§ Clause 8.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
moved the omission of the second proviso in this clause; the effect of which would be, to allow persons in indifferent circumstances to be placed on the list of voters.
§ Viscount Melbourne
was very unwilling to offer any factious opposition to the Bill 481 of the noble and learned Lord; but he should prefer retaining the proviso notwithstanding.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
The noble Viscount is not quite correct in calling this my Bill; but I am quite certain it is not his. I beg to move that the proviso be struck out.
§ Amendment carried; and the Clause, as amended, was agreed to.
§ Clause 10 was omitted.
§ Clause 13 being read, Lord Lyndhurst moved its omission.
§ Viscount Melbourne
would take that opportunity of saying, in his own defence, that the observations he had made with reference to freemen over estimating the value of some of their rights, were abundantly confirmed by some of the same witnesses as had been produced at their Lordships' Bar in opposition to the Bill, and whose evidence had been so highly extolled. Mr. Rotherham and Mr. Carter, the Mayor and Town-clerk of Coventry, in their evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, had stated that in their opinion the privilege of turning out cattle on common-land, did more harm than good to those who enjoyed it. The Lammas lands were widely dispersed, some of them being two miles and a half from the town, and some nearer; and their opinion was, that they were of no benefit. With reference to the present Clause, he would consent to expunge it, reserving to himself, however, the right of considering whether another might not hereafter be substituted in its place.
§ The Clause was negatived.
§ On the 16th Clause being read,
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said that he rose with the intention of proposing an Amendment to this Clause, and that the nature of the objections which he felt to the Clause would be best understood by reference to the Clause itself. He had formerly stated that it was not his intention, nor he believed the intention of the noble Lords round him, to make any objection to the burgess qualification proposed by this Bill. It however appeared that by the Clause now before their Lordships, no qualification was required for Councillors, which, in his opinion, was most inexpedient and unwise. As the Clause at present stood, any person paying even the smallest amount of rate might become a member of the Council, and take a part in discharging all the important duties which fell to be performed by persons chosen to that office.
482 He thought that their Lordships would be of opinion that some qualification for the office of Councillor ought to be required. In the discharge of almost all other important duties, some qualification was required by law. In the other House of Parliament a qualification was required. He admitted that there were certain exceptions. There were cases in which no qualification was required, but he spoke of the general practice. Justices of the peace and magistrates were required to have a qualification, and what was more important to the question immediately before their Lordships, in every local Act, those chosen for the performance of the particular duties required by the Act were required to have a qualification, and in most instances a pecuniary qualification to a large amount. It was upon these grounds that he meant to move an Amendment to the present Clause. He did not mean to say that a pecuniary qualification always secured the selection of persons of intelligence, of persons of ability, for the discharge of the offices, or of persons of integrity. He did not mean to assert that that was the effect of a pecuniary qualification, but at least it had a tendency to that effect, and it was the kind of security always required. He therefore thought that in the present instance a qualification should be required Their Lordships would feel that the subject was one of no inconsiderable difficulty to fix what the species of qualification should be. One species of qualification was the possession of a certain amount of real or personal property, but that was liable to objection, because it was too indefinite. Another species of qualification was the occupancy of a house of a particular value; but that was liable to two objections. In the first place the difficulty of ascertaining what was the real value of a house, and in the second place, the difference between the class of persons occupying houses of the same value in different places, as, for instance, a person occupying a house of the value of 20l. in one place, was a very different person, and in a very different class of society, from a person occupying a house of the same value in another place. There was a third species of qualification which might be adopted—namely, that of rating. But that principle was not easy of application. The rating was not always laid on the full value of the property. In some places rates were paid to the full value of the 483 property, in other places to the value of One-half, and in others to the value of Only one-fourth. Considering all the difficulties of the case, it had occurred to him that the best qualification which could be adopted, and that which would operate with the greatest equality in all cases, would be founded upon the amount of the rates paid with reference to each particular borough; that is, that those who should be called upon to administer the affairs of the borough should be chosen from those who were the highest rate payers. He proposed that the rate payers should be divided into a certain number of classes, and that from the highest of these classes the persons should be chosen who should be selected to administer the affairs of the borough. Acting upon this principle, he proposed that the rate-payers should be divided into six classes, and that the one-sixth of those who paid the highest amount of fates should be those from whom the Councillors should be selected. This principle he thought would be more easily applied in all circumstances than any other which he could recommend; and it was with that view that he recommended it to their Lordships. He hoped that their Lordships would adopt the principle of his Amendment, and apply it to all the towns and boroughs which came within the operation of the Bill. For the purpose of carrying this Amendment into effect, it would be necessary that another list besides the burgess list should be prepared by the overseers, and he proposed that that list should be liable to objection in the same manner as the list of burgesses. He had only to add, that the Amendment which he meant to move would apply not only to the Clause then under their Lordships' consideration, but to several Clauses which followed it.
