§ Lord Wharncliffe
having presented two petitions from the city of Rochester, relative to the recent appointment of Magistrates there, said he should at once move the Order of the Day, of which he had previously given notice, relative to the appointment of Magistrates in boroughs under the Municipal Corporation Act. He should have to bring before their Lordships certain circumstances with respect to the conduct that had been pursued in several boroughs in the election of Magistrates under the Act of Parliament which had been recently passed; and it was his intention, before he sat down, to move for certain returns that would tend to throw a considerable light on this subject. He was aware that, in making this motion, it was his duty, as it would be the duty of any other noble Lord who undertook the task, to adduce proper reasons in support of it. He should, therefore, in the first place, remind their Lordships of all that had passed in that House during the debate on the Municipal Corporation Bill. They had been told that that Bill would introduce a new era—that corporate funds would be fairly dealt with—that the administration of justice would be more pure and perfect—and that party and political feeling would no longer be the sole passport to municipal office. They now had popular election; but it appeared to him that the evils which had been complained of under the old system were not removed. He confessed that he had always thought that the accusations against the old boroughs were considerably exaggerated; at the same time he admitted that it was necessary to reform those institutions generally. He did not think that they were calculated to carry on the municipal government as it ought to be carried on, and therefore he felt that it was necessary that they should be reformed. He believed that his noble Friend behind him (the Duke of Wellington), and many individuals in another place, who had paid attention to this subject, and who endeavoured to improve the Bill, acted on the purest principle, without any factions or party view. They had stated that it was necessary that a reform should be effected, but they wished it to be a wise and a temperate reform. They wished that all undue influence should be removed from elections in corporate bodies, that the people should have a fair share in those elections, and 728 they had strongly urged this point, that while reforming the existing system care should be taken that the reform was real, and was not a mere change of power from one political party to another. He should, he conceived, be able to prove to their Lordships that, instead of the Bill having been productive of all the benefits which it had been confidently predicted would flow from it—instead of excluding the operation of party and political feeling, the fact was directly the other way. He should call the attention of their Lordships to the immediate operation of the Act; and it certainly appeared to him, that not alone in the choice of town-councillors, but even, still more, in the choice of Magistrates, the principle of exclusion was decidedly acted on. The change was merely a change of party—the principle of exclusion had been preserved. In order to come to a right understanding upon this point, it was necessary to look at the situation of corporations before the new Act was passed. Undoubtedly, at that time, the magistrates and town-councils were almost all self-elected—were almost all of a certain way of thinking. They elected upon the principle of exclusion; which, previously to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and more especially previously to the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, was strictly adhered to. Now, it certainly was not unnatural that the principle of not admitting Dissenters and Roman Catholics into corporations should have prevailed, looking to the circumstances of the times, because, in fact, before the repeal of the laws to which he had adverted, they could not legally be admitted, But he would fairly confess that he felt that the principle of exclusion was one which ought not, and could not be continued; and he had, from that feeling, told many members of corporations, that if they persisted in that system of exclusion, they would force upon the Crown and upon Parliament the necessity of interfering to effect an alteration in the system. Such a sentiment was entertained generally, and in consequence Government introduced the Municipal Corporation Bill. When that Bill came up from the House of Commons it was the duty of their Lordships to see whether its provisions were likely to insure all the purposes for effecting which the measure was proposed. The first thing which naturally struck them was, to take special care as to the manner in which the town-councillors should be appointed; and 729 next, to separate that which had reference to the administration of justice from the other parts of the Bill. The measure, as it came to that House, gave the town-councils the power of nominating justices, leaving a veto only to the Crown. Their Lordships had prudently altered that clause, so as to take the nomination entirely out of the hands of the town-council. That alteration, it appeared to him at the time, was likely to insure the efficiency of this part of the Bill; but he regretted exceedingly that circumstances had since occurred which showed how that provision might be evaded. The bill, amended by their Lordships was afterwards sent down to the House of Commons, and they all knew that this particular amendment of their Lordships was at first rejected, and that the Commons insisted upon retaining the original clause. When the Bill was again returned, their Lordships most wisely and prudently insisted upon their amendment; and he undoubtedly had read with great surprise that, in the course of the debate which took place in the House of Commons, after the Bill had been sent down a second time, on that occasion the noble Secretary of State for the Home Department—the leader of the House of Commons—had stood up in his place, and (not using these very words, but words to the same effect) had stated—"that it did not much matter what their Lordships had done in this case; for, so long as he and his colleagues remained in office, the opinion of the town-councils would have the greatest weight with them." It appeared to him that a Minister of State who, after a Bill had passed their Lordships' House, would thus stand up in his place, and tell the people of England, "it is true the Parliament have agreed to such a clause, but I will show you how it shall be evaded," acted in a most unjustifiable manner. It appeared to him, he repeated, to be one of the most unjustifiable declarations that could possibly be made. In this state the bill had passed—such was the law; and that being the case the next question was, how had it operated. The election of town-councillors turned out just as he expected that it would. The great body of the voters, in many boroughs, had got rid of the old town-councillors, who were all of a particular class of politics—a result which, from the beginning, he expected. There was no doubt that it was quite natural for those who had been so long excluded from power to take this step. He, however, 730 confessed to their Lordships (and he did not doubt that such would be the fact) that, in spite of any improper elections that had been made, he did hope, that in the end the result of this Bill would be a fair representation of all parties; and, therefore, he would say no more upon the subject of elections. He was, however, compelled to refer to the proceedings of the town-councils. Those proceedings showed most clearly that of all people in the world, those bodies were the very last to whom the Secretary of State should have applied for information with reference to those whom they conceived to be fit to act as magistrates. They had, it should be observed, just achieved a victory—they were flushed with triumph, and it was at that moment of heat and excitation that the noble Secretary called upon them for advice. The result was, as might be expected, that the lists for the magistracy sent up by the town-councils consisted entirely of men of one set of opinions in politics. In some instances there might be found one, two, three, or four persons of Conservative opinions returned, but somehow or other it always happened that they were rejected. On the other hand, there were some boroughs where the majority of the town-council had been returned, of Conservative opinions, and, to their honour, the lists of magistrates sent up by them were distinguished by a very liberal spirit. He would first instance the borough of Southampton. The majority of the town-council there was Conservative; yet, to their credit, they sent up a list of ten persons as fit for magistrates, five of each party. In a letter addressed to him, five were described as Conservatives and five who were sometimes called Conservative Whigs, sometimes Whigs, sometimes Whig Radicals, and sometimes plain Radicals. Some of these terms he certainly did not understand. Between the Whig Radical and the Radical being the extreme of the party, he undoubtedly could perceive no difference, and unquestionably he knew not how the Whig and the Radical could ever have come to a point of conjunction. The next borough to which he would refer was