§ Earl Grey
moved the Order of the Day for the House going into a Committee on the Reform of Parliament (England) Bill.
§ Order of the Day read.
The Earl of Roden
said, before their Lordships went into Committee on this Bill, he thought himself called upon again to refer to the subject of the creation of Peers for the particular purpose of carrying this measure—a question which was essentially connected with the independence of their Lordships' House. They had heard, from the noble Lord at the head of the Ministry, that he had now a reasonable hope—nay, even a confident expectation—that he would be enabled to carry this measure through their Lordships' House, without any alteration in its 1099 essential provisions. Now, he had listened to every thing that had been said by their Lordships on the subject, to hear from whom the noble Earl had derived this confident expectation, and he had not heard one word which could afford to the noble Lord a reasonable hope that the Bill would be passed by that House. He was sorry, however, to find, that there did appear some ground to suspect a secession of some noble Lords from an active opposition to the Bill. For his own part, he thought it a matter of little consequence whether the measure was to be carried by swamping that House by a creation of Peers, or by the preventing some of their Lordships from giving their votes against it. He felt that it was a matter of little consequence whether the independence of that House was destroyed in the one way or the other; but, at the same time, he felt that it was a duty which he owed to those who had assisted him in supporting the Protestant interest in Ireland, and the liberties of the country, not to lend his aid in any way to the forwarding a measure which, in his opinion, would be destructive of the Monarchy and the Constitution of the country. He would be no particeps criminis with the Ministers in so foul a deed as that of having Peers created for this particular purpose. Let the responsibility rest on the heads of the Ministers themselves; and he hoped that their Lordships would not lend themselves to the purposes of the Ministers, on any account, or in any way. For his own part, he had always thought, that a straightforward line of conduct was the best, and that a different course of proceeding was, in the long run, almost sure to terminate in a failure, He was one of those who always thought that the majority in that House would not be swamped by a creation of Peers, and he still continued of opinion, that no Peers would be created for this purpose. He had received many benefits from the illustrious House of Brunswick, and was for that, as well as for many other reasons, strongly attached to that House. But he would rather that our present Sovereign should abdicate, than that he should disgrace himself by bringing dishonour on the country. He had lamented the course that some noble Lords had taken with respect to the second reading of the Bill; he thought that course was wrong, and the result showed, that a straightforward course of conduct 1100 was the best. The noble Earl at the head of the Administration had stated, on former occasions, that he looked forward to the passing of the Bill as the great means for restoring complete repose and tranquillity. He differed widely from the noble Earl on that subject; and, from every thing that he saw passing around him, he thought that he was most likely to be right. Neither from what he saw passing in England, nor from what he saw passing in Ireland, did he entertain any hope that repose would be the result of passing this measure. Would those who were so riotous now out of the House of Commons be less riotous when the doors of the House should be thrown open to them? A House of Commons under the Bill would not be satisfied without a cheap Government, and there would be no power to prevent this cheapness from being carried to any length. As to Ireland, he could speak more positively, and could take upon himself to say, that the consequence of passing the Irish Reform Bill would be the separation of Ireland from this country. He could show that such was the object of those in Ireland who were the chief supporters of Reform. He could prove it from the declaration of Mr. O'Connell, who went straightforward to his object, and that object was, the destruction of the Protestant interest in Ireland. In that well-known declaration, Mr. O'Connell assured his partizans, that, in the first Session of a Reformed Parliament, he would bring forward a proposition for a Repeal of the Union, and that he felt confident of being able to do so with the best prospect of success. There was also the declaration of a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church, the right reverend Dr. Macabe, against the Established Church of Ireland, the realization of both being contingent upon the passing of the Reform Bill. That Established Church, let him tell their Lordships, formed the strongest link by which Ireland and England were held in connexion, and against that, and against the Protestants of Ireland, in whose welfare he, at all times, felt the deepest interest, and whose affection and attachment it should be the first duty of the Legislature to cultivate, that Establishment, and the Protestants of Ireland were the objects of Dr. Macabe's denunciation. Of the effect produced upon the Protestant mind of Ireland by the Bill he need hardly 1101 speak to their Lordships; he need hardly tell them of the sentiments it produced upon men's minds, from one end of Ireland to the other, according as they were or were not favourably inclined towards the Established Church. They well understood the animus which influenced the supporters of Reform in this country. Neither they, nor he, nor any man who used his eyes, could be insensible to the emblems of revolution now apparent in our streets—the tri-colour was displayed in open day in the streets of this metropolis. No man who looked at the signs of the times could question the revolutionary tendencies of the Bill—there was no man who read the history of other nations, and, above all, who read the history of other revolutions, could allow a doubt to enter his mind that it had, or could have, any other tendency. He felt that at that moment, and when addressing them on that subject, he was speaking at a moment when their independence was in the most imminent danger. There was a time when the Members of that House were looked up to with respect, and there would be little danger of their losing that respect if they were only true to themselves, and fearlessly performed the duty which the Constitution assigned to them—a duty, the performance of which was peculiarly imperative upon them at a crisis like the present, for the independence of that House—the second branch of the Legislature—was the matter which hung upon their decision respecting the Reform Bill. That Bill was now brought to them from the House of Commons, for the second time, and the question was, would they now, under the influence of intimidation, give way? They had been told, that there was popular clamour out of doors, and that, if they presumed to resist that clamour and give an independent vote in that House, nothing less than total demolition would ensue. Could he believe his own ears—was it to be asserted as a fact, that England was so low, and the dignity of her Peers so lost, that they were to be influenced by intimidation out of doors? Was it a fact that, even before the blow was struck by arbitrary power, the Peers of England would relinquish their independence? Was it at that time of day that the Peers of England, whose independence had hitherto been their proudest boast, were ready to relinquish that independence for ever—that they, the second 1102 branch of the Legislature—that they, who had hitherto stood as a barrier to resist the floods of popular excitement on the one hand, and the encroachments of the Crown on the other, should, almost without a struggle, give up their privileges? They knew that the prerogatives of the Monarch could not be successfully assailed unless through the House of Commons, and they filled the space between—they knew that the just rights of the people could not be subverted otherwise than through the Houses of Parliament, and the House of Lords had at all times been the sound and constitutional agent for resisting those encroachments. He entreated them, then, to preserve the privileges they had derived from their ancestors, and as no gagging bills had yet been passed, to say to the measure of Reform, Not Content.
The Earl of Malmesbury
had never expected that he should live to see the day when, after forty years of public service that had earned the respect of all parties, the noble Earl (Grey) should come down to that House, and endeavour, by violence and compulsion, to carry a measure which, to say the least, was fraught with serious peril to all the existing institutions of the country. Indeed, the circumstances had given rise to such mingled feelings of pain and sorrow, that he had not language to express himself as he felt. What difference did it make to them, so far as their legislative independence was concerned, whether the Bill was carried by an addition to, or a subtraction from, their Members? Besides, were they sure that the blow which the secession of some of their Lordships was meant to avert was, after all, but suspended by the noble Earl, and that he would effect his creation of Peers after the Bill had passed into a law? What would be their course then—he meant of those who purposed to leave the noble Earl and his colleagues in undisputed possession of the field? Would they not forfeit the confidence of that respectable class out of doors who had supported them in their opposition to the Bill? He was free to admit, that a large majority of the public was favourable to its principles, but still maintained, that a very respectable and intelligent portion of the community partook of the sentiments of a majority in that House, and would justly feel dissatisfied if any of them abandoned the post of duty. He was very anxious, 1103 before they proceeded further, to ascertain from the noble Earl what were the actual grounds or principles of the several clauses and schedules of the Bill, for he had been given to understand (he was not himself a calculator) that Lieutenant Drummond's calculations were theoretically erroneous; and he knew that some boroughs in schedule A exceeded some in schedule B in wealth, population, and the means of furnishing an independent constituency. He wished, therefore, to know whether population assessed taxes, or constituent wealth, was the basis of the clauses which they were about to discuss?
