheap bread and high pay were held out to a distressed and unemployed populace. The King's name was used, or rather abused, to an extent before unheard of; and the farmers were told, that they should have from the Reform Bill, not a composition or a commutation, but the abolition of tithes. This might not have been authorised by the Government, but it had not been counteracted, or even discouraged, as it ought to have been. He should always think the advice to exercise the royal prerogative at such a moment, the most unjustifiable ever given by any Minister of the Crown. Ostensibly it was to ascertain the feelings of the people, as if that had not been expressed through their Representatives in a constitutional way. Really, by the most industrious excitement, by the Press, by the most inflammatory speeches, coming from men who, with the support of Government, appeared to have its authority; and by all other means that party-spirit could suggest, a popular cry was unnaturally invited and promoted, and the people were thrown into a state of insanity by the most shameful delusions. What was the result? The return of tried, experienced Commoners, who had not only by property 73 the largest, stake in the welfare of the State, but whose known integrity, talents, and long services, were unimpeachable? No! Sir Edward Knatchbull, Sir Thomas Acland, Mr. Bankes, the father of the House of Commons and many others, whose characters could not be raised by any eulogy of his, were rejected; and men more in the situation of pledged delegates than independent. Members were sent up to support so violent a change. Blindly and recklessly had they gone to their work, disfranchising large county-towns against the principles laid down by the Government itself, and refusing to discriminate in the face of all consistency, equity, and reason. But after all, what had been the immense majority of votes in these calm deliberate elections? Was it a third, or a fourth, or a sixth, or an eighth? Would it be believed, that notwithstanding the violence and delusion practised upon the people, the majority in the fourteen counties that had been contested had not been one-twentieth of the aggregate votes. The comparative numbers were 16,280 for, and 17,866 against, the Bill, together 34,146; the majority being about 1/21 of the whole. Upon this fact all comment was unnecessary. Then, was there no re-action? If the last elections were to prove a feeling for the, Bill, were those that bad since taken place of no value against it? Why, every one of the recent elections, Dublin, Weymouth, and others, had gone against it, and the fact would, ere long, be proved beyond a doubt, that the cry for such a Bill as that was not the result of calm deliberation, but of the most unnatural excitement. Then, if the noble Earl had not proved that his Bill was the uninvited, spontaneous desire of the people, was there anything else to justify it? Was it to be found in the exclusion of the commonalty from every preferment to which their talents or their services could entitle them? He saw near him his most respected and learned friend (the Earl of Eldon), whose eminence through a large portion of his admirable and most useful life belied the supposition. He would appeal to the learned Lord (Brougham) on the Woolsack, who, at least, he presumed, would not contradict him in that, appeal; and when he looked to the Right Reverend bench, he was only reminded how superfluous it, was to say one word more on this part of the subject. The vices and grievances of the system had been artfully held 74 up to entrap the honesty of those who were unmindful that nothing human could be perfect; but the principal vice was not in the system, it was in the vanity and presumption of those who lived under it—that vanity which taught men to despise the admirable institutions they enjoyed, and treat the memory and the work of those who had gone before them with the most arrogant, ingratitude. They were trifling with the rich inheritance which their fathers had handed down to them, and like reckless gamblers, were hazarding upon one desperate throw the rich accumulation of their laborious lives. He was one of those who thought it more for the comfort and happiness of mankind, that, Governments, though necessarily imperfect, should be considered as settled, than that the vagaries of theorists, and the wickedness of desperate men, should be let loose upon them to work perpetual change and discontent. But did he not know that the British system of Government was the best that had existed in any age or country? The noble Earl had not even attempted to deny that, and yet would he unsettle it, and with it every thing that constituted its perfection and security. He would ask, was it by such an arbitrary despotic act as that, that his Government intended to promote the interests of freedom? Was it by such legislation as that, they would set an example of honesty to the people? Or was it by such a Bill that, as a part of the State, they would protect and uphold the Protestant Church? The noble Earl had appealed to the right reverend Prelates, as if he would work upon their apprehensions rather than their consciences. He (Lord Falmouth) would not believe, that any of them would support such a measure. His own attachment to the Protestant Church would not be doubted, and even if any of that right reverend bench should be induced to vote for such a Bill, he was convinced it would be from an error of judgment alone; but the right reverend Prelates knew too well the essential connection between the Church Establishment and the balance of power in the State, to be drawn into so fatal a delusion. They could remind him better than he could them of the admirable conduct of the Bishops in the time of James 2nd. The Prelates of that reign gave a tone to the feeling of the people, and taught them to preserve the equipoise of the three estates: not the theoretical 75 equipoise of the noble Earl, but that which had proved its value by the test of practice. They had then shewn, that they would preserve a Constitutional King, they would preserve now a Constitutional House of Commons; they could not, they would not, support that unprincipled Bill. Well might the noble Earl say, that he introduced it with feelings of unusual awe—well might even his powers of language be suspended, as they had been so unusually at the outset of his address. He had indeed taken upon himself a most fearful responsibility. He had said, he would stand or fall by that Bill; and, for the sake of his manly character, it was to be hoped, that this declaration was to be taken in its plain and usual meaning. Such a Bill as that was strangely framed to show his love of liberty. He could not mean to prove his regard for the freedom and independence of that House by the further intentions which had been, no doubt erroneously, attributed to him. A noble Lord had most unhappily given them a foretaste of a Reform Government, by saying that it had discarded patronage. Did the dealing out peerages by wholesale prove, that the noble Earl had scorned to resort to patronage? He had heard nothing so playfully severe upon the noble Earl's (Mulgrave) own friends as that remark, excepting, indeed, the slip of the noble leader himself, when he had talked of bartered peerages. But the noble Earl was to stand or fall by that Bill, and the most charitable wish he (Lord Falmouth) could offer him was, that whether it were passed or rejected, it might not bring him down in sorrow to his grave. There was one part alone of the noble Earl's speech that had his concurrence, and it carried with it conviction, not because it was eloquent, but because it was true. The noble Earl had told them, in language which he would not attempt to imitate, that the House of Peers could not be separated from the people. They were in truth a part of the people, and they could not prove this more strongly than by rejecting that Bill, since, if it passed, it would be destructive of the real interests of the people. For himself, he would say, let them shew him the necessary reforms in the law, and he would support them—let them point out the imperfections of the Church Establishment, and he would support the correction. In both instances he had already done so. Even 76 upon the subject before the House, if a measure were brought in, really founded upon calm deliberation, he would consider it maturely, with the sincere hope that he might find it consistent with the noble Earl's solemn promise to preserve the settled institutions of the country; and with his Majesty's Speech from the Throne, recommending that they should be held inviolate—but he would not vote for the second reading of that Bill—he would not consent to destroy the British Constitution.
The Earl of Rosebery
said, that after the very long discussion which this great question had undergone, not only in that House but elsewhere—after the serious consideration which every reflecting mind had given to it, from the period of its first announcement down to the present moment (and particularly as the House must be nearly exhausted with the debates which had already taken place within those walls relative to it)—he felt that he should be acting in a most unpardonable manner towards their Lordships, if he did not, in entering into the views and feelings which influenced him to support the principle of this measure, or, in other words, to give his vote for the second reading of the Bill, confine his observations within the shortest possible compass. In doing so he must beg leave, in the outset, to state, that he was not originally a friend to a Reform of the Representation in Parliament; and he mentioned this merely to show, that if he had any prejudice to overcome, it was a prejudice against Reform. He had, however, after much reflection, been brought to the irresistible conviction that this measure was called for by the necessity of the times. At this particular period a great and specific measure was called for. His opinion on the question of Parliamentary Reform had been for a long time this—either that Parliament should adopt a certain principle for a gradual but progressive amelioration of the Representation of the people, or, if imperative circumstances arose which rendered it necessary to entertain the whole question, that it should be entertained under the guidance and direction of the Government, and that a full, extensive, satisfactory, and comprehensive measure should be introduced. The opportunity of acting under the first of these principles had been entirely lost, and particularly it had been lost during the period when the late Government held 77 the reins of power. When the dissolution of that Government took place, and when all the circumstances which led to it were considered, he thought that the new Ministers would not have acted with proper respect towards the Crown, nor with good faith towards the public (whose feelings were fixed, and whose minds were agitated on the subject), nor with a due regard to all the great interests of the country (in the prosperity of which, peace, order, and content were the principal constituents), he thought that the advisers of the Crown would not, under such circumstances, have acted fairly to the Crown, or justly to themselves, if they had not introduced a great and comprehensive measure of Reform. He must be allowed to say, and he would say it with the highest respect for the character of the noble Duke who was at the head of the late Government, and with that eternal sense of gratitude which he, in common with all his countrymen, felt for the great services which the noble Duke had rendered to his country, but still he must say, that the noble Duke and his colleagues might be fairly considered to be the real authors of the present plan. By their decision against the improvement of the existing system, they left no alternative but the proposition and adoption of some large measure like that to which they were now hastening. It appeared to him, that those who did not, at the present moment, see the necessity of introducing a great and comprehensive measure of Reform, either did not mark the very great alteration which had taken place in the state of society in this country, or they were ignorant of the best means of effecting the necessary changes in our institutions. Those who described the present measure as one bordering on revolution, seemed to him to judge incorrectly. He was the more inclined to think so when he looked to the sources from which, in these days, revolutions were likely to arise, and had, in some instances, arisen; and he conceived that the course which Ministers had taken was the best that could be devised to avert revolution, and to preserve the constitution of this country. He, however, could assure their Lordships, that he was not a blind supporter of this measure. He was not actuated, in the course which he was taking, by any special confidence which he placed in his Majesty's Government, or by any personal attachment which he might feel towards any of the members of 78 that Government. He would show to their Lordships, if this Bill went into a Committee, that he was prepared to act with the utmost impartiality. He would prove that he was perfectly free from party feeling, by giving his best consideration to the different clauses of the Bill, and by opposing such parts of them as he might deem it necessary to have altered and amended. He had already stated, that he was no blind supporter of this measure because it was introduced by his Majesty's Government; and he had no hesitation in stating, because he never would conceal his opinion from their Lordships, when he rose to address them on any public occasion, that there were parts of this measure which, originally, he wished not to have been there; but he felt that it would now be more injurious to withdraw them than to allow them to remain. There were other parts of the Bill which appeared to him to be susceptible of improvement in the Committee. Therefore it seemed to him to be desirable, that the Bill should be carried one stage further, and then their Lordships would be enabled to see in what respect it might be improved. With regard to the general objects and principles of the Bill, he would say, that unless Ministers had introduced to Parliament a measure, the great outline of which would be to do away with the nomination boroughs, to increase the number of county Members, to give Representatives to the great manufacturing towns, and the new interests which had grown up in the country, to make a considerable alteration in the elective franchise throughout the country, and to effect a decided change in the Representative system of Scotland, they would have deceived the Crown, betrayed the people, and lost that confidence which was now, and he thought justly, reposed in them. That must inevitably have been the effect of their introducing a less comprehensive measure, which would merely irritate, because it would be of a temporary and unsatisfactory nature. To leave such general observations and come to