The Earl of Winchilsea
begged to claim the indulgence of their Lordships for a short time, as he could not allow the debate to close on so important a question without stating the grounds on which he meant to give his vote against the second reading of this Bill. Widely as their Lordships might differ on this important measure—widely as they might differ as to the necessity, expediency, and sound policy, of passing it—widely as they might 214 differ on the ulterior benefits or evils which in the event of the Bill passing, would result from its making such great changes in the Representation of the people, still he felt convinced that they were unanimously agreed in the opinions that the speedy and final settlement of the question was in every respect desirable, if for no other purpose than to allay that spirit of agitation which had been excited in the country—which had led to the invasion of the public peace and tranquillity—which had caused the loss of life in more than one direction, and the consequences of which would, he feared, be felt to the last hour. Of all the political questions which could be brought before the people of England, this, above all others, should be discussed with calmness, temper, and deliberation. It was particularly incumbent on his Majesty's Ministers to have approached the subject with all the prudence in their power, and they were bound to caution every person, over whom it could be supposed that they possessed an influence, against taking any steps to inflame the passions of the people. He regretted to find that sufficient care had not been used in that respect, the more particularly as it was evident there was no occasion to use illegal or unconstitutional means for awaking the notice of the people; for in whatever shape so important a question as that of a Reform of the Representation was brought forward, it must have commanded public attention, even on no better grounds than that nine-tenths of the community would imagine that it held out immediate or prospective benefits to them. At the time the question was brought forward, the situation and circumstances of the country gave it a much more important character than perhaps attended the introduction of any measure which he could recollect in the history of the State. He would not detain the House by proving that the agricultural and manufacturing interests were suffering great distress when the noble Earl first made mention of the Bill, nor would he detain it to inquire into the true causes to which that suffering was to be referred. Sufficient for him was it to state, that a degree of suffering almost unexampled existed at that time, the greater part of which could be traced to, in his opinion, the consequences of the change which took place at the close of that war which, by a noble Earl last night, was loaded with every 215 opprobrious term—but to which he considered we were indebted for our political existence, and the security of those principles that produced the greatness, the wealth, and the glory of the State. He would not stop to inquire whether that suffering was attributable to the changes which had taken place in the currency of the country; nor would he say, that it arose from the mistaken and false theories of those political economists who had encouraged foreign manufacturers to the exclusion and ruin of our own. He would not dwell any longer upon that subject, or examine at greater length what the causes of that distress were. It was sufficient for his purpose to state, what no one could deny, that the moment chosen for the introduction of this Bill was one of almost unexampled suffering and alarm. It was, therefore, natural to expect that those persons who found their affairs involved in difficulties, and ruin staring them in the face, would fly to any new proposition which contemplated extensive change, in the hope that they might secure relief, and an amendment of their situation. For that reason he found that the announcement of Reform was hailed with acclamation. He had personally inquired among various classes of the community, and he found in all, that the wildest hopes of benefit were indulged. The agriculturist expected relief from the burthens which weighed upon the land, and from the commercial restrictions which interfered with the price of his produce—the landholder promised himself that his income would be increased tenfold, and that all the taxes on the necessaries of life would be removed—the manufacturer believed that new protecting duties would be enforced—in short, not a single branch of trade, agriculture, or manufacture, but imagined that new health was to be infused into the system, and that all in future was to be prosperity and happiness. The decision of their Lordships last Session put to flight, for a time, all those poetical imaginations. However much that decision disappointed others, he was one of those who truly rejoiced at it; and whatever might be the result of the debate on this occasion, he never could repine that the Reform Bill of last year was lost. He rejoiced at it on many grounds; and if for no better reason, that it gave the reflective and constitutional part of the country time to think on what had been done—on the 216 true purport of the measure that was proposed to them, and to consider if there were evils in the Representation whether it was prudent thus sweepingly to redress them. These were his sincere opinions, and he hoped he should not again be exposed to the charge of inconsistency which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack brought against him in his speech in October last. He felt that he was not open to such an accusation. He admired consistency as much as any man, but he took a distinction, which he thought all their Lordships would join him in, between true consistency and that subserviency which was often mistaken for it. He could not value any man who did not preserve consistency in his public life, but he took care to try the person charged with the breach of it by the true test of principle, and by the spirit of the acts which he offered to support. He maintained, on the subject of Reform, that the vote he was about to give was not inconsistent with any act of his life. He was as much a Reformer now as he had been at any former period. He was ready to support it to the fullest and greatest extent which he had at any time been favourable to, but he held that he was not bound to agree to all and every measure that was brought forward under that name. With regard to this Bill, he was opposed to it as a whole, but he confessed that he could see no objection to the granting Members to those towns that had grown up to opulence and extent since the Representation was settled. He was as friendly as any noble Lord to the proposition for giving every right enjoyed by one town to others of equal importance, but he saw no reason in order to secure that advantage to large places, to sweep away the vested rights and ancient franchise of boroughs because they were of small extent. He felt that the extension of the rights of Representatives could not be denied to large and opulent towns; but he, for one, would never agree to the destruction of the franchise of various places whose privileges were founded on usage and justice. The Bill introduced by the noble Earl was founded on three principles—namely, disfranchisement, enfranchisement, and the extension of the qualification of voting. He thought that the manner in which the principle of enfranchisement was carried into effect, though proper in the main, was in some cases most objec- 217 tionable. For instance, the plan of increasing the metropolitan Members he could never agree to, and he had not failed to inform the noble Earl of his decided objection to that part of the Bill. It was a plan calculated to create great alarm in the country at large, inasmuch as it gave a preponderance to a place where clamour had so many means of working out its ends, and it was also calculated to injure the other commercial interests of the country. With respect to the principle of disfranchisement, he could not understand why it should have been introduced at all. Surely it was not necessary, because Representatives were given to a few large towns, that the rights of boroughs should be swept away, which were as ancient as many of their Lordships' titles, and might yet be advanced to prosperity and relative importance in the country. He thought that a more judicious plan might easily be adopted with regard to the smallest boroughs, against whom the wrath of the noble Lords and the Reformers in general was specially directed—namely, enlarging the boroughs by adding the surrounding parishes to them. With regard to the third principle, which altered the qualification of voting, he had the greatest objection to a constituency founded on one general uniform money qualification, but if such a one were adopted he thought that at least the qualification should have been raised to 20l. If the clause passed in its present state, the wealth and property of the country would not have a fair influence in the elections. He even considered that this point was more objectionable in the present than in the former Bill, for in the preceding case the voter was obliged to pay 10l. a-year rent, but by this Bill, he need not pay a shilling rent, and his right depended on the assessment and payment of the taxes. Could any plan be more easily devised to admit the manufacturing of votes? Any person who employed a number of workmen might call them together, and say he would give them so much wages and house room, reserving an allowance for rent to give the required qualification. If the plan was suffered to work uninterrupted for some years, he was quite certain that the House of Lords, as well as the Monarchy, would sink under the effects of such a constituency. These were the leading and principal features of the Bill, to which he could never give his assent, though he was pre- 218 pared to allow the manufacturing towns their fair share in Representation, and to transfer the influence which had fallen into the hands of individuals, who had become possessed of the smaller boroughs to the property of the country. He was not like some of their Lordships, to be affected in property or influence by the Bill. He possessed no borough influence—he took care not to seek influence over any man, and he allowed all those over whom it might be supposed that he had some control to pursue what line of politics they pleased. He, therefore, felt no alarm on his own account, and consequently he, as independently as any noble Lord in the House, took his stand against the Bill on its demerits, and implored them not to pass it into a law, as the ruin of two estates in the realm, that House and the Throne, would in his opinion be the inevitable consequence. With regard to the distinctions which those noble Lords who voted against the measure last year, and were now prepared to support the second reading, took between both Bills, he protested that he could see no difference to justify in his mind, the course they had taken. One of those noble personages pointed out a variety of instances in which the present measure was superior to the last; and the other contended that the House was bound to yield to what he called public opinion, but which he (the Earl of Winchilsea), more aptly termed popular clamour. He wished to ask that noble Baron if that was the position in which he really wished to place the House? Did that noble Baron ask him, one of the legislators of the greatest country in the world, to surrender his judgment to the dictates of a crowd, and to yield up his reason and his sense of right to the demand of public clamour? Here he could not avoid alluding to the use that had been made of the Royal name; and the friends of the Bill were not justified in saying that his Majesty was taking a part which in his opinion almost involved a breach of that oath which he had taken to preserve inviolate the Constitution, or that he was about to force this measure through the House by making an unwarrantable use of one of the prerogatives of the Crown. He trusted that these rumours were false. He believed that the Monarch of a free people was true to himself and to the country; and he was convinced that their Lordships would continue to act with the same 219 determination which they had already evinced. They must feel that their independence was at stake, and they ought to declare that they would not be the only slaves in a free country. He, therefore, discarded all the idle rumours of the day, and implored their Lordships to stand by the helm of the State, and not to trust themselves in the frail bark in which the noble Earl proposed to embark the new Constitution. He asked them to consider what kind of vessel they should have to step into, by whom was it to be manned, by whom was the helm to be held, and who was to ensure to them a safe or an honourable voyage? He was prepared if necessary to go down with the present vessel of the Constitution; to do his duty honestly and fearlessly, and to lose every thing but his honour, in his efforts to preserve it. These were the considerations which occurred to him when this great and important change in the Constitution was proposed for his adoption or rejection. He had no difficulty in determining the question for himself, and he implored their Lordships to rally with him round that old and venerated standard which had enabled the country to conquer in so many battles—had led it to a height of prosperity, and made it the envy and admiration of the whole world. Under that standard too, we had been enabled to put down that democratic spirit which was wafted to our shores from infidel France, and which, if suffered to work its way, would have involved the general civilization of the world in a common ruin. There mere, he considered, with reference to this Bill four parties in the country—the first composed of those who adhered, with perhaps too scrupulous a fidelity, to the form as well as the substance of the Constitution as it existed at present; the second, that constitutional party who were disposed to grant Representation to large commercial and manufacturing towns, but who carefully abstained from touching the property of others, or the rights of any franchise; the third, the Roman Catholic party, who were labouring for the advancement of their Church and the injury of the Protestant establishment; and the fourth, that revolutionary party who had been at work for years, and who sought to produce the same confusion in this country which those who were actuated by an equal spirit had already effected in France and Belgium, and would gladly 220 spread from one part of Europe to the other. Among the variety of shades of which this party was composed the Whigs were conspicuous. Their object was, by means of this heterogeneous mass of democracy to keep their opponents the Tories out of power, and thereby put an end to their political existence. The property and intellect of the country would be if not totally unrepresented yet completely overwhelmed, for it was among the intellectual, moral, and richer orders of the country, that the strength of the Tory party lay. He implored their Lordships, by the duty which they owed to their country—that country which looked up to them for the faithful discharge of those high functions which were intrusted to them—not to be misled—not to suffer themselves to be swayed by any considerations which would impede that faithful discharge of those duties. For himself, he could only say, that he should give his most decided opposition to the measure, for he felt that the most objectionable parts of the former one were by no means removed in the present Reform Bill; and in giving that opposition he did it upon the most conscientious motives.
The Duke of Buckingham
said, that he had heard with great regret, as well as with great surprise, the language held in defence of the votes which they meant to give on the present occasion by three noble Lords, whose example he was so proud to imitate, and whose lead he was so happy to follow, on the last debate which their Lordships had on this subject. Those noble Lords then led the array of their Lordships who were opposed to the present measure, on to victory. He regretted to find them now on the opposite side of the contest. They stood in a painful and unfortunate situation. They had each made unanswered and unanswerable speeches, and they had all been put, on the present occasion, to the unpleasant necessity of endeavouring to answer themselves. Inasmuch as they had led to victory before their Lordships were prepared to fight again under their standard, trusting to the same patriotism, and having confidence in the same soundness of argument and fervour of eloquence, which had formerly distinguished them. But when the opposing parties were drawn up in battle array against each other, and the conflict was on the point of commencing, these noble personages 221—Back recoil'd, they knew not why, Even at the sounds themselves had made.These noble personages declared that they were not deserters from any standards, because they had never listed under them. He would give them all the credit that was due to such an apology; but he must remind them, that if they were not listed soldiers in the camp, they served in it as volunteers and amateurs. They had now gone over in the same capacity to the other side. He hoped that they would not find themselves, as amateurs generally did, in the way of those whom they incumbered with their support, and that they would not be shot down by their own soldiery. It pleased the noble Earl who had spoken last night, to be facetious upon the noble Marquis who sat near him (the Marquis of Londonderry). He had said, that he had no objection to fight in any army under the command of his noble friend, provided his right wing was not commanded by the Bailiff of Old Sarum, and his left wing was not led on by the Mayor of Gatton. Now, he begged leave to remind the noble Earl, that there was one still more disgraceful flag now in the field—the flag of the Political Union of Birmingham—and under that flag the noble Earl and his two distinguished friends were now fighting. But if there were as many flags in the field as were placed before Major Dalgetty in the novel, for his selection, the flag of Mr. Attwood was the last under which he should choose to fight. The noble Earl had told them that his objections were to the principles of the last Bill. Might he be permitted to ask the noble Earl whether he had no objections to the principles of the present? There was not one of the arguments which the noble Earl and his two distinguished friends had directed against the last Bill, conscientiously he had no doubt, that did not apply equally to the present. They had voted against the last Bill on account of its democratic tendency; and on that account their Lordships had thrown it out. The noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government had then said, that he would bring in another Bill of similar efficiency, and that if he could not carry it, he would not remain an hour in the counsel of his Sovereign. The noble Earl had kept his promise: he had presented them with a Bill of equal efficiency, and the real question then before their Lordships was, whether the consistency of that 222 House was to be destroyed, in order that the consistency of the noble Earl might be preserved? What, he would ask, was the difference in principle between this Bill and the last? Was this Bill less democratical than the last? The noble Earl objected to the Bill of last year because it was too democratical. Was this Bill, he would ask, less democratical? The noble Earl said to them on the former occasion—"If you will not believe Mr. Attwood as to the democratical tendency of this Bill, whom will you believe?" On the present occasion the Political Union of Birmingham had declared that this Bill was more democratical than the last, and would answer their purposes better. Would the noble Earl advise their Lordships to give no credence this year to the evidence which last year he had declared to be most positive and irrefragable? The noble Earl had said, that the Bill of last year was called for by the people; and the noble Baron who spoke last night, and the noble Earl from Scotland (the Earl of Haddington) had both declared that their Lordships had been placed in a false situation by their vote last year upon it. And yet who was it but the noble Earl who had incited them to reject that Bill, by asking them whether the debates in that House were to be a mere mockery, and the House itself a mere chamber to register the orders of the House of Commons, and the clamours of the people? If the present Bill were not less democratical than the last, how came it to pass that the noble Earl was going to vote for it? The noble Earl last year told them not to submit to intimidation, but to despise it. He called on the noble Earl this year to abide by his own words, or to explain to their Lordships why they were now to submit to intimidation. Another noble Earl had told them that the country was quiet and tranquil. Witness the meetings at Birmingham, and the scenes at Bristol, Nottingham, and Derby, at all which places there had been formidable riots, all commenced and carried on in the name of Reform. But if the noble Earl had met, in the course of his rambles, any Minister so blind to the wants of the people, so deaf to their complaints, and so full of personal ambition, as to think that all obstacles should give way before his gratification of it—if he had met any Minister, who, forgetting the respect due to the authority of his Sovereign, had said, "You 223 must vote for the second reading of this Bill, for if you do not, I shall exercise the power to create Peers, which I have derived from the highest authority"—if he had met any Minister employing such language to him, he was sure that he knew what answer the noble Earl would have given to him. His answer would have been this: "My Lord, you may commit an impeachable act—you may sacrifice the Constitution of your country—you may send your name down to posterity blackened by such an act: but we, the Peers of England, will do our duty—we will stand between the living and the dead, and, by the blessing of God, we will stay the plague." Such, he well knew, would have been the answer of the noble Earl. But, said the noble Earl, "There has been no compromise between me and the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government." He was sure, from the honourable character of both parties, that there had been no compromise; but had there been no endeavour to soften down the Bill? and if there had been such an endeavour, had it succeeded in softening down the noble Earl in a single point? Had the noble Lords succeeded in taking a single point from the democratical part of the Bill? If they had not, how could they expect that the Opposition would succeed better in public in the Committee, than their Lordships had in private with the noble Earl, when they were fondly solacing him with promises of support? But the noble Lords had been admitted behind the scenes, and had seen the incantation going on. Like Macbeth, they had broken in upon the witches, exclaiming, with him,How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do?To which the reply given to the noble Lords was,A deed without a name.They had been witnesses to the incantations pronounced over the cauldron; they saw the spell formed by which it was intended to—Untie the winds, and let them fightAgainst the churches—to let the yesty wavesConfound and swallow navigation up;—Castles topple on their warders' heads:And palaces and pyramids to slopeTheir heads to their foundations.They saw the cauldron mixed, the ingredients poured in, and the charm com- 224 pleted; and then they said, "When it begins to boil, we will take the venom out of the cauldron." Did the noble Earl fancy that "when the charm was fast and good," he would be allowed to skim off the venom as he proposed?