§ The Duke of Wellington
entered the following Protest on the journals of the House of Lords against this decision.Dissentient."First—Because, in providing for the correction of abuses in the election of Members to serve in the Commons' House of Parliament, we are bound above all things to bear in mind that the Government of this country is, what from the earliest period of our history it has ever been, a Monarchy; that this Monarchy, limited by the laws and customs of the realm, and by the necessity imposed on the Sovereign of having constant recourse to the advice and aid of Parliament, is the form of Government best adapted to the habits, wants, and wishes of the people; and, consequently, that no changes, however specious, can be worthy of adoption which would either strike at the principles of the Monarchy itself, or would leave the Sovereign without the power of performing the high duties required from him, without the free and independent exercise of his lawful prerogatives, in guarding the general interests of the State, in upholding its ancient institutions, and affording due protection to the rights, liberties, property, 460 and lives of all his subjects. We feel it, therefore, to be the duty of Parliament, more especially of this House, to refuse to consign the country to so vast an untried change as is embodied in the present Bill—a change of which it has been justly said by one of the most distinguished advocates for the second reading of the Bill, that it is, in truth 'a new form of Government,' of which no one has ever pronounced that it would be practicable, and which, if practicable, would be pernicious.
"Secondly—Because, admitting it to be expedient to correct abuses which may have grown up under the present system of parliamentary election, and to extend to large, populous, and wealthy towns the privilege of returning Members to Parliament, we are bound to bear in mind that it has been also admitted by the authors of the Bill that, notwithstanding, any abuses, and any deficiencies, 'the House of Commons, as at present constituted, is above all other institutions of all other countries in the world, the institution best calculated for the general protection of the subject.'
"Thirdly—Because by this Bill that scrupulous regard to the sacrednesss of chartered rights and vested interests which 461 has always hitherto been deemed part of the essential policy of the British Constitution, and a fundamental principle of British justice, is now for the first time utterly abandoned—the most ancient charters and the most valued interests are treated with reckless indifference, which (whilst it is unnecessary to the attainment of the proposed objects of the Bill, the correction of abuses, and the improvement of the existing system) shocks every feeling of justice, and cannot fail to be made a precedent for still more fatal violations of those principles in future.
"Fourthly—Because, in contemplating the violence done by this Bill to the great principle of prescription, we cannot disguise from ourselves the dangers which must arise to the most venerable of our institutions, which mainly rest on that principle; above all, to the highest of all—to that one on which all others depend.
"Fifthly—Because, even if the principles of the Bill were consistent with the stability of the Monarchy, and with the safety of our most valued institutions, yet the provisions by which it seeks to carry those principles into effect are, for the most part, unjust in themselves, partial in their operation, and anomalous in their character—ill adapted to their avowed purpose, and still more to the extensive and complicated interests of this mighty empire.
"A preponderating influence in the election of the House of Commons is conferred upon the lowest class of inhabitants in towns—thus virtually closing the doors of the House of Commons to the vast moneyed and colonial interests, and leaving but few opportunities of admission to the heads of the great commercial body.
"The landed interest, notwithstanding the professed intention of giving to it an increase of Representation commensurate with that given to the great towns, is left exposed, even in the elections for counties, to the influence of the trading and manufacturing classes of the very places which are themselves to return Members to Parliament—an influence so great as must leave, in many instances, the Representation of counties, and divisions of counties, in the power of voters from the towns
"The populous suburbs of the metropolis, have been subjected to the same innovating spirit which marks the operation of this Bill in every other particular. Though it is manifest that this vast district, being connected in interests with the 462 metropolis itself, and being the seat of Government and of Parliament, must command attention, whether immediately Represented or not, and equally manifest that the only real danger must be, lest the influence of the popular voice of the metropolis should be too powerful, yet it has been thought fit to aggravate this danger in an incalculable degree by creating new districts for Representation, and, virtually consigning the elections to Universal Suffrage; thus ensuring a perpetual recurrence of popular excitement, in a quarter where, above all others, it is most to be deprecated, as injurious to the best interests of the industrious orders of the people, dangerous to the public peace, and hardly compatible with the free and independent exercise of the high functions of Parliament itself.
"Sixthly—Because the exorbitant increase of the democratic element of the British Constitution designed by this Bill must give additional strength and impetus to a principle which, while duly restrained and tempered by the checks provided in the existing constitution of Parliament, is the source of that genuine spirit of disciplined and enlightened freedom which is the proudest distinction of our national character, but which, without those checks or other equivalent restraints, could not fail to advance with augmented and accelerated force, till all other powers being drawn within its vortex, the Government would become a mere democracy; or if the name and form of a Monarchy were preserved, all that could give independence to the Sovereign or protection to the subject would be really excluded.WELLINGTON.The following Peers subsequently attacked their names to the Protest.
- ERNEST (Cumberland)
- WILLIAM FREDERICK (Gloucester)
- GASCOYNE (Salisbury)
- DE LAWARR
- PENSHURST (Strangford)
- COLVILLE, Of Culross
- NORWICH (Duke of Gordon)
- WINCHILSEA AND NOTTINGHAM
- DE DUNSTANVILLE, &c.
- VANE (Londonderry)
- JOHN GEORGE ARMAGH (Archbishop)
- G. ROCHESTER
- R. BRISTOL
- H. EXETER
- H. CARLISLE
- GEORGE KILMORE
- J. H. GLOUCESTER