The Earl of Winchilsea
rose, as an independent man, in a House which was no longer independent, to state the course which he would have pursued had the independence of that House not been fatally destroyed by Ministers. If a foreign despot had landed on these shores, and tendered him life on the condition of his ceasing to defend the institutions of his country, he would have spurned the offer, and with his last breath fought for those institutions. In the same spirit would he do battle to the last in defence of the institutions of the State—of the independence of that House as a deliberative branch of the Legislature—and in support of the monarchy, all of which would be endangered by the noble Earl's Bill. It had been suggested to him that his doing so would then be worse than useless, and, indeed, could only add to the triumph of the noble Earl. He was not to be influenced by such a suggestion, but would pursue the stern path of duty undismayed; and, confident that when the public mind had recovered, as it shortly would, from the delusion into which it had artfully been thrown with respect to the Reform Bill, it would do justice to him and those who, with him, would keep the standard of opposition to such parts of the Bill as they conceived to be injurious to the interests of the country, unfurled to the last. Yes, the public mind was deluded and forced into a state of unnatural excitement by a daring Press, which lorded it over the Government and Parliament; but a re-action would soon take place, and then the infatuated men who were weak enough in that House to desert the post of danger, would see that they had indirectly been assisting a measure fraught with their own ruin and the ruin of the country. He was one who had no sordid lust of place—no morbid thirst 1104 of the emoluments and privileges of office—no interest whatever in parliamentary corruption, and, therefore, he was not obnoxious to the charge of being actuated by unworthy motives in pertinaciously opposing the Bill. He felt that he was only honestly discharging his duty in resisting a measure of mischief, and he could not be too grateful to his Majesty for resisting a counsel which implied the most cruel and unfair insult upon the dignity and independence of that House that was ever offered to any body of independent gentlemen.
would act, during the remaining stages of the Bill, just as if none of the events of the last fortnight had occurred; and he trusted their Lordships would, were it only from considerations of their own dignity and usefulness, conduct the discussion in the Committee with temper and calmness. He respected the motives of those noble Lords who deemed it best to abstain altogether from participating in the passing of a measure which they were unable to resist; but he thought he best consulted the permanent interests of the country, by endeavouring to the last to discharge his duty in his place there, and he relied on the country being grateful for his exertions after it had recovered from its present temporary delusion.
The Marquis of Londonderry
would withdraw his opposition to the Bill (as the lesser evil in a choice of evils), if the noble Earl would explicitly state that he had his Majesty's permission to carry the Bill by means of a creation of Peers. He was as much opposed as ever to the principle and provisions of the Bill; but, preferring the Bill by itself as a less evil than the Bill accompanied by the swamping of that House, he would forego his opposition, in order to prevent the necessity of the menaced creation. He wished, therefore, the noble Earl would state explicitly whether he had the King's promise to make Peers, if necessary to the carrying the Bill. At present they knew not how matters really stood, for the noble Earl had wrapped himself up in mystery, from which no obstetrical ingenuity that had yet been tried could extract anything. He knew that the sword of power was hanging over them, and they knew not the moment when it might fall. It was, no doubt, unimportant whether the new Peers came in as one body, or in driblets of threes or 1105 fours; the liveried lacqueys were to be inflicted on them, and the mode was, he agreed, a matter of secondary consideration. He was glad, however, to find that even a scion of the noble Earl's own stock—that the son (Lord Howick) of the noble Earl himself had sufficient Whig blood in his veins to refuse being called up to that House upon such "lacquered livery terms." A noble Earl (Mulgrave) had threatened to remind a noble Duke (Wellington) of his having abandoned his solemn pledges, by each night reading to him his protest against Reform, should he accept office on the condition of carrying a measure of Reform; he would remind the noble Earl (Grey) of his pledge against every measure, like the menaced creation of Peers, calculated to affect the independence of that House. The words of the noble Earl, delivered in that House on the 13th of June, 1827, were most emphatic, and applicable to the present crisis. 'If I am told,' said the noble Earl, 'that we run the risk of having a worse bill, I shall never suffer myself to be intimidated by any such threats, and if a worse bill should be sent up, I am sure your Lordships would pursue the course you have pursued by the present Bill. You would consider it, and you would amend it, and, if you could not make it good, you would reject it. I am sure that any such measure shall be met by me with a firm opposition, and that I shall be prepared to do my duty to myself. I have said thus much, and I might say a great deal more. If there should come a contest between this House and a great portion of the people, my part is taken, and with that order to which I belong I will stand or fall. I will maintain to the last hour of my existence the privileges and independence of this House.'* He would ask the noble Earl, was he prepared now to stand or fall by his order? Or was he, in the face of this emphatic declaration, about to adopt a course of proceeding destructive of their "privileges and independence?"
said, hopes were held out that the House would be allowed to perform its duty, and deliberate with respect to the particular clauses of the Bill so long as noble Lords abstained from attacking the principle of the measure; but* Hansard's Debates, (third series,) vol. xvii, p. 1261.1106 he sincerely regretted that those hopes now turned out to be completely unfounded, and that there was not the slightest chance of changing a single particle of the Bill. Such being the case, the question for the opponents of the measure resolved itself into this—"would they become parties to a destruction of the Constitution?" This at once changed the matter from a political to a moral question, and evinced that the opponents of the Bill must dare the worst in the conscientious discharge of their duty. If Earl Grey would compel the King to do an act which his Majesty would willingly avoid, let the noble Earl be responsible for the proceeding. Nothing remained for the Anti-Reform Peers but to stand firm, and, as he had before, said, to do their duty.
The Duke of Buckingham
imputed blame to no man for his motives or conduct, but was desirous of doing what he conceived to be his duty. He was in his place as a Peer of Parliament, and he was determined to remain, and would not on any account, or for any purpose, withdraw from the discharge of his duty. The noble Earl had retired from office, on the ground of his Majesty's refusal to create Peers, and, notwithstanding the noble Lord's resumption of his official duties, the House had no right to assume that the King would break his royal word. If, however, they should find reason to believe his Majesty had given way to the noble Earl's advice, and consented to make Peers, it would then become their Lordships' duty to consider what was due to their insulted honour and dignity. At present, he thought the best thing they could do was, to go into Committee, and make such amendments as they thought necessary in the Bill.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that although he had been anxious to throw out the Bill, which he considered dangerous, and the incapable Ministry who proposed it, he had yet determined not to offer in Committee any opposition to the principle of the Bill. With respect to the creation of Peers, when he considered of what materials the Government was composed, he was not surprised at their having given such advice to the Monarch: he knew he was using a word disagreeable to the noble Earl, who had the other night protested against the use of the term monarchy, as the Deputies in another country had against the word subject; but he really was surprised 1107 at certain noble Lords who supported the Ministry agreeing to a degradation of their order, and of that lofty station which they derived from a long line of ancestry. As far as that Bill was concerned, he felt happy that it was left in the hands of its proposers. If any benefit resulted from it, they were entitled to the praise; if any evil, they should be made to pay the penalty. Considering, therefore, that the responsibility should be entirely on them, he would neither thwart nor oppose them in any thing which they deemed essential. He would neither do so with respect to the English, the Scotch, nor the Irish Bills. He was anxious to see how the Ministers would extricate themselves from the slough in which they had plunged. He could not believe that, in defiance of all their pledges, they would give up the Irish Bill; and if they once passed it, they must know and feel that the total disseverment of the two countries would be the inevitable consequence. He trusted, however, that before the edifice they were raising should be completed, the true sense of the country would be restored—the people would recover their senses, and blow down with one breath the flimsy fabric they had begun to raise.