—to take away theEye of newt, and toe of frog,Wool of bat, and tongue of dog;or,Liver of blaspheming Jew.Could they expect to extract the venom out of a cauldron that contained nothing but venom. Did the noble Lord fancy that he could make anything either edible or potable out of such a "Hell broth?" No: if they consented to read this Bill a second time, their Lordships must prepare themselves to see revolution taking its usual course—that course which it had always hitherto taken both in this country and in France. He would not recur to the thrice-told tale of the French Revolution; but he would advise their Lordships to ponder on what had happened in this country during the time of Charles 1st. What was then the first thing done? The House of Commons passed a Triennial Bill, and they got the consent of Charles 1st to it. Charles was then a patriot King—nay, more, a citizen King. But what followed? The very next year the Commons took his Ministers from him, and compelled him to subscribe to a judicial murder. What came next? The Commons deprived the Bishops of their seats in Parliament, and passed Resolutions declaring that they were the only body entitled to direct the affairs of the kingdom. Then there was only one Chamber, and the privileges of the House of Peers were for some years suspended; the Monarch was dethroned; and a Republic established. Such had been the march of events formerly—such would it be again, if this Bill were unfortunately passed into a law. A noble relation of his, whom he dearly loved, though they differed widely on most political subjects, had lately published a life of Hampden which did him much credit. In that work his noble relation had given an anecdote of Hampden, which rested, he believed, on very good authority. He represented Hampden to have said to some Members of the House of Commons, who, at an early period of that revolution, were ridiculing the purple nose and vulgar figure of Cromwell, "Never you mind; if we break with the 225 King, in his hands will the destinies of England be placed." From that expression his noble brother had drawn a conclusion respecting the acute penetration of Hampden in which he (the Duke of Buckingham) thought he was not altogether justified. He (the Duke of Buckingham) believed that all that Hampden then meant—for, be it observed, Hampden was no revolutionist, and Cromwell at that time had made no figure either in the field, the Parliament, or the Cabinet—he believed that all that Hampden then meant was this:—"Break with the King, and it is in such hands as Cromwell's that the destiny of the country will be placed." "So will it be now," continued the noble Duke, "if we break with the King, it will be in the hands of sullen Radicals, of domestic tyrants, of canting Puritans, or of some ascetic Statesman, who retires now because his plots are not ripe, and spins his web until the country is fixed in his toils, that the destinies of England will be placed." In those days the noble Earl now at the head of the Treasury, who would never be suffered to direct the storm he had raised, would be told—"We have made use of your high mind—we have made a stepping-stone of you—and have now done with you—hereafter we shall follow our own course." Did not the noble Earl feel himself almost in that situation at present? Did he not feel that he was now touching ground—that the waters were retiring from him, and that as they retired, they would leave him at the mercy of the birds and beasts of prey that were even now hovering round him. The noble Earl, in his speech of a former night, had expressed a hope that if this Bill should be unfortunate in its results, he might be the only person involved in the ruin which it might create. But that could not be. All their Lordships would be included in it; and where, then, would he be who had first permitted the waters of destruction to rush in upon them. But the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) thought that this Bill would be more favourable in its principles to his views than the last. He should like to know what part of the Bill was more favourable to them, and what principles were contained in it? The principles of the Bill of last year was enfranchising without necessity, and disfranchising without trial. Were not the principles of this Bill the same? In what respect did they differ? In this Bill the county Repre- 226 sentation would be swamped by the town voters. [Earl Grey here said, "No; the freeholders in towns returning Members will not be voters for the county, except those under 10l. annual value."] He did not object to be set right upon this point, because there were still too many objectionable parts in the Bill for him to enter into. He presumed the noble Earl was correct; but still the effect of this provision would be to place that power which was mainly exercised by rural freeholders at present, in the hands of the populace of towns. With respect to the nomination boroughs, the noble Earl and the noble Lord who addressed them last night had, for the first time, discovered that these boroughs ought to be abolished. But he never would concede to these noble Lords that they possessed the right to take from the inhabitants of the nomination boroughs the elective franchise, and the privilege of voting. He had no hesitation in acknowledging that he himself held influence in them; he held it by the law, and to the law he would restore it. Why was the nomination-borough system objectionable? Certainly not because the inhabitants had the right of voting for Members of Parliament, but because the control of that right had got into the hands of individuals. Why, then, punish those boroughs for the fault of others? He would mention the case of a nomination borough with which he was connected. It was composed of persons of the very poorest class—men who had never seen five guineas of their own, at one time, in their pockets; and yet the price of a seat had never stained their hands. Twice had attempts been made to bribe them—and once by a zealous Reformer. Upon those occasions they came to him (the noble Duke), and informed him of the offers which had been made to them, and asked him for his advice. All that they received from him in return was his thanks for their attachment, and his advice that they should continue to resist the attempts made to corrupt them. Now, let him ask the framers and the supporters of this Bill, what right they had to disfranchise these men? What right had all the 10l. householders, from Whitechapel to Whitehall, from Limehouse to Lambeth, to hold up their Pharisaical heads and say, "Thank God, I am not as one of these?" Was Aylesford, Cricklade, and Shoreham disfranchised when they were convicted of gross 227 crimes? No: the recurrence of the evil in these cases was prevented by the infusion of purer blood into their veins. Why, then, were people to be disfranchised who had committed no offence, for no other reason but the arbitrary will of the noble Earl, and for the sole purpose, as it appeared, of increasing the influence of the democracy in large towns? The measure which he should have the honour to propose to their Lordships, if this Bill was rejected, should never take from such men the rights they enjoyed by the law, and which they had never abused. He would take that opportunity of saying, with regard to the notice he had given, that it might have occurred to many of their Lordships, as it had undoubtedly to him, that any measure of this description ought to originate in the House of Commons. If the House thought so, he should embody his measure in the shape of Resolutions, and leave it to the House of Commons to bring in a Bill in their spirit. The noble Earl had informed them that the excellence of his Bill consisted in its principle. The assumed principle was population and taxation; the admissibility of which, at the best, was doubtful, but in point of fact there was no such principle in the measure. Indeed, an attempt had been made to establish a principle, but, on examination, it would be found that in no two clauses of the Bill had it been adhered to. He would refer their Lordships to several cases to prove this. In the case of Dartmouth, it had been decided, that one Member should be taken from it; and the pretence had been, because it did not pay to the Crown a sufficient sum in assessed taxes to come up to the arithmetical figure in the scale of Lieutenant Drummond, that was necessary to remove it out of schedule B. It was contended, however, that sufficient money was paid; but that the collector intercepted it in transitu, under cover of a false assessment, to which he procured the signature of the Commissioners. But how stood the case with Helston? That borough was fully rated in the assessment signed by the Commissioners of Taxes, but it happened that a corps of yeomanry cavalry was raised by the inhabitants. The parties owning the horses in the corps claimed an exemption from taxes, which was allowed while their horses were used. The Government availed themselves of this, and hence it arose—while Dartmouth was put into schedule B, because, by 228 means of a false assessment, the money paid by its inhabitants did not reach the Treasury—Helston was also inserted in the same schedule, because its assessment was right, but persons had a power to claim a temporary exemption; and, availing themselves of it, did not pay the necessary amount. So that whether the assessment was right or wrong, it mattered not; an excuse was equally found to put those devoted places in schedule B. As to the injustice of comparing one place with another:—referring to the Parliamentary Returns of "Customs and Shipping," it appeared, that the port of Dartmouth stood, in amount of registered tonnage, 24,850; being the eleventh in quantity in England, and fifth as to Scotland—the third as to Ireland, and the first as to Wales; or, in other words, that there were but sixteen ports in the United Kingdom which stood above it in this respect. By a further reference to the same document it would be found, that there were at least thirty-four boroughs in England only, which were to be represented by sixty-eight Members, not one of which was equal in extent to Dartmouth. Indeed, so far were they below it, that, on striking an average of the thirty-four ports, their tonnage would be found to amount only to 6,801 tons each. Whilst one member, therefore, was to represent 24,850 tons of registered shipping, each of the other sixty-eight Members would, on an average, represent only 3,400. In examining, also, the test of 10l. houses creating the Representation, the same injustice would be found. By a paper, dated the 5th of March, it appeared that Dartmouth had 422 10l. houses; while there were thirty-six boroughs with two Members each, with less than 422—they having, on the average, only 350 houses to each borough. So that, whilst one Member for Dartmouth would have the inhabitants of 422 houses to elect him, each of the seventy-two Members of the other thirty-six boroughs, if the election were single, would have only 175. With regard to enlarging constituencies, and destroying nomination or property boroughs, these circumstances amongst others occurred in the same county. Honiton, by the before-mentioned Return, would have as voters the inhabitants of 310 10l. houses. It had now 700 or 800 voters: so much for enlarging constituencies! As to nomination boroughs, take Totness and Dartmouth as instances. 229 Totness was once a nomination borough in the hands of the Bolton family; it had been for some years perfectly independent of any such command of property. The Commissioners went down, and finding a bridge there leading to a town, they added Bridgetown to the parish of Totness. Bridgetown was the property of a noble Duke, who had been buying largely on the Totness side also. The consequences were fully understood in that borough; no one doubted the result. The Commissioners also visited Dartmouth—added to the town the whole parish of Townstall, which was the property of one gentleman: the result was as obvious as at Totness. The noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, who had taken so active a part in the discussion in another place, being asked why, since the Commissioners had taken in Bridgetown to Totness, they did not also take into Dartmouth the place that was opposite to that borough, and on the same river as Totness and Bridgetown—answered, because there was not a bridge at Dartmouth, but simply a ferry. With regard to Representation up to this time, Dartmouth had been totally independent of any property-influence whatever. These, then, were the principles of the Bill; and this was the manner they were adhered to—and, if their Lordships would take the trouble to go through the whole Bill, they would find multiplied instances of similar anomalies. He now came to the boundaries of boroughs, on which he wished to say a few words; and there again he found that a sort of friendly care had been taken of particular interests. Let their Lordships just examine how the borough of Calne was treated. There the yellow line was favourable to the noble Marquis, the President of the Council. A barn was included in a singular manner, and the line circling a barren field thereby hooked into the borough the Lodge at the approach to Bowood. [The Marquis of Lansdown said, the building mentioned had no vote.] The noble Marquis said the building gave no vote. Then why was so much pains taken to encircle it? Would it not allow a vote to be created in future? These were things which it was impossible not to observe, on looking at the details of the measure. So many instances of good fortune never occurred before. They looked as if produced by some regular and active system. Noble Lords opposite talked much of the principles of the Bill, 230 and of adhering to them; but to him it seemed that the great operative scheme of the measure was to suit the principle to the particular borough to be treated, and not to let each borough stand or fall by a trial upon the principle. The principle, indeed, he could not discover. It changed its shape, its dimensions, and its character so often, and suited itself to such a variety of circumstances, that it was impossible to define it by any general description. Indeed, he might say of almost all the boroughs, that the rule applied to them was most delightfully vague; for, where a borough was too small to be agreeable, it was enlarged—and where it was too large, it was diminished; so that, in fact, the Ministers had been happy enough to invent a Procrustian bed of torture, calculated to reduce all boroughs to the size which suited them. Then, with respect to the borough franchise, its great merit was said to be its uniformity. In what did its uniformity consist? Would any one say that a 10l. house in an agricultural district, and a 10l. house in Manchester or the metropolis, were inhabited by the same class of persons as to respectability or station in the country? Assuredly not; and yet the franchise, which treated them as if they were, was said to be uniform. It might be a very good franchise for some places; but, in the metropolis and large manufacturing towns, it was little better than Universal Suffrage. There was no reason for the uniformity, or rather the only reason was, that it would give new influence to the democracy. But, quitting the question of the uniformity of suffrage, how was the value of the houses to be settled? "Oh," said the noble Earl (Grey), "that is extremely easy, and it is easy because the value of a 40s. freehold is soon settled." The noble Earl had never attended Quarter Sessions. If he had, he would have seen, in the course of a very little experience, whole days consumed by counsel in arguing as to the value of a house. Many of their Lordships, he doubted not, had seen such cases—and they would know well how to estimate the supposition of the noble Earl. But, perhaps, some way had been devised of determining the value of the houses in boroughs. Who were to be employed in this business? Why Barristers. He never heard of a case in which there were Barristers, in which there were not also Attorneys; and there being Barristers and Attorneys, 231 how was simplicity to be expected? But this was not all. Who would be the parties most interested in the disputation of cases? Why the agents of candidates. It was, therefore, ridiculous to suppose that the value of houses in boroughs would be determined with facility. In fact, it would not be determined before the inferior tribunals; and there he must stop a moment to remark, that this was indeed a most unfortunate Bill; he meant unfortunate in failing in all the objects which it professed to have in view—for the question would have to be settled by a Committee of the House of Commons, and that surely would not be called a cheap tribunal, although this Bill was to lessen the expense of elections. The noble Earl seemed to think the Bill was the same as when the noble Earl had corresponded with Mr. Attwood, of the Birmingham Political Union. But the Bill was no such thing. It had been altered, although the noble Earl did not appear to know it. A payment of rent was necessary when the noble Earl corresponded with the Political Union, but now no such payment was necessary. In the next place, he would advert to the proposed metropolitan districts—the sections of London. They had heard of Paris being all France, and now London was to be all England. And to what class of the metropolis was this novel and fearful power to be given? Was it to be given to the responsible, to those who had something at stake, and an interest in preserving the country? No such thing. It was to be given to those who were in that station and those occupations of life which unfitted them for the trust. Their Lordships were to look for the purity of Representation in the hallowed shades of the Tower Hamlets, in the classical haunts of Billingsgate, and the modest precincts of St. Marylebone? All the beggars of London would vote. Their Lordships had heard of England's glory and Westminster's pride; but, under this Bill, Westminster's pride had better take care how he was charitable, for in relieving a beggar he might give a bribe to an elector—while, in refusing an alms he might offend a constituent. Let their Lordships fancy a general election—all their "Prides" and "Glories" in the street, all their sweet voices breaking in diapason on their ear, all their notes to be collected—why pestilence and plague would then be purity, compared to the atmosphere at a metropolitan election! These were but a 232 few of the objections which he felt to this measure, but they were sufficient to justify the vote he should give, and therefore he would not trouble their Lordships with more. But they were told that the people of England demanded the Bill. He would look into that assertion. He would see who really did demand this measure. In the first place, those who were to be bribed by a vote were desirous of the Bill. The Members of the close boroughs were said to be interested parties, and, therefore, not fit for judges in the case; and what then was to be said to those whose judgment was to be bribed by receiving the franchise? But by whom else was it called for? It was called for by the noble Earl, the Senior Earl of England and of Ireland (the Earl of Shrewsbury), a Nobleman high in hereditary rank. And how had that noble Earl called for it? He hardly knew how to take notice of the speech of that noble Earl in terms which should be consistent with the decorum which was due to every Gentleman in Parliament, and to every Peer in that House. But if that noble Earl had been listening to advice, in the name of God, what bigoted Jesuit could have instilled into his mind that the mode in which he asked for the Bill was a mode that was likely to induce their Lordships to grant it? The noble Earl had told them, that the present Constitution was good for nothing—that it had ruined the commerce and destroyed the prosperity of the country: he had told them that the House of Peers wanted reformation; and these were the grounds on which the noble Earl had hoped to persuade their Lordships to consent to the second reading of the Bill. The noble Earl had also told them, that the country had hitherto been governed by a foul and unjust Oligarchy, which ought to be destroyed: after which he applied himself to the reverend Bench, and told the Prelates then that they had been the foremost in rapine—that they had not only plundered the country, but been foremost in plundering it. This was the ground on which a Catholic Nobleman had called on Protestant Bishops to vote for the Bill. But if their Lordships had treated that Nobleman in the same manner, what would be have said? Or would he have been sitting in Parliament at that moment at all? If their Lordships had said to that noble Earl, "You are a Catholic, and we do not believe you; it is true that you will have to take oaths, but we believe that you 233 will break them; we are aware that you profess your willingness to support the revenues of the Protestant Church, but we know that you mean to destroy them;" if their Lordships had used this or similar language to the noble Earl, where would have have been the end of the thunders that would have been fulminated against them? Such language as the noble Earl had used on the former night might be fit language to provoke an Auto da Fé at Lisbon, or a Coup d'Inquisition at Madrid; but whoever had counselled the noble Earl to hold it in that House had given him advice which ought not to have been proffered by a Christian man, and ought not to have been adopted by a British Statesman. Again, he said, let noble Lords, both Lay and Spiritual, listen to the terms in which they were called on to vote for this Bill. Those terms amounted to this: the Constitution was to be overturned—Ireland was to be placed in the hands of the Roman Catholics—the House of Peers was to be reformed—and the reverend Bench (that hot-bed of robbery) was to share the same fate. He had done. He would leave the noble Earl to the dictates of his own conscience, and to the feeling which the country would entertain when the people heard such a cause defended by such arguments. But they had been told that, by this Bill the English Constitution would be renovated. But did it require that renovation? Let them look at the House of Lords as now constituted: they had among them high and noble names—the Russells, the Howards, the Stanleys, the Percies, and many others, connected with the proudest pages of English history; but it was no less honourable to the House to reckon among its Members those who had earned their coronets by carrying the flag of England in triumph over sea and over land; it was no less honourable to it to contain those who had raised themselves by enterprise and industry from the rolls of commerce; it was no less honourable to have received within its doors those who, by an ardent pursuit of the fine arts or of the liberal professions, had shed lustre on their country; and though all these had sprung from the people, they nevertheless ranked with the proudest and the most noble blood of the land. This, then, being the case, he should like to ask the noble Earl in what way he would reform the House of Peers? He should like to ask him, how he would set about constituting a more 234 democratic Aristocracy? And now, on the other hand, let their Lordships look to the House of Commons. Many of their Lordships had served their apprenticeship there; many of their Lordships' sons were now pursuing the same course—so as to fit them for the performance of their duties when, by the course of nature, they should be called on to take their seats in the Upper House. In the course of that preparation they necessarily mixed much with the people, for they had the interests of every class of the people to attend to. With such a Constitution as this, he would ask the noble Earl, where he could find a better regulated democratic assembly? Then what would the noble Earl have? Oh, he would have a reform of this democratic Aristocracy and of this aristocratic democracy! But one of the arguments used by the advocates of the Bill was, that, by this measure, they were only seeking to restore to the people that which they had formerly possessed. But at what period were these rights taken away which they were now called upon to restore? He defied any man to point to that moment when the liberties of England were better attended to than at present, or when the people of England enjoyed those privileges which were to be conferred on them by this Bill? But the fact was, that it was not the Constitution of England that would be renovated by this measure. It was the spirit of Republicanism which had clothed itself in the garb and form of the British Constitution, for the purpose of misleading the weak-sighted; and which, in all the hideousness of Vampire deformity, had found its way to their Lordships. In that House, however, he trusted that it would meet with an eternal grave. That House, he hoped, would be the Red Sea of this destructive enemy—drowned in which, it would no longer frighten from their propriety the constitutional feelings and good sense of the people of England.
The Earl of Shrewsbury
begged to be permitted to say a few words in explanation, as he considered the noble Duke, who had just sat down, had completely misunderstood the tendency of his remarks. The noble Duke was entirely mistaken in supposing that he (the Earl of Shrewsbury) had accused the Bishops of the Established Church of having been guilty of plunder and spoliation. He had stated distinctly that he intended no such thing. He only accused them of generally abet- 235 ting Ministers who had been guilty of spoliation and of plundering the country. He had spoken of the Bishops, as Members of that House, in common with other Peers, and in no other character, because, in a general way, the Bishops acted in the common capacity of Members of that House. He disclaimed the slightest feeling of hostility to the right rev. Bench, however, and positively denied that he had alluded to the right rev. Prelates in their religious character.