said that it was undoubted that nothing could be more fit and proper than the course adopted by the noble and learned Lord in moving his Amendment. The noble and learned Lord had stated the grounds upon which he wished to found this material alteration in the Bill with that clearness and perspicuity for which he was distinguished, and had brought forward his Amendment at the most convenient period at which it could be brought forward. As far as regarded his noble and learned Friend's proposition, it was by far the most important, and by far the greatest Amendment—if Amend- 484 ment it could be called; for he considered it as no Amendment, but the reverse; but with regard to his noble and learned Friend's proposition he considered it the worst alteration which had yet been proposed in this Bill, or that could be proposed in it during the sitting of this Committee. With respect to the general question of qualification, his noble and learned Friend was quite right in saying, that generally speaking a pecuniary qualification was considered necessary in this country for the purpose of securing fit and proper magistrates. But his opinion was, that the 100l. qualification required from the justices of the peace had no good effect. His noble and learned Friend had brought the case of the qualification required by Members of the other House of Parliament as an illustration. In his (Lord Brougham's) opinion, the illustration was a singularly infelicitous one as a recommendation of qualifications in the abstract. Their Lordships required no qualification, excepting that of birth, or being ennobled; but in the other House it was different. Now, let their Lordships look how the case stood with regard to the other House. It was true that his noble and learned Friend did not take the same principle for his qualification as that required to entitle a person to be chosen a Member of the other House; and his noble and learned Friend's proposition had this advantage, that it was not so easily evaded. But with regard to the qualification required for a Member of the House of Commons, he would say that nothing could be more ridiculous—nothing could be a greater piece of mummery than that qualification. A qualification of 600l. was required from knights of the shire, and of 300l. from burgesses of boroughs. These qualifications were absurd in themselves, in making a difference where no difference ought to be; and were most absurd in this, that having made the difference, both classes of Members should be jumbled together, and a freehold qualification required from both. But not only was this qualification evaded—not only was it anomalous and absurd, but let them look how it worked. There was a qualification required in England and in Ireland, but none was required for Scotland; and the only instance in which a qualification was not required was that of the Members of the two Universities. Now let them attend to the practical working 485 of this qualification. The noble and learned Lord said that the use of a qualification was to secure Members of a certain stamp of respectability. Now, it so happened that the law as it now stood said that in England a man was not fit to be a Member of Parliament who had no qualification, while in Scotland a man was fit who had none. But did the qualification secure to England better or more fitting and respectable Members of the Legislature? Were the Scotch Members of a lower order? Were they, in point of fact, chosen from among the paupers of the country; or were they in any respect worse than the English were? He would venture to say, that there was not one among the fifty-three Members for Scotland who was not, in point of wealth, at least, equal to the average of the English or Irish Members. Yet the English and Irish Members were qualified with 300l. or 600l., while the fifty-three Scotch Members had no qualification at all. Of what use, then, was the qualification? It did not keep those out who had little or no property, that was clear. Did it then give security for respectability? He should say most unquestionably not. It was quite true, as was stated by the noble and learned Lord, that local Acts generally required a qualification—certainly a great number did, although he would undertake to point out some which did not; but he (Lord Brougham) recollected asking some persons who had an opportunity of knowing if the qualifications required by local Acts secured respectability, and the answer was decidedly not. His opinion was, that if there was no pecuniary qualification required, persons would be the more led to inquire into the merits of the different candidates, and to scrutinize more narrowly as to their having the necessary qualification of suitableness for the office. If it were fixed that there should be a pecuniary qualification, persons would be too apt to consider that as the only one required. He would next refer to the very alarming, and to him somewhat astounding proposition brought forward by his noble and learned Friend. He did not think that their Lordships were aware of the extent to which that amendment went. He would endeavour to explain it. "You are to look," said the learned Lord, "in the first place to the electors, and then to the places where the elections take place, and then to the duties to be intrusted to those chosen." Now he (Lord 486 Brougham) would ask any man of common sense, who looked practically to the subject, without any reference to theory or speculation, if it was likely that the majority of those persons who paid the rates themselves, would choose improper persons to a situation in which they would have the power, not only of imposing rates, and of managing the affairs, and administering the property of the town, but of regulating the police? Was it likely that the majority of the voters would say, "Let us look about us and find a beggar, even if he is not worth three farthings, and choose