that of Guildford. There also the majority of the town-council was Conservative. They returned a list of twelve names, of which nine were Conservatives and three were Liberals. He would next go to Bristol, where there was a very considerable majority of Conservatives, and they sent up a list consisting of twelve 731 Conservatives and twelve Whigs. Exeter was mainly Conservative, yet they had returned eight Conservatives and four Whigs. Again, at Ilchester, the great majority of the town-council was Conservative, yet their list of magistrates comprised individuals of both parties. He ought to observe to their Lordships, that no sooner were the elections over than a circular was issued from the Secretary of State's Office, calling upon the different town-councils to send up a list of the individuals elected, and pointing out those whom they recommended to be appointed magistrates. The first upon the list was Norwich, where twelve Conservatives had been elected to seventeen Liberals. Next came Yarmouth, which had placed on the town-council seventeen Liberals and three Conservatives. The town-council of Warwick was placed precisely in the same situation. They had elected twenty persons, of whom twelve were stated to be Whigs, one doubtful, and seven Tories, and what appeared to be very extraordinary was, that out of those Tories, as they were called, who were thus nominated, one was eighty-one years of age, and another seventy. At Cambridge and Liverpool scarcely any persons were proposed as being fit to act as magistrates whose politics were of a Conservative nature. Leeds had sent up a list of seventeen Liberals and one Conservative; and Coventry, under the same circumstances, had sent up a list in the proportion of twelve to one. [Viscount Melbourne: How does the noble Lord know the politics of all these people.] The noble Viscount might look at one of the newspapers which supported his own Government, and there he could easily ascertain the fact. He would not go through the whole list of boroughs, because the same system evidently prevailed in every case. Men were excluded on account of their political feeling, as was particularly manifested with respect to the rejection of the individual who had, in the preceding year, filled the situation of mayor of Newcastle-on-Tyne, who was perfectly acquainted with his duty, whose services would have been most valuable, and were indeed considered highly valuable in the eyes of the town. He quite agreed in the doctrine laid down on a former evening by the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, with respect to the appointment of magistrates. He admitted that it was the duty of the Lord Chancellor, and of those who advised his Majesty on this subject, not to act upon the opinion of the 732 Lord Lieutenant—or of any individual or set of individuals—in appointing magistrates, but to satisfy themselves as to who were the individuals best fitted to fill the important situation of Magistrates. But, surely, as he had said before, men who were strongly excited—men whose political feelings leaned all one way—men whose passions had so recently been exasperated, were not the proper persons to give advice on a matter of so much importance as the selection of magistrates. He would now refer to some towns of great magnitude in which there had been contested elections. In Leeds the magistracy was contested, and he would just read an extract from the last Report of the Municipal Commissioners with reference to their inquiry into the conduct of the corporation of that town. They said, "The great respectability of the present members of the corporation, and their impartial conduct in the administration of justice, are universally admitted." If this were the case, when the corporation was to be renewed, and justices were to be appointed, why were the services of those individuals, which were thus handsomely acknowledged, not rendered available? Why were those persons rejected? No, the town-council had sent up the names of seventeen persons who were opposed to the old corporation, and the name of one who had been a member of it. They had also thought fit to make an individual a member of the corporation who was the editor of a party paper. A deputation was sent up to represent the impropriety of this nomination of Magistrates. The Secretary of State, however, retained fourteen of these persons. Three names were introduced by the noble Secretary, but of these only one could act. One of them was no longer eligible, not having an estate in the locality; the second was a surgeon in extensive practice, who could not spare time to perform the duties of a Magistrate; and the third was the son of a great manufacturer in the neighbourhood. Now, he would only ask, could the people of Leeds be satisfied when they found the town-council nominating none but persons who professed one particular line of politics? It was impossible that they could be satisfied. He might be told, that the office of a Magistrate was not one of emolument, and was not one of influence in counties. In towns, however, it was one of considerable importance, especially so in a borough where there was a contested election, and 733 where party spirit ran high. Every man wished to be distinguished, and to fill a certain rank in society; but no individual would like to have a mark put upon him on account of his political opinions. One of the reasons advanced for passing the Municipal Corporations Bill was, that it would remove all invidious distinctions; but he could not see how that principle was reconcileable with the fact of the Government setting aside all those who differed from them in political opinion. In Liverpool great dissatisfaction was felt towards the old corporation, but dissatisfaction was also felt at the conduct of the new corporation. It was an extraordinary thing, but the fact was, that only one person who had acted as a Magistrate when the old corporation was in existence had been re-appointed; and their Lordships themselves could not he more surprised if they were nominated to act as Magistrates at Liverpool than were the persons who had been appointed. With respect to Coventry, he admitted that the Report of the Commissioners was not so favourable as it was with respect to the corporation of Leeds. But he would ask the Government whether they could not have selected as Magistrates for that town highly respectable persons, of Conservative principles, who would have been perfectly qualified for the office, instead of taking them all from the opposite party. Why were not such persons selected? Why were they to be marked on account of their political opinions? The same system was pursued at Yarmouth. Out of the list of persons sent up to the Secretary of State, two, who were attornies, were objected to on account of their political principles, and others were substituted for them. With respect to the nomination of Magistrates for Leeds, it was a curious circumstance that the names of the persons who were to be appointed were published in a party paper there on the Saturday, although the Mayor was not put in possession of the information until the Tuesday following. With respect to Guildford, what had been the conduct of Government? Why, of the nine Conservatives who had been sent up, several had been thrown overboard by the Secretary of State, and persons were selected who had voted for the Whig candidate at the last election. Wigan was a place of considerable importance, and where he believed liberal principles prevailed to a great extent. The town-council of that borough had sent up a list of Magistrates, every one 734 of whom were on the Radical side. Two memorials were in consequence sent up, complaining of the selection which had been made, calling for inquiry, and praying that certain gentlemen named in the memorial might be placed in the Commission of the Peace. The answer from the Home Office was—"That before the arrival of the memorial, the individuals placed on the list had been appointed to the situation." To this statement the person who forwarded the memorial answered, "That the recommendation of the town-council could scarcely have been in the noble Secretary's hands at the time of sending up the memorials and on behalf of the gentleman who had memorialized the noble Secretary, he begged leave to remonstrate against the course which the noble Secretary had pursued, and to request that an inquiry might be instituted with reference to the persona named by the town-council, and that the Commission should be staid until that inquiry was concluded," The writer also "begged leave to remind the noble Secretary, that before the recommendation was sent up a letter, signed by 200 respectable individuals, protesting against the nomination, had been transmitted to the noble Secretary." This was a very extraordinary transaction. Here a request was made for the insertion of certain names, and for an inquiry into the qualifications of the persons recommended by the town-council, but neither representation was attended to. As to the nomination of Magistrates for Rochester it was, a subject of loud complaint, not only because none but Radicals had been appointed by Government, but because that appointment was procured through the instrumentality of the two sitting Members for that city one of whom had carried his election by a majority of one vote. The numbers in the town-council were equal when the contested lists of Magistrates were put to the vote. There were nine on each side, and of course neither lists could be carried. But the matter was settled by a letter from the Secretary of State, declaring that he had appointed six individuals, all of whom were Radicals. Well, then, at Rochester they could not proceed with the election, and, consequently, upon this there came down a Commission, in which the names of six persons of liberal politics were enrolled, and amongst them was the name of one gentleman, who could not, he believed, act as a Magistrate. That gentleman was brother of one of the Members for Portsmouth, and was collector of the Customs. 