The Earl of Radnor
promised not to detain the House at any great length; but some points had been touched on, in the course of the debate, on which he was anxious to make a few observations. The noble Earl, who had just sat down, had explained his speech of last night precisely as he had understood it when it was spoken. The noble Earl had not accused the right rev. Prelates in their character of Christian Ministers, but he complained that they had supported Ministers in their improper policy—who were the source of great calamity to the country, who had entailed upon it a debt amounting to 800,000,000l.—and in that view he entirely concurred. The latter part of the noble Duke's (Buckingham) speech afforded him (the Earl of Radnor) great satisfaction, not so much from the matter contained in it, as from the admission which it implied. Though the noble Duke spoke strongly against the second reading of the Bill, and declared that he would vote against it, in order to prevent it from going into Committee, yet the noble Duke appeared to have such a hankering after the Committee, that he could not avoid going into details which properly belonged to a Committee. From the manner in which the noble Duke had treated some of the details of the Bill, their Lordships might anticipate great amusement when they went into Committee, as, no doubt, the noble Duke would favour them, in that stage of the measure, with his sentiments on those details more fully. If the objections to details, not at all affecting the principle of the measure, could be sustained in Committee, he hoped and believed that his Majesty's Ministers, like men of sense, would consent to the alterations which should be suggested. The noble Duke appeared to be extremely angry with two noble Lords (the Earl of Harrowby and Lord Wharncliffe) who had spoken last night in favour of the motion 236 for the second reading of this Bill, for the want of consistency which, as he alleged, they exhibited in now voting for the second reading. Now, consistency was a very good thing; but, when circumstances varied, it might be a very wise good thing not to adhere to what was called consistency. For his own part, he was perfectly convinced, that the reasons which the two noble Lords had given for altering their votes were sufficient and satisfactory. But it was rather late to talk of consistency in that House. If the noble Duke, who spoke last, had turned to the noble Duke behind him (the Duke of Wellington), he would learn, that no man who had the welfare of the country at heart could adhere to a principle which left him without the power of varying his conduct according to the change of circumstances. With respect to the details, the noble Duke (Wellington), who spoke last night, had entered into them at some length; but it appeared, that he had argued throughout on a fallacy, when he endeavoured to point out the inconsistency of the Bill in reference to particular places. These allusions to the details were generally accompanied with imputations that the framers of the measure had been influenced by interested motives. It was totally inconceivable to him how any noble Lords opposite could imagine, that persons, in the situation of Ministers, could have thought of consulting their own interests on such an important occasion as the present. How could noble Lords suppose that others could act in a manner in which they were incapable of acting themselves? Nothing could be more unpleasant than to hear persons continually harping on this subject. These imputations had been ringing in the ears of the House of Commons for the last year and a-half, and now they were introduced into their Lordships' discussions. He was really astonished that men in high situations should be so foolish as to condescend to impute such mean motives to individuals. With respect to the noble Duke himself, he had, some years ago, heard a strange story relative to a great quantity of paper, which the noble Duke carried with him when he quitted office. He did not wish to dwell upon that circumstance; but when the noble Duke chose gratuitously to bring forward charges, as if they were unanswerable, he ought to recollect that he might be assailed in the same way. 237 He had not the pleasure of knowing any of the Parliamentary Commissioners—he was even ignorant of their names—but he took it for granted that the Ministers would not have appointed them if they had not been men of talent and respectability. He was assured, indeed, that they were most respectable individuals, and possessed of great professional talent and general knowledge. He was really ashamed that it was necessary for him to say so much on the subject, but, although he knew nothing of the Commissioners, he felt it to be his duty to defend them. Did noble Lords really mean to impute improper motives to those gentlemen? He must leave to others, who did know them, the task of defending them against such imputations, and he would measure their feelings by his own. He would now notice a very erroneous statement which was made by the noble and gallant Duke opposite last night. Alluding to the 10l. qualification, the noble Duke said, that it would enable any lodger, who paid 6d. or 7d. a-night for his bed, to have a vote. That was an undoubted mistake; and, if the noble Duke would read the Bill, he would perceive that it was. A man might change his residence as often as he pleased previously to registration, but he must be rated to the support of the poor; and how was it possible that a lodger, who paid 7d. a-night for his bed, could be rated? A noble Earl (Mansfield) had, last night, quoted from a speech delivered by Lord Chatham in 1770, in which that eminent Statesmen compared the rotten boroughs to natural infirmities, which must be borne with patience, and said, that, "though the limb may mortify, if you amputate it the patient must die." He would quote from another speech of Lord Chatham, which was, he would admit, delivered at an earlier period than that to which the noble Earl had referred, and, therefore, it might be, that the experience which his Lordship subsequently attained induced him to change his opinion. He would just observe, too, that the noble Earl supposed Lord Chatham to have used the phrase, "the patient must die," whereas his words were, "may die." The speech containing the passage which he wished to bring to the notice of their Lordships, was delivered in the course of a discussion as to the propriety of giving a direct Representation to the colonies. Lord Chatham, upon that occasion, also, de- 238 scribed the nomination boroughs as the rotten part of the Constitution; and he added, "if it do not drop off, we must amputate it." As Lord Chatham was looked upon as an authority, he must be allowed to have the benefit of that observation. The House, however, would observe, that both he and the noble Earl were agreed that there was a rotten part of the Constitution. The quotation from Lord Chatham's speech having brought the subject to his recollection, he would just observe, that the great West-India meeting that was recently held, at which a noble Earl presided, and several Members for large and populous places took part in the proceedings, proved the fallacy of the argument, that nomination boroughs were necessary in order to enable the colonies to lay their case before Parliament. The noble Earl, likewise, contended, that Parliament ought not to deprive persons of a property which they possessed, without granting compensation, and, in support of his argument, referred to the course pursued upon the abolition of the heritable jurisdiction in Scotland. There was a great difference between that case and the question of disfranchising corrupt boroughs. An article was expressly introduced into the Act of Union, which declared, that all hereditary offices and jurisdictions should be reserved to the owners thereof, as rights of property. The compensation clause, introduced into the Act of the 20th of George 2nd. enacted, that compensation should be given to all persons who were lawfully possessed of the interests which it was the object of the Act to abolish, namely, those upon whom the right was conferred by the Act of Union. Could it be said, that this right was similar to that of appointing Members for nomination boroughs? He had the power of nominating two Members for Downton, and the noble Duke opposite (Buckingham), had the power of nominating two more for St. Mawes; but by what law did either of them possess that as a right of property? The noble Duke said, that he possessed that right by law. He wished him to point out the law. He possessed houses in Downton, as the noble Duke did in St. Mawes, but that was all. The question was, whether it was wise and proper that the noble Duke should possess the power—he believed he might call it the hereditary power, for it was enjoyed by his father, and, unless the Bill should pre- 239 vent it, would descend to his son—of compelling the electors of St. Mawes to return what Members he pleased? It might be that the noble Duke exercised his power in a very proper and becoming manner; but what injury would the electors of St. Mawes sustain by being deprived of the right of voting according to the direction of the noble Duke. By losing their votes, they would not, likewise, be deprived of their houses, and, by losing his power, the noble Duke would not be deprived of his property. In the course of the discussion, the opponents of the measure had dwelt with much emphasis upon one argument, namely, that, if the measure should be adopted, it would be impossible to carry on the Government. There was this fallacy in the argument—that it was always assumed, that, before the Bill was carried into effect, the country was in a state of composure, happiness, and, content—that every thing was going on agreeably to the wishes of all parties—that the Government was quietly, peaceably, and well carried on. That was a fallacy. The Government seemed, after struggling for years against the growing intelligence of the people, to have come to a stand-still; and when it was said, that the Government could not be carried on if the Bill passed, the proper reply to that was, could the Government be carried on if the Bill did not pass? It was for not introducing such a measure that the administration of the affairs of the country passed from the hands of the Duke of Wellington. He was aware that, in October last, the noble Duke, in the course of a great many explanations, insisted, that it was not on account of the question of Reform that he resigned his situation; but he never could understand how the noble Duke made that out. The case was this—on the 2nd of November, 1830, the noble Duke, after eulogizing the Constitution as it at present stood, made a declaration, that, as long as he occupied his then situation, he would never consent to its being altered. On the 15th of November, a debate took place in the House of Commons on the subject of the Civil List, on which occasion the Government was left in a minority. There then stood a notice on the books of the House of Commons for a motion on the question of Reform, three days subsequent to that defeat. On the 16th of November, however, the day after Government had been beaten in the House of Commons, the noble Duke re- 240 signed office, and stated over and over again, as he understood him, that he had done so because he found that he no longer possessed the confidence of the House of Commons, and was unwilling to embarrass the Government by meeting the question of Reform. It appeared to him, therefore, that the noble Duke felt that the enemies of Reform could not carry on the Government any longer. The noble Duke said, that the noble Earl at the head of the Government was wholly responsible for the state of the country. He denied that the noble Earl was at all responsible for the difficulties of the present moment. Let the House recollect what was the state of the country when the noble Duke went out of office. The southern counties of England were in a state of civil war, and it was notorious that the first act of the noble Earl, after kissing hands, was to proceed to a council to consider what measures were to be adopted to suppress the disturbances which prevailed. He had himself stated in the House, a few weeks after the present Ministers entered office, that the country was handed over to them in such a state, that it was the duty of Parliament to take measures to render the noble Duke and his colleagues responsible for it. He continued of the same opinion now, and, therefore, he could not allow that the difficulties of the present period were at all attributable to the noble Earl. The disturbances which existed, when he entered office, had ceased, for the measures to which he resorted soon put an end to them. Why those measures were not adopted before, he did not know; for he really thought, that, if they had been carried into execution boldly at the commencement of the disturbances, they would not have proceeded further. At all events, for the suppression of those disturbances the country had to thank the noble Earl. The noble Duke next said, that the Government had done every thing in their power to cause the excitement which prevailed throughout the country on the subject of Reform. For his part, he knew of nothing which the Government had done in this respect. On the first day the noble Earl took office, he came down to the House and stated the principles upon which he had received his Majesty's commands to carry on the Government, and one of those principles was Reform. On that occasion, a noble Marquis stated his views with respect to Reform, which appeared to him so 241 unsatisfactory, that he pressed the noble Earl to state the nature of the Reform which he intended to propose. The noble Earl would not comply with his request, and, perhaps, he was wrong in having urged it at such a moment. Nothing was known of the Ministerial plan for several months, but the country was ripe for the question. County meetings were held in every part of the country, to petition for Reform. In Wiltshire, where he resided, a county in which it was difficult to get up a county meeting, and in which a strong Tory feeling prevailed, the inhabitants assembled, and agreed to petition for Reform. He was concerned in getting up that meeting. The only part he took on the occasion was, to write to all the gentlemen whom he knew, to ask, whether they would sign the petition if agreed to. Attempts were very naturally made, by some persons interested in rotten boroughs, to prevent the meeting from taking place, but they did not succeed. If reference were made to the journals of the House, they would find that, before the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons, numerous petitions were daily presented to that House, praying for a large measure of Reform, and not unfrequently for the Vote by Ballot. The noble Duke further said, that the demand for Reform rose out of what he called the unfortunate events which occurred in Paris in July; and that the influence of those events upon the public mind in this country was manifested at the general election. It happened, however, that most of the elections were over before the intelligence of the Revolution arrived from Paris. The noble Duke must recollect the strong demonstration of public feeling, in Yorkshire, when the noble individual who now sat on the Woolsack was elected Member for that county; and surely he would not contend that it was the result of the events at Paris. It appeared to him of the utmost importance to the safety of the country, that the Bill should be carried, as, from what he heard and saw, he believed it would be. A right rev. Prelate, who spoke on the first night of the discussion, stated, that, after balancing all the arguments for and against the measure, he had come to the resolution of opposing it on the ground of morality. No one could entertain a higher opinion than himself of the learning and piety of that most rev. person; but he was astonished to 242 hear him say, that he could not support the Bill on the ground of morality, when its object was to destroy bribery, corruption, perjury, and hyprocrisy, and all those vices which were notoriously connected with the present system. It was contrary to reason—it was contrary to every thing which ought to actuate man—that he or the noble Duke should have the power of sending two Members to the House of Commons, under the hypocritical pretence that they were the Representatives of the people. Every honest and sincere man must be anxious to get rid of such a system by almost any means that he could. It had been said, that the 10l. franchise would throw the elections into the hands of the Political Unions, which had been originally formed for the purpose of combining to raise wages, and which might be directed to the most dangerous objects. He did not believe that these apprehensions would be verified. The noble Duke said, that the noble Earl at the head of the Government was fighting under the banners of Mr. Attwood. He was not aware that the noble Earl ever received Mr. Attwood as the avowed deputy from the Birmingham Political Union, but he was assured that the noble and gallant Duke, when he was at the head of Government, did receive Mr. Attwood in that character. It was supposed that the 10l. voters all over the country would act in union as one body, as if they had no connection with those above or those below them. In countries like India and China, where there were castes, there might be a description of persons who could live only in 10l. houses, but in this country such a thing was impossible. The persons who lived in 10l. houses in England were some of a higher, some of a lower condition in life—some of better and some of inferior education; but they would all more or less be connected with those above and those below them. They would not possess an isolated feeling, but would partake of the general feeling of society. Take the case of Westminster, for example, in which there were voters of various descriptions—some 10l., others 15l., and others 20l. He had not analysed the poll-books, but no one, he apprehended, would doubt, that on the occasion of a contested election, some of these voters would be found voting for each of the candidates. This allusion to Westminster reminded him of another argument which was employed against the Bill. It was 243 said, that after the Bill passed, it would be impossible for the Members of the Government to find electors who would return them to the House of Commons. It happened that Mr. Fox was elected three times for Westminster when he was Minister. Lord Hood also was returned for Westminster whilst he held office; and very recently Sir John Hobhouse, on accepting office, vacated his seat, and was re-elected for the same place. In conclusion, he must express an earnest hope that the Bill would be read a second time. He was the last person who would wish to resort to intimidation in order to induce their Lordships to agree to the measure; but he did not conceive that it was intimidation to call upon the House to consider the evil consequences which would result—perhaps to themselves, but certainly to the country—from a decision against the Bill. Every person appeared now to admit the necessity of some Reform. Even the noble Earl who spoke so ably last night admitted the necessity of Reform, though last year he expressed a wish that the question should be postponed two years longer for consideration. The noble Duke himself (the Duke of Wellington) had at last declared that some Reform must take place; and the only question remaining was, the extent to which it should be carried. Many of their Lordships seemed to be excessively angry with the noble Earl for having, acting upon his own judgement of what was right, introduced this particular measure of Reform. It was, however, the only plan which their Lordships had before them, and they must either accept or reject it. A noble Baron had, on the first night of the debate, urged their Lordships to reject the Bill at once. He knew not what consequences the noble Baron expected to follow that rejection, or whether the course he had adopted was suggested by the vain hope of upsetting the Ministers and coming back to place; but he entreated their Lordships, who were now all Reformers, to reflect whether the best thing they could do was not to unite in supporting the second reading of the Bill; and thus giving themselves an opportunity of at least considering it in Committee. The noble Lord concluded by stating, that he should give his sincere and hearty assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ The Duke of Wellington
begged to assure the House, that when he last night 244 read the return to which the noble Earl had alluded, he had no intention of making any personal allusion. His purpose in reading that paper was, to point out to the noble Earl near him the different anomalies contained in the Bill. The noble Earl (the Earl of Radnor) had stated, that, when he was in office, he received a deputation from the Political Union of Birmingham. It was certainly not impossible that Mr. Attwood and a deputatation from the Birmingham Political Union might have had an interview with him. He had, however, no recollection of the circumstance; but of this he was sure, that he had never received, Mr. Attwood or any other persons as Members of any political club.
The Bishop of Lincoln
said, that he should not long trespass on the indulgence of their Lordships, and that nothing but his extreme anxiety to state the reasons which would influence his vote on the present occasion could have induced him to offer himself to their Lordships' notice at all. When last year he had been called upon to vote on the Reform Bill, he felt that he had but a choice of evils. Upon the present occasion he also conceived that he had only a choice of evils; and his object must be now, as it was before, to choose according to the best of his ability that which was the least evil. When the former Bill was brought up to their Lordships House, the public mind was in a state of great excitement; and a season of great excitement, he thought, was of all seasons the most unfit for legislating on any subject. Although, therefore, he was not insensible to the inconveniences and to the hazard which must arise from the rejection of the former Bill, yet he felt that to reject it was at that time to choose the least evil. The majority by which that Bill had been rejected was composed of two classes—of those who were unfriendly to all Reform; and of those who, whatever might be their opinion of the desirableness of Reform, yet felt that the time had arrived when a great change must take place in the Representative system. By a great change in the Representative system, he meant that the power of sending Members to Parliament must be conferred on large manufacturing and commercial towns, and, as a consequence, that there must be disfranchisement—either partial disfranchisement according to the suggestion of the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham)— 245 or total disfranchisement according to the present Bill; and that there must be an extension of the elective franchise. He was one of the latter class of persons. He thought that there must be a change in the Representative system; and in the course of the present Session of Parliament, he had been looking with anxious expectation to see some influential Member of their Lordships' House, possessing the same sentiments as himself, lay on the Table of the House a Bill more consonant than the present measure with the opinions they both entertained. If that had been done, when called upon to vote for the second reading of the Bill now before the House, he should have been able to have pointed to a specific measure, and to have said that that measure contained his sentiments, and he should thus have proved that he was not unfriendly to all Reform. His hope, however, in this respect, had been disappointed. No such measure had been proposed; and he agreed with the noble Baron who spoke last night in thinking that the notice given by the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) had come too late. He was, therefore, placed in the same situation in which he stood last Session, and must either vote for the rejection of this Bill, or for its going into Committee. But had no change taken place in the public feeling since he had given his former vote? At that time such was the excitement of the public mind, and so strong the feeling in favour of this particular measure, that he believed that a modification of the Bill would have been scarcely less distasteful to the public than its entire rejection. What was the state of public feeling now? There existed an intense anxiety for the settlement of this question, on account of the injury which must, so long as it continued in suspense, be inflicted on the agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing interests. There existed also a general persuasion that the question could only be settled by the introduction and adoption of some considerable measure of Reform; and there prevailed, moreover, a growing indifference to this particular Bill. He had already expressed his opinion that even a a modification of the former Bill would, at the time of its rejection, have been distasteful to the public mind; but he believed now that the people would be satisfied with any modification which their Lordships, supposing they should concur in the principle 246 of the Bill, should think proper to introduce into its details. He confessed that he had heard with great regret the declaration of the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government that he would admit of no alteration of the amount of the franchise in great towns, and he trusted that the noble Earl would be induced to reconsider that declaration. The noble Earl in answer to the objection made to the 10l. franchise, on account of its uniformity, stated that it was uniform in appearance, but not uniform in reality. That was undoubtedly the case, but the 10l. franchise would have in operation, the effect of being high among a small population, and low among a large population. This was, he conceived, the very reverse of what should be the case, and though he must vote for going into the Committee, he distinctly stated that he never could give his vote for that clause as it stood at present.