§ Earl Manvers
had supported the principle of the former Reform Bill, from an honest conviction that it was called for by the country, and in consequence of the same, or a still stronger feeling, he had supported the present measure. If the former Bill had not been stifled in its birth, he should (as now) have deemed himself an unshackled agent, fully at liberty to consider its details in the Committee. He meant to proceed in the same way now, and should support or oppose particular clauses, according to his notion of their respective merits. Much had been said about a creation of Peers, and the best means of avoiding that measure; but if the deluge were at the door, and his breath could stay its progress, he would act on his own sense of right and justice, without reference to any other consideration, leaving the responsibility with the authors of the act.
The Earl of Carnarvon
was convinced, that if the two opposing parties could now meet in a spirit of conciliation, the whole country would look upon this night as one of the happiest and most fortunate. He deprecated further preliminary discussion, and recommended their 1108 Lordships to proceed to the Committee at once, with calmness, temper, and moderation.
The Duke of Newcastle
would put a question to Earl Grey, to which he requested the favour of a direct answer. What he wished to know was, whether the noble Earl would allow of any alteration in any of the clauses in Committee?
§ Earl Grey
really did not know what answer to make to the noble Duke, and could state nothing in reply, except that which every individual Member would naturally say with respect to a similar question, if put to him. The House was going into Committee, and the noble Duke asked, would he allow of any alterations in the Bill? To this question it was not possible to answer directly, but he would put the noble Duke's question and his own reply in a more parliamentary shape; and if the noble Duke asked him, in the event of alterations being proposed in Committee, what would be his conduct, his answer was—he would discuss the alterations, and if they appeared to him beneficial changes in the Bill, they should have his assent; but if he thought them of an opposite character, he would oppose them with all his might.
§ The House in Committee.
said, their Lordships would recollect, that when the House Was discussing the postponement of the disfranchising clauses, he gave notice, that if his noble and learned friend's amendment were agreed to, he would propose, as an amendment on the present clause, the names of the places to which he and his noble friends thought it expedient to give enfranchisement. He thought it desirable to take the earliest opportunity to show their sincerity, and to prove that they had not postponed the disfranchisement clause for the purpose of marring the Bill, but with a view to introduce the enfranchisement clauses in what they conceived the proper order. They also wished to have it known, in the first instance, what towns they deemed it necessary to enfranchise. He rejoiced that the moment had arrived when an opportunity offered of explaining more in detail than it was possible to do a fortnight ago, not only the amendments which he and his noble friends then proposed to offer, but which they still meant to sug- 1109 gest, for no alteration had taken place in the course they proposed to pursue. It was not only his own view of the case, but that of all his noble friends, that their Lordships' vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill had entirely changed the position of the measure. Up to that moment he and his friends were decidedly opposed to the principle of the Bill. True it was, that its principle and details had received the sanction of the House of Commons, but it was the sanction of a House of Commons elected under peculiar circumstances of excitement and delusion, and, under such circumstances, the decision of the Commons did not carry that weight with it which it would had the House been elected at a period of tranquillity. But the moment their Lordships, who were then independent, agreed to the second reading, he and his friends felt it necessary to submit to what was inevitable, for the principle of the Bill must be carried; so that, though disapproving of the principles and details of the measure to a great extent, yet, believing that the principle must be established, they thought it their duty to propose such amendments as might render the measure more safe in operation and more permanent than if passed in its present shape. They were desirous of avoiding a collision with the other House of Parliament—they were desirous of giving not the slightest pretext to Ministers to go to their Sovereign with that advice which they had offered. Every amendment was framed with these views, and, to use the noble Earl's phraseology, "he entertained a confident expectation" that the Commons would have acceded to the amendments. He repeated, their only object was, to make the measure safe, but, above all, firm; for of all the evils of great changes like the present, the greatest mischief was, that they generally led to further alterations. And to render the measure firm it was, that they thought it better for enfranchisement to precede disfranchisement. They were desirous of giving security of possession to towns to be enfranchised, and thought this would be best accomplished by enfranchising those towns on their own merits, without reference to the disfranchisement of other places. Then came the question, on what principle should enfranchisement proceed? It was important not to give rise to a continued demand for future changes. Had they said, wherever there existed a certain 1110 mass of population, paying a certain amount of taxes, within certain bounds and limits, Representation should be granted, new towns, as they started up, would have put forward claims to Representation as they acquired those elements of the franchise. They, therefore, rejected this principle as one which would lead to many future changes, and thought it better to proceed on a different plan. They thought that, wherever they found united with a large amount of population, a considerable degree of wealth, and peculiar interest requiring Representation; and wherever they saw, that Representation would not only be of advantage to the particular town, but also to the public at large, it would be expedient to grant Representation to such towns, while they withheld it from others not possessed of similar claims. The towns which they proposed to enfranchise were twenty in number, and they were to receive two Members each; there were also two places in Wales, Merthyr Tydvil, and Swansea, to which it was proposed to give one Member each, no town in that part of the country having more. Thus it was designed to give forty-two Members to towns supposed to possess good claims to Representation. If their Lordships looked to the original Reform Bill, they would find that it distributed only thirty-one Members among the manufacturing interests; but by this plan it was proposed to give eleven more. This was in part effected by giving two Members to towns that had had only one allotted them. They proposed to do away with schedule B and schedule D altogether, thinking that, if a place could be fitted to return one Member it might easily be rendered fit to return two, and being of opinion that the second Member was desirable, as representing the minority. If a town were unfit to have two Members, on account of impurity, &c., neither was it fit to have one. He thought it better, therefore, that every town in England should have a second Member, for, if not, there would be no end to the demands of rising towns, that one Member should be taken away from those in a less flourishing condition to be conferred upon them. It would be curious to see to what extent those claims would go, if population and wealth alone were to be taken as a test for enfranchisement. In the first place, Croydon could establish as good a claim as Whitby to Representation upon 1111 this principle, although there were twenty-five places on the list between these two towns. Indeed, he could show, too, that no less than twenty-five places could prove a greater claim to one Member than the large towns it was proposed to enfranchise to two. But they thought it desirable to place a decided bar against such claims. By retaining the places in schedule B on their present basis of Representation, they hoped to retain something of the ancient system and to secure among other benefits, the possibility of colonial Representation. With respect to the balance of Members touched by schedule A (to the extent of which, as stated on a former evening, he was willing to disfranchise), the question arose, should they be disposed of in the shape of additional Members to counties? It was evident that all schedule A might be rendered pure by the addition to the boroughs of rural districts, and, consequently, that to destroy nomination boroughs it was not necessary to destroy the boroughs in schedule A; for the same process would render schedule A pure by which it was proposed to purify schedule B. But they considered, that, although it was not so stated in the Bill, it was presumed the House by its vote had condemned to destruction all nomination boroughs; therefore, the question with them was, whether they should reserve the number of towns above twenty-one in schedule A, to unite them with rural districts, or whether they should increase the number of county Members. They decided in favour of the counties. Considering it, however, better that there should not be three Members for any county, they resolved upon reserving seven Members to schedule B, instead of conferring them upon the counties. Thus, upon the whole, it would appear that three-fifths of the enfranchisement was intended for counties. He thought it would, perhaps, be now desirable that he should read to their Lordships the names of the towns which would be contained in the Motion with which it was his intention to conclude. These towns were Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Sunderland, Wolverhampton, Bolton, Bradford, Blackburn, Halifax, Macclesfield, Stoke-upon-Trent, Stockport, Stroud, Frome, Huddersfield, Kidderminster, Warrington, Whitby, and Tynemouth. It had been proposed by he Bill before their Lordships, to give hree Members to the hundred of Salford, 1112 in the county of Lancaster, and looking to that county, its locality, connexion, situation, and importance, he conceived that it should have as many Members as the county of York; but to the mode in which it was proposed to have given ten Members to the county of Lancaster, he could not but dissent. He would give the hundred of Salford two Members; and as Blackburn was to have two Members, there would be four Members added to the manufacturing interests in the county. To the agricultural hundreds north of the Ribble, they proposed to give two Members more, and the division of the south the same number. In this plan he conceived there were many advantages. He now came to the