The Earl of Shrewsbury
rose, and spoke to the following effect:—It is impossible for me, my Lords, to suffer this stage of so important a measure to pass without making a few observations upon it. Amidst the variety of conflicting arguments which are urged for and against any measure which is brought forward, it is something at least to acknowledge that it is expedient to yield to necessity. The noble Duke opposite, whose opinions must always be received with respect, has acknowledged that principle in a former measure of great and vital importance; and I think, therefore, that he ought to be the last man in your Lordships' House to vote that it is dishonourable or unbecoming in us to yield to agitation. The misfortune is, that agitation, hitherto, has been the sole remedy for the grievances of the people. But, if the noble and gallant Duke opposite yielded to agitation in 1829, so will he do well in yielding to agitation now; and so will every man in your Lordships' House do well in yielding that to agitation which should long since have been conceded to entreaty. But, my 123 Lords, I say that policy and justice combine to sanction the irresistible demands of the people. Agitation is undoubtedly an evil; it is a dangerous means of obtaining justice; and this is the reason why I desire to see the present system altered, and the grievances of the country redressed by the great influence of a real and effective representation of the people. It appears to me, my Lords, that the Constitution of this country has never yet been anything but a beautiful theory, subject to perpetual contradiction in practice. I do not see, so far as I can collect from the history of this nation, that we have ever yet been free from the evils which are incident to other societies and to other forms of Government. We have been perpetually engaged in most wasteful and unjust wars—wars in which the true interests of the country have had but little share, and which have encumbered us with 800,000,000l. of debt. We have been afflicted from time to time with tyranny, with anarchy, with civil war, with rebellion and revolution. We have felt at times commercial embarrassments to a degree unknown in other countries. We have a poor and unemployed population—a population starving in the midst of plenty. Of late years crime has been increased, both in atrocity and in frequency, to an extent beyond all precedent. We know, from the history of the country, that there have been times when the management of public affairs has been marked by the most profligate corruption in every department of the State; and the observation which I am now about to make applies to all periods,—namely, that we have always had a Government supporting itself by patronage, and keeping up a large army of occupation, and a numerous catalogue of useless and burthen some offices. We have seen this system pursued, until the people, driven to desperation by their evils and their sufferings, have risen with one accord, determined to emancipate themselves from a state of oppression which they could endure no longer. We shall now, I trust, see—and, in my opinion, it will be for the first time—we shall see this Constitution, which we have always been too fond of boasting of, become worthy of the praises which are bestowed upon it. This Bill will give it fair play—it will develope all its parts; and, while it calls forth the powers of the different parts, will give a freedom and activity to the 124 whole, producing an energy and activity which have hitherto been unknown, and for ever annihilating that deadly monopoly, created by what I must call—although it is a strong phrase—an oppressive oligarchy which has ruled this country for so many years, and usurped every privilege and every prerogative of the different branches of the State, the independence of the Legislature, and the liberties of the people. This system, my Lords, carries the seeds of dissolution within itself and tends to compromise the existence of your own body. Your extravagance—your disregard of the interests of the country—your absolute tyranny over the people of Ireland—the bitter fruits of which you are now reaping—all these things are exposed in their true light, until, in my opinion, we now stand for judgment before the people. The judgment has been pronounced, and our only hope of pardon is, to sue for it in this act of justice. Pass this Bill, my Lords, and all your power will be restored—not the power which you have hitherto possessed of doing mischief—and the miserable condition of the country affords indisputable proofs of the extent to which you have availed yourselves of that prerogative—but the power of doing good, by co-operating with the people for the benefit of all, and the regeneration of the empire. But if we continue legislating for ourselves alone, seeking to promote our own interests at the expense of the interests of the country, the consequences of that vicious course will recoil upon ourselves. The sooner such Legislation ceases the better. If we wish to preserve our privileges we must proceed upon a good and sound view, and not upon any extravagant ideas of the stable and imperishable nature of those distinctions. We must right the people or the people will right themselves, and this irritating contest in which we have been engaged will have its issue in some dreadful and terrible national disaster. My Lords, after the speech which was made last night by a right reverend Prelate, in opposition to this Bill, I would beg leave to address one word to that portion of the House of which the right reverend Prelate forms a part. If the clergy know their own interest—and it is generally supposed that they do—I am sure that they ought to be the first to stand forward and do their duty to the country and the people. Hitherto they have too often 125 shown themselves indifferent to the public good. They have been but too often the willing agents of every system of tyranny and persecution. They have been the promoters of that extravagance and spoliation with which this country has been afflicted at the hands of ambitious and self-interested men. But, my Lords, the time has now arrived—the opportunity is now come—when it will be seen whether they are capable of appreciating the spirit of the times, and of endeavouring, as far as lies in their power, to remedy the evils which they have had too large a share in producing. I would also take the liberty of addressing a few words to those noble Lords who intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, with a view to bring it into a snare, in which they will be able readily to defeat it. My Lords, it appears to me that it would be much better that they should oppose the Bill in limine—that they should manfully stand forward in support of their own opinions, fight the battle boldly, and desist from that desultory warfare which they are about to wage against the measure; for, I believe that such a course will bring it into a snare from which the Government will not easily be able to extricate it. My Lords, the Minister, be he who he may, must, under the existing circumstances of the country—indeed I may say under all circumstances—he must command a majority in this House, or he has no alternative but to resign. In the present state of things I cannot look at that alternative without alarm; for, my Lords, I think that the resignation of the noble Earl now at the head of his Majesty's Government will not only be the death-blow of all the well-earned fame of a long political life, but in my opinion it will be the signal for anarchy and confusion in the country. The Minister, as I already said, must command a Majority in this House—not, as heretofore, by the interested means of corrupt and ruinous abuse of the public resources—not by keeping up a disproportionate number of offices in the army and navy, with an enormous civil patronage—not by translating a right reverend Prelate from a poorer to a richer see, or by advancing noble Lords from a lower to a higher degree of the Peerage—not by reinforcing this House with every man who has voted for a certain number of years in support of the Minister—not by sinecures or pen- 126 sions, nor by giving large emoluments for small services; but by honestly and steadily pursuing the interests of the country, and suffering themselves to be guided by public opinion; for, in general, public opinion will be seen to be right. If we do not allow him to carry on the Government of the country on these principles, I see no other consequence but that your Lordships' House must be filled with men of different principles. I shall not detain your Lordships much longer. I shall merely express my opinion upon one point. It may be founded on erroneous views, but I will not blink the matter. It appears to me, my Lords, that if the House of Commons be Reformed, this House must also be Reformed, for otherwise there will be a constant collision between the two Houses, and no practical Government can be carried on.
The Earl of Limerick
said, that, of all the extraordinary speeches he had ever heard, he must say the speech made by the noble Earl who had just sat down, was the most extraordinary. He himself had been a sincere friend of Catholic Emancipation, but little had he expected, as one of the first fruits of it to have heard a noble Lord, who occupied a seat in that House in consequence of the passing of that Bill, get up and pronounce a violent phillippic, not only against existing Peers, but also against all Peers who had existed for the last century. The noble Earl had condemned the working of the Constitution as administered by men under whose Government this unfortunate country, England, had arrived at the proudest condition which any country had ever reached. He had arraigned the conduct of England, who stood alone against the world in arms, and asserted her liberty and her independence. The noble Earl said, that we had spent 800,000,000l. of money. But he had omitted to state for what purpose that expense had been incurred. Was it not to preserve England and all Europe from the tyranny of one who otherwise would have reduced the whole into a mere province of his empire? He was rather surprised at one part of the noble Earl's speech. The noble Earl had made use of an unfortunate expression in repeating the word agitation; he had asserted, "That agitation had hitherto been the sole remedy for the grievances of the people." Did the noble Earl, by that expression mean to encourage the present 127 violent proceedings in Ireland? He had been the advocate of emancipation—desirous of setting free the Catholics of Ireland, who made every possible profession—who took oaths and made declarations—who assumed the guise and manner of liberality; and what was now the result? He would venture to assert that there was not one of those oaths, not one of those declarations, which had not been falsified. He lamented, and with sorrow lamented, the course he had pursued on the Catholic Question, and he thought it manly even now to come forward and avow his regret. Ireland was now disturbed by an alarming and well-organized system of intimidation, carried on by a party whose first object was the overthrow of the Established Churches of England and Ireland; for, although the noble Earl (the Earl of Shrewsbury), perhaps, was not aware of it, the two Churches of England and Ireland were knit together, and one could not fall without bringing down the other.
The Earl of Limerick
said, the noble Earl would have an opportunity of explaining hereafter, but he must be aware that when he started such doctrines as he had done with respect to the Established Church, the discussion in which such doctrines were propounded could not easily be carried on with all that moderation which it was admitted was so desirable in discussing the Bill now on the Table. The people of Ireland had other tutors besides the noble Earl, and he hoped they did not act in concert, but the remarks the noble Earl had indulged in coincided very materially with those made use of by such persons as avowed their present object to be, to overturn the Established Church in Ireland, but the two Churches of this country and Ireland were knit together, and one could not fall without the other. A paper which he had received that morning contained a speech made by the principle agitator in Ireland, in which he said, that it would be requisite to allot the number of Protestant Ministers that might be necessary for the service of the few Protestants in the country. He further said, that if the Reform Bill should pass—and he had no doubt that it would—the infusion of new blood into the Legislature would enable the Irish to obtain their favourite advocates, and their favourite ob- 128 jects. Their Lordships were told by the noble Earl, that England had tyrannized over Ireland, and that they were now reaping the bitter fruits of it. Had England, who had thrown open her ports to Ireland, who, by admitting her produce on equal footing with her own, had enabled her to advance in comfort and riches deserved this remark? Again agitation had been stated by the noble Earl to be the powerful lever by which she was to obtain her rights. What had it already produced but insubordination, sedition, and nearly rebellion? By agitation a contemptible knot of low people had been enabled to convulse Ireland, and to dictate to England a measure which had shaken England to its centre, and had mainly contributed to produce the melancholy crisis in which they were now involved. The petitions of the great majority had been disregarded, and England had ceased to be a Protestant country. "Such a number of clergymen only should be allotted as were sufficient for the small number of Protestants, and, as they diminished, so should the number of their Ministers." So spoke one of their agitators. Was this the return that England was to receive from Ireland for the benefits she had conferred, after relieving Ireland from her debt—after relieving her from almost all internal taxation—after placing Ireland, as to her commerce, on exactly the same footing as England? Ireland had few manufactures, and yet by the great encouragement given to her agriculture, by throwing open the ports of England to her commerce, she was rapidly improving, and would attain soon a high state of prosperity, if her turbulent and seditious agitators would permit her to be tranquil. He had heard much of the Irish nation, but he did not conceive that such a nation existed. In Ireland there were three classes: first, the settlers from Scotland, an industrious, gallant, and religious people; next, the settlers from England possessed of a vast proportion of the property, intelligence and liberality of the country from whence they came, and attached, from interest as well as affection, to that country. To that class he had the honor to belong, and he was determined to adhere to England with the utmost fidelity. The third class were the descendants of the old Irish, numerous, indeed, but possessed of little of the real property of the country, sunk in the most degrading superstition, and completely under the 129 control of a bigoted priesthood, drawn almost solely from the lowest peasantry, and educated in a college, which it would be well for the interests of Ireland if it never had existed, and which now, when Protestant establishments were suppressed, ought also to be abolished. He made these remarks in connexion with the Bill then before the House, for when he translated the meaning of the language uttered by the great agitator, which he had just quoted, he was convinced that the result of its passing would be, to return such Representatives to Parliament as would accomplish the two great objects the agitators had at heart, which were the destruction of the Protestant Church in Ireland, and the separation of Ireland from Great Britain. On these grounds he was prepared to vote for the Amendment.