the consideration of the Bill then before their Lordships, and of the most prominent objections that were advanced against it; they might, he thought, be reduced to two, which involved all the others. The first was, that this measure appeared to those who opposed it to be fraught with danger; and next, that it was totally unnecessary. The danger which was principally 79 apprehended as likely to arise out of this Bill was, that it would allow too large a scope to democratic influence in the Constitution, which influence was calculated to overturn the weight that now belonged to rank, station, and property, and which was essential to the well-being of the monarchy. With the view, however, which he took of this Bill, he denied that it was likely to produce any such effect. It was true, that the measure would annihilate the political power now possessed by certain individuals in this country, but it was equally true, that it would leave them in full possession of all the influence which they derived from property; while, at the same time, he maintained that it would bring into beneficial action a vast amount of influence and property, which was either wholly extinguished or overshadowed by the power of which he had spoken. If he thought that this measure would produce the destruction, or even the weakening of the just influence of the aristocracy or landed interests of this country, the maintenance of which he thought essential to the order, stability, and good government of the monarchy, he certainly would not defend it. But he was of opinion, that the aristocracy of England would gain as much influence, if not more, as a body, than they now possessed, by the passing of this measure. They would, by the operation of this Bill, acquire a legitimate influence; whereas the influence which they at present possessed, was enjoyed in a manner disreputable and odious; it was wrong for them to desire to retain it, and it might prove destructive of the peace of the country if they determined to do so. Again, it had been said by a noble Duke, a few nights ago, and the observation was repeated by the noble Earl who had spoken last, that this measure would be the means of changing the other House into an assembly of delegates. If he thought that the Bill was calculated to convert the Representatives of the lower House into a body of delegates, to be chosen in such a manner as must subject them to the sway and influence of every breath of popular clamour, or, as would compel them to be guided on all occasions by particular instructions, he would be the last individual to support such a plan—he would be the last man to argue that such a change would be adapted to the circumstances, and suitable to the situation of the country. But 80 he thought that no such state of things was likely to arise. Looking to the provisions of this Bill, and to the experience which all their Lordships must have had, with reference to those who heretofore had been Representatives of large and populous places, he was led to believe, that neither the provisions of the Bill, nor the experience of those elections, could justify any one in concluding that individuals elected for populous places, either counties or boroughs, must necessarily be placed under the direct control and dominion of those who sent them to Parliament. But when he spoke thus of delegation, he thought that those who opposed the Bill on that ground, did not act fairly or consistently towards themselves. He begged leave to ask, what were the majority of those Members who were elected for nomination boroughs? What were they, generally speaking, but delegates? But there was a great difference between delegation from private nomination, and delegation from populous places. To delegation from private nomination there was this great objection—namely, that the power was not exercised for the furtherance of any public object, however absurd, but for the express purpose, either of obtaining pecuniary benefit, or some other personal advantage, which was of importance to the individual who wielded the power of nomination, and most probably injurious to the community. It was also advanced as a very great objection to this measure, that it was very likely to paralyse the proper influence of the executive Government, and to introduce a system which would do away with all that power which Government now possessed, through the medium of nomination-boroughs. He could not, however, suppose that it would have any such effect. He thought the measure would rather tend to disembarrass the Government, by severing it from a description of influence and power by which it was too frequently assailed, and which Ministers could not always meet in a manner consistent with what they might believe to be their duty on public questions, and with reference to public interest. The next general objection to the plan was, that it was not warranted by the necessity of the case. He was surprised at this objection, and the more so when he found that it was urged by those who belonged to the late Administration, because the necessity must be notorious to them. The necessity 81 was apparent from this fact, that, the late Ministers found it impossible to conduct the Government of the country, in consequence of their refusal to introduce any proposition of Reform to the Legislature. They might now admit, that it would be impossible to carry on the business of the Government without some degree of Reform; they denied that when they were in power, and the consequence was, they were obliged to withdraw from office. Technically, such was not the reason assigned; but he believed that the whole country knew that the Ministers were obliged to retire because they had declared themselves hostile to any sort of Reform. It might now be said, by those who never thought of such a thing before, that it would be well to grant, a certain measure of Reform, but not that Reform which this Bill proposed. Now he was of opinion that before they refused the second reading of this Bill, which involved a negation of its principle—a principle which embraced a specific and comprehensive Reform—he thought before they took that step, their Lordships ought to ascertain, with more precision than they had yet done, what this other system of Reform was. If they did not do so, this danger might be the result of their deliberations, that the public might be led to think, and perhaps some of their Lordships might be led to think, in the absence of specific information on the subject, either that no Reform was intended, or such a Reform as would prove delusive and unsatisfactory. If the present measure were rejected, the public would ask, as he now asked, "What measure do you mean to adopt in the place of it?" If they would not agree to the second reading of this Bill—the principle of which embraced a comprehensive and efficient plan of Reform—if they did not suffer it to go into Committee, where an opportunity would be afforded for the consideration of those alterations which noble Lords might think adviseable—then their Lordships might depend upon it, that whatever opinion might be entertained in that House, there would be but one opinion throughout the kingdom—namely, that their Lordships either meant to do nothing, or meant to propose a measure which would only delude and deceive the country. No one, certainly, could deny the right of their Lordships to negative this Bill: and he was sure that there was not 82 one of their Lordships who would more warmly support every power and privilege which they possessed, than he would, thinking, as he did, that those privileges and that power were given to them for the preservation of the just influence of the Crown—for the security of property—for the maintenance of public peace and order—and for upholding the best, interests of the community. But he confessed, considering the circumstances under which this Bill was introduced to their Lordships, he had some doubt whether they would not be travelling out of the limits assigned to them by the Constitution in rejecting it. He would beg leave to trouble their Lordships with some of his reasons for entertaining that opinion:—In the first place, this was a Bill introduced into Parliament by the Ministers of the Crown, considered to be necessary by the unanimous sentiments of the Cabinet, and of a Cabinet, too, some of whose most influential members had heretofore been opposed to Reform, but who now were only convinced of its necessity by the irrefragable proofs of that necessity which the state of the country afforded. Next, this Bill was sent up to their Lordships by an overwhelming majority of the Commons House of Parliament, and supported by a unanimity of feeling in the country such as no public measure had ever before received. But it was said, that the feeling of the country had undergone a considerable change on this subject. Where, he would ask their Lordships, was the evidence of that change? Was it to be found in the petitions which had poured in to their Lordships from every part of the country—certainly not all in favour, but of which a preponderance so great was in favour, not only of Reform, but of this very plan of Reform, that, and he said it with no disposition to exaggerate, it must be evident to their Lordships, who had seen them presented, left the petitions on the other side in a most miserable minority. Of those petitions which purported to be against the Bill, it was found, when they were examined with more than the attention usually bestowed upon them, that many of them did not pray against the principle of the Bill, but asked their Lordships to do that, which he asked of their Lordships as sincerely as any of the petitioners—namely, to give to the subject before them their most earnest, calm, and deliberate consideration. Was it, then, 83 singular that he should say, that it would certainly be inexpedient, and he ventured to affirm, even travelling out of the limits of those duties which the Constitution had intended their Lordships should perform, that when a measure thus recommended by the Crown—adopted by an immense majority of the House of Commons, to which House alone its enactments related—supported by the almost unanimous wish of the country—they should be the only persons in the State, acting as a body, who opposed its progress? The noble Lords opposite, who had strongly objected to the Bill, seemed to lament chiefly that the Bill should exist—though they could not deny, that the necessity for it did exist, or that, as a remedy, it would not be sufficient to avert the threatened danger. In a constitutional point of view, then, it did appear to him that it would be useless and highly inexpedient for their Lordships to reject this measure. But suppose they rejected the Bill, or (to use the more courteous mode of disposing of it, which its opponents, on second thoughts, had adopted) succeeded in the motion, "that it be read a second time that day six months," did they think that, ere long, another Bill, containing the substance and leading principles of the present measure, would not be passed by Parliament? There was no doubt that it would, but with this deduction from the merit and advantage of it—that it would not give the same content and satisfaction—that it would not stop agitation, or arrest the danger of tumult as effectually as it would do if it now received their Lordships' sanction. This Bill, if it now received the approbation of their Lordships, would put an end at once to all agitation and excitement, and would afford the relief which was required. But all these graces and advantages would be taken away by a tardy, and, as it would appear to a large portion of the community, a reluctant concession. A noble friend of his who spoke on the first night of the Debate—with great sincerity, as he always did, but on that occasion not with his usual acuteness, or with the fairness and candour for which he was distinguished on other occasions—suggested that this measure should be postponed for two years. But, in what he did not consider a fair or candid tone, his noble friend added, that it would not suit Ministers to have it pass now, as they 84 wished to hang up the question for a time for the sake of agitation. Was it, he would ask, fair of his noble friend to taunt Ministers with a desire to keep up agitation for the sake of continuing in power, at the moment when they were using their utmost exertion to pass a measure by which agitation would be set at rest? An appeal had been made to them to discharge their duty as Peers. He, for one, would answer to that appeal, but he thought that in the first instance it became them to consider calmly and seriously what that duty was; and he would ask, could they consider it a duty to reject a measure recommended by the Crown, adopted by an immense majority of the House of Commons, and supported by the general voice of the country? Could it be their duty to say at once that they would not adopt the principle of the measure, or that they would not even inquire how far its provisions might be modified, so as to make it beneficial to the country in the estimation of those who were opposed to much of this Bill, but not to the principle of Reform itself? Was it their duty to reject it, when even by its most determined opponents it was admitted, that it would be impossible to delay much longer the adoption of some measure of Reform? He had given this subject much attention, and was impressed with the necessity of now passing a measure of Reform, and with the advantage of the general provisions of this particular Bill; but, even if he had not so favourable an impression with respect to it, he should still consider it his duty to act in a friendly manner to a measure so introduced, recommended, and supported, and to give it at least the benefit of a fair and impartial examination. He would do that with respect to it which the courtesy of private life would require. Even if he did not approve of much of it, he would act with civility to it. He would not reject it at once, but would so far attend to the wishes of the people whose voices had been raised to recommend it, that he would inquire how far its principle might be improved in the detail, and whether it might not be possible to make it—to change it, if they would—into a measure that would satisfy the wishes of all parties. He would, therefore, even if he were opposed to much of the Bill, give his assent to the second reading. This was all he now called upon their Lordships to do. The vote to which they were about to come would pledge 85 them to no more. They would afterwards inquire how far the principle which they admitted could be modified so as to make the measure in accordance with the feelings of the majority of their Lordships. He could add many other considerations which suggested themselves to him at that moment, but, considering the long discussion that had already taken place, and the great attention with which he had been heard, and for which he begged sincerely to thank their Lordships, he would not now trespass further on their indulgence.