him for a councillor. Here is a Bill which allows us to choose any man we please?" Was it likely that the voters would vote for beggars, and avoid men of respectability? Yet the argument for a qualification assumed that if it assumed anything. He was morally certain that it would in practice be found that none but substantial persons would be chosen, and that not one councillor in five hundred would be selected who was not a man of respectable standing in society. It was not the practice of the common people of this country to be regardless of wealth. He had never any occasion to think that the purse was not considered in this country a test of respectability. In no place that he had ever been in was there such regard paid to wealth as by the majority of his good countrymen. He thought that nothing tended to raise persons in the eyes of their neighbours so much as their being in a good way, and nothing sooner deprived them of that good opinion than their falling back in the world, even if there was nothing against their character. He did not think, therefore, that it was likely the persons chosen as Councillors would not be respectable. Indeed he thought the contrary would more likely be the rock upon which the voters would split. Let them now look at the motion of his noble and learned Friend. His noble Friend said, that only those who paid most rates should be eligible for Councillors. This was limiting the choice of the burgesses to the smallest limit. It was laying down a principle that none but one small and confined class who paid rates should have the administration of the affairs of the town. Be the person ever so respectable, be he looked up to as the best burgess of the town, be he ever so noted for his integrity, his sagacity, his powers of mind, his experience in offices of public trust, all, all would be pleaded in 487 vain. He must be excluded. No voter could raise his voice in his favour, unless he wished his vote to go for nothing. He would be necessarily excluded by this inexorable rule, if he had but one penny less than the numerical fraction of one-sixth to which his noble and learned Friend would limit it? Would any of their Lordships say that that was not a most grievous absurdity? And when his noble and learned Friend talked of novelties and innovations, was not this one of the greatest novelties, and most alarming innovations that ever had been brought before their Lordships? He did not believe that in all the political, commercial, or private measures which he had ever known to be brought before Parliament, there was ever such an innovation as this. The principle of taking one-sixth of the rate-payers, and making them only eligible, was to this time quite unknown. In every other case a man might acquire a qualification. He might acquire a qualification for Member of Parliament; and, but for that power, the country would have been deprived of the services of many of the most distinguished Members of the other House of Parliament—men who edified the world by their wisdom and charmed it by their eloquence, but who would not have had an opportunity of setting a foot in the House of Commons, of the rule in that case was inflexible as that proposed by his noble and learned Friend. The eligibility in the present case was confined to one limited class, and between that class and all others a bar was laid, across which no man could set his foot. The proposition of his noble and learned Friend was not only an alarming novelty, but in principle it was neither founded upon reason nor common sense. It was not founded upon enlarged and liberal views, for it was founded upon the principle of exclusiveness. It was founded on the worst principle of exclusiveness in favour of the aristocracy or oligarchy of wealth. He knew that the adoption of his noble and learned Friend's Amendment would be fatal to the working of the Bill. It would be just as well for their Lordships to say that the Bill should not pass at all. Gracious God! had the people no person to speak for them under the Aristocracy? Was only one-sixth to be eligible, and were the rest to be stigmatized as the proposition would stigmatize them, only because they were poor? By this, a bachelor who took an extravagant house might become 488 a Member of the Council, but if he married, lived prudently, and became a respectable father of a family, he might be excluded from taking any part in the affairs of the town. This was an innovation the most surprising, for it was one which could never have been adopted in even the worst of times. The consequences of it would be, that the choice of Councillors would necessarily be made without regard to integrity, to usefulness, or to the experience which a man had. It might exclude all those who would be useful, while it might admit the worst and most improper characters. Money was not generally considered as a qualification, but as a test that the person was respectable; but the qualification now proposed was worse than one taken from property in land, for it depended upon the number of the inhabitants, and the manner in which they might divide by six. The Amendment appeared to him to be vague, unsound, ill-advised, and ill-judged. It tended to put into the hands of the wealthy the whole right of administering the affairs of towns; and last and worst of all, it was the first introduction of that principle of exclusiveness which laid down a barrier which no man could cross. The principle of giving the monopoly, which this would create to the richer class, would be as much as if it were said to the poor classes, "They govern you because they have got money," and the poor were to be as much excluded from the affairs of towns as the Irish Catholics were from the administration of the affairs of the State, before passing of the Catholic Relief Bill, or the slaves in the West-Indies before the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act.