The Earl of Mansfield
spoke as follows:—My Lords—Having addressed your Lordships at great length in the last Session, I am very unwilling to obtrude myself on the present occasion, more especially as the difficulty of finding new topics or arguments, which have not been used, has been greatly increased by the luminous speech of my noble friend, the noble Baron who moved the Amendment. The first question which I proposed to myself was, is there any alteration in this Bill which affects the principle to which I objected when the former Bill was submitted to your consideration?—and that question having been answered in the negative, the line of conduct which I ought to take appeared to me clear and distinct. But when I found that some noble Lords, who had so eloquently opposed the second reading of the former Bill, intended to carry this to the Committee (of which intention the public had been for some time aware), I thought it my duty to reconsider my objections, to examine whether there had been anything unfounded or exaggerated in my apprehensions; and I can with great truth assure your Lordships, that if I had been convinced that I had been in error, I would frankly have avowed it; I would not have been deterred by the fear of having inconsistency imputed to me though I might have trespassed on your Lordships' indulgence, while I stated the course of reasoning by which that change had been effected. If, however, the change had not been the result of conviction; if, after having declared my determination to defend the Constitution 130 against attacks, (not against improvement—that is a mistake—) but against direct attacks, I had yielded to threats from fear of dangers, the existence of which I do not deny, or to the more specious argument as to the hopelessness of resistance; then I believe I should not have had the front to have addressed you. I should have given a silent vote; I could not even have been encouraged by example, or by the commendations which might have been bestowed upon this prudent, timely, submission. I have said, if I could have been convinced of my former error; for it was with astonishment that I heard a noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) declare, on a former evening, that, in consequence of the alteration which had been made in the provisions of this Bill, his objections to its principles were in some degree removed. I had the advantage of hearing the same noble Earl address the House last Session, in a speech which I assisted in circulating, because I considered it to contain the best exposition of the defects of the measure. From what has recently passed, however, I now suppose that I must have entirely mistaken the nature of the noble Earl's objections. It is unfortunate that the arguments which the noble Earl then so eloquently addressed to the House appeared to have made a more durable impression on the minds of the House than on his own. The noble Earl, however, must be the best judge whether the alterations which have been made in the Bill are such as ought to remove his objections to its principle. A noble friend of mine (the Earl of Haddington) last night gave another reason for supporting the second reading of the Bill—a reason to which I am at any time little disposed to yield—namely, expediency. For my part I am confirmed in my opinion of the propriety of opposing the second reading by the observations which fell from a noble Baron (Lord Wharncliffe) on a former evening. That noble Baron said, that the details of the Bill are objectionable, but that he thought its principle, after all, the one upon which all Bills for the Reform of the Representation must be grounded. If this be the case, then, I must object to all. I agree with the noble Earl at the head of the Government in thinking, that much would be gained should the Bill pass the second reading. It would, in fact, be saying, that the ancient Constitution of Parliament must be changed, leaving it to the 131 Committee to find a substitute by which that Constitution might be replaced. The noble Earl, when he addressed the House last night, seemed to think that the principle of the Bill was generally, if not universally, admitted. As I do not wish to affect singularity, I have taken the trouble to consult some of my friends for whose opinions I entertain a very high respect, and am happy to find that they, like myself, are opposed to the principle of this Bill. It is my humble opinion that there is no necessity for Reform arising out of any defects in the state of the Representation. I may be told, as I have been before, both in this House and elsewhere, that this is to deprive the people of all hope. I can only say, such is not my intention, neither, as I conceive, would this be the effect of your Lordships' vote, to which, and not to the opinions of any individual, importance would be attached. But of this opinion, with your Lordships' indulgence, I will give some explanation. If we see (for I am happy to say that I need not employ the singular number), if we see that the people have been persuaded that their comfort and happiness would be materially increased by a change in the Representation, and that that change, though necessary, meets with continued, and, as they think, unjustifiable, resistance, may we not be permitted to express a doubt as to the existence of that necessity? for, if it did exist, no man would be more ready to admit that Parliament should immediately take the subject into consideration, and, if possible, should not separate without applying a remedy. For my own part, my Lords, I am not, from prejudice, opposed to all change, but require that there should be a hope that the change will be attended by real, not speculative, advantages; and of the reality, I say on behalf of your Lordships, you must be the judges; otherwise, in what consist your legislative functions? It is one thing to admit the possibility of improvement, and another to admit the existence of an evil to which an immediate remedy must be applied; and, if I were to say (which is my belief), that the country could go on increasing in wealth and prosperity as it has done since 1792, the people enjoy national liberty under excellent laws, fairly administered, although certain anomalies, to which allusion has been made, were suffered to exist, I should only be taking that ground which, 132 by the admission of Reformers themselves, has been allowed to be good for those who adhere to the system under which they have enjoyed practical advantages, and reject theories, which cannot be founded on experience. But I do not push the argument so far. I think your Lordships should consider any plan, and even adopt it, if it were not objectionable, but, in my opinion, no Reform can be desirable, if it be founded on injustice. And an attempt should be made to persuade the people that the evil of delay would be preferable to the danger of falling into irretrievable errors by inconsiderate, and, I must say, nothwithstanding all the discussion which has taken place on the Bill, precipitate Legislation. In advocating the necessity of delay, I think I shall have the support of all the boroughs, which, by the first Bill, were to have lost their franchise, but are now to have one Member, and of those other boroughs, which, by the former Bills, would have been partially or wholly disfranchised, but are now to retain both their Representatives. The measure before the House is the third Bill on this subject which has been presented to Parliament. Is it better or worse than its predecessor? I must give Ministers the credit of supposing that it is better, although I beg to remind the House, that one of the threats held out to induce us to agree to the former Bill was, that if it should be rejected, a worse would be proposed in its place. If the present Bill, however, be better than that which preceded it, the country is indebted for the improvement to the wise interposition of this House, and, therefore, we may hope (though I confess that I am not sanguine) that, in the event of the rejection of the present Bill, another still less objectionable will be submitted to our consideration. But are we the only persons who doubted the necessity of Reform? In 1830 a motion was made in the House of Commons for leave to bring in a Bill for Reform of Parliament, which was negatived, as well as an amendment which called upon that House to resolve that Reform was expedient. The House could not have resolved that that which was necessary was inexpedient. Are not those who oppose Reform to take advantage of the decision to which the House of Commons came upon that occasion? If the necessity for Reform exist at the pre- 133 sent moment, it must have arisen from circumstances, which have occurred since February, 1830. What were those circumstances? The noble Earl (the Earl of Shrewsbury) seems to think, that we have forgotten the events which took place in France and Belgium. In my opinion they have contributed to place us in our present predicament. It is admitted on all hands, that these events, operating upon congregated masses of the electors, threw the country into a ferment, and it is in such times that the wish for Reform has invariably been expressed. Then, my Lords, followed the change of Administration. The noble Earl and his friends succeeded to office. The noble Secretary of State for the Home Department last night asked, how Ministers could possibly refrain from redeeming the pledges which they gave, to bring forward a measure of Reform? Ministers must be the best judges of the obligations which they have imposed upon themselves; but every one must allow, that they have chosen a most unfavourable moment for obtaining a calm and temperate discussion of the question. It must, in justice, be acknowledged that the noble Earl has redeemed his pledge. Unfortunately, however, it sometimes happens, that men who have been long in opposition give pledges and promises to which a more extended meaning is attached than they themselves intended, and which, when they afterwards come to be placed in office, they find it equally irksome to perform, and difficult to evade. I fear that the noble Earl, when he was proceeding with perfect good faith to redeem his pledge, listened to the advice of those who entertained more extensive views of innovation; and the consequence was, the adoption of a plan in conformity with those suggestions. My noble friend near me (the Duke of Wellington) gave a simple but admirable description of the scheme which was then submitted to Parliament, when he said, that it effected a great and important alteration in the Representation of England, that it produced a change almost amounting to revolution in the Representation of Scotland, and in Ireland it destroyed what had been considered by Parliament the only safe-guard of Protestant ascendancy. Much has been said of the excitement which prevails relative to the question of Reform, and I cannot help observing, that the Ministers seem desirous 134 of directing that excitement in their own favour. In times of excitement the cry for Reform has always been heard, but, under the sanction of Ministers, it is certainly more general on the present occasion than it has ever been before. I must contend that the conduct of Ministers has not been, like that of others, distinguished by prudence. Men in their situation know that there is inflammable matter in the mass of the people, and have, therefore, abstained from applying the torch. The noble Earl has stated, that the wealth and property of the country are in favour of the measure. Now, it is my conviction, after attentive inquiry, that the great mass of the property of the country is opposed to this Bill, and particularly to such of its provisions as recommend it to those who have a numerical superiority. But the advocates of Reform have now taken a new ground. They say, "we will no longer discuss the necessity of Reform, arising from defects of the Constitution, because that is a point upon which we cannot agree. You must admit a necessity arising from the state of the public mind." I interpret this proposition in the following way:—"We have excited—we have deluded the people—we have placed the country and your Lordships in a predicament from which you cannot be extricated, unless you consent to a measure of which you cannot approve." The force of this reasoning I can by no means approve, although it has been urged by a noble friend of mine (the Earl of Haddington), for whom. I entertain a high respect. Let us suppose that the general wish of the people was for moderate Reform, and that they conceived it was to be found in the provisions of this Bill—you must act as you would do on other occasions. If the wish of the people were for the declaration of an unjust war—the continuance of peace incompatible with the honour and security of the country—if their clamour were directed against some obnoxious but innocent individuals, would you, in the first case, deviate from a prudent policy, or, in the latter, allow the even course of justice to be diverted? Certainly not: it is not for me to prescribe what your conduct should be—of this you must be the better judges; but it certainly appears to me that, if this Bill be objectionable, you must reject it. (Once for all let me be understood as assuming that postponement is equivalent to rejection): The 135 rejection will be simple—it will not be accompanied by any explanation, but the motives by which you have been actuated will be conveyed to the public—it will be known that, without giving any declaration as to Reform, you had perceived that there was delusion as to the benefits which were to flow from this Bill, and in its principle something incurably vicious. As to the delusion, there exists a strong feeling against the nomination boroughs; and, no doubt, the people will experience some gratification from the extension of the elective franchise; but that which is generally hoped from the Bill is, relief from taxes, either by a general diminution of imposts, or by the transfer of the taxes to that class of persons in which the majority of the people are not included. Your Lordships all know that it is a fallacy to expect any result of this nature; but, at the same time, I must add, that greater pains are taken to expose this delusion on this side of the House than on the other. But, if there be delusion in the public mind, what are the objects avowed by the most eloquent Reformers? I should think they were calculated to excite just alarm. The first object is, to render the House of Commons more democratic; the second, to prevent Representatives from being independent of the electors; and, last, to prevent Ministers from being—as it is contended they now are—independent of the control of Parliament. With respect to the first, I think that the House of Commons already is, both in Constitution and conduct, democratic enough. I have observed in the House of Commons a disposition to encroach on the functions of the other branch of the Legislature—to push its inquisitorial functions to an inconvenient extent—to interfere with the right of the Crown, and with the Executive; and also I see something in its conduct which you might expect from an assembly under the influence of the people. It further appears to me, that what is called the democratic party is still gaining ground. To be sure the persons composing the party have not as yet succeeded in persuading the House of Commons to confiscate the property of the Church—to pay the Church like the army, and the army as little as possible, and to reduce the King to the situation of the President of the United States. Under a Reformed Parliament, however, all this may be accomplished; and, when I express a doubt, 136 I beg your Lordships to observe that the most zealous and candid Reformers express none. In fact, the real power is at this moment vested in the House of Commons if it choose to exert it—it has the command of the public purse—it can control the King in the choice of his Ministers. By the constituency which this Bill provides—by the Representatives which these constituents will return—an impulsion will be given to that wish which pervades all legislative assemblies, of obtaining superiority; while, on the other hand, you destroy that influence by which alone the propensity could be restrained. As to independence of the Representatives, it is certainly true that there is a portion of the Members who are indifferent to the frowns and smiles of their constituents; but that does not apply to the greater number; and in times of excitement, that will be evident. At the last election, many Members who had performed their public duty honourably and conscientiously, and had shown the greatest attention to the local interests of their constituents, were rejected, on account of their political conduct; whilst other persons, not more estimable, were preferred, because they gave pledges, and rendered themselves delegates. It is somewhat extraordinary that your Lordships should be told that the House of Commons has passed a Bill of Reform, in compliance with the wishes of its constituents; whilst, in the same breath, it is asserted, that Reform is necessary, because, under the present system, it is impossible that the sense of the people can be represented in Parliament. Now, with respect to the last of the reasons in favour of the necessity of Reform, I stand here in the presence of existing Ministers, and of noble Lords who have filled the highest offices in the State, and I ask them on either side, whether they ever found themselves independent of the control of Parliament? I believe those noble individuals must, on many occasions, have found the House of Commons interfere with some of their schemes of public improvement. If this control were the object, it was certainly very patriotic in Ministers to forge fetters for themselves, unless, indeed, they thought that their tenure of office was insecure, and, therefore, provided them for their successors. I hope your Lordships will allow me to compare the opinions of some of those persons who are usually quoted as advocates of Reform 137 with those expressed by Ministers; your Lordships should hear what Lord Chatham said on the subject; but I will premise that Lord Chatham was at the time in opposition, and when a person is opposing a Government his zeal for Reform is generally more violent than on other occasions, and he may not, therefore, always express himself with the greatest moderation. Lord Chatham is reported to have said—for I do not quote from authentic documents—"That there was great difference between the theory and the practice of the Constitution: and that it was necessary to reconcile them." This is exactly the language of the Reformers of the present day. Lord Chatham proceeded to say:—"According to the theory of the Constitution, there should be a constant connexion between the Representatives and the electors. Will any man say that this connexion now exists? But be ware of having recourse to violent expedients." Speaking of boroughs, he applies a term which his Majesty's Ministers would think sufficiently contumelious; he says, "They are the rotten parts of the Constitution, but, like the evils of the body, we must bear them with patience, we must carry them about with us; the limb may be mortified, but amputation would be death." This eminent statesman proposed to infuse new vigour into the Representative system by giving additional Members to counties. Mr. Pitt, who adopted Lord Chatham's sentiments, proposed two plans of Reform, and a third after he was in office. The speech of Mr. Pitt made on the last occasion proved that he entertained a strong opinion as to the necessity of Reform. His plan consisted of enfranchisement and disfranchisement. He proposed to give the right of voting for counties to copyholders; that thirty-six boroughs, which he assumed to have fallen into decay, should be disfranchised, and the seventy-two Members distributed among the counties and the metropolis as Parliament might direct. That, as in the lapse of time, other boroughs would fall into decay, they should be disfranchised and the right of returning Members be transferred to populous towns. But provided that no borough should be disfranchised, and no large town acquire the right of voting, but with its own consent, anticipating what was possible, that some populous towns would not consider the right of returning Members as an advantage, and knowing that these rights were 138 a valuable inheritance which would not be gratuitously surrendered—he proposed to establish a fund out of which they should be