qualification in towns provided by the Bill then under consideration, and he complained that it gave to artizans and to journeymen, rights to which they were not entitled, and which rights ought to be intrusted to those individuals who had capital in those towns to be enfranchised by the Bill, or which already enjoyed the privilege of sending Representatives to Parliament. To place the elective franchise in the journeymen artizans in manufacturing towns, he could not but think was really conferring no privilege at all; for, when it was remembered the frequent combinations which ensued from time to time in all manufacturing districts, the servants would maintain over their employers the right of returning a Representative or Representatives to Parliament, and the employer, who, as a matter of course, was the capitalist, having a stake in the country, would be unrepresented, save by the Members of the county in which the town might be situated. As the Bill now stood, it provided a Representation in Parliament for the workman, and not for the master, and this boon was to be extended to the artizan, while not one agricultural labourer would have a vote. With reference to the proposition of his Majesty's Government for the enfranchisement of the metropolitan districts, and as provided in the Bill, he should reserve his sentiments until that provision came immediately before their Lordships for consideration; but this he would say, that notwithstanding all he had heard and read, and after serious and deliberate consideration on his part, it was his firm conviction that such a provision would not tend to the advantage of the metropolitan districts them- 1113 selves, while, at the same time, it would prove detrimental to the interests of the public. He, also, could not but remind their Lordships, that more than one half of the population of those districts would, under the proposed new law, have votes for the county—a right which at present, under the law as it stands, did not exist; and he begged to ask their Lordships, would not the extension of the franchise to the metropolitan districts only serve for the extension of that system to which he had already alluded—namely, the placing power in the hands of the lower classes? He begged their Lordships also to consider the character of the men who would be returned for those places in revolutionary times, and the mischievous influence which would be exercised over the rest of the country by these metropolitan elections, combined with the power of the metropolitan Press. Besides, the respectable tradesmen, unwilling to disoblige their customers of different opinions, would, perhaps, prefer declining to vote altogether, or, if not, they would be sure to be precluded from exercising the right by the violence of their own journeymen. Should any noble Lord doubt the proposition he had now offered, he would again inquire if there had really and truly been a free election for Members to serve in Parliament for the city of Westminster for many years past? The 10l. qualification, as proposed by the Bill itself, was not by any means the principle of the Bill, and it sustained the alterations which it was the intention of noble Lords as well as himself to propose with reference to the details of the measure. It had not appeared advisable to noble Lords with whom he acted to raise the qualification, but it had been much doubted whether it would not be possible to obtain a much more respectable constituency. At the same time, it was not wished to deprive poverty of the elective franchise, provided that that poverty was respectable. It had also been agreed, that residence on the premises out of which the claim to vote arose should be indispensable, and also, that no lodger should be held entitled to that privilege, nor was it thought essential to require that the rent should be paid half-yearly—a system which was considered dangerous, and it was, therefore, proposed only to inquire and ascertain, according to the opinion to be obtained, that the man claiming the right to vote, 1114 however poor, was respectable. Such was the plan proposed by noble Lords sitting on his side of the House—not a plan of Reform, but one of amendment—a plan which would make the Bill much more safe and more conservative than it appeared to them to be. Much as many of his noble friends were astonished with the short statement which he had on a former evening made of the extent to which he was prepared to go, he now begged to remark, that by throwing the Representation open to the towns to which he had referred, there would have been a diminution of eighteen Members, by which an advantage of at least thirty-six votes would be gained; and in the seventy-six divisions to which the counties had been reduced, fifty votes, which, on a division, would be equal to 100, would be given to the conservative party. The effects of the amendments to which he had now called their Lordships' attention would have been to preserve the Church and Constitution, and which would have kept also 136 votes to the conservative party on any division. The system to be established by the Bill could not stand without a more popular franchise than that proposed being created in some places; indeed, no representative system could stand which excluded altogether the poorest class of society from the elective franchise; and he was, therefore, an advocate for the principle of the existing system, which, while it gave security to property, enabled the country to afford, without danger to itself, direct Representation to poverty. He submitted to their Lordships, whether or not it would be expedient to preserve, in many places, those rights, with reference to the elective franchise, which the population of that town had so long enjoyed. In reference to these last points he begged to say, that he had been greatly misunderstood when he was supposed to have intimated his intention to move any amendments to this effect, or that he, in offering such observations as had occurred to him, was acting with the concurrence of others. On the occasion to which he alluded, he spoke his own individual sentiments and opinions, and at the same time he was ready to admit, that the question as to preserving the franchise in those places was one of such difficulty that he had not brought his mind to a decision upon the subject. A noble Lord had also, on the other even- 1115 ing, referred to some sentiments which had fallen from him (Lord Ellenborough) with reference to the Scotch Reform Bill. Looking to that measure, and to the system of Scotch Representation—a system which abounded with abuse such as was unknown in the system of English Representation—he was prepared to admit that he should not oppose the second reading of the Scotch Reform Bill. He made this admission after having looked through the details of the Bill, but he was not prepared to go the same length with respect to the measure of Reform proposed for Ireland. He had stated in that House, fifteen months ago, that he could not vote for that measure after the part he had taken, and the advocacy he had used, in order to carry the measure of Roman Catholic emancipation. The noble Lords opposite were in the same position as himself, as regarded this subject; inasmuch as they had advocated and used every exertion to carry that measure—a measure which was accompanied by another bill, which was considered as a security against any dangers which might be supposed to originate from the provisions of the first bill. The noble Lords opposite, as well as himself, stood pledged to the Protestants of Ireland and this country—a pledge from which he should not depart, unless the Protestants of England and Ireland joined in agreeing to the measure proposed by his Majesty's Government for a Reform in the Representation of the sister kingdom in the Imperial Parliament. The measure, as it stood, would, if it became the law of the land, have the effect of overturning all that had been done, on the occasion to which he had alluded, to preserve the Protestant Constitution of both countries secure and inviolate. He, therefore, could not, as a Peer of Parliament, and as a man of honour, support or vote for the Irish Bill of Reform until he was relieved from the pledge he had undertaken by the Protestant population of both England and Ireland. He would not now further trespass on the attention of their Lordships, than to move that the towns which he had already read be substituted for those enumerated in schedule C.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that his noble friend near him (Earl Grey) proposed to leave the clause as it now stood to their Lordships, with the power to discuss separately the merits of, and to vote upon, each borough to which the clause had reference. 1116 To prevent all mistakes, it would be well that their Lordships should understand the purport of the noble Baron's Amendment, which he understood to be, the adoption of the schedule which the noble Baron had enumerated, in place of that attached to the Bill before their Lordships. The noble Baron, of course, proposed his Amendment, subject to the same process as that proposed by his (the Lord Chancellor's) noble friend with reference to the boroughs contained in schedule C, namely, that each town should be discussed separately, and on its own merits. He now came to the observations which had fallen from the noble Baron. The noble Baron had entered into the general history of the plan of Reform proposed by his Majesty's Government, and the plan of amendment which the noble Baron had intended to propose; or, in other words, the Government having proposed one plan of Reform, the noble Baron and other noble Lords came forward with another plan by way of amendment. He considered it would be vain and useless to trouble their Lordships with a discussion on words, for the Motion of the noble Baron was, in substance, that their Lordships should adopt his plan of amendment, and reject the ministerial plan of Reform. In the observations he was about to offer to their Lordships, he should abstain from any reference to what had occurred in this House on that day fortnight, further than to observe, that his Majesty's Government could not be considered much to blame for not having discovered the purport or object of the motion which led to the discussion on that occasion, and which had been withheld from the knowledge of the Government until the numbers of the division were announced. He hoped that the measure now before their Lordships would not only be regarded as, but would really prove to be, a settlement of the question of a Reform of the Parliamentary Representation of the country; and therefore, any part of the Bill that appeared to him to be, in the least degree, likely to sow the seeds of any new or further changes, he should regard as an argument against the measure itself, and any mode more calculated to lead to a settlement of that question, or less likely to sow the seeds of a demand for a further change, he, if such were proposed, should consider as an improvement. The noble Baron had doubtless included