735 Now, it must be perfectly notorious that in such a place as Rochester there must be numerous offences against the Excise and Custom laws. Under these circumstances, be thought that gentleman must be incapable of acting as a Magistrate. In consequence of this selection made by Government, a deputation was appointed, which, in the first instance, waited upon Sir Edward Knatchbull, and afterwards proceeded to the office of the Home-Secretary. They informed his Lordship, that, in their opinion, there must have been some mistake; the answer made by Lord John Russell was, that the persons so appointed had been recommended to him by the Members for Rochester, Mr. Bernal and Mr. Hodges, from whom he understood they were most respectable men. Now here was a case in which the Secretary for the Home Department took the opinion, not of the town-council, but of the Members in Parliament for the borough. The town-council had come to a determination not to do any business, and not to recommend anybody. When the noble Secretary was informed of this, he said he had never heard it before. But then he took other ground, and said that the old Magistrates had refused to act. Now, he was informed that this statement was not correct. He spoke upon the authority of some of these Magistrates themselves. The misconception arose from this—there had been an endeavour to implicate the old Magistrates in such a course of proceeding, but they were too wise to suffer themselves to be entrapped. They went to the petit sessions, but there was only one Magistrate on the bench. A second time they went, and still there was but one Magistrate, and he said he could not swear them alone, but that another Magistrate, naming him, was in town, and that he would go with them to that gentleman, and get them sworn in, or else they might return again on the Saturday. The Magistrates assured him that no such words as those attributed to them had been used, but that an attempt had been made to entrap them. The noble Secretary then said, he would consider the case, adding, however, to the deputation, that they must not be surprised if he placed more confidence in the Members for the borough than in them. Might it not, then, be asked, were the new municipal corporations to be made use of for party purposes? Let them see what one of the Ministerial organs said upon the subject. The noble Lord read the following passage. 736 "A correspondent at Rochester reports to us, with great approbation, the appointment of six Liberal Magistrates for that town. Our readers will remember that at the late election of councillors under the Municipal Reform Act the number of Reformers and Tories were equal. The Liberal portion of the inhabitants of Rochester dreaded the possibility of the Magistrates being also appointed in the same proportion with regard to principles. The Government has relieved them from this apprehension, and decided in favour of an entirely Liberal magistracy. We sympathize with the good people of Rochester, who now exult in their triumph; but we do not believe that Lord John Russell would consider any strong expressions of approbation to be a high compliment for doing that which if not done would have been, on his part, weakness and inconsistency. The time is gone by for any puerile attempt to conciliate the Tories. We trust that the invariable plan of the Liberal Government henceforth will be to support their own principles, by preferring their own friends. This is the only way effectually to contend with a powerful faction like that of the Tories, and is essential to promote improvement." The Ministers, their Lordships would observe, had their lesson. They were expressly told they were to use the powers committed to them in such cases for party purposes, and that they were invariably to promote those persons who supported their Government. He hoped and believed the noble Lords opposite would repudiate such doctrines; he had said he believed, because he would not impute to any gentleman conduct of which he would not be guilty himself. He hoped Government had been unwittingly deceived into this course of proceeding; that they had been induced to put themselves into the hands of the two gentlemen he had named in doing that which they had done; but certainly the sooner it was undone the better would it be for the credit of the members for the borough, the Home Secretary, and the Government of which he was a member. The noble Lord then referred to Lord John Russell's circular letter to the town-councils, and said he would appeal to the noble Secretary for the Home Department; he appealed to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, who had affixed the Great Seal to the Commission, whether an advisable or becoming line of conduct had been pursued upon the occasion. He had other proofs, which, if not actually conclusive in a court 737 of justice, were quite satisfactory to his mind. He had other proofs on the subject, but he did not think it necessary to trouble their Lordships with them. There was a case at Dover to which he wished to refer. It appeared to be one of hardship and cruelty. At Dover it was well known that there had been some strongly-contested elections for Members of Parliament; there was, consequently, as it might be supposed, a good deal of party spirit in the town. There were some labourers who occupied Government houses within the borough, and the complaint against them, after the recent election of town-councillors, was, that they being employed by Government had voted upon a particular side. Why, what had this to do with the matter? Was it not one of the great objects of this Municipal Reform that the people of each town should have the management of their own affairs, and that every man properly qualified should exercise his own discretion in the choice of those to whom they would commit the guardianship of their interests? But to proceed: a Commission was sent down to Dover. Colonel Leith Hay, Secretary of the Ordnance, and Colonel Fanshawe were sent to inquire. The inquiry was made, and the result of it was, that three labourers who had voted in a particular way received notice to quit their houses, which they held from Government, in a month. On Sunday last, however, a letter was received at Dover, in which these notices were withdrawn. It would appear as if something had occurred which rendered it advisable to recal this act of cruelty. It was also alleged that a storekeeper whose offence was of the same nature, and who had inhabited a house of his own for the last twenty years, had also been treated with unbecoming severity. These were facts, from which he left their Lordships to draw their own conclusion, and to determine whether it had not been intended by the Government to make the municipal elections conduce to the furtherance of political objects. He feared that he must have wearied their Lordships; but he was now about to draw to a conclusion. He knew that a defence to what he had urged would be attempted on grounds which he had before heard put forth in that House—namely, that there had been partiality upon the part of the old Magistrates. He did certainly believe that this was not the fact. A majority of the old magistracy in boroughs might, it was certain, have been of Conservative 738 principles, but if they were to take any Commission of the Peace for any district of the country, they would find that the same might be affirmed of it. And let it not be said that this arose from any refusal to appoint gentlemen sharing the opinions of the present Administration—let it not be said that there was any unfair exclusion. No, the truth was, that three-fourths of the gentry of the country enjoying a station sufficiently high to enable them to belong to the magistracy, were Conservatives. Had he not authority for this statement, which the noble Lords opposite would scarcely think it proper to impugn? He had. In the Edinburgh Review, the ablest supporter of the Ministers' politics: the fact was positively and distinctly stated, that of the whole number of individuals enjoying an income of above 500l. a-year, the great majority were on the Conservative side. He could certainly say, that in his own county he knew no instance in which a man had been excluded from the magistracy on account of his politics. He was, undoubtedly, acquainted with cases in which individuals, well known as agitators, were refused the Commission of the peace, for it was thought that there could be no worse conservators of the peace than men who were always tempting the people to break it. He could give an instance in which this wise and becoming feeling had operated, without going out of the