acquired by purchase. I shall pronounce no opinion upon the merits of this plan, but must be allowed to say, that, if persons so distinguished for vigour of mind as Lord Chatham and Mr. Pitt, and zealous in the cause of Reform, proceeded with so much caution, so much respect for vested rights, no Minister could have been ashamed to follow their example. Then came the more extensive schemes of Reform proposed by Mr. Flood, followed by those of the noble Earl: and here I would ask your Lordships' permission to read a quotation from a speech of Mr. Fox, although I think it probable that an ingenious attempt may be made to turn the argument against myself. Mr. Fox, speaking of the plan brought forward by Mr. Flood, which he describes, says, he prefers that of his hon. friend:—"My hon. friend's plan, built upon this idea, is an improvement of it, since it is not an attempt even to vary the form and outline, much less to new model the Representation of the people. It keeps every thing in its place, it neither varies the number nor changes the name, nor diverts the course of any part of our system. It corrects without a change, it extends without destruction of any established right, it restores simply what has been injured by abuse, and reinstates what time has mouldered away. No man, can have a right to complain of genuine property assailed; no habit—even no mode of thinking—no prejudice, will be wounded; it traces back the path of the Constitution from which we have wandered, but it runs out into no new direction." I will not inquire whether the plan of the noble Lord, which is not now before us, deserved that eulogium; perhaps I may think partiality for his hon. friend had affected Mr. Fox's judgment; but I think that I am entitled to say, that, for a plan to be desirable in his opinion, it must be so distinguished. Now, I would ask the noble Lords whether that be the character of the Bill? They would not even assert it; indeed I believe the authors would not like to be deprived of the merit of invention. But I would request those noble Lords who are inclined to moderate or to extensive Reform, to apply this test to any plan which may be recommended for their adoption. I oppose this Bill, and no alteration which it can receive in the Com- 139 mittee will remove my objections. I continue to think that, if the rights of boroughs be thus arbitrarily taken away, there can be no security for any property held by charter from the Crown—that property of every description would be endangered, and other rights between which and property a distinction is drawn, though the union of rights and property can not be dissolved. The preamble of the Bill declares, that it is expedient to deprive certain boroughs of their right of sending Members to Parliament. Now, the infirmity of my mind is such that I can not attach any meaning to rights of which the holders can be deprived, without proved delinquency, or without compensation, voluntarily received or forced upon them by the necessities of the State. Indeed I believe the greatest tyrant never committed an act of such injustice, without an attempt at palliation, either by pretending a doubt as to the existence of the right, or imputing some delinquency to his victim. It is well known that there are rights of property connected with the franchise of boroughs which have been the subject of sale. Would any man have purchased property of that description if he had not conceived it would be safe? On a former occasion I admitted that rights could, in cases of emergency, be reassumed by the Legislature, and I quoted the case of heritable jurisdictions in Scotland. These jurisdictions were quite incompatible with good government; they must have been very obnoxious to the Parliament of England, where the traces of such feudal jurisdiction had long disappeared. In fact, they had been usurped and several Sovereigns, particularly James 6th, attempted to regain them. Now, the preamble of that Bill states, that it is for remedying the inconveniences which have arisen, and may arise, from the multiplicity and extent of heritable jurisdictions, for making satisfaction to the proprietors thereof, for restoring to the Crown the power of jurisdiction, originally and properly belonging thereto according to the Constitution. Here, then, is a case in which rights, odious in themselves, which were notoriously held by prescription, and on a title originally defective, are distinctly acknowledged, and satisfaction made to the proprietors thereof. This Act passed shortly after the Union. I will appeal to any of the noble Lords connected with Scotland, and ask, whether the beginning of improvement 140 in that country has not been attributed to that Act, and I confess I never heard the least complaint that these rights had been recovered by purchase. I now come nearer to the present time—to the Speech from the Throne in October, 1831. His Majesty, after recommending the subject of Reform to the consideration of Parliament, proceeded to express a wish for its settlement by the adoption of such improvements in the Representation as may be found necessary for securing to his people the full enjoyment of their rights—which, in combination with those of the other orders in the State are essential to the support of a free constitution. My Lords, that is, constitutionally speaking, the speech of his Majesty's Ministers. Was it, then, the intention of those Ministers that the rights of the whole people should be maintained, but, that the rights of the individuals of which that people was composed should be trampled under foot? I will not say, that this was their intention, but I appeal to the candour of your Lordships, and ask, whether their arguments would not give the words that interpretation? I beg leave here to state, that, in adverting to the different plans of Reform, I am not pretending to give an opinion on their merits. The intention of my humble efforts is, merely to protect rights from aggression, not to point out any manner in which those rights should be acquired; that is a point to be decided according to the pleasure of Parliament; all I am contending for is justice. But, My Lords, if all close boroughs could be disfranchised, would it be of any advantage to the state? I think not; and for many of the reasons which were so ably stated by the noble Earl; but, indeed, to what topic connected with the Bill did he not advert—what did he not illustrate? Here, my Lords, I must advert to some subjects which have been treated of by the noble Earl near me, more particularly with respect to the advantage it is that sons of Peers should find seats in the other House in which they might acquire the facility of public speaking, and prepare themselves for public business, and for the functions which they have to perform in this House. This is not only a great advantage to individuals—and no man can appreciate that advantage more than the humble individual who addresses you, and who has cause to regret that he never enjoyed it—but, it is a benefit to the 141 State, for the reasons which have been so well assigned by the noble Earl, that I would not do him the injustice to repeat them. The number of great statesmen and great orators who have represented these close boroughs is, in my mind, a great mitigation of that vice, if vice it be, of our Constitution. But at present there is a consideration which presses upon us still more. The interests of the empire are not confined to Great Britain alone. We have extensive colonial and foreign possessions, the interests of which, as well as others within the realm, are not directly represented. Whenever discussions arise on such subjects as the state of the West Indies, the renewal of the charter of the East-India Company, or of the Bank-charter, will it not be but fair that those interests should be indirectly Represented? Will it not be advantageous to the House of Commons that it should contain within itself men of experience and information to guide its decisions? My Lords, it would be perfectly impossible for many of these gentlemen to present themselves to a numerous constituency, such as will be created by this Bill, and who will probably be clamorous for the abolition of all monopolies and restrictions, though, as experience has proved, they might ascribe their subsequent distress to the removal of those restrictions. They would require pledges which it would be impossible to give, and what would happen? Those candidates would be preferred who would give the greatest promise of indiscriminate abolition. And here, my Lords, I wish to be understood, not to give any opinion as to the continuance of these monopolies, but simply to express my belief that, in Parliament, as constituted at present, information and evidence would influence decision, but that, in a Reformed Parliament, these cases would be prejudged. My Lords, as to another difficulty, it will not be very easy, especially if any individual Minister should have become unpopular, to procure the return of Ministers to Parliament. Perhaps (as nothing is impossible now) it may be in contemplation to adopt the French system, and to allow the Minister to support his measures in the House of Commons, but not to vote unless he be a Member. And, as some persons have thought that the Peerage might be held ex officio, and with the office resignable or resumable by the crown, perhaps we may have the honour 142 of seeing some of those individuals take their seats in your Lordships' House. But, my Lords, it has often been assumed, and not so often contradicted as it ought to have been, that the Representatives of close boroughs are invariably the tools of the Ministry. Now, my Lords, this is notoriously not the fact, and we have seen several instances in which public men have been rejected by the constituents both of counties and towns on account of their political principles who have not disdained to re-enter the House of Parliament by the "narrow portal," as I think it was called, of a close borough, and have these re-asserted these opinions which they honestly entertained—opinions which had been objectionable to their constituents, not because they were slavish and submissive to the Crown, but because they were too licentious in the cause of liberty itself. My Lords, if there be no limited constituencies, what is a public man to do? Is he either to deceive his constituents or to retract his opinions? My Lords, there is another course which I am afraid he will be likely to pursue, he will follow the impulsion given him by public clamour, which, on many occasions, would not be the public opinion. And, My Lords, in my fancy, I could conceive a public man of splendid talents, who, in his early youth, had formed plans of the most extensive Reform, which, in his maturer age, he had thought it wise to correct as unsafe or impracticable, who afterwards might be called to the councils of his sovereign, and then urged by the voice of the people, which would be echoed by such Representatives as this Bill will give, goaded by a licentious but powerful Press, he might be driven forward in a course of wild innovation with a celerity the least proportioned to his opinions, or his wishes. Perhaps, too, at the close of his public life, he would experience regrets not the less painful because studiously concealed, that his ambition had been gratified, but that he had sacrificed the public weal to a transient popularity, and that the impartial historian would not associate his name with the growing glory and prosperity of his country, but rather ascribe to him, and to the measures which he had proposed the beginning of her decadence. Under the present Constitution of Parliament, in that predicament, no man, except voluntarily, can be placed. For, my Lords, whatever may be the difference of opinions 143 on political subjects, or our feelings of party, that Minister could have recourse to a great portion of the House of Commons, and to a majority of this House who, forgetting all party differences, would support him in a resistance to measures tending to that very anarchy which, according to the statement of their supporters, must be the inevitable consequence of their rejection. My Lords, I have hitherto spoken of this Bill as calculated to render the House of Commons more democratical; but this is doubtful; and out of this House it has been offered to us as a consolation to diminish our opposition to it, that under its operation that House will be more aristocratic. I certainly shall not go into the details of this Bill, neither do I profess to understand the rules which have been laid down, and which appear to be not, as in other cases, rules by which an arrangement is to be governed, but as points from which to take a departure, according to the inclination of the authors of the scheme. And when it is seen that, in the Bill which is extending franchise, the number of electors in some towns will be diminished, a suspicion arises that, though close boroughs are to be abolished, something analogous is to be substituted, and that both in town and in the division of counties, individuals will obtain an influence equivalent to nomination, with this difference, that, as it is hoped the influence will be transferred from the opponents to the supporters of his Majesty's Ministers; and I think that the admissions of some persons high in office have confirmed that suspicion, that, in the instance of Whitehaven, the rules of the Bill had been departed from, in order to neutralize the influence of Tory Peers in the neighbourhood. Nor will it be removed by the declaration of the noble Marquis (the Marquis of Cleveland) that though he voted for the disfranchisement of close boroughs, he had the wish—I do not think he said the hope—that he might retain his parliamentary influence. Lastly, as to the question which is constantly proposed to us wherever we go, and which is the theme of general conversation—if the Lords reject this Bill, what is to follow? My Lords, I would state with great submission, that it appears to me that you have only to examine the Bill before you, and if it be objectionable, reject it. I cannot think that any apprehension of danger can justify a dereliction of duty. That rejec- 144 tion cannot be accompanied, in my humble opinion—ought not to be followed—by any declaration of your readiness to agree to a plan of moderate Reform: to these words no definite meaning is attached. Such declarations and pledges on the part of individuals are inconvenient, in public assemblies they are dangerous, because they are liable to misinterpretation. What, then, my Lords, would follow? I attach but little importance to those threats which have been so plentifully held out by the Press, in language most gross, libellous towards individuals, but libellous—worse than libellous, almost treasonable—towards the Sovereign, and libellous towards the whole body of your Lordships, whose constitution and existence has been threatened with destructions: libels they are, indeed, of the grossest description—but although brought under the notice of his Majesty's Attorney General, they have had the good fortune to escape his censure, except when his fiscal sensibilities were awakened by an evasion of the Stamp duty. If the present Bill were rejected, disturbances there might be—a resistance even to the payment of taxes; I know not to what excesses the follies and vices of men might lead them. In the metropolis, violence of an inferior description, the demolition of windows (which I cannot think are better protected than they were last year, now that it is known that the proprietors cannot obtain any relief from the hundred). These are trifles compared with insurrections breaking out in different parts of the country; but, my Lords, I have but one opinion as to insurrections in this, or any other country—they would never have any permanent success, if the Government would do its duty. Now, my Lords, when some of these dangers were anticipated in the last Session, I expressed a confidence in his Majesty's Ministers, which, I am sorry to say, is much impaired. However, I should hope that the lamentable outrages which have taken place at Bristol and Nottingham will have opened their eyes, and that they will see that it is not enough to express a hope that the laws will be obeyed, when persons, certainly not their accredited agents, but their supporters, and admirers of Reform, instigate the people to fury, and (contrary to all sense and reason, I will admit) persuade them that acts of violence, though they cannot be abetted by the King and his Ministers, will yet be viewed 145 with lenity. It may appear extraordinary that so gross a delusion should have prevailed, but I speak in the presence of many noble Lords whose local knowledge must have convinced them of the fact. It, is a delusion propagated by political associations, which the Ministers know to be illegal, and with the dangerous character of which they have been made acquainted by a communication from a quarter (the Duke of Wellington) from which such an act of patriotism was to be expected, and which, I hope, will be an example to all persons in opposition. The question of Reform stands now on particular grounds. It is not only urged on your Lordships by the voice of the people, but by two decisions of the House of Commons; and it was also recommended to your consideration in a Speech from the Throne, which, as I before stated, is, constitutionally speaking, the Speech of his Majesty's Ministers, though there can be no doubt that an impression has been made on the public mind that that Speech expresses the sentiments of the highest personage in the State, though I am perfectly prepared to do my duty in giving my vote for the rejection of the present measure, I cannot deceive myself by supposing that that rejection will be a settlement of the question. The people, some of whom are favourable to this Bill, others inclined to a moderate Reform, and many who see the injury which has been inflicted on commerce and trade, deeply deplore the agitation of this question; all concur in one opinion that it cannot be settled except by a legislative enactment. I should be happy to think that a legislative enactment of the nature of the Bill now before the House would settle the question, but I feel convinced, from the arbitrary mode in which the Bill abrogates all constitutional and prescriptive rights, and creates others, that the agitation of the question of Reform will not cease on the passing of the present measure. I agree with those who think it most desirable that the question should be settled; but it cannot be settled by the passing of a Bill which will lead to endless disputes. The settlement of the question can only be brought about by a measure which will satisfy the people. What that measure shall be it is impossible for me to attempt to say; neither does it appear to me to be the duty of your Lordships to propose any; we have only to consider the present Bill. By that Bill, or one of 146 equal efficiency, his Majesty's Ministers have declared that they will stand or fall; and if they abide by that declaration, thy must be answerable for the consequences in which not only they themselves, but we, shall be involved. But, if after this Bill shall have been rejected (as I trust it will be), they will wisely, not weakly, not dishonourably, profit by the delay thus afforded them, and, in another Session bring forward a more moderate measure, or as the extensive scheme they have in contemplation involves the actual revision of the articles which bind Scotland and Ireland to England, if they will follow the example of those Ministers who brought about the Union with Scotland, and advise the Crown to appoint a Commission, to which it might be referred, to report what changes could be safely introduced, with a due regard to all the interests of the three component parts of the British empire—then, my Lords, I should entertain the hope that some measure, divested of those objections which have twice caused the rejection of the Reform Bill by this House, might be proposed. But, my Lords, if any measure equally efficient, or, as I should say, equally unjust, were again presented to your Lordships, I trust that you will never allow the rights of the meanest individual in this country, of which you are the guardians and protectors, to be thus arbitrarily torn away from them. For if you do, depend upon it, my Lords, that, at no great distance of time, your own rights will be the object of aggression, and you will become the unpitied victims of that system of spoliation which you will yourselves have sanctioned.