The Earl of Falmouth
said, he would first take the liberty of expressing his humble thanks to the noble Earl (Shrewsbury) who spoke from the cross benches, for so useful an explanation of his most extraordinary and not very becoming charge against the Bench of Protestant Bishops. Certainly, some explanation was required, and what was it which had been given? Why, the noble Earl had said, that the right rev. Bench were not indeed principals in all this spoliation, robbery, and corruption; they only aided and abetted in its perpetration, they were only accomplices, and thus it seems they were liable to the same punishment in public opinion. The noble Earl had received so suitable a return from others, for his very feeling and correct compliment to the prelates of their Church, that he (Lord Falmouth) would not risk spoiling it by further comments of his, or say more upon his speech than that fortunately for the right rev. Bench, the noble Lord was not yet their judge. With regard to the noble Earl (Radnor) who spoke last but one, he should not certainly be inclined to quarrel with his good humoured mode of reasoning, or take it in a very serious point of view, if he did not recollect that the noble Earl was the determined advocate of Vote by Ballot. The noble Lord always came down upon them with his borough of Downton. As to that borough, if the Bill were to pass, he supposed the noble Earl would shine forth as another 247 of those patriots who sacrificed their interests upon the altar of their country. If not, he would probably return Mr. Cobbett as he had before intended to do; so that the success of his patriotic efforts would be rather unfortunate for his much respected friend Mr. Cobbett. The noble Earl said, that the sending Members to Parliament for nomination boroughs was an act of "base hypocrisy." Now, the noble Lord had himself sent Members for that description of place; and would the noble Earl allow him, without offence, to ask whether, if he were to return Mr. Cobbett, he should feel it right to apply such hard words to his own act. He now came to the speech of the noble Baron, who concluded the debate last night. He extremely regretted that that noble Baron had seen fit to reverse the course which he had pursued last year. He (Lord Falmouth) had paid particular attention to the former speech of that noble Baron, and was so much gratified with it, that he should have considered himself quite ungrateful, if he had exposed himself to the counteracting influence of what the noble Baron led their Lordships to expect from him, on this occasion, without refreshing his memory by reference to the arguments it contained. He happened to have noted down those arguments very particularly, and thought he could not do better than enable the House to compare them with those which he used now, leaving it to their Lordships to draw their own conclusion. A noble Duke, whom he did not now see (the Duke of Wellington) had already placed one or two of them in fair contrast with the noble Baron's present conduct, and now that the House had heard his vindication, he would beg leave to do so a little more fully. First, however, he owed it to the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government to say that he certainly had, at length, explained very clearly and explicitly what he considered the three indispensable principles of this Bill. He had, at length, very clearly stated that—not only were disfranchisement, enfranchisement, and the extension of the right of voting the principles of the Bill—but that he considered the schedules A, B, C, D, and the 10l. franchise, as part and parcel of those three principles. Upon those principles the noble Earl had declared himself inexorable; and with reference to each of these, let them now see what were the opinions of the 248 noble Baron in October last. In his speech of October, the noble Baron after saying that the Bill was one of the greatest delusions ever practised, he first applied himself to disfranchisement. He defended, and very forcibly defended nomination, as checking the ebullition of popular feeling, and preventing mere delegation. "The Bill," said he, "destroys this salutary check, and substitutes nothing in its stead." He further said, "If England, Ireland, and Scotland be taken together, the faults of the one will be found to be corrected in the working of the whole." Did he hope to restore these checks upon the popular will? Did he now hope to make as good a system for England, Scotland, and Ireland out of this Bill in Committee? The noble Baron then went on to speak of enfranchisement. He objected to the number of towns to be enfranchised; he denied that the right to direct Representation was inherent in those towns, and said, that care should be taken against this overwhelming force in the Representation, speaking especially of manufacturing towns, which, from the mode of their election, could not fail to increase the influence of popular feeling. Then, as to the landed interest, he added, "If you mean to create a fair balance for the landed interest, you should not give additional Members to a manufacturing county, such as Yorkshire, but to the agricultural counties, for otherwise there will be no balance at all, and the agricultural interest will be most unfairly treated." Upon another material point, the noble Baron, said, "the Bill does not, as it pretends to do, preclude voters in towns from voting in counties;" and having shewn the way in which his objection would work, he adds, "the provisions of this Bill are so many attacks on the landed interest; and, by including tenants at will, it must almost instantly lead to the necessity of the vote by ballot." Now, if the noble Lord meant with respect to these enfranchising clauses, to get rid of one half, or one-fourth, or even one-twentieth of his objections, he directly contradicted his own opinion of our chances in Committee, most pointedly given last year, as would presently appear. Then, with respect to extending the franchise, the noble Baron, said in October, "The 10l. franchise will lead to almost Universal Suffrage. Ministers soon became frightened at this monster of their own creation but the 249 press forbade them to alter it, as they proposed; and though it would enfranchise weekly tenants of 3s. 4d. or 3s. 6d. they were obliged to make out it was an inadvertency, and to return to it as it first stood." Again, "the period of occupation should be on the principle of scot-and-lot; they make the franchise far too low, supposing their plan admissible." Now, their Lordships all remembered the famous inadvertency too well, to require that he should remind them of it more particularly; but in this decided way did the noble Baron declare, and press his objections to the three main principles of the Bill. He exposed the fallacies and absurdities contained in every clause, and almost every line of it—he reminded them of the "movement" party exulting in its certain effects—of the open avowal of the noble Lord who brought it into the other House of Parliament, that it could not be final; he told them that the late meetings convened to support it in Yorkshire, and elsewhere, had been utter failures, and that it was by the abuse of the Royal name, which made the people think they were struggling for their King against "the boroughmongers," that "the Whigs had floored the Tories." But, he (Lord Falmouth) would beg the House especially to observe what the noble Baron said of the idea of success in Committee in amending this Bill; the noble Baron argued thus last October: "Many in the House of Commons voted for the second reading, for the purpose of amending the Bill in Committee—and what was the result? Why, they found themselves laughed at when it was too late." "This, then," he continues "ought to be a lesson to us, for it would be our fate to be laughed at, if, after the experience we have had, we were weak enough to pursue a similar course." And it was after that speech which the noble Baron delivered barely six months ago, that the noble Baron expected their Lordships, to take his advice, and go into Committee! But they had now the noble Baron's other speech before them, in which he exclaims, with equal vehemence, that "he is not to be told that no alteration is to be made in Committee!"* He did not understand by what reasoning the noble Baron, who himself said, that if they went into Committee, they should* See Hansard's Debates, (third series), vol. vii. p. 969, et sub, for these extracts from Lord Wharncliffe's speech.250 only be laughed at, arrived at the conclusion that they were likely now to follow his advice. How fortunate the noble Baron was in his arguments last night, their Lordships had heard, but one thing fell from him, which for his own sake, they must wish he had not said. He said, at the same time, professing to treat the noble Duke with that respect which no doubt he really felt, that the early habits of the noble Duke, who had so ably exposed the danger of this measure, had not been such as to qualify him for a knowledge of constitutional matters such as these. But as everything affecting that noble Duke affected the House and the country, he should consider it an affront to both were he to say much upon that remark of the noble Baron. Why, the noble Baron seemed to forget that for a period at least three times as long as he had himself sat in that House, the noble Duke had been engaged in the civil service of the country. However, as he had said before, he would not comment at any length on that remark, and the less so, because he could not but think that the noble Baron was himself, by this time, sorry that he had made it. But what improvement in his own constitutional knowledge had the noble Baron derived from his seat in that House? Why this, that he thought if a Minister of the Crown, who declares that he will stand or fall by a particular Bill, after having a considerable majority against him, should choose to bring it in over and over again, their Lordships were bound to pass his Bill in some shape or other. That was the constitutional knowledge which the noble Baron seemed to have gained from his seven years' seat in that House. Really, if the noble Baron had not told them that he was as much against this measure as that of last year—though for some reason or other, still anything but explained, he felt himself compelled to vote for it, he (Lord Falmouth) should have supposed, from the chief part of his speech, that he was the greatest of all intimidators in favour of it. All that he had said last night resolved itself into this:—"You must pass this measure or a worse than this. The people will have this Bill, therefore you must pass it in some shape or other. I know it will ruin my country—I see we cannot get over its effects, but it will be dangerous to vote against it; and though I shalt vote for 251 the second reading, I shall leave all the consequences to the authors of it." Now his (Lord Falmouth's) constitutional knowledge taught him that it was the business of that House rather to consider the interests than the will of the people. But then he says:—"Oh! I expected last year a much less majority than forty one. This large and unlooked for majority supported my opinions, and, therefore, what? Why, I mean to vote against those opinions—though I still hold them now." Then the noble Baron cries, "My Lords, I warned you, in the case of East Retford, of what you might expect; you would not take my warning, and you must now take the consequences." Unfortunately for the effect of the noble Baron's warnings with regard to this Bill, he happened to have given them to their Lordships both ways, and, therefore, they had a right to make their choice between them. When the noble Baron compared the manner in which his sentiments in October were received by the House with the manner in which his speech of last night was received, the noble Baron must be led to doubt a little himself about the propriety of the course which he had pursued. Their Lordships well remembered the cheers which accompanied his former speech. But whence came the cheers on the present occasion?—all from the authors of the measure he so much deprecated, and was not that sufficient to alarm him? The noble Baron himself, last year, quoted from a speech in another place, the exclamation of Cromwell. He (Lord Falmouth) thought he now saw the noble Whigs applying that quotation in a very natural way, and saying to themselves, triumphantly, "The Lord has delivered him into our hands." Be that as it might, to use another phrase of the noble Baron's own (rather a pugnacious one), having last year shown "the Tories how to floor the Whigs," he seemed now determined to teach the Whigs how to floor the Tories. Another noble Lord (the Earl of Haddington), who also spoke in October with great effect, but had now addressed them with anything but effect, unless it was the reverse of what he intended, called this Bill a most unhappy Bill. For the object he now had in view, he must call his speech of last night a most unhappy speech; for argument in favour of the second reading there was none; whilst there were many, and very 252 good ones, against it. He said that, if he thought the 10l. franchise would be persisted in, he would not vote as he intended to do. Why, had the noble Earl at the head of the Government, or had he not, declared that this was one of the vital principles of the Bill? But the House really ought to be very grateful to the other noble Earl for his recent speech, and, therefore, he would only say further upon it, that he joined in the thanks which were due to him, though, if he would allow the House to make a choice, it would rather have his vote. Of the address of a noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby), whose high character had led them to expect very different things from him. He must say, with the greatest regret, he wished he could respect the course he was pursuing as much as he did his superior abilities and known integrity. He, too, did not retract one syllable of his former opinions; yet even his talents could not make out a tolerable case in vindication of his altered conduct. After stating that his two great objections to the last Bill—namely, that the new elective franchise was to be founded on population alone, and that corporate rights were only to continue during the lives of their present holders, were done away (as if that excellent address, so strongly impressed upon their Lordships minds, had related solely, or even principally, to those two points), he now told them, that, if they failed in Committee, they should be only where they were before! He must express his astonishment at such an assertion from such a quarter. Why, the noble Earl who moved the second reading had plainly told them, that when they had voted for the second reading, they would have acknowledged the main principles of the Bill; and could it still be said, that they should only be in Committee where they were before? The parrot cry of "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," the noble Earl said had ceased; and then, that, if it appeared too democratic, they must endeavour to save some planks from the wreck, upon which they might float in comparative safety. In vain did he ask himself for anything like a sound reason for the noble Earl's change; and, if they were to look for it in metaphors, he would prefer floating in the good vessel of the State, which had rode upon many a sea, and weathered many a gale, to the rotten planks which the noble Earl would throw 253 out to them. Why was it that men like the noble Earl would rush into the treacherous stream of conciliation, when they knew it must inevitably force them to the cataract? In the recent declaration of another noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon), that he saw nothing that should induce him to depart from the course he before determined upon, there was reason for far other feelings. That noble Earl, then, upon principle, opposed this unjustifiable Bill; and, although a Reformer all his life, he was perfectly consistent in so doing. He well knew, and he most ably and usefully pointed out, the difference between rational Reform and this revolutionary measure. He had not now been scared from his declared duty by unconstitutional threats—which bold, indeed, must that Minister be who would dare to execute; he would not suffer the vital interests of his country to be trifled with by the doubtings of infirm minds, or whispered away by mischievous intrigue. He honoured the noble Earl for it, but his straightforward conduct, as well as the eloquence by which he had supported it, could require no eulogy of his. He would not take up the time of the House, by saying much upon the speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, with which he opened the debate. The same absence of appeals to history, the same want of all example, ancient or modern, in vindication of his visionary scheme, the same abuse of the present system, without showing that the new one would remedy its defects—the same exaggeration of the dangers of rejection, and the same reliance upon his wretched and unproved expediency to justify so unprincipled a measure—had attended this and all the noble Earl's former speeches. He (Lord Falmouth) asserted, that this Bill, considered with the alleged reasons for forcing it again upon the Legislature, formed one mass of contradictions. It was virtually confessed, that the noble Earl could not now control the people, and yet he would give more power to the people! Democracy was already too powerful, yet he would give an immense increase of power to the mob!—the noble Earl was even unable to prevent the disgraceful riot last year in London (at least so he would in charity suppose) and he wished to double the number of Members for London and its suburbs!—thus also doubling the certainty of constant tumult and disorder 254 through the excitement of metropolitan elections!—The noble Earl declared, that his object was permanent tranquillity, whilst he took the means of all others the most likely to prevent, for ever, the return of that greatest national blessing. His noble friend (Lord Ellenborough) who answered the noble Premier with such extraordinary power and effect, had well described the artificial state in which the population of this country existed—he had shown how frequently their contentment must depend upon extraneous circumstances, over which no government could have control, and that as these might be prosperous or adverse, the people would be placid or disturbed. They were taught by history, that nations, as individuals, have their growth, their maturity, and decay. At the middle stage of their maturity, he feared they had for some time arrived—he was convinced, that from the moment they passed that or any such Bill, their last stage would have begun. Public confidence could not be restored by Legislative robbery, nor could they improve the temper or regulate the power of the people, by unreasonable concession to the one, and the abandonment of their only checks upon the other. In regard to the last election, as he had before declared his sentiments upon that disastrous measure through the indulgence of the House, he would not recur to it now, except to repeat, that the popular feeling then manifested was not the cause, but mainly the effect of this most violent and mischievous Bill, and that the historian, when he might hereafter bewail the downfall of the British empire, would prove that to demonstration. What he dreaded was, the disappointment of the people, and the power of revenge that they must derive from so violent a change, when they found themselves thus shamefully deceived. It was well for the noble Earl (Earl Grey) to say—"Upon me alone be all the consequences, if it should fail." Would that this could be so, though he harboured no harsh feelings against him; but the consequences must fall upon his country; and, as the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby)—not more eloquently than with reference to his own subsequent conduct inconsistently—expressed it—"We must share in the punishment, though we have not been accomplices in the crime." What the people wanted was, not this violent Bill—but good Government. If much of 255 the national evils were to be ascribed to extraneous circumstances, he was afraid the Government had been by no means free from domestic errors; and, if that was true, a return to sound principles in trading and commercial affairs, in finance and colonial policy, might yet restore the nation to a more prosperous and healthy state. Give them these, and this great empire might recover, but by this Bill they must inevitably destroy it. The Bill for changing the Representation of Ireland, though not yet before them, was declared to be part and parcel of this ruinous measure; and he would implore their Lordships to look at the present state of that unhappy country. Was there anything there—and he addressed himself especially to the right rev. Bench—which should induce them to support the authors of this Bill? Had they not seen a man whose boast was constant agitation, whose object was avowed and notorious, who had caused more misery and bloodshed than any man living, and who was the worst and most interested enemy of the Protestant Church—had they not seen that man, when recently escaped from the vengeance of the law, raised to honours by the advice of the Ministers? And had there been any other stated reason for such advice, than that he was a man of talent and ability? Before the present day, they used to hear of other qualifications for office, and other claims to promotion, besides mere talent and ability. They used to hear of tried integrity, public conduct, and approved services. Why, the thief and the pickpocket had often talent and ability. He would entreat the right rev. Bench to reflect, whether the Bill would not give this dangerous agitator an immense increase of power, and whether he would not use it to destroy the Irish Protestant Church? The Minister might say he had no such intention, but Mr. O'Connell cried exultingly—give me but this Bill, and I do not care a farthing for your intentions. If it should pass, he would assert that nothing could prevent the re-ascendancy of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland. And now he must say a word or two on this point, though he would willingly have avoided it. In 1829 they passed the Catholic Relief Bill. It was painful to him to look back upon that memorable year; but they would do him the justice to remember, that—he not only then expressed an earnest hope that his gloomy 256 anticipation of its effects might prove unfounded, but he declared that from that time his lips, with respect to it, should be closed. He had kept his promise. As honest men, he and those with whom he acted, opposed that Bill, because they foresaw its consequences. They had been silent since it passed, because they had felt that silence was the course which, as honest men, they should pursue. But why did he mention the Catholic Relief Bill now? Not for his own justification, but to remind their Lordships that the noble Duke, who proposed it, not only looked upon the town Representation as a necessary check upon its operation, but with the clear perception for which he was distinguished, accompanied it with another for raising the county franchise, as an essential prop to that Representation. What did the Reform Bills now propose? They would, indeed, leave the prop which the noble Duke had erected, but they would take away the building itself; and since they must depend upon each other for mutual support, the prop would then fall useless to the ground. If they passed this Bill, the repeal of the union must follow—then the downfal of the Irish Church—and then the rapid dismemberment of the British empire. "But (said the noble Earl) is there any other claim which the present Government can urge to the support of the right rev. Bench? My Lords, I must not forget one which, perhaps, the noble Earl at the head of it, may bring forward. To his Administration belongs the high honour of promulgating, for the first time, a system of national education not founded upon the Bible. It is in vain to say that extracts, admissible by both religions, are to be allowed in the Irish schools. If the Protestant child should ask why the Bible, itself, is not admitted, what must be the only answer? That the Roman Catholics will not allow it. If the child should ask further whether it is not a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government, the Legislature, and the Church, to bow to this wish of the Roman Catholics in a matter so sacred as scriptural education, what answer can be afforded? Let the Protestant Bishop who can support the second reading of this Bill, for confirming such a Government in power, look to his conscience, if he can. But, if the right rev. Prelates should not see reason in these acts to distrust the noble Premier, they will do well to consider whether Ministers, 257 are, in fact, their own masters—whether there is not a third power in the State to which they have bowed down their heads, and which this Bill is intended to propitiate. My Lords, there are two large but very opposite bodies anxiously watching your conduct. On one hand there is the great body of Protestant clergymen whom you represent in this House, united with an immense number of the chief landed proprietors, and other lovers of order, and the Constitution. They implore you to act firmly, and not to risk, by one false step, which a mistaken spirit of peace may induce you to take, the passing of this ruinous Bill. On the other, there is the party of "the movement," borrowing for their purposes the countenance of the Government, and pretending to respect, though they know they abuse, the name of their King. Choose between them; but I say that if through your making this false step the Bill should pass, it is impossible you can recover it. I trust those right rev. Prelates will not forget the attempts which are even now daily making to overthrow the Church Establishments in both countries. It was not long since, that a Gentleman (Mr. Hume) stated, in another place, where his opinion was received by no means without support, that clergymen ought to be paid like the officers of the army and navy! This same Gentleman, in the year 1824, was the author of that notable motion, with regard to the expediency of inquiring whether the present Church Establishment of Ireland be not more than commensurate to the services to be performed, both as regards the number of persons employed, and the income they receive.' He was supported by about forty-five Members of the Parliament of that day; and out of that number of forty-five, how many were Members of the present Government? Why, my Lords, eleven Members of the present Government voted in favour of that inquiry! My Lords, before I sit down, I must apply myself once more to the noble Baron, (Wharncliffe) who told you last year that you would deserve to be laughed at, if you went into Committee upon this Bill. I cannot conclude without quoting to your Lordships once again from the recorded sentiments which he then so conspicuously declared. With regard to the right rev. Prelates, to whom I never address myself without the greatest veneration, he said:—'True they were the ministers 258 of peace. It was their business to preach peace amongst all men. But what did those right rev. persons sit in that House for? Was it for their own sakes merely? No! it was to represent the interests of the Church. The interests of the Church were in their hands. Those rev. Prelates must be aware that the feeling of the great body of the ministers of the Church was against the Bill, and that it had been manifested conspicuously on more than one occasion, and it was their duty not to flinch from voting against the measure.' To the House generally, the noble Baron said:—'No man saw more clearly than himself the evil consequence which would result from the rejection of the measure, but the motives on the other side, were so strong as completely to overpower all anxiety on that account. He besought the Peers of England, as they valued their character, as they valued the station which they held, either by the favour of their Sovereign, or by inheritance, to show that the Peers of England when called upon to do their duty would not be intimidated by menaces nor guided by interest. He placed great reliance on the good sense of the people of England. He had never known them to act unjustly towards those who were influenced by a conscientious sense of duty. He fearlessly left it to the people of England to form an impartial opinion of the conduct which the House of Peers would pursue on the occasion.'* The noble Baron concluded this eloquent appeal last October, by moving "that the Bill be rejected" and the same noble Lord concluded, last night, by urging upon your Lordships the necessity of reading this Bill a second time! My Lords, being very sensible that any attempt of mine to imitate the appeal I have just quoted, would be little likely to add to its weight, I shall trouble you with but few more words on this most vital subject. If I am told that popular feeling caused this Bill, I say the Bill has been a main cause of the popular feeling: if that the people wish for Reform—I say, not this, and nothing like this Reform: if that opposition will be dangerous, I answer that concession will be to this House, and to the British empire, destruction. My Lords, I also shall pursue "the straight-* Hansard's Debates, (third series) vol. vii. p. 986, 987.259 forward course," and vote against the second reading of this revolutionary Bill."
