HL Deb 22 July 1867 vol 188 cc1774-872

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said: My Lords, although I acknowledge that it is not without some feelings of anxiety that I rise to ask your Lordships to assent to the second reading of a measure which received, at its last stage, the unanimous approval of the House of Commons—I mean the Bill for further amending the Laws relating to the Representation of the People in the other House of Parliament—yet I cannot but experience a feeling of satisfaction when I contrast the circumstances under which I now address your Lordships with those which attended the consideration of the same subject thirty-five years ago. My Lords, if on this occasion I could anticipate that I should have to encounter one-tenth of the difficulty which the noble Earl (Earl Grey) who had charge of the then Reform Bill had to contend with, and in contending with which he exhibited such extraordinary ability, patience, and temper, as enabled him finally to surmount all obstacles—in that case, my Lords, I should certainly shrink from the magnitude of the task which I have undertaken. Upon that occasion the question was one which involved no less than a social revolution in this country. It was a revolution which, by a sudden and violent process, transferred the whole political power of the nation from one portion of the community to another. It was one in which it was necessary for those who proposed the measure to run counter to the feelings, to the wishes, and to the interests of the great majority of those who had to decide the question in both Houses of Parliament, and more especially in your Lordships' House. It was one which ran counter to the whole power and authority of that class which, up to that period, had exercised a preponderating influence upon, if not an absolute monopoly of, what was then called the Representation of the People. My Lords, it is difficult for those of your Lordships whose memories will not carry them back to that stormy period to realize what was the state of our so-called representative system up to 1832; it is difficult for the younger Members of your Lordships' House to realize that there was a time when in the Councils of this country the voices of Manchester, of Birmingham, of Leeds, and of all the other important centres of manufacturing industry were absolutely unheard; that there was a time when even the large and more important towns that were honoured with what was then called representation were in the hands of self-elected knots of ten twelve, or fourteen individuals; and when boroughs which had absolutely ceased to have any existence, except a political one, and in which there was not even a single inhabitant or a single house, still went through the mockery of sending representatives to Parliament, and exercised their due numerical influence in the great Council of the nation. My Lords, I must confess that I myself entered Parliament, for the first time, when a very young man, under circumstances which I do not think to have been strictly within the spirit of the Constitution. It so happened that a West Indian proprietor, of high Tory principles, found himself, as West Indian proprietors sometimes did—even before the passing of negro emancipation, in pecuniary difficulties. He was the possessor of property, however, which included a borough, over which, although nominally there was voting of scot and lot, he had absolute and entire control. It happened, also, that a wealthy Whig Peer was desirous of increasing his political influence, and he requested me, then a young man, and without the slightest connection with the borough in question, or with the neighbourhood, to accept the seat which was to be placed at my disposal. And so far, my Lords, was the complaisance of the Tory proprietor of the borough carried, that he not only vacated his seat in the middle of the Session, but also went down in person and introduced to the constituency, whom he had sold, the nominee of the Whig Peer to whom he had sold them. I am obliged to confess that a few years afterwards I was guilty of such ingratitude as to vote that this borough should stand in Schedule A. My Lords, I have mentioned this for the purpose of contrasting the circumstances under which I now address your Lordships with those of that day. At that time, as I have said, it was a question of a social revolution, and of an absolute transfer of political power. It was a time when principles were opposed to principles, and when the movement which was at work had to meet a determined and uncompromising resistance. It is true, my Lords, that at that time the Government of the country possessed the somewhat doubtful advantage of being supported by an amount of popular enthusiasm sufficient to bear down all the opposition and all the barriers with which they had to contend. The tide of popular feeling, stimulated by events which had then recently occurred on the Continent, had risen to a height which, while quite sufficient to bear down all barriers, bore them down the more determinedly in proportion to the unyielding stubborness with which, for years past, and up to the very moment of the introduction of the Bill, the party then in the possession of political power had resisted all counsels and refused all concessions, the consequence being that the tide—I will not say of revolution, although it approached it very nearly—but the tide of innovation, set in with resistless force, and broke down all the obstacles and barriers which had hitherto opposed it. I have called this, my Lords, a doubtful advantage. No doubt, it was an advantage in so far as it enabled the Government to carry through their measure, supported by an irresistible force, and in so far as it precluded a very close examination of the details of that great measure which they submitted to the consideration of Parliament. "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," was the cry which, as the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) well remembers, was raised throughout the country. With regard to the details of the measure, whatever their merits might be, there was little discussion. There was little controversy at that time except as between the question whether "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill" should be carried, or whether effect should be given to the declaration of the Duke of Wellington that, so far from its being desirable that any change should take place in the system of representation, the system then existing was one which, if it, did not already exist, was so perfect, so absolutely without blemish, that it would be desirable to introduce it for the first time. But, my Lords, it is impossible to conceal the fact that although, to a certain extent, popular sympathy and enthusiasm lent a support—an irresistible support—to the Government of that day, it certainly did, on the other hand, preclude the fair, deliberate, impartial consideration of that great political measure. It was carried after a protracted struggle in the other House, and especially in this; it was carried in the heat of passion—not with the calm deliberation which befits an important political change, but amid violent agitation and excitement—amid all that was calculated to prevent a careful consideration of a great political question. Now, I look upon that as having been a serious disadvantage; but, happily for the country, we had at that time at the head of public affairs a man above all others qualified not only to "ride the whirlwind," but to "direct the storm"—a man who, pursuing with unflinching energy that which had been the object of a long political life, found himself enabled at its close, by the exercise of mingled courage, firmness, determination, conciliation, and dignity, to carry through a reluctant Parliament—although, I confess, at last, by measures in this House which nothing but the extreme necessity could have justified or palliated—a measure which I believe in my conscience has contributed more than any measure of recent times to place the Government and the people of this country upon a footing of amicable relation to each other, and to promote the prosperity and well-being of the country at large. My Lords, I bore a humble part in supporting in the other House of Parliament that great measure of Reform; and for myself I could have been well content to join in the declaration at that time made by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell), that, seeing that England could not bear a revolution every quarter of a century, it was desirable that the measure, so adopted and settled, should be accepted, if not as a final measure, at all events as one calculated to remain undisturbed for a lengthened period. But, my Lords, the same hand which contributed so greatly to the success of that measure was also one of the first to disturb it. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) within twenty years after the passing of the Act—he did not even give himself that quarter of a century which he had prescribed—abandoned the doctrine which for some time gave him the sobriquet of "Finality," and expressed his opinion that a further change was necessary if not in the principles, at all events in the details of our representative system. For my own part, I say now, as I have said before, that I believed the House of Commons framed in 1832 has from that time down to the present—though I have not always agreed with its decisions—faithfully and honestly represented the feelings and the wishes of the great body of the people. I am sure of this, that no measures you could pass—no system which you could frame—would give you a body of men more disposed and more able to consult and provide for the interests of all classes of the community. I believe, more especially with regard to the lower classes, that the Parliament which has subsisted since 1832 has shown a degree of intelligent interest in their welfare which could not be surpassed by any assembly in the world; and I frankly admit that I do not anticipate, whatever may be the advantages of the measure I am about to propose, that its effect will be to produce a body of men more intelligent, more enlightened, more devoted to their duty, more sincerely attached to the interests of all portions of the community, than that which at present represents the people in the House of Commons.