rejoiced that his noble friend (the Earl of Limerick) had undertaken the task of showing the fallacy of the remarks of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shrewsbury), who preceded with regard to the situation of Ireland as connected with this country. He had always dreaded that Catholic Emancipation would produce such fruits as they had seen a small display of in the course of the debate, and he had therefore, opposed it. But they had now again before them a measure which was consequent upon agitation, although it was brought forward under the specious name of Reform. This was the second Bill introduced by that name, which would be equally as mischievous and dangerous as the former, to the institutions under which this country had so long 147 flourished. He owed it to himself, and to the noble body who had returned him as one of their Representatives to that House in five successive Parliaments to speak his sentiments distinctly on so important a subject, deeply as he lamented his inability to convey them in language so forcible as to make any impression, particularly after the speeches of the noble Baron (Ellenborough), and that of his noble friend (the Earl of Mansfield), who had just sat down, nor could he refrain from tendering his humble thanks to those two noble Lords who had so ably expressed sentiments, in most of which he fully participated though he was unable to give them utterance, in a manner worthy of notice, after them. He was free to say in plain terms, however, that he regarded the Bill with the most unqualified disapprobation; and if the Motion before the House should proceed to a division, he should feel bound to give his vote against it. He had voted against the last Bill conscientiously, but not without regret, and had hoped that the next measure brought forward by Ministers would have been of a less objectionable character than the last. But the present Bill he considered to be as bad, if not worse than the former. He fully adopted and cherished the opinions of his late lamented friend Mr. Canning, on this subject, and he would beg leave to read a part of one of his speeches as the foundation on which his present opposition rested. The right hon. Gentleman had been eulogizing the great and successful efforts made by this country during the late war, and added—'Amidst the devastations alike of all that was most stately, and all that was most humble, one edifice alone stood firm and erect, affording at once a refuge to the fallen, and a succour to those who stood. Well! was that unassailable bulwark distinguished for its superior size and dimensions by the greater number of its garrison, or by its position? Certainly not. In all these, many which had fallen were greatly superior—but it was a fortress so happily put together, so strongly connected in all its parts—so wonderfully combining all the means of internal security and external defence, that its gallant garrison was able to defy the power which had laid waste the civilized world. That fortress was our country, and the secret of all its strength and greatness—the sacred cement which binds 148 together that impregnable work—is the British Constitution. To that Constitution the people of England are, I trust, all equally attached and devoted, however, as freemen, we may sometimes honestly differ on the best mode of practically applying it in the detailed administration of public concerns. But after it has withstood so many storms—after it has enabled us to overcome so many dangers and difficulties from within—and to repel so many assaults from without—I cannot believe that a sober and reflecting people will easily be seduced to attempt any great and undefined change in the structure of the fabric itself. When men deal in loose and general declamation on such a subject—when they glibly talk of the most difficult and fearful question which human ingenuity can conceive, and the most intricate which human wisdom can investigate—the formation of a new, or the remodelling of the old Constitution in any country, as of a plain self-evident proposition, I own that I feel very little respect for their understanding; or, if I am compelled to acknowledge their intelligence, I can only do so at the price of assuming (what I fear is too often the case) that they themselves have very little respect for the understandings of those to whom they addressed such observations. Least of all would they be applicable to our own Constitution, the work of the accumulated experience of ages, favoured by choice and circumstances, and progressively improved and matured by the cautious wisdom of all the great legislators and statesmen who have served and adorned this happy country.' He never could give his consent to the Bill as it stood at present, and as he was hopeless of any amendments being adopted in Committee which would render it unobjectionable in his judgment, he thought that the best course he could take was, to say "not-content" to the second reading.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
said, that no man could be more sensible than he was of the disadvantages under which he then rose to address their Lordships at that period of the debate, while the voice of a noble Earl (Mansfield) must be still almost sounding in their ears—conveying to their Lordships at once the ablest arguments, combined with the brightest specimens of eloquence, which it had been for some time his fortune to have heard, 149 There were many parts of the noble Earl's speech in which he fully concurred, and many parts in which he did not concur; but he should not attempt to answer the noble Earl further than to say, that that which they chiefly differed upon was the existence of boroughs of a certain description, and the principle of disfranchisement. The noble Earl had an insurmountable objection to all disfranchisement, and differed from him also in conceiving that their Lordships might, without any disastrous consequences, again refuse to read the Reform Bill a second time. The noble Earl had taunted him with having changed his opinions on the present measure, and, in doing so, was only adding the sanction of his name to taunts and insinuations dealt in elsewhere. He did not expect this from the noble Earl, because he had flattered himself that he had guarded himself against the possibility of misrepresentation, when explaining, a few evenings back, the grounds on which he should feel it to be his duty to give a vote on the present occasion different from that given by him when the Bill was formerly before their Lordships. But that had not turned out to be the case; for he had been called upon, not, he presumed, to answer the defenders of the measure, or the opponents of the measure, but to answer himself. His only hope, he would confess, in addressing their Lordships on the present occasion, was, that he should be able to persuade them of the honesty of his intention, and that he was still animated by the same object as when he was last addressing them, although it was true that he was pursuing the end by different means. He was not ignorant of the obloquy which his course was sure to call upon him; knowing full well, that, in times of excitement like the present, be the course pursued what it would, it was certain to call down the censure of those who followed an opposite one; and, above all, knowing full well, that those who, like himself, were pursuing a middle course between two antagonist parties, were sure to win the angry reprobation of both. He expected that such would be his fate, and he was not deceived. He had been attacked by both sides of the House: he had been denounced as a "deserter" to his party, and a "treacherous friend." He had, nevertheless, sat silent, but would now say briefly, in answer to this last ungracious accusation, that it 150 struck him that, as no man could be with justice arraigned as a deserter to a party in which he had never enlisted himself, or arraigned as a treacherous friend, where he had never pledged friendship; so neither accusation could, with justice, be applied to him, who had not enlisted himself, nor pledged himself to any party, or particular line of policy whatever. His speech against the Bill, when it was, on a former occasion, under their consideration, had been quoted against his proposed line of proceeding on the present occasion, by the noble Earl to-night, and a noble Marquis on a former evening, principally with a view to show that he was then endeavouring to effect what he had formerly declared was an impossibility,—namely, effect such alterations in the provisions of the Bill as would render it unprejudicial to existing institutions, without at the same time destroying its essential principles. Now, without arguing the question whether possibility or impossibility in politics was not a relative term contingent altogether on circumstances, he would ask any man who had heard his speech, and had taken the trouble of noticing the views which he then took of its subject matter, if that speech was the speech of a man determined to resist, under all circumstances whatever, the consideration of a measure of Parliamentary Reform? He denied that it could be so interpreted; at least, if it could, he would say, that never did words more misrepresent the sentiments they were intended to convey, for never was any thought further from his mind than an unqualified resistance to all Reform. Indeed, the thought or opinion which more than another he was anxious to express was, that they should never again treat the present Bill as they had treated the last. "I wished," continued the noble Earl, "to impress upon your Lordships' minds, that though we had then acted rightly in rejecting the Bill, we should not be warranted to do so again. This will do once, but must not be repeated. We cannot hope to again successfully resist a measure which the House of Commons has sanctioned for a second time by a large majority, and in favour of which the people of England had expressed a decided opinion. It was because I felt this, that I had prepared a resolution of which many noble Lords are aware as well as of the reasons which induced me not to bring it forward, by which the 151 House would pledge itself, in the then next session, to take into its serious consideration some plan for extending the franchise to his Majesty's subjects, and for correcting the abuses which had crept into the representative branch of the Constitution." He was on the point of moving this Resolution, when he was persuaded by some noble friends, that to do so then would cause more harm than good—that it would be better to wait till the excitement of the public mind had been somewhat allayed, before a more moderate measure of Reform than that brought forward by Ministers should be submitted to Parliament. He yielded to the suggestion, hoping that the interval between the two sessions would afford the public and their Lordships time to maturely consider the real merits of the question, and that the result would be, that both would see, that the plan of Ministers, if adopted, would prove injurious to all existing interests. He regretted to say, that he had been disappointed in his expectations, and that the delay had not produced the beneficial effects which he had hoped for. There was sufficient time for a reaction in the public mind with respect to the Ministerial Bill to have taken place, but it could not be denied, that, though strong as had been the objections urged in that House and elsewhere against that Bill, no such reaction had taken place. He still thought, however, that the delay had produced much good. It must not be supposed from this, as a noble Lord had wrongly insinuated, that he thought that the changes which had been effected in the Bill, in consequence of that delay, had entirely, to his mind, removed all the objections which he had expressed against the former measure. By no means; though many of his objections had been removed, many remained, which he should ever feel to be insurmountable, so far as the principles of the Bill were concerned. But still, he repeated, the delay had produced good, and had produced great and most important changes in the minds of the opponents, as well as the advocates of Reform. When the Bill was formerly under their consideration, there were, to all practical purposes, two parties in the State with respect to Parliamentary Reform—those who went the lengths of Ministers, and those who objected to every measure implying extensive alterations in the existing system. Since that time the second party had dis- 152 appeared, and the country was divided into those who insisted upon a sweeping measure, and those who were not repugnant to the passing of a moderate one. Then the temper of the two parties had experienced an equally extensive change—on the one hand leading to a diminution of the dangers of rejecting the Bill—on the other hand seriously aggravating them. On a former occasion he had stated that there was danger in their either rejecting or adopting the scheme of Ministers. He repeated the declaration then—with this addition, that it appeared to hint that after the changes which had been effected in the Bill, and after the important fact that its main principles had been twice adopted by the House of Commons with increased majorities, it would then be safer to let the Bill go into Committee, than, as on the former occasion, refuse to consider it in its present form. It was not enough for noble Lords to point out the obvious dangers of passing the Bill—and of their magnitude, no man could be more sensible than he was—unless they, at the same time, were prepared to show that the opposite danger of rejecting it was of far less moment. And this task no noble Lord had as yet ventured to perform. When he stated that the opinions of those out of doors who had hitherto been totally opposed to a measure like the present, had changed very much within the last twelve months, he stated what the facts daily occurring before their eyes more than confirmed. Where, he would ask, were the petitions against all Reform? Some noble Lords had presented what were called petitions "against the Bill," and even these were few and far between; but did any of them protest against any change in our representative system? on the contrary, did they not all demand a "prompt and vigorous correction of the abuses" which had been allowed too long to impede the working of the Constitution? Even in the petition presented a few evenings since by a noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) from Leicester against the Bill, and which the noble Duke had designated to be an Anti-reform petition, but which he (Lord Harrowby) would call a petition for moderate Reform, the prayer was, that their Lordships might not "ultimately pass a measure dangerous to the Constitution." The feeling of the country being thus undeniably in favour of some change in our representative system, it was the duty of 153 their Lordships to conciliate that feeling, so far as was compatible with the true interests of the country. It was on this consideration he would vote for the second reading, hoping, as he had more than once stated, that in Committee he should be able to effect such alterations in detail as would, in some degree, obviate the objections which he still entertained against the principles of the Bill. But it had been out as a threat, that if he thus voted for the second reading, he was bound to go the full length of the general principle which his vote sanctioned. Before he answered this assertion, he would first remind their Lordships that all, both in and out of doors, were now advocates for some measure of Reform; so that the only question was, the kind and amount of that Reform, and whether the general principles of the measure then under consideration, were those most calculated to satisfy the wants of the country? The question he again and again repeated was, then, one wholly of degree; and so considered, it would be seen that the scheme promised them by the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) was as inconsistent with itself, as it was obnoxious to most of the objections urged against the Bill it was meant to supersede. What were the principles of that Bill? Simply disfranchisement, enfranchisement, and the extension of the franchise. What were the principles of the noble Duke's plan? Enfranchisement, disfranchisement [the Duke of Buckingham: "No"] and the extension of the franchise. The noble Duke said, he did not mean to disfranchise; but what, he would ask, was the consolidating of five boroughs into one, but a disfranchisement of from ten to two Members? And this reminded him of a striking inconsistency in this part of the noble Duke's project. The noble Duke would fain preserve a portion of the nomination boroughs, on the ground that they served as inlets to Parliament for men of great capacity, who otherwise could not obtain an entrance there. And how did the noble Duke propose to preserve this nomination influence? Why, by distributing the power of the nomination, which was at present in the hands of one proprietor, among five or six proprietors—rather a strange mode of guarding against those collisions and contrarieties of interests which had been charged against the present Bill. There were five boroughs, say in Cornwall, the 154 property of different individuals, and these the noble Duke would "consolidate" into one returning two Members, in order to preserve in degree the power of nomination. Was there ever a more absurd proposition? And did noble Lords deceive themselves that such crude and contradictory schemes would satisfy public opinion, now admitted on all hands to be irresistible? No: far wiser would it be to reject the principle of Reform altogether, than thus attempt to impose upon themselves and the public, by nominally admitting, but virtually scouting it. But to return to the proposition, whether he who voted for the second reading of the Bill, was bound to maintain its provisions in Committee. He had heard the speech of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) yesterday evening with much satisfaction, for he saw in its moderate and conciliatory tone, a disposition, as he thought, to adopt—at least not pertinaciously to resist—such amendments as would not necessarily destroy its more important features, and he saw in it that deep conviction; in which he was confident their Lordships all participated, of the necessity of a prompt settlement of the question for the peace of the country. This temper of the noble Earl's speech, as well as that change in the temper of the times to which he had before referred, emboldened him to say, that though they could not hope to deprive the Bill of all its evil tendencies, they might yet hope, in Committee, to suggest such alterations as would prevent much evil. But then they were told that they should not yield to clamour or intimidation—that they owed it to themselves and the country to be above the "eloquence of fear." He agreed that they ought not—he was sure that they would not yield to intimidation—but he was also sure that they would not be induced by vapid declamation, to confound a timely yielding to the force of circumstances which was above their control, with a cowardly shrinking to clamour. If their Lordships saw that they could not hope to obtain good Government till the question of Reform was settled, was it not their obvious duty—no matter how they might differ as to the particular mode of Reform—to assist in effecting that settlement as promptly and satisfactorily as possible? And if they also saw that nothing less than an extensive measure of Reform would satisfy the public mind, were they not bound to forego their own 155 predilections, and do the best to prevent the ill consequences of a too rapid and violent change? It would not do to say—"All very well, but we persuade ourselves we are promoting the best and lasting interests of the Reformers themselves, by stinting them in their demands;" for, as he had said on a former occasion, it was not enough that a Government was intrinsically good, unless the people governed at the same time felt and acknowledged it to be so. Every free Government must ultimately rest upon the basis of public opinion; when the wind from that quarter was foul, if it was only a light and variable breeze, their Lordships might tack or cast anchor; but when the public feeling assumed the strength and steadiness of a trade wind it was in vain to struggle against the gale. There were many occasions, he admitted, when it would be better to defer the final settlement of a question till the occasion which had called it forth had changed or passed away; but he would ask, was the present question of Reform one which any delay could get rid of, or, what was more, any Government prevent? If the people, indeed, formed erroneous opinions relating to subjects upon which they called the Legislature to proceed to enactments, then, undoubtedly, it was the duty of Government to oppose them, and wait until those notions had been corrected; but it was absurd to believe that the people were anxious for civil war, or for rebellion. Their feeling in favour of Reform, was not a mere violent ebullition of transient fury, but a chronic and deep-seated affection, which the rankling of suspense and disappointment, and the "hope deferred that maketh the heart sick," served but to exacerbate. There were doubtlessly combustible materials collected, to which a spark applied might set the whole in a flame. There was a belief of the want of a co-operation on the part of Government with the people—a want of confidence in the institutions under which we lived. There was a want of respect for that Parliament which had twice, by a large majority, passed the Bill, and which had been twice denounced from the Throne as not being the Representatives of the people of the country. Were these facts, or were they not? Had not the House of Commons twice, by an increasing and large majority, shown that that House did not adequately represent the people. And if so, was it for their 156 Lordships to turn round and gainsay a decision thus solemnly pronounced and repeated? Let not their Lordships suppose, that in using this plain language, he did not entertain his original objections to the Bill. He still thought that Ministers were much to blame in launching a measure of such sweeping change—a measure which, he had formerly stated, being once launched, it was equally dangerous to reject or to adopt; he still thought the people of England were wrong as to their opinions of the benefits which they possibly could derive from that measure; and he thought the House of Commons still more wrong in twice adopting its provisions. He also retained his conviction that the day on which the King on his Throne had promulgated the plan of that measure was a day fatal to its integrity—perhaps existence—a day only less fatal than that on which, for the second time, his Majesty was advised to call the attention of his Parliament to the necessity of speedily adopting it. But though he held these opinions, he felt that the question stood now, unfortunately, on far other grounds. It was now not a question between this or that plan of Reform, but one wholly of a choice of evils. This at least was the view he took of it, and which, in justice to himself, he felt bound to explain, as the ground on which he felt himself compelled, in this choice of evils—that is, the choice between the dangers of rejecting and adopting the Bill—to vote for the adoption, as the lesser evil. But supposing he was wrong, and that their Lordships should again reject the Bill, he would ask, was it safe to risk the hazards of a third Bill? Had they heard anything from the noble Earl (Earl Grey) which could induce them to believe that he would consent to a measure of less efficiency or extent? Were they sure that another measure would not most probably be one of still more extensive changes, and one brought forward under still more objectionable auspices? If their Lordships rejected the present Motion for a second reading of the Bill, would they not be provoking that evil to which the noble Earl said, he would not have recourse but as the last resort. But let them proceed a step further. Let them suppose the Bill rejected, and that a new Government had succeeded to that of the noble Earl. Were the opponents of the present Bill foolish enough to believe that they would gain anything by that change? 