§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that he must beg their Lordships' attention to this bill. The circumstances connected with it were widely different from those connected with the Manchester Bill, and in order to point out the marked distinction between the two cases, he would state to their Lordships what the actual position of Bolton was with respect to police. Upon examining the circumstances, their Lordships would find, that the police in that town was of a different description; there were in the first place, two boroughreeves, two high constables, and a police consisting of seven persons, with powers to increase their numbers to any extent in case of any emergency; and further, in addition to them, a considerable number of perpetual constables, making altogether a force of about 60 persons. That part of the police of Bolton was entirely independent of the question regarding the validity of the charter. Its authority would not be affected if the charter were bad; and in that respect the case of Bolton differed from that of Manchester. At this moment, therefore, there was a police consisting of upwards of sixty persons, which might be increased on any emergency, and entirely independent of the Charter. In addition to that there was a police force raised under local acts for Great Bolton and Little Bolton; and that part of the case he admitted was similar to that of Manchester; but still further, in addition to that force, there was at present a force actively in operation of 1,000 special constables, who were raised under a bill brought in by the noble Viscount opposite, and sometimes known as Lord Melbourne's Bill. Now, that being the actual state of the police of Bolton, it became material to consider what was the alteration proposed to be made by the present bill; and the effect of that alteration was to extinguish the whole existing police of the town; for there was a distinct clause in the bill stating expressly that as soon as the police under this bill came into operation, the authority of all other descriptions of police was to cease and determine. The question, therefore, was between the existing police and that which was proposed to be established by this bill. It, therefore, became material to consider what was the amount of provision made by this bill for 428 the establishment of that police. It had been stated in the former discussion that no more than eightpence in the pound on the assessment was to be levied. Now, he had made inquiry into that matter, and he spoke upon the best authority, for he had obtained his information from the official persons acting in Bolton, and they told him, that the whole sum which could be raised by the eightpenny rate, was 3,200l. a-year: and, taking into consideration the salaries of the commissioner, inspector, superintendant, the collector, and the rent which it would be necessary to pay for the three police offices, there would only be left a sum of l,560l., for the purpose of maintaining the police of the town. The result was, that they could not raise a force consisting of more than thirty men, and it was proposed by the present bill that those thirty men should be substituted for the police force at present existing in Bolton, though that part only of the police which was under the boroughreeves, and independent of the corporation, amounted to a force of sixty men. But there was another objection to this bill: Bolton consisted of two townships—the township of Great Bolton, and a part of the township of Little Bolton. Now, it was provided by this Bill, that the commissioner should apply to the overseers of the poor, and that they should pay over as much as eight pence in the pound, from the rates which they levied, and that might easily be effected in Great Bolton, but only a part of Little Bolton was included within the borough; and he should like any noble Lord in that House, who looked at the clauses in the 10th George 4th, to say, how, under that clause the overseers of the poor, could pay or contribute any part of the rate raised for Little Bolton for the maintenance of the police of the town. He ventured to say, that it would be impossible to raise any part of that rate; and then the maximum of funds at the disposal of the commissioners would be reduced still lower, therefore, with a view to the actual state of Bolton, he must say, that, this bill and the whole proceeding was exceedingly ill-considered and unwise. He knew, however, that several persons had been very much struck by the late proceedings in Bolton, and had, in consequence, said, that some alteration was necessary for the purpose of insuring the peace and tranquillity of the town. He admitted, that 429 some alteration was necessary: but surely that alteration ought not to be so considerable a diminution of the police force. He begged to call their Lordships' attention to the history of those proceedings at Bolton, and it might be done in a few words. The mayor of the town had called out a force, which consisted of many persons who had been active Chartists, and consequently the people engaged in the riots had not supposed that the mayor and the police were really anxious to put down the disturbance; and they had been confirmed in that impression by the fact, that when troops had been called into the town, and were prepared to act, the mayor forbade them from acting. Now this mayor of Bolton was one of several persons who had signed a requisition calling on the boroughreeves to call a public meeting for the purpose of considering the propriety of proceeding in procession to join a body of Chartists, who were to assemble at Kendal Green, in the neighbourhood of Manchester. The boroughreeves refused to call that meeting, and this gentleman then agreed with others to meet in the theatre, and, accordingly, about 1,500 persons did assemble in the theatre, and pass several resolutions of an inflammatory nature, and one of them was seconded by this gentleman, who now filled the situation of mayor of Bolton. He would