§ On the 24th Clause,
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, it was his intention to propose for the consideration of their Lordships some Amendments on this Clause, and it would, perhaps, be more convenient that he should state the whole of them, and take the discussion upon them together, rather than have a separate debate upon each. Before, however, he proceeded to state what was the nature of the Amendments which he meant to submit to the House, he could not forbear adverting to the observations made in the course of this evening by a noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Cleveland). The noble Duke charged him (Lord Lyndhurst) and those who thought with him on this measure, with wasting the time of the 580 House in unnecessary discussions on this Bill. Now, never in the history of Parliament had a more difficult question—a question embracing so great a variety of details, or requiring more cautious consideration—been presented to the consideration of their Lordships, and yet, though it was now only fourteen days since it was proposed to read the Bill a second time, the House had advanced greatly in the Committee, and when, by the votes of the proceedings of the other House of Parliament, it appeared that it had been employed five weeks in the discussion of this Question, he must protest against the charge of the noble Duke, as being utterly destitute of foundation—a charge which ought not to have been made by the noble Duke without due deliberation. The noble Duke had also charged their Lordships with having made great alterations in the principle of this Bill. He was not aware that any alteration had been made in the principle of the Bill up to the present time. What was the nature of the Amendments which so far had been adopted? They were three in number, for he did not include those Amendments which were mere matters of detail, and which had never engaged the attention of the noble Duke. And what were those three Amendments? The first only carried further the principle which the noble Viscount at the head of the Government had in the Bill himself laid down—namely, the principle relating to the property of the freemen. That principle in the Bill of the noble Viscount protected that property up to a certain point; the Amendment he had proposed, and the House had adopted, carried out that principle of protection to the full extent, so that there was no alteration in the principle of the Bill in this respect. Again, the noble Viscount in his Bill protected the elective franchise of the freemen to a certain point; his Amendment had extended the principle further, and protected those rights of freemen to the extent they were preserved by the Reform Act. Here, again, the principle of the Bill had not been departed from. The only remaining amendment that could be considered a substantial amendment, was that which related to the qualification for the office of Town-councillor. That qualification had been fixed by the noble Viscount at a low rate, had provided that they must be rate-payers, and have resided for three years. His amendment had carried out the feeling of the majority of the House, viz:—that they thought a higher 581 qualification was necessary, and in fixing that higher qualification they had not acted inconsistently with the original principle of the Bill. So far with the charges of the noble Duke. Now, with respect to the nature of the amendments which he was about to move. The House had now arrived at the most important Clause in the Bill—that Clause which related to the composition of the governing body of the different Corporations. It was in reference to the governing bodies that his amendments would be proposed; and first, he must inquire what was the shape of that body under this Bill. The council was to be elected by the rate-payers, and to hold their office for three years, but no qualification was required. Some qualification he thought necessary, and to that point his amendments would be directed. Let their Lordships consider in what way a body constituted as this Bill provided would act: they were to be elected by the whole body of rate-payers, and all past experience showed they would act under the control of the persons by whom they were elected. Past experience showed that they would be required to give pledges as to their course of conduct; they would be influenced by the prospect of re-election, and thus would be bound to flatter the prejudices, and pander to the passions, of those whose suffrages they again sought. The House and the country had lately seen how this system worked; they had seen that a person so appointed would act under the control and be subservient to the opinions and political views of those by whom he was returned. When he first entered into public life, he remembered the principle then acted upon with respect to the representative government of the country, and carried also into minor matters of government. It was then said, with respect to the representative government, that it had all the advantages of a democracy, while it avoided its evils: it was said, that by adopting that principle, the abuses of a democracy were got rid of, and the representative was left to exercise his own fair, impartial, and unbiassed judgment upon matters submitted to his consideration. Of that system their Lordships and the country had seen the reverse brought into practice, and the representative might now be considered as the mere agent or delegate of those who elected him. Now, when it was remembered by whom these Town-councils were to be chosen, and when the House saw the manner in which those 582 councils were to be composed, he must be excused if he recalled to their Lordships the extraordinary and extensive powers which this Bill vested in the Town-councils. In the first place, they were to have the possession and entire control of all the funds and property of the Corporation; in the next place, they were to be intrusted with the power of imposing taxation—a power far beyond that possessed by any body in this kingdom, except the two Houses of Parliament; in the third place, they were to have the entire, free, and uncontrolled patronage of the Church—a patronage extensive in many Corporations, and in Bristol alone comprising eleven or twelve churches. In addition to these powers, they were to have that of licensing public houses within their several and respective jurisdictions; they were also to have the entire control and direction of the police of their town or borough; they were also to have the extraordinary power of selecting the individuals to be presented to the Throne; to choose for magistrates within the town, for the Crown was to have the choice only of such as were nominated by the governing body of the Corporation; and, lastly, there was to be transferred to these nominees of the people, without qualification, inquiry, or security, the extensive charitable funds placed under the care and superintendance of the now existing Corporations. Such were the extraordinary