The Earl of Wicklow
was rather surprised that the noble and learned Lord should call the principle of his noble and learned Friend's Amendment a novelty, seeing that a qualification similar in its principle, and nearly so in its details, was adopted in a Bill introduced by the Government of which the noble and learned Lord (Brougham) was a member. In a Bill for improving the mode of assessment of certain rates in Ireland, it was enacted that the magistrates, with certain numbers of householders selected from the highest ratepayers, should make the assessment. Now, he was surprised that the noble and learned Lord, if he had any recollection of that Bill, could have opposed a similar principle in the present. There was not one argu- 489 ment which the noble and learned Lord used against the principle of qualification which might not with equal justice have been urged against the Bill to which he had alluded. He did not intend to trouble their Lordships with any remarks on the Clause itself; he rose only for the purpose of noticing what appeared to him an inconsistency in the noble and learned Lord.
had no doubt that the noble Earl was perfectly correct in his account of the Bill to which he referred, but he (Lord Brougham) had not attended to it at the time. But if the noble Earl wished to adduce an instance of a measure of qualification which had been introduced, and had received his support, he might have mentioned the Bill brought in about two years ago, in which a qualification of 1,000l. in personal property was declared to be necessary for a Town Councillor; but let him say, for himself, that he never was friendly to the principle of a qualification, and in assenting to it on that occasion, he had yielded his own opinion to that of others, but that did not bind him to the principle.
§ The Earl of Devon
said that the principle of qualification, and that of selecting the highest class of rate-payers, were both fully recognised in another measure to which the noble and learned Lord had given his support. He alluded to the Poor Law Bill, which passed last year. By that Bill the Commissioners were authorized to arrange what amount of qualification should be possessed by the guardians of the poor. There was, he admitted, a proviso that it should not be carried too high, and that in no case it should exceed 40l. a-year. This was a case in point, and he was sure it would not be contended that it was done with a view of upholding an oligarchy which would domineer over the people. He would support the Amendment, as he fully approved of the principle of qualification.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that he was Chairman of a union under the Poor Law Bill, consisting of thirty-six parishes, the rate-payers of which elected the guardians. Two of the most respectable Gentlemen in the whole of these parishes had been elected, but were not qualified, and therefore the parishes were deprived of their services. One of them was residing in the house of a sister, who had lost her husband, and was an independent man managing a large farm, and from 400 to 490 500 acres in extent. A qualification of this sort was useless, because a man might be rated at 100l. a year, and be far less respectable than some of those who received parish relief. Qualification gave no security for good character. If you left this office without qualification, the voters would naturally elect the most respectable persons. Something had been said about bribery. The man who was qualified was more likely to bribe than one not qualified. He quite agreed with the noble and learned Lord, that if you were to have a qualification, you would do little good in the way of reform—for then there would be only one class of persons whom the burgesses could elect.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
thought that persons not rated to the poor, however well qualified in other respects, ought not to be elected guardians of the poor to manage money matters. His noble and learned Friend had objected to any qualification at all, and then he objected to this description of qualification. He (Lord Wharncliffe) wanted to know why 5l. was to be taken in Ireland for the qualification for a person to be a burgess, and yet the noble and learned Lord had thought fit to fix it at the arbitrary sum of 5l. Even in the metropolis, a certain amount of payment of rates was required to make a man a vestryman. That was analogous to this case. If you took a certain sum, you would no doubt exclude a certain number of persons. If you took no qualification, you would admit persons who played the part of demagogues, and kept agitation alive. Nothing could be fairer than to say you, the electors, are to choose from the persons who pay the rates, those persons who contribute the largest sums.