The Earl of Carnarvon
said, that being extremely anxious to hear, if possible, all the grounds and arguments which Government could urge for the important change now proposed—a change so extensive that, with the exception of two parts, it might be well called the formation of a new Constitution—he did intend to wait until all the members of Government in that House had delivered their opinions, for certainly up to that moment he had heard no statesman-like view taken of the question. He did not mean to say, that the speech of his noble friend at the head of the Government, in introducing this Question to the House, was not replete with his accustomed eloquence, and was not distinguished for great talent and ability; but it did not embrace that Statesmanlike view of the case he had looked for—it did not detail to the Mouse, as he had expected it would, the practical evils which required so vast a change, and the practical benefits which might be expected from this Bill, and what would be the general operation of the whole measure. Never, in his experience, had a bill been introduced to that House, of the practical effect of which so little had been said. Why, in a common turnpike-road bill their Lordships might naturally expect to hear something of the state of the road which it was proposed to improve—of the necessity for its repair, and of the advantage that might be derived from its improved condition. Not having heard any thing of this kind with reference to this Bill—not having heard any statement of the practical defects of the present system, and of the manner in which those defects were to be remedied by that which was proposed in its place, he was disposed to wait until all the members of his Majesty's Government in that House had delivered their opinions; but after the discussion had been so much protracted without affording him that opportunity, 86 he was afraid that if he did not then address their Lordships, he should not have sufficient strength to do so at a more advanced stage of the debate. They had, however, gained one step in the discussion, by the speech of the noble Earl who had just sat down. Hitherto they had been given to understand that the question was not, whether it should be Reform or no Reform, but whether the Reform should be that particular plan which this Bill recommended; but now the noble Earl had invited them to consider whether it was the specific plan which ought to be adopted, or whether it might not be modified so as to meet the wishes of their Lordships as well as of the country; in it word, whether they might not make it such a measure as would satisfy the people. Now, unless their Lordships were prepared to come to the conclusion—unless they were prepared to leave the Bill nearly as they found it—would it not be an insult to the people in their present excited state, to say to them, that their Lordships would admit the principle of the Bill in the first instance, but would afterwards so alter it as to make it a totally different measure? Would it not be more fair, and manly, and consistent, to say to the people at, once, that the Bill was such as they could not agree to, than to hold out hopes to them which could not be realized? His noble friend had stated, that their Lordships had a perfect right to reject the measure if they pleased; but he added, that, in doing so they would step out of the limits of that duty assigned to them by the Constitution. And why?—Because, in the first place, the Bill had been recommended by his Majesty's Ministers—by men who had never before agreed upon the Question of Reform, but who, now that they did concur, had a marvellous unanimity; by those who at all times heretofore were strong against each other on this subject, but now, after three short months' deliberation, they were united upon it as one man———— "in unumConsentire omnes et ab uno sidere duci.He did not mean to impute any thing wrong to the members of the Government for agreeing now on points on which they before differed. For some members of the Government he entertained a sincere affection—for all a high respect. All of them were, he believed, actuated by the most patriotic motives in the discharge of 87 their duties to the country. To all, then, he gave full credit for the purest motives. Of his noble friend (Earl Grey) at the head of the Government, he might say, that he had always looked up to him as a man not more distinguished by the splendor of his talents and abilities in public, than by the greatness of his virtues in private life; uniting in himself in both capacities, that manly candour, and that great firmness, which insured him the respect and admiration of all who knew him. He felt it but an act of justice to say this, as he had been accused on a former evening by his noble friend, of some bitterness, in objecting to the Government for mixing up with the question some cavils at points which could make no real difference at either side in the result. He made the objection at the moment, because he felt that his noble friend was only grasping at a straw, to use it for a walkingstick. He repeated, then, that for the members of Government, as individuals, he had the highest respect, but he differed from them on this question of Reform so much, that he could scarcely convey, in words not personally offensive, his objection to their plan, and to the manner in which it was attempted to be forced upon that House and the country. His noble friend who last addressed the House, had put the adoption of the Bill on a footing on which, certainly, he was not prepared to hear it urged. He had put it as a question of courtesy between Gentlemen. This House, his noble friend contended, would not, he was sure, out of regard to civility, reject a Bill which had been recommended by the Crown, adopted by a large majority of the House of Commons, and supported by the general wish of the country. The Bill, he said, was sanctioned by the Crown, and introduced by his Majesty's Government. This was using two phrases to express the same thing. His Majesty was, of course, advised by his Ministers, and the act of the Crown was no more that of the King in this instance, than any other act of the Government in which the name of the King was used. There was no doubt that the recommendation from the Throne was entitled to their calm and most serious deliberation. But were they not giving to the question before them that deliberation? Were they not sitting there day after day, in order to consider the measure with the most serious attention? But his noble friend would have them go 88 beyond this, he would have them sanction the second reading; but for what? Was it that they might now definitively adopt the measure? Yet if that were not likely to be the result of allowing the Bill to be read a second time, would it not, he asked, be deceiving the country with false hopes, to assent for a time to a plan which their Lordships believed could not be adopted without producing the most serious evils, and even subverting the Constitution, and which they must, therefore, ultimately reject? He was disposed to approach the question calmly, and without fear. He said without fear, not that he thought the discussion of the measure was unaccompanied with danger, but because the only way in which the danger could be met or avoided was, by doing their duty honestly but fearlessly. That was the only safe course they could steer. He was ready to admit that the people were in a state of great excitement; but that excitement, and the dangers arising from it, would be doubled and trebled by any concessions made through fear. He would not say that his Majesty's Ministers had used to their Lordships the language of intimidation; but, except their account of the state of excitement and irritation in which the country was placed, he had not heard from them any one reason for the adoption of one of the greatest changes that had ever been made at once in the constitution of a State; and certainly, whether their wish was to intimidate others or to show that they themselves were afraid, the only note he heard from them on this occasion was the note of fear. But if the Government was afraid, their Lordships, he was sure, were not. If there was any danger, they would, he had no doubt, meet it, as the danger had been met in the reign of George 3rd, when Mr. Pitt, by his wise and statesman-like policy, gave a safe direction to the passing frenzy of the people. He approached the discussion without any personal fear, and he spoke on this subject without any feeling of personal interest; for there was not a borough in the United Kingdom of which he could influence the return. He had no interest, therefore, in this question, beyond that which was possessed by every man anxious to uphold those ancient institutions under which the country had so long prospered. He might, perhaps, obtain influence under the new system, though he could acquire none under the old, but that could not make 89 him partial to any violent and sudden change, more particularly a change which would convert our monarchical form of government to a democracy. He had no reason to suppose that the change proposed would be more permanent than many other changes their Lordships had witnessed. Their Lordships had seen abundance of changes in the governments of Europe within a few years. They had had French republics by the score, they had Ligurian, Helvetian, Cisalpine, Transalpine, and other republics of all sorts and denominations, the creations of the day's fancy, and the victims of the morrow's spleen. Each of those republics had more care and more philosophy employed in the construction of their constitution than had been devoted to the clumsy Bill he held in his hand; yet what had become of them? They had all passed away, leaving behind only the bitter recollection and great misery of the people. With the experience which their Lordships had of these frequent changes of government in other countries, and their results, were they now prepared, at so short a notice, at this unusual season, when they were even chided by the petitions of the people for the delay that had already taken place—were they, he asked, prepared to adopt at once this most extensive change in the whole system of the Representation of the country? But this was not the principal ground of his objection to the motion then before them. He objected to the second reading of the Bill, because he had not yet heard any one argument to show that this great change would be productive of any practical advantage to the country. Ministers indeed asked, could there be any necessity for discussing such a question as this in the 19th century? Of what use, then, was the introduction of a measure of this kind if it were not to be discussed? But a year and a half, or two years ago at most, and far into the 19th century, it was well known, and was so declared by members of the present Cabinet, that there was no necessity for Reform, that the question even was considered so much a dead letter that the people would give themselves no trouble about it. The whole of the present excitement then on the subject, had been the growth of the last year and a half, which had been fertile in changes of government in different parts of Europe. Revolution abroad had produced agitation at home. The greatest 90 excitement, if was well known, had been produced in this country from time to time by changes abroad. Any one who remembered the French Revolution as he did, must recollect the excitement it produced in this country. He knew the Whigs of that day, and here he would say, let no man charge him with any change of opinion; he never gave a vote in the Whig Opposition of that, day; he supported the general measure, of Mr. Pitt's government until the rupture of the peace of Amiens, when Lord Grenville made a cooperation with Mr. Fox, and he then joined that party, but he had never made common cause with them on the subject of Reform. Indeed, from that time to the present, it had not been made the watchword of a party, and was considered an open question, on which each man was allowed to exercise his own judgment and form his own opinion For his own part he always thought, that Reform to be useful, ought to be gradual, and when any crises of corruption in boroughs arose, he was disposed to apply a remedy, for in this way alone could Reform be safe. He was, therefore, not prepared to take that sudden and violent leap which was proposed in this Bill. But it was asked by his noble friend who spoke last, and by the noble Marquis (Lansdown) who spoke last night with much ability, what would those noble Lords who opposed the Bill do, what, nostrum were, they ready to supply if this quackery should not be found applicable? But who were those who asked the question? They were his Majesty's Ministers, united for the first time on this question, with an attachment which was ardent because it was new, and who would persuade their Lordships to swallow this love-potion which they had provided, and which had made them so amicable to each other. With no great consistency of argument the noble Lords contended, that because they themselves were agreed upon the plan they proposed, all those who opposed it must also be agreed upon the grounds of their opposition. But why call on the opponents of that Bill for any plan of Reform, when the Ministers themselves would notor could not inform the House of the practical effect of their own plan? That, however, like the details of the plan itself, which were kept a profound secret till the Bill was laid before Parliament, was a mystery that time only was to reveal. 91 When those details first burst upon the ears of the public, it was astounded. Certainly, the present Administration was entitled to whatever praise belonged to being the most close and least communicative which the country had seen in modern times. The details of the Reform Bill were first so well concealed, that no one even got a glimpse of them until they were made known in Parliament. Its practical effects were still a hidden mystery; so was the Budget. These two secrets were so well kept, that no one out of the Cabinet knew of them, and no one in the Cabinet could understand them. And after all this, it was gravely asked of noble Lords who opposed the Bill, whether they had agreed upon any plan of Reform. The noble Lords opposite, indulging in taunts which became them of all men the least, said, that each of the opponents of their Bill must be prepared with a new constitution at an hour's notice, and not only with a new constitution, but also with the same new constitution. Now, with all deference to these noble Lords, this was demanding a little too much from his side of the House. He would put a familiar illustration to their Lordships, to show the absurdity of this demand. He would suppose that his noble friend opposite should have occasion, as no doubt he might have, to engage a new cook, and that, having engaged him, he called his friends around him to dinner, in order that they might favour him with their opinions as to the merits of this new artiste. Suppose that his friends, when called upon for their opinions after dinner, should say, "As you have called upon us to declare frankly our opinions as to the state of your dinner, we feel ourselves bound to tell you, that except a little dish of college pudding, there was not a single dish on your table that we could eat:" would they not then be surprised to hear his noble friend reply to them in this strain, "You are discontented with every dish from which you have eaten, go therefore into my kitchen, and cook me another dinner." Would they not on hearing such a reply say, "If you impose this duty on us, my Lord, give us possession of your kitchen—let us go into it with our own nutmegs and our own spices, and if then we don't provide you with a dinner to your taste, you may then, but not till then, complain of our want of skill and invention?" The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for the Home Department, told 92 their Lordships that this measure was almost too large for one debate. So perhaps it might be: but if that were the case, it was strange that it had never struck the noble Viscount that it was also too large for one Bill. Indeed, it was large enough for a dozen bills; and some of its clauses were, in point of importance, equal in themselves to as many bills. Indeed, one of his objections to this Bill was, that it made a Constitution, and it was quite evident that no Constitution could be made by a Bill. In making that assertion, he wished it to be distinctly understood, that he was no enemy to a Reform made wisely, temperately, and gradually, resting on experience, and defended by reason and analogy. He had been often asked to what extent he would go in such a Reform, To that question he answered, that there was no point at which he would attempt to arrest human improvement; but then he must be convinced that what was proposed to him as an improvement was really an improvement, and when that was done, he would give it his ready and willing assent. Having already assured his noble friend (Earl Grey) that he had always felt for him the strongest regard and affection, he might address himself to some expressions which fell from him on the first night of this Debate. Whether his noble friend alluded to any expressions which fell from him on former occassionsin favour of gradual and progressive Reform, and whether his noble friend included him in the number of the most "diminutive nibblers at bit-by-bit Reform, "he knew not. He had no pretensions to be considered a Statesman, and, therefore, it would be no matter of surprise to him if he were ranked among the small fry of Anti-reformers. This he could say, that there was no degree of diminutiveness that his noble friend could attribute to him that would not, in his opinion, exceed his dimensions; but in compassion to his insignificance, and in order that they might discuss this great question upon something like equal terms, he would prevail upon his noble friend to shrink his greatness, if he could do so without disparagement, for a short time, and, excelling even the notorious conjuror at the Haymarket, let them endeavour to put, not, only one man, but two into the space of a quart bottle. When there, we will argue this great question of Reform, and the merits of the proposed change in our Constitution. Here he could not pretend 93 to raise his nerveless arm against his acknowledged power. He could not affect to compete with his noble friend in this place in eloquence or in argument. To equal him he must, in fact, be the same, since "none but himself can be his parallel; "but he should at least have a better chance if, for a brief space, his noble friend would consent, to reduce himself to his insignificant dimensions, and if they proceeded to moot the point on the footing only of two of the celebrated sages of Lilliput. Nevertheless, when speaking of the high talent of his noble friend, he could not bur recollect with pride the glorious constellation of genius and eloquence with which his noble friend and he were contemporaries in another House of Parliament—a constellation exceeded in number and lustre at no period of the history of any country of the civilized world. There was a Fox, a Pitt, a Wyndham, and a Burke; and he well recollected, that even in their days the noble Earl was always reckoned mighty among the mightiest. He had recently had the good fortune to light upon one of the most eloquent speeches which he had ever read, made in defence of a bit-by-bit Reform, not by Charles Grey, but by Earl Grey, on the 13th of June, 1810, when he brought forward a motion in that House on the state of the nation. His noble friend, after stating to the House that the question of Reform had long engaged his most serious contemplation, proceeded to observe, that, after a lapse of twenty years, he was not inclined to look upon it in all respects precisely in the same light as he had done at an early period of his life, when he pursued his opinions with all that eager hope and sanguine expectation which were so natural to the ardour of youth. His noble friend then said—'Though I am disposed soberly and cautiously to estimate the principles of the Constitution—though, perhaps, I do not see in the same high colouring the extent of the evil sought to be redressed, and am more doubtful as to the strength and certainty of the remedy recommended to be applied;' would to God that his noble friend had still entertained some doubts as to the certainty of the remedy which he was now going to apply to the disease of the Representation! But his noble friend proceeded—'still, after as serious and dispassionate a consideration as I can give, to what I believe the most important question that can employ your Lordships' attention, it 94 is my conscientious opinion, that much good would result from the adoption of the salutary principle of Reform, gradually applied to the correction of those existing abuses, to which the progress of time must have unavoidably given birth; taking especial care that the measures of Reform to be pursued should be marked out by the Constitution itself, and in no case exceed its wholesome limits.'