and extensive powers to be invested in the body he had mentioned—a body so elected, and acting under such control, as to excite in his mind feelings of alarm for the consequences. He regretted the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Melbourne) had not laid on the Table of the House the Report to which his noble Friend (the Earl of Haddington) had adverted, because he had reason to believe, that in it would be found such proofs of the operation of this principle in Scotland, as would lead the House to pause before it gave away powers such as these to bodies so constituted. He believed it would be found, that the Commissioners entertained very great doubts as to the propriety of investing these Corporations with Ecclesiastical patronage, and with right of interference with the Universities. As the Report was not on the Table, he could not with absolute precision or certainty state fully the nature of the other objections entertained by the Commissioners. With respect to Glasgow, however, he had an account furnished by a gentleman holding such a station in that 583 city—a gentleman of observation, of experience, and of talent—as to be able to state the manner in which the system worked there, and which would put the House on its guard as to the course it should pursue in this Bill. It was material that he should refer their Lordships to some passages in this letter, which he (Lord Lyndhurst) considered important. This gentleman says, "The baneful effects of the want of such a qualification we severely feel in Glasgow, under the Scotch Burgh Reform Act, and I am anxious our case should be known to your Grace before the cities of England be subjected to a similar infliction. Under the old system our magistrates and councillors were taken from the highest class of our citizens, and uniformly were the wealthiest and most influential of our merchants and manufacturers. Under the new system, councillors have been elected who were, on oath, certified to be so poor as to be unable to contribute the smallest sum to the poor-rate; others were but lately bankrupts, and newly discharged by their creditors; and the great majority were men of neither influence nor property, distinguished in their little circles merely by the violence of their political opinions. The acts of such a council are just what might have been anticipated. Having little or no stake in the community themselves, they proceeded to deal with the burgesses' property, under their trust, in the most improper manner, employing the burgh funds in attempting to turn out the old legal and civil servants of the Corporation, who held their offices 'ad vitam aut culpam,' and to put in creatures of their own—in attempting to exclude the Established Clergy from their share in the management of the greatest of our city charities, which they derived from the will of the founder, and which they had exercised for 190 years. These, and an endless catalogue of mischievous measures have been the consequence of the inexperience and ignorance of our councillors; and the respectable part of the council are so dissatisfied with the conduct of the majority, that they seldom can be brought to take a share in their proceedings, and there is every prospect of the councils falling into utter contempt. The burgh funds have suffered severe dilapidations under their management, and they talk of resorting to a poll-tax to replace what they have dissipated. Under the management of the old council, for several years back, the published balance-sheet exhibited a surplus 584 revenue." It would not be convenient that he should state the name of the writer, but he had no objection to communicate it to his noble and learned Friend opposite. Now, the question was, did their Lordships think that the Town-council would be so constituted under this Bill as it now stood, that it might be safely trusted with the exercise of those extensive powers with which they would be intrusted under this Bill? In his opinion they required some steadiness in that body. They required something in its composition to guard against that unsteady influence which from time to time would be exercised by the popular party in the renewal of parts of the council. But how was this to be effected? He thought it could be by having a certain portion of the Corporation not subject to re-election every three years, but to hold their appointment for life. His proposition would be, that the proportion so exempt from election should amount to one-fourth of the whole of the Town-council. Now, in this he followed the example of some of the best Corporations in the country; he followed, also, that ideal model for which some contended, who asserted that the ancient practice of our Corporations was that the election of its members should be an open one, and that many of them should hold their appointments for life. He followed, also, the example of the Corporation of London, which had its common-council annually elected, but its aldermen elected for life; but he was also following the precedent set in a Bill which had received the sanction of his noble and learned Friend and of the noble Viscount. He flattered himself that on this occasion he should have the support and protection of his noble and learned Friend. [Lord Brougham: "No."] He was very sorry to hear this sudden denial of support from his noble and learned Friend, and that, too, before he stated the reasons on which he had founded his hope that he should receive that support. The ground on which he had flattered himself that he should have the support of the noble Viscount was this—that in the Bill to which he had alluded, his noble and learned Friend had a provision to this effect, that each Corporation should elect in each ward one freeman who was to be an alderman, and who should hold his office for life. Another Clause of that Bill which he was disposed to follow was, that the mayor and aldermen of such Corporations should be members of the common-council in virtue of their 585 office, notwithstanding anything which had been said in the previous Clauses of the Bill, as one-third of the council going out every three years. In this he quoted the exact words of his noble and learned Friend's Bill. That Bill, it was unnecessary to say, was that measure by which it was proposed to give Municipal Charters to certain towns and newly-created boroughs. It was a measure drawn up with great attention, and had undergone the careful revision of a noble Lord, then the leader of the other House of Parliament. It had received the full approbation of the then Government, and he had never heard that his noble and learned Friend had ever said a word against the principle of that part of the Bill. He himself could not speak on the subject from his own recollection, for he was not present, but he had searched that mirror in which the past proceedings of the House were reflected, and he could not find any record or mention of any such objection having been made by his noble and learned Friend. He had also consulted