to prevent any misunderstanding upon the point, just wished to ask his noble and learned Friend whether, according to his view, supposing the proposition to be adopted, if a person were once elected a Councillor he could afterwards lose his place as a Councillor; because this might happen—a man might be in a House this year, which made him one of the selected and chosen sixth; but next year came in three or four other persons, who built up larger and better houses, which would have the effect of reducing the first below the pale of the exalted sixth. In that case the man, being no longer qualified, was to be displaced?
§ Lord Lyndhurst
If a man be once elected a Councillor he will continue to act as a Councillor till the period of his services expires.
§ The Earl of Ripon
was disposed to look upon the proposition of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) as an innovation on the structure of Corporate bodies which it would not be proper to admit. Although a money qualification had been deemed necessary in those who acted as trustees in the administration of funds, no qualification of that kind had ever yet been required in those who were chosen to discharge municipal functions. But even supposing a qualification to be necessary, he certainly could not bring himself to think that the qualification proposed by the noble and learned Lord was of a character that it would be right for the Legislature to recognize. The effect of it, in many instances, would be to deprive corporate towns of the services of some of their most useful, most efficient, and most independent inhabitants. He, for one, therefore, was of opinion that it would be better not to require the qualification which was the object of the Amendment.
would not apply himself to the argument of whether a qualification were or were not necessary. He thought a qualification was not necessary; but of all the qualifications that could be required, he thought that suggested by the Amendment was the very worst. It would establish a principle of exclusion which every Corporate town would be disposed to regard as an insult instead of a boon. The exemption proposed by the noble and learned Lord did so upon the ground that the parties exempted, had no qualification, but that others had a better qualification. Why were the five-sixths excluded? Not because they might not have a very sufficient qualification—not because they had no property—no experience—no integrity—or the possession of none of the confidence of their fellow-citizens, but because the remaining sixth of the inhabitants lived in larger houses. The people of the country were not such idiots as to be imposed upon by a proposition of that description. If the noble and learned Lord had endeavoured to devise anything by which the provisions of the Bill could be converted into a mockery, it would be impossible for him to pursue a better course.
The Duke of Buccleuch
said, that when the noble Lord argued as if no qualification were required in the Scotch burghs, they were completely mistaken; because, by the Act which passed only a short time ago, it was expressly provided that those only should be the electors or Councillors who were possessed of the 10l. qualification, in the same manner as those who were to elect Members for Parliament. He was decidedly of opinion, that a qualification ought to be required for the Council of the English Corporate towns; and he knew of no qualification that could be more properly required than that suggested by the noble and learned Lord.
The Earl of Haddington
begged to confirm what had been stated by the noble Duke with respect to the qualification required in the Council of the Scotch burghs. If it were expected that Corporate property should be properly administered, and that the interests of the town should be properly protected, no one could doubt, that some qualification ought to be required in the Members of the governing body.
The Earl of Radnor
saw no necessity for requiring a qualification. He thought that the inhabitants of the towns would always select those to govern their affairs who were, naturally the best qualified. At all events, if any qualification were necessary, such a qualification as that proposed by the noble and learned Lord was the very last that should be adopted.
§ The Duke of Wellington
thought, that persons who were intrusted with such discretionary powers, and with such an extent of authority as must necessarily be conferred on the governing body of every Corporate town, ought to possess some certain qualification. It was absolutely necessary that they should give some sort of security for the due and proper performance of the duties which devolved upon them. He was of opinion, that the qualification proposed by his noble and learned Friend would act uniformly and successfully, applying equally to all places, whether large or small.