* It appeared from this extract, that when his noble friend exerted the powers of his eloquence to recommend what he considered a judicious Reform, he advised their Lordships to proceed gradually, step-by-step: but new, when his noble friend thought proper to exert his powers of ridicule, he laughed to scorn any plan of Reform that was to be accomplished bit-by-bit. But he was sure that the House would agree with him that a step-by-step Reform, and a bit-by-bit Reform, though they might be different in metaphor, were the same in substance. Again in the same speech, his noble friend said—'I am ready to declare my determination to abide by the sentiments I have before expressed, and that I am now, as I was formerly, the advocate of a temperate, gradual, judicious correction of those defects which time has introduced, and of those abuses in the constitution of the other House of Parliament, which give most scandal to the public, at the same time that they furnish designing men with a pretext for inflaming the minds of the multitude only to mislead them from their true interest. To such a system I am a decided friend: wherever it shall be brought forward, from me it shall receive an anxious and sincere support. But as I never have, so I never will, rest my ideas on salutary Reform on the grounds of theoretic perfection.'† He (the Earl of Carnarvon) had not yet done with this subject. High as was the authority which he had already quoted in favour of his system of bit-by-bit Reform, he had to quote a still higher authority to the same effect. It was no disparagement to the noble Earl to state, that the authority to which he was then going to refer, was higher authority, because, in the first place, it was his own in the maturity of his experience, and the perfection of his talents, and next,* Hansard's Parl. Debates, vol. xvii, p, 559. 560.† Ibid. p. 560.95 that authority was the united authority of the noble Earl himself, and of his political preceptor, Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox, it was well known, had said, that sudden changes could not be beneficial to a State; but that gradual changes might be admitted, and that it was expedient to admit them when they could be adopted with safety. His noble friend, in alluding to this dictum of Mr. Fox, had observed in the same speech—'If, in the political creed of Mr. Fox, there was one article which he held more stedfastly than another, it was, that while a system was practically good he would always abstain from mending it by theories. And never, my Lords,' continued his noble friend, 'can I forget his powerful observations, when in his place in Parliament he stated his conviction of the absolute impossibilty of providing for all the variety of human events, by any previous speculative plans: for, said he, I think that if a number of the wisest, ablest, and most virtuous men that ever adorned and improved human life, were collected together and seated round a table to devise à priori a Constitution, for a State, it is my persuasion, that notwithstanding all their ability and virtue, they would not succeed in adapting a system to the purposes required, but must necessarily leave it to be fitted by great alterations in the practice, and many deviations from the original design.' Beautiful as this passage was, he would not go on with it. ["Hear, hear," and "read on."] If noble Lords wished it, he had no objection to read on. His noble friend on that occasion further said—'This opinion he was wont to illustrate by the familiar but apt example of building a house, which, notwithstanding all the study and consideration previously bestowed upon the plan, was never yet known to supply every want or to provide all the accommodations which, in the subsequent occupation of it, were found to be necessary. Nay, he used to remark, that however fine to look at a regular paper plan might be, no house was so commodious and so habitable as one which was built from time to time, piece-meal, and without any regular design.'* He hoped, that from this time forward the noble Earl would cease to nibble at his (the Earl of Carnarvon's) bit-by-bit Reform, and would be content with his own meal. Again, in the*Hansard's Parl. Debates, vol. xvii, p. 562.96 same speech, his noble friend said—'To those principles of practical Reform, so wisely enforced by that great Statesman, I am determined to adhere; and the acquiescence of your Lordships it is my duty also to solicit, again repeating that the remedy I seek shall be limited by the existing defects, shall be marked by the Constitution itself, and not launch out into any extravagance of theory, which even appearances may recommend." Now if his noble friend adhered to his former principles of practical Reform, we must have a step-by-step Reform, a piecemeal Reform: nay, however much his noble friend disliked it, a bit-by-bit Reform. He did not call upon his noble friend to adhere to those opinions at this crisis; he only quoted them in order that he might stand justified in the eyes of his noble friend, if he could not receive the same degree of intellectual light which had brightened the vision of his noble friend, and which enabled him to discover the folly and absurdity of his former doctrines. The noble Lord who had preceded him had said, that their Lordships ought to go into Committee upon this Bill, unless they wished it to be understood that in voting against the second reading they were deciding the question of Reform or no Reform. But the present was not a resolution recognizing the necessity of Reform, it was a specific plan of Reform, and he begged to remind the noble Lords opposite, that though they had not said they would admit of no amendment in the Committee, they had said that they should not look upon any reform as efficient that did not contain all the principles of this Bill. Unless, then, their Lordships were prepared to alter all the Representation of the country at one fell swoop, they ought not to consent to the second reading, and it would only be a waste of time as well as a public delusion to go into a Committee on this Bill. By agreeing to go into a Committee, they might, from the exultation of the moment, produce illuminations and bonfires in every town and village in the country; but then, when in the Committee they had pulled the Bill to pieces, and deprived it of all its noxious enactments, the disappointment of the people would be proportionably great, and there would be no limits to their indignation—no end to the charges against their Lordships for*Ibid.97 having broken the promises they had solemnly made them. He did not wish to seem to make them any promise; but, he assured their Lordships, that if he thought there was any one class of his fellow-subjects—most of all the poorest class of his fellow-subjects—who had been taught that they should derive great benefit from this Bill, and who believed that opinion, he would support it, if he did not think they were deluded in that opinion. He did not speak in that manner of the noble Earl, for he was fully convinced of his sincerity; but he believed that there were those in every part of the country who supported this measure, and who addressed the people in exposition of this measure, and who assisted in supporting the delusion. He said, that if he did not believe this measure would involve the people in great difficulties and distress, such as have now reduced almost to starvation the emancipated people of Paris and Brussels;—if he did not believe this, but thought that it could be a benefit to them, there was no sacrifice he would not make—hardly any risk he would not run, even to the extent of the two schedules, to gratify them. He had been told by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that, if he, (the Earl of Carnarvon) had been acquainted with the secrets of Ministers, he would have entertained the same sentiments of approbation for this Bill which they entertained. What he wished to know was this—did that noble Lord—did any noble Lord—did the House in general know any thing at present of the plans of the Ministry? Had the Ministry disclosed their secret, or had they still some great mystery to be developed on this subject on the last night of the Debate? When he saw a Bill introduced which altered the right of suffrage in almost every town in the country, he felt himself imperatively called upon to advise their Lordships to get local information respecting every town and county for which they were going to legislate, to ascertain the condition of the constituent body in each and all of those places and districts—to consider whether the mode of arranging that constituent body which was proposed in this Bill was such as was best suited to the interests of each particular place, and to delay proceeding till they had obtained that information. If the Ministers had condescended to lay their views before him, and to ask his opinion, he should have 98 told them that this was a great question, the consideration of which should be approached without delay; but that, as they should lose no time in considering the question—a question as complicated as it was great and full of danger and peril—so they should lose no time in getting information, practical local information, with respect to every one of those great towns and counties, the representative principle of which they proposed to change, and so to arrange the constituent body as to promote in the greatest degree the public interests. This was the advice he should have given to them. Above all, he would say, "You should consider it without delay, but act not with haste, for to act with haste is rashness." He should think that Reform, in the feverish state of excitement in which the revolutions around them had involved the country could not be considered with that calmness which was necessary. He should therefore say to them—before you act,—"Sed motos præstat componere fluctus.He did not know whether they would have attended to him—perhaps not—their old habits, a spirit of restlessness, might have induced them to be deaf to his suggestions; that spirit might have directed them, as indeed it seemed to have done, "to ride the whirlwind," and be directed by "the storm." The noble Earl and his colleagues seemed in truth to have adopted this course—Eurum ad se Zephyrumque vocant.;but when they called the storm, did not seem to consider that they could not send it back to its cavern again, nor did they reflect, that when they wanted a breeze they might get a hurricane, and that when they had fatally evoked the hurricane, and made the tempest fearfully howl about our ears, it would not longer obey them, though it was the creature of their own contrivances. When he said it was their creature and their contrivance, he did not mean that it was their contrivance from any evil or mischievous design, but that they were rash and improvident men, and acted with all the blindness of enthusiasts. It might be said, that it was presumptuous in him to arraign in this manner men of their great and commanding talents. He admitted that they were men of the greatest talents—they had talents enough to overturn any country. Would to God that they had one grain of common sense and common calmness—common integrity 99 he did not mean to say that they had not—and then they would have all that was necessary to save their country. The only hope of the country rested upon the firmness of their Lordships—and that hope was, that their Lordships would give it that breathing time which it required, and to the Ministers, who had no temper left, that temper, which would lead them to consider solemnly the situation in which they stood, and the determination not to render it more desperate for themselves, more dangerous for the people. If their Lordships should reject this measure, because, though it was not bad in parts, its whole was of such an obscure and complicated nature, that its perplexities could not be unravelled without exciting great disappointment in the country, and if the Ministry would then bring forward a plan of Reform less sweeping in its nature, and more temperate, gradual, and judicious, he would not be found in the ranks of their opponents. Ministers might depend upon it that if, instead of indulging in vapouring speeches about standing or falling by this Bill and by no other, they would apply their energies to the formation of a more cautious and more judicious measure, they would be infinitely more certain of success. The noble Marquis, who addressed the House at such length the night before, had amused the House very much by his very eloquent and entertaining speech, and yet he must say, that knowing the great talents and varied information of the noble Marquis, the noble Marquis had much disappointed his expectations. He had been waiting for some time in expectation of hearing an explanation of the reasons why they were to destroy the Constitution of their ancestors at a single blow. He had expected that he should have received that explanation from his friend, the noble Marquis; but no, his noble friend, instead of touching on that subject, proceeded to an examination of the speech of his noble friend near him (Lord Harrowby), and after commencing his observations by a threat that he would refute all his arguments, concluded without refuting one of them. His noble friend had told their Lordships, that his Majesty's Ministers had been bold enough to put to sea, in spite of the dangers and perils with which their voyage was threatened; and he really believed that the noble Marquis was halt seas over, when we poor frightened 100 mariners had only dropped down as far as St. Helen's. The noble Marquis had proposed to set sail in that frail, fatal, Admiralty barge, "built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark," which had been unfortunately capsized in its first expedition. To put to sea, and to embark the Administration, with all its future hopes and fears, on board of that perfidious vessel, was, indeed, a bold project on the part of Ministers. In spite of all the entreaties of their friends, and all the ominous warnings of the wind and weather, they had set sail on their adventurous voyage, determined to cling to that vessel till she sank. He believed that they would cling to her, according to their avowed declaration. Yes; they would cling to her, but not as the royal standard, which made her the envy and admiration of all beholders; they would cling to her, but not as the rudder, which had conducted her victorious in many battles through the broken lines of hostile fleets, and which had steered her repeatedly in safety through winds and storms into the harbour of safety—they would cling to her like barnacles—yes, like barnacles to a vessel, to impede her navigation, until the good ship lingered behind the breeze, though she had formerly been accustomed to run before the storm. Yes, they would cling to her until she sank in depths unfathomable, never to rise—never to float again. But if such should be her destiny, whilst she had on board all the prosperity of her country, would a spectator looking from the shore on her shattered timbers sinking in the troubled elements, which her crew had created, not be forgiven for wishing that she had been placed under a more cautious captain, and kept in till the storm was passed, safe at her ancient moorings at St. Helen's, still bearing aloft in splendor the royal standard. He would not enter into the numerous objections which had been made by his noble friend near him, all which yet remained unanswered; but there was one objection which seemed to him so forcible, that he could not avoid referring to it. The basis of population had been adopted as the criterion, both for disfranchising and enfranchising boroughs. Now the basis of population was no ingredient in the basis of the British Constitution. If Ministers had appealed to property, or to taxation, as a criterion of property, they would have appealed to a principle on which the safety of the 101 country might perhaps have rested. But the principle of population, taken as a basis of a system of Representation, must, as a matter of course, lead to revolution. It was the basis on which the enemies of the Monarchy and the Peerage rested all their hopes of destroying both, by opposing numbers to property. He lamented excessively that Ministers had adopted this basis: by adopting it they had sold themselves to the spirit of discord, and, according to the usual termination of such legendary tales, that spirit was to be their tool and instrument for a session—and they were to be his slaves for ever. With regard to the nomination boroughs, he would frankly avow, that he was no friend to that system; and if any plan could be devised, by which the three orders of the State could be perpetuated in safety without them, he, for one, should be glad to get rid of them. What, however, he objected to was, that Ministers proposed to sweep away all the practical institutions of the country at once, without having any tried and definite measure to propose in their stead. The responsibility of Ministers could not be secured unless there were certain means of their obtaining seats in either House of Parliament. It might be said, that the right of impeachment would still exist. Impeachment never could be applied to an ambitious Minister in the plenitude of his power; but could only be used as an instrument of vengeance against the fallen. Had any of their Lordships read, in the history of any time or country, that an ambitious and able Minister, aiding a usurping power in the Slate which was inconsistent with the liberties of his fellow-subjects, was ever arrested in his career by the fear of death, not to occur in the progress of his acts, but to arrive by the slow and doubtful process of subsequent impeachment? At the same time, it was impossible for the most able Minister and most ill-intentioned man the country ever saw, to do much injury to the country, or materially to trespass on the rights of the people, if he were subject to be daily questioned in Parliament. The noble Earl said, that Ministers who possessed