The Marquis of Bristol
spoke to the following effect:*—I had hoped that deference for the opinion expressed by this House on the Reform Bill of last Session would have produced such modifications in the Bill now before us, as would have allowed of our considering it in Committee, consistently with the important considerations on which our decision last October was founded. In that hope I have been disappointed. The Bill now before us is quite as revolutionary in its principle as the former one, and it contains the same sweeping and indiscriminate spoliation of all chartered rights, which if sanctioned by this House would shake to their foundations all the vested interests, and ultimately all the rights of property, in this great empire. No man can feel that disappointment more deeply than I do; for I should ill discharge my duty by the country, if, with the view which I have taken of the danger which threatens us, I could satisfy myself with having contributed by my vote to ward off that danger for the moment, and did not endeavour to make some permanent provision against its recurrence. It is undoubtedly true that there is no real and lasting security against dangerous extortion, but the wise and timely concession of what is just and reasonable; but the rash concession of what is unjust and unreasonable, would have a directly opposite* Printed from the corrected edition, published by Hatchard and Son, to which the noble Marquis prefixed the following extract:—"And whoever will thoroughly consider in what degree mankind are really influenced by reason, and in what degree by custom, may, I think, be convinced, that the state of human affairs does not ever admit of an equivalent for the mischief of setting things afloat; and the danger of parting with those securities of liberty, which arise from regulations of long prescription and ancient usage; especially at a time when the directors are so very numerous and the obedient so few; reasonable men, therefore, will look upon the general plan of our Constitution transmitted down to us by our ancestors as sacred; and content themselves with calmly doing what their station requires towards rectifying the particular things which they think amiss, and supplying the particular things which they think deficient in it, so far as is practicable without endangering the whole."—Bishop Butler, Sermon preached before the House of Lords on the Anniversary of King Charles' Martyrdom, 1741.260 effect, and could only increase our danger and accelerate our ruin. If I am opposed to the present measure, it is only because I think it most unjust and most unreasonable—it is only because I believe it would be fatal to the country. I am sure there is in my heart no cold and criminal indifference to the wants and wishes of my fellow subjects. I am equally certain that I have no party views to serve on this occasion. All that I have ever loved and valued in public life are in their graves with the exception of two, who are in absolute retirement; and if they were still candidates for political power, I would confidently ask the noble Earl opposite, at the head of the Government, whether he thinks I would be swayed by party motives at such a crisis. He will recollect the cordial support which I gave to the administration of 806, of which he was so conspicuous a member; and he will recollect, that when that Administration retired upon principles which I approved, I followed them into opposition for twelve years, although by so doing I separated myself from the individual in the country whom I best loved and most respected, the late Lord Liverpool, with whom I never had a difference upon any one point, with the single exception of concession to the Catholics. And, my Lords, after having passed my whole life in one uniform struggle for the completion of religions toleration, it would be hard indeed if any one could suspect me of disgracing the evening of my days, by placing myself in opposition to the extension of the civil liberties of mankind. No, my Lords, it is because I firmly believe, that the measure in contemplation would inflict upon those liberties the deepest wound that they have ever yet received from the hand of man, that I am opposed to it. That there are imperfections in the representation of the country, no man of common candour can possibly deny; but his must indeed be a presumptuous mind, who would venture to maintain, that in any plan which could be proposed by human wisdom, and which had not as yet undergone the test of experience, there might not be the seeds of evils far exceeding in number and magnitude those of the present system. It is the lot of man to derive his best and safest lessons from experience, and surely this consideration alone might well justify the friends of the Constitution in their unwillingness to exchange that which experi- 261 ence has taught them to be good for that which conjecture flatters them would be better; and in resisting all great and sudden changes, where, even if the change is necessary, it might be accomplished by a more gradual and a safer process. I have passed five-and-thirty years of my life in considering and re-considering the question of Parliamentary Reform; I have examined, in order to form a sound judgment as to the competency of the House of Commons to the discharge of their high and important duties, all their legislative and political acts, for a very long period; I have discussed the question in all its bearings, with many of the leading statesmen of my own times, in the unreserved confidence of private friendship; and I should feel that I wanted all common courage and common honesty, if, at a moment like the present, I could shrink from distinctly stating that I entirely concur in the opinion expressed by a noble Duke in the last Parliament, that the House of Commons, as at present constituted, is fully qualified to legislate safely, wisely, and efficiently, for the public interests. I admit that it is not enough that the House of Commons should be a good and efficient body; it ought also to possess the confidence and affection of the people; neither will I be myself such an instance of that presumption which I condemn in others, as to say, that even for practical purposes the House of Commons cannot be improved. But thus much I will venture to affirm, that it will be found a far easier task to spoil than to improve it—that many of its apparent imperfections will upon close examination, be found conducive to great practical advantages—that, owing to the great varieties in the constituent body, the House of Commons is less liable than other popular assemblies to be affected by those sudden and temporary delusions, which from time to time seize upon particular classes of the people, and is in intelligence or information, in character, by far the first assembly that ever yet met to regulate the concerns of any nation upon earth; and of this also, I am certain, that, blessed as we are with a Constitution which so fully protects all interests—which so fully secures the lives, liberties, and properties of all classes, and which so effectually enables the milk to throw up the cream, not only in Parliament, but in all the great professions and departments 262 of the country—a degree of reluctance to tamper with that Constitution, even if it bordered upon prejudice and obstinacy, would not be the quality most to be feared nor most to be censured in a statesman or a legislator. For myself I am convinced that it would be found impossible to make any considerable innovation in the principles of Representation, which would not expose the country to dangers of the greatest magnitude, whilst, on the other hand, it could at best confer upon us a very small and precarious advantage; and that is a bad speculation in politics, as in commerce, where the chances of gain bear no reasonable proportion to the risk of loss and ruin. Deeply, however as I am impressed with the danger of rash innovation, and with the absolute madness of it in a country like ours, where so much is to be lost, and where so little can be gained, I am not one of those who think that no provision should be made to repair the dilapidations which may be caused by time in the institutions of the country, and whenever the object is really to repair and not to alter and to subvert, I, for one, shall be friendly to it. It does appear to me that the moment has arrived, (and I suppose there is no man in Parliament or out of Parliament, who, whatever may be his opinion of the still unimpaired perfections of the House of Commons, would wish things to go on without any interference, until there might be fifty Old Sarums sending Members to the House of Commons, and fifty Manchesters wholly unrepresented in the country)—it does then, I say, appear to me that the moment has arrived when it becomes Parliament to take into their serious consideration the state of the representation; to examine attentively the innovations which have occurred; to apply remedies where remedies may be required; and at all events, to arrest the further progress of those innovations, before they reach a point at which they would be productive of serious injury to the public interests. And whenever it shall be made appear that since the last settlement of the constituent body, green fields have been vivified into great and splendid cities, and that ancient cities have declined into small and insignificant places, I never can admit for a moment that there is no power in the Constitution by which practical remedies may be applied to such real diseases, without producing the smallest 263 danger or inconvenience to the State. Neither should I object to many regulations, both in town and county elections, some of which are indeed called for by the altered state of property, and which come recommended to us by new circumstances, and not by new doctrines. This is not the opportunity for entering more minutely into the details of the question. When that opportunity arrives, I trust that all parties will bring with them a spirit of candour and moderation; and not, on the one hand, an attachment to the mere rust of the Constitution; nor on the other, a love of change, and a thirst for popularity. I trust they will come well versed in the opinions of all the great authorities on this subject, and in none more than those of the late Mr. Fox; and they will then be prepared to admit that a certain portion of the smaller boroughs are absolutely essential to the stability of the State; and that there is no change which would be more contrary to the unanimous opinion of all those authorities, than the adoption of one uniform right of election in all the towns of England. To a Reform, moderate yet really effective, conducted in this spirit, I should not yield an unwilling assent; I should claim it as a boon, and aid it as a blessing. But whenever an attempt is made to alter the general state and principles of the Representation, and to give in fact a new Constitution to the country, I must oppose it, because I know that what is begun in that spirit must soon be followed by greater and more important changes, and that the flood-gates of innovation once open, a torrent will rush in, which will not only remove the imperfections, but tear up the very foundations of the Constitution, and with those foundations tear up also the foundations of all the security and prosperity which we enjoy. It was the opinion of a great authority, that if the House of Commons ever became much more democratic in its composition, it would be too strong for the other branches of the Constitution, and this, I believe, to have been the opinion of the great majority of well-informed persons, who have ever turned their thoughts to this subject. The danger is undoubtedly a real one—such a House of Commons would, indeed, be too strong for the other branches of the Constitution, and would be too strong for the temperate use of its own power. It would represent too much 264 of the passions, and too little of the prudence of the public, and in moments of popular delusion would make use of its irrestible power to abolish institutions, which, when too late, would be subjects of bitter and unavailing regret with themselves and with the public. God forbid that I should be a party to any measure, that I should be the advocate of any system, which could tend in the remotest manner to prevent the House of Commons from being the full and faithful Representative of all the settled feelings and opinions of the English people. I trust the day will never come when it will cease to be so; but I would have it as I would have the portrait of a friend, by a great master. I would have it the living image of the public mind in their best and calmest moments, not what this Bill would make it, a mere mirror to reflect all the transient passions and convulsions which may agitate and disfigure it. The great problem to be solved in Representation is this—how to select your Representatives—how to delegate the right of choosing them, so as to secure their being as constantly as possible in unison with the judgment of the people, with their fixed opinions, and their true interests, and as seldom as possible in unison with their passions, their prejudices, and their caprices. In my conscience I believe that the English House of Commons accomplishes this great object as fully and perfectly as it is possible to be accomplished in an assembly composed of human beings; and those who undertake to reform it would do well to consider long and deeply how far the elements of which it is composed, and the proportions in which those elements are mixed together, may be essential to a result upon which the happiness and well-being of the country absolutely depend. These are opinions not lightly formed, nor formed without due consultation with other minds capable of assisting and correcting my judgment; I believe them to be true—I know them to be honest, and that they are formed without reference to any private or selfish interest. As a Member of this House, I may feel some jealousy of any measure which tends to diminish its power and influence in the State; but all such considerations vanish from my mind when I contemplate the calamitous consequences which must ensue to all classes or society from so augmenting the power of the 265 other House of Parliament as to destroy entirely the balance of the Constitution, and to make it, in fact, the sole master of the State. Once make the House of Commons the mere echo of the people's voice—once convert it from an assembly of trustees into an assembly of delegates, it will soon be the blind instrument of the people's will; obeying every impulse from without, there will be an end of the independent functions of this House—there will be an end of all sound and deliberate legislation—there will be an end of all stability in our laws, and of all security in our possessions; and with that security will perish, not only the fortunes of private families, but all the great incitements to industry and enterprise; for when none can keep wealth securely, who can be anxious to acquire it—with that security, that unexampled security which we have so long enjoyed, and which was, in truth, the parent and the nurse of all our greatness, will expire the vital principle of public prosperity. Despotism is the great enemy of the human race; despotism and security never can exist together; it is hateful and destructive in all its forms—it is odious on the throne—it is odious in the Aristocracy—it is odious above all, and above all to be dreaded, in a democratic form, because it is then most fierce most extensive, and most irresistible. Any extensive alteration in the Representative system would infallibly end in this worst and greatest of all evils. It is then for the sake of real liberty, and in her sacred name, that I say, pause before you enter on the dangerous course of innovation—pause before you take the first step in that steep and slippery descent which will precipitate you from the secure and happy eminence which you now occupy, into an abyss of anarchy and confusion. Those who urge you on, how do they encourage you? They have no encouragement to offer but fair promises and plausible conjectures. The friends who warn you of your danger appeal not to theory but to experience, and bid you cling to that Constitution which has made your forefathers happy and prosperous for successive generations. They bid you cling to that Constitution which has been tried and enjoyed, and loved and cherished, by the wise and good of so many ages. They bid you cling to that Constitution which has been found equally capable of resisting the encroachments of the crown and the aggres- 266 sinus of the people—they bid you cling to that Constitution which, whilst it does not attempt that which is impossible, to make all men and all possessions equal, effectually accomplishes that which it does profess, and gives full and equal security to all the different gradations of rank and property amongst mankind—they bid you cling to that Constitution which does all that political institutions can do for the developement of individual energies, and the promotion of public prosperity, by placing none so low as to be precluded from raising themselves to the very highest station, and by raising none so high as to be able to injure with impunity time meanest member of the community. I much fear that the new House of Commons will supply a ladder to ambitious demagogues, by which a rapid succession of ephemeral tyrants, the favourites of the day, will rise to heights, where they will be beyond the reach of all control, and be enabled, in the name of an injured and deluded people, to trample into dust the laws, the liberties, the happiness and the institutions of the country. By that Constitution, which has so long protected us against such dangers, I will make my stand. I have no means of comparing it with the dreams and visions of philosophers; but I know it to be the best which ever had a real existence amongst mankind; I know the large amount of comfort and security which we owe to it in our passage through this world, and I know that we owe to its sober and enlightened Church the knowledge of the only solid foundations of all which we can hope for in the next, and the purest instruction as to the doctrines and the duties by which those enduring interests may be secured. Let us not flatter ourselves, that that sober and enlightened Church can long survive the old Constitution. The new one will first strip it of its possessions, and then leave it to be supplanted in its doctrines. And if this Bill passes, there are those amongst us who will live to see the churches of this favoured land parcelled out amongst the cheap, unpaid ministers of wild fanaticism and blind superstition. The part, then, which I have taken on this occasion, has been taken with the full concurrence of my heart and my understanding. It is the debt of gratitude—it is the dictate of judgment—it is the mandate of conscience—it is the tribute of affection and 267 predilection, and of reverence for institutions which I still hope that the wisdom and the moderation, and the firmness of this House will enable us to transmit unimpaired, and, if possible, improved, to our posterity. I say improved, because no one is more anxious than I am for a safe, temperate, yet effective Reform; and whenever such a measure comes before us, it shall have my best support, not with a view of giving the minimum of Reform, which is consistent with the hope of appeasing clamour, but with the sincere and anxious desire of giving to the public wishes the maximum of Reform, which is compatible with the peace, order, and security of society, and with the real interests of the people themselves—that people whom it is equally my wish, my duty, and my pride to serve, who may believe me when I assure them that there is no concession which I would withhold, but such as I thought would be injurious to themselves; and that they shall never find me amongst those base and hollow patriots, who, for a selfish and temporary purpose, would, in a moment of unnatural excitement, purchase their applause by the sacrifice of their best and dearest interests.
The Bishop of London
said, that it was with inexpressible reluctance and concern he felt himself bound on this occasion to follow and express his dissent from many with whom he generally agreed, and particularly from one for whom he felt so sincere a regard as the noble Marquis who had just spoken; but he was sure that the candour and integrity of the noble Marquis, no less than his kindness, would oblige him to admit that the conclusion to which he (the Bishop of London) came upon a political affair of the greatest moment arose from a conviction no less sincere than that of the noble Marquis. But he must say, that he would not trespass on their Lordships with his sentiments upon the present occasion did he not feel himself called upon by more than one urgent reason to offer a few words in vindication of the course which, after the most mature deliberation, he felt it his duty to pursue. And, in the first place, he must protest, with all respect and humility, but, at the same time, with firmness, against those constant appeals made from both sides of the House to the spiritual Lords, as if they were a distinct and separate body, and answerable for what they should do in a manner different from that 268 in which any other noble Lord was answerable, and, as if they were to be urged by motives distinct from those of any other Member of that house. The noble Earl who had spoke last but one had, no doubt, with great feeling and earnestness, asked the spiritual Lords, what motive they could have to induce them to vote for this Bill, which had been brought in by his Majesty's Ministers. Now, he should say, that they—that was, those who intended to vote for the Bill—would not do so, because it was brought forward by his Majesty's Government, but because the state of the country and its affairs, in their opinion, rendered it absolutely necessary to take the subject into consideration; and, as to whether they should not vote upon this question, because of the proceedings of Government, as to a plan of education in another country, that was answered by the almost unanimous vote of the bench of Bishops, against his Majesty's Ministers. He trusted, then, that as holding a situation in the country, which rendered his character a matter of importance to others, beside himself, he should be excused if he attempted to vindicate his motives for the vote he should give, more especially, as he had been accused with vehemence, not only in that house, but elsewhere, of gross inconsistency. With respect to that charge, he must say, that it was well known to many that it was his determination to have voted for the second reading of the first Reform Bill, long before that measure had come up to the House, and, it had been no secret that it was his intention so to do, with a view to the introduction in the Committee of those alterations and amendments, of which he deemed that measure to stand in need. It was equally well known, that he had not been present, and did not vote upon that occasion; and, if he were more particularly to enter upon the reasons for that course, he had no doubt that he could easily satisfy their Lordships of its propriety. But, he would not hesitate to say generally, that he had an invincible reluctance to oppose those with whom he had always acted, and for whom he had and did feel the utmost regard and deference and respect. Now, however, with respect to this Bill, the time for neutrality had, in his opinion, gone by, and he had made up his mind to vote for its second reading, not because he cordially and entirely approved of the Bill, but because, under existing circumstances, and in the present state of the country, this 269 appeared to him the safest and most prudent plan, recommended as it was for the second time, by a large majority of the other House and, if not by the majority, at least, by a formidable minority, of their Lordships. Influenced by these reasons, it did appear to him to be most important to review and modify its principal provisions, and therefore, it was necessary to consider it fully, with a view to the introduction of some amendments, taking care, however, that they should still be such as should not trench upon the principles of the Bill; so as to delay the speedy and satisfactory settlement of this great question. He begged the House to consider the difficulty under which he and others on the same bench laboured with respect to this subject. As regarded himself, he was of opinion, that there must be an extensive Reform. Then, they were told of another Bill, with which they might compare the present; but he had no other Bill before him; he had not heard even a him or an intimation of any such Bill, until the noble duke (Buckingham) two nights ago, had given a notice on the subject, and, which, he agreed with the rev. Prelate who had previously spoken, had come somewhat too late; at all events, it had come too late for him, who had found it necessary to make up his mind without further delay. Then certainly, such of their Lordships were not, in his mind, to be blamed, as should consent—for that was all they were about to do—to take into their serious consideration, under the present necessity that existed, the only remedy that was proposed for a most serious and an acknowledged evil. Whether or not the remedy that was proposed was the best and wisest that could be devised, was altogether another question. Whether or not a more moderate remedy would not have satisfied the people, when the Bill was first introduced, he would not venture to pronounce. Neither would he venture to say whether or not a more cautious and sparing application of the pruning-knife to the ancient Constitution of the country would not have been sufficient to pare off its excrescences, to remove its encumbrances, to renovate its vigour, and to restore its virtue. At present they must deal with things as they were, and he could not now but express his conviction, that it would be as vain to expect that the sun would trace back his degrees on the dial, as that the people a England would ever return to the same channel of 270 thought and of opinion as before the introduction of this measure. It was true the inundation had subsided, but the current had been turned into a new channel, from whence it never could be diverted; and, therefore, it would appear to him to be true wisdom to watch and regulate the course of the stream, to embank and secure that course, so as that it might fertilize, but never overflow, and desolate the land. No one, he admitted, could foretel the result of this, or any other plan of Reform. Every such plan must be an experiment, but it was now too late to say that the experiment ought not to be tried. The result of the trial was doubtful; but he also felt that, when the people of the country were allowed to brood over grievances, real or imaginary, the longer they remained so, the more extensive would be the remedy demanded. He was sure that, for some years, great changes had been taking place with respect to religion, in the minds of the people; of these he would not then speak, but would content himself with referring to the dangers which were said to threaten the Established Church. It had been said, that the first consequence of this Bill would be, an attack on ecclesiastical property; and, no doubt, if that occurred and succeeded, other property would next be sacrificed. But he hoped that, when the leaven of agitation had worked off, and when the country was restored to calmness and tranquillity, the people—at least, he was sure the well-informed classes would look with reverence to their ancient institutions, and would regard with an anxious wish every thing which would preserve the Constitution. It might be that this measure would tend to accelerate the progress of external reforms in the Church. He knew that he, and those in the same situation with him, had difficulties to surmount; but if they had difficulties to surmount, they could also depend upon the affection of the great mass of the people—they could reckon securely upon the support of all who loved religion, and of all those who were capable of taking the soundest views on all political matters. He would not trespass further on their Lordships' time. He would not state his views with regard to the details of the Bill. He had merely stated the reason for the vote which he should give for the second reading of this measure, in the conscientious persuasion that he thus best consulted the dignity of the House, and 271 the peace and security of the country generally. He could not say he did so without fear, for that man must be careless and over confident who could express himself to be without some apprehension. But, if all parties were willing to concede what ought to be conceded—if each would give credit to the other for sincerity and purity of motive, and, if not yielding, at least, not outraging, even the prejudices of those who differed from them—he trusted they would be able, under the blessing of Him who had so long protected and favoured the country, to concur in the adoption of a measure which would improve the Representation, conciliate the affections of the people, and adding strength and perpetuity to whatever was valuable in our Constitution, cherish religion, and consolidate the best interests of the country.
