HL Deb 13 July 1832 vol 14 cc350-4
Earl Grey

having moved that this Bill be read a Third Time,

The Lord Chancellor

proposed an Amendment for the purpose of settling more precisely where the poll was to be taken in the islands of Orkney and Shetland.

Amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Fife

could not neglect taking that, the last opportunity, of declaring his opinion in favour of the measure, which, despite of all the harsh epithets applied to it, he conscientiously believed would be attended with immense benefit to the condition and interests of that part of the empire with which he was so intimately connected. The ground on which the noble Lords on the other side opposed the Bill, was, that it effected too great a change in the Constitution; but Lord Bacon had stated, upwards of 200 years ago, that great changes must be made, both in the civil and ecclesiastical Constitution, to get rid of the evils which time was continually engendering. Every Session of Parliament new laws were made, and every new law was more or less a change. At the beginning of every reign, the monarch generally sought to recommend himself to his people by some improvements, and it surprised him to hear noble Lords opposite object to his present Majesty following, in this respect, the example of all his ancestors. By such successive changes the Constitution had been so altered, that it was not the same at different periods; and, like the ship of Theseus, which was so often repaired before he returned from his voyage, that the sophists of Greece denied that it was the same ship; so our Constitution had been so altered at different times, that its identity was a matter of doubt. Kingdoms rose and fell, and constitutions followed them. In the immense manufactures of this country, how many parts were continually requiring repair, and how much was the genius of the people employed in renewing, repairing, and improving all the parts; and could it then be supposed that the constitution of Parliament was the only perfect creation, the only thing that never needed Reform? The rise of our manufactures had called a new class of men into existence; they possessed great wealth and power; they were not represented in Parliament; and, contributing to uphold the monarchy by their genius and their wealth, it would be an act of injustice, of which he was sure their Lordships would not be guilty, to withhold the franchise from such valuable portions of the community. He had presented many petitions from the increasing population of Scotland in favour of Reform, and he could assure their Lordships, that, in no part of the empire was Reform more warmly demanded, more needed, or would be better used. It was said, that Scotland had not suffered under the old system, but this was a mistake. He could at least assure their Lordships that such was not the opinion of the people of Scotland, and he could satisfy their Lord- ships of the fact by undoubted authority. The noble Earl quoted Mr. Chalmers work on the Customs and Manners of Scotland, to show what was the opinion of the people, and concluded by saying, that the Conservative system had been attended with the worst effects in Scotland, and he, for one, must protest against the unfounded doctrine, that the extension of popular rights was the destruction of the prerogatives of the Crown.

The Bill read a third time.

On the question that the Bill do pass,

The Earl of Haddington

said, although he was perfectly sure, from the situation in which the House had been lately placed, that opposition to this Bill was a mere farce, yet, before the Bill passed, he was desirous to say a few words in justification of the negative which he intended to give to this question. He had no objection to this Bill as far as its enfranchising clauses went; but he did object to the disfranchising portion of it, since no compensation was allowed to those who were disfranchised. On the framing of this Bill, justice had not been done to Scotland, nor had the peculiar circumstances in which Scotland stood, been duly considered. A system of county Representation might have been devised much more consistent with the state of property in Scotland. With respect to the elective franchise, land might have been separated from the houses, and a much sounder and more respectable constituency might, by that means, have been created. Great injustice had been done to the landed interest, by taking from the superiorities the valuable incident of the vote, without any compensation being allowed. He would not enter at present into the various other objections to the Bill—such as the imposing of new political duties on Sheriffs, so as to considerably trench upon their judicial functions—the wide doors which would be opened for fraudulent practices, in the valuation of small portions of land, and the registration of votes—the litigation which would arise, and the bribery and corruption which would be created, where no such things were known before. It had been said, that Scotland had flourished, not in consequence of, but in spite of, the old system of Representation. It had, however, flourished, and he only wished that it might do as well under the new system. When the Bill should pass, he would move that the time for entering dissent on the Journals, might be enlarged till Monday.

The Lord Chancellor

, before the Bill passed, thought himself bound to say a few words relative to the highly praiseworthy conduct of the Scottish Boundary Commissioners. These gentlemen, belonging to a laborious profession, which demanded the strictest attention, had not scrupled, from the purest public motives, to sacrifice their valuable time and labour, and even the relaxation of their summer vacation last year, to the due settlement of these boundaries. This merit, however, they only shared with the English Commissioners, but, in consequence of some alteration in the views of Government, it became necessary that those gentlemen should visit the several districts again, and they had visited them in the month of December, going even to the most northern districts of the country; and such was the skill, labour, and strict impartiality, with which they had performed their functions, that, after the most zealous scrutiny of their reports on both sides, in the other House of Parliament, it was agreed that the substance of them should be embodied, by way of schedule, in the present Bill, instead of passing a separate Boundary Bill, as had been done with respect to England. Add to this, that they had performed the duty without preferring any claim to compensation.

The Duke of Buccleugh

wished to say a few words in justification of his opposition to the Bill—more particularly as he was about to leave town almost immediately, and should have no opportunity of signing a protest. He was surprised to see how little justice was done by this Bill to Scotland, the interests of which he was bound to protect, not merely as a Member of their Lordships' House, but as one of those who were peculiarly connected with that country. He proposed to found the franchise on population and revenue; and, on that principle, Scotland, instead of eight additional Members, ought to have eighteen. He was aware in what a situation the House stood in regard to these Reform Bills; but, as for himself, he had acted independently, although he doubted whether he was a Member of an independent House; but, if the House were not at present independent, he hoped that it would not be long before it resumed its independence. He wished that the new system might work well; and now, since the Bill must pass, he would use his endeavour to make it as practically beneficial as possible, and to allay the feverish agitation which had but too long prevailed on the subject.

Bill passed.

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