a noble Lord who had good opportunities of knowing, and on whose excellent memory he could rely, and he could not find out that his noble and learned Friend had ever expressed any dissatisfaction at the principle of having a portion of the Corporation—namely, the aldermen—to hold their offices for life. On the contrary, he found that his noble and learned Friend praised the mode of electing aldermen as proposed in his Bill, to that which was adopted in the Corporation of London. He could not but admire the prudence of the course adopted by his noble and learned Friend with respect to that Measure: it was a Measure which went to create Corporations, but it had not to deal with existing interests. It did not interfere with vested rights or ancient privileges, it was not mixed up with complicated questions, and yet his noble and learned Friend, with a prudence which did him credit, was anxious that it should not be hurried through Parliament; and, having laid it on their Lordships' Table, he proposed that it should stand over for another Session. Contrasting that course with the railway speed with which it was attempted to urge the present Measure forward, he must call the latter most exceptionable, unwise, and injudicious. Now, what he proposed was, that three-fourths of the Town-council should consist of those already named in the Bill, and be elected in the manner there stated; but, that the remaining fourth, 586 having the title of "capital burgesses" or "aldermen," [several noble Lords called out "Aldermen,"] should be elected, and once elected should continue to hold their offices for life. Their Lordships might ask whom did he propose to fill the place of aldermen, and he had no hesitation in saying, that he thought it but an act of justice that the offices should be continued to those who now held them. They held their offices by ancient charters; they had long been connected with the administration of property to a large amount. There was no law in the country could deprive them of those appointments, except they forfeited, them by misconduct. It was a principle of our constitution that "no man shall be dispossessed of his freehold except by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land." What! the noble Viscount had abandoned that part of the Preamble which cast an imputation on the Corporations. Where, then, was the charge against them? Was it in the Report of the Commissioners? That Report had been answered by evidence at the Bar in thirty cases which had been gone into. Here, then, were men against whom no charge was proved. On what principle ought they to be deprived of their chartered rights and franchises? He was sure their Lordships would never sanction such injustice. There would be no difficulty in the plan he proposed. It was the common practice when the Crown granted a charter to a Municipal Corporation, that the first aldermen should be named in it as a matter of grace and favour In the present case, if the numbers marked in the Bill as the town-council should correspond with the present numbers in Corporations, there the number of aldermen might be allowed to remain if they formed only one-fourth of the whole; but if they exceeded that number, they might be reduced; or if they were below it, the number could be easily increased. He had thus opened the nature of his Amendment, but he would defer putting it in the exact words until he came to the Clause at which it was to be inserted.
agreed with his noble Friend, that the particular form of words—the shape of the proposition, which brought them to discuss the vote upon this question, was a matter of mighty little importance, because the question itself in its substance, in the aspect with which it saluted the friends of the Bill, in its bearing upon the whole of the measure—in its tendency to the success, and to the working of this Bill, 587 appeared to him to be of unspeakable importance. He did not think it was possible by any language to exaggerate the effects of this alteration. Well might his noble and learned Friend preface his observations in answer to the remarks of the noble Duke behind him, by stating that hitherto the alterations he had introduced had made no inroad upon the principle of the Bill. Inroads, like everything else, were comparative, and that which brought the invader three days' march within the frontiers of the invaded country, was no inroad at all compared with that which brought his force into the heart of the country, and gave him possession of the capital, and of the citadel itself. He called those former Amendments inroads the other night, because they infringed upon the integrity of the measure—because they no longer left the measure pure, free, and in its original aspect. He called them inroads, as he should speak of a three-days' march of an enemy within the territories of the country. To that extent, he should say, that that country was not free; and he should call upon it to arouse its energies, for the purpose of expelling the invader. But if afterwards, in its progress, that invading force should have devastated and depopulated the land, and have planted its standard in the very heart of the capital itself, he should then look back at the three days' march as no inroad at all, and should wish to heaven that that was the only calamity that had befallen the country. So now, notwithstanding the feelings he had experienced on the Amendments introduced last Thursday and Friday—notwithstanding the pangs he felt at seeing this measure shorn of its fair proportions—notwithstanding those alterations which they had been told was only the working out of the principles of this Bill—especially the introduction of that notable Amendment which was then introduced, for the first time, in the legislative history of this country—the principle, that not only was wealth the measure and standard of a man's qualification to do anything, but that unless he was not only rich, but of the richest class—not only possessed of a minimum of wealth, but of a maximum—unless he belonged to the best, to the richest, to the aristocratic, to the oligarchical class of the Corporation—he should not be eligible to manage any of the affairs of his fellow-citizens! This, too, was called only working out a little further the qualification which the Bill of his noble Friend (Viscount Melbourne) proposed, namely—that persons paying threepence 588 or sixpence towards the poor-rates should be qualified to act as burgesses. He presumed that few persons who regarded the original qualification in the Bill were quite prepared to see this other qualification grafted upon it; and which had grafted at the same time, he would venture to say, one of the most poisonous, one of the most alien, one of the most hostile, one of the most inevitable and irreconcileable blemishes upon the tree of the British Constitution. But, bad as that was—bad as he thought it as an inroad upon this measure, yet now, after having heard his noble and learned Friend's present proposition, he looked back upon that inroad with a sort of envy and regret—a regret that the time of Thursday and Friday, when that was the only alteration and mutilation of the Bill, should have been lost in discussing it. "Do not let us shut our eyes to the fact, or disguise it from ourselves," said the noble and learned Lord—the Bill is gone [loud cheers]—the Bill is gone if this principle is introduced." I know your Lordships will say, "So much the better."