read to their Lordships one of those resolutions. It was to this effect:That this meeting cordially approves of the People's Charter, framed by the General Convention of the Working Men's Association, embodying as it does, the principles of Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, Vote by Ballot, a no-property qualification, and the payment of representatives.That resolution was carried by acclamation; and the result of the meeting was, that they proceeded in procession to join the Chartists at Kendal Green. Would their Lordships believe, that this gentleman, having, having been elected mayor of Bolton, had also been selected by her Majesty's Government for the important situation of a justice of the peace for the town of Bolton? He had been selected for that situation and appointed after those proceedings had taken place. Could their Lordships be surprised that, when a person who had acted that part went out with a police force consisting of many persons of the same description, the people should suppose that 430 they were not in reality anxious to put down the rioting; but that encouragement and protection would be afforded them? He understood that the constables had been driven to the Town-hall, which was attacked by the mob; that information was given to the mayor, who, with another magistrate, was at that time sitting at the police-office; and that though he was told that the people would pull down the Town-hall, he treated the information with the greatest possible indifference, and made use of some such observation as that "they might do as they liked." Under these circumstances, and in that state, the town remained for three days, when at length some respectable inhabitants of the town applied to a county magistrate, Mr. Fletcher, and requested him to interfere. That gentleman came to the town, and, with the assistance of the boroughreeves and the constables acting under them, in less than an hour he restored tranquillity to the town, which was never after disturbed. Was it extraordinary then, under such circumstances, that one of the persons who had been apprehended for taking part in the riots, who had attended the meeting, and had addressed the meeting after the mayor, when he was apprehended and brought up before the bench of magistrates on which the mayor was sitting, was it extraordinary that he should have addressed them thus:—I well remember when the gentlemen who are now my judges came forward and stated that they were prepared to redeem their pledge to assist us in gaining universal suffrage. Then, I ask you, with what face you can commit us to prison after the bait which you yourselves held out to us? and I tell you this, that though you may imprison, you cannot put down the rising spirit of the people—the agitation has originated with yourselves.That was the history of the agitation and turbulence which had appeared in Bolton, and which the efforts of a county magistrate, assisted by the police under the boroughreeves, had alone succeeded in quelling; and it was now proposed by this bill to put an end at once to that force, for the purpose of substituting in its place an inferior force. He could not conclude his observations on this subject without saying that the Ministers had placed themselves under the gravest responsibility for these occurrences by the appointment of such a person as the mayor of Bolton to the important office of 431 a justice of the peace. They themselves became liable to the charge of holding out encouragement and protection to the parties engaged in these disturbances. He left these matters to the consideration of the noble Viscount.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that he did not think that the latter part of the noble and learned Lord's speech relating to the disturbances at Bolton, and to the conduct of the magistrates and the police there, was very favourable to the view which he had taken with regard to this bill. The question was, whether the police as it existed at present was sufficient for preserving the peace of the town. The noble and learned Lord said, that the present force was larger: that, in point of numbers, it consisted of sixty men, whereas the police proposed to be established would only amount to thirty; but the efficiency of a force did not depend on its numbers, and as to that he appealed to the noble Duke. It depended entirely on its composition. Thirty resolute, independent men, determined to do their duty, were worth one hundred or two hundred who were not decided, not determined—whose hearts were not with you, who were not prepared to do their duty. The statement, on which the bill was grounded, was, that the present police wass entirely insufficient, and that it was absolutely necessary to provide a police for Bolton. Now, as to the latter part of the speech of the noble and learned Lord, in which he had referred to the state of the town and the conduct of the mayor, and the sort of persons whom he had sworn in as special constables, and the measures which he had taken, and the encouragement which he had afforded to the rioters, all this was an argument for the bill; it was a decided reason for passing the bill—which would establish in the town an independent police under an independent officer. In other respects the case was the same as that of Manchester. A charter had been granted, the charter was disputed, the rates could not be raised, and an efficient police force could not consequently be maintained; and they only sought to apply the same remedy in the case of Bolton which they had applied to Manchester.
said, that the noble Viscount had misrepresented what he had stated. He had said, that as long as the mayor was the party who attempted to establish peace in the town, his efforts 432 were wholly ineffectual. But the moment the county magistrate put himself at the head of the existing police force, he was completely successful in restoring peace in the town. The whole of the observations of the noble Viscount were, therefore, irrelevant.