county in which their Lordships then stood. It should be remembered, that Lords- lieutenant of counties acted under a serious responsibility. They had not alone to see that the peace was preserved, and that justice was duly administered, but that it was administered with decency, and after such a manner, and with such temper and discretion, as should give satisfaction to the people. If, therefore, an individual were not of that character which would enable him to administer justice decorously, and to the public benefit, the Lord-lieutenant was not to be expected to put him on the Commission merely because he asked, nor was it fair to say that such a man had been excluded for his politics. He would then ask their Lordships, was this the way in which this great measure of municipal reform was to be worked out? Were they, indeed, to have in all the boroughs, Magistrates of but one party—Magistrates elected for party purposes—he might almost say for Parliamentary purposes? If this were reform, he would have none of it, if he could help it. He was ready to say, that 739 to all classes of his Majesty's subjects should be accorded equal justice; but he never would be an advocate for a species of reform which declared that one party should have all the power, and that the other should be excluded absolutely. He would again call on the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to look to these appointments. The responsibility lay with him. It was a new thing to hear of a Secretary of State interfering in such matters. That noble and learned Lord had fairly and honourable won his high station—had earned his great preferment by diligence, ability, learning, and, he doubted not, every quality which could adorn the office that he filled, and he now called on him not to allow the ermine to be sullied by such appointments. If he refused to sanction them, it would redound to his own honour, and promote the credit of the Government with which he was connected. The noble Lord concluded by moving, "That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, praying; that he would be graciously pleased to order that there be laid upon the Table of the House a copy of a circular letter addressed by Lord John Russell to the Town Clerks or other officers of the several Municipal Boroughs; also copies of the lists of persons sent up from the Town Councils as recommended for the office of Magistrate; also copies of the lists of names of persons assented to by the Government and appointed."
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that before he proceeded to make any observations upon the noble Baron's Motion, and before he should offer any remarks upon the facts the noble Baron had adduced—facts concerning which he had certainly received a sort of general notice—but at the same time, as it appeared, facts of such a very particular and minute nature that, under the circumstances, he (Lord Melbourne) could not be expected to be so prepared as at that moment to treat of them—to dilate upon or argue respecting the individual character or peculiar politics of the persons to whom the noble Baron had at such great length alluded,—before he adverted to these matters, or made any observation or remark upon them, he begged to make one general observation, which was applicable to, and, in his opinion, overrode the whole of the noble Baron's speech. That noble Lord's case must be a good one—his arguments decisive, and his conclusion triumphant—for he assumed the facts he stated—he declared what was precisely the character of those 740 individuals; he explained their political opinions; and he declared their unfitness for the offices to which they were promoted. [Lord Wharncliffe: "No, no.] Virtually the noble Lord did. He would refer to the noble Lord's observations with respect to the case of Wigan as an instance; but for himself he thought, and would declare, that the whole gist of the matter, must lie in the question, as to whether the persons appointed were or were not fit for their offices. Now, the noble Baron had assumed they were unfit without proof. In fact, the noble Baron had the whole moral character of the nation in his hands, and at his own absolute disposal. He said this set of men are of this character, moral and political—that set of the other character and the other politics. [Lord Wharncliffe had said nothing to warrant any such inferences, or such a description.] That was the only interpretation he could put on what had fallen from the noble Lord.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
replied, the noble Viscount might interpret it as he pleased, but he (Lord Wharncliffe) had taken especial care to guard against any such misconception. He had not spoken of the characters of these individuals—he had not said one word against their fitness; he had referred to the particular politics of the Gentlemen who were appointed.
§ Viscount Melbourne
Then, for anything the noble Baron knew to the contrary, the persons appointed might be fitting persons, and, if this were the case, there was no foundation whatsoever for the charge upon the part of the noble Baron. But again he would ask, how did the noble Lord know the politics of these men, about whom he spoke so confidently? The politics of individuals were a matter upon which there were perpetual mistakes. The politics of bodies of men were not as the noble Baron would fain describe them, all of one class and complexion. The politics of men were, he repeated, continually mistaken, and by none so much as by these who were opposed to them. He (Lord Melbourne) could not therefore adopt the noble Baron's description of those persons' politics as one that ought to be received as decisive. The noble Lord had committed great exaggeration in his description of the mode in which the Ministers had introduced the Municipal Reform Bill last year. They had not described it as a cure for all evils, and a promoter of all manner of blessings; but they said the old system was bad, and that their intention was to make an attempt 741 to introduce into all the towns and boroughs a better state of things. For his part, he thought the best part of the Bill was that which limited the powers of Justices in boroughs. They were limited to matters of summary jurisdiction. They were prohibited from sitting in Quarter Sessions. But still they did enjoy the power of licensing, which might be objected to, and certainly he should be glad to see it in other hands, so that these individuals might cease to exercise it. Let it be remembered, however, that in the Bill, as it came from the other House, there was another provision for licensing, of which their Lordships did not approve, and perhaps their Lordships did not err in their decision with respect to it. But this, at all events, showed the feeling of Government with respect to the exercise of this formidable power, which extended to licensing the practice of lucrative trades, and still worse, possibly, the putting a check to a trade already established. It would be well to consider if some remedy could not be applied to the evils which had arisen from it. The noble Baron had given a correct account of the Bill upon that point, both as to how it had been sent up, and how it had been corrected by their Lordships; but then the noble Baron went on to condemn a noble friend of his in the other House of Parliament, because he insisted that it was advisable to take the opinion of the town-council, notwithstanding the alteration made by their Lordships; and unless he had forgotten the debates on the subject, a noble and learned Lord (Lyndhurst) had, whilst he maintained as a principle that the right should remain in the Crown, said at the same time, "Take what advice you please." Therefore his noble friend was, in fact, in what he had done, but following the advice of that noble and learned Lord, and acting in the spirit which prevailed in their Lordships' House. They had been beaten out of giving the town-council the initiatory appointment, but they still thought they were not wrong; they thought it was fitting, that it was best for the due administration of justice, to appoint such persons as were recommended by the town-council. But the noble Baron said they were wrong—that thus they were appealing to a heated body. Ay! this was in cases where persons of particular politics were returned; but, according to him, they were right when they appealed to Tory councils, for they returned proper magistrates. It was only when they appealed to town-councils of a different 742 character that they committed error. As to the case of Leeds, the noble Baron stated that they were guilty of a great error in the appointment of the town-council. [Lord Wharncliffe:—Of the Magistrates.] Very well; but his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had formed a scale with reference to the population of the boroughs generally, with reference to which he proposed to regulate the number of Magistrates, giving to those of the largest population twenty-four Magistrates, to the smallest four or five. He then also laid it down as a rule that he would not permit any attorney or brewer to be named a Magistrate. He intended not to cast any imputation on persons following those very respectable avocations. His noble Friend's reasons for their exclusion must be sufficiently obvious to their Lordships. Then