§ Lord Glenelg
objected decidedly, and in the strongest manner to the proposition of the noble and learned Lord. It was a proposition which struck at once at the very principle of the Bill, and if adopted, would be utterly destructive of it. The object of the Bill was to produce a sym- 493 pathy of interest—a common feeling of good will—an equality of rights amongst all the inhabitants in every Corporate town. The effect of the noble and learned Lord's proposition would be to establish in every town a separate and exclusive class, from out of which only the Corporate officers should be elected. This would at once be fatal to the principle of the Bill.
was persuaded, that the only purpose which his noble and learned Friend had in view was to prevent persons who were not properly qualified from holding situations of trust and importance. His reason for voting for his noble and learned Friend's proposition was that he wished this to be a permanent establishment for the good of the country. They had often seen, that on the occurrence of a single abuse, Parliament had proceeded to overturn an establishment. Now, no man could doubt that as the Bill at present stood, it would be the cause of the grossest abuses. It was desirable, therefore, in order to secure the permanency of the proposed establishment, that as little temptation to abuse as possible should be afforded. They must legislate with reference not to particular exceptions, but to general rules. He was persuaded, that many of their Lordships were not aware of the extent of franchise to which the proposition of his noble and learned Friend would reach. In Shrewsbury, there would be still 648 persons eligible, notwithstanding that proposition: in Doncaster, 400; in Maidstone, 500; in Northampton, 590.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
was not one of those who, generally speaking, objected to the principle of qualification; but he could not see any principle of qualification in the present case which would not be objectionable. The proposition which the noble and learned Lord made with reference to this great popular measure was to disqualify five-sixths of the rate-payers of England, on no account but that of their comparative poverty. The noble Duke opposite had spoken of the certainty and uniformity of the operation of wealth. He readily admits, that he wished that wealth should preponderate; but that its operation should be perfectly certain and uniform was precisely that which he was desirous of avoiding. In the early part of the discussion, he had heard a noble Lord talk of the necessity of excluding demagogues; by which term he 494 supposed that noble Lord meant to describe persons who had obtained an influence over many persons in their own rank of life. Now, he did not know any thing more certain than that if persons who had obtained that kind of influence— which in was by no means easy for any one to obtain except by superior talents and character—were excluded from associating with the higher ranks of society, they would be found much more dangerous than if they were admitted into that society. In the one case the people would think that their interests were attended to; in the other case, that their interests were neglected. From his experience, he was sure, that in the long run, the choice of the people of England, especially with reference to those who were to have the superintendence of money affairs, would fall upon persons of property. And he was also persuaded, that under the operation of the proposed Clause, persons of wealth would be frequently excluded. He knew a case of a person, who was rated at a low rate, only for a shop, but who was a person of wealth, living out of the town, and who would come under the bar of exclusion contained in the noble and learned Lord's Clause. He believed, that in general, wealth under the Bill would predominate; but that it would gather about itself (as it ought to do) a limited number of individuals, who, either by their attainments, or by their popularity, would add to the confidence which Town Councils ought to possess.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, he was anxious to make a few observations before the noble and learned Lord replied: The subject had been so nearly exhausted by the speakers that had preceded him that he was unwilling to occupy much of their Lordships' time; but he was so deeply impressed with the great importance of the question, and the general feeling which existed with respect to it throughout the country, that he considered it impossible for him to go to a division without some observation. The proposition for inserting a qualification had been discussed again and again when the Bill was brought forward, and it was resolved not to introduce it, because it was found utterly impossible to make it effectual. Indeed, it was clearly demonstrated, that no Clause making qualification necessary could be effectual. They all knew the difficulty of making such a Clause applicable, be- 495 cause it was so easily avoided. He agreed with his noble Friend that it might be a matter for consideration whether the 10l. franchise ought not to be substituted for rates, but it was quite a different thing when a qualification was required for the electors, and for those to be chosen