§ Viscount Melbourne
remarked, that if the mayor was not an individual to be trusted, surely this was a reason for appointing another officer to have the management of an independent force.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that he had passed many years in transactions of this description, and was one of those who looked much to his experience of what had passed before. When, therefore, he saw that this police force at Bolton had conducted themselves most admirably—that they had exerted themselves in the roost effective manner for the preservation of the peace at a most critical moment, and that very lately, at a period when the disturbers of the public peace at Bolton might have said to this individual, whom the Secretary of State had recommended to the situation of justice of the peace—to this mayor, appointed a justice of the peace by her Majesty's Secretary of State, the riotous Chartists of Bolton might have addressed themselves in the language used by the regicide at Paris to his judges—"Sur le meme poignard que vous, j'ai juré la mort aux tyrans." While such a man, said the noble Duke, is appointed to administer justice in Bolton, it is not for us to consider whether 30 men, or 200 men, constituting a police force, are to be intrusted to his guidance. My Lords, we must put an end to this system of employing men as magistrates for the maintenance of the peace, who have been concerned in its violation. When we shall have taken this necessary step, we may then trust to the old constituted forms which exist n this country, and call on the people themselves to preserve the public peace, without having policemen under our noses to whatever quarter we turn. Every noble Lord who had considered this subject attentively, would see that the peace of Bolton would be preserved more effectually under the existing system than under that which was proposed by the bill. He would humbly recommend to his noble Friend opposite to postpone the consideration of this subject to a future day, in order that noble Lords might have an opportunity of applying their attention to the 433 principle which it involved. As long as such magistrates were appointed, and as long as these things were permitted to go on through the country with impunity, and men suffered to evade their duty, to take upon themselves offices which they would not faithfully fulfil, and encourage disturbances which it was their duty to put down, no matter what number of police they might choose to appoint, the peace could not be preserved.
§ The Duke of Richmond
was not disposed to thwart the Government when it proposed such a bill as a measure of precaution, but like the noble Duke, he deprecated such appointments as those referred to, and expressed a hope, that Government would institute a satisfactory inquiry, and dismiss the individuals, if the charges were proved against them. Such an inquiry was due not only to Bolton, but to the whole country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that the noble and learned Lord had not alleged that the mayor of Bolton had not discharged his duty properly; but that, from his previous character, the public could not believe that he was in earnest when he exerted himself for the suppression of violence. He also stated that the mayor had sworn in Chartist special constables; but the question was, whether these men had not faithfully discharged their duty? The question was not, what these parties had done before, or what were their opinions, but whether they had discharged their duty faithfully as special constables.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
thought it a pretty strong case, that the borough of Bolton was in a disturbed state for three days, under the control of the mayor; and that peace was immediately restored upon the intervention of the county magistrate.
§ Viscount Melbourne
observed, that this was only an ex parte statement. He looked upon it as mere assertion.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that he was most desirous to see the suggestion of the noble Duke (Richmond) adopted, and the whole matter put in a proper train of inquiry. He would not take upon himself the responsibility of this measure—its responsibility must rest on her Majesty's Ministers. He would only repeat the point to which he had already called the attention of the noble Viscount opposite—viz., as to the power to levy a rate under this bill, except only in Great Bolton. If the noble Viscount would advert to the Act of the 10th 434 of George 4th, he would find it impossible to levy the rate in Little Bolton, which formed more than one half of the borough.
§ The Lord Chancellor
said, if the rate could not be levied, it would be because some local Act intervened, and, therefore, the case of Bolton was the same as that of Manchester. There was, however, this difference, that at Bolton constables had not actually been appointed; but by the 76th section of the Municipal Act, the watch committee was bound within three weeks to appoint constables, and by the 86th section, as soon as they were appointed all the provisions of the local Act would cease.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
observed, that there was no local Act in Bolton. The constables were appointed at common law at a court leet, and they, when so appointed, were bound to do duty under the authority of the boroughreeve. He admitted, that if there were local Acts applicable to Great and Little Bolton, the case would be similar to that of Manchester.
§ The Lord Chancellor
Then there is no fund for paying them. Would you leave the town to the unpaid services of such constables?
§ Lord Lyndhurst
They have formed an efficient police in all times hitherto, and why they should not be continued I cannot understand.
§ Viscount Duncannon
said, that with regard to the question put to him by the noble and learned Lord (Lyndhurst), as to whether Little Bolton was not included in this bill, he (Viscount Duncannon) was not quite sure whether the observations of the noble and learned Lord might not be correct. He hoped, however, to be allowed to take the bill through this stage, and to consider the point before the next proceeding with it.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that if the rate could only be levied in Great Bolton, a fund of not more than 3,000l, per annum would be raised, and this would be wholly insufficient. He was surprised that those who framed the bill had not looked to this; however, it was not for him to amend it.
§ Committee postponed.