in his list a number of 1117 towns of great importance and consequence, but he begged to call the attention of their Lordships to the towns enumerated in schedules B and C (for their Lordships were considering both), which were of equal importance, both with respect to wealth and population; and he could not conceive on what principle it was, that the noble Baron should oppose the claims of a town now containing but 5,000, but which, in a few years, might contain 25,000 inhabitants—or of a sea-port possessing no trade, but becoming an extensive commercial port—or an inland town destitute now of manufactures, but arriving to a high rank in the trading world, being taken into consideration by the Legislature, some ten or twenty years hence. In reference to the towns to be enfranchised by the Bill, he must observe, that the argument which had been used by the noble Baron was not applicable to the test by which the Government had tried them; nor could he agree to the argument of the noble Baron that the towns in schedule A could, by the addition of the rural districts to their respective constituencies, equal those enumerated in the other schedules. In some parts of the country such a system was entirely inapplicable—in Cornwall, for instance, where the boroughs lay so thick, and which furnished eleven or twelve boroughs to schedule A, and four to schedule B. He also denied the position taken by the noble Baron, that the 10l. qualification, either in small or large towns, would place the elective franchise in the hands of journeymen tradesmen, or the humbler classes of society; and what, on the other hand, would have been the result if the qualification had been increased to 20l. instead of 10l.? Let noble Lords refer to towns not named in any of the schedules, but which are already represented; the result would be, that the franchise would be narrowed, and not extended. In Sudbury, for example, which contained a population of 5,500 persons, there would be, under a 20l. qualification, but sixty votes: those sixty votes would never, by any possibility, all poll at one period, because a deduction must be made for persons disqualified from voting—such as females, or others who fall in their qualification under the exigency of residence. Deducting one-fourth for persons thus disqualified, the numbers remaining would be but forty-five, which number might again be further reduced by the non-residence of householders; so that, 1118 of a population of 5,500 individuals, about thirty-five would have the elective franchise under the 20l. qualification, while, under the 10l. qualification, the number of electors would be upwards of 300: so also in the case of Marlow, which contained 6,000 inhabitants, with fifty 20l. houses, which would only have about thirty-eight voters: Penrhyn and Falmouth, with 11,800 inhabitants, would only have thirty-six voters; Poole only seventy-five voters, if all were resident; Harwich, with a population of 4,300, would have only thirty-five voters. The case was precisely similar in the instances of Cockermouth, Warwick, and many other towns. He would now turn to the effect a 20l. qualification would have on the towns to be enfranchised, and contained in schedules C and D, and see what the effect would be upon them as compared with the 10l. qualification; and first he would name Leeds, which contained 123,000 inhabitants, and 5,000 houses of the annual value of 10l., while, if the qualification was 20l., the number of voters would be but 2,400. In Wolverhampton, under the 20l. qualification, between 300 and 400 persons only out of a population of 67,000 inhabitants would be entitled to vote. Birmingham, also, which contained 142,000 inhabitants, would only have, under the 20l. qualification, between 1,800 and 1,900 voters, and that only if all were resident; so it was in a similar proportion with all the towns, some of which even were much stronger instances than those he had named to their Lordships. In answer to what had been urged by the noble Baron, that power would be placed in the hands of the artizan superior to the master, he would name two facts. In a large town he had been informed, that in a manufactory, in which were daily employed 140 respectable workmen, of that number only four would become entitled to vote under the provisions of this Bill. In another manufactory, out of 180 workmen, there was not one entitled to vote. He heartily and deeply regretted that such should be the fact, but, at the same time, he could see the necessity of establishing and maintaining a strict line. After these facts it could not be urged that the masters would be outvoted by their workmen. The noble Baron was for retaining the scot-and-lot system of voters in some of the boroughs, on the ground that the doing so would impart greater safety and security to the 1119 general system of Representation: he, for his part, could not see how the adopting of such a proceeding could be beneficial, either in theory or in practice. Where would be the use, indeed he would say the common sense, in telling the people in Manchester, Leeds, and other large places, that they would be better off, and that their interests were likely to be more secure, because in Preston, and places like that, the system of voting was totally independent of property? When they looked at the practical effect of such a system in Preston, they would see that it had not rendered that place independent, as the noble Baron had contended such a system would, of the influence of the great neighbouring landed proprietors: on the contrary, the Members that had hitherto sat for Preston had, generally speaking, been connected with the neighbouring influential families; and similar effects might be expected in other places similarly situated as to the state of the franchise. With regard to the objections raised to the enfranchisement of the metropolitan districts, when they came, in the course of the Bill, to that part of it, he should be prepared to show the wisdom and utility of enfranchising these districts, and he should be also, at the proper time, prepared to discuss other parts of the Bill to which reference had been made by the noble Baron. With these observations, he begged to conclude by saying that he could not, for the reasons which he had stated, agree to the proposition of the noble Baron.
§ Lord Wynford
was persuaded that the Bill could not be final, that it ought not to be final. The effect of it would be, to place all power in the hands of the manufacturing, and entirely to destroy the landed interest. Of 378,000 persons at present duly qualified, the Bill would exclude above 130,000, who were engaged in agriculture. The moment the agriculturists found that this was the case, the discovery would, no doubt, be followed by a great and just clamour on their part; there would be, indeed, universal discontent, followed, he believed, by more dangerous consequences than was to be apprehended from the present clamour. The principle on which the qualification was given by the Bill, and the principle on which it was withheld, were equally absurd. Many towns would be without Representation, although possessing three times the number of persons with a 10l. qualification, 1120 than other towns which, according to the Bill, were to be represented. His noble and learned friend had shown, that the 10l. qualification would admit of but few electors, while a 20l. qualification would limit them to a very small number. This confirmed his opinion that the principle itself was bad. In his opinion, the test of the fitness of a town to return Members should be, not the aggregate amount of population, but the number of persons possessing a proper qualification. The principle of the Bill was population, with a slight infusion, if he might so express it, of property, and there were many towns on which the franchise was conferred by the Bill which did not possess qualified persons enough to entitle the towns to be enfranchised. He could point out several towns in schedules C and D which did not possess so great a number of qualified voters as several of the boroughs contained in schedules A and B; and which, consequently, he trusted the justice of that House would never permit to be deprived of their franchise. His noble and learned friend adverted to an observation which fell from his noble friend on that side of the House, and objected to his not providing for the Representation of those towns which might hereafter have claims. He agreed with his noble and learned friend in that observation; but that would not reconcile him to schedule D, because he could tell his noble and learned friend, that there were many towns, not which might, but which actually did, possess a number of persons qualified, according to the principle of this Bill, to return one Member, but which were excluded. There were two towns, which, according to the last returns, possessed a larger population than five or six of the towns contained in schedule D, but which were not included in that schedule. He, therefore, asked upon what principle schedule D was made out, seeing that it was not upon the principle of population or of property upon which the towns it contains were selected. He had already alluded to two towns, which, if the selection had accorded with that principle, must have been inserted in the schedule; and, if time permitted, he could adduce many instances to illustrate the injustice of the present Bill. Why, for instance, was not the right of Representation given to Margate, which possessed a population amounting to 10,000—a population much larger than that of some towns included in sche- 1121 dule D? But when it was considered that many of the towns included in that schedule were, for the purpose of making up the necessary amount of population, composed of various places which, in strictness, did not belong to the town itself, but were intended to be forcibly allied to it, by the operation of another bill—namely, the Boundaries Bill—was there, he would ask, a town in England which, upon such a principle, could not be made equal to any of the towns in schedule D? He affirmed, therefore, that the framers of this Bill had departed from their own principle, in many cases, in reference to schedule D. That schedule included many towns which ought not to stand in it; while, on the other hand, many towns were not in the schedule, which ought to be brought into it. Having made this statement in answer to the observation of his noble and learned friend, he would advert to another topic—namely, the Amendment of the noble Baron. In the first place, he must say, that he was not a party to that Amendment; he had received no communication upon the scheme which that Amendment embraced, and could not be expected to give his immediate assent to it. He was quite prepared to say, that schedule C ought to be altered; but the best way would be, to get rid of the schedule altogether, and to put the towns in a separate clause, so as to discuss their respective merits as they were brought forward. He did not quite agree with his noble friend (Lord Ellen-borough), with