his noble Friend had written that circular letter for the production of which the noble Baron moved. The last paragraph which the noble Lord read referred to the subject, Touching the municipal elections, their Lordships well knew the feeling under which they took place. There was violent excitement from the state of the country and the peculiar circumstances of the period at which they occurred. But, in his opinion, the prevailing feeling had not so much reference to the great political parties of the state, or to general political opinions, as to local matters; for the old corporations, had, perhaps unreasonably, from their long and exclusive possession of power, become objects of great bate and jealousy to the communities. Was it improbable, or unnatural, or a thing not to be expected, that, under such circumstances, persons who had formed part of the old corporations should not find their names inserted in the new lists proposed by the town-councils, for the purpose of constructing the magistracy? He put it to the noble Lord, considering that the object of the Municipal Reform Bill was to produce harmony, satisfaction, and contentment in the towns—he put it to the noble Lord himself to say whether it would have been wise and prudent to obtrude on the inhabitants in the first instance the very persons who had long been to them objects of jealousy, suspicion, and dislike? He thought it was not to be expected that matters should have happened otherwise than they did, considering the circumstances under which the bill originated and came into operation, and the hot-bed of politics in which it bad been engendered [cheers]. Noble Lords opposite cheered the expression, 743 but he begged to ask, was that a fault all upon one side, or did they think that the violence had been confined to one party? The noble Baron had said in his speech to-night that he would not cast an imputation on any man that he could not endure himself—he wished his noble Friend had thought of that in his oration at Sheffield—a speech, of which he must say that he would not have made such a one in relation to his noble Friend—a speech which did, by the entire spirit of its argument and inferences, cast the gravest, and he would add basest, imputation upon him and his colleagues, [Lord Wharncliffe: "Hear hear."] Well, then, the imputation was avowed, and the noble Lord appeared to think very lightly of the matter. Quite alive to the injuries which we received, we were little sensible of the weight of the blows we gave. He had heard abundance of complaints of the violence of certain speeches in opposition to the noble Lord's politics which had been delivered during the vacation, but he had observed quite as much violence, quite as much foul imputation, quite as much base attack urged by noble Lords opposite, in speeches made in the course of the vacation, as could have been used by any person on the Ministerial side, be he whom he might. To return, it was plain why so few of the old corporation were included in the lists of the new magistracy. It was to be expected that a Bill of this kind, which conferred new powers upon communities actuated by dissensions and jealousies, should be attended in the outset with considerable violence and partiality, but in the course of time those animosities and dissensions would be softened down and die away, and the whole would end in producing a fair representation of the towns, and tranquillity and good government. The noble Lord had assumed that in many cases the persons selected as Magistrates were unfit for their situations; now, he understood from his noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had inquired into the subject, that he had the best reason for believing those individuals to be in every respect qualified for the office. His noble Friend had taken the greatest pains to ascertain the fittest and ablest persons; it was impossible to say that in some instances he might not have been deceived, but on the whole there was good reason to think that his noble Friend's list contained the names of gentlemen of respectability, who would discharge their duty well, and 744 do credit to the situation in which they were placed. As to the case of Leeds, he understood that the first list sent up by the town-council was supposed to consist entirely of persons of one side in politics, and that on a deputation waiting on his noble Friend, he did select three persons who the noble Lord said did not differ in politics from himself. [Lord Wharncliffe only one of the old corporation was in the original list; and only one of the three individuals could be expected to act.] It was true the noble Lord had spoken of a surgeon in full practice, who probably would not act, but that gentleman had undertaken the office, and the inference was that he did not think the duties of it incompatible with his situation. However, if this or any other gentleman should not act, and the number of acting Magistrates were found insufficient, others might be appointed. With respect to Liverpool, the only charge made by the noble Lord was, that none of the old corporation was upon the list of Magistrates. Now, he did not wish to go into the political opinions of individuals, because nothing could be more uncertain, but he believed that persons who did not support the present Government had been added to the list by his noble Friend. As to Guildford, twelve individuals had been recommended by the town-council, of whom two had been excluded by the rule adopted by his noble Friend though not rigidly acted on; and out of the remaining ten, four were selected, with respect to whose political opinions he did not possess at present accurate information, but he believed that his noble Friend had acted in this, as in other cases, on the principle of securing such a body as would administer justice impartially, and discharge every duty of the office to the satisfaction of the people. With respect to Wigan, he was not acquainted with the circumstances of the case, but believed that the whole question proceeded on the fitness or unfitness of the individuals selected. The memorialists assumed their unfitness, as did the noble Lord. [Lord Wharncliffe: No; all that was asked for was inquiry].Hisnoble Friend, however, acting on the information he had received, thought he had made no improper choice. The case of Rochester the noble Lord had stated correctly; the town-council was equally divided—no mayor, aldermen, or magistrates could be nominated or chosen. In this state of things a representation was made to his noble Friend that Magistrates were wanted, and his 745 noble Friend concurred with the hon. Gentleman mentioned by the noble Lord, and appointed six individuals, one of whom was brother to a collector of Customs. [Lord Wharncliffe—He was a collector of Customs himself.] That was a question of fact, which might be ascertained hereafter. But the case of Rochester had not been permanently settled by his noble Friend. His noble Friend had appointed Magistrates because it was necessary; but when the Council should be able to act, he had it in his power to consider what juster measure might be adopted with respect to the constitution of the magistracy. His noble Friend had acted in conformity with the expressed opinion of Parliament and on his own principles, and adopted that course which he thought best fitted to give real effect to the Municipal Reform Bill, and ultimately to afford real satisfaction in the corporations, by providing for the fair and impartial administration of justice. With respect to the noble Lord's motion, he could have no objection to produce the letter written by his noble Friend to the Town Councils, neither did he object to furnish lists of the Magistrates who had been ultimately appointed; but with respect to the second part of the noble Lord's motion, which was for the production of the lists sent up by the town-councils to the Secretary of State, he would entreat the noble Lord to consider whether it was prudent to press it, especially as the production of these documents had not been pressed for in another place. Those lists were evidently intended to be in the nature of confidential communications, like the recommendations from Lord-Lieutenants relative to the appointments of Magistrates. If they were produced, it would appear that some individuals recommended by the town-councils had not been appointed, and it might seem a slur on those Gentlemen if the lists were laid on the Table and conveyed to the public. He knew the noble Lord would say, that these lists were very well known in the towns in question, but he begged the noble Lord to consider that his own argument proceeded on the supposition that there would be a better spirit abroad hereafter, and that the present violence would not continue; and this being the case, it followed, that though the lists had been made public now, they might not be promulgated in future, when the councils would be more conversant with their duty, and better able to perform it, through, the absence of 746 party spirit. He therefore thought that the noble Lord had better not trench on the improved course of conduct which might be hereafter pursued, by pressing for the production of lists which were not necessary for his own purpose. With the single exception stated, he had no objection whatever to the noble Lord's motion.