157 Did they suppose that by a change of men, they could get rid of the Reform Question altogether? He would tell them not to deceive themselves for one moment by such a dangerous belief. Let his Majesty select whom he might for his counsels, Reform must constitute a condition of office, if those persons hoped to continue a single week in his service. He said a single week, for even less would suffice for the present House of Commons to disabuse any Minister who should be mad enough to assume the helm on the principles of anti-Reform. But perhaps he might be told "the remedy was obvious—let his Majesty dissolve Parliament, and so procure a House of Commons more amenable to his new Counsellors." He would ask, where was the man bold enough—he would say, mad enough—to make the trial? Apart from all the evil consequences of protracted suspense, and delay, and excitement, he would ask, was there the remotest chance of their obtaining a House of Commons less pledged to Reform than the present? Was it not probable, indeed certain, that the new House of Commons would insist upon a measure of far more extensive change than even the present, he admitted, objectionable measure? And was it not equally certain that their Lordships' means of resisting its adoption would be considerably lessened? He would, then, in this choice of evils, call upon them to adopt the less, and vote with him for the second reading. The question, he repeated, over and over again, was one of comparative danger; let them not blindly follow the most dangerous course of proceeding. But it had been said by the noble Lord (Lord Ellenborough), that we ought, notwithstanding everything we saw, still to give a persevering resistance to Reform. He, however, did not know how this was to be done, and willing as he might be to do it, he still could not serve in any army, if one wing of it was commanded by the High Bailiff of Old Sarum, and the other was to be under the command of the Mayor of Gatton. He would again intreat their Lordships to allow the Bill to go into Committee; he would entreat them to bend their minds in Committee to remove the objectionable parts, and great amendments might be made in the measure, without rendering it unpalatable to the other House of Parliament. He would intreat their Lordships to make all such amendments 158 as they thought unpalatable with the great principle stated in the preamble, taking care that the commercial and manufacturing interests were properly represented, without, at the same time, neglecting the interests of the agricultural portion of the community. He hoped that a proper balance would be preserved. He did not here speak of that balance of these interests as though they were opposed to each other, for he concurred with what the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government had asserted, that their interests were united. He wished no preponderating influence to be extended to either. He should, however, always object to a democratic power extending itself, converting the House of Commons into a body of delegates. The question now came to this, were the people to be disregarded? All experience had shown that wise Governments had attended to the demands of the people, where those demands were grounded on rational foundations. He had but few words to add, and they related to himself, for which he begged to apologize for troubling their Lordships upon such a topic. He felt, in the discharge of this most important duty, that he acted conscientiously, and to the best of his belief. He had lately taken but little part in debates and political affairs, and if it were the final vote which he should ever give, he felt reason to be satisfied with it. In that vote he had been biassed by no one—he had no political object in view—for no consideration on earth should ever induce him to take any political situation again; it was, therefore, without hope or fear that he came to the conclusion he had; he was anxious to retire to the bosom of his family in private life—having witnessed one friend after another quitting this mortal scene, whom he loved, and whose memory he revered. He was not unaware of the obloquy which might, and probably would, attach to him from quarters that would give him pain, on account of the course he had taken; but it appeared to his judgment that he was acting rightly, and he felt bound to sacrifice the applause he might have received had he taken another course. Applause had never been the object of his ambition, nor should he now shrink from the censure that would attend him. He was anxious to retire into private life; and, if it should be his last vote, he felt gratified that he raised his feeble voice 159 in favour of the second reading of the Bill.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he should commence his observations by expressing the deep concern and pain he felt in offering himself to their Lordships on the present occasion, when he had to express a different opinion from that of his noble friend who had just sat down. After having served confidentially for many years in a Government in which his noble friend had been a principal Minister—after having subsequently sat in the Council with him for five years—when he was called upon last October to consider this question, having had the satisfaction to follow his noble friend's lead and counsel in the vote which their Lordships had then agreed to, he certainly felt no common regret at being compelled to differ from his noble friend on this occasion. Their Lordships might conceive, knowing as they did the satisfaction with which he formerly heard his noble friend's speech, the pain with which he felt himself bound to advert to that speech, and to compare it with what had fallen this night from his noble friend, and which he must do, in order to obviate the mischief that might befall from their Lordships feeling the same confidence in his noble friend now that they had justly reposed in him last year. He was sure, however, that his noble friend would not feel that he was wanting in personal respect, although he felt compelled to pursue this course. On that occasion, the noble Earl had stated, that the question was, to show, whether they approved of the principle of the Bill by voting for the second reading; and the noble Earl then voted against the second reading, because he did not approve of the principle. The noble Earl had then said, 'The principle and object of the Bill, are to make the Constitution more democratical. Look to the consequences. When that assembly, which has already become the chief governing power of the State, attains to be not only the governing power, but the Government itself, and suffers itself to be guided by other assemblies of another description, such as have recently been formed in the North, and especially at Birmingham—when these come with their directions for our conduct thundering over our heads; what, I ask, will be the kind of government then presiding over the interests of the country? What is it that we are to expect from a 160 Legislative Assembly so constituted and so directed?'* The noble Earl after addressing their Lordships in a speech of upwards of two hours duration, which was listened to with the greatest delight, and every word of which proved the soundness of his doctrines, came at last to the conclusion—'We are told by the noble Earl, that we have no option but to take this Bill as it is—to adopt at once a proposition which is to consign us and our posterity to a new form of Government, which no one has ever ventured to tell us would be practicable, and which, if it were practicable, would, in my opinion, be pernicious.'† These were the sentiments of the noble Earl with respect to a Bill, than which the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey), told them the present measure was no less effective, and which indeed they all knew to be the same Bill, and one also, which, if the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) was to be believed, could produce no beneficial effects. Then he would ask the noble Earl how could he say that we must read this Bill a second time and go into Committee in order to adopt such a Bill? And what were the grounds that he assigned for this new course? The first was, that this Bill had been sent a second time up from the House of Commons, and had passed there by an increasing majority. Now, he (the Duke of Wellington) must advert again to what had been said—he believed by the noble Earl—but certainly by the noble Lord at the Table (Lord Wharncliffe)—as to the effect this would have on the constitution of the House of Commons. That noble Baron had, in March 1831, foretold to the Government what would be the effects of a general election—namely, that it must cause the return to the House of Commons, not of Members, but of delegates, and that its result would be to place the House of Lords in the situation in which it stood last year, and was now again placed on the present occasion. Was everything then to be given up because the noble Lord opposite had taken that course? Was that House to be destroyed, or must it lend its aid to destroy the Constitution because Ministers chose to persevere? The only remedy for this would be to place things as they were before the agitation was commenced,* See Hansard, Third Series, Vol. vii. p. 1153.† Ibid. p. 1174.161 to restore calmness before deliberating, and their Lordships ought rather to address the King to remove the Ministers from their places, and put things as they were before, in order that the House might have a fair opportunity for discussion, than proceed at present to read that Bill a second time. He would ask, was the country to be handed over to a Government which was not in any manner practicable? Was the security of all the institutions of the country to be brought to risk, because the House of Commons was in a state which prevented it from giving to this Bill a deliberate consideration? All the arguments regarding the decisions of the House of Commons must come to the same end. There would, no doubt, be ten decisions of the same kind, if it were left to the same House, because that House was pledged and returned for the purpose. But the country was not to be abandoned on this account. He altogether denied that the difficulty now experienced was chronic, as had been stated by the noble Earl; it was only temporary, and was to be removed by the Government that had raised it. Then the next point of the noble Earl was the opinion of the country. Now, there could be no doubt whatsoever that there was no opinion existing in the country, in the year 1829, and the beginning of 1830, on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. [Cheers.] That was a fact which was fully admitted, notwithstanding the cheers of noble Lords, and he would say it might be taken for granted. Then came the French Revolution, and the insurrection in Belgium, which occurred at the commencement of the elections of 1830; and there was no doubt that these events occasioned a very great excitement and alteration in the elections, as well as greatly inflamed the people with respect to Parliamentary Reform. The noble Lords opposite had then come into power, and (the Duke of Wellington) would say, that that Parliament was ready to pass a measure of moderate Parliamentary Reform. But the noble Lords opposite had thought proper, instead of carrying such a measure, to dissolve that Parliament, and a new Parliament was called under a degree of excitement in the public mind such as had never before been witnessed. The consequence was, that the excitement had continued ever since, and it had been kept up by the strong opinion put forward and entertained, that it was the King who 162 wished for Parliamentary Reform in the manner proposed by this Bill. He believed it was no such thing. His opinion was, that the King followed the advice of his servants, but he believed that it was the idea thus engendered that the King wished for Reform which rendered it difficult that there should not be some Reform. It was not, however, to be supposed, that the King took any interest in the subject. He had no doubt that when this opinion reached the country, they would think like him; and he entertained no doubt, whatever, that if it were supposed that the King's mind was altered, the noble Earl opposite would not be able to pass this Bill. Indeed, he was sure from experience, that, if the nation, on any great constitutional question were not convinced that the King would go through with the Ministers, it would be impossible for any set of Ministers to carry any such measure. He would also wish noble Lords to attend particularly to this. The opinion of the gentlemen of the country—he spoke from knowledge with respect to the southern counties, and from sure report as to other counties generally—but he did say, that the opinion of the gentlemen of the landed property, and of the learning of the country was against this Bill. The Bill was, on the other hand, supported by the noble Lords opposite, and by their adherents, certainly not a numerous class; it was also supported by all the dissenters from the Church of England, and by all who wished it should pass, as a means of their attaining votes; but he would repeat, that it was, in fact, opposed to the sentiments of all the gentlemen, of the yeomanry, and of the middling classes throughout the country. Yes, he would say, there was a change of opinion, and that the best part of the public were not desirous of the Bill, but were, on the contrary, apprehensive of its effects. But they did not hear of this, and why? Because no gentleman in the country could go to a public meeting and speak his sentiments secure from the attacks of the mobs. Another ground on which the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) said that they ought to read the Bill a second time was, that they should endeavour to amend it; but if the noble Earl found that would be difficult last year, would it not be more difficult now? He had that morning had a note put into his hand of 163 the anomalies of the Bill, which was the result of a paper laid before the House of Commons even since the passing of the Bill, and its being sent up to this House and a persual of it would show that there was nothing they could do which would improve this Bill, and weed it of the gross errors with which it abounded. By Parliamentary Paper 232, being an abstract of the practical operation of the Bill, according to the new limits given to the several boroughs, it appeared that the borough of Clitheroe, which was partially disfranchised in schedule B, had a greater population than sixty places which were left untouched; another, Shaftesbury, than fifty-two; another, Wilton, than forty-six. Clitheroe had more houses than fifty-seven untouched boroughs; Wilton than fifty-six; Shaftesbury than fifty-four; and so on as to taxes. Christchurch, which was in schedule B, paid more assessed taxes than forty-five places not in the schedule, where of no less than nine were new-made boroughs; Wilton paid more than thirty-nine; Droitwich and Wallingford more than thirty-three, and so on, seven or eight other places being put into schedule B, which have larger constituencies than boroughs which were untouched. The reason that the difference in this class was not so great as in the population and houses was, that the arbitrary additions made to the boroughs were mostly of poor and scattered districts which did not add to the taxation in the same proportion. But the most important view of all was the number of 10l. houses, the amount of the future constituency. Would it be credited that Hythe, partially disfranchised, would have more electors than fifty-five places not in schedule B, of which three were new creations; Morpeth than thirty-seven; Dartmouth than thirty-four; Wallingford than thirty-two, and so on. And Knaresborough and Tavistock were kept untouched, while seven or eight other boroughs, having a greater constituency, were placed in schedule B. Let their Lordships compare Christchurch and Tavistock as their respective merits were set forth in the paper which he would read to them. The noble Duke then quoted the following document:—
Tavistock. Chrischurch. Difference. Population 5,602 6,087 485 Houses 821 1,354 553 10l. ditto 380 400 20 Taxes 1,283 2,066 783
From this it would appear that the difference was nearly two to one in favour of the boroughs not sending Members. This document had been laid on the Table since the Bill had passed the House of Commons, and their Lordships might be told, and, indeed, he was at that moment told, it was an argument why they should go into Committee. [Cheers.] Before his noble friend (Lord Wharncliffe) rejoiced in his cheer, let him (the Duke of Wellington) remind his noble friend of what he had said last year. It was this—"Many persons had voted for the second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, in hopes of amending it afterwards in Committee; but every person who had the slightest experience in Parliament well knew, that when a bill, brought in by the Government, was read a second time, it was a matter of extreme difficulty to make any alterations in it in Committee."* His noble friend's parliamentary experience reached to the House of Commons as well as to that House. His noble friend knew the difficulty even in the other House; and he believed there was no instance of any extensive alterations ever having been made in Committee in that House in any bill introduced and supported by Ministers. They had the experience of the noble Secretary of State opposite, both in the last and the present Session, as to the absolute impossibility of making any great alteration in a Committee of this House. Only a few days ago they had a Committee upstairs upon a bill which they found they could not alter; and but the other day they had the Pluralities Bill, which had been recommitted half-a-dozen times, and he had himself waited more than once for three hours attending upon it, but it was found impossible to introduce any alteration. If this were the case generally, how was it to be effected when the alterations particularly wished went to the very foundation of the measure? But there was another view of this case which was highly important to his noble friends (Lords Harrowby and Wharncliffe), and those who acted with them, and wished for the second reading of the Bill. The noble