respect to some of the observations he made upon the towns contained in the list which he read over. It was impossible, however, to be prepared to state his objections to some of those towns; but there was one which, he was ready to contend, ought not to have any Representatives at all; that town was, at present, in schedule D, but his noble friend proposed to give to it two Members. Upon principle, he preferred every town, which was to be represented at all, having two Members rather than one; but, with regard to this particular town, he objected to its having any Member, because, if they were to get rid of nomination boroughs on one side, let them be done away altogether. He considered all those places as nomination boroughs in which those who had the right of voting had not the means of exercising an independent choice of their Representatives. He did not mean to object to the fair influence of property; but 1122 that town was a nomination town which was entirely in the hands of one man, as was the case with Huddersfield. Whatever might be the wealth and population of that town, the Report of the Commissioners satisfied him that it was not an independent town, and, therefore, the elective franchise ought not to be extended to it. In taking the elective franchise from towns before they had forfeited it, at least it ought not to be transferred to any other place where an independent body of electors could not be constituted. Huddersfield had, undoubtedly, a very extensive population, and a very thriving trade, but, whatever might be its wealth or its population, he believed it would be found, that all the houses in the town, with the exception of one, belonged to one individual, and that he would at all times be able to influence the return of the Representatives. The Commissioners, indeed, in their Report had distinctly admitted this fact; but, under some vague kind of opinion that a place so large as Huddersfield would ultimately work out its independence, they had not recommended the extension of the boundaries of the borough so as to cure the defect. There was another borough, however (Arundel), of which the Commissioners had recommended the extension of the boundaries, but there they had included Little Hampton, in which, although the houses were held on very long leases, the holders could not transfer their interest without the consent of the noble Duke who was the proprietor of the whole. Now this, he (Lord Wynford) thought, was such a state of dependence as rendered the tenant subservient to the purposes of the proprietor, and he intended, at the proper time, to propose an amendment with reference to it. He would conclude by repeating, that he had many objections to the Clause; but he would reserve his remarks on individual instances, as he hoped that the claims of every town would be fairly considered on its separate merits.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, their Lordships were now called on to consider, according to the proposition of his noble friend (Lord Ellenborough), what boroughs were to have enfranchisement, and what boroughs were not to have enfranchisement. His noble friend proposed that the boroughs which, according to the Bill, were to be enfranchised, some being placed in schedule C, to receive two Members, 1123 and some in schedule D to receive only one, should all be placed in one schedule, and receive two Members. His noble friend proposed to do away with schedule D; but his noble friend also proposed to omit several of the boroughs which, by the Bill, were to be enfranchised; and, in order to have a better understanding of the question, he should first read the names of those places which, according to his noble friend's proposal, were now to be omitted. The first was the town of Greenwich, in Kent, the reason for omitting which might be classed under the general objection to the Metropolitan Representation; and the next was the town of Devonport, which, as Plymouth was to retain two Members, might, they apprehended, share very well with it in Representation. The four next which they proposed to omit were, Finsbury, Lambeth, Mary-le-bone, and the Tower Hamlets. Three of them would, in the event of a division of the county of Middlesex, have their interests fully represented by its Members; and he did not see any reason why the residents of Lambeth, numerous as they were, could not have the privilege of voting for the borough of Southwark. The next places which they proposed to leave out of the enfranchising schedule were Brighton and Cheltenham. He (Lord Wharncliffe) had really never seen or heard an argument why these towns were to have a preference over others in the privilege of choosing Representatives. If the franchise depended on population, he could understand it; but those who denied that, had never been able to give a satisfactory reason for what they proposed. The next places to be omitted were, Oldham, Bury, Rochdale, and Salford, in the county of Lancaster, all of which would, he considered, be sufficiently represented by their immediate neighbours. At the same time, it was proposed that Lancashire should be divided, and each division should receive two Members, in one of which Salford would be included: moreover in that were Warrington, Blackburn, and Bolton, all of which would be represented. He saw no reason why Chatham should not return Members in conjunction with Rochester and Stroud; Chatham was, therefore, to be omitted. The next place to be omitted was Dudley, which, as its trade and interests were precisely the same as Wolverhampton, would be sufficiently represented by the Members for that place. The next town was Gateshead. He (Lord 1124 Wharncliffe) had some acquaintance with both Gateshead and Newcastle; Gateshead was a mere suburb of the latter, enjoying the same trade; possessing precisely the same interests; being, in fact, a mere suburb of Newcastle—and he certainly could not see the propriety of giving it a separate Member. Then came the town of Wakefield. Every one knew that Wakefield formerly was the centre of a very extensive manufacture; but everybody also knew, that its manufacture existed no longer; and the only reason that could be given now for placing it in the enfranchising schedule was, that it had a considerable trade in corn. Walsall was in the same situation as Dudley, and they proposed to unite it also with Wolverhampton, considering its interests so sufficiently represented. Whitby, although it formerly had a considerable portion of the whale fishery, was now in such a state of decline that it had no claim to separate Representation. Having thus mentioned the places to be left out of the schedule, he must add, that by this scheme, he and his noble friend conceived, that no place in England or Wales, of any importance, and having a separate interest, would be unrepresented. He would next enumerate the places to which it was proposed to extend the franchise. The noble Lord accordingly proceeded to read those boroughs of the schedule which he proposed should remain, similar to that read by Lord Ellenborough. Among these, he observed, they undoubtedly included Huddersfield, notwithstanding the observations of the noble and learned Lord near him (Lord Wynford). He believed it would be found that, although the land on which Huddersfield stood, did belong to an individual (Sir John Ramsden), that gentleman would have very little influence in the return of the Representative. Huddersfield, too, was a place of great wealth, of increasing importance, and the seat of the manufacture of a particular species of cloth in great consumption. He could assure his noble and learned friend, that he need be under no apprehension, for Huddersfield would be perfectly independent. Having thus gone through the names of the places which they wished to insert in the schedule to have two Members each, he would say, in all sincerity, that he thought the scheme was a good one, and that there was nothing more detrimental to the interests 1125 of the represented, than the collisions which would take place if only one Member was to be given to a town. He looked upon this part of his noble friend's plan as a decided improvement on the Bill, for it was his conviction, that nothing could be more fatal to the interests of towns, than perpetual election conflicts among the inhabitants, to secure the return of one Member. Having two, each interest might find a Representative, and conflicts be avoided. He said, therefore, give to every enfranchised town two Members. With respect to the places omitted, they were all, except the metropolitan districts, omitted from the first Reform Bill; and as to them, he confessed he did not think it wise to give separate Members to a number of districts so close to the seat of the Legislature. It might be true, that the Members for these places would not turn out to be demagogues; but still he thought it was not wise to have a number of Members sitting for places in the immediate vicinity of Parliament, and liable to be called to account for any unpopular votes in the way they had seen in more than one instance on recent occasions. When a Member was once elected, he should be removed as much as possible from the exhibition of all feelings of a local description, and hold himself the Representative of all the interests of the community. There might be occasions, too, in which a Member would feel himself compelled to give a vote for the advantage of the country directly in opposition to those of his constituents, and he (Lord Wharncliffe) could not for the life of him, see the propriety of exposing a number of them to be called to account on all occasions for the votes they might give in the House of Commons. He was only anxious to have the plan of his noble friend well understood, and to satisfy their Lordships that he had no wish to defeat Reform; on the contrary, none were more anxious than he and his friends to have every interest fully represented in Parliament. They were desirous, however, of not proceeding upon the principle laid down—namely, population and the assessed taxes; because they considered these to be a very uncertain criterion. The scheme of his noble friend would, undoubtedly—including the Members proposed for the counties by the Bill, by giving two Members to twenty towns, two additional Members to Middlesex, four to Lancashire, and two to 1126 Yorkshire, one to Swansea, and three to the Welsh counties, together with the additional Members for Scotland and Ireland—absorb the whole number of the Members for the boroughs contained in schedule A. They proposed, however, to supersede the clause which gave to certain counties these Members. He never could see what advantage the agricultural interest could derive from that plan. It appeared to him that every county with three Members would be constantly involved in party contests, to the prejudice of the interests of landlords and tenants, without any counteracting benefit to any party. On the whole, he was convinced that the plan of his noble friend would secure an efficient Representation for all the interests of the country.