The Bishop of Exeter
spoke as follows:*—My Lords, it was my wish not to obtrude myself on the attention of your Lordships during the present debate, and I had resolved to act on that wish, unless some of my right rev. brethren should address the House in favour of the Bill. My Lords, my two right rev. friends near me have thought it necessary so to address your Lordships; I trust, therefore, that I shall be pardoned, if, following them with equal openness and candour, but with very unequal ability, I shall endeavour to declare the reasons which compel me to vote in opposition to them. My Lords, I feel that, of what these right rev. Prelates have said, very little, indeed, calls for any observations from me: that they are sincere—that they are disinterested—that they are persuaded that the view they have taken of this subject, and the conclusions to which they have arrived, are just, I am perfectly satisfied. Whatever observations may have been any where made on them, I profess, my Lords, that I am at a loss to discover any reasonable ground of suspicion against the purity of the motives which have actuated them on this occasion. The first point, my Lords, to which I think it necessary to apply myself is, the observation which was made by the right rev. Prelate who spoke last, with respect to the notice given by the noble Duke opposite last night. The noble Duke, my Lords, gave notice that he would bring in a Bill for a Reform of Parliament in case of the rejection of that which is now before the* From the corrected edition by Murray.272 House; and, it is most remarkable, that this measure of Reform promised by the noble Duke coincides, in a very extraordinary manner, with the opinions and feelings expressed by the right rev. Prelate. Now, my Lords, I should have thought that the natural course for him to have taken would have been to say, 'I rejoice to find, that, after all the delay which has taken place—after all the disappointment to which I have been subjected in not having before had a measure submitted to my consideration which accorded with my views, I shall now have what I have so long wanted—a rival expedient will be proposed, which falls in so peculiarly with my own feelings and my own notions that I cannot hesitate to wait for it.' [The Bishop of London: No! no!] The right rev. Prelate says, "No, no." I do not know where I was wrong in the statement I have made of the opinions which he has expressed, but if I have misrepresented him, I am sure he will believe that I have not done so intentionally. At any rate, it must be admitted, that the reason given by my right rev. friend coincides very remarkably with what I have stated of his opinions, for he finds no fault with the extent or purport of the noble Duke's notice; he only says it has come too late for one who had found it necessary to make up his mind some time before. No doubt my right rev. friend had so made up his mind; but why it was necessary for him to do so, I cannot conceive; and yet I am quite sure that the necessity, which is felt by such a mind as his, is something very strong. Be this as it may, I should have thought it time enough for him to have made up his mind, when the Bill was before the House, and when the question to be decided really pressed for decision; but he has anticipated that period—for very good reasons I am quite sure, though I am at a loss to perceive them. My Lords, I should not have been surprised if any of the noble Lords on this (the Ministerial) side of the House, had wished to get rid of this notice of the noble Duke, which must be felt by them as very inconvenient. But I should have thought that, to any one entertaining the opinions expressed by my right rev. friend, and who had read the Bill which I hold in my hand, the noble Duke's notice would have been the most acceptable thing possible, because it affords the very best means of getting out of all the difficulty which such 273 a person must feel. It ensures the object he has in view, the real extent of Reform which he thinks necessary, and offers to deliver him from the dangers which he sees in this Bill. But, my Lords, it is time for me to apply myself to the real question before the House—and what is this question?—It is, whether we will consent to the second reading of the Bill; in other words, whether we will approve and adopt its principle. Now, is the principle of the Bill such as is fit to be adopted by this House? especially, is it such as can merit the approbation of all the noble Lords and right rev. Prelates, who have expressed their opinions on the limits within which a safe measure of Reform must be bounded? Very far otherwise. It is very true that we have not yet very clearly ascertained what the real principle of the Bill is; and to this point I will now beg leave to address my attention. We have been told by the noble Earl, who moved the second reading of the Bill, that the principle of it is declared in the preamble. That preamble states the expediency of taking 'effectual measures for correcting divers abuses that have long prevailed in the choice of Members to serve in the Commons' House of Parliament, to deprive many inconsiderable places of the right of returning Members, to grant such privileges to large, populous, and wealthy towns, to increase the number of Knights of the Shire, to extend the elective franchise to many of his Majesty's subjects who have not heretofore enjoyed the same, and to diminish the expense of elections.' Now, I certainly think it would be impossible for any person, not previously aware of the fact, to conceive, from this preamble, that the Bill itself would go, not only to the absolute extinction of many rights of representation, not only to the alteration of many others, but to effect a complete and entire change in the whole Representative system, in the rights of election, of every county, city, and borough in England. A change such as this, a change so enormous as was never before contemplated, is not to be expected from the preamble of the Bill; and if so, then I say that that preamble does not express the principle of the Bill. The real principle of the Bill seems to me to be a complete change in our Representative system, except with respect to the Universities. Such a change has, I repeat, never before been contemplated—in my opinion such a 274 change amounts to something very like revolution, and, therefore, the principle of the Bill seems to me to be revolutionary. I am well aware that the account which I before stated has been given, of the principle of the Bill, not only by the noble Earl who introduced it, but also by a noble Earl opposite, who spoke with such distinguished ability and eloquence last night (the Earl of Harrowby). That noble Earl has likewise given you another principle of the Bill: he has told your Lordships that, "if you agree to the second reading of this Bill"—in other words, if you acknowledge the principle of it—"you will admit that some considerable Reform is required in the Commons' House of Parliament." But, my Lords, though we have this very high authority for the statement that such is the principle of the measure, I cannot forget that we have had other principles attributed to it by the noble Earl himself. I am far from wishing to taunt that noble Earl with inconsistency in his views and conduct in respect to this question at different times; for I do not think it matter of blame that a man should be inconsistent with himself with respect to so vast a subject. A question of this kind involves so many considerations, it must appear at different times in so many different lights to the same man, that a change in his opinions is not to be wondered at. I fully believe that nothing but the conviction of the wisdom and necessity of assenting now to this very same measure which the noble Earl, six months since, thought it wise and necessary to oppose, could have induced the noble Earl to give it his support. But while I fully admit that voting differently at different times with regard to questions of this nature, does not necessarily imply blameable inconsistency, I am sure that the noble Earl will, on his part, admit that (though a different line of action may be now necessary, in respect to this Bill, though he may now feel it his duty to support the second reading, which he then opposed) yet, what he expressed of the principle of the Bill, on the 4th of October last in opposing it, cannot be less applicable to it this night, when he thinks it proper to give it his support. In short, my Lords, truth and reason will stand still, even though the noble Earl may have felt it necessary to turn round. Now, in opening this morning the speech delivered by the noble Earl last October, in opposition 275 to this measure, the first sentence that my eye fell upon was the following—"The principle and object of this Bill are to make the Constitution more democratic. Look to the consequences of doing so." Again, in another place—"I am obliged to oppose this Bill, as I consider it a change which must inevitably lead to all other changes." And, in a third instance, he says, 'I think that much of the power of a government may rest in the confidence of the people, and if that confidence be shaken, be the government in reality good or bad, it is the interest and the duty of the government to take such reasonable measures as suggest themselves to recover that confidence, and assure its continuance. That, however, is not to be done by changing at once the whole constitution of the House of Commons.' Here, my Lords, is the description given by the noble Earl of the principle of the Bill in October last; it is "to make the Constitution more democratic"—it is to effect "a change, which must necessarily lead to all other changes"—it is "to change at once the whole constitution of the House of Commons"—and if this was its principle then, it is not less its principle now. I assent most completely to this view of the principle, and, therefore, I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill. My Lords, I have already said, that I regard this measure as revolutionary. I know that the noble Earl at the head of the Government has repelled this charge against the measure with indignation. I am glad that it was thought a charge, and that it was so answered; for I should think it very frightful if the noble Earl thought lightly of producing a revolution. But the noble Earl took a distinction which, he thought justified himself. He said, that "that was not a revolution which was not either a change of dynasty, or some other change that was wrought, not by the regular powers of the Constitution, but by the introduction of some force unknown to the Constitution." From the silence of the noble Earl, I trust I have quoted his words correctly. But if such are the noble Earl's notions of revolution, they are very different from mine. According to those notions, it follows, that no revolution occurred in France before the year 1792, and not till Louis 16th fled from Paris; for, up to that period, vast as were the changes that took place, all, or almost all, were brought about under the 276 forms of law, and by the regular powers of the Constitution. ["No! no!"] I trust that noble Lords will have the goodness to correct me hereafter, if I am wrong. Meanwhile, I persist in my assertion, and I believe that it will hardly be disputed, that every portion of the French Revolution, up to June, 1792—every thing that was done before that period in the way of destroying the ancient institutions of the country—was done under the forms of the Constitution, and by the regularly-constituted powers of the Government of that country. Now, let us suppose for a moment, that in this country a vast change was introduced by both Houses of Parliament, and sanctioned by the King—a change which went to destroy the present existing system altogether. Let us suppose, for instance, that the two Houses of Parliament were base enough to pass a Bill, to which the Sovereign gave his assent, making all the proclamations of the King equivalent to Acts of Parliament. Would it be said, if such a thing as this should be done, that it would not amount to a revolution? And yet it would be a change accomplished under the regular forms of the Constitution, and sanctioned by the constituted authorities of the State. We might suppose, also, a contrary case. Let us suppose, that a sovereign, anxious for popularity, and thinking to gratify the wishes of his subjects, should descend from his throne, and with the consent of Parliament, so change all the forms of the government as to establish a republic, or a monarchy which would be one only in name and form, with all the essentials of a real republic—this would be a change brought about by the recognized constitutional authorities of the land; and yet, would any one say, that such a change would not amount to a complete revolution? But this, it may be said, is putting extreme cases. Well, then, I will put another, which, a twelvemonth ago, we should all have thought an extreme one, too—but which, after what we have recently heard, within these twenty-four hours, from a noble Baron may, I fear, be so regarded no longer. Let us suppose, my Lords, that some measure were devised, the object of which should be to drown the voice of your Lordships, and to extinguish for ever the independence of this House—let us suppose this to be done, in all due form, by the exercise of powers fully recognized by law—and thus, my Lords, 277 a third case would occur, of which, I apprehend, most of your Lordships would agree in opinion with me, that it amounts to a revolution. [Interruption.] I must say that it is extremely inconvenient to receive lessons in this way while I am addressing your Lordships. I am well aware that severe lessons will be read to me by-and-by—and then I shall bear them as I may. Meanwhile, I entreat that I may not be interrupted. After all, my Lords, however disagreeable may be the mention of the word revolution to the ears polite of the noble Lords on the Bench near me, I must remind them that some of the chief supporters of the Bill glory in it, because it is a revolutionary measure, and advocate it as such. We all know that the public Press have given great support to this Bill; and we are equally aware that, by the public Press, it is hailed as a revolution. In one of the public Journals—in a Journal conducted with great ability, remarkable for its great information, and distinguished for the efficient support which it has given to this measure—in that Journal I not long ago read the following words, as characterizing the Constitution of this land—"That horrid old mockery of a free government which we have hitherto been enduring." This is the description of the existing Constitution, given in that public Journal which has rendered the most powerful support to this measure, and which is believed by many to breathe the inspirations, if not of the Treasury itself, at least of some high office or offices, of the Government. I do not say that this belief is well founded— I do not say that I believe it—I only say that such a charge has been made, and that it is believed by many to be true. [It is not true.] I have only said what is believed by many—not that I believe it. This, I repeat, is the description of a Constitution—of which Englishmen have been wont to be proud—given by one of the ablest supporters of the present Bill. I find no fault with it: on the contrary, I honour the frankness of the avowal. To think and speak thus is exactly what might be expected from an honest and intelligent advocate of the plan My lords, I will not inflict on your Lordships any eulogy—or, rather, I fear I should say any elegy—of mine, on our departing Constitution, but I will indulge myself with speaking of it in the lofty language in which Milton describes a com- 278 plete and generous education. My Lords, for more ages than I shall stop to number, the British Constitution has "fitted the people of this land to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the duties, both private and public, of peace and war." This, in my heart, I believe to be true of our present Constitution. Such, in my heart, I believe the British Constitution to be; and, believing it to be so, no earthly consideration shall induce me, by any vote of mine, to contribute to its destruction. I do not mean to go into the details of' this Bill; I shall rather look to its general character—and, looking at it thus, I am so forcibly struck by one of the things said of it by the noble Earl opposite, that I must take the liberty of enlarging a little upon it. I allude, my Lords, to that part of the noble Earl's former speech, in which he spoke of the democratic tendency of this measure. My Lords, I am not disposed to be making comparisons between the different elements in the existing Constitution; but I have no hesitation in saying, that I consider the democratic element the most glorious and the most valuable of all. I consider it to be the perennial source of that spirit of liberty which is the proudest distinction of our national character—the boast and glory of our country; but while I feel it to be so valuable, I, at the same time feel that it is a principle which peculiarly requires to be restrained. Like that element in the physical world which it most resembles—the element of fire—it is, while properly tempered and controlled, the most genial, the most salutary, the most invigorating, the most productive of all good; but like that element, also, when left to its own unchecked and uncorrected workings, it becomes the most destructive and the most devastating. In the Constitution, as it at present exists, I find that the democratic element has such checks and corrections as reduce it to a due temperament, and render it a safe and inestimable ingredient of the whole. These checks and corrections are found in parts of the Constitution, which I fairly own at first sight appear to be the least worthy of approbation, and the most exposed to objection—I mean the nomination and close boroughs. They have been called by a noble Earl this night—and I do not wish to quarrel with the expression—the rotten parts of the Constitution. A great man, deceased, did not regard them in that 279 light; he distinguished them by a phrase, certainly not of honour, but one which recognizes their importance and necessity—he called them the shameful parts of the Constitution. Such parts of the Constitution are not the least necessary to the soundness of the whole; and if those boroughs perform the distinctive functions which Mr. Burke says they do perform, and for which he valued them, then I contend, that they ought not to be got rid of without some equivalent check of a more seemly character. If that can be done, I shall rejoice in their abolition; but, seeing no such correctives in the present Bill, I feel myself bound to adhere to the old system, or, at least, not to go so far in innovation as is proposed in the measure before the House. In connexion with this part of the subject, there is one point to which I beg leave to recall your Lordships' attention. We have heard much of usurpations on the rights of the people; usurpations that have been committed either by Members of this House, or by other wealthy proprietors. It is said that some of your Lordships have, in fact, usurped a power over the Representation which particularly belonged to the people. That this has, in some instances, occurred, I readily admit; that it has occurred so often as is charged, I must beg leave respectfully to deny. There is no period, I will venture to say, in the ancient history of the Parliament of this country, in which it has not been the practice of the Government to create boroughs which should absolutely be in the nomination of great proprietors. I believe I may say with truth, that all those boroughs, the franchise of which is burgage-tenure, are of this description. Now, when these usurpations on the rights of the people are charged upon Members of this House, and upon the great proprietors, I beg to be permitted to ask, whether there has been no usurpation on the part of the people on the rights of Parliament? There has been one gigantic usurpation, in comparison with which all others sink into insignificance—I mean the publicity which is given to the proceedings of Parliament by the printing of the debates in both Houses. This usurpation upon the privileges of both Houses of Parliament is far greater, and far more important in its operation, than all those ten times told which have been charged against any of your Lordships, or any other great pro- 280 prietors, as regards any interference in the election of Representatives of the Commons in Parliament. Nothing, I apprehend, can be more certain than that, by the letter