the confidence of the country, would be sure to obtain seats in the House of Commons, by menus of the elastic power of the Constitution. The noble Earl, however, abrogated this elastic power by the Bill, It was by the nomination boroughs alone that the presence of Ministers in Parliament, 102 and, consequently their practical responsibility, were secured. It was not, however, by that alone that the liberties of the country were secured. The liberties of the people had, at all limes, and in all countries, been endangered by men of great ambition and ability, as well out of power as in office. It generally happened, however, in this country, that men of such an aspiring character found their way into she House of Commons. Thus the battle, which in other countries might have desolated the land with blood, was fought bloodlessly in the arena of that House, and the contest became a mere war of words, instead of swords, and of argument and reason instead of muskets and cannon. This provision for the admission into the Legislature of the persons to whom he alluded, existed in our Constitution less by the contrivance of politicians, than by a happy chance. When an ambitious man entered the arena of the House of Commons, he was not fool enough, whatever his opinions might be, to overthrow the theatre of his own display. Since the system had existed, Whig and Tory had united in maintaining the privileges of Parliament, and, by so doing, they had maintained the real liberties of the people. If the abuse of this system could be got rid of by the substitution of a better system, he would give his support to the work. He would, however, resist this Bill, because it went a great deal too far, and because he thought, that it was not beyond the province of the House of Lords to dissent from the House of Commons, and to reject a measure which Ministers had proposed, and the people approved of. Indeed, he thought that it was the peculiar province of the House of Lords to resist precipitate legislation. He did not wish that their Lordships should have and practise the power of permanently opposing the wishes and feelings of the country; but he thought, that time should be allowed for consideration—that the people should not, be hurried from one general election to another—that they should not be tampered with by the delusions (not put forth by Ministers, because he believed them to be honest) which were practised at every general election. A general election was always a period of unusual excitement. He would appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober. He would wish the people to have an opportunity of calmly considering, not whether they deserved 103 Reform (that, he believed, was all which the sober-minded portion of the nation wished for), but whether they would have all the enactments of the Bill involving a change, which put at the hazard of a single cast of the die the very existence of the Constitution. It was in order to afford the people time for consideration, and, if he might be allowed to say so, to give the Ministers themselves an opportunity of cool reflection, if they would avail themselves of it, that he implored their Lordships not to pass the Bill. Upon the subject of nomination boroughs, he would take the liberty of directing the attention of their Lordships to an observation which was made by one of the French Ministers previous to the late disasters in that country. M. Martignac being asked whether he thought the French charter could be much longer maintained, replied, "How can you ask that question;—how is it possible for us to contrive any thing to stand in the place of your close boroughs? and without that being done, it is not possible to carry on the Government." Before their Lordships came to a vote, he would ask them, whether the history of the world afforded any evidence to prove, that a Constitution composed of King, Lords, and Commons, the one voting on its prerogative, the other on their privileges, and the third on their constitutional rights, derived from popular election, could or did co-exist? Did they ever do so in this country? He thought not. If we looked back to our old history, it would be found, that there was a perpetual collision between these powers. At one time, when a vigorous King reigned, he possessed almost absolute power—at another period, when a weak King occupied the throne, he was imprisoned and murdered. Sometimes the Aristocracy were the masters of the country, and individuals of noble families were the setters up and pullers down of kings. To advance a little further into the examination of our own history, when the House of Commons obtained greater power, we found the Monarchy destroyed and Peerage set aside. Up to the time of the Revolution, which used to be called the glorious Revolution, and differed very much from the revolutions which were now frequently occurring around us, there was a constant struggle between prerogative and privilege. Since that period the collision had ceased, and the people had 104 enjoyed real practical liberty. The people were free, and the best proof of that was to be found in the impartial administration of justice. Did any man, who was to be tried by a Jury, now regard what the wish or opinion of the King might be? Such, however, was not the character of our legal tribunals when a Jefferies sat on the Bench. No: they had acquired it only since the much abused system of anomaly had been established. The supporters of the Bill said, that the existing system might be made more perfect. If they could improve it, he would say "in God's name do so;" but not by adopting a plan which appeared specious enough at the first blush of the question, but which, if it should fail, would ruin the country for ever. If their Lordships should adopt only such parts of the plan at first as appeared safe, they would have it in their power to proceed further: in legislation it was easy to proceed, but difficult to turn back———"facilis descensus AverniNoctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis;Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,Hoc opus, hic labor est.With respect to giving the large manufacturing towns, such as Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, and Birmingham, a share in the Representation, he was willing to take that point into serious consideration. As an evidence of his sincerity in this respect he would state, that he had himself witnessed the inconvenience which resulted from those places being without Representatives. He knew, however, that, indirectly, and practically, these large towns enjoyed Representation under the existing system. The progress which they had made in wealth, the great capital and immense population employed in them, compared with similar places in other countries, must satisfy their Lordships that their interests had never been neglected in the present House of Commons. The most theoretical Reformer had never contended, that the manufacturing towns required Representatives because their interests were neglected. His quarrel with the Bill was, not because they enfranchised these places, but because it disfranchised all their wealthy inhabitants. How did it do this? In the first place, the indirect avenues to Representation were closed against them. It would be said, however, that they would obtain direct Representation. 105 But were the supporters of the Bill certain that the three shilling and tenpenny weekly constituency was calculated to afford protection to the capital of the great towns? were they enfranchising the wealth or the poverty of these places? Let the supporters of the Bill consider whether they would not disfranchise and nearly annihilate the wealth and intelligence of those towns?—whether they would not give power, not to the frame-makers, but to the frame-breakers?—whether they would not establish such hot-beds of sedition and violence, as would compel wealth, capital, and talent, to disappear from their present abodes? It was not in the power of legislation to fix capital to any particular place. He might apply to capital, the lines which the poet had penned upon a more agreeable and poetical subject. Capital——"free as air, at sight of human ties,Spreads its light wings and in a moment flies.These were his reasons for hesitating to give power into the hands of those who would expel or destroy the capital from which alone they derived their subsistence, and leave themselves in a state of perfect destitution. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Radnor) said, that the Bill would be a final measure—that the Radicals wished for nothing beyond it. Where the noble Earl had looked for the facts upon which he founded this opinion he knew not; nor did he know whom the noble Earl denominated Radicals. Had the noble Earl read (he thought he might) the address of William Cobbett, to the electoral body which the Bill proposed to create in Manchester? That most able writer (for a most able writer he was for his own purposes) was not likely to address to those whom he expected to become his constituent body, pledges and opinions which he knew would give them offence, and prevent any one from voting for him. Could the language of Revolution be more strongly expressed than it was in that address? Noble Lords said, that when the Bill should be passed, they would oppose the Vote by Ballot. How could they do so? A rising man, who had been brought forward by the Bill, and was to be one of its future supporters in the House of Commons—whose powers of eloquence all who knew must admire—had addressed his opinions to the new constituent body at Leeds, and pledged himself, in opposition to all the pledges of 106 the Government which he supported, which perhaps would not avow his opinions, to support the Vote by Ballot. A member of the Administration, and the leader of the House of Commons, had declared himself an admirer of the Vote by Ballot. Let not Ministers suppose that they had by their wonderful contrivance leaped at once beyond all the expectations of the Reformers, and left the Question of the Vote by Ballot so far behind that it could never overtake them. Let them look to what was going on around them, and they would be soon undeceived. He distrusted the sincerity of those who said, that they would resist further concession, for if they were sincere, they did not possess power to carry their intentions into effect. The three-and-tenpenny and 10l. voters, were precisely the description of persons who, from their being condensed in populous places, and from their being employed in manufacturing towns in similar occupations, were most liable to be improperly excited. They were persons on whom agitators and itinerant orators were most likely to exercise an improper influence. Above all, they were persons who had lately formed themselves into Political Unions and Associations, the very existence of which, for any length of time, he believed to be inconsistent with the existence of any government whatever. These associations had their origin in the political Jacobinical clubs of France at the period of the Revolution in that country, whose blighting influence nipped in the bud the hopes of liberty, and prevented them from blossoming during a period of not less than forty years. Of the danger of these associations their Lordships could entertain no doubt, when they saw the state to which France was at the present moment reduced by even the ghosts of her former clubs. When the great, boon of Emancipation was granted to the Catholics, it was the unanimous opinion of their Lordships, that it was necessary to put down such associations in Ireland, but now it was proposed to give to the great towns a mass of constituency which would throw them into the hands of the Unions, which no steps were taken to put down. Ministers did not even propose to withhold the elective franchise from every man who might be a member of these associations, or had continued one for a certain time. The measure now proposed would lead to a Republic more dreadful than that which 107 had been established in France. That, at least, was one and indivisible; but the first result of the carrying of the Bill would be the Repeal of the Union with Ireland, and the dismemberment of the empire. This great State would be divided in to two several small Republics, which would probably soon become the provinces of some greater Power. Never, while he had a voice to raise in opposition, would he give his consent to a measure so pregnant with mischief. He begged to call the attention of their Lordships to what was called the liberal party in other countries, and would ask, whether it was a war or a peace party? The noble Earl concluded abruptly, saying, that though he had intended to address some further observations to their Lordships, he found that his strength was exhausted, and must therefore sit down.
said, that he was induced to obtrude himself on the attention of the House, with the view of attempting a reply to the very able and powerful speech of the noble Earl who had just addressed the House. He should in some respects differ from the course taken by the noble Earl, for he would attempt to argue the principle of the Bill. With every respect, for the noble Earl, and paying the full tribute of admiration to the talents which he had displayed, he must assert, and before he sat down, the House would be able to judge whether he was justified in making the assertion, that he had left the principle of the Bill untouched. The noble Earl said, that he had reluctantly entered into a discussion in which he was opposed to those for whom he professed strong esteem and regard. The noble Earl had also stated, that he had listened to the arguments in favour of the Bill, with a strong desire to be convinced by them. Had it not been for these direct assertions of the noble Earl, which he was bound to believe, and did believe, he should have supposed, from the tone of severity and the strain of sarcasm which pervaded his speech from the beginning to the end, that the noble Earl's reluctance was not so very strong as he had led the House to imagine that it was, and that something more than a logical difference on the subject had dictated the noble Earl's observations. He really could not recollect one objection which the noble Earl had made to the principle of the Bill. The noble Earl had said, that Ministers were building a new Constitution. He had also said, that 108 the Bill, if carried, was one which would render it impossible for his Majesty's Government to be carried on. These were positions which the noble Earl had adopted and not laid down himself for the first time. They had been, reiterated from the commencement of the discussion up to that moment; and now that the noble Earl had ceased to speak, they remained as they did before he began to speak, resting only on mere assertion. It had been stated of this measure, which had been brought forward by Ministers, and sent up to their Lordships, backed by the authority of the other House of Parliament, that it was founded on fanciful theories, that the grievances which were complained of were ideal, and that the Bill would destroy a system which was working well for all purposes of public utility, and endanger the Constitution of the country. To every one of those assertions he would take upon himself to give a positive denial. He would not rest on his mere denial, but would state further, that the theory which was opposed to the Bill was improper, and at direct variance with the ancient established and acknowledged principles of the Constitution. The persons who complained of injustice being done to them were themselves the usurpers of the power of the realm. He believed that the rejection of this remedial constitutional measure, which had been sent up to their Lordships from the Commons of England, would be attended with dangers not imaginary, remote, or trivial, but immediate, vital, and overwhelming. All considerations personal to himself were lost in the deep and anxious alarm which he felt upon this subject. There had been a degree of personal rancour accompanying the attacks which had been made upon the Bill and its authors, which proved that something more than apprehension for the Constitution influenced the opposition to the measure. Assertions and attacks, such as he alluded to, must not rest upon the authority of those who made them, or on the pertinacity and perseverance with which they were reiterated. They must be tried by the test of reason and argument. There was one circumstance to which he could advert with some degree of pleasure—namely, that the tone originally assumed by the opponents of the Bill had been abandoned. He could not avoid observing, that the opposition to this measure had descended from that high tone which it 109 had assumed at the commencement; and he found that this measure of Parliamentary Reform, which had been at first encountered as an audacious measure of corporation robbery, and as directly tending to overturn the State, was now met by an admission from every person who had spoken from the other side of the House, with one single exception, that Reform, and in some considerable degree, too, was necessary ["no, no."] He certainly thought, that, the only person who had denied that Reform was necessary was a noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Mansfield) ["no, no."] The noble Earl was the only person, of all who had spoken on the subject, that entertained such an opinion ["no, no."] It was, of course, impossible for him to conjecture what was passing in the minds of noble Lords opposite, but among the persons who had taken part in the present debate, or spoken on the presentation of petitions, the noble Earl was the only person who had avowed himself the uncompromising foe to any kind of Reform whatever. The noble Earl to whom he alluded, and of whom he wished to speak with the greatest respect for his talents, had certainly taken a very whimsical course in establishing his position against all Reform, and against this specific measure in particular; for, after joining in the general cry of its tendency to overturn the monarchy, and all the institutions of the State, he proceeded further, and said, that the present measure would have the effect of establishing the Ministers in their places, and that by Reform of Parliament they would be enabled to carry on all their injurious measures against the interests of the country. The first use, said the noble Earl, which Ministers would make of their new power, would be to go to war with Portugal; and the next step to be taken by Ministers was to commit the equal outrage—as he believed it would appear in the estimation of some noble Lords—of not going to war with France. Then the Ministers would proceed to put an end to all the rights of primogeniture, of hereditary property, and, in short, to adopt every one of those measures which were perpetrated in the wildest days of disturbance and folly that ever afflicted the French nation. This really appeared to him to be a sweeping course of objection, and one which he was not quite prepared to follow. He was only prepared to argue this measure of 110 Reform on its own grounds and principles. With the exception of the noble Earl, all the noble Lords who had spoken on the other side of the House, had declared themselves friendly to some degree of Parliamentary Reform ["no, no," from Lord Falmouth.] He really thought that the noble Lord had, in part of the speech which he had delivered that night, ex pressed himself in favour of some kind of Reform; but he found that he was mistaken, and he certainly had no wish to fix on the noble Lord so odious an imputation.