Well, then, it may be asked, if these are the views which I entertain, on what ground it is that I come forward and ask your Lordships to adopt a measure which proposes to make a very considerable alteration in our representative system? It is because it is not sufficient that in the House of Commons we should have an instrument of Government which satisfactorily conducts the business of the country; it is that we may have in the House of Commons an instrument which it is believed by the great body of the people to perform those duties which I believe they do perform, but at the same time from any participation in the election of which a very large portion of the honest, industrious, and intelligent citizens of this country are excluded. It is not sufficient that the instrument should work well; it is necessary that those for whom it does work should be convinced that it works well. Well, my Lords, as I have said, for nearly twenty years this system of Parliamentary representation has worked, I believe I may say with general approval and without any intention or any wish to alter it. I think that it was in 1852 that the noble Earl (Earl Russell) first found reasons for sounding anew the tocsin — Parliamentary Reform. From that period down to the present there have been, not continuous, but successive, attempts to carry measures for the Amendment of the Representation of the People in Parliament; and not only successive attempts, but successive attempts made by the same Governments, to which they pledged in the most formal manner, in the Queen's Speeches, the name and authority of the Sovereign. In 1852, in 1854, again in 1858, measures of Parliamentary Reform were recommended in the Speech from the Throne. I had the honour of succeeding to the office of First Minister of the Crown in 1858, and at the commencement of 1859 I felt myself bound to make an effort—I will venture to say a sincere and honest effort—to settle this great question, and to redeem the pledges which in the name of the Sovereign had been given by my predecessors in office upon three several occasions. My Lords, if I felt it necessary in 1859 to take that step I will ask your Lordships upon what reasons or pretexts could I excuse myself in 1867 after all that had passed? In 1860 the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) brought forward a measure, again under the sanction of the Speech from the Throne; and that measure failed, I may say, with the general consent of the House of Commons. I do not pretend to enter into the question how it was, from what reasons, and under what circumstances, the question of Parliamentary Reform slept from 1860 to 1866; but one fact is quite clear, that owing to his paramount authority and respect for the advancing years and political character of the late Lord Palmerston, the Leaders of the Liberal party were unwilling to disturb a question to which it was known that noble Lord, however he might be ostensibly the Leader of the Liberal party was honestly and conscientiously opposed. At all events, it so happened that, during the latter period of Lord Palmerston's protracted life, no question of Parliamentary Reform was raised in Parliament, and there was little or no agitation in the country about it. But, my Lords, Lord Palmerston died, having recently gone through a General Election, in which, no doubt, there was a majority of seventy, eighty, or even ninety in favour of the Liberal party headed by Lord Palmerston. The noble Earl opposite thereupon—as was his right, and no one can dispute it—succeeded to the administration of affairs, and in conjunction with Mr. Gladstone, his Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons, thought the time was come when he could again revive the dormant question of Reform, and considered, no doubt, that he could carry a measure—for he himself said that it was not the duty of any Government to stir such a question without a fair prospect of carrying it, and he, no doubt, thought himself justified by the majority of Liberals in the House of Commons in bringing forward the question. My Lords, it is not for me to criticize the conduct or the tact with which the question was introduced to the notice of Parliament, or by which it was attempted to be carried through the House of Commons; I may however say that it was felt by many that the question was prematurely brought before a new Parliament which really had not had sufficient time to consider so important a question in all its bearings. It was brought forward by a Government who thought they had the absolute control of the majority of the House of Commons, and who attempted to carry it—I may be excused for saying—in a tone and a manner which savoured much more of dictation than of readiness to yield to the feelings and wishes of the House, or make such moderate concessions as might fairly be demanded of them. My Lords, I speak with the most sincere conviction of the truth of what I am saying when I state that if the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had known how to deal with the feelings, and to weigh the prejudices and the opinions of the House of Commons, if he had been able to make moderate concessions, to adopt a conciliatory course, and to abstain from an imperious dictation as to what the House of Commons must do under the control of the Government, I have not the slightest doubt that the House of Commons, under the auspices of that Government, would have passed a Bill of Parliamentary Reform more or less satisfactory. But, my Lords, the moment the measure was introduced to the House of Commons, the Government took occasion to make use of such language as that they had "crossed the Rubicon," had "burnt their boats," had "broken their bridges," and that there was no retreat from the position they had taken up, that the measure they had advised was the measure Parliament must adopt, and that no alteration or modification of that measure would be submitted to by the Government. From that moment the chance of passing the measure amicably through the House of Commons was virtually at an end. Now it is a very remarkable circumstance that during the whole of the protracted discussions on the question, the nature and extent of the borough franchise was never once brought under the consideration of Parliament. In all those lengthened discussions questions of form and procedure were the staple of debate; the only point settled was the reduction of the county franchise from £50 to £14; and the question upon which ultimately the Government thought it necessary to throw up their offices was not us to the amount of the borough franchise, but whether that franchise should be estimated by the amount of rental paid or of rating. My Lords, allow me to say this—that it is a remarkable fact that upon no occasion—I speak on the part of the Conservative party in this country—since the introduction of those measures of Parliamentary Reform has any opposition to the second reading been offered by the Conservative party to the Bills introduced by the Government of the day. In 1852, in 1854, again in 1859, and again in 1866, no opposition was given by the Conservative party to the second reading of the Bills, or to the consideration of the schemes which the Government of the day had submitted to their judgment. But upon the only two occasions on which a Bill has been brought forward by the Conservative party a contrary course has been taken. I need not remind your Lordships that our Bill of 1859, which was brought forward to carry out the same principles as the former Bill, was defeated by an Amendment moved by the noble Earl opposite; and again in 1867 it was only the strenuous and determined opposition of the Liberal party which prevented the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, who announced his implacable hostility to the Bill, from moving its rejection; and now the Bill comes before your Lordships' House—from the House of Commons—and we are threatened with another Amendment on the second reading. I do the noble Earl (Earl Grey) the entire justice of believing that he does not bring forward his Amendment with the object of defeating the measure; I do not believe that he brings it forward even for the purpose of delaying the progress of the measure; but I say it is a remarkable thing that the attempts to originate obstacles to the second readings of the Bills on Parliamentary Reform, when none were offered by the Conservative party in similar circumstances, should proceed from the Liberal party. It had been the case previous to 1859, it has been the case since that time, that the question has reduced itself from a question of principle to one of detail. It is not whether Amendments should take place, not whether an alteration should take place, nor with regard to the character of those alterations, that opposition is offered, because the noble Earl succeeded in obtaining a declaration from Parliament that any measure to be satisfactory must involve a considerable reduction in the franchise of boroughs. I am entitled to say that from 1859 to the present time there has been no question of principle involved, or of opposition to the reduction of the franchise—the question entirely resolves itself into this, both with regard to the borough and the county franchise, as to how much or how little. It is, then, a question not of principle, but of detail—on the question of principle all sides of the House are pledged alike; the question of detail will, I hope, be fairly entered upon.