The Earl of Winchilsea
could not refrain from offering to the noble Baron, who introduced the discussion, his sincere thanks for having brought the question under the consideration of Parliament. It was impossible for any one, not influenced by the strongest party feeling, to deny that it was a question of the deepest importance, affecting the liberties of the country. It had been truly said by the noble Baron, that the professed object of the measure under discussion was to produce peace and harmony in the Municipal boroughs, by destroying the power vested exclusively in one party. Now he would appeal to the House whether in any one way it had tended to produce such a result; or whether it had not in reality effected a direct transfer of power from one party to another? The noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government had endeavoured to attach to his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe) an imputation which his noble Friend had never made, against certain of the lists of Magistrates, on the ground that none of the old corporators were therein included. The charge was this, that the Magistrates who had been appointed, were almost exclusively of one political party. In the case of Rochester the parties in the town-council were equally divided; there was no corporation; and it was agreed that no list of Magistrates should be sent in. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, in such a case ought not to have selected six of one party, but have included in his list some professing the same political opinions with, if not the majority, at least an equality, of the town-council. Thus, then, the measure had been found, so far from producing the salutary effects of rooting out old animosities and dissensions, which had been anticipated, to have a directly contrary tendency, and, as these municipal elections were annual he doubted not that the ultimate consequence of the measure would be to keep up a continual and most injurious state of excitement and animosity, when its professed object was to produce peace. The Municipal Corporations Bill of last Session would undoubtedly be an instrument of 747 power in the hands of his Majesty's Government; the Magistrates were to be selected with reference solely to party feeling; and there was no one who could doubt the Parliamentary influence of Magistrates in a municipal borough; every noble Lord must know very well that they did possess very considerable Parliamentary influence; and thus the certain effect of the Bill would be to increase the political power of his Majesty's present Ministers. He trusted that his noble Friend would not withdraw any part of his present motion; the list, the production of which had been objected to, was not, he maintained, a confidential list; it was already made public, and could not, therefore, now be refused on any grounds of confidence. There was one doctrine which had been laid down in the course of his speech by the noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government, which appeared to him (the Earl of Winchilsea) most strange and unconstitutional. The noble Viscount had said, that their Lordships had altered that part of the Bill, which vested the appointment of Magistrates in the town-councils, and had then added, that although Parliament had decided that the clause should not constitute part of the Bill, yet his Majesty's Government had deemed fit to act upon the principle contained in that clause. Why, it was useless for their Lordships to deliberate on any measure—it was useless for Parliament to sit at all—if any individual holding at any time thereins of Government might be at liberty to say, you have made such an alteration, but, nevertheless, in spite of that, we will act upon the principle which you have condemned. He should not trespass further upon the attention of the House than to express a hope that his noble Friend would not withdraw his motion.
§ The Duke of Wellington
My Lords, upon the present occasion, the subject being one which I have observed has excited very great interest in the country, I am anxious to offer to your Lordships a very few observations; and, first, I must beg leave to suggest to the noble Viscount opposite, that he has totally omitted in his consideration of the present Question one very important principle, which was frequently laid down by that noble Lord, and other noble Lords on his side of the House, particularly a learned Baron who is now absent, during the discussion upon the measure last Session, viz., the extreme importance of dividing the administration of justice from 748 the Municipal Government of the Corporations—the extreme importance of carrying that principle into effect by the Bill then under consideration. It was with that motive my Lords, and for the furtherance of that object, that I gave my vote in favour of vesting exclusively in the Crown the appointment of the Municipal Magistrates. The principle of the exclusive nomination by the Crown having thus been assented to both by this and the other House of Parliament, I confess, my Lords, it does appear to me that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, ought never to have been induced to make that declaration which he made in the other House respecting the course which he should think fit to pursue in the nomination of Magistrates; in the propriety of that declaration I cannot concur, because it is a declaration entirely inconsistent with the principle of the measure as it received the Royal Assent; and because it is entirely inconsistent also with another principle of law, which is this—that it is the duty of the Lord Chancellor, and not of the Secretary of State, to advise the Crown as to the appointment of Magistrates. I do not say, that he may not take the advice of this council or that, but I do say, that it is my Lord Chancellor whose duty it is to advise the Crown upon the subject—that it is my Lord Chancellor who is responsible to this and the other House of Parliament for the appointment of persons fit and proper for the administration of justice in the country. The nomination of the present Magistrates has not given general satisfaction. The statements of the noble Lord himself have clearly proved that it was a party nomination. Is there any man in this House who does not believe that it was a party nomination? And these are nominations made by the Secretary of State, while the Lord Chancellor is the person who ought to have advised the Crown as to the appointments. This, my Lords, is a subject well deserving the serious attention of Parliament, because I do say, that the conduct of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, is quite and irreconcilably inconsistent with the principle of the measure. I know that the nomination of Magistrates which has been made by his Majesty's Government has produced very great dissatisfaction in many parts of the country. There are many parties who feel strongly that they are not likely to have justice fairly and impartially administered to them—to have their rights and interests duly protected—or their affairs 749 satisfactorily administered. Under the circumstances, I beg also to return my sincere thanks to my noble Friend for having brought the subject under the consideration of the House.