10 Boroughs in Schedule B, sending 10 Members. 10 Boroughs which are to send 20 Members. 10l. Houses 4,084 2,944 Population 71,196 42,666* Hansard's Debates, Third Series, vol. vii. p. 980.165 Earl opposite (Earl Grey) had, it was true, shown more moderation and more courtesy upon the present than upon the former occasion; but then the noble Earl had not held out any hope of agreeing to alterations in the Committee. The noble Earl had, as he heard, held out hopes to a rev. Prelate that alterations might be introduced, but he was sure his noble friends would find when they were in Committee, that their objections would be met, no doubt, with great politeness and attention, but no alteration would they have conceded to them. Under these circumstances, he hoped that noble Lords would not follow the example of his noble friends, and, as they had changed, that noble Lords would not vote for them this year as they had the last. With respect to what had fallen from another noble Earl (the Earl of Haddington) who had pursued the same course last year, but who last night had come to a different conclusion, and asked was there no hope of a compromise? He would ask, had not these noble Lords been trying to compromise for the last six mouths? if they had not succeeded in that time, what encouragement was there to him (the Duke of Wellington) or others to follow their example? He, and those who thought with him, knew the consequences of the Bill, and that it would consign the country to evils which it could not survive with prosperity. He knew that it was a Bill which, in its present state, ought not to pass, and he would ask his noble friends, had they been able to advance one single step in their compromise from last October to the present day? If this were the case, he hoped that those who intended to act with his noble friends would understand, that there was no more chance of compromise on the present than on the last occasion; and that if they agreed to the second reading, they agreed to a Bill under which the country could not be governed. He begged, then, that noble Lords would look to the responsibility they took upon themselves in giving support to this Bill. The Ministers were now decidedly responsible for that Bill—they were responsible for the election of the House of Commons that had passed it—they were responsible for the excitement which had caused both these events, and they were moreover responsible for any evil consequences which might occur if this House rejected it. Those noble Lords who changed their sentiments, 166 followed as they were by many who had voted against the Bill the last time, would partake, he begged them to understand, of a large portion of this serious responsibility, and the country would look to them to answer for whatever might occur. He had been hitherto considering the misfortune he laboured under in differing from his noble friends, but he should now come to the Bill itself. His objection to the Bill had always been, that it went to overturn the system of Representation of the country—that it destroyed all the ancient franchises unnecessarily for the purpose of Reform, and disfranchised totally fifty-six boroughs, and partially thirty boroughs—that it totally revolutionized the Representation of Scotland, for it was impossible to consider the present without reference to the Scotch Bill, and that it put an end to all those arrangements which, only three years ago, had been entered into for the final settlement of the Catholic Question. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) had yesterday challenged him to make out that this Bill was revolutionary. What he had always said was, that it had a revolutionary tendency, and he thought it had a tendency so strong in that way that it must lead to revolution. The noble Earl had said there was no violence, but it was well understood that a revolution might be effected by law as well as by violence, and the present was not a case in which violence could have any effect even were it had recourse to. One of the great and leading objections in his mind to this measure was, that it was one which went to destroy that most invaluable principle of our existing Constitution the principle of prescription, which sanctioned the descent and secured the possession of all kinds of property in this country. This Bill went to destroy a number of boroughs—some holding by prescription, some by charter—and for no reason whatever, except that such was the will of the Minister of the day. There was no man who possessed property under the advantages which the present system afforded to all holders of property, but must run a great risk as to the security of that property under such a state of things as this measure, if it should be passed, was sure to introduce into this country. Not was this the only objection in this regard which he had to this Bill. He had shown to their Lordships, from the paper which he had already read, that nothing coup be more arbitrary than the manner in 167 which some boroughs were deprived of the right of voting altogether, others deprived of it in part, and in which the right of voting was conferred on other places by the same measure. Undoubtedly nothing could be more arbitrary than the manner in which the franchise was conferred by this Bill in some of those boroughs. Instead of the existing rights of voting in cities and boroughs, this Bill went to establish one uniform right of voting in all municipal elections throughout the country, which must inevitably tend to make the constitution of Parliament a complete democracy. The noble Earl near to him had said, that the uniformity of the right of voting, which this Bill would establish, was, in his mind, one of the benefits of the measure. Did that noble Earl never hear of Unions carrying on a correspondence with one another in different parts of the country? Did he never hear of such Unions corresponding with one another on political topics, and on topics connected with the elections, as well as on topics connected with trade and commerce? But those objections which he had stated to the Bill referred principally to the municipal towns of a smaller size. When they came to consider the larger towns, it would be found that the right of voting which this measure would establish there, would amount to neither more nor less than Universal Suffrage. In fact, this Bill would in such places, extend the right of voting to mere lodgers—to men who paid only 3s. 10d. a-week, or 7d. a-night, for their lodging. Such a residence would, to such men in the larger municipal towns, give the right of voting at elections of Members of Parliament; and such was the constituency they were to establish if they should go into Committee on this Bill, for their Lordships would not forget that the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government took occasion to tell them in the course of his speech last night, that nothing must be done to destroy the efficiency of that part of the Bill. He would wish to lead their lordships a little further in order to consider what must be the operation of such a constituency as that in the elections of Members of Parliament. The noble Earl had told them that men possessing property in those boroughs must continue to have political influence in the elections there, and that was one of his arguments in support of this part of the Bill. But 168 he would appeal to their Lordships whether their own experience in matters of that description confirmed the correctness of that statement? It was true, that in some of those boroughs, Noblemen possessing large properties in the neighbourhood of them would possess still a great and paramount influence. He begged to observe that, in point of fact, one of the consequences of this measure in that respect would be, that several of those places would be left in the hands of Noblemen entirely, so as greatly to increase, beyond what it was at present, that influence which they possessed with respect to the formation of every government which could be carried on by the King of England. But generally speaking, in those towns, it would be the demagogue, and not the gentleman of property, who would possess the influence over the elections there. The latter could not command such an influence, unless through the means of an expenditure which it would be impossible for him to support. But the demagogue could obtain it by other means, and it was by demagogues that such places would be represented in Parliament. He begged their Lordships to observe, what would be the effect of such a state of things in the constitution of the House of Commons, and he begged to ask them whether, with such men, the Representatives of those boroughs, it would be possible to carry on any thing like a government, or a steady system of policy, through the means of that assembly. He knew that, according to the Constitution of this country, a Member of the House of Commons, when he came there, was a member for all parts of England, and not a Representative for the particular town or place for which he had been elected: he was in fact looked upon as a member of a common council for all parts of England. That had been hitherto the meaning which was attached to the character of a Member of the Commons House of Parliament. But the case would be widely different should this Bill be passed, and Members of Parliament subjected to a system of instruction on the part of their constituents. That system already existed in parts of England, and more especially in the metropolis, and in the borough of Southwark. Their Lordships would remember, that an hon. and gallant Officer, formerly connected with the party of the noble Lords opposite, had been obliged to 169 retire from the representation of Southwark last summer, because he had happened to differ with his constituents; and that a worthy Alderman had, in a similar mariner been reprimanded by his constituents in the city of London, for a similar offence. What, then, was to be expected hereafter should the system of this Bill be established in this country? Why, that every Member of the House of Commons would become the mere delegate of his constituents, instead of the Representative of the people at large. It had been well observed by his noble friend near him in his speech last night, that such Representatives would, in each particular case, merely consult the wishes of their respective constituents, and act upon them, instead of consulting together according to the best of their judgments, for the common good. And here he could not avoid referring to a letter written by a gentleman in the course of last Autumn to some of his constituents in this neighbourhood, in which he not only declared that the constituents were to advise and point out the course which their Representatives should pursue in Parliament, but in which he went still further; for, in this document, addressed to the parish of St. George's-in-the-East, the writer told them, that there ought to be an union in every parish of all the middle and working classes, and that the object of them should be, in the first instance, the protection of persons and property; and, secondly, in order to be ready to express the opinion of the parish upon any public measure, and, in case the Ministers or the House of Commons should be lukewarm, that such unions would be ready to urge them on to the performance of their duty. The extract which he had just read to their Lordships, was taken from a letter written by one of the great advocates of the Reform Bill, not for the sake of the Reform Bill itself, but because it would lead to something further. That letter afforded a proof of the kind of system which would be put into operation with respect to the Members of the House of Commons should this Bill be passed. Let them for a moment compare the system this Bill would establish with the system of representation which had so long existed in this country, and under which this country had been raised to such an eminence of glory, and power, and prosperity. They had, under the existing system, the county represent- 170 ation, and the representation in cities and boroughs. The county representation consisted principally of freeholders, and the Members for counties represented not only the lower classes, but the middle and higher orders. The Representatives for the great maritime towns, and for the larger description of towns in the interior of the country, represented likewise the lower and middle classes. The Representatives for the potwallopping boroughs, for the scot-and-lot boroughs, and for the single borough of Preston, where he believed the franchise was vested in the inhabitants at large, represented the lowest orders of the people; and in that manner this borough representation represented all classes and descriptions of persons who had any thing to do with the business transacted in the House of Commons. Instead of that system which had raised this country to its present elevation, they were called upon to establish by this Bill a system of elections which would be confined to one single class of the community; and, as the county representation would be no check upon that class of persons, the voters in the counties being mostly of' the same description, and as the united representation of Scotland and of Ireland would be no check upon them, such a system would lead at once to a complete democracy. Such was the system which they were called upon to establish in lieu of the Constitution which at present existed, and under which all those classes and interests in this country that ought to be represented were really represented in Parliament; and, under such a system as that, it was pretended that they would be able to carry on the general business of the nation. He would here beg to call their Lordships' attention to the changes which had taken place in the Government of this country in the course of the last century, and more especially in the latter portion of that period, and what improvement had taken place in that time in the popular system in this country. His noble friend behind him had last night truly stated, that the influence of the Crown had been decreasing from the period of the Revolution up to the year 1782; and that it had been still further diminishing from that period up to the present time, till at last there were not more than fifty persons in the house of Commons holding public offices. In that period, and more especially in latter years, the influence of the 171 Crown in that respect had been greatly diminished. First of all there had been a large reduction of all such kind of offices, and in the next place, in consequence of the consolidation of the different Boards of Customs, Excise, and other public departments, the influence which had been formerly possessed by the Crown had been taken out of its hands, and placed in the hands of the public. Their Lordships must, therefore, see that the influence derived by the Crown from all such offices had been greatly diminished, and possibly to a greater degree than it ought to have been for the purposes of the Government of the country. With the influence of the Crown thus diminished, if a Bill of this description should be passed, it would be impossible to carry on the Government of the country. Another important consideration to be attended to in the discussion of this measure related to the changes which had taken place in this country in the course of the last four years. In the year 1828, they repealed the Test Act, and the effect of this measure was, to bring into operation a large body of electors, who had, of course, much influence on the election. In the year 1829, the Catholic Bill was passed, and that measure, too, was calculated to have a most important effect upon the constitution of Parliament. Now they should give time to those measures, in order to see the effect which they would produce on the constitution of Parliament and of the country, before they proceeded to pass a still further and more extensive measure, the effect of which would be, to introduce still greater alterations into the Constitution of the country. There could be no doubt that those measures to which he had just alluded, must have a considerable effect on the elections, and more especially when any measure like this measure of Parliamentary Reform was adopted to the extent contemplated in this Bill. "There can be no doubt (continued the noble Duke) that there is a general desire in the country—I do not deny the existence of it, for it is stated in all the addresses and all the petitions on the subject—that there is a general desire in the country that some Reform in Parliament should be taken into consideration, to do away with the abuses in the system of election of Members of the House of Commons. Without inquiring into the cause if the fact be as I have stated, I believe that no 172 one will dispute that it is the duty of Parliament to proceed gradually in making amendments in the Representation. We should consider maturely every step that we take—we should not proceed all at once to do every thing, we should go on gradually and deliberately, and thus in process of time, we might arrive even at the measure which has been recommended by the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government. But that must be in process of time. After a considerable length of time has elapsed, and after we have maturely considered every step to be taken, and seen some, at least, of its consequences, it is only after we have done all that, that we can adopt a measure to the extent of that recommended by the noble Earl. This your Lordships must do, and do it gradually and slowly, if you desire to maintain the venerable monarchy under which the country has flourished for such a long time." He must further observe, that, if such a measure as this should be suddenly and at once passed, it would be impossible to conduct hereafter the Government of the country. They had been told, that it was necessary to bring this question to an early conclusion, because the trade, and commerce, and business of the country were suffering in consequence of delaying the settlement of it. Such was the statement of the noble Earl opposite. Now, he wished that those who stated that such inconveniences were felt at present in this country, would consider a little whether they were felt in consequence of the prospect of the passing of this Bill, or in consequence of the fear of losing it. That was a most important consideration in looking at this question. He was of opinion that, as soon as this Bill was proposed, and as soon as the excitement which it occasioned arose, a great portion of the expenditure ceased—that men ceased to lay out their money in great enterprises—that those who had previously lived to the full amount of their incomes, began now to consider it their interest to contract their expenditure, in order to make provision for a period of trouble and difficulty; and it was to those circumstances that he was disposed to attribute the want of commerce and of trade in the country. If they looked for a moment at the present situation of their neighbours, the French, they would behold precisely similar effects following from precisely similar causes, and precisely similar consequences pro- 173 duced there that they had to complain of in this country. Those consequences, to be sure, had proceeded to a greater extent there than with us, because the excitement had continued for a longer period, and because the delirium had been carried to a greater extent; but he was certain that, if this Bill should be now passed, we should soon witness here similar effects. He complained of the present system of agitation and excitement because the evil effects of it fell principally on the lowest and poorest class of the community. That contraction of the expenditure to which he had alluded, no doubt, tended to diminish the comforts of the middle classes, but it tended directly to affect the very subsistence of the poor. It was on such grounds that he complained of the present system of agitation, that was carried on in this country. The noble Viscount, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had admitted in his speech last night, that he did not expect any relief to the distress of the country from this measure. It was, certainly, an extraordinary thing for a Minister, and especially, for a Secretary of the Home Department, to say, that he did not think, that in fact he was satisfied, that a measure of such immense consequence as this must be, would not tend to relieve any of the distresses of the country. Extraordinary, however, as that was, he would maintain, that, so far from relieving any portion of the distresses of this country, this measure tended very much to aggravate every one of them. But let them go a little further, and see whether this system would give them what it was said it would give them, a cheap Government. And here again he begged to call the attention to what was passing in another country. If their Lordships would take the trouble of examining into what had passed within the last two years in France, they would see that the French expenditure had been increased in that time fifty millions sterling beyond the usual expenditure. They would see that its ordinary Budget, notwithstanding the study that had been applied to be as saving as possible, exceeded the Budget of the former reigns—of the extravagant reign of the Bourbons—by the amount of ten millions sterling; and, besides this, there was the extraordinary expenditure of fifty millions in two years. Look at that, as a system of cheap Government, and their Lordships would see that it was 174 quite impossible to agree with the senseless assertions made on that subject. Let their Lordships further see whether this Bill, supposing it to be passed, was likely to make the Government cheaper or better than it was now. Let them ask themselves, whether the civil Government would have more power to govern the country than it now possessed; whether it was possible that the Government could be carried on with a smaller proportion of military. He begged their Lordships to look at the transactions at Paris, in the course of the last two years, and see whether that had been the case. He was sure they could not think so, when they saw that, while Louis 18th and Charles 10th were on the Throne, they were enabled to maintain the peace of Paris with a gendarmerie of from 500 to 1,000 men; but that since the Revolution of July, the Government had not had less than 60,000 men once a month put into requisition to maintain the peace of the city. It the system now proposed was carried into execution, the result would be, to establish a similarly expensive military Government in this country. It was impossible that, under such circumstances, the Government of the country could be carried on as it was at present by the Civil Power aided by a small military force. In the course of the last year, events of a fearful character had occurred both in this country and in France—he alluded to what had taken place at Bristol and Lyons, and these showed the different power and efficiency of the existing Governments of England and France. The calamity at Bristol was at once put an end to, by less than 100 soldiers, as soon as an officer at the head of a military detachment was found to do his duty: whereas it required not less than 4,000 of the best troops in France, with the Minister of War and the Prince of the blood at their head, to quell, in the same time, the disturbances that had taken place at Lyons. If their Lordships would consider well the consequences of those differences, and the circumstances themselves, they would then be able to judge whether it was possible for them to expect to carry on the civil Government of England as hitherto under a system of Government such as they were going to establish if they should pass this Bill. He begged pardon for having trespassed so long on their Lordships. He had endeavoured to convince their Lordships that his noble 175 friend (the Earl of Harrowby) was taking a course inconsistent with the opinions—the well-founded opinions—which he had expressed, with regard to the Reform Bill in October last, that his noble friend's taking such a course, was no reason why their Lordships should follow his example, and, by adopting the course which his noble friend recommended to them, involve themselves in all the responsibility of sanctioning the present measure; and he had finally endeavoured to convince their Lordships, and he trusted he had succeeded in the attempt, that the only safe course for them and for the country was, for them to reject this Bill on the second reading. There was one other point on which he wished to say a few words. He meant the measure of which his noble friend near him (the Duke of Buckingham) had given notice last night. If his noble friend should bring that measure forward, he (the Duke of Wellington) would certainly give it all the consideration which was due to his noble friend and to the measure itself, and he hoped their Lordships would do so too. He had no knowledge of the measure of his noble friend, except what could be derived from the notice he had given of it last night; nor was he previously aware that it was the intention of his noble friend to bring forward any measure of such a description. It appeared to him, as far as he could judge of the measure of his noble friend from the notice of it before their Lordships, that it was one founded on a different principle from that now before their Lordships.