—[Not at art.]—Not at all! Perhaps not at all to my noble Friend; but, my noble Friend, are not all your Lordships on the other side. There are other noble Lords to whom, peradventure I might have referred myself. I believe that a considerable majority of your Lordships will be prepared to answer—"So much the better that the Bill should be lost;" for when so many of you entered into the Committee of this Bill, with an avowed, a recognised, and openly pronounced hostility to its principle, and when 1 know that others of you were with the utmost difficulty restrained from throwing it out on the second reading altogether, God wot we had little to expect from going into this Committee, except that of a slower death, and after the endurance of extensive mutilation. For after the lopping off first a twig, in order to try the operation, then a branch, to see how it would take elsewhere, you next severed the bough, and then you attacked the trunk of the tree itself; while now, to-night, my learned Friend comes and lays the axe at the root." The noble and learned Lord proceeded to say, that their Lorships had fulfilled all the worst anticipations he had formed. Their Lordships would recollect, that on the motion for going into Committee, he stated that he saw no good to result from it; and that the only question was between those who voted conscientiously and openly against the Bill—like the noble Duke (Newcastle), who, in his straightforward course, was for 589 throwing it out at once—and those who adopted another course not so intelligible, and he must say a more tortuous one—that of going into Committee to consider the details, when they were against the whole and every part of the measure. He thought, therefore, he had a right to say, that his anticipations were not chimerical, or altogether groundless. But now it was his duty, painful as was the task, and hopeless as it was likely to be, but which he undertook for the sake of discharging his conscience, and his duty to the country, to enter a little into the arguments, and advert to the various constitutional points which his noble and learned Friend had advanced. His noble and learned Friend had gone back to the very origin of a representative Government. He had carried them back to the period of the French Revolution—a period which he appeared to love to dwell upon, as being the one when he entered into political life, as all men liked to look back upon their earlier days. He (Lord Brougham) would not go so far back, but he thought he could go quite far enough to meet the argument of his noble and learned Friend. His noble and learned Friend had said, that the great evil of the democratic branch of the Constitution was its fluctuating nature, its love of injustice, or at least that proneness to injustice which it was said to be disposed towards; and it was imagined that these defects of the democratic branch were to be remedied by way of counter-agents, existing in the representative principle; but that the representative principle was only carried out upon the ground of him that was chosen by anybody being held to be—holding himself to be—and demeaning himself as if he really felt he was—not the deputy acting under the instructions of his constituents, but the party chosen to consult for the good of the whole, and exercising therein a free, independent, and unbiassed judgment. Having stated what he thought to be the representative principle, his noble and learned Friend went on to say that that principle, in these our times, had suffered a complete change, for that the representatives now no longer held themselves to be at liberty to exercise their own free and unfettered judgments, but that they all acted under pledges, and were fettered by the instructions of their constituents. "I am yet to learn (said Lord Brougham) that that is now the duty of a representative. I have yet to learn that that is held by the representatives of the present day to be their duty. I know, 590 on the contrary, that the Members of the other House of Parliament who, I suppose, will be admitted to be the representatives of the people in a certain sense, though not in the sense in which my noble and learned Friend regarded the rotten borough Parliaments of 1788, 1789, and 1790, when the Members were the representatives either of the borough patrons or the borough Corporations, or the money paid by the Members themselves; but I say I know that the Members of the present House of Commons act upon a very different principle from that described by my noble and learned Friend. You may here and there find instances of men pledging themselves, and refusing to exercise that liberty which a representative, in order to do his duty faithfully or honourably to himself, or usefully to his country, must exercise. I give that as my opinion. I have always held that opinion. A near connection of mine sacrificed his seat in Parliament because he would not submit to pledges, nor submit to be fettered in the free exercise of his judgment; and yet that individual to whom I am adverting, so far from differing from his former constituents, agreed with them on every important political question on which he could possibly be called upon to give a pledge." He maintained that the instances in which pledges had been tendered and agreed to, formed the exception, and not the rule. He rejected, therefore, at once, entirely, and without qualification, the proposition that the representatives of the people in Parliament, under the Reform Bill, had changed their character or lowered their tone. Before he left this part of the subject, there were one or two other observations he wished to make. According to his noble and learned Friend, the fetters now imposed upon Members of Parliament, in the shape of pledges to their constituents, were a novel invention, until this time wholly unheard of and unknown. Before the year 1882 there was no such thing as a pledge, no such thing as a fetter imposed upon the free will of the representative—the House of Commons was composed of nothing but honest, upright, intelligent, statesmanlike men—men freely elected, freely executing the mission for which they were sent to Parliament, who regarded nothing but the common weal, were careful of nothing but the common interest, and represented not the noble Duke, or Earl, or Baron, who gave them their seats, but the interests of England at large. There was no understanding between the nominee and the representative, as to 591 the votes that were to be given on certain questions—no little carving out from the wide realm of senatorial liberty, some