and spirit of the Constitution of this country, the proceedings in the two Houses of Parliament are to be free from all influence from without, and, therefore, it is that we are presumed to be now discussing this question with closed doors. Do I lament that the practice has been changed? Far from it. I think that the publicity given to our proceedings is the most wholesome measure that could have been adopted. I think it the best and most complete Reform of Parliament ever devised; because, I think that no greater security can be given for the purity of conduct of both Houses, than that all we do, and all we say, should be known to the whole world. Thus, it has happened, that while the people have not so large a direct influence on the proceedings of Parliament as a less restrained system of Representation might afford them, still everything is done to give them a real and efficient influence. But if, in order to correct the excess of the power of the Members of this House, or of other great proprietors over the Representation—if, in order to correct this excess, a new measure were introduced, which would abolish the balance hitherto maintained—which would destroy altogether the influence of Peers and great proprietors over the Constitution of the other House, making all elections popular—but, which, at the same time, would allow the publication of the proceedings of Parliament to be continued—if, I say, to correct the excess complained of, such a course were adopted, then would the democratic element of the Constitution obtain so vast and overwhelming a preponderance, that everything else must give way to it, and it would be impossible to carry on any regular system of government. In short, my Lords, thinking as I do that it is necessary as the best protection of the purity of our own proceedings, and for the satisfaction of the people, that access should be had, not only to the votes, but to the debates of Parliament, I could never consent to any measure which would exclude the public from these walls. But then, I must insist on the necessity of bearing this important consideration in mind, when we are meditating Reform, when we are discussing what shall be the new Constitution of the 281 country; and we should take care, while we permit the people irregularly to avail themselves of an advantage of the most important kind, not so to increase their regular power, as must positively overwhelm the monarchical and aristocratical elements of the Constitution. My Lords, there is one part of the subject to which I beg leave to thank the noble Baron, who spoke with such extraordinary ability and eloquence two nights ago (Lord Ellenborough), and also the noble Earl at the Table (the Earl of Falmouth) for having directed our attention—I mean the connexion of this Bill with that for the Reform of the Representation of Ireland. As the noble Earl well and truly said, the present measure, and the two Bills now before the other House, must be considered as parts and parcels of the same measure. They are intregal parts of one whole; and I am quite sure that none of your Lordships would ask me to consider them separately, or would suppose that I am guilty of any irregularity in alluding to the Irish measure of Reform, although that measure is not yet before us, and in speaking of it and of the English Bill, as one and the same conjoint measure. I say this the more confidently, because I have the example and the authority of the noble Earl at the head of the Government for so doing; for the noble Earl, in submitting this measure to the House, spoke of the Irish Bill, and told us what was the number of additional Representatives which it was proposed to give to Ireland. Now, of course, the noble Earl could only have done this from recognizing its connexion with the present measure. Sanctioned, then, by this authority, and following the course of the noble Earl, I shall not scruple to make one or two remarks upon the Bill for Ireland, as taken in connexion with that now before the House. In the first place, then, if the Irish Bill should be carried, what will become of the Representation of the Irish boroughs? It will be taken from the Protestant influence, and conferred upon the Roman Catholic population. Can your Lordships conceive a greater change—a more important change—a more fearful change? It appears to me to be the more formidable, because I cannot disguise from myself that it is only one part of that system, which unhappily of late has been too much practised, of truckling to the Roman Catholics of Ireland. I see that, on every occasion, there 282 is a readiness to yield the most high and sacred considerations connected with the religion of that country to temporal—nay, to temporary expediency. Expediency! My Lords; it is not expediency. The thing is, as miserable in policy as it is indefensible in principle. It is a mere huckstering of pure religion for the brief, the hollow, the worthless support of men whom no concessions can win—who laugh at your bribes, and jeer at your elaborate and unwearied efforts to cocker, and soothe, and pamper them—of men who no longer deign even to wear the mask of a decent hypocrisy, who proclaim their hopes—rather, I should say, their triumphs—of men who even now boast—and chuckle while they boast—that the oath they have taken not to use the power which a too confiding Legislature gave them "to weaken or disturb the Protestant Government, or Protestant religion of the country"—admits of an explanation, which makes it a key—a picklock—with which they may open to themselves, at once, both the citadel and the temple of our Sion. My Lords, I speak not of visionary dangers, or matters of distant and doubtful speculation. Already the days of the Irish branch of the Protestant Church are lumbered. The very month of its destruction has been openly, ostentatiously, authoritatively proclaimed. It has been declared that a general election will take place in November next, and at that general election the giant spirit of democracy will rise in all its might, and crush the Protestant Church of Ireland to the dust. This high purpose has been proclaimed—not by some road fanatic at the Rotunda, in Dublin—not by some artful demagogue or unprincipled agitator, seeking to inflame the passions of a mob for the advancement of the sordid views of his own miserable ambition, or more miserable avarice. No! it has been proclaimed by a British Senator, in a place second in dignity only to the Assembly which I have now the honour of addressing, by a man of genius and of eloquence, by a man who was not long ago selected by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—aye, and not unworthy on many accounts, to be so selected—to represent the principles of that noble Lord in Parliament. This Gentleman, my Lords, whose fortunes and whose principles alike place him above the temptation of sordid lucre, and whose high faculties—for he has very high faculties—had found a full and ade- 283 quate object of their ambition in the peaceful honours of the senate and of the bar—this Gentleman, after having laid down all hostility to our Church—after having solemnly, and I doubt not sincerely, pledged himself to promote, with all his powers, the common peace and common security of all his countrymen—has been forced and goaded by the measure on which we are this night to decide, to abandon that peaceful course—to resume the port and attitude of combat, to arm himself in the cause of his Church—his now, as it is fondly deemed, triumphant Church. And while his better feelings recoil at the work before him, while he vainly struggles against the chain which binds him, he is compelled again to take the impulse of all his public conduct from the mandate of his spiritual taskmaster. In relation to this part of the question—I mean the Irish measure of Reform—there is a matter which I beg leave very earnestly to lay before your Lordships—I mean the origin of the system of Representation in Ireland. I am persuaded that it is not unknown to any of your Lordships that, the Representative system in Ireland owes its origin to King James 1st. He established that system not as an equal system, but avowedly as unequal. The circumstances of Ireland—its condition—the relation in which it stood towards this country—forbade the introduction of an impartial system of Representation to our own. The system established by King James 1st was formed for a small band of Englishmen settled in the midst of a hostile population—a population opposed to them in all that related to civil rights, as well as to religious feelings. Under such circumstances, King James 1st felt that it was impossible that anything like a regular government could be kept up in that country, unless either the Roman Catholic natives were treated as slaves, or the Protestant settler had a predominant power in Parliament. For this reason, he openly avowed in the proclamation which he set forth at the time, and by which he created a large number of boroughs in Ireland, and divided some of the provinces into new counties, that his object in doing so was to establish a system by which the Protestant interest and the Protestant Church of Ireland should be secured. Such, my Lords, was the policy of James—such the foundation of the Representative system of Ireland. Within our recollection two epochs have occurred, 284 at which, the Representation of that country has undergone considerable change. I mean the Legislative Union of Ireland with this country, and the recent settlement of the question with respect to the disabilities of the Roman Catholics. On both those occasions, it was decided that the Protestant interest in the Representation of boroughs should be retained. In the words of the Treaty of Union, the maintenance of the Protestant Church was considered as an essential and fundamental principle in the government of the country. For that reason, it was stipulated that certain boroughs should be retained, and the corporations of those boroughs were continued in the state in which they were, under their ancient charters, for the very purpose of securing the Protestant interest. In the measure adopted three years ago—the measure for the emancipation of the Roman Catholics—that part of the Protestant security was left untouched. It was stated by the noble Duke, in bringing that measure forward, as a thing absolutely essential to the good faith of this country—to the good faith of a Protestant Government, dealing with Protestant interests—that in making the change which he proposed, the Protestant boroughs of Ireland should be continued in their existing state. Is there, then, one of your Lordships who, if told at that time, that, within three years, it would be proposed to do away with this security which was then so sedulously and carefully preserved—is there, I ask, one of your Lordships who would not have scouted the idea? And yet, it is so proposed in the measure now before us—a measure, the principle of which, has received the assent of many noble Lords, who, I believe, are as firmly attached to the Protestant interests as myself—which has received the assent, too, of some of my right rev. brethren. Now, I confess, that this has somewhat astonished me, because it is impossible, I think, for any man not to be aware of the connexion between the English and Irish Reform Bills, and, consequently, of the results which must follow the adoption of the first. I do not wish to state this too strongly, but, I should be wanting to the duty which I owe to the Church, in which I bear so high an office, if I did not further state that there is something in this question of a very peculiar interest as respects the highest individual in the realm. 285 To the security of the Protestant interests—to the security of the Protestant Church—it is not only our duty, as Members of the British Parliament, to pay particular attention, but, it is also the particular duty of the Sovereign himself. In discussing this subject we must not forget that, by the oath which sealed the compact between the Sovereign and the people, and which we had all the happiness of seeing his present gracious Majesty take with such interesting and imposing ceremonies, a few months ago—you must not forget, I say, that, by that oath, the Sovereign bound himself to maintain, to the utmost of his power, the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant reformed religion, as by law established, within these realms. Looking upon the subject in this light, I wish to put it to the noble Lords who sit on the bench near me—not in a tone of defiance (which would ill become me), nor in the spirit of defiance (which, I hope does not belong to me)—but calmly, and with a deep sense of its overwhelming importance, I wish to ask those noble Lords whether, they can conceal from themselves, on due consideration, that the plain, simple, indisputable meaning of this oath, must prevent the Sovereign from consenting to extinguish the Protestant power, which is retained in the existing corporations in Ireland. I put this, I say, to the consideration of those noble Lords. But I must beg leave to remind the House that Ministers are not the only responsible persons on this occasion. I must be permitted to remind your Lordships that each and every one of you is equally bound, not only not to consent himself to a measure of this sort, but not to aid in forcing it upon the counsels of the Sovereign. If I say this to the House at large, what must I say to my right rev. brethren in particular? Will they—will any man among them, if he really thinks that. I have fairly stated the case—will he venture to sanction, by his vole this night, such a measure as this before us? I am sure that, not one of my rev. brethren will do so. I am sure that, whatever pledges they may have given, they will see that no pledge can relieve them from the solemn duty of protecting the Sovereign's oath, and the interests of the Protestant Church. Having had this matter brought before their minds—even in the poor way in which it has been laid before them by myself—if, after this, they support the Bill, they will 286 do so, I am sure, because they do not see the case, as I most conscientiously avow, that it is seen by me. Nothing, I am confident, could prevail on them to vote fir this Bill, if they thought, as I think, that, by voting for it, they will sacrifice one great security of the Protestant cause in Ireland. I have already trespassed at too great a length upon your Lordships' time; I hasten, therefore, to conclude. My Lords, it is with no ordinary feeling that I find myself speaking upon this subject in this the most august assembly in the world—aye, I repeat it, in this the most august assembly in the world. Such, this House for centuries has been—such it still is—such let us hope it may long continue to be. God grant that it may; for, if it should ever cease to be the most august assembly in the world, it will become the most degraded. And why, my Lords, will this be? beause, if this House shall fall from its proud eminence, it will fall not by violence from without; for, notwithstanding all that has been said or done, the people of this country will never be so false to their own interests, as to be wanting in respectful attachment to you, if you are not wanting to yourselves and them. No, my Lords, if this House shall fall from its palmy state, it will fall by corruption within. It will fall by the folly, or the guilt, by the cowardice, or the treachery, of some, if there shall be any such, of its own degenerate Members. My Lords, it has been ordained by a severe, but most merciful dispensation, that those to whom great interests are intrusted, cannot be false to those interests, without drawing down a full measure of righteous retribution on their own heads. My Lords, to you the guardianship of the British Constitution—that Constitution which, for at least 800 years, has fostered, nursed, matured, and consolidated the liberties and the happiness of this much-favoured people—to you the guardianship of that Constitution has been mainly consigned, to your fidelity, to your prudence, to your firmness. My Lords, if it fall, you will not only fall with it, but you will be ground to dust beneath its ruins. May He who has appointed you to your high place, enable you to fill it as you ought! In this great crisis, (for so we all feel it to be)—in this agony of our country's fate—may He give you wisdom to see, and fortitude to pursue steadily and fearlessly, that only path which can 287 lead to honour or to safety—the path of duty. True, my Lords, that path is beset with difficulties and with dangers; clouds and thickest darkness rest upon it: but one thing is clear, is bright, and one thing only—to walk uprightly is within your own power. As for consequences, they are in the power of God. Will you distrust that power? My Lords, you will not.
The Bishop of Llandaff
said, he merely rose to protest against the necessity or even the propriety of arguing the present question with reference to a supposed connexion between this Bill and the Reform Bill intended for Ireland. It did not follow, for a moment, that he who favoured the one must, of necessity, be pledged to support the other. He should, therefore, conscientiously give his vote for the second reading of the Bill then before the House; and yet he should feel himself to be perfectly at liberty hereafter to vote as his judgment might direct him, with regard to the other Bill. If the description which the right rev. Prelate gave of that other Bill turned out to be correct, then he would vote against it as stoutly, and raise his voice against it as loudly, as the right rev. Prelate himself would do. Many of those who, last Session, voted against the second reading of the Reform Bill, did so in order to obtain time for consideration; and now, after six months of preparation, they had come to a decision to support the second reading of the Bill. It was with feelings deeply painful that he gave his vote on that occasion. He, however, looked to the situation of the country, and he conceived that the safer course would be, to take time for proper consideration. That feeling induced him to give his negative to the Motion. He did so, knowing that if he were wrong, a remedy existed which might be applied hereafter, but that if the measure were carried, and that mischief resulted from it, no mode would be left to remove the evil. This was sufficient to influence a mind so balanced as his was. Another, and a powerful reason, which weighed with him, and one that could not have been overlooked by his right rev. friend was, that even the most prominent Members of both Houses of Parliament, who had opposed the measure, held one common sentiment, and agreed in one common principle—namely, that some Reform was necessary. It was almost a proverbial sentiment 288 throughout the country, that something must be done. It was, therefore, he contended, prudent to consider the measure which was proposed to be the law of the land. A sound argument, in his mind, for formerly voting against the Bill was, that due time should be given for consideration, that the pulse of the country might be felt, in order that they might ascertain whether the call for Reform originated in a feverish feeling, or in a strong and decided conviction of its necessity. An interval of six months had fully proved to them that this feeling was not temporary, but that it was a during and firm resolution arising from the conviction that there were great grievances in the country which this Bill would remedy. The measure now came again before them, freed from many objections which were originally made to it. Perhaps something more might be done to render the measure more generally acceptable. This being the state of the case, he thought that they had no alternative but to take the Bill into their most serious consideration. In so doing, he did not pledge himself to support what might be viewed by others as essential parts of the measure, if they did not meet the conviction of his own mind. He trusted, therefore, that a candid construction would be put on the conduct of those who, under the circumstances which he had stated, meant to vote for the second reading. By so doing they declared their approbation of the principle of the measure, under the peculiar circumstances of the country, leaving the Committee to make such alterations in the details of the Bill as they might conceive to be necessary. Reserving to himself that discretion, he felt perfectly clear in his conscience when he gave his vote for the second reading of the Bill. He trusted that a spirit of conciliation would pervade both sides, and that a general disposition would be manifested to take such steps as would be best calculated to tranquillize and quiet the country.