The Earl of Haddington
, in explanation, said, that when he used the word "compromise" in his speech last night, be had, perhaps, employed a word that was not exactly the best chosen. What he meant to do was, to express a hope that the noble Duke who had just spoken, and the noble Earl at the head of the Government, would go into the Committee in a spirit of conciliation and concession. As to what the noble Duke imagined, that he had something to do with negotiations, which the noble Duke supposed to have been going on for the last three months out of that House, he could assure the noble Duke that, if there had been such negotiations, he had had nothing to do with them.
§ Lord Grantham
stated, that he should not detain the House more than a few moments; but the question now before them 176 was one of such importance as to make him feel that it was his duty to break through the silence he had before observed on this question, and not to give a silent vote on this occasion. He had applied his mind with painful anxiety to the consideration of the subject—he was most anxious to alter, if he could, the vote he had given six months ago; however, he could not. He had then voted against the Bill, and he should be compelled to repeat that vote on the present occasion. It was a painful consideration for him to be obliged to do so, but he could not avoid it. He had then been anxious to see if he could concur with the reasons for sending the Bill into a Committee; he was equally anxious upon that subject now. The reason that induced him to say he could not consent to send the Bill into Committee was, because he thought the chance of amending it there was hopeless. It was true that the noble Earl at the head of the Government had told them that any suggestion from that side of the House would not be thrown away; but it was observable, that, both last night, and the night on which the noble Earl had introduced the Bill to their notice, he made the statement in a manner so guarded, and betrayed so much anxiety not to go too far, that he must candidly confess he had not much expectations of the good that would come from the Committee. From the beginning of the agitation of the question he did not think it had been quite treated with the openness and the candour it deserved. It was a question of great importance—it involved the interests of every class of the community, and yet it had been pushed on with a degree of violence such as had never before been shown with regard to any other great public business. Questions of great interest had heretofore been laid before Parliament, they had received much discussion, and when the decision of Parliament was hostile to the public sentiment at the time they had been deferred or re-considered. Important questions—such as the Slave Question and the Catholic Question—had been subject to repeated examination, and Parliament had dealt with them according to its deliberate opinion, and never before had that House been branded when it dissented from any such measures with merely uttering the whisper of a faction. The conduct which had been observed towards every one of those noblemen and gentle- 177 men, who, in the fair discharge of their duty, had opposed this measure, had been he would assert, disgraceful to the country. A system of intimidation had prevailed from the first moment that the subject was agitated until the present. That system of intimidation was, indeed, different at one time from what it appeared at another. They were, in the first instance, threatened by anonymous miscreants with a visitation of brickbats and bludgeons. That threat had failed. But now the threatening assumed a more formidable character. The intimidation that was at present resorted to directed their attention to future consequences. It was that feeling, he presumed, which had induced his noble friend (Lord Wharncliffe), who had changed his sentiments on this subject, to give a vote different from that which he had given last year. Future consequences, it seemed, were considered by him as likely to give a more severe blow than that which could be inflicted by brickbats. He contended that a scheme of intimidation had been employed, to make this question succeed from the very beginning to the present hour. To himself, personally, he could assure their Lordships the decision of this question was a matter of perfect indifference. He never had had any thing to do with an election in his life. He had no relations to provide for by the exercise of parliamentary influence. He was not one of those "liveried lacqueys," to use one of the phrases which had been invented to insult their Lordships, who trafficked in parliamentary patronage. He repeated, that he was completely independent. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him personally, how they dealt with this Bill. But viewing it as a measure fraught with danger to the Constitution—seeing so many risks of evil connected with it—and being quite hopeless of amending it—he felt himself compelled, as a man of honour, in the discharge of a great public duty, to give his decided vote against it.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
regretted very deeply that, on this occasion, he felt himself called upon to differ from the opinion of his noble friend (the Duke of Wellington) who had recently addressed the House. He must first observe, that the question on which they were then deliberating was not with respect to the Bill itself, but with respect to the mode in which they were about to treat it. He asserted, that it 178 must be read a second time, unless they had made up their minds to encounter greater difficulties than they had encountered before; and his belief was, that, on the contrary, if they read the Bill a second time—if they only gave it their consideration—they would enable themselves, if not to get rid of it altogether, at least to introduce into it many changes that they might think desirable. At all events, they would, by such a course, be enabled to consider its provisions thoroughly, and satisfy the people by doing so. Allusion had been made by his noble friend to a speech which he had delivered in March, 1831. He had then said, that if the Parliament were dissolved, the House of Commons, in a new Parliament, would be a house of delegates. So he said then; and be would assert now, that the House of Commons was, to all intents and purposes, a house of delegates to pass this Bill of Reform. His noble friend had said, that "we ought to call on Ministers to place us in the same situation in which we stood before the bringing in of the Reform Bill." How could this be done? Let his noble friend look to what had passed since this measure was first introduced. Let him consider what had occurred in the last six months. Had not this question of Reform, after the dissolution of Parliament, made such a stride that it could not now be repressed? Neither Ministers, nor the noble Duke himself, great as were his abilities, could alter the feeling which now prevailed. No effort could bring the country back to the situation in which it was placed prior to the last election. "But," said the noble Duke, "the House of Commons is so constituted that they will pass many bills of this kind. I do not wonder at it," He (Lord Wharncliffe) believed, that the Commons would pass many such bills if their Lordships refused to consider the present. They might retard, for a time, the progress of a Reform measure, but they could not throw back the feeling which had called for it. The present Bill had been twice carried by great majorities in the House of Commons; it was approved of by the Crown, and it was backed by the people. When they saw this support given to the Bill—a support greater than ever they had seen on any former occasion—did not that afford a sufficient reason why they should permit this Bill to go into Committee? His noble friend said, further, that the present diffi- 179 culties might be surmounted by Government; certainly, he thought the Government were the cause of the existing difficulty; but he must deny that now they had the power of obviating it. By adopting the course which his noble friend advocated, one of two things must be effected—either the Ministry must advise his Majesty to send down a message recommending them not to discuss the question of Parliamentary Reform, or the Parliament be dissolved. In case of the latter event, what would be the consequence? He believed that, if Parliament were now dissolved, they would, by a new election, have a worse House of Commons than at present. It was to avoid this that he called on their Lordships—that he called on every man who had not set his face against all Reform, not to throw back upon the House of Commons a measure which had been thus sent up to their Lordships; but to try whether they could not so improve it as to make it agreeable had all parties. The noble Duke ad said, that before the revolution in France and Belgium, in 1830, there was no such thing as a call for Reform. Good God! how could the noble Duke make such an assertion? Did he not recollect the proceedings on the East Retford question? Did he not call to mind the increasing minorities on the Reform question? Did he not know that the Reform question was, the last time, only defeated by a majority of forty-eight? He (Lard Wharncliffe) had said, "Let us give the elective franchise to Birmingham, instead of East Retford." That proposition was resisted, and the consequence was, that the question had come before them in a new form. The fact, unfortunately, was, that the noble Duke was entirely wrong on this subject. The noble Duke had passed a great part of his life in the glorious service of his country, and, in common with every Englishman, he felt grateful to him for his exertions; but still he must say, that the noble duke had not witnessed the progress of political feeling, in this country. He said this with all respect for the noble Duke, who, he was sure, would not suspect him of saying anything that could be personally unpleasing to him. He would, however, say, that he conceived himself to be a better witness of passing events in this country than the noble Duke was. He (Lord Wharncliffe) had been in Parliament for a great number of years; he 180 had represented large bodies of people, and, as long as he could recollect, this question of Parliamentary Reform had been proceeding. The sense and feeling of a grievance in that respect, whether right or wrong, had constantly prevailed. He recollected no time in which it could be said to have ceased. It was a common mistake, not only with his noble friend, but with other eminent statesmen, and, amongst the rest, with his late friend, Mr. Canning, to think that the people were not anxious with respect to the question of Reform. He had heard Mr. Canning say, when there was a lull on the subject, that the people thought nothing about Parliamentary Reform. But he (Lord Wharncliffe) judged very differently. Living in the midst of a great population, he knew what their feelings were, and he said to Mr. Canning," You are mistaken; that lull is deceptive. The question will arise again, and, in the end, something must be done." The result proved that he was right. The noble Duke had said, that if the King's name had not been used, there would not have been such a loud and general cry for Reform. He admitted the fact to a certain extent, and he disapproved of the use of the King's name; but still he could not conceal from himself that there was a strong feeling in the country in favour of Reform, aggravated probably, but certainly not created, by the belief that his Majesty was also favourable to it. He believed, however, that, if their Lordships would consent to read the Bill a second time, and to go into Committee with it, there was so much good sense in the people of this country, that, if they afterwards rejected it, they would be held justified, but that if they refused to give it a second reading, and sent it back to the House of Commons, he would tell them, if they did so, that, one day or other, this measure, or perhaps a worse and more sweeping measure, must pass. For his own part, he believed that the constitution of Parliament was the best that ever was devised, or put together, for the purposes of legislation; but it was not sufficient that he should be satisfied of that fact, it was necessary that the people should be, also, satisfied of it. It was not sufficient that the noble Duke and himself—it was not sufficient that many wise men held that opinion—it was, as he had before said, necessary that the people should entertain the same feeling. The 181 noble Duke had quoted the speech made by him in October last with respect to the difficulty of dealing with this Bill in Committee. He still adhered to the same opinion. He was aware of the difficulties which were to be encountered; but their Lordships must not, on that account, refuse to assent to the second reading of the Bill. Those who were not opposed to all Reform might endeavour to make the Bill better than it was; and, in his opinion, it was not a matter of impossibility to improve the Bill in such a manner that all, or almost all, would be willing to agree to it. The refusal to consider the Bill in Committee, on account of its principle, appeared to him now to be impolitic. He would beg the noble Duke, and other noble Lords, to consider well the force of that argument, and the extent to which it might hereafter be pushed. Was it right that they, as one body of the Legislature, should declare that they could not in Committee consider a measure affecting the vital interests of the country?—that they could not in Committee alter its provisions? If such a position were once admitted, then they must be considered as a body incapable of framing laws themselves, or of altering laws that came from the House of Commons, but having the power merely of assenting to, or dissenting from, any measures that were sent up to them from the other House. That argument, he contended, was an argument of a most dangerous nature. It was said, that he and another noble Lord, who now meant to vote for the second reading, would thereby relieve Ministers from the responsibility which at present rested with them on account of this measure. He could not see how they, by so voting, removed that responsibility. Were they the persons who brought in the measure? Certainly not. What, then, was the responsibility which they incurred? All they did was, that they allowed the Bill to be brought in, and to be submitted to a Committee for examination, to see whether it could be so altered as to form an efficient law. If he permitted the Bill to be introduced, and to go through an additional stage, in the hope of effecting beneficial alterations in it, what responsibility, he asked, did he incur? If, in the Committee, he found that it could not be beneficially altered, he should then know how to act. How then should he stand before the country? He should stand before the 182 country thus; that he had shown a disposition to listen to the claim which had been made upon the Legislature. He wished to proceed in that way, following his own plain sense of duty, and by that alone would be be guided. The responsibility, he averred, did not rest with him, nor with those who might act with him, but remained, and must ever remain, with the Government, for having brought forward this measure. It was their Lordships' duty to give this Bill a second reading, for the circumstances of the country, and the feelings of the country, were changed, and materially changed, since a similar measure was last before them. He would show that to their Lordships in the first place; secondly, he would point out the effects of concession as opposed to rejection; and, lastly, he would endeavour to show their Lordships the inevitable result of obstinacy. The effect of rejection, in this instance, would be, in his opinion, to place all those who voted against the second reading of the Bill in a perilous situation with the country. Though several of those who formerly voted against the measure stated, both at that time and immediately afterwards, that they were not opposed to all Reform, still it could not be denied, that, in spite of those declarations, the result of their vote had been the introduction of a feeling that they could not agree to any Reform whatsoever, or, at all events, to any effectual Reform. In giving his vote on that occasion, he was anxious, as many others were, to give the country an opportunity of reconsidering the subject. The country had been appealed to, and he thought that the appeal had totally failed. Those who had voted with him were not supported by the country, as he supposed they would have been. He must admit, that there had been no re-action, and he conceived that a second rejection of this measure might lead to very evil consequences. Addresses had been presented to the Crown, and petitions had been laid before both Houses of Parliament, every one of them, without exception, calling for the enactment of this measure, or, if they deviated from that point at all, they demanded a Bill of a more extended kind. How, then, were they to meet this claim? That there must be Reform was quite evident; but, up to yesterday, no noble Lord had thrown out a single idea on the subject. No one intimated what ought to be done, until the noble Duke (Buckingham) yes- 183 terday stated his opinion on the subject. But he would tell the noble Duke that the Bill which he proposed came too late. If it were intended to do good, it should, at least, have been simultaneous with the present measure. It was too late to introduce it when the feelings of the public mind were wrought up to such a state of excitement. But the noble Duke and his friends said, "we cannot read this Bill a second time, because we object to its principle." Now, he would say, that every one of the principles contained in the Bill was to be found in the measure which the noble Duke intended to bring forward. He knew no reason why the Bill should not be considered in Committee. He could not conceive why schedule A and schedule B might not be altered there. In Committee the whole question would be open to them. "But," said the noble Duke, "there is this distinction in my measure—I don't disfranchise any boroughs." Now, if the noble Duke combined two or more boroughs together, and, where at present four Members were returned, allowed only two, if that were not disfranchisement, he did not know what the meaning of the word was. If, however, the noble Duke were afforded the opportunity of bringing forward his measure, he would give to it every consideration in his power. But that circumstance should not divert him from voting for the investigation of the present Bill in Committee. The vote of October had placed their Lordships in this situation—that the country looked upon them as masters or dictators, who would not give to the people that which, rightly or wrongly he would not say, they now claimed. He felt that that vote, though it might have displeased the country, had yet been the means of increasing the respect of the people towards them, inasmuch as it showed them that their Lordships acted from an independdent feeling. The people were glad to see that their Lordships asserted their right to maintain their own opinion on this subject, and that they would not allow themselves to be influenced by low and vulgar intimidation, or by that higher species of intimidation to which the noble Lord who last addressed them had alluded. If it were true, as had been stated over and over again, that the noble Lord opposite had the power in his hands of carrying this measure, and that he had refrained from using it, such conduct, in his opin- 184 ion, reflected very great credit on the