Well, my Lords, after the protracted discussions in the course of last Session, Her Majesty's late Government—and, considering their previous declarations, I do not blame them for it — announced their intention of abandoning their proposed measure and the offices they held. Now, my Lords, speaking with all frankness, I venture to say that the question upon which they were defeated was not one upon which a Ministry, sincerely desirous of carrying any effective measure of Reform, ought to have deserted their post. But at the same time I admit that, after the somewhat imprudent declarations which they had made in the early part of the Session, that they would adhere to the Bill, and that if any Amendment were carried they would consider it fatal to the Administration—I admit, I say, that as men of honour they had no other alternative. But then, my Lords, I am obliged to look at the position in which the Queen and the country were placed; I was obliged also to look at the position of the Conservative party; I was obliged also to look at the position which, having the honour to possess the confidence of the Conservative party, I was bound to take in the execution of my public duty. My Lords, it is quite true that I could not pretend to command a majority of the House of Commons. I entirely acquit the noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen, my predecessors in office, from anything so inconsistent with their character and their position as the desire to make a mock attempt to improve the representation, to be followed by a new return to office with greater strength at their command. I believe that they resigned their offices honestly feeling that they did not enjoy the confidence of the majority of the other House of Parliament, and that they were not able to carry through their measure. But then came the question—the old question put by the late Duke of Wellington—How is the Queen's Government to be carried on? My Lords, I have upon former occasions, unfortunately, occupied the position of a Minister on sufferance. I have upon two previous occasions attempted to carry on the Government with a minority in the House of Commons, and upon both occasions I have failed. It was, therefore, a very hard, and I will say a very severe trial of duty, and public over private considerations, when I felt myself for a third time called upon, under similar circumstances, to undertake the important and responsible duty of First Minister of the Crown. My Lords, I did not do so without fully considering the responsibilities and the duties which devolved upon me, and the whole burden which I had to undertake. I did not intend for a third time to be made a mere stop-gap until it should suit the convenience of the Liberal party to forget their dissensions and bring forward a measure which should oust us from office and replace them there; and I determined that I would take such a course as would convert, if possible, an existing minority into a practical majority. As our political opponents had failed in carrying a measure, the carrying of which was of vital importance to the interests of the country, and the postponement of which added to the public inconvenience and embarrassment year after year, and the agitation for which was standing in the way of every measure of practical improvement and practical legislation, I felt it to be my duty to undertake this difficult task—a task which, as I thought, it was all but impossible to fulfil; and, despite of any taunts of inconsistency, despite of any opposition, to endeavour towards the close of my political career to settle one great and important question of vital importance to the interests of the country. Therefore, my Lords, inasmuch as the Conservative party had never opposed themselves to the principle of Parliamentary Reform. [Murmurs.] Do noble Lords oppposite doubt the fact that the Conservative party have never objected for the last fifteen years to the principle and the introduction of measures of Parliamentary Reform? I have already stated that the only opposition to the second reading and the principle of any Reform Bills has come, not from the Conservative, but from the Liberal party. Well, what had we to consider? Were we to ignore the question of Parliamentary Reform altogether? [A noble LORD: Yes!] What would have been the consequence? Why, the consequence must have been—perhaps it was foreseen by the noble Lord opposite who shows so much excitement upon the question—that, at the very first meeting of a new Parliament, Resolutions would have been proposed affirming the absolute necessity of passing a measure of Parliamentary Reform, and upon that the Government would have been left in a minority, which would have left them no alternative but to hand over their offices to our opponents. What actually occurred was this:—The late Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he would give his cordial support to any reasonable and satisfactory measure of Reform; but to an illusory measure, to one of anything like a reactionary character, to any Bill which fell short of the just expectations of the country—to that, we might depend upon it, he would offer uncompromising opposition—and I do not doubt that in that case we should have had, if, indeed, we have not had, such an opposition. Well, my Lords, there remains this question—Was this question to be settled, or was Government after Government to be turned out of office, in consequence of failure on Reform Bills? Was the country to be kept in a state of perpetual turmoil and agitation? Was all legislation to be put a stop to because this great question stood in the way; or, were we to attempt to introduce a measure, so large as to satisfy reasonable public expectation, and at the same time to the best of my judgment so Conservative as to leave no ground for reasonable apprehension? My Lords, we decided upon taking the latter course. The task was a difficult one. To many of our Friends, and to still more of our opponents, it seemed absolutely impossible that we should succeed. But we endeavoured honestly to fulfil that which we conceived to be our duty. As I have more than once announced to your Lordships, I felt that that question of Parliamentary Reform was one which in the present state of parties no Government, be they what they might, could carry by their own unassisted strength, and in dealing with which no Government could force upon the Legislature their individual views; and that if we wished to pass a measure which should give general satisfaction, we must take Parliament into our councils and frankly and honestly confer with the representatives of the country concerning that measure. My Lords, in the first instance, as your Lordships are aware, it was our desire to have introduced the subject to the consideration of the House of Commons in the form of Resolutions. We thought that by the discussion of these Resolutions we could satisfactorily elicit what were the views of the House of Commons, how far it would be prudent and safe to carry our Bill, how far we might rely upon the support of the House, and where it would be desirable to fix the precise limits of the franchise. The House of Commons did not think fit to discuss these Resolutions. They complained—and complained with truth, I admit—that these Resolutions were of a very vague character, that they pledged the House to nothing more than certain broad principles, and left all the main details for future discussion. At the same time, I do regret that we had not the discussion we wished to invite upon these Resolutions, because all the main principles of the Bill we proposed were included in those Resolutions, and upon them we desired, in the first instance, setting aside, as far as was possible, all considerations of party, to invite opinion. The House of Commons, however, thought otherwise; and insisted that we should forthwith introduce a Bill. That being so, we then had to consider what should be the character of the measure we should introduce; and, my Lords, not without considerable discussion—not without very anxious consideration, the Cabinet finally came to the conclusion that, if, as the Resolution of 1859 announced that must be done, you abandon the standpoint of the £10 borough franchise, there was no fixed point at which you could safely remain without running the risk—without, indeed, incurring almost the certainty—of renewed agitation for a further advance, and that you must take your stand upon a household franchise, accompanied by residence and payment of rates. I will not now allude to the circumstances under which, as your Lordships are well aware, we were induced to submit to the consideration of Parliament propositions falling far short of that which we had desired to introduce — propositions previously considered in the Cabinet as a measure upon which, if the House of Commons could not be induced to go so far, we might fall back as a pis aller. It is sufficient to say, that, from all sides of the House, from Liberals and from Conservatives, that measure was denounced as not being sufficiently extensive, and