The Duke of Rutland
rose, in pursuance of his 681 notice, to present a Petition to their Lordships on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. He had great gratification in presenting this petition; in the first place, because he could, from his own personal knowledge, testify to the respectability of very many of the numerous individuals who had signed the petition; and, in the second place, because the petition contained sentiments completely in unison with his own on the question of vital importance which had so long occupied the attention of the Government, the Parliament, and the people. The petition which he had now the honour to present proceeded from the freeholders, and other owners and occupiers of land in the county of Cambridge, and the Isle of Ely; and was signed by 1,465 persons, each of whom had annexed to his signature, his place of abode and occupation. The petitioners expressed their deep sense of gratitude to their Lordships for having refused to pass the Reform Bill which was introduced into that House in the last Session of Parliament; and at the same time, they expressed themselves in favour of a safe and temperate Reform, or rather of a revision of our present Representative System. In these sentiments he entirely concurred; and, further, he trusted, with the petitioners, that the same principles which enabled their Lordships justly to appreciate the demerits of the Bill of last year, would be applied at the proper time, to the measure of the same nature, which was now in progress towards that House. He considered this petition of the greater importance, because it had been so confidently asserted that there was no re-action in the country on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. At all events, the assertion was not applicable to the districts from which the petition proceeded. There was not one of the petitioners who could for a moment admit that a theoretical and visionary proposition of Reform ought to supersede the existing Constitution. Strongly attached to the institutions which they had derived from their ancestors, and which they hoped to transmit to their posterity, they were not disposed, lightly or wantonly to put those institutions to hazard. This was a feeling implanted in them from their very birth, and of which it was impossible to divest them:—Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.He had felt it is duty to oppose the Reform Bill in the last Session of Parliament, 682 because it was his firm conviction that it tended to change the most valuable institutions in the country, and that it would ultimately lead to Revolution. He voted fearlessly against the Bill, because he voted conscientiously against it. He had been very desirous of stating the grounds of his opposition on the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, but the blaze of eloquence, and the depth of argument which characterised that memorable discussion, induced him to abstain from doing so; and he, therefore, gave a silent, although not on that account a less conscientious, vote against, the Bill. With reference to the new Bill which it might he their Lordships' lot to have to consider, he had no hesitation in saying, that unless it came before them in a state very different from that of the measure to which their Lordships had so properly and so justly refused their sanction in the last Session of Parliament, he should consider it his duty to give it his most decided opposition; and in so acting, he should feel the great consolation and satisfaction of knowing that he concurred in the opinion, and that he should receive the hearty good wishes of the numerous and respectable body of individuals whose signatures were attached to the petition that he had the honour to present. He would conclude by expressing his obligation to the House for the attention with which they had listened to him, and he requested that the petition might be read at length.
§ Done accordingly, and petition to lie on the Table.