small corners on which the nominee was not to set his unhallowed foot—no little piece of ground over which the sole of his foot was never to pass—above all, there was no such thing as a representative, who was told how he was to vote, not on one occasion, or on two occasions, but on all great questions for a whole Session—no such thing as a man going to a certain house day by day to be told how he was to vote, under penalty of being compelled to accept the not very enviable, and seldom sought for office of steward of the Chiltern Hundreds—no such things as these were ever heard of before 1832, that fatal year of Reform, which forged the chains of the representative body, abolished their discretion, left them no longer to exercise the uncontrolled power of consulting the public good, but bound everlastingly to the will of somewhere about 300,000 constituents, a body of men who never in the history of Parliament had been bound before, except by their own notions of what was right and proper for the general welfare. Before that fatal period there was no such thing as a Peer returning eleven or twelve Members to the House of Commons, and never for a moment trusting them out of his sight;—he, being jealous and capricious in his own proper nature, and a great martinet in the evolutions he made his men perform—not trusting them for half an hour together, but regularly taking his place under the gallery of the House of Commons—directing them according to the course the Debate might take, to make now a flank movement to the left— anon, an echallon movement in the opposite direction—half to go one way, half another way; and finally, perhaps, both halves to leave the House altogether, and, in the emphatic phrase of those times, to go down in a body to shoot larks at Dunstable. "I say this," said the noble and learned Lord, turning round, "with the greatest respect to my noble Friend (the Duke of Cleveland) who sits behind me. Ah, now you think you have got the best jest of the evening—you think it is my noble friend I have all along been alluding to. But you are mistaken: I was not alluding to my noble Friend; but to one widely differing from him—a noble predecessor of his, it is true, but one with whom my noble Friend has no two characteristics in common." The noble and learned 592 Lord proceeded to observe, that it was a little too much then for his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) to refer to the year 1832, as the period at which this total change in the feelings and conduct of the representatives had been introduced—as if no such thing as a bond or fetter had ever been imposed upon them before. He entirely agreed with his noble and learned Friend, as to what the duties of a representative were, and he believed those duties were as well, as honestly, and as honourably performed now, that the Members of the House of Commons had thousands of constituents to represent, as they were when they were sent up as the nominees of the old proprietors of boroughs. Yet the whole of his noble and learned Friend's proposition was grounded on the assumption that men popularly elected were the mere puppets or tools of those who choose them, and not the real representatives of the interests of the country. That was the only ground on which his noble and learned Friend rested his proposition; and it was because he (Lord Brougham) thought it unfounded in fact, because he thought, that the popularly elected, might safely be trusted to represent the interests of those who chose them, that he should give to that proposition his decided and most unqualified, opposition. If, indeed, his noble and learned Friend's proposition were once admitted, it would go at once to abolish the representative principle in the other House of Parliament. He could not conceive an argument which applied to the election of Representatives of Municipal interests, which would not with the same force be applicable to the election of the Representatives who sat in Parliament. He was satisfied, that the people of this country might safely be trusted with the management of their own affairs. If he thought otherwise, he would never, for one moment, stand forward as the advocate of such a measure as that they had then before them. His noble and learned Friend, alluding to a Bill which he had introduced into that House two years ago, and in which it was proposed that men once chosen Aldermen should be Aldermen for life, expressed great surprise and astonishment to find that he (Lord Brougham) would not on this occasion come forward to second his proposition for making at least a portion of the Town Council Town councillors for life. In the first place his noble and learned Friend should recollect, that there 593 was a wide difference between the functions to be performed by Town-councillors, and those to be performed by-Aldermen. Town-councillors were chosen simply to defend the interests of the borough, and to watch over the expenditure of the borough funds. Aldermen, on the other hand, were not the taxers—not the guardians of the common purse, but were filling a judicial situation, and assisting in the administration of justice. Because the Alderman was elected for life, therefore, it by no means followed, that the Town Councillor should hold the office for the like period. But his noble and learned Friend had no right to endeavour to bind him to the letter of the Bill of 1833, because that measure was, in fact, nothing more than a sketch. It was not brought forward as a perfect measure, but merely as a skeleton, which should lie on the Table of the House until further inquiry and greater experience should teach them how, in the best manner, to fill up its different parts. He was pledged to nothing that that Bill contained. But, even supposing that he had expressly declared at the time, that such or such a provision was necessary, if, subsequently, a more minute examination of the subject taught him to believe, that his former opinion was erroneous, he would rather (though even at the eleventh hour) do what he conceived to be right, and let fools say, "why do you so?" than obstinately adhere to an opinion which he found to he wrong, and induce wise men to pity him. In the next place his noble and learned Friend stated, that the Scotch Commissioners, after instituting an inquiry into the subject, found that the Scotch Corporation Reform Bill did not work well. This his noble and learned Friend asserted upon the strength of a letter he had received from a high authority in that part of the country; but surely his noble and learned Friend must have forgotten that a petition in favour of the Bill, signed by 30,000 persons, had been sent up from Glasgow. He would place that petition against the letter alluded to by his noble and learned Friend. Besides he (Lord Brougham) had had a very extensive communication with Scotland upon the subject, and up to this moment he had never heard one syllable or whisper of complaint against the measure. With respect to the exercise of Church patronage, he