the Conservative party were not less loud than the Liberal party in declaring that the measure must go further than a £6 rating franchise. In consequence of these declarations, we not only abandoned the measure, but consented to sacrifice three of our most valued and important Colleagues for the purpose of introducing, at the desire of the House of Commons, practically expressed, a system of election founded upon a rating residential household suffrage. I have said that there was no stand-point between these two—between this and the £10 franchise—upon which we could safely rely; and, if I wanted any illustration of this fact, it would be found in the various propositions which, not various Governments, but the same Government—at least, a Government the great majority of whose Members were the same—have made from the year 1852 down to 1866. In 1852 a £5 rateable value was proposed as the limit of the franchise; in 1854 that was increased to a £6 rating. In 1860 a £6 limit again appeared, but in the shape of rental find not of rates. In 1866 a £7 rental appeared as the limit to which the Government thought it safe to go; but it was accompanied by a most important provision, never inserted in any other Reform Bills, and, as I think, of the most Radical character—namely, the exclusion of the voter who claimed under a £7 rental from liability to rates or the payment of rates. But in every Reform Bill since the period of the Reform Act in 1832 down to that time the payment of rates had been insisted upon as an indispensable condition; but in 1866, for the first time, that payment of rates was dispensed with by the Bill of the noble Earl. [Earl RUSSELL: The principle was contained in the Bill of 1854.] I think the noble Earl must be mistaken. The Bill of 1854, I believe, dispensed with the payment of assessed taxes, but not of rates. The payment of assessed taxes had been dispensed with in 1854, 1858, and 1860; but, though the noble Earl should be a better authority than I am upon the question, I think I am right in saying that, for the first time, the Bill of 1866 relieved the intending voter from the payment of all rates, including the poor rate, although he had been previously relieved only from the payment of assessed taxes. I am speaking now of the borough franchise only, which is the most important portion of the Bill; and I say that, having come to the conclusion that the £10 standard could not be maintained, we looked about to see whether it was possible to take any Other stand-point within that of household suffrage. We were encouraged in the belief that that was the only safe and enduring point that could be taken by the opinion, publicly expressed, of two most distinguished Members of the House of Commons, one a Conservative, the other a Liberal—Mr. Henley, the Member for Oxfordshire, and no less an authority than the late Attorney General (Sir Roundell Palmer), who in his place in the House of Commons declared that if the £10 standpoint were abandoned no other resting-place could be found than household suffrage. What, then, did we propose to do? What were the restrictions by which it might be thought satisfactory to guard that household suffrage? It might be feared that household suffrage pure and simple would introduce to the franchise a class of persons very unfit to exercise it intelligently and independently; but we were of opinion that, instead of estimating the qualification of a man by the amount of rent he paid for his house—which, in point of fact, was adopted in 1832 as a rough-and-ready way of drawing a line between different classes, and making a sort of compromise with public opinion—a far better test was to be found in a man's having for a considerable time been an inhabitant of a borough in which he sought to have a vote, and in his having during that time faithfully and punctually discharged the duties which devolved upon him by the payment of the rates and taxes to which he was liable. In adopting that principle we did not introduce any new qualification, nor one unknown to the history of the country. We were introducing the old English qualification of scot and lot, which prevailed in about forty boroughs before the Amendment of the Representation of the People in 1832. It is a principle well known to the Constitution—it is a principle which commends itself to the judgment, that those who are liable to contribute to the direct taxation of the country should have a voice in the election of those whose duty it is to impose that taxation. My Lords, we were desirous, no doubt, of accompanying that franchise with other qualifications, which were subsequently abandoned. One of these was the payment of a certain amount of direct taxation; another was the possession for a given period of a certain amount in the savings bank; and a third was what may be called an education qualification. These qualifications were not favourably received by the House of Commons, and they were abandoned. Another restriction proposed was that of the period of residence. The original proposition made by the Government was that the period of residence should be fixed for those below £10 occupiers not at one year but at two years. That restriction, however, was objected to, and that not on one side of the House alone. It was argued, and argued with some force, that a residence previous to registration of one year practically amounted to a residence, before the power of exercising a vote was acquired, of nearly two years. The period that elapsed between the making of the claim in July and the registration in the subsequent November imposes a residence of a year and a half; and then July is not the time at which persons usually enter upon new occupations; they would much more usually enter upon a new tenancy at Lady Day; and thus, from Lady Day to the time at which the registration would come into force, a year and three quarters would probably elapse. Upon these grounds we did not think it desirable to insist upon a residence of more than one year. We introduced another qualification which it is rather important to bear in mind as drawing a distinction between the new voter and those who were previously entitled to vote under the £10 qualification. It must be remembered that all the provisions contained in this Bill are not in substitution for, but in addition to, the franchise at present enjoyed, none of which are interfered with by the measure. When the amount of the rateable value was reduced down to the lowest possible sum we felt there might be in many boroughs a great risk of introducing what would practically be fictitious votes, by attaching the suffrage to the mere occupation of the smallest building, not being a dwelling-house, and that in this way a very objectionable class of voters might be placed upon the register. The Bill, therefore, which I have the honour of laying before your Lordships confines the occupation franchise in boroughs not to a warehouse, counting-house, or shop, as in the Bill of 1832, but strictly to a dwelling-house; and in that manner we think, however low we may go, however lowly rated the house may be, yet if the occupier has resided in it for a certain period, and has paid his rates, he is as likely to be an intelligent and an honest voter as the man with a £6 or a £7 qualification unaccompanied by the payment of rates, and bestowed in respect of a dwelling-house, counting-house, shop, or hovel of any description. I believe, therefore, although the principle we introduced is in its operation more extensive than that of the Bill introduced by our predecessors, yet practically it will introduce to the constituency a more respectable, a more solvent, a more intelligent, and a more steady class of voters than could have been introduced by the measure contemplated by the Government last year. It is difficult to calculate with any precision what will be the addition made to the constituency by this Bill. The only mode by which you can arrive at any conclusion is by ascertaining the proportion of the persons now entitled to vote who come upon the register, and by making a corresponding, or, as the inferior class, a somewhat increased deduction for those who, although qualified, do not come upon the register. It appears that about 30 per cent of the male occupiers at and above £10 do not appear upon the register. Assuming the same proportion for the occupiers between £10 and £7, and making, as is not unreasonable, a large deduction for occupiers below £7, in consideration of their more generally migratory habits, and of the circumstance that they are more liable to be behindhand in the payment of their taxes, so far as we can judge, we arrived at these results:—The present constituency in the boroughs numbers 452,000; the addition of occupiers from £7 to £10 will be 137,000; and below £7, 250,000 will be added. Of the male occupiers under £7, three-fifths are contained within thirty-seven of the larger boroughs, and consequently the proportionate addition to the smaller constituencies of the country will in point of fact be much more limited than may appear from the figures.