The Marquis of Lansdown
said, that after all the arguments which had been adduced in support of the Bill now under their Lordships' consideration, he should think himself ill-justified in trespassing at much length on their attention, by entering into a detailed examination of the general principle on which the measure proceeded. But he must be permitted, in that place, and at the period at which the 289 discussion had now arrived, to state his opinion on what had been advanced in the course of the debate, in opposition to this Bill, which now, for the second time, had been sent up to their Lordships, by the Commons of the United Kingdom, for their consideration. In adverting to those observations, it was not his purpose, and he did not feel it to be his duty, to inquire how far the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Lincoln) who spoke first on that side of the House to-night, and who so clearly, so satisfactorily, and, above all, so calmly, and so candidly, stated his intention of supporting the second reading of this Bill, on the ground of the great change which had been effected in the country—he would not stop to inquire whether that right rev. Prelate had taken an unwise or improper course, in not having taken into his councils the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter) who had spoken last but one, and who had advanced many arguments in opposition to the measure. Perhaps, after he had heard the panegyric which that right rev. Prelate had pronounced on the plan proposed by the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) he might have found some good reasons for not taking the advice of the right rev. Prelate, if it had been offered. The right rev. Prelate had, at great length, stated his view of the subject, and he was certainly much surprised to find him acting the part of a recruiting officer, and endeavouring to win over supporters to the proposed measure of the noble Duke. No doubt the right rev. Prelate did this with all that sincerity which was well known to belong to him. He should come presently to some observations made by that right rev. Prelate, with respect to the character and extent of change proposed by this measure; but first of all, he wished to say, in the outset, with respect to himself, that he agreed entirely with the right rev. Prelate—that he agreed with the noble Duke opposite, who last night expressed his hostility to the Bill—that he agreed with the noble Lord on the cross-benches, (Lord Gage), who, the preceding night, had given his reluctant assent to the second reading of the Bill—he agreed with them completely in their observations, that a most weighty responsibility did rest on those with whom this important measure originated. A great responsibility rested on his noble friend, on himself, and on all those who formed the present Government, 290 in bringing forward this measure—a responsibility only inferior to that which would have attached to individuals who, filling the situation of King's Ministers, and placed in that situation at the period when he and his noble and hon. friends were placed in it, should have silently contemplated, and without any efforts to prevent or counteract it, that gradual estrangement, which was taking place amongst those classes of this country, on the continuance of the harmonious connexion between whom depended the prosperity of the country, and more especially the stability of that hierarchy to which the right rev. Prelate was so strongly and so properly attached. The irritation in the public mind which was last night alluded to by a noble Baron—an irritation which threatened an alienation of the middle classes of society from those with whom they had been formerly connected in kind and friendly ties—that irritation, if not allayed, was likely to lead to consequences that would involve the political safety—nay, the political existence, of the State. Now he should have felt contempt for himself—he should have felt contempt (if it were possible to feel such an emotion towards his noble friend)—but he should, even for him, have felt a contempt, if his noble friend had shrunk from the difficult, but necessary task, of endeavouring to heal those wounds—of endeavouring to cement those connexions which every day were more and more dividing and separating. The Ministers, he was proud to say, cared not for the transitory dignity of office: they were ready to sacrifice that—they were ready to sacrifice personal comfort and happiness; all they wished, all they strove for was, to restore the Constitution, and, by restoring it, to give additional strength, stability, and prosperity, to every part of the empire. The right rev. Prelate had declared that this measure was a revolution. He denied the assertion. It was not a revolution. According to the idea of the right rev. Prelate, his description of revolution would apply to some of the most important and most beneficial changes that had ever been made in the institutions of this country. It had been well stated by a noble Lord who spoke early in this debate—a noble Lord who had been lately introduced to the House, by that great act of justice which had been delayed too long—it had been stated by him, with as much truth as 291 eloquence, that of all the absurdities that ever could be imagined, that of an immutable state of the law, in a mutable state of things, was the most absurd. Change and alteration were incidental to the condition of the world. Changes were constantly taking place in every portion of society; and it was, therefore, necessary, from time to time, that well-considered alterations should be made in the working of the Constitution, in order to meet those various changes. It was by the careful, by the deliberate, and by the effectual application of such alterations, that it was possible for ours, or any other political system, to bear up against the perpetual inroads which time must necessarily make upon it. Here he begged leave to state, that as a noble Marquis had said, he was not prepared to found any change that was proposed, as well on new doctrines, as on new circumstances. What he asked for was, to examine how far new circumstances required the application of old doctrines. That was all that he and his friends asked. They wished to go back to the elements of the Constitution. Now he would demand of the noble Lords opposite, whether there was anything contrary to the principles of the Constitution in the extension of the right of voting to those places which had become the depositories of that knowledge, and the possessors of that influence on society, which the wisdom and policy of this Government had always endeavoured to attach to itself; or whether there was anything opposed to the acknowledged principle of the Constitution, in disfranchising small and insignificant places, and enfranchising others of great and growing extent and importance. The great and primary elements of the Constitution of this country were to be traced to one basis, that of securing, by every proper means, the happiness and security of the country. And how was that to be done? Certainly by making such alterations, from time to time, in the system of Government, as circumstances rendered necessary. There were no other means of preserving the Constitution. If they looked to other countries, as well as this, they would find those countries endeavouring to acquire fresh strength, by taking a wise and due advantage of new circumstances. He would point the attention of their Lordships to the constitution of another country—a constitution far more democratic than our own—he alluded 292 to the constitution of the United States of America. He could assure noble Lords that he was not going to call on them to adopt that Constitution. All he meant to do was, to point out the course which had been pursued in that country with respect to an extension of the elective right; and he would say, that if the great men—for great men he would call them—who established that Constitution, had prevented the means of accession to the new States which were continually growing up in America, there would have been, in a very short time, an end to that Constitution. Accession was, however, admitted; and the consequence was, that the power of the United States had increased more than imagination had previously contemplated. He, therefore, entreated their Lordships to recollect, that even in the bosom of a single society, new and great interests might arise; and if so, was it not necessary and proper, as they came into existence, to make alterations in the system to meet the change of circumstances? Let the right rev. Prelate, who looked upon the proposed change as amounting to revolution, let him look to history, which was open to all. Let him look to our own history, and he would find the system of legislation had been gradually altered, and previously independent Legislatures wholly swept away. Was the Union with Scotland revolution? Was the Union with Ireland revolution? The right rev. Prelate doubtless would say, that in neither case a revolution had been effected; and yet, in each of these instances, it was deemed politic, for the general good, to make a far more sweeping change than would be effected by this Bill. The right rev. Prelate had adverted to the French Revolution. That Revolution originated in violence. And why? Because there was no Parliament in that country, to consider the complaints of the people; because there was no Parliament there, to mark the change which had taken place in the popular mind and feeling; because there was no Parliament there, to warn the Church, and to warn the nobility of their danger. That Revolution was begun in blood, and it proceeded to take its fearful course, in consequence of the want of that very feeling—that feeling which induced Ministers to listen to the complaints of the people— which the right rev. Prelate was anxious to oppose. A noble Baron, who spoke on the first night of the 293 debate, was led, in the course of his argument, to make the very admission which he (the Marquis of Lansdown) and his friends required for the adoption of this Bill. It appeared to be a favourite idea with the noble Baron, that the colonial interests should be allowed the benefit of Representation. He said, "What signifies antiquity to me? The colonies have grown powerful and wealthy, and ought to be represented." The noble Baron was ready to allow the colonies to have Representation, by an undue path; but with what propriety could he refuse to give Representation by a due and direct path, to the great towns of England which required Representation as much as the colonies? He agreed with the noble Baron, in some degree, that it was desirable the colonies should be represented, and he should be prepared to concur in a measure having that object in view, had not nature opposed obstacles to such a plan, which made it perfectly impracticable. But it appeared to him perfectly obvious, since they could not give them direct Representation, that the next best thing they could do for the colonies—the next best chance they could give them of having something like an imperfect Representation—was to give Representation to those places which were particularly connected with the colonies; and such places they found in the out-ports which either already sent Members or were to send Members to Parliament under the Bill before the House. The colonies would always have that influence in those out-ports which community of interest naturally gave a consumer with a producer. The Representatives of those places would feel it their interest to attend to the welfare of the colonies, as upon the continuance of their prosperity must of course depend the continuance of the prosperity of the ports which traded with them. The noble Baron, in stating his objections to this Bill, wished, naturally enough, to disarm the formidable array he was obliged to admit was in favour of this measure out of doors, if not within it. He the more particularly dwelt upon the general view the noble Baron then proceeded to take of that array, because the noble Duke attached so much importance to it that he also last night made a sort of catalogue raisonnée of the supporters of the measure. First, there was the great Whig Aristocracy, who the noble Baron conceived it perfectly 294 obvious must have motives for supporting this measure more dear to them than the maintenance and transmission to their families of those honours and properties which they possessed. The noble Baron next challenged the whole body of the Catholics of Ireland, and said, that they also ought not to sit in judgment upon this measure. Then came the Radicals and the Dissenters, and the well-known Reformers of England, who, ever since the year 1792, had always been so ready to advocate every change, and they also were challenged; but, even after the noble Baron had thus put out of his chalice all these noxious ingredients, he was obliged to admit, and candidly did admit, that there still remained a great residuum with which he did not know how to deal. It was composed, he admitted, of very honest people of every class and rank in the community, who had got into their heads a strange idea that Reform was necessary, and whose opinion, constituting as it did public opinion, was entitled to respect. Now, why had not such a body, constituting the wholesome part of the community in the opinion of the noble Baron, himself attached to the cause of Reform, been separated from those whom he conceived to be the ultra-Reformers by some sort of provision, calculated to conciliate them, made by the noble Baron and the noble Duke in the course of the last two years? If they had taken that view of the state of society, which had now been explained by them, was it not an obvious course, if they conceived danger likely to arise from the mixture of this pure body with the tainted part of the community—was it not, he said, an obvious course to take security against that danger by providing, long before this period, for the feeling which had been growing up amongst them, by introducing a gradual Reform, which, if introduced in time, might have succeeded, but which, let him remind the noble Marquis opposite, had been constantly and systematically opposed by him whenever the opportunity of acting upon it had occurred. He was bound to say, that, if they were now obliged to go to a greater extent than might formerly have been necessary, it was because the noble Lord opposite, and those who acted with him, had stifled in the germ every attempt at such a Reform, till at last, the King, the Commons, and the people, all cried aloud for a measure of Reform, which they had not known, like 295 wise Statesmen, how to guard against. But now, at this eleventh hour, when every plan to stop the progress of this measure had failed—when it had passed the other House of Parliament—when, after one Bill had been rejected by their Lordships, this measure was at last, upon the very verge of meeting—he would not say possessed some chance of receiving, because he trusted it was a certainty of receiving—their Lordships' approbation, a reforming light suddenly burst forth from the head of the noble Duke opposite who knew—what, perhaps, they all could not know—the great pains of labour it had cost to produce that conception. Some rumours had, indeed, reached them, from time to time, of Statesmen and Members of Parliament, and of ex-clerks of office, being engaged in laborious attempts to consider how they might effect the least possible change, by the least possible means. They had heard, too, occasionally, of the projects, of the calculations, of the circulations, of the copyings and printings there had been of papers put forth one day and suppressed another; but all, it seemed, had fallen to the ground, to the utter discomfiture of the opponents of the Bill, when the courage or impatience of the noble Duke induced him to bring forward his offspring, to the common parentage of which no one else had yet asserted a claim. The noble Duke had laid his offspring upon their Lordships' Table, in the hope, no doubt, that, if the plan which was now before them should be stripped of its title to the favour of the House, it might be there to claim the attention of the compassionate. But there, whether the present Bill were adopted or rejected, he thought that offspring of the noble Duke would lie for ever. No man should persuade him, after the Commons House of Parliament had twice considered the whole of this subject, and sent up to their Lordships the fruits of their deliberations, that their Lordships would pay so ill a compliment to the House of Commons as to send it back a bill, endorsed with the name of the noble Duke. He only hoped it would merely be the means of inducing their Lordships to reflect, again and again, how impossible the present sense of the country had made it, even to deal with this subject in argument, without having the appearance—for he granted it would be the appearance only—of tendering something, proposed as a substitute for this Bill, which, 296 as his noble friend had so truly stated, whilst it rested upon the very principles of this Bill, would cause dissatisfaction to the persons who, by the Bill now before them, would be pleased. The noble Lord seemed to think that the persons to whom the Bill proposed to communicate the right of voting, were persons quite incapable of making a proper selection of those who ought to represent them. He could not, with the scrupulous and severe accuracy employed by the noble Lord, pronounce that these persons had not produced one man capable of transacting ordinary business; but he imagined that, after a time, if these bodies were incapable of finding among themselves persons of talent capable of representing them (and he thought they would be more fortunate than the noble Baron, who stated that he walked the streets without finding talent), they would be able (he said), at any rate, to go for it to a distance. He must, however, further say, that both the noble Baron, in that very able speech of his, and others, who had spoken in the course of this debate, had pronounced in another respect, rather a harsh and severe judgment on the great body of the householders of this country, who, it must be observed, being in the occupation of a house, even of the lowest degree, to be entitled to take advantages of the provisions of this Bill, must have an income of something like 100l. a-year. The noble Lord said, that the majority of these householders were composed of Dissenters, but, even if that were the case, were Dissenters, paying the amount of taxes which they must pay in a house of that description, to be excluded the possession of the franchise, because they were Dissenters? But he was happy to believe, that the noble Baron was misinformed upon this point, for he did not think that the great body of the householders, within twenty miles of the spot from whence they spoke, were Dissenters. Great injustice, however, was done to that body of people, when it was imputed to them that they were likely to be governed in their choice of Representatives by undue factions, or revolutionary motives, and, above all, by any thing like a desire to disturb the tranquillity of the country. In the first place, except in moments of great excitement, which would occasionally prevail in all countries, he had rather observed in that class of persons a disposition to rely upon the judgment of their superiors, 297 particularly when that judgment was not forced upon them. He thought that other noble Lords would concur with him in saying, that they had always shown a disposition to feel flattered on being consulted by their superiors, and, in the end, to rely upon their judgment. But, even if that were not the case, he believed that their choice would be governed by a desire to elect such persons as would advocate measures contributing to the public tranquillity; for, having acquired their property by their own industry, they had as deep a stake in the country as had the noble Baron, who derived a splendid fortune from the talents and services of his immediate progenitor. Their small fortunes were as great objects to them, if not greater, than was the ample income of the noble Baron to himself. Their Lordships might convey away their land, they might go to another country, they might guard themselves, in many ways, against the evils of a revolution, but, to the professional man, who depended upon the peaceable exertions of his talents—to the mechanic, who depended upon his weekly wages—to the annuitant and small proprietor, who depended upon their half-yearly and quarterly incomes—revolution, or even agitation, brought greater ruin than could even come upon their Lordships by the confiscation of their estates. This led him to what the noble Duke had said respecting the spoliation of rights by prescription, which would take place under this measure. Now, let them consider a little what this prescription was. The value of a right by prescription depended upon acquiescence in that prescription: that was to say, that acquiescence made prescription, as it had been justly observed, that obedience made the law. With respect to private property, there was no doubt that prescription was not only as good, but as solemn, a title as any other; for it was no man's interest to question such a title, because he could not thereby appropriate such property to himself; but, when prescription applied to a trust created for the benefit of others, and those for whose benefit it was created questioned the propriety of the prescription, and conceived that the trust was misplaced, the title by prescription lost its force and value, and they were entitled, according to the best theory of the Constitution, and the Opinion of the highest authorities, to take that trust into consideration, and, if necessary, to recall it, without a breach of 298 the fundamental principles on which that Constitution rested. The right rev. Prelate who spoke last called upon the House, with great anxiety, to take care not hastily to part with the shameful parts of our Constitution. He stated that he was not unwilling to open their Lordships' doors to the public, and, in his unbounded liberality to the cause of Reform, if he had been consulted, he would have agreed to the addition of galleries to the House, so that a few more of the public might perchance witness its proceedings. That filled up the full measure of the Reform the right rev. Prelate thought necessary; but, after having told them to beware how they dealt with the shameful parts of the Constitution, he told them, in the next sentence, to beware of corruption in that House. He would remind the right rev. Prelate, however, and remind the noble Lord, that all the great writers, all the great statesmen, who had predicted the fall of this Constitution, did it upon the possible corruption of the other House of Parliament: that was, from the continued prevalence of these shameful parts which the right rev. Prelate was so anxious either to leave unrepaired, or to repair by very slow degrees. He was ashamed of having so long detained them, but he implored their Lordships, if they rejected this Bill, to look steadily at the future which they were likely to make for themselves, and to look steadily at the consequences of that act. A noble Lord opposite had said that, of all species of intimidation that was the worst which was founded upon the fear of consequences. Now, he must say, that every Act of Legislation which proposed any great change, either before or since the revolution of 1688 (change being, he admitted, at all times, a great evil), had been founded, by those who recommended it, upon the fear of consequences; and he knew no other consideration which ought to induce a legislature to disturb the constitution of a country, or that quiet which it was undoubtedly the interest of every man to have maintained. It was admitted on all hands that a considerable change was necessary, and accordingly a Bill proposing one—certainly not founded on any new democratic notions, because noble Lords well knew that the prevailing democratic notions went to an extent infinitely beyond what this Bill proposed—was now brought before them. All that this Bill did was, even in the towns selected for new representation, 299 to give the franchise to about one-third of their householders. A Bill, then, had been sent up to them resting upon that limited extension of the suffrage, along with the principles of disfranchisement and enfranchisement. It was upon these principles that any thing that pretended to be an effectual plan of Reform must be founded; and the question now was, whether, after the long-continued deliberations in the House of Commons, their Lordships would, by their vote upon this Motion, rejecting the Bill, do that which could only be construed by the country as a rejection of Reform altogether, as an expression of determination not even to give the plan that consideration which was necessary to enable their Lordships to amend it if they thought fit, in Committee. He could not permit himself to believe that, in the face of the House of Commons and the country, they would reject a measure the mere introduction of which, had the effect of silencing a clamour for Reform, at once alarming, unusual, and unsafe; or that they would, by such a rejection, hazard a renewal of the clamour, which had been, for a time so happily suspended. The noble Duke had indeed given them a little comfort in this respect, but he feared that even the most intelligent of the middle classes, availing themselves of the newspapers, and all the other sources of information at their command, would hardly be able to gather from the language of the noble Duke any thing more than a remote, uncertain, indistinct design not to propose or to adopt any measure, but perhaps, respectfully to consider some proposition of Reform, after a few trifling events—such as the going out of one Administration, and the coming in of another—had taken place. From that indistinct and almost intentionally clouded hope he did not think, therefore, they could expect much. But then the noble Baron had said that, if their Lordships rejected this Bill, they would have the advantage (he thought the noble Baron called it) of considering the plan of the noble Duke; but what advantage there could be in that, he (the Marquis of Lansdown) was at a loss to discover. He trusted that noble Lords would rely upon their own capacity to discuss, and amend, if necessary, this Bill in Committee, so that if they sent it back at all to the House of Commons, it would be after proving to them and the country that they had earnestly applied 300 their best efforts to perfect it. The noble Duke was determined that the House should lose nothing by the rejection of the Bill, for he not only gave his opinion upon its principles, but went into all its clauses, and, looking to the maps which accompanied it, suddenly pitched upon a yellow line drawn round a town near which he resided, which yellow line included in the boundary of the town a lodge, in his possession; but it did so happen that the Commissioners, when they included this lodge, which was occupied by a labourer, who paid no rates, also included twenty houses which did pay rates, which did not belong to him; so that, if they intended to increase his electioneering interest, they certainly did it in the oddest manner ever heard of. He had thought it necessary to set the noble Duke right upon this important point of the yellow line, and he had no doubt, that he had given the noble Duke great satisfaction in having done so. He would conclude with imploring their Lordships by adopting this Bill, to exhibit to the country their determination to amend the Constitution in a manner that would restore the prosperity of the country.
§ On the noble Marquis resuming his seat, Lord Kenyon moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Earl Grey
said, that, if there were many noble Lords still anxious to address the House, he should not be disposed to oppose the motion of further adjournment. Otherwise it would, of course, be desirable to proceed. At all events, if an adjournment were assented to, it must be upon the understanding, that the debate should be brought to a close to-morrow.
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed, that there were many Peers who had received his Majesty's commands to meet the Knights of the Bath at dinner to-morrow. It would be exceedingly inconvenient to those noble Peers, if they should be expected to attend in that House when they had, at the same time, a duty to discharge towards his Majesty. He hoped, therefore, the noble Earl would not object to the adjournment of the debate to Friday next.
§ Earl Grey
thought that, after the representation made by the noble Duke, he could not do otherwise than yield to his request, that the debate should be adjourned to Friday. It must be, however, upon the distinct understanding, that the debate should be brought to a conclusion upon 301 that night, and, also, that he should not be expected to postpone the day for going into Committee beyond the day upon which he should have proposed it, if they had come to a decision upon the second reading to-morrow night. If', therefore, the Bill passed the second reading on Friday, he should propose going into the Committee on the following Monday.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, as the noble Earl had so readily acquiesced in the proposition he had made, he was sorry to be obliged to object to the arrangement he suggested, but the noble Earl must recollect that he had, some time since, stated, that, in his opinion, the House ought to have a sufficient interval to enable them maturely to consider the provisions of the Bill before they went into Committee. It would be a great convenience if the noble Earl would consent to postpone the Committee until after the Easter holidays. He was quite sure the House could not be prepared to enter upon the consideration of this Bill in Committee upon so early a day as Monday, supposing the vote for the second reading to be given on Friday; and, if they did go into Committee on the Bill upon that day, he begged the noble Earl to recollect, that they could only sit one or two days before the period arrived upon which the usual recess commenced.
The Duke of Buckingham
reminded the noble Earl that there was business already fixed for Monday, of importance enough to occupy the whole of that day.
§ Earl Grey
was always disposed to give the best attention to the suggestions of the noble Duke (Wellington); but when he considered how long the Bill had been before their Lordships—how long it had been made known to the Members of both Houses, and that there was not a clause in it with which every noble Lord in the House was not fully acquainted, he really could not concur in the opinion of the noble Duke, that their Lordships would not on Monday be fully prepared to discuss its provisions in Committee. As a proof of this, if any proof were wanting, there was scarcely a noble Lord who had not, in addressing the House against the Bill, applied himself to all those details which should more properly have been considered in Committee rather than in the debate on the principle of the Bill. As it was, therefore, of the utmost importance that they should not trifle with the question, but, on the contrary, proceed, with all ex- 302 pedition, in considering the provisions of the Bill, he hoped, if he consented to postpone the debate till Friday, that the Committee would be taken on Monday. With respect to the business alluded to by the noble Duke (Buckingham), he thought it was not of so much importance that it could not be postponed without inconvenience, and without detriment to the public service.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
agreed, also, with the noble Earl in the propriety of settling the question as soon as possible, for the purpose of tranquillizing the public mind; but, he apprehended, it would be most unusual to call on the House to go into Committee on a particular day on a Bill, the second reading of which was as yet uncertain. He thought, too, that, even supposing their Lordships were assured the second reading would be carried, they could not be expected to make up their minds with respect to the amendments they intended to propose in the very short time the noble Earl was disposed to allow them. The case was very different from that of a common Bill, the second reading of which was nearly a matter of certainty. The discussion would, probably, be determined, at a late hour, on Saturday morning, and they were on the Sunday to make up their minds what amendments they would propose on Monday. The first clause was one of the most important of the Bill, and, in his opinion, they should be prepared to take all the clauses, not on their separate merits, but in connexion with each other as a whole. There were other Bills, too, almost equally important; and he thought that haste in going into the Committee was the less necessary, because it was most desirable that they should have all the Reform measures before them at the time they were called on to agree to the provisions of the present Bill. He was decidedly of opinion that they could not consent to the third reading of this Bill without those other measures; and by postponing the Committee till after Easter, they gave the other House an opportunity of occupying itself with the remaining Bills, that, when they came to decide definitively on the present Bill, they might have the whole of the measure of Reform at once fully under their consideration. He did not mean to say, they should proceed pari passu with the other measures, but that they should be in possession of the whole of the details. 303 He put it to the noble Earl and the House, whether they should not best discharge their duty to Parliament and the country by requiring all the measures to be under their view before they came to a final decision on any one of them. For these reasons he supported the proposition for fixing the Committee after Easter.
Lord Teynham moved that their Lordships meet on Friday at one o'clock.
§ Earl Grey
hoped the noble Baron would not persevere in that Motion, as it would be inconvenient to many of their Lordships, and there would be ample time to come to a satisfactory conclusion of the debate without meeting at so early an hour. With respect to the time of going into Committee he had mentioned Monday, because he thought it would be convenient to noble Lords to understand the wishes of the Government on that subject. The best time for considering the period of going into Committee was, undoubtedly, however, after the Bill had been read a second time; and he, therefore, should offer no further objection to the adjournment.
§ Debate adjourned till Friday.