must say, that he thought his noble and learned Friend's fears upon that point were wholly ground- 594 less. How was that patronage to be exercised, except by the governing body of the Corporations, and who would say, that a governing body, freely elected, would not exercise it as honestly and properly as those which were self-elected? With respect to the administration of the funds of charitable estates, he was disposed to admit, that when the governing body was popularly chosen, and no check imposed on the qualification of the constituency, there might be a reason for having an effective check; and he had no objecttion, that a control should be provided much more effectual than that which the Court of Chancery at present provided. As to the general proposition of his noble and learned Friend, that one-fourth of the representative body should be chosen for life, he must say, that he could not command language strong enough to express, not only his opposition, but his utter aversion and disgust of it. If it were once acceded to, it would open the door to all the worst evils of the existing system. He looked upon this Bill as in their Lordships' hands for its salvation or destruction. By the alterations already made, it was all but destroyed. The Amendment before their Lordships, if carried, would, he feared, be utterly fatal to the measure. He regarded the Amendment itself as utterly inconsistent with the principle of the measure into which it was proposed to introduce it, and tending in practice to render it nugatory. By foisting in Aldermen for life, the self-elective principle completely overlaid every other, and was calculated in the working of the measure, and in the fulness of time to restore every borough to its state of pristine rottenness. The vigour and purity of principle which, in other respects, would be introduced into the government of Corporations by the measure, would be paralysed by the baneful self-elective provision. If their Lordships should adopt the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend, they would send forth a mockery, a mere shadow under the pretence of the substance of Reformation, tainting the whole mass with rottenness, and disappointing, wofully disappointing, the universal, the sanguine, the ardent, and unquestionably the just expectations of the people of England.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
expressed the greatest surprise that so little of argument had been brought to bear in opposition to the amendment; but that surprise underwent considerable abatement when he recollected that the noble and. learned Lord was him- 595 self the author of a bill which contained a provision similar to that of which he was now so strenuous an opponent. True it was, that not very long since, the noble and learned Lord had said, that he greatly doubted at the time the expediency of introducing that provision. But it was somewhat remarkable, on referring to the reported proceedings of what took place in reference to that Bill, that the noble and learned Lord was found to say that it had been carefully and maturely considered by all his colleagues, and had obtained their full and unanimous concurrence. If he looked through the whole of the Report of the Commissioners, he could not find a single recommendation to sanction the length to which the Clause went; and the more he considered the leading features of the measure, the more he felt convinced that it went beyond the recommendation of the Report. The more he considered the vast power which the council would have, the more he felt the necessity for some such enactment as that which the Amendment would introduce. The more he considered the democratic influence which the Bill would increase. The more was it apparent to him that some of the council ought, by some life appointments, to be rendered independent of the people. The House of Commons was subject to the check of the House of Lords, and also to that of the Crown, but was the Town-Council of a borough to be subject to no sort of check whatever? To him it appeared that the apprehensions of this change rendering the borough close was perfectly idle; one-third of the council would go out annually, and that, he had no difficulty in saying, would prove an abundant protection against any abuse of the power with which they might be invested. He totally differed from the noble and learned Lord as to the amendment being inconsistent with the spirit of the measure; for it was his full conviction that it would tend to make the Bill work well, and he hoped it might be adopted, if it were only for the sake of forming an exception to the general character of recent measures which, for the most part, sacrificed one class or other with the vain hope of giving satisfaction to those whom nothing could satisfy. Their Lordships, he trusted, would not lose sight of this consideration, that those common councils in their present form, or rather that which was proposed under the Bill, would be used as political engines; their petitions to 596 either House of Parliament would, by all persons whose views they supported, be treated as expressing the sentiments of the inhabitants of that town to which they belonged, and thus a novel and hitherto unknown power would be brought to work in the British constitution. In supporting the Amendment, he begged it to be understood that they, on that side of the House, were by no means unwilling to concede the principle of the Bill—they not only conceded that principle, but were ready to admit that the time had arrived when popular opinion ought to acquire increased weight in all municipal corporations, but at the same time their Lordships ought on no account to neglect supporting the Amendment then under consideration for it was most important that they should make provision to guard the representative body in corporations from that complete dependence upon the constituency to which they would otherwise be reduced. He confessed he felt the more anxious with respect to the Amendment when he remembered the degree in which its adoption or rejection might affect the principle of aristocracy throughout the kingdom, for if it were determined that a body of aldermen or life members were unnecessary to a corporation, hereditary members in the House of Lords would be deemed equally unnecessary. The Clause as it stood went to the root of aristocracy, and went to the destruction of all that hitherto formed a check upon the democratical principle. For these reasons, he should support the Amendment, desiring that some portion of the council should be elected for life, and he conceived that the existing state of several corporations afforded facilities for this, when he recollected that many of the members were under the old charters appointed for life, and those might therefore be conveniently permitted to remain, unless it could be shown, which he did not at all anticipate, that their continuance could operate disadvantageously to the fair and reasonable claims of the popular interest.