Knowing the trespass I must make on your Lordships' time, I am not now going to enter upon the difficult question, the consideration of which occupied the House of Commons a long time; I refer to the provisions with regard to what are called compound-householders. Your Lordships are aware that nothing can be more varying and uncertain than the cases of compound-householders under the Small Tenements Act and under various local Acts. The system of compounding varies in almost every borough. Some of them have a system under the Small Tenements Act, introduced at the discretion of the vestry. In other boroughs, again, some parishes are under the Small Tenements Act or under local Acts and others are not. Consequently voters in different parishes of the same borough are subject to different conditions. I need hardly remind your Lordships that the principle of all these enactments is that the landlord shall undertake the payment of rates for a certain number of houses, and that he receives a corresponding deduction for the risk he runs in assuming that liability. In point of fact he makes a contract for the whole of his tenants, taking the risk of loss on the one hand, and, on the other, paying only for each tenant from one-half to two-thirds or three-fourths of the rates due from him individually. It was quite clear that these tenants so compounded for, even supposing they paid the landlord the whole amount of the composition, would come upon the register with a great advantage over those solvent tenants who were paying the whole rate of the parish, and who were, therefore, the more important class of those in their own station of life. I have here a memorandum showing that in the first instance under the Reform Act provision was made that compounders were to be admitted to the franchise upon tendering the full amount of the rate. Again, by the 14 & 15 Vict. it was recited that it was inconvenient that persons in their positions should make repeated claims; and it was provided that when the compounder had once made his claim he should thereafter be entitled to be placed upon the register, although the landlord paid the rates for him; and it was further provided that the occupier's claim to be rated should not have to be made more than once in respect of his composition under the same landlord—thus putting the compounder in a better position than the ordinary occupier. When we introduced the Bill we proposed, as enacted in 1832, that the compounder should be admitted upon claiming to be rated and paying the full amount which an ordinary occupier would, and for which the landlord was authorized to compound. This proposition was described as being a fine upon the compound householder. I need not weary your Lordships by going through the lengthened discussion which took place on this subject, and which ended in the agreement that the Small Tenements Act and all the local Acts should be abrogated in all Parliamentary boroughs. There will be no more compounding after September next, except in the case of houses let out in apartments to lodgers. All occupiers will be liable to be rated, and on payment of the rate, will be entitled to vote. [Earl GRANVILLE: In Parliamentary boroughs?] Of course, we are now dealing with the elective franchise. The objection to taking the rateable value was assumed to be the great difference prevailing in different boroughs as to the amount deducted from the gross value for the purpose of estimating the rating. But when you enact that all tenements which are rated shall confer a qualification for the franchise, that question of the difference as to the amount of rate is altogether done away with. All the arguments, and I am sorry to say the false swearing also, which would arise out of a rental or rating qualification before the revising barrister are entirely put an end to, for the rate-book is in point of fact the test whether a man has been rated and has paid his rates. A proposition was made in the House of Commons—and I regret it was not agreed to—under which it would have been made competent for a landlord and tenant to agree, by mutual consent, that the landlord should be rated, and that in such an event the tenant should waive his corresponding right of exercising the franchise. If that provision had been introduced into the Bill it would have inflicted hardship upon no person whatever, because the transaction would be one of a voluntary character on the part both of the tenant and the landlord, it would have rested with the tenant to abandon his right of voting, while the landlord would have had the benefit of any arrangement which might have been made. That just proposal, as I deem it, was rejected by the House of Commons, and I think the result will be that in many boroughs great difficulty will be experienced in collecting the rates, more especially among the small occupiers. There is only one other qualification with regard to boroughs to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention, and that is one on which a good deal of attention has been bestowed by the other House — namely, the proposal to enfranchise lodgers. My Lords, I have already said that it was originally proposed, with the view of admitting a number of the more respectable portion of the working classes to the exercise of the franchise, that there should be three separate franchises. The first I may call an educational franchise; the next was the possession of a certain amount of money in the savings-banks; and the third was founded on the payment of a certain amount of direct taxation. It was thought that these provisions would introduce a considerable number of very respectable voters who, not being householders, would, according to the present law, be debarred from exercising the franchise. These provisions, however, did not find favour with the House of Commons, and the result was the introduction of the lodger franchise—which I am bound to say formed part of the proposal submitted to us by Parliament in 1859, and which was also included in the measure brought forward by our predecessors last year. And although Mr. Gladstone appeared at first not to attach much importance to it, yet he raised the most strenuous and determined opposition to a proposal to omit it, and declared that its omission would be the destruction of the Bill, which would be worth nothing if the lodger were not enfranchised. At the same time this franchise is introduced into the present measure with restrictions which I think will greatly mitigate the inconvenience that might result from the introduction of lodgers. And here I may remark that I do not for one moment doubt that a large portion of the lodgers, more especially in the metropolis, are men of higher station and greater qualifications than the persons who rent the houses in which they reside. Indeed I know one case of a respectable man who for many years lived in a house which was the property of his own servant. Of course, that is a strong and extreme case, but I know there are many cases in which men of considerable means occupy year after year the same lodgings, while the persons who give the receipt for the rent are, in many instances, obliged to make use of their marks instead of signing their names. But, my Lords, although the amount of the lodger franchise has been placed as low as £10 for unfurnished lodgings, yet it has not been thought right to propose it with no qualifications and restrictions; for it is provided in this Bill, as it was provided, I think, in the Bill of last year, that lodgers shall be compellable to show that they have occupied the same lodgings—and not successive lodgings—for the period of one year, and to make a claim annually to be placed on the register. Now, I believe that, under these restrictions, the lodger franchise will not make a very large addition to the number of voters throughout the country generally: I think it will make a considerable increase in the metropolis and other very large towns; but I believe that in the great majority of boroughs the addition made by this franchise will be so inconsiderable that it will not be practically felt.