The Earl of Falmouth
explained. He admitted that he had said, that if any bill of Reform was brought into the House, he would endeavour to give it due consideration; but he had said nothing which implied that he thought a measure of Reform necessary.
continued. He said, that it certainly had caused him some surprise to find, that though so many noble Lords had expressed themselves in favour of some measure of Reform—their various tendencies being in different degrees—yet, somehow or other, they all joined in an uniform declaration that they would vote against the present Bill; and they all joined in the uniform cry which had been raised against it, on principles and arguments which equally applied against every kind of Reform. This somewhat abated the confidence he might have been disposed to place in the professions of the noble Lords opposite, and disabled him from drawing those happy auguries from them which he otherwise should have done. One noble Earl, who he regretted most exceedingly was about to divide against this measure, and who had spoken with such powerful ability on the second night of the present debate, had argued this question in away which the noble Earl (Carnarvon) alleged had not been answered by the noble Marquis near him (the Marquis of Lansdown). He certainly thought that the noble Lord was correct in stating that the noble Earl's arguments had not been answered by the noble Marquis; and the reason was perfectly obvious: it was because the noble Earl argued, with a powerful ability to which he could not pretend, not against, but in favour of most of the propositions which the noble Marquis had to contend for. The noble Earl had, in fact, stated, that he would have supported a measure 111 of Reform founded on the destruction of nomination boroughs; he had also admitted the principle of enfranchising large towns, and of enlarging the county Representation, as well as the necessity of some substantial measure of Reform; and he had expressed his regret that some modified measure of that kind had not been introduced by the noble Duke, late at the head of the Administration. The noble Earl went further, and admitted that the particular objections which he had to the machinery of the Bill might be satisfactorily discussed in the Committee ["no, no."] He therefore thought, that after these admissions of the noble Earl, it would have been quite preposterous for the noble Marquis to get up and meet arguments which might tend to induce the House to go into Committee on the Bill. He must say, that the way in which this Bill came before the House did appear to him to entitle it to be received with more courtesy, calmness, and mildness than it had received. He must say, that there never was a set of persons less exposed to the imputation of having intruded themselves on the notice of the public, or of having sought for the situation which had imposed on them the necessity of bringing forward the present measure, than his noble friends behind him. He believed that it could not be out of the recollection of the House and of the country with what a degree of self-devotion those noble persons, session after session, and year after year, sustained the Administration of the noble Duke opposite, and stood by him, as the supporters of those measures which they conceived to be for the public good. He thought their conduct a singular instance of self-devotion, though he admitted that the noble Duke was entitled to their support when he introduced the measure respecting the Roman Catholic claims. The noble Duke on that occasion entitled himself to the lasting and interminable gratitude of the country. He had always entertained that opinion, and he now expressed it with perfect sincerity; and in any observations he should offer, or any reference he should make to words which had fallen from the noble Duke, he hoped that he should not be considered as doing anything inconsistent with a feeling of the greatest respect towards that distinguished individual. In the month of November last, the noble Duke found it necessary to retire from the situation which 112 he then held at the head of the Administration. Undoubtedly, the retirement of the noble Duke was connected with the subject of Parliamentary Reform ["no," from the Duke of Wellington—"Hear," from the Marquis of Londonderry.] He thought that the negative had been uttered in so loud a tone as not to require the echo of the noble Marquis. Fie did not wish to misrepresent what the noble Duke had said; but he understood the noble Duke to have stated, "that it was a great mistake to represent that he had retired from office on account of the question of Parliamentary Reform: he had said no such thing: what he had said was, that finding that he had not the confidence of the House of Commons, and apprehending that if the question of Parliamentary Reform were to be brought forward "—
§ The Duke of Wellington rose to explain what was the statement made by him on the occasion alluded to by the noble Lord. What he had said was, that finding that he did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, he had determined to retire from his Majesty's service, and he fixed on the day on which he retired as the period for offering his resignation to his Majesty, on account of a motion having been made and carried in the House of Commons at that particular time. He had stated plainly, over and over again, that he did not wish that persons being in his Majesty's service, and possessing his Majesty's confidence, should go into the House of Commons not possessing the confidence of the House, and be outvoted on the question of Reform.
was at a loss to know the difference between his statement and that of the noble Duke's.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that the want of confidence of the House of Commons was the cause of his resignation.
knew that it was the want of confidence of the House of Commons; but he understood that that want of confidence was also accompanied with this circumstance—namely, that in consequence of that want of confidence, the noble Duke thought it highly probable that he would be defeated on the question of Parliamentary Reform. ["no, no."] He understood from the statement of the noble Duke, that finding he did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, in consequence of the division on the Civil List, and apprehending 113 that he was liable to be defeated on the question of Reform, he did not choose to expose the Government to that risk.
§ The Duke of Wellington
thought the case was simple enough. He certainly had no intention of resigning until after the division on the Civil List; and fixed on Tuesday morning after the debate as the period of his resignation, because he did not choose to expose the Government or the country to the inconvenience of a discussion on so important a question as Parliamentary Reform, that Government not having at the time the confidence of the House of Commons.
expressed himself satisfied with the statement of the noble Duke, who had given an explanation of certain expressions which he had used, exactly in the way in which he (Lord Plunkett) had meant to state them. He would not say what were the precise words made use of by the noble Duke, but the impression on his mind was, that the noble Duke had resigned his situation in consequence of his apprehension, that not possessing the confidence of the House of Commons he might be liable to be defeated on the question of Parliamentary Reform. What he had stated, he had stated on the authority of the Parliamentary Reports, and he would refer to the same authority for a declaration made by the noble Duke on another occasion. He there learned that the noble Duke took an opportunity of declaring, that "with respect to Reform, he not only was not prepared with any measure of Reform, but that he could not form part of any Administration which would propose that question to the consideration of Parliament." [cries of "no, no."] He really wished, that if he was misrepresenting the noble Duke, noble Lords would allow him to reply to the misrepresentation himself. It was perfectly impossible for any person to proceed with his argument if subject to such repeated interruptions.
§ The Lord Chancellor rose to speak to order. He had been indignantly taken to task, occupying, as he did, the place of Speaker in their Lordships' House, for not interposing with that which he alone had a right to tender—his suggestions and advice—and he now begged leave, for the sake of the order of their Lordships' proceedings, to suggest that there was one, and but one, orderly mode of setting a noble Lord right, if he should 114 misrepresent the sentiments of another noble Lord, either wilfully, which was not to be presumed possible, or from misunderstanding. The only time, according to the strict order of debate in Parliament, for a noble Lord so misrepresented to set himself right, if he chose so to do, was to explain after the speech was closed; but it was the constant and most convenient course, in order to prevent an argument being founded on an involuntary misrepresentation, to allow a slight interruption to be given for the purpose of correcting the error. But then this interruption must have a limit, or the consequence would be, that the greatest confusion would be introduced into their Lordships' proceedings. He was sure that the noble Duke would see the disorder that must arise from these repeated interruptions, and would bear in mind, that a time would arrive for him to explain, after his noble and learned friend had concluded his speech. But it was, above all things, contrary to order, and could not be endured, that for the purpose of setting right a supposed misrepresentation, the by-standers who had not been misrepresented, and who were no parties to the business, should interfere when the principal himself did not choose so to do.
§ The Duke of Wellington
assured the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that he felt the justness of his observations and the necessity of adhering to the orders of the House. He had, however, thought that it would not be improper to correct the noble and learned Lord opposite on a point of fact connected with his retiring from office last year; but he begged to assure the noble and learned Lord, that he might go on without further interruption from him, as he should have an opportunity to set himself, if necessary, right with their Lordships, and he only begged them, therefore, to suspend their judgment with respect to the circumstances which had just been alluded to.
said, that his only wish was, to state clearly and correctly what had fallen from the noble Duke; and it would be much more painful to him to misrepresent the noble Duke, than it need be to the noble Duke himself, What he understood the noble Duke to have said—and the thing was the more strongly fixed in his recollection by having remarked the different language used by the noble Duke in that House, and his right hon. 115 colleague in another place—was, that he was not only not prepared with a measure of Parliamentary Reform, but as long as he held any place in his Majesty's Councils, he must oppose any such measure that might be proposed. As he had just stated, the observations of the noble Duke were fixed in his memory by the different language made use of by a right hon. friend of his, who in another place did at first explicitly state, that certainly the question of Parliamentary Reform had something to do with the resignation of his Majesty's late Ministers; and then went on to say, that the then Cabinet, not being prepared with any measure on the subject, and not wishing, after their defeat on the question of the Civil List, to go out on the question of Reform, accordingly resigned their situations. There was a marked distinction between the expressions of his right hon. friend and those of the noble Duke. His right hon. friend—
§ The Earl of Harrowby rose to order. He said, that it had always been held disorderly to comment on words which had fallen from any Peer in that House; but the noble and learned Lord went further, and proceeded to draw conclusions from a supposed difference between what was said in that House, which he might have heard, and what he imagined was said in another House of Parliament by an individual who was not then present. He was satisfied that the noble and learned Lord would, on reflection, see that this was a mode of commenting, not on the conduct, but on the words of Members of Parliament, which must be attended with the greatest possible inconvenience, and was equally contrary to the rules of both Houses of Parliament. He really trusted that the noble and learned Lord would feel that it was not necessary, in the discussion on the present measure of Reform, to make a detailed comment on words, the authenticity of which it was impossible to ascertain.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
confessed that he did not see any thing disorderly in the noble Lord's referring to the words spoken by a right hon. Gentleman in another place in a former Session of Parliament. Those words were now matter of history: where the noble and learned Lord found them, he knew not; but they were matter of history, and it was the common practice of their Lordships, and of the other House of Parliament, to refer to debates which had 116 taken place in former Parliaments, and argue on particular expressions used in them.