declared that he and his noble Friends near him were most anxious that a Bill of some description or another should pass to amend the present state of Corporations in all great towns. He found no fault with the governing bodies in the Corporations generally, but there existed defects in many of the charters, and that there existed a defect in the Royal power to amend by means of charters those evils which had unfortunately supervened in 597 many boroughs; it, therefore, he thought, became necessary to pass an Act of Parliament which should give a good and quiet government to all large towns, and he was sure the noble Viscount, whatever might be the wishes of some of his supporters, had no other object than to give a quiet and peaceable and tranquil government to every borough in the kingdom. The same, then, was the object aimed at by the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend. There were 185 boroughs to which it was proposed to give the benefits of a new system; he was himself by no means a believer in all those strong, and, as he considered them, exaggerated representations respecting excitement out of doors, with which the deliberations of Parliament had been attempted to be influenced; but there was no denying this—that the introduction of a system so entirely new could not fail to be attended, however cautiously managed, with some degree of popular excitement, and the necessary consequence must be, that a different class of persons would be returned to the Common Council from those whose elections might be anticipated in ordinary and more tranquil circumstances; the House would therefore see the necessity, during the earlier operation of the Measure, to introduce into the Common Councils of the several boroughs some members elected for life, in order to counteract the turbulence possibly inseparable from the mere novelty of the system which they had called into existence. In dealing with a measure like that, their Lordships should remember that those who composed the old Corporations had not been proved to be guilty; that the chief fault of the governing body was, that they had not been elected by the people; that if they had been so elected, there was no doubt that they would conduct the affairs of those boroughs with great effect, and with great satisfaction to the public. It was also extremely probable—nay, almost certain, if the people were called upon to exercise their unbiassed choice, free from the influence of that excitement to which he had just been alluding, they would elect those very men who were now in possession of Corporate power, for the would in most cases, where not unduly influenced, select persons of property and character. It followed thence that the Legislature now declaring that there ought to be some life members taken from amongst the old governing body was only doing that which the people would be disposed to do for 598 themselves if left to the calm and deliberate exercise of an unbiassed choice. Let Parliament then do nothing to humiliate any set of men unnecessarily, but rather endeavour to do that which should have the effect of inducing all classes to co-operate in obtaining for all great towns the benefit of a happy and social system of Municipal government. Looking, as they and his Majesty's Ministers ought, to the permanent and not the temporary effect of such a measure, he conjured them to give to the Amendment their most serious and most favourable consideration.