would not have troubled the House with any observations on the question, were it not for what had fallen from the noble Lord who spoke last with respect to the town of Cheltenham. That town was, he conceived, fully entitled to have a Representation, as well from its increasing wealth and population, as from the amount it paid in taxes to the State. He was convinced, indeed, that even the noble Baron who moved the Amendment (Lord Ellenborough) would give his vote in favour of the claims of Cheltenham, and the more so, as that noble Lord had lately purchased an estate in its vicinity. That noble Lord was also, he believed, an active member in getting up that club of Anti-Reformers called Conservatives; and when their Lordships heard, that the noble Baron considered Cheltenham of importance enough to be honoured with the establishment in it of a branch of the club, the noble Baron would scarcely deny to the place he had made the seat of his private legislation, the benefits of public Representation. But Cheltenham was, above all, entitled to a Representation on account of the manner in which it had distinguished itself in the late contests, and the zeal with which it had stepped forward in opposition to the claims of the brother of the noble Duke, whom he saw opposite (the Duke of Beaufort), when that noble Lord refused to pledge himself to vote for Reform. On that, and on the best of all grounds, that he believed it could not be resisted, he should vote against the omission of Cheltenham in the schedule.
The Earl of Winchilsea
expressed him 1127 self much gratified with the vote which their Lordships had first come to on entering the Committee, whatever delay might have ensued in the progress of that Bill to which he never could give his complete assent. He was, however, prepared to redeem his pledge as to the great principle, in his mind, on any Reform Bill—the granting adequate Representation to the interests springing up anew in the altered state of society. Where, however, there was no distinct and separate interest, he should resolutely refuse to grant any right to return Members to such places as had it not at present. The clause, as it now stood, with respect to the right of voting by a 10l. qualification was, in his opinion, unsatisfactory, vague, and undetermined. It was injudicious and dangerous, because it was liable to be made an instrument of creating votes by master-manufacturers having the control of 200 or 300 workmen, living, all of them, as was mostly the case, upon tenements of 3s. a week or less; for he would, at pleasure, increase the wages and raise the rent, to bring them within the provisions of the Act, and render them competent voters at the moment he required their overwhelming influence at the election. This, he was convinced, would be one of the consequences of the clause. He objected, also, to another portion of the Bill—that which gave votes for the counties to those who already possessed votes for towns. He thought they would tend much to take away from the agricultural interests that fair proportion of power which their wealth, and influence, and importance in the State, entitled them to demand. He had always been an advocate for the extinction of the rotten boroughs, and he was glad of having an opportunity of declaring his attachment to Reform; and while he professed that attachment, while he was anxious to enfranchise the great towns, he was guilty of no inconsistency in opposing many portions of the present Bill, which he thought would be subversive of the Constitution, and which he was sure would not be a final settlement of the question; for, before many months passed over their heads, their Table would be crowded with petitions from other places for the extension of, or participation in, the right of voting. He perfectly concurred in the Amendment of the noble Baron, deeming it a far more safe plan of Reform than that proposed by the Bill.
1128 That would, he feared, be fatal to the best interests of the country; and looking at the high-minded body of men by whom he was surrounded, who would disdain all those little arts by which meaner persons attained and preserved influence, he could not be otherwise than filled with apprehensions that the day would come when the power and dignity of that august Assembly would be for ever destroyed. He prayed that his forebodings might be false, but his fears overwhelmed his hopes.
§ Lord Durham
was convinced that the noble Baron who proposed the Amendment, did so for the purpose only of recording his own plans, and not that he might lead the House into a protracted discussion of the general principle of the schedule. He thought, therefore, that it would be more convenient for the House to agree to the clause generally; and afterwards to discuss the case of each town, in the order in which it stood in the schedule. At present great inconvenience would be felt by discussing, on the general question of agreeing to the clause, the merits of each town. If the Committee allowed the case of each town in the schedule to be discussed separately, and in its order, he would pledge himself to show that every one of those towns was entitled to Representation; and that the plan of the noble Lord, instead of putting an end to the agitation of those claims on the part of other towns, would, on the contrary, give rise to greater heartburnings and jealousies. The noble Baron had given three reasons, founded upon his own knowledge of the circumstances of Gateshead, to prove that place not to be entitled to Representation. But he would undertake to prove, to the satisfaction of the Committee, that the noble Baron's reasoning was incorrect. In the first place, the noble Baron stated, that Gateshead was a suburb of Newcastle. Now, he (Lord Durham) could assure the Committee, from his own knowledge, that Gateshead never was a suburb of Newcastle. In the second place, the noble Baron contended that the interests of the former place were identical with those of the latter; and, thirdly, that the trade of the two places was the same. In each of those particulars, he could assure the noble Baron, that he was altogether misinformed. He would also undertake to show, as each town came to be discussed, that the Amendment of the 1129 noble Baron would, by interfering with the schedule, injure the Bill, instead of improving it, and would give great dissatisfaction to the country, and especially as respected the metropolitan districts. As to those districts, if the framers of the Bill had erred at all, they had erred in giving them too small a number of Members.
The Earl of Haddington
would not have trespassed on the time of the Committee that night, but for the preliminary observations of the noble Baron who had just sat down. He would leave it to the noble Baron and to the noble Lord near him (Lord Ellenborough) to fight their own battle between them. His own objections to the present Bill had been, from the first, that it allowed no hope of the final settlement of the question of Reform. Now, all that he could say in favour of the noble Baron's Amendment was, that it did hold out some hope of a final settlement. That noble Baron had asked, how could it be expected that the towns which, to the number of twenty, were entitled to be placed in the schedules C and D, would be satisfied after the disappointment of the hopes which the framers of the Bill had excited? But he would go further than the noble Baron, and he would say, that it was impossible to give any answer to the arguments which would be alleged in support of the claims of many other towns which were now excluded from the Representation, after the places in those schedules should have been enfranchised. In two petitions which had that evening been presented, they had a specimen of the sort of claims which would be hereafter made, founded upon the scheme of population and assessed taxes, for the right of having Representatives by all the towns not included in these schedules. If their Lordships adopted the Bill, he knew not what answer they could consistently give to those parties. But, by the adoption of the plan of his noble friend, the franchise would be conferred on places possessing the claims of great wealth, and great industry, and having distinct and separate interests to be represented; and by thus confining the Representation, a rule would be established to regulate future proceedings, and answer all applications from all places not so circumstanced, claiming to have Members on the ground of their population, and the amount of assessed taxes. Their Lordships would be enabled to say to them, "We have rested our measure 1130 upon principles within which you do not fall, and it is now too late to come and urge other grounds of claim upon us." By such a course, there would be some reasonable prospect of a final settlement of this question. On the contrary, by acting on the mere principles of population and taxation, there was no security against a perpetual recurrence of claims being made, even from such places as Doncaster, for the right of Representation; and no consistent refusal could be given to such applications. He wished, further, to state an objection which he entertained against a certain class of boroughs which had been put into the schedules, and two of which were retained in the Amendment proposed by the noble Baron. He meant that class of boroughs which were formed by taking in a large extent of country, several miles in length, and blending together all the places within that track, and forming them into a district borough, giving it the right of Representation. This was, in his judgment, establishing a very dangerous principle. In all the plans of Parliamentary Reform—in all the beau ideal schemes which the imagination of Reformers ever sketched—nothing similar to these district boroughs had been embraced. It would have been far better to have avoided that sort of district Representation. The leaving out, in the noble Baron's plan, such places as Walsall and Dudley, and one or two others, had, therefore, his most perfect approbation; and he could have wished that, in the case of Wolverhampton, which had been formed into a borough by having an immense district joined to it, the district had been considerably curtailed. There was no other means of giving Representation to boroughs more suitable than that of confining the franchise to the parties who had a peculiar and essential interest to be protected.
assured the noble Baron opposite (Lord Ellenborough) that if the plan now proposed as an Amendment had been brought forward six months ago, he (Lord Darnley) should have been disposed to support it in preference to the present state of the Bill; but now, looking to the quarter from which the Amendment came, he was compelled to look upon it with suspicion.