said, he referred to the language used by his right hon. friend, as to a matter of history, He was not going to make an inquiry into the conduct of the noble Duke, or of his right hon. friend, but he wished to point out the difference between their expressions. It appeared to him that a studied mode of expression was adopted by the right hon. Baronet; for he said, that the late Cabinet were not then prepared with a measure of Parliamentary Reform, and Ministers, under those circumstances, having been defeated on the question of the Civil List, and apprehending what might be the result of meeting the House of Commons on the question of Reform, did not choose to encounter the event. Their Lordships would observe, that the right hon. Baronet said, "that the Cabinet were not prepared with a measure of Reform;" while the noble Duke said, "they were not only not prepared with a measure, but that as long as he formed part of his Majesty's Cabinet, he should feel it his duty to oppose any proposition for Reform." The result of this was, that the late Administration was broken up under the impression that in the circumstances in which they were placed, they were not able to meet the question of Parliamentary Reform in the House of Commons. This was the inference which he drew from the declarations made by the late Ministers, and he thought it a very important one. Upon the dissolution of the late Government, the present Administration came into office, avowedly on the principle that some measure of Parliamentary Reform was absolutely necessary; and that the government of the country could not go on without it. This was all he wanted to establish. The noble Duke and his colleagues unanimously resigned office, because they could not meet Parliament in the then state of feeling on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. The head of the Government was determined to oppose all Reform as long as he continued in the Cabinet, but his right hon. colleague only said, that he was not prepared with a measure of Reform. They both, however, resigned, and it did not appear that any measure of Reform, of however modified a nature, had been suggested to their Sovereign, in the possession of whose confidence 117 they at that time stood. Therefore, he had a right to say, that their retirement from office, and the coming in of their successors, were connected with the question of Parliamentary Reform. Was it any ground of attack on his noble friend at the head of the Government, that when called upon by his Sovereign—whom his former servants, he would not say had abandoned, but had declared their inability to serve any longer, to form a Government—he did not refuse to obey that call, and did undertake to carry on in that difficult crisis the public business of the State, on the known and avowed principles on which he had been in the habit of acting? His noble friend had, in the first instance, explained the principles on which he accepted office, and amongst them were, the principles of economy, of non-interference, and, primarily and particularly, of Parliamentary Reform. In consequence of the declarations made by the noble Earl, a measure of Reform was introduced to the consideration of the late Parliament. The noble Lord who had just sat down had said, with respect to Parliamentary Reform, "that the breeze had been fanned into a hurricane by the noble Earl," from whom he was so unwilling to differ. Did the noble Lord conceive that the noble Duke opposite was likely to be moved by such a breeze? He rather inferred from the change of Government, that the breeze had previously assumed the character of a hurricane, and if his noble friend, now at the head of affairs, in endeavouring to allay the hurricane, rode on the whirlwind, he could not be said to be directed by the storm. A measure of Reform, the same in substance and for efficiency of purpose as the one now before their Lordships, was introduced into the late House of Commons. It was there canvassed in all its parts by friends and enemies; it underwent a most severe scrutiny, and the principle was adopted by what he could not call a very large majority, for it was carried by a majority of one only. His Majesty's Ministers afterwards, finding that they were about to be baffled, took his Majesty's pleasure upon the subject, whether, for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of the people, not with respect to that particular measure (but still it so happened that that measure was in the singular position which he had stated), the Parliament should not be dissolved. The people, thus appealed to, expressed their 118 opinions with a degree of assent amounting almost to unanimity, and though the entire subject of Parliamentary Reform had been opened, their opinions applied to that particular measure which had been so rigidly canvassed in Parliament, and they exercised their suffrages so directly in reference to that measure, that their Representatives had been termed delegates. He appealed to those noble Lords who recollected what had passed in the country, whether they ever recollected elections to have been conducted with a greater degree of order and regularity? With respect to Ireland, he was sorry to say, it was difficult to mention at random any period of the history of that country, during which a state of perfect tranquillity might be found; but still there had been no disturbance there since the dissolution, connected with the elections. The same thing might be said with respect to England. He mentioned this circumstance, because attacks had been made in connection with this measure of Reform, not merely on the Government, but also on the people of the country, who had been accused of unfitness to form the basis of free Representation. The elections having been conducted with such tranquillity and propriety, the discussions in the House of Commons having been conducted, on the part of those who introduced this Bill, with as much deliberation as any debate in the history of Parliament, and the Bill having passed, after some amendments, by an overwhelming majority, it certainly did surprise him to hear a noble Baron (Lord Wharncliffe) take upon himself to say, that, after this specific measure had been submitted to Parliament, and the opinion of the people taken on it, when petitions were presented declaring their approbation of this measure, those petitions only meant to convey approval of Reform generally. On what authority the noble Baron made such a statement he did not know; but he was sure that if the petitions referred to any measure, it could be no other than the one before the House. This measure having been brought forward under the sanction of Government, and under the sanction of his Majesty, as implied in his authorizing the Government to propose it, and having passed through the House of Commons, certainly was entitled to be treated with a great degree of courtesy by their Lordships. He did admit that their Lordships were 119 fully entitled to canvass the measure in all its parts, freely and fearlessly, in the exercise of their duty. But although their Lordships were in the exercise of their undoubted privilege in the present circumstances, they were to recollect that they were sitting in judgment on the people of England, and on a subject peculiarly—and so far as any subject that could come before their Lordships could be, exclusively—relating to the privileges of the other House of Parliament. He, therefore, could not too anxiously implore their Lordships to consider well, before they adopted the desperate experiment of rejecting this measure, what were the consequences which might result from that rejection. He was satisfied their Lordships would think, that whatever might be the ultimate fate of the measure, it was entitled to receive the most respectful attention of that House. A good deal of sarcasm had been thrown out in that place against the people of England. He again said, that there had been some smart sarcasms and polished epigrams thrown out against the people of England; the noble Lord opposite had got up a great deal of pointed irony and polished epigram, though he had omitted to touch any real part of the subject, at the expense of the people of England. But he (Lord Plunkett) would say, that that people, whose petitions had been sent up in such numbers to their Lordships, and whose rights were involved in this question, were no light, giddy, and fantastic multitude—no rabble labouring under a temporary delusion, but a great nation, intelligent, moral, instructed, wealthy—a nation as much entitled to respect, and with as many claims to favourable consideration, as any nation in ancient or modern times. Therefore, when noble Lords attacked this measure, and said that if it was carried, it would give the people of England the means of overthrowing the Throne and the Church, and abolishing all our venerable institutions, he would ask those noble Lords, if such were the effects to be apprehended from the measure if it were carried, what would be the effects if it were not carried? But he affirmed that the charge was totally untrue. The people of England had no such objects. They were too sensible to indulge any such rash schemes. But if our institutions were such that they could not be sustained without repressing the just complaints of the people, why, he would say, they were not worth the tax we 120 paid for them. But he again said, that the charge was a libel upon the people of England; it was an attack upon the character of the country, which was as dangerous as it was untrue. Then the matter for their Lordships' consideration was, whether they had reason to think that this was a mere popular burst, which would soon die away, and that all would become calm again in (as a noble Lord said the other night) about two years; that they were consulting the interest, and the tranquillity, and the safety of the country by rejecting this measure; that the Commons House of Parliament, which had passed this Bill by a large majority, was ready to recede from the measure, and that the people of England were disposed to abandon it. If their Lordships rejected the measure, and they got locked in the wheels of the other House of Parliament, so that they could not go on, what would be the consequence? The noble Lord had said that the only consideration for their Lordships was, whether this was or was not a right measure, and that they were not to look at consequences. This was a doctrine almost too monstrous, he should have thought, for a sane man. If the wheels of the Government were to be stopped in the way he had mentioned, how could the Government go on? The noble Baron did not argue the principle of the measure, but he went into the details, and contended that the inconveniences of the measure being certain, their Lordships were bound to shut their eyes against the consequences of rejecting it, and to stand secure amidst the wreck of elements—Should nature's frame in ruins fall,And Chaos o'er the sinking ballResume primeval sway,His courage chance and fate defies,Nor feels the wreck of earth and skiesObstruct his destined way.Those lines of the poet exactly described the feelings and conduct of the noble Lord. But he (Lord Plunkett) would affirm, that they were bound to consider consequences; and he would call the attention of their Lordships to what the consequences would be if they rejected this Bill, under circumstances which would prevent the introduction of a measure of equal efficacy. Where, he would ask their Lordships, were they to look for strength, on the dissolution of the present Government? The noble Duke opposite was one of the first persons to whom the eyes of the public would be directed in 121 such a case. It was with reference to this that he had been so particular in endeavouring to ascertain the exact words used by the noble Duke on a certain occasion. But if the noble Duke was then unable to go on with the government of the country, because at that period he had lost the confidence of the House of Commons, and was apprehensive of what might be the result of that loss of confidence, did the noble Duke conceive that he was now restored to the confidence of the House of Commons, and that he had a better chance now than before of parrying the question of Reform? He (Lord Plunkett) did not think so; and great as might be the misfortune to the country, that the noble Duke should be prevented from carrying on the business of the country, he did not conceive how the noble Duke could join other members of his own party who had declared for partial Reform. As to the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon), the noble Duke could not calculate on him, because he had not got into the kitchen. He would ask their Lordships' whether they seriously thought there was any chance of safety to the country if this measure were rejected? When noble Lords made violent appeals, and called upon the Reverend Bench to attest their solemn appeal to Providence, he hoped they would ask their own conscience, at that retired hour, when the still small voice of nature was heard, and then consider whether they were satisfied with their own conduct, and were convinced they were pursuing a course which was likely to be productive of safety and benefit to their country. Let him (Lord Plunkett) not be accused of offering a threat; it would be presumptuous in him to hold such language. No threats were likely to influence their Lordships; no threats of popular violence or insurrection should have, or ought to have any effect upon the noble Lords in that House. He trusted that any one there would be ready to join heart and hand in giving assistance to the Government of the country, in resisting every thing tending to insurrection. But the danger was, that things might come to such a pass that the Government could not go on—that we should be reduced to a state of utter anarchy. These were questions which noble Lords, who made those appeals to the Reverend Bench, should put to their own minds; for though they might withstand a sudden explosion of popular fury, there was a deeply-seated 122 sense of wrong, ready to burst forth in the hour of danger, which impressed minds of most fortitude with a sense of terror. Many of their Lordships, he thought, might be reconciled to the measure, if he could find arguments to show that it was necessary to the security of the institutions of the country, He should, therefore, in pursuance of the promise he had made, now proceed to call the attention of their Lordships to the nature, of the case before them. What was their Lordships' place in the Constitution? They were invested with noble and high privileges as a branch of the Legislature; they were the hereditary counsellors of the Crown; they were the highest judicial Court of appeal in civil and criminal cases, and, from their character, growing out of their station, rank, and place in the country, they were entitled to the respect and reverence of the country. Their Lordships must not believe that he flattered them, when he assured them, that they stood as high in the opinion of the country as any branch of the Legislature. Then, were any of these high privileges assailed? No; but what they claimed was a share in the Representation of the country. There might be cases in which, for the sake of avoiding mischief, and in discharge of their duty to themselves and to the Crown, they ought to resist the demands of the people. But was this one of those cases? If a struggle took place, could their Lordships resist the right of the people to a full and fair Representation in Parliament? "Do as you would be done by," was a simple and sublime maxim which vindicated its divine origin; "Do as you would be done by," and he would ask their Lordships if the people claimed any of the privileges of the Crown or of the House of Lords, if they interfered with their Lordships' hereditary titles, would their Lordships be disposed to submit quietly to the invasion? Suppose they had got possession of those privileges, and an Act of Parliament was introduced for restoring them to their rightful owners, would their Lordships think themselves fairly treated if the House of Commons, standing on no other plea than their power to do so, threw out the bill? Their Lordships in such a case must submit; but would it be a sincere, a cheerful submission? They would submit, but it would be only because they could not help submitting. Then the two cases ran exactly parallel: the people of England were as much entitled 123 by law to a full and fair Representation in the House of Commons as their Lordships to their seats in that House. The principle contended for by noble Lords was an unintelligible principle it was a claim on the part of an oligarchy—to what? to a right to return a part of the democracy. The principle was wholly unintelligible; and he defied any phrenologist to point out an organ which could comprehend such an anomaly. He did not think that the accidental circumstance of some Members of that House having got possession of a few places in the other House of Parliament, was any reason why their Lordships should consider it unjust to restore them. He had thus got rid of the objection as to any operation of this measure against the privileges of that House. He then came to the rights of the Throne. All knew what the rights of the Throne were. This measure did not interfere with any of the rights of the Throne. He was not aware that any language had been used to deny the rights of the Throne, the prerogative of dissolving Parliament, or calling up to that House those in whose favour it might, think fit to exercise that prerogative. There was no doubt that the King had the right and prerogative of making himself known to his people and erecting a throne in their hearts. He thought that what had been said upon this subject was unconstitutional trash. The King's name was not to be used to impute personal blame and responsibility. The King could do no wrong; but, to say that the King of England, the representative of the House of Brunswick, which had been invited to this country to protect its rights and liberties, had not a right to make himself known to his subjects as their father and protector, was trash. The King of England was not like an eastern monarch; we were not to look at a king as an abstract idea; he was entitled to make himself known, and to show that a King of England could be the father of his people. He had said more than was necessary on this point, because so much had been said respecting the dangers which threatened the rights of the Crown, and history had been resorted to for no other purpose than to pervert facts. Our kings in former times had issued their writs, calling on certain inhabitants of counties to return Members to Parliament, in order to advise the King as to what taxes should be laid on. A right had been 124 given to places to return Members, and other places had ceased to have Representatives. An instance of the latter had not occurred since Richard 2nd, but the former practice continued till a much later period. All this, however, had no concern with the subject, and it was throwing away time to discuss