My Lords, I think I have now said all I have to say with regard to the proposed franchise in boroughs; and I am happy to say that I shall not be under the necessity of trespassing at any great length upon your Lordships' time in referring to the proposed county franchises. You are aware that in addition to those franchises which are dependent upon property, and with which there is no intention on the part of the Government to interfere, there is at the present time—and I am almost ashamed to mention the fact in the presence of the noble Earl (Earl Russell)—only one franchise, and it is confined to £50 occupiers under the well-known Chandos clause. I confess that I could not quite make out the other day the objection of the noble Earl to that franchise—whether he thought it too high or too low—but somehow or other it did not suit him. The alteration proposed to be made in that occupation franchise by the present Bill is very similar to that which was proposed last year in the Bill of which the noble Earl was the joint author. We propose to reduce it from £50 to £12 rating, which will, I believe, be as nearly as possible equivalent to the £14 rental franchise proposed by the late Government and assented to by the House of Commons. Now, we have a fair means of forming an opinion as to the addition which will be made by this change to the county constituencies. We have a return of the number of male occupiers in counties of £50 and upwards, and also of occupiers between £12 and £50. From this it will be found that at the present time the number of occupiers of £50 and upwards in all the counties of England and Wales is 116,527; the number of voters under the property qualification being 423,744, this makes a total of 540,271 voters. The number of occupiers between £12 and £50 to be admitted to the franchise, making the usual deduction for those who will not probably come upon the register, will amount to 121,000, who will have to be added to the 540,271, spread over all the counties of England and Wales. But it is to be borne in mind that under the provisions of this Bill a very considerable deduction is made from the county constituencies by the abstraction from the counties of the population of those large towns which we now propose to enfranchise for the first time. These large towns contain a population exceeding 500,000, who will have to be removed from the county constituencies and added to the borough constituencies. There is one point in connection with this subject to which I wish to refer, because a clause has been introduced into the Bill in the House of Commons without, as it appears to me, any sufficient consideration. I am alluding to the clause which reduces the copyhold and leasehold tenure from £10 to £5. I believe that there are only one or two counties—Staffordshire, I believe, is one of them—in which that clause can produce any material change; but it will be attended with this consequence, which was not, I believe, foreseen by the House of Commons when the Amendment was adopted. At present the £10 occupation franchise is the occupation of a dwelling-house, counting-house, warehouse, shop, or other building; but the occupation franchise below £10 is limited to the occupation of a dwelling-house. Now, by the Reform Act of 1832, the borough freeholder was placed in this position, that he could not vote for a county in respect of any property which conferred upon him the right of voting for the borough; but a distinction was drawn between copyholders and leaseholders on the one hand and freeholders on the other, by which the former were debarred from voting for counties in respect of any property which would confer upon them or upon any other persons the right of voting in boroughs. Under this Bill this curious result will follow — that a leaseholder or copyholder being in possession of a £5 tenement in a borough, such tenement not being a dwelling-house, will not have a right to vote for the borough, nor will anybody else, in respect of that property: consequently he will have a right to vote for the county; whereas a leaseholder or copyholder of £10 and upwards, under precisely the same circumstances in the same borough, will be restricted from the exercise of the county vote. I do not think this is a matter of very material importance; but, as I believe it is an oversight on the part of the House of Commons, I thought it my duty to bring it under the notice of your Lordships. There is another point also to which I call attention. As I have already stated, a freehold occupation in a borough does not confer the right of voting for the county if it gives the right of voting for the borough. The result of the lowering of the franchise by the present Bill will be to take out of the county constituencies a considerable proportion of the freeholders who now exercise the right of voting in the counties. I mention this merely as an incident, but I have thought right to mention it because it may produce some, though not a large, effect upon the county constituencies.

My Lords, I now proceed, with many apologies for trespassing so long upon your Lordships' time, but I was anxious to place before you as fully and as fairly as I can the practical working of the measure—I now proceed to the question of the re-distribution of seats. I am quite aware that in the minds of many persons the measure of re-distribution we have proposed is not as extensive as could be desired. But, my Lords, we were desirous in the first instance not to carry the principle of disfranchisement further than was absolutely necessary for the purposes of enfranchisement. We proposed that our object should be enfranchisement, and we determined to draw our supply from those quarters which might best be able to afford it without seriously interfering with the existing representation, and in the first instance we proposed not to absolutely disfranchise any existing constituency. We thought that the small boroughs exercised a very useful influence, and formed a very important element in the general system of representation, which ought not lightly to be thrown away. Though in some cases they undoubtedly do increase the power of the landed aristocracy of the country, I do not think that is any absolute objection to their existence; because on the other hand they afford an opportunity of bringing into the House of Commons young men of talent and ability who have little chance of being elected by larger constituencies from the fact of their not being known, and who are thus early—a fact which I regard as of considerable importance—trained to the duties of public life, and having passed through the ordeal of the House of Commons are better fitted than they could possibly be by any other training to take their places, if that should be their lot, in your Lordships' House. We determined, therefore, except on the ground of notorious corruption, not entirely to disfranchise any borough, but to take one Member from all boroughs which, with populations of less than 7,000, now return two Members to Parliament. We thought that by these measures we should be able to supply the most urgent demands for enfranchisement both on the part of towns and counties. But the House of Commons thought fit to go further, and to extend the limit from 7,000 to 10,000, thereby placing fifteen additional seats at our disposal. When we had to consider this question of re-distribution, it was impossible to close our eyes to the great discrepancy which exists in the relative representation of boroughs and counties. Your Lordships, I know, are not fond of figures; but I trust you will permit me to make a comparison between the counties and the boroughs in regard to their population, their inhabited houses, and their rateable value. In the counties the population numbers 11,422,000, to be reduced by 580,000, as I before explained. In the boroughs the population numbers only 8,600,000. The rateable value of counties amounts to £59,700,000, of boroughs to £34,000,000. There are 540,000 electors in the counties and 489,000 in the boroughs. So that, as your Lordships will see, there is a large preponderance in point of wealth, population, and electors in favour of the counties; the electors in counties, too, being of a higher standard than those in boroughs; and yet, with all this enormous preponderance, the counties are represented by only 162 Members, while the boroughs return 334. That is to say, that while the wealth, the electors, and the population of the counties are very largely in excess of those of the boroughs, the Members representing the smaller population are more than double that representing the larger. Now, we made no pretention of doing away with all the anomalies which exist in our electoral system, nor to go by any strict rule; but it was impossible to consider the question of re-distribution and to