§ Viscount Melbourne
began by observing, that his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had so ably and so fully discussed the subject under consideration, that he (Lord Melbourne) had but little left to say upon it. After the fullest consideration that he could give to the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, he was bound to declare that he could not regard it but as seriously injurious, if not entirely fatal, to the Bill. The Amendment would divest it of that character of popularity which was its best recommendation to the country. It was calculated to impede the march of the Measure, and clog every object which the framers of it had in view. What these objects were had been already well described to their Lordships, and also the manner in which they would be interfered with by the anomalous provision which it was the purport of the noble and learned Lord's Amendment to introduce. He could not help remarking that there was a singular discrepancy between the arguments of the two noble Lords who had last spoken, and the noble and learned Lord who was the author of the Amendment. The noble and learned Lord had spoken in a spirit of the utmost hostility against the Bill, describing in the most glowing colours the degradation of all those principles of the representative system which were most cherished in the days of his youth in favour of more democratic and dangerous sentiments, treating the Bill before their Lordships as the offspring of the change. The whole force of his argument lay in pointing out the dangers of the times at which they had arrived, when it became necessary to give way to the prejudices and submit to the wildest fancies and caprices of the governed. The present Bill he professed to regard as an emanation from this altered spirit of the times. The hostility of the noble and learned Lord to the Bill, and to all the principles upon which it was founded, was conspicuous in 599 every argument and sentiment of his speech. He stigmatized the Measure as one brought forward with the most reckless haste, crude, and inconsiderate in its provisions. Now, if the noble and learned Lord believed all this of the Measure, he ought to have moved its rejection altogether. Other noble Lords, however, and especially the two who had just spoken, although, supporting the Amendment, were clearly sensible of the necessity of passing some such a measure as the present. But if they were sincere in their advocacy of the Measure, how came it that all the Amendments upon the Bill were drawn up by the unfriendly hand of the noble and learned Lord? The noble and learned Lord's Amendments of course went to the root and foundation of the Measure. The Bill itself proposed that the governing bodies should be purely elective. The Amendment proposed the introduction of a certain number of members for life. Was not this a complete anomaly? History, he knew, would furnish a precedent for almost everything; but for such a proposition it offered no example.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
observed that the Corporation of the City of London was a case in point: the Aldermen were elected for life, the Common Councilmen were not.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council were separate courts; his observation applied to the proposal to constitute one body—partly of annually elective, and partly of members for life. The effect of maintaining the existing Aldermen must be to stamp the new system with the unpopularity of the old. Considering that they were making a great change in the Municipal government of all these towns—it did not appear to him, undoubtedly, any injustice to remove these persons from the situations they occupied at present, to which situations, in all probability, if they deserved it, they would be again elected. At the same time he thought that they would deprive the Bill of a great portion of its advantage and its grace, if they forced upon these towns reluctantly, and by force of law. individuals whom they would not otherwise have chosen. For these reasons he should oppose the Amendments of the noble and learned Lord.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that the noble Viscount was much mistaken if he supposed that there was a difference of opinion on these Amendments between the noble Lords on his side of the House and his noble Friend by whom they were proposed. His noble and learned Friend 600 brought them forward as an able and experienced member of the learned profession—as a person distinguished for his eloquence, and, therefore, most fit to propose these Amendments, and to induce their Lordships to adopt them. But it was an error to suppose that there existed any difference of opinion between them upon these points. He must say that it would have been most desirable had Government proposed a measure of Corporate reform upon a different principle and with provisions different from the present. He admitted that reform in their Municipal institutions had become necessary. He had anxiously reflected upon the subject, and the conclusion to which he had come was, that it would be impossible to provide such a Bill as would include every reform that might be desirable. The noble Viscount referred to the constitution of the House of Commons, but in point of fact the councils under this Bill were more democratical than any other assembly known to the country, for they were put in possession of all the patronage, and had the disposal of all the revenues of the Corporations. The members of the Council, under such circumstances, and with such inducements, must naturally feel a desire to be re-elected; and what must be the natural consequence? Why, that they would be induced to use their patronage to that end. It was true their period of action was short; but their power, within its limited time of action, was greater than that of any other assembly in the world. In the first place they might declare acts to be nuisances and offences, though they were not so by the law of the land; they might impose rates to any amount, and incur any expense they pleased, provided they considered it of benefit to the Corporation. There were bodies now acting in various trusts, but in every one of them there was some limitation to the sums to be raised. Here there was no limitation, the only provision being that the sum to be raised should be for the uses of the borough. It was said that the provision now proposed, which allowed some Corporate officers to retain their situations for life, would take away the grace of the Act. There was, however, the Corporation of London, and other Corporations, in which there was a body—the Aldermen—who retained their situations for life. There was an instance of this kind in that very House of Parliament. Their Lordships must recollect that they had to provide, in a measure of this kind, not only for the liberties and for the 601 good government of the people, but there was in many cases large property to be administered. To qualify the Members of Council for such administration, they ought to have property themselves, they ought to be men from whose education and station in life a proper and judicious administration was most naturally to be expected. He was disposed to go further, but it was impossible to do so from the principle of the Bill. There were some Corporations in which there were duties that must be performed by the Mayor, one instance of which came under his own notice. There were trusts in the town of Oxford to which the Mayor of the town must make the appointment. The Mayor and Aldermen of Coventry had the disposal of certain property to which, in point of fact, they had as much right as he had to his. How were they to be dispossessed? He did not see how it was possible to pass over the claims of those Aldermen who held for life. He was desirous to make the Bill as perfect as possible, consistently with justice.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, in explanation, that the Council of London were elected from year to year, but the Aldermen, who constituted part of it, were for life. So much were they a part of it, that the Council could not proceed to business unless the Lord Mayor and two Aldermen were present.
§ Their Lordships divided on the Amendment. Contents 126, Not-contents, 39; Majority 87.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The other Clauses up to the 34th were agreed to, and the House resumed. Committee to sit again.
|List of the NOT CONTENTS,|
|Who voted against the Amendment of Lord Lyndhurst.|
|Conyngham||Howard of Effingham|
|Brougham and Vaux||Teynham|
|Torrington||Bishop of Chichester|
|Saye and Sele||Bishop of Hereford|
|Ducie||Bishop of Bristol|