noble Earl. If this measure were finally carried by a proceeding of the sort to which he had alluded, that, in itself, he conceived, would constitute a revolution. If that House was not to have a free voice in the discussion on this subject—if, because it hesitated to adopt a Bill sent up by the House of Commons, it was to be swamped by new Members; if so violent a measure were to be taken, that House would become an assembly hereafter to be despised. But he would again ask their Lordships, was not this measure a fit one to be maturely considered in Committee? Any Minister that put forward such a measure as this, incurred, they must all admit, the greatest responsibility ever encountered by man; but that formed no reason why they should not give due attention to the measure. They ought to take care that they did not incur any responsibility by refusing to consider this Bill, when they could, by a very easy course, avoid that responsibility. They should recollect, not only that the House of Commons, but that the Crown also, approved of this measure. It would not be wise, therefore, to reject it without giving it that consideration which its great importance deserved. He assured their Lordships that the feeling of the country was now entirely changed. They had not now to apprehend any of that sort of violence which they before dreaded. A calm had come over the public mind—a lull in that storm of passion had occurred; but this was the very reason why they should now act—the very reason why they should take advantage—why they should now deal with the Bill before them differently from that of last year. They had no longer to encounter the cry of "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill;" and they had now an opportunity given to them, which might never again return to them, of moderating this measure in some degree to their wishes. He was satisfied that it was hopeless to think of getting rid of the question of Reform altogether. Nay, he would say more, that, whatever Government might be in power, it would have not only to bring forward a measure of Reform, but a measure of Reform on the very principles of the Bill now before them. Let them consider what those principles were. They must not look for them in the clauses of the Bill, as some of their Lordships seemed to imagine, but in the preamble of the Bill. 185 He said, then, that any one who did not oppose Reform altogether, must grant it upon the principles contained in that preamble. To prove this, he begged to ask, what were the abuses of the present system talked of, not only by Reformers, but by anti-Reformers? No one could deny that the first and foremost of them all was, the existence of boroughs which, whether rightly or wrongly, were supposed to be nomination boroughs, which sent Members to Parliament independent of any constituency whatever. The principle of Reform, then, was, to get rid of a certain number of these boroughs. He agreed with the noble Lord, the late President of the Board of Control, who addressed the House last night, in lamenting the loss of those boroughs, and doubted whether any scheme of Representation that might be devised could put them in possession of so much useful service as was afforded by those boroughs. But again he said, they were not to deceive themselves upon this point. The word had gone forth, those boroughs had become an object of detestation to the people (whether rightly or not was another question), who now thought them places which made the House of Commons an assembly of people who disposed of their property and drew their money from their pockets, without their having any control over their choice into that House. This, in the times they now lived, would no longer be endured, and, more or less, every Member of the House of Commons must in a certain degree depend upon the people. It was their Lordships' duty now to regulate that dependence as far as in them lay, but upon some description of constituency, he would venture to predict, whatever might be the issue of this Bill, every Member of the House of Commons must in future depend. The next point was, the enfranchisement of the great towns. This was almost universally given up as a disputed point; scarcely any man, not even the noble Duke near him, venturing to say that those towns ought not to return Members to Parliament. After having admitted these two principles—disfranchisement and enfranchisement—was it possible to say, that the constituency could remain in its present state? To show the impossibility of it, he would only refer to the town of Bath. The Members for that place were returned by the very small body of persons who constituted the Corporation, who were said to be 186 much under the influence of one noble Lord. Could any one believe that, whilst nomination boroughs were disfranchised, and representatives were given to large towns, such a city as Bath should be suffered to remain under such a corporation as now governed its elections? He was no Reformer; but, if the boroughs were to be destroyed, large cities could not consistently be suffered to remain under small Corporations. The next principle of the Bill was, to diminish the expense of elections. He did not say that the provisions of the Bill for registrations, &c. would effect that object; but he apprehended that none of his noble friends would say that it was not a desirable object to be obtained. Certain he was, that all who had suffered by the expenses of an election, and particularly of a county election, would feel, however inadequate they might consider the means here taken to diminish the expense of elections, that they ought to be diminished. He, for one, had always been of that opinion, and still retained it. The noble Duke, and many other noble Lords, had only looked at the effects which they supposed would follow the rejection of this Bill, as being the same which took place in October, on their Lordships' rejection of that which was under consideration last. They had talked of riots, and of the possibility of civil war, and upon the duty of the Government to put any attempts of that kind down. No doubt that such was the duty of Government, and great blame would attach to it did it not, under any circumstances, put down any such proceedings. But that was what they had not now to apprehend. They must consider that there had been, for some time, a growing dislike and jealousy in the minds of the people towards their Lordships' House—feelings, which originated in their belief that their Lordships were acting to suit their own purposes and views, and not with any regard to the interests of the community at large. That was a feeling which their Lordships would find it difficult to remove. The House of Lords had, upon many occasions, refused, over and over again, to pass bills sent up to them by the House of Commons. Their Lordships did so in the case of the Catholic Relief Bill more than once; but at last they passed it. He did not mean to say that, if they had thought fit again to reject it—if they had been so unwise as to adopt that course—that they might not have done so. They 187 would have had the support, if not of the majority, yet certainly of a very large portion, of the people of this country. But how would the matter stand with them if they refused to pass this Bill? They would not have a House of Commons nearly divided in opinion, but a House of Commons which had twice sent them up this Bill, backed by large majorities. Would they have the people, or even a portion of the people, on their side? What could they depend upon to support them in their opposition to the House of Commons? He entreated them to consider of this matter, and to consult the persons with whom they were in the habit of living, to ascertain whether the country was prepared to back their rejection of this Bill? He knew that there were a few, out of both Houses of Parliament, upon whom no responsibility rested, ready to urge the most violent measures—ready to call on both Houses to stand stoutly and firmly; but who, when called upon for their support, invariably slunk into corners, leaving those, who had been credulous enough to believe in their silly boasting, to bear all the odium of what they themselves had urged. There might be such people who told them, in their private communication, and in newspapers—"Resist, and we will support you." But where would they be found when wanted? But their Lordships were told that, if they agreed to the second reading of this Bill, they granted the principle of it; and the word principle seemed absolutely to frighten their Lordships. But, because he or any other noble Lord might vote for the second reading, it could not be said that they were bound to vote for the 10l. clause or schedule A. They pledged themselves to no such thing. All they pledged themselves to was, to consider the 10l. clause and schedule A in the Committee. He agreed that no man could vote for the second reading who was not willing to concede Parliamentary Reform of some kind or ocher; but they might agree to the second reading, and afterwards deal with the Bill as they pleased. His noble friend, the late President of the Board of Control, last night made a speech which he could not sufficiently admire, in defence of the borough system. It was by far the best defence of that system he had ever heard made, and he could not help feeling sorry that that speech had not been given at an earlier period of these discussions, when it might possibly have 188 done some good. But now he must say of it as he did of the Reform Bill of the noble Duke (Buckingham), that it came all too late. The public feeling on the subject of these boroughs was too strong to be resisted, and took away that respect from the House of Commons which it ought to inspire; and, whatever advantages that system might have, he was afraid that, even if it were now continued, it would not operate on the Government of the country as heretofore, but produce more evil than good. It was undoubtedly true that they afforded the great advantage of returning eminent men, who could not obtain a seat in Parliament by other means; but it was better to find a remedy for what he admitted was a great loss, than to endeavour to uphold a system which had become so repugnant to the feelings of the people, and had been so unequivocally condemned by public opinion. He thought a lesson might be read on this subject in the last fifty years, not unworthy of their Lordships' notice. He begged them to look back to the events connected with the American war. Early in their attempt to tax America, able persons in this country warned the Government of the consequences of the course it was entering upon, and begged it to desist. They, at the present day, might marvel at the manner in which the Government fruitlessly continued that struggle. Its end was a great loss of blood and treasure on our part, but it insured independence on the part of the Americans. Early in the contest conciliation might have brought about something of an accommodation; but, in spite of repeated warnings, they refused to take measures of conciliation, and America was lost to us. Let them look also to the struggle which took place in Ireland, with respect to commercial freedom. It was refused over and over again, but at last the Government was compelled to yield it. Let them look at the Catholic Question. The Catholics thought, and thought justly, that they were entitled to political freedom. In theory, nothing could be objected to their claim, and their cause was advocated by the greatest statesmen, and the most powerful orators, including Mr. Pitt himself, which this country ever produced. Their Lordships refused to grant the demand of the Catholics; but what happened at last? Their Lordships taught the people of Ireland that the only way to 189 attain their object was, to show some front—to show that they were determined to attain it. The people of Ireland did so, and they succeeded. What had the House obtained by the prolongation of the struggle? It had merely prevented any benefit being reaped from the concession. Had it been made earlier—if that which was right had been granted as soon as asked—if that which was recommended by the wisest of men had been adopted—their Lordships would have made of Ireland a grateful country; but their Lordships forced on agitation, and they had made an ungrateful country of it, and taught the people to use the power which their Lordships now found opposed to them. But was even that all that was likely to result from the refusal of the question now before them? Let them look at the effects of the resistance they had already made to it. Instead of increasing their power to resist, every effort had left them weaker than before, till at last they were left almost without the power even of surrender. This very Bill was a proof of what he had stated. A timely concession would at least have warded off for many years even the proposal of such a plan as was contained in this Bill; but no; they would yield nothing, for fear that the principle being conceded, they should never be able to stop. The consequences of this banking up of the waters had been, that they had become irresistible, and a large measure of Reform must now be granted. His noble friend (the Duke of Wellington) could not now agree with him, but he would venture to say, that the time was not far distant when even the noble Duke himself would confess that this question could no longer be postponed. He admitted that the country had flourished under the system they were about to abolish, but the question was, whether the people who were to be governed were satisfied to be any longer governed by it. The noble Duke said, that they had been asked to compromise, and wished to know what, after negotiating for six months, was the sort of compromise they had made? It was true that, in October last, a negotiation—or rather a conversation—took place (for the word "negotiation" did not properly express what was meant) between the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey,) his noble friend behind him, (Lord Harrowby) and himself. He did not think the noble Earl would 190 suppose it wrong in him to say thus much,—namely that the result of that negotiation, if his noble friend pleased so to call it, was, that they understood each other's views better than they did before, but, in point of fact, came to no satisfactory understanding. So the conferences broke off. But it was true that, since that time, the conversations between himself, his noble friend, and the noble Earl, had been resumed; but he could assure the noble Duke that, as to compromises, none was ever proposed by the Government, nor would either his noble friend or himself have assented to any. His noble friend and himself certainly proposed to make certain alterations in the Reform Bill, which they thought might render it, in some degree a safer measure; but he repeated that there was nothing like a compromise on either side. He appealed to the noble Earl opposite to say whether he did not state correctly what took place. He did not take blame or credit to himself for having been engaged in these conversations; but he must say, that it was not a matter to be ashamed of, either for his noble friend, the noble Earl, or himself, to see how far in conciliatory conversation they might be able to agree. In short, he would say, that nothing had taken place which could affect in ally degree, either their honour or their votes in that House. He blamed, quite as much as his noble friend who spoke last, his Majesty's Ministers for placing the House of Lords and the country in the situation they now occupied in reference to each other. When they came into office, he had certainly hoped, from the tone they adopted, and from the declarations they made, that although they were pledged to Reform the Commons House of Parliament, that that Reform would have been such a one as he could have agreed to. He had long since come to the conclusion, that they must give way in some degree on this subject, and therefore he did not oppose the Government. Again, after the Bill was brought in, he took an early opportunity, very much against the wishes of many of his noble friends on that side of the House, of stating his opinion of what would be the effect of bringing forward that fatal Bill, and the effect it had produced on his mind. He did so, for he thought, that even, if after the dissolution of Parliament his Majesty's Government had altered their plan so as to meet the views of those who were dis- 191 posed to go a certain length in Reform, they might have avoided all the inconveniencies and dangers that had subsequently surrounded them. He styled this a fatal Bill; for he conceived that the effects which had resulted from it ever since the 1st of March, 1831, were such as it would take the country years to recover from—even if it ever recovered from them. Both the bringing forward of the Bill itself, and its protracted discussion, had been most detrimental to every interest in the country; the trailing interest, the manufacturing interest, the agricultural interest—in short all classes of the community—were now anxious to have this question settled in some shape or other. If he could believe for one single moment that his vote against the second reading would settle and put an end to this Reform Bill for ever, he would most cheerfully give that vote; and he was persuaded, that although many in the country might be disappointed, yet he felt convinced that the great body of the people, whatever they might think upon the subject of Reform, would be glad to have it even thus disposed of. But it was because he felt conscious that such could not be the effect of now throwing out this Bill that he should vote in favour of the second reading. To reject the Bill, would only he to put off the question for a short time, at the end of which they would find themselves in even a more difficult situation than they occupied at present. He entreated their Lordships to take this Bill into consideration. When it was introduced he was certain that a more moderate measure of Reform would have satisfied the greater part of those who were anxious upon the subject, and if proposed would have carried the votes of many of them who were not favourable to Reform at all. But the Government, as he feared it did upon other occasions, mistook the noise and clamour of the country for its real sense. They did not, in his opinion, behave as statesmen ought to do; but endeavoured to outrun the feelings of the country, and, by granting more than was necessary, to stop demand. The effect of that course had, however, been, to increase the demands of many who, if not so encouraged, would have been satisfied even with less. But upon Ministers rested the responsibility of this Bill. If it should prove hereafter to effect good, let them take the credit; but if all that was dreaded on that side of the House 192 ensued, then let them take the blame, with the deep and bitter sorrow they could not but feel. He was most anxious, however, respecting the result of this measure, and felt that no resolution had ever, in the history of the country, been come to in that House so teeming with important consequences as that which would be come to upon this subject. Once more he entreated them to consider whether they would not at least receive this Bill in order to show the country that they were not adverse to all Reform, to consider whether it was consistent with wisdom and discretion to exercise that right of rejecting the Bill which the Constitution undoubtedly placed in their hands.
The cries of "adjourn, adjourn" became general at the conclusion of the noble Lord's speech.
The Earl of Winchilsea moved the adjournment of the Debate which was adjourned accordingly.