it. But, although the prerogative of the King was not affected by the abolition of nomination boroughs, yet it was said, if the Government could not be carried on without them, what was to be done? He should like to know, how the power of buying and selling seats, and the sellers putting the money in their pockets, could have any bearing on the King's Government. Was it quite certain, that though one set of buyers of boroughs might be well disposed to the Crown, and might combine together for the King's service and the public good, there might not be other combinations not quite so pure? If the King's Government could only be carried on in that, manner, he thought it would be quite as well that the King should carry on his own Government. But it was not necessary for the King's Government. But it was said that these boroughs were not only a necessary protection against the King, but against the people; for, that if the people were fairly and properly represented, the Government could not not go on, and the House of Commons would swallow up all power. This was a most extraordinary doctrine. It came to no more nor less than this—that this was not a Representative Government; and he would ask, if that was a thing to be received by the people of England with acquiescence and satisfaction? Ours was essentially a Representative Government. In such a Government the people had no right to intervene in the duties of the Executive Government; if they did, that would be a democracy; but they had a right to be fully and fairly represented. If the people were altogether excluded, the Government would be an aristocracy; if they regulated the whole government, and interfered with the executive, that would be a democracy. A full and fair Representation of the people, united with an aristocracy and an executive with which the people did not interfere, was the true nature of our government; and one element of that government, without trenching on the others, this Bill restored. It gave a full and fair Representation to the people adapted to 125 the present circumstances of the country. It had been said by noble Lords opposite, that, this was a new Constitution—that Ministers were unmaking the Constitution—and they were indeed doing so, if the doctrine he had referred to was not correct. It was said, that if the people were fairly represented, the King would not be safe on his Throne; but the doctrine was too monstrous to be maintained. It was not at that period of enlarged knowledge and reflection, that, such a doctrine could be promulgated without the danger of arousing in the country, from one end to the other, the deepest excitement. So far from innovation, they were reverting to the old and established, and acknowledged theory of the Constitution, and those who opposed the change were hostile to that established theory. When the noble Earl (Falmouth) called on the Reverend Bench to defend the present system, he called upon Christian prelates to defend a system of hypocrisy; but he (Lord Plunkett) called on that bench, by the same strong and sacred obligations, to join him in supporting that which was the real Constitution. If their theory was the true one, where? was it proved to be so? For it was not one of those truths which lie upon the surface. None of our own writers; some foreigner had discovered it. How the noble Lord had come by it, it was not possible to imagine. Here were gentlemen buying and selling places in Parliament for 5,000l. or 12,000l., which enabled them to come in there, and move on the axis of their own particular interests. They revolved in cycles and epicycles, with more satellites about them than any planet discovered by Gibers or Herschell or any one else; and when it was intended to deprive the favoured inhabitants of A and B of the light of those luminaries, it was supposed that the laws of nature were about to be repealed. These were the men who, in defiance of the King and of the country, would uphold this system for the exclusive benefit of themselves, and oppose a measure which had received the sanction of the House of Commons and of the country. And now one word with respect to the allegations—for to call them arguments would be bitter irony—of noble Lords, founded on the great changes which the Bill, according to them, would introduce into the established institutions of the country. "These institution," say they, "have been framed by our wise and venerated 126 ancestors to last for ever—the country has flourished under their influence, and oh ! beware, you puny moderns, and do not touch with your rash hands what has received the sanction of time, and been formed in the spirit of the wisdom of antiquity." Now let him ask these sapient expounders of the wisdom of our ancestors, whether the world had grown older or younger since our ancestors followed their ancestors to the tomb? To believe these noble Lords, the world was every day growing younger, and the old age of the world was its infancy. With them, groping in the dark was light and wisdom; and experience but another name for youthful ignorance. Indeed, he was sure that if he divided the House on the question, whether the world was not actually younger and less experienced in the year I than in 1831, he was sure that many noble Lords opposite must vote in the affirmative. What, if our ancestors were as blind worshippers of their ancestors as noble Lords, wise in their generation, would fain just now persuade us to be of theirs, was no advantage to be taken of increased knowledge—of increased experience—of the relations of society being better understood because contemplated under a greater variety of aspects? Were circumstances, the growth of time, and change, the growth of both, in the habits of thought and action in the people—and the increased and increasing diffusion of knowledge—and, above all, was time, the great innovator, of no influence? And what was the change? Why, that change should be effected in the machinery of a branch of the Constitution. Pray, what was the history of the Constitution? Were noble Lords who objected to all change, at all read in that history? It should seem not, for otherwise they must know that the history of the Constitution was nothing but the history of its changes, and the English Constitution might be shortly denominated a succession of legislative changes. Such it would be found by any man who went about writing its history. But of all these changes, the most numerous and most extensive—that is, the chapter of the history of change, which would be found to be most various and diversified—would be that of the change of the constitution of Parliament. Why, the very Peerage, as at present constituted, was a change from its original character under our infallible ancestors. Were noble Lords aware that 127 their original right to sit in that House was derived from a species of tenure, of which the whole peerage now contains but one instance—a tenure derived from the possession of certain lands or tenements? If so, must they not admit that their right to sit there, being different from the original one, their actual constitution was a great departure from the wisdom of our ancestors? Was not, he repeated, the whole history of Parliament a history of change? Was not the sweeping away some thirty mitred abbots from that House by Henry 8th, a great change? Then, was not the addition of sixteen Representative Scotch Peers by the Union with Scotland, and of twenty-eight Representative Irish Peers by the Union with Ireland, great changes? the rather as the nature of their tenures of seats in that House were wholly different, not only from that by which the English Peers exercised their functions, but also from each other. The English Peers were hereditary, that is, they sat there by descent and possession; the Scotch Peers sat there by neither descent nor possession, nor for life, but for a single Parliament; while the Irish Peers were elected to sit for life, but, as with their Scotch brethren, not from descent or possession. Look then again at the rotation system of the Irish Bishops, so different from that which regulated the English Bishops, with respect to the right to take a part in the proceedings in that House—in itself a great change from the original constitution of our ancestors. Again, let them consider the numberless changes which had been made in the oaths taken by Members of Parliament since its first constitution, all showing, that the history of the English Constitution was the history of a succession of legislative changes. But, say noble Lords, "This is all very true; but these changes in the Constitution were gradual and imperceptible, while that now proposed by the noble Earl was of unparalleled rapidity." The answer was simple: rapid was a term of degree that was relative to circumstances, and change was a term different in its meaning from restoration. The Bill proposed no change not rendered imperative by circumstances, and only effected the removal of abuses which had been the growth of two centuries. The circumstances which at present justify the change explain the rapidity. But then, again, say noble Lords, "admitting the necessity 128 of some change, and that it should even be a rapid one, why should it be so extensive? Was not such extent fraught with danger to all existing institutions?" His answer was, that the safety was to be found only in the extent of the measure. For mark the reasoning of these noble objectors to an extensive measure of Reform; "We all," say they, "admit the necessity of some measure of Reform; not, be it understood, because we conceive that justice or sound policy recommend it, but because the public demand is so pressing, that, judging by the signs of the times, we cannot help making some concession." Now was it possible for the veriest enemy of the institutions of the country to teach a more dangerous lesson than was contained in this admission? Does it not teach the people, that though nothing would be granted on the score of justice, much would be yielded to importunity? And was this the language befitting a British Statesman? The duty of a statesman worthy of the name was of a far other character. He was not to be merely watching and veering about with every breeze of the popular will, to borrow a metaphorical illustration from the noble Earl, and to merely shape his measures as the popular vane indicated. No, a statesman should take his stand upon an eminence, from which great general principles and lofty views revealed themselves at every step, from which he could, uninfluenced by mere temporary exigencies, clearly see the people's rights and his own duties, and, while seeing them, perform the one by granting the other. From this position he should only descend to counsel and to decide, to see that the people should enjoy their right, and if he found himself capable of effecting this good, he was bound not to await the bidding of the public voice, but to raise the standard of political improvement in the advance of the people. His duty it was, to devise for the wants of the people, to advise them, to moderate them, to be their leader and conductor to freedom and happiness. This was the duty of a statesman, and he who was incapable of it, or who neglected it, however he might win favour with noble Lords so—if we took their own word for it—infallible, disinterested in their judgment, would be held in just contempt by an enlightened posterity. The statesman who had discharged his duties in the manner which he had just glanced at, 129 alone could turn round to the people—in the case supposed by the noble Earl (Harrowby) opposite—and say to them, should they unfortunately be induced by mischievous advisers to exceed the limits of discretion, "I have been no ill-natured spy upon your actions; I have honestly endeavoured to execute the trust confided to me for your benefit. I stand here as your friendly adviser, and tell you, for your own sakes, to arrest yourselves in your progress, and thereby enjoy the blessings which Providence has bestowed upon you." Such an appeal would be irresistible. He felt confident in the good sense of the people of England, and was convinced that such seditious papers as those circulated at a Westminster meeting some years ago would, so far from influencing the people to mischievous ends, recoil upon their promulgators. And now he begged to touch upon one other topic before he sat down. It was an old argument with the opponents of Reform, that the Constitution worked well, and could not be bettered. This was partially true, so far as it applied to many of the institutions of the country—it was false as it applied to the subject matter of the present Bill. It was true, that the Constitution worked well, if by the term was understood the several institutions of the country; it was equally true, that it worked ill so tar as the Representation of the people was concerned. He entirely subscribed to the several panegyrics which had been made upon the practical working of most of our institutions. The laws were sound, and ably administered; the Judges were learned and honest; Juries impartial; Magistrates upright; the Clergy pious and well informed; the finances judiciously managed; and the several offices of State ably filled; but, with all that, the people were not satisfied; the great good was wanting of contented subjects, and they could probably only be made so by receiving that share in the Constitution which was by law assigned them. All these eulogiums, then, had nothing to do with the question before them, which was, whether the people were or were not duly represented? No man pretended to deny that our Representative system required some amendment, so that it could not be said that the "work-well" eulogy could be predicated of it. It was true, that a noble Earl (Carnarvon) opposite maintained that it could, that the representative branch of 130 the Legislature did work well in practice; and he quoted passages from speeches of Mr. Fox and his noble friend (Earl Grey), delivered many years ago, in order to show that they also had been of the same opinion. But the noble Earl strangely overlooked the very important fact, that, the speeches to which he referred as containing eulogies on the British Constitution were actually made for Reform in Parliament, and that these eulogies were a part of the argument for that Reform. It was plain, then, that some of the institutions of the country might be, or they actually were, very good in principle and efficient in practice, while others, the Representative one, might be neither one nor the other. It had been asked, but what, after all, would be gained by this Bill? He answered, that the people would be satisfied, and that hardly a greater benefit could be conferred upon a nation than to remove all sources of dissatisfaction. Need he add, that no dissatisfaction could be more dangerous than that of an enlightened and wealthy people with those who would deny them the means of a pure system of Representation. The truth was, that no argument could be more fallacious than the work-well one, for it would be found that beneficial results had grown up under circumstances of a most baleful nature, to which it would be absurd to attribute them. For example, the Irish Parliament, for thirty or forty years before its gross and scandalous profligacy led to the Act of Union, was a mockery of the very name of Representation, containing as it did 200 Members, over whose election the people of Ireland had as much control as the people of Siberia, and who had no principle but venality, and no occupation but sordid self-aggrandizement; and yet that Parliament, perhaps he should say in spite of it, owing chiefly to the exertions of a band of patriots and orators, of whom Lord Charlemont and Mr. Grattan were the leaders, was instrumental in raising Ireland from barbarism to comparative civilization—from poverty to comparative wealth, and in enabling Ireland to make the most rapid strides towards commercial importance. That profligate Parliament passed wholesome measures with respect to trade—repealed bigotted laws—removed several of the penal disabilities against the Catholics—and yet, surely, not even the noble Marquis (Londonderry), who was so eccentric in his political idiosyncrasies, 131 would venture to say, that the Irish Parliament was a faithful Representation of the people. The Union put an end to that monstrous system of profligacy, and, as completed by the admirable measure of Catholic Emancipation, for which the friends of Ireland never could be too grateful to the noble Duke opposite, had effected much towards improving the Representation of the Irish people. But much remained to be done which only a measure like the present could accomplish. The noble and learned Lord proceeded to observe, that though he had, when early in his political career, raised his voice with vehemence against the measure of the Union, and though he was far from regretting his conduct on that occasion, he, now that the measure had been completed, would resist its repeal to the last moment of his existence. Notwithstanding its monstrous abuses, the Irish Parliament effected some good as, notwithstanding the monstrous absurdity of the present Representation of Scotland the people of that country had advanced in wealth, intelligence, and national prosperity. But would any man deny that the people of Scotland were dissatisfied with their Representative mockery of a system? Could he deny that they would be thrown into a state of frenzy and fury by having their hopes of Reform disappointed? It required no very minute acquaintance with that country to be able to answer the question with confidence; all that was wanting was, a knowledge of the ordinary workings of human nature. That knowledge showed, that the natural result of increased wealth and intelligence was an increased anxiety for the possession of that right without which these advantages lose half their value, namely, political freedom. There were other topics which he was anxious to touch upon, but felt unwilling to trespass longer on their Lordships' attention. [Loud cries of "adjourn," "adjourn," amid which]
§ Earl Grey rose to move, that the Debate be then adjourned till to-morrow. As it would be impossible to finish the debate that night, and as many noble Lords were anxious to express their sentiments, and as he wished himself to say a few words in reply, he thought it would be expedient to stop then for that evening.
§ Lord Wynford
was most anxious to explain his views of the Bill before the debate terminated, and felt disposed to do 132 so then. If, however, the noble Earl would say that their then adjourning would be a matter of personal convenience, he would not resist the Motion, and postpone his statement, which he promised them would be decisive against the Bill, till tomorrow.
§ Earl Grey
did not feel, that he had a right to make his own personal convenience the guide of their proceedings, and was only anxious for the adjournment for the reasons he had stated. They might meet at an earlier hour than usual and continue up to five-o'clock to receive petitions, when the debate might be resumed.
§ Debate adjourned.