§ The Lord Chancellor
said, that the noble Duke who had just sat down had thought it right to remind him of his duty. Of that he did not complain; but he would take the liberty of stating, that he was fully aware of the responsibility under which he stood, before the noble Duke had thought fit to remind him of his duty. It was singular that the noble Duke should have thought that necessary in the particular instance, since he (the Lord Chancellor) had but a very few days before stated precisely the same doctrine in their Lordships House as that laid down by the noble Duke. The noble Baron (Baron Wharncliffe) had urged that the responsibility for the appointment of Magistrates rested upon the holder of the Great Seal; but, then, in the case of counties, the noble Lord held it to be a dereliction of duty not to take the nomination of the Lord-Lieutenant. It was impossible for the individual holding the Great Seal to perform that branch of his duty in any other manner than by applying for advice to those whose local knowledge enabled them to form a more fair and accurate judgment upon the fitness of persons for the office than he himself by any possibility could. In the case of counties, it was natural to apply to the Lord-Lieutenant as a person best calculated to acquire the necessary information for arriving at a correct conclusion. It was then the duty of the Lord Chancellor to consider well his advice; but if, after due deliberation, he could not concur in the opinion of the Lord-Lieutenant, he was then bound to act upon his own unfettered judgment. If that doctrine, then, was true with counties, was it not equally so with towns? They must go for advice to those whose local information rendered them the best judges as to the qualifications for the office. But what said the noble Lords opposite? They would urge us to go, not to the majority for advice, but to the minority, and to act upon the opinions of that minority. It did so happen that in certain counties there was a large majority of persons of one way of thinking, with a Lord-Lieutenant of the same opinions, and there a very great majority of the Magistracy would be also found of the same opinion; and the result, therefore, was, according to the noble Lord's opinion, that 750 where there was a majority of persons of one opinion there should be found also a majority of Magistrates of the same. But when the noble Lord came to the question of towns and not counties, he was then, surprised that, when it was admitted the great majority of the people were Liberals, there should be a great majority likewise of liberal Magistrates. In short, with the noble Lord the doctrine was excellent in respect to counties but quite the reverse as to towns. For his own part, he admitted most fully, that it was very proper that there should be a fair admixture of persons of both parties in the Magistracy; and he might be permitted to state, that the interference of the Secretary of State had never been employed but for the purpose of infusing into the constitution of the body a certain number of persons opposed in politics to the present Government, ["No, no."] Whether the noble Lord believed him or not, his statement was as much entitled to credit as those of the noble Lord himself. The case of Dover had nothing whatever to do with the appointment of Magistrates. In reference to Rochester, it was perfectly obvious that by no possibility could Magistrates have been appointed, the town-council being divided, but in the method which had been pursued by his noble Friend the Secretary of State. For his own part he was perfectly willing to admit the responsibility which rested upon the holder of the Great Seal, a responsibility from which he would not shrink. The noble Baron had admitted, that there was no complaint against the appointment so far as the individuals themselves were concerned. What then did his objection come to? Why to this—assuming that there was a preponderance in the lists in favour of one party, he complained that the uniform leaning was to that line of politics opposed by the noble Baron and noble Lords who sat on the same side of the House. Now, could the noble Lord think it advisable that the Magistracy should lean to the opinion of the minority? In respect to counties, the noble Baron admitted the converse; and he (the Lord Chancellor) would again ask, why should not the same principle be applied to towns? In conclusion, he begged to say, that the charge brought against the Government seemed to him to have fallen wholly to the ground.
§ The Earl of Ripon
doubted not that the noble and learned Lord had been and would 751 continue to be actuated by the best motives; but he could not concur with, his noble and learned Friend in thinking, that because it was fit the holder of the Great Seal should consult with the Custos Rotulorum as regarded the appointment of county Magistrates, it therefore followed that a similar course ought to be adopted in the case of town-councils. The two cases were as different as possible. There was this fundamental danger in making application for advice to town-councils—that under such a system it might become a matter of canvass among persons desirous of the office of justice to obtain the nomination of the councils. If this plan should be persisted in, there could be no security that the persons hereafter elected Magistrates would be free from the taint of those party passions and prejudices which were utterly incompatible with the due and impartial administration of justice. He considered it to be a most unfortunate circumstance that this letter should have been written at the period when it was, for it could not be denied that the circumstances which attended the passing of the Municipal Corporation Reform Bill through that House had led to considerable excitement in those places which were to be affected by it. That was the very reason why it was most imprudent on the part of the Government to call upon those bodies to elect their own Magistrates, when it was evident that the Magistrates themselves could not be free from the passions and prejudices under which all were labouring He hoped that their Lordships were not to consider that unfortunate letter as intended to be a Standing Order for all town-councils in future. If that letter were so to be considered, he should augur worse than he ever yet had done of the consequences of that Bill which he had honestly and conscientiously supported. He should think that its character was altered—that its benefits were destroyed—and that its positive mischiefs were most grievously enhanced.
The Marquess of Salisbury
had previously complained, and must then reiterate his complaint of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for having inserted in the Commission of the Peace the names of several persons who had not been recommended by the Lords-lieutenant of the counties in which they were to act as Magistrates. He considered such conduct to be unconstitutional. No Lord Chancellor had ever yet interposed his authority in such a manner, and he considered such an 752 interference on the part of the Secretary of State far more offensive and far more objectionable. He thought that there was a very great difference between allowing the Lords-lieutenant of counties to appoint the county Magistrates, and allowing the town-councils to appoint the borough Magistrates. The former were responsible for their appointments, but where was the responsibility of the latter bodies?
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
was desirous that their Lordships and the country should understand that his noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had no intention to set aside the declaration of Parliament, or to act contrary to the spirit of the Municipal Reform Act. His noble Friend was, at the time alluded to, engaged in what he should ever consider the laudable task of reconciling the differences which bad arisen between the two Houses of Parliament as to that Act; and he knew of no course that could be considered more expedient than that of letting it be perceived in the other House, that though their Lordships differed from it as to the source from which they thought that these appointments ought to emanate, there was still an opportunity left to the advisers of the Crown, of going to that source from which the House of Commons thought that these appointments ought to come. In doing so, his noble Friend did not on his own behalf, or on the behalf of the Government, abrogate or renounce the right of the Crown to exercise that nomination, nor did he shrink or recoil from the responsibility of exercising that right as one of its Ministers. His noble Friend had done that which he believed all future Ministers would do. He had taken means in the different local quarters to procure information as to what course it would be most safe to adopt, but bad reserved to himself, the right to inquire further for himself and to take away from, and to add to, the list of persons recommended for the discharge of these local functions. It was most desirable that those functions should be discharged, as his noble Friend had well expressed it, free from the taint of any local or general prejudices. He was afraid, however, that it was scarcely practicable to find any source so pure as to forward recommendations fitted for such a purpose. He knew that the heats of party and local contests must prevail over such recommendations; for he could confirm the observation which had fallen from his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, that 753 in a great majority of cases the interference of the Crown with the recommendations made to it by the town-councils had been to secure the introduction into the Magistracy of persons opposed to his Majesty's Government in politics. His noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had legitimately interfered for this purpose. He lamented that it was necessary for a Secretary of State to consider the politics of the persons so recommended to him, being convinced that all the good effects which Ministers anticipated—not rapidly and immediately, as the noble Baron had represented, but ultimately—from the Bill would not be accomplished until the qualifications of persons to discharge magisterial functions were considered on principles separate from political considerations. That could not be the immediate result, but he was certain that, in the working of the measure, when the heats of the moment should have subsided, this would be the view taken not only by the King's Government, but also by these corporations. He was the more sanguine in his expectations upon this point, as this was the view taken already by many of the new town-councils under the beats at present prevailing. The noble Duke had said—and if it were true to the extent which the noble Duke had mentioned, he should lament it exceedingly—that these recommendations were almost universally of a party character. He regretted it, if it were true, in some instances, but he had no hesitation in stating that, speaking of the corporations generally, it was not true. He could assure the noble Duke that a great number of cases might be brought forward in which town-councils, where there was a decided number of persons holding opinions of one complexion, and that too the Whig complexion, had seen the justice and propriety of mixing with their recommendation the names of gentlemen as Magistrates who entertained political sentiments widely different from their own. It would be tedious to enter into details, but as every one spoke of the town with which they were best acquainted, he might, perhaps, be forgiven for mentioning what had occurred in a borough in his own neighbourhood. In one of the principal towns of Wiltshire—he meant Devizes—after all the heat of a bitterly contested election, a decided majority of the council being of Whig politics, had, as their first act, sent in a list of Magistrates, consisting of an equal number of 754 persons of different political opinions. That had also been done, he could add with pleasure, in a borough where a majority of Tory councillors had been elected. He thought that this was consistent with good sense and good feeling; and, being so, he trusted that it would form an example which the new corporations in general would be eager to follow. The noble Marquis concluded by addressing a recommendation to town-councils to exclude party feelings in future from their considerations, and to select such persons for Magistrates as were best calculated to perform magisterial duties firmly, honestly, and effectually.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
, in reply, expressed the satisfaction with which he had listened to the speech of the noble President of the Council—a speech which was a complete answer to the speech of the noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government, and to that of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. There was not a word in the latter part of the speech of the noble President of the Council, of which he could express the slightest disapprobation. The case of Guildford was entirely opposed to that of Devizes. In that case Ministers had struck out the names of those Magistrates who were opposed to them in politics, "But, before I go into the general question," said Lord Wharncliffe, "I must call on the noble Viscount to be a little more explicit than he has hitherto been in the attack which he has made on me in regard to a speech which he says that I delivered at Sheffield. To what part of that speech did the noble Viscount allude? Was it to that part of it in which I alluded to the Irish Tithe Bill?"