overlook the claims of the counties to additional representation. It might reasonably be urged that the first sources from which we were to obtain the supply for the purposes of new enfranchisement naturally presented themselves in those boroughs where the grossest bribery and corruption had been proved to have prevailed. I recollect the noble Earl (Earl Grey) whose Amendment stands on the Paper of to-night, objecting last year to the appointment of Commissions to inquire into the corruption which was said to have prevailed in certain boroughs on the ground that while they involved the expenditure of much time and money, and engendered a great deal of ill-feeling, they were mere brutum fulmen—that they usually ended in nothing and left the evil absolutely untouched. We thought that we, at all events, would not leave ourselves open to that charge, and having the Reports of the Commissioners before us in the case of the four boroughs to which I shall presently refer more particularly, we determined upon applying a remedy which we hoped would have a deterrent influence in the future, and absolutely and entirely to disfranchise those constituencies. Two of them, at all events are important places—one of them, I am sorry to say, the metropolis of my own county; but we felt that if we were to visit severely the offences of the little and insignificant boroughs, and shrink from applying the same measure of justice to larger and more important constituencies, we should only encourage the evil we wished to cure, while we should at the same time lay ourselves open to the serious charge of being afraid to deal with powerful and influential offenders. I will mention some of the facts referred to by the Commissioners to show that the course which we adopted was the right one. The Commissioners report that, in the case of Totnes, £21,000 was spent from December 1862, to August 1865, principally in corruption, among 421 voters; that out of 364 who voted in 1865, 182, or precisely one-half, were scheduled as having been guilty of bribery, and that in the whole there was scarcely one voter in the whole borough who could be said to exercise his right of voting in an independent manner. That was the case at Totnes—and I am sure it must have been very painful to the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Somerset). Then comes the case of Yarmouth. I must admit that the number of persons bribed in Yarmouth was less than in Totnes; but it must be remembered that Yarmouth was supposed to be a purified borough, and that the corrupt element in it, the freemen, had been struck of by disfranchisement on a former occasion. We therefore had to deal with a purified constituency—the noxious element having been altogether eliminated; and yet we found that out of 1,645 voters there were scheduled as guilty of bribery no less than 528. I am sorry to say, for the credit of my county, that the case of Lancaster is worst of all. In Lancaster there are 1,465 electors, and the expenses—the proved expenses—for the year 1865 were £14,530 between the four candidates, or as nearly as possible an average of £10 for every voter in the borough. The Commissioners found that of these voters there were guilty of bribery 834, and of corrupt practices, 139; making a total of 973 scheduled as guilty of bribery or of corrupt practices, out of a constituency of 1,465. The last of these boroughs is Reigate, which is a comparatively new town. The Commissioners reported that extensive bribery had prevailed at every election from 1858 downwards. There are no freemen there. The number of voters was 920; and there voted in 1865, 730. Of these there were bribed 346, and 220 of those who were bribed were occupiers of from £10 to £15, and 126 were occupiers of £15 and upwards. Considering that this is an account given by the Commissioners of the gross and notorious corruption which prevailed in these boroughs—not at one election only, but at successive elections—I think your Lordships will be of opinion that we have not dealt a too severe measure of justice in saying that an example should be made of them; and that no more legitimate source could be found from which to draw supplies for giving new or additional representation to some of the more important communities in the country. We proposed then, my Lords, to deal with the forty-five seats placed at our disposal by granting nineteen of them to new and important boroughs, or by increasing the number of Members to those existing boroughs which appear to be insufficiently represented. We proposed, for example, to give two Members to the new borough of Chelsea and Kensington, and to divide the Tower Hamlets, with a population of over 650,000 into two boroughs, each of them to return two Members. We proposed to give fresh Members to nine important towns, centres of various branches of industry, which we think can fairly claim to be represented in Parliament. We then proposed—or rather the House of Commons proposed—to give an additional Member to the four boroughs, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham, and to give a second Member each to Salford and Merthyr Tydvil which, as your Lordships know, have large populations and are important commercial towns. We proposed, next, to confer one of the remaining additional seats at our disposal to the University of London, subject to the same conditions with regard to voting as those which exist at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The remaining twenty-five seats we proposed to distribute among the most important counties, dividing them into three divisions instead of two, and giving two Members to each division, and we have taken as our basis those cases among the existing divisions where the population exceeds 300,000. We thus propose to give two additional Members to twelve counties, and to divide South Lancashire into two hundreds, adding one Member—that is to say, giving to each of those hundreds two Members. We thus dispose of the whole twenty-five seats.

My Lords, I ought not, in introducing this Bill to your Lordships, to omit one very important consideration, and that is the question of the boundaries of the existing and future boroughs. Provisions were made in this Bill for temporary boundaries in the case of the new boroughs, which we propose to create; but the Bill does not, of course, propose to interfere with the boundaries of existing boroughs. We have thought it right, looking at the great increase which has taken place in the number of the population—more especially in the places already represented—to issue a Boundary Commission, as was done in 1831, for the purpose of examining how far these towns have outgrown their original limits, and how far the populations beyond the present limits may be legitimately included within. With regard to the names of the Commissioners, I think your Lordships will be satisfied that, at all events, no consideration of party feeling has influenced their appointment; and I am quite sure that it will be the unanimous feeling on both sides of the House that we could not have placed so responsible and arduous duties in better hands than those of the noble Lord (Viscount Eversley) who, for many years, with great credit to himself and advantage to the country, filled the high position of Speaker of the House of Commons. There are provisions in the Bill to which I think it hardly necessary to call your attention—such, for instance, as the number of polling-places; but there was a provision, the omission of which I very much regret, for enabling voters, more especially in counties, to vote by means of voting papers. That provision has, I believe, been found of very great advantage in the elections for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. [A laugh.] I may remind noble Lords opposite that the result of the last election for Oxford was not due to this provision; but that the majority on that occasion was composed in pretty equal proportions of those who voted in person and of those who voted by voting papers. Similar provisions have been introduced in the case of the new constituency of the University of London. I greatly regret that the House of Commons has not assented to a like provision of a general character in this Bill, which would, I think, be attended with great advantages, especially in counties, in diminishing the expense of elections. Voting papers would also, I believe, have the effect of increasing the number of votes recorded at elections by enabling persons of advanced years, and others who may be infirm, or from any other course unwilling to expose themselves to tumult or possibility to riots at a popular election, to give their votes freely and quietly for the candidate of their choice. However, the House of Commons has rejected that provision, and, therefore, it is not necessary for me to say more about it.