§ Clause agreed to.1131
§ Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, were severally voted parts of the schedule belonging to the clause, without dissent.
§ On the question that Greenwich stand part of the schedule,
said, that he objected to the insertion of Greenwich and Woolwich in that schedule, because the enfranchisement of those places, and the agricultural districts which separate them combined in one borough, made way for the operation of that principle, the evil consequences of which he had endeavoured to point out. If the principle that a given population, contained within a certain number of square miles, should entitle a place to send Members to Parliament, where in England was the district in which such a claim might not be set up? But the objections which the noble Lords opposite themselves had so often made to nomination boroughs, applied to the enfranchisement of those places, as they would constitute a nomination borough of the most mischievous tendency. The two Members would be returned by the united service—one by the Ordnance Board, and the other by the Admiralty. Woolwich was a wretched town, consisting chiefly of the houses of artificers in the employment of the Government—of small shops dependent on those artificers—and of public-houses. He thought that they might just as well give the Representation to the regiments of artillery as to that place. Again, much of Greenwich was the property of the Crown, part having been recently purchased, so that the voters there would be, for the most part, under the influence of the Crown. The same remark applied to Deptford, which was a wretched place. Most of the principal householders in all the three towns were servants of the Government, or retired officers; and surely such a constituency would render the place a nomination borough of the worst kind. On these grounds he moved that Frome should be inserted in the schedule instead of Greenwich.
The Lord Chancellor
was surprised at the objections which the noble Baron now advanced against the enfranchisement of Greenwich; because it was, no long time ago, the noble Baron's principal objection to the present Bill, that it would create a difficulty in the obtaining of seats in Parliament for the members of the Government. But when he remembered that the noble Baron eulogized nomination as good 1132 in itself, and especially deprecated the destruction of boroughs for which members of the Administration could be nominated, he (the Lord Chancellor) could not see the congruity of the noble Baron's argument. He did not say this as agreeing with the noble Baron that nomination boroughs were such good things, but only to show, that all which the noble Baron had said of Greenwich would be, if it were true, a strong argument why the noble Baron ought not to oppose this part of the schedule. But the fact was, the footing on which the right of voting was to be put by the Bill before the Committee was such, that there was no justice in saying that Greenwich would be a nomination borough. That town, taken with the other places which were united with it in the schedule, contained a numerous population, paying 22,000l. in assessed taxes, and having upwards of 6,000 houses rated above 10l. Now, a great proportion of those houses were occupied by respectable and wealthy persons connected with the commercial interest, as was well known to every person acquainted with the neighbourhood of Greenwich. But perhaps the noble Baron's acquaintance there was confined to a few of the most convenient houses. That district was, in fact, the head quarters, he might say, of one of the most important branches of the trade of this country—he meant the shipping interest. On the grounds of population, assessed taxes, and commercial importance, that district was entitled to Representation.
The Earl of Winchilsea
concurred in the opinion of the noble Baron, that Greenwhich would make a nomination borough of the worst description. It might be convenient to the Government to have such boroughs, but injurious to the country. He, therefore, should support the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived. Greenwich inserted in the schedule; as were also Sheffield and Sunderland.
§ On the question that Devonport stand part of the clause,
proposed, that the question respecting that town should be adjourned for discussion on another evening. The impatience manifested by the Committee rendered it impossible to carry the Bill further that evening with propriety.
The Duke of Newcastle
said, that the House seemed to be so little inclined to discuss the details of the Bill, and, indeed, there could be so little good expected from the discussion, that he would recommend it to the Committee to vote all the details of the Bill at once, and send it up to a third reading [cheers.]
was sorry to hear that cheer. It showed that the House had got into a state from which it was not easy to bring it back, and in which it would be impossible to discuss the schedule fairly and temperately. If the noble Lords persevered in going through the details of the Bill in that manner, he would promise them that they should not carry their Bill these six months to come. However, what had occurred in the House in the earlier part of the night had not deprived him of the hope, that the discussion would be conducted in a proper manner.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that the Bill had been discussed, so far as noble Lords on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, were concerned, both fairly and temperately. The cheer which gave the noble Baron so much dissatisfaction, appeared to him (the Lord Chancellor) to be no other than an expression of good humour, in which several Lords near the noble Baron had joined. Surely it could not be complained of, that the noble Duke opposite had not been greeted with a serious cheer, when it was plain that he did not say seriously what had caused the cheer; that is, that he wished the Bill to be passed at once. As that was the first time that the question was introduced as to the hour at which the Committee should adjourn each night, he thought it would be convenient that the House should then decide that question at once. There was no reason why the adjournment should be fixed so early as eleven o'clock.
The Marquis of Londonderry
wished to acquaint the noble Lords opposite, before the question of Adjournment was decided, that he was determined to take the sense of the Committee respecting the Representation of the Tower Hamlets.
explained, that he proposed the Adjournment, not on account of the lateness of the hour, but on account of the impatience manifested by the Committee.
§ Lord Wynford
thought, that Devonport ought to be included with Plymouth, and that two Members would then be quite sufficient for both combined. If Devonport were to have two Representatives, all places similarly circumstanced would claim a similar Representation. At the least, if Devonport were continued in that schedule, the places in schedule D would have a right that their Representation should not be diminished. For the sake of that interest (the agricultural) which, although it supported the other two interests (the commercial and manufacturing), was by this Bill sacrificed to them, he would object to Members being given to this and to many other places in those schedules. The effect of the Bill upon the whole Representation of the country would be, to give no more than 170 Members to the agricultural interest, whilst the commercial and manufacturing interests would have 330 Representatives. He begged leave to move that Devonport be omitted from the schedule. If that were carried he would move to substitute Frome for Devonport.
assured the noble and learned Baron that he underrated the importance of Devonport, and the respectability of its inhabitants.
would repeat his former declaration, that it was most dangerous to establish the principle, that places were entitled to Representation on account of their possessing a large population and considerable wealth. When that principle should once have been recognized by the Legislature, every place that might hereafter increase in wealth and population would claim to be represented; so that the Bill, as it stood, instead of being a final measure, would lead to continual change. Devonport was circumstanced similarly to Greenwich, as respected the influence of the Government. There were two places in schedule B which had a greater right to two Members than Devonport; Helston and Dartmouth.
§ Earl Grey
said, that Devonport was a place of great wealth and independence, and containing 44,000 inhabitants, and upwards of 6,000 houses rated at 10l. In respect to population and wealth, Frome was greatly inferior to that town. But he would ask the noble Lords who were acquainted with those places, what kind of Reform would that be which should give to Helston and Dartmouth the Representation which was refused to Devonport.
§ Original Question agreed to, and Devonport inserted in the schedule; as was also Wolverhampton.
§ House resumed—Committee to sit again.