§ Viscount Melbourne
—To the whole of that speech, and to the statement, by inference, that we on this side of the House have abandoned and given up all our principles to please those gentlemen whom the noble Baron has chosen to denominate Radicals. The noble Baron says, that the Radicals have not given up their opinions; and therefore he infers, as a matter of course, that the Whigs have given up theirs. That for the sake of power, and place, and emolument—["No," from Lord Wharncliffe.]—Yes. I have seen that charge; if not in the noble Baron's speeches, in other speeches, and especially in one made by a noble Lord, a very near relative of his. That for the sake of power and of place, and of base lucre, it is so; I can produce the report—we have given up 755 all our principles. I do not object to this. Everything, I suppose, is fair in politics. Every sort of abuse, I suppose, is fair in politics. But, at the same time, I must say, that when noble Lords of high character, of great influence, of most amiable manners, and most Christian principles, find themselves betrayed in the violence of the moment, by the heat of party animosity, into casting such base, and odious, and groundless accusations on others, they should have some consideration for those who may be acting under the impulse of equally warm feelings on the other side. What I complain of is, that the noble Baron says, that I and those with whom I have the honour of acting in the Government, have given up our principles entirely to other persona, for the sake of maintaining ourselves in place, and in the emoluments attached to place. I beg leave to tell the noble Baron that his deductions have failed, and that his powers of reasoning, eminent as they are in other cases, have in this case led him to a false conclusion, and that it is not true that we have sacrificed any principle, or any opinion, to any persons whatsoever.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
I do not recollect that the noble Viscount was ever attacked by me in the terms which he has just quoted. The noble Viscount says, that I have accused his Government and the Whigs generally of having sacrificed their principles and given them up to please some other persons. Now I am not singular in that opinion. Other persons have publicly said so. Have they not said, "We have not changed our opinions, the Whigs have changed theirs; the Whigs of to-day are not the Whigs of yesterday. We have not gone to the Whigs—the Whigs have come to us?" I would ask the noble Viscount to reject, if he dares, the support of those who say he has gone over to them, and that they have not come over to him. Will he dare to reject them? If he will not, I have a right to say that he has gone over to them. As to my saying that he has done this for the sake of emolument, I doubt much whether such an expression ever fell from my lips. I do not believe that it ever did; for I do not think now, nor did I ever think, that the public men of this country are swayed by such motives. I may have said, and I believe that I have said, that the present Government was kept in office by the assistance of persons holding extreme opinions—opinions which are now repudiated by the noble Lords opposite, 756 but which those persons tell us have been adopted and are now adopted by his Majesty's Ministers. The noble Viscount had said—Lord Wharncliffe continued—that he had objected to the majority of the Magistrates being of the same political opinions with the town-councils which had recommended them. He had done no such thing. He had said that there appeared to be adopted in these new town-councils that same principle of exclusion which had been the main cause of the reform effected in the old corporations, and he had regretted that that bad principle should be continued under the new system. The noble Viscount had also said that he (Lord Wharncliffe) did not ground his present motion on the impropriety of the appointments which had been made. Now he had distinctly said that it was not his intention to find fault with individuals. The only individual appointed a Magistrate, to whom he had referred by name was the collector of Customs at Rochester. It was not as an individual that that appointment was improper. Individually that gentleman was a very proper person to act as Magistrate; but on other grounds his appointment was highly objectionable. A person connected with the collection of the revenue was the last person to be appointed a Magistrate at Rochester, where the majority of offences which came before the Bench were offences against the revenue. In his opinion, the statement which he had made in bringing forward this motion was not in the slightest degree affected either by the answer of the noble Viscount, or by that of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He had made this motion first of all to check this practice, which it was evident that the noble Lords on the Ministerial Bench themselves felt to be improper; and here he must say that he had been much comforted by what had fallen on this subject from the noble President of the Council. He had also made this motion, because their Lordships were shortly to have introduced to their consideration a Bill for reforming the municipal corporations in Ireland. He hoped that their Lordships and the public would take warning from what had occurred under this Bill. It was intended to have pledged their Lordships to proceed on the same principles in reforming the Irish corporations which had been laid down in the English Bill. But that intention their Lordships had fortunately frustrated on the first night of the Session. That the municipal corporations 757 in Ireland required reform, even more than the municipal corporations in England, no one was more ready to confess than he was. He would, however, take care, as far as in him lay, and he hoped that their Lordships would also take care, as far as in them lay, that the Irish Corporation Reform Bill should not be perverted to party purposes, and that it should not place power in the hands of a particular party in Ireland. If the noble Lord persisted in his objection to produce the list of the parties recommended by the town-councils, he would wave it as it was not material for him (Lord Wharncliffe) to have that information in an official shape, as he could at any time procure it by looking to the files of the provincial newspapers.
§ The address was agreed to.