into the Town Council; and he would ask whether it was prudent or wise to make such a qualification necessary? He must say it was not prudent, because it was founded on an exclusive principle. Why, what was the great complaint against the old system? The great, the supreme complaint was, that there was no community of feeling between the great body of the people, and the Members of the Town Council. Such a Clause, therefore, was contrary to the very policy which the supporters of the Clause contended for—it was contrary to their own policy, unless that qualification could effect their object. He would again say, that it was not only impossible to make it effective, but that there were still stronger objections to it. It was contrary to the spirit and principle of the Bill—it was contrary to the Constitution—it was contrary to the feelings of Englishmen, and the power which the supporters of the Clause expected to gain by it would be dearly purchased by the general discontent which it would occasion. As a proof how easy it was to evade such a Clause, they had only to refer to the qualification required for Members of Parliament. A qualification for a county Member was 600l., and for a borough Member 300l. and a qualification of 1,000l. for persons filling certain trusts under local acts, but had it not been found easy to avoid such Clauses? If the principle, therefore, could be evaded why attempt to introduce it? They would much better respect the feelings of the people if they shaped the Bill in such a way as that a man should be chosen, not because he had aristocracy and wealth—not because he was the richest—but because he was considered by the great body of his fellow-citizens as the fittest person to fill the station. He said it introduced a new principle into the institutions of the country, and it would introduce a new practice much more odious than the present system. He declared, that after the changes which had been made in the Bill, he was anxious to see it go through the House, and become the law of the land. He had reason to be- 496 lieve, that no change yet made was likely to produce a contrary result. He, therefore, called on their Lordships to pause before they adopted such a principle, "I believe, continued the noble Lord, that if we adopt the Clause proposed by the noble and learned Lord—if we allow only the one-sixth of the citizens—if we allow only the wealthiest of them to be eligible to the Town Council—I believe if we adopt such a principle, it will be more odious, more aristocratical, and more oligarchical than any known principle of the Constitution—it is alien and hostile to the spirit of the British Constitution—it is alien to the feelings and genius of the people, and if it is adopted, I believe it will ultimately be fatal to the measure.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that the object which he had in view in proposing his Amendment was the preservation of property. He had shaped it with reference to that purpose, and with reference to obtaining a sound and wholesome system of municipal government. He had attentively listened to the arguments which had been urged against his proposition, but he remained unconvinced. At first it was contended that no qualification whatever was necessary. The noble Marquess and the noble Viscount had, however, abandoned that ground. For his own part he was convinced that if there were no qualification, the Town Councils would, in many cases, be unfit to discharge any trust, and more especially that important trust of taxing their fellow townsmen. The noble and learned Lord referred to several measures, and especially to the Municipal Corporations' Bill for Scotland, to show that the principle of qualification had been uniformly acted upon. In the Poor Law Bill the same principle had been recognised. But it had been said that it was establishing a principle of exclusion. Why, wherever a principle of qualification was adopted, that principle must, in one point of view, be considered a principle of exclusion. He had selected the qualification which he had proposed because he thought it most applicable to a variety of places, and a variety of circumstances; because he thought it the most flexible principle. It was not a narrow principle. If he had taken a fourth instead of a sixth, it would have embraced all the 10l. householders in the kingdom. Was that narrow? On the contrary, it was a large and ample 497 principle. Could it be justly considered as fettering the choice of the people? Did it deserve to be stigmatised as it had been stigmatised? It would, however, undoubtedly secure the election of persons who, so far as property went, would be fit for the situations which they were to occupy. No qualification could be conceived which would not bear hard upon some one. He was most anxious, as anxious as the noble Viscount, that the Bill should pass into a law. The subject had created great excitement and agitation. He was anxious, therefore, that the Bill should be passed in such a shape that, if it did not meet with the favour, would at least experience the toleration, of the other House of Parliament. He was so anxious, indeed, to meet the views of that House, and the wishes of the noble Lords opposite, that he would consent to modify his proposed clause.
observed that the noble and learned Lord had better take the 10l. qualification at once.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
considered it too low. His Clause as a modified clause would stand thus. The noble and learned Lord read the Clause as follows:—And be it enacted, that on the fifth day of September, in every year, the Overseers of the poor of every parish, wholly or in part within any borough, shall make out an alphabetical list, to be called "The Burgess List," according to the Form No. 1 in the Schedule D, to this Act annexed, of all persons who shall be entitled to be enrolled in the Burgess Roll of that year, according to the provisions of this Act, in respect of properly within such parish; and the Overseers of the poor of every such parish, shall, in like manner, on the fifth day of September, in every year, make out another alphabetical list, to be called "The Councillors' List," according to the Form No. 2 in the said Schedule D, which list shall contain the names of such persons in the Burgess List (being one-sixth part of the whole number) as shall be rated to the largest amount of the last assessment, made for the relief of the poor of such parish; and in making out such Councillors' List, all persons who shall be rated at an amount which would entitle any one of them to be placed on such list, shall, whatever may be their number, be entitled to be placed, and shall be placed on such list, notwithstanding it may in such case contain more than a sixth part of the number of houses on the Burgess List; and whenever any person shall be jointly rated, the amount of the rate charged upon them shall, for the purpose of making out the Councillors' List, be deemed to be divided into as many equal parts as there are persons so rated, and each person shall for the purpose 498 aforesaid be deemed to be rated only to the amount of one such part; and all persons entitled to be on the Burgess List for any parish, who shall be seised or possessed of real or personal estate, or both, to the following amount—that is to say, in all boroughs directed by this Act to be divided into four or more wards, to the amount of one thousand pounds; and in all boroughs directed to be divided into less than four wards, or which shall not be divided into wards, to the amount of five hundred pounds, shall be entitled to be inserted in the Councillors' List for such parish; provided that every such person shall give to the Overseers of such parish, on or before the last day of August in every year, a notice in writing, according to the Form No. 3, in the said Schedule D, or to the like effect; and the Overseers shall, and they are hereby required to, insert the names of all persons giving such notice, in the Councillors' List, in addition to the names herein before directed to be placed on such list; and the Overseers in every succeeding year shall, without any fresh notice in that behalf, include in the Councillors' List for such year the names of all such persons so qualified in respect of real or personal estate, as aforesaid, as shall have been retained on the Councillors' List for their parish, after the revision thereof in the preceding year, unless the title of such persons to be inserted in the Burgess List then to be made for such parish shall have ceased; and the Overseers shall sign such Burgess Lists and Councillors, and shall deliver the same to the Town Clerk of the borough, on the said fifth day of September in every year, and shall keep a true copy of such lists, to be perused by any person, without payment of any fee, at all reasonable hours, between the fifth and the fifteenth days of September in every year; and the Town Clerk shall forthwith cause copies to be printed of all Overseers Lists delivered to him, and shall deliver a copy of all such lists to any person requiring the same, on payment of a reasonable price for each copy, and shall cause a copy of all such lists to be fixed on or near the outer door of the Town Hall, or in some public and conspicuous situation within the borough, on every day during the week next preceding the fifteenth day of September in every year.
said, he would vote against the modified Amendment; meaning thereby to express his opinion against any qualification whatever.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Contents 120; Not-contents 39; Majority 81.
begged, with no unfriendly spirit or purpose, to submit to their Lordships' consideration the probable effect that would be produced upon the country by leaving the Clause as it was at present. His noble and learned Friend 499 said it was his wish to make the Bill as perfect as he could—to make it work well. Now, in order to its working well it must be made acceptable to the country; and was that likely, so long as the measure contained so invidious a distinction between rich and poor as this Clause contained. According to the argument of his noble and learned Friend very little was gained by this Clause. He thought otherwise as to the effect of it. He thought a great deal was obtained by it. But, assuming that his noble and learned Friend was right, and that he was wrong, he would ask was it fitting, was it wise—he would not say was it safe, because he might be misunderstood and misrepresented; but was it sound, or even well considered towards themselves, or calculated to secure the well working of the measure, to stamp upon this Bill that most hateful appearance of excluding every person who was not of the richest class in the community? By adhering to the provision to which he alluded, wealth would become the criterion of eligibility; for it would not be confining the qualification to those who possessed a certain amount of property, but it would be excluding all who did not belong to the richest class of society. Would it, he asked, be a good moral result of their labours to establish such a principle in the government of the affairs of this country?
§ The Earl of Devon
said, he had looked upon the question in the last Clause simply as one of qualification or no qualification. It was his intention to move that those who possessed the required amount of property, although not included within the first class, should be eligible for civil office.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, the noble Earl would have an opportunity upon a subsequent Clause of moving the Amendment he had referred to.
§ The Clause was added to the Bill.
§ The Clauses, to the 24th, were agreed to.
§ The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Auckland||Howard of Effingham|
|Brougham and Vaux||Scarborough|
|Saye and Sele||Strafford|
|Charlemont||Bishop of Chichester|
|Burlington||Bishop of Limerick|
|Richmond||Bishop of Hereford|
|Erroll||Bishop of Bristol|