My Lords, I believe I have now gone—at great length I am aware—through all the principal provisions of the Bill. But before I sit down it is necessary that I should advert to the Amendment of which notice has been given by my noble Friend opposite (Earl Grey). There is no person in your Lordships' House whose opinions on the subject of Parliamentary Reform—indeed, on any other—are more worthy of attention and respect than those of the noble Earl. I know that the question of Parliamentary Reform and of the constituencies has engaged his attention for many years; and I know, further, that the character of his mind has induced him to give to the subject the most fair and dispassionate consideration, therefore, on this and on every other occasion I should wish to listen, with the most respectful attention, to any suggestion the noble Earl may think it right to make; but I must frankly admit that the Amendment of which he has given notice to me appears to be absolutely incomprehensible; I cannot conceive what earthly purpose it can be supposed to serve. What is the Amendment of which the noble Earl has given notice? It is this— That the Representation of the People Bill does not appear to this House to be calculated in its present Shape to effect a permanent Settlement of this important Question, or to promote the future good Government of the Country; but the House, recognizing the urgent Necessity for the passing of a Bill to amend the existing System of Representation, will not refuse to give a Second Reading to that which has been brought to it from the House of Commons, in the Hope that in its future Stages it may be found possible to correct some of its Faults, and to render it better fitted to accomplish the proper Objects of such a Measure. Now, my Lords, in what different position does this Amendment, supposing it to be carried, place your Lordships from that at which you stand at the present moment? I could understand objections being taken to this Bill—I could understand a Resolution affirming that it is utterly faulty in principle and in detail—and I could understand a Resolution being advocated with all the eloquence and power of the noble Earl to induce your Lordships to take what I most respectfully think would be the inexpedient course of rejecting the Bill upon the second reading; but to declare in one breath that the measure is so faulty that it is not calculated to promote the object in view, and, at the same time, to declare that you are going to vote for the second reading of the Bill with a view of amending it in Committee, appears to me the most gratuitous interposition between the introduction of a measure and the passing of a particular stage that ever was attempted in a deliberative assembly. I do not know whether the noble Earl entertains a serious intention of dividing your Lordships' House upon this question, or whether he is able to calculate on very general or universal support on the other side of the House; but, certainly, as late as two days ago, I was led to believe that very general support would be given to the Amendment on the other side of the House. If that is not so, I have only to apologize to many of my Friends, to whom—thinking the matter of the utmost importance, and one that it was necessary to meet in a determined manner—I gave the trouble of coming from Scotland, from Ireland, and from different parts of the world. I almost hope it may be found that, being here, they have come to no purpose, and that no serious intention exists of supporting the Amendment. Not only do I think this Amendment unnecessary, but it is, I think, peculiarly ill-calculated to promote what we all desire—namely, a good understanding between this and the other House of Parliament. Recollect that the Bill which you condemn in these strong terms has passed with the unanimous assent of the House of Commons, after having been investigated most laboriously in Committee; after having had all its details settled, and, as a whole, accepted without a single dissentient voice. It is with regard to that Bill you propose to declare, not to enact, but, in the terms of the Amendment, to declare, that it is absolutely unsuited to the circumstances of the case, and that it is not calculated to effect any permanent settlement of the Reform question. And then, having given this slap in the face to the House of Commons which has sent you up this Bill, you proceed to say that you will condescend to examine the measure and see whether you may not be able to put it into more satisfactory shape, and to do away with some of the faults that it at present exhibits. I must say that this Amendment is utterly useless for any practical purpose in your Lordships' House, and I think it is little less than insulting to the House of Commons. I do entreat the noble Earl himself to consider whether it is desirable that he should press it. For my own part, I must say that I consider it would be quite inconsistent with the position of a Minister of the Crown to send down to a Committee of your Lordships' House a measure stamped with your condemnation in the first instance, and having the stigma of entire disapproval placed upon it, notwithstanding the unanimous approval of the House of Commons. I do not wish to throw out anything in the character of a menace; and therefore I beg the noble Earl himself to consider whether it is consistent with the respect which we owe to the House of Commons, and to the labour which they have bestowed upon this measure, to stigmatize the Bill, as the noble Earl proposes to do, as one wholly unsuited to the circumstances of the time, and incapable of being made the basis of a satisfactory settlement; and then to send it down, somewhat contemptuously, to be pulled to pieces by a Committee of your Lordships' House. I do not think that is a course consistent with our usual procedure, or one that it is desirable to adopt. No man can entertain more fully, or express more unhesitatingly than I do, my sense of the perfect right of your Lordships' House to deal with this and every other question as seems to you fitting and just. You have a perfect right to examine and discuss all the details. In the measure, as it may be introduced and carried, you have as real and as deep an interest as the other branch of the Legislature; and I shall listen with profound respect and the most anxious consideration to any Amendment your Lordships may suggest, or to any discussion you may think fit to raise upon the details of the measure. But I do beseech and entreat you — forgive me for using the expression—not to stultify yourselves by condemning the measure in the first instance, and then assenting to the second reading, and sending it down to the Committee with a reproachful stigma affixed to it. Contemptuous treatment, such as this, is not the treatment which a measure that has received the unanimous assent of the other House has a right to expect at your Lordships' hands.

I have to apologize for detaining your Lordships so long; I only hope that, in any course which your Lordships may think it right to adopt, you will not think it expedient or consistent with your duty to oppose the second reading of the Bill. I believe myself that it is a Bill at once large, extensive, and Conservative; and that, if it should receive the sanction of your Lordships' House, it will effect a settlement, that will, for a long time to come, be considered satisfactory, of a question which, while it remains unsettled, will be a source of perpetual agitation, an obstruction and impediment to all other useful legislation.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl of Derby.)


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down has objected to the Amendment of which I have given notice as an unusual one, and I agree with him that to a certain extent it is so. But the circumstances in which we are called upon to consider the subject he has brought before us, as the noble Earl himself reminded us at the outset of his speech, are also unusual. And the course which I am taking is only unusual in this respect, that while it is strictly in accordance with the practice of both Houses of Parliament to move Amendments on the second reading of Bills, these Amendments are generally intended to defeat the Bill on which they are moved, whereas the Amendment which I am about to move has no such object, and is couched in terms which plainly mark that it is not meant to interfere with the progress of the Bill. My Lords, my reasons for moving this Resolution are not difficult to explain. We are asked to read a second time a Bill which appears to many others as well as to myself to be of a dangerous character; in ordinary circumstances, the proper course for those who entertain such an opinion of a Bill which the House is asked to read a second time, is to move its rejection; but this course is not practically open to those who disapprove of the present Bill; we feel that legislation on the subject is necessary, and looking to the state of parties, and to the manner in which Her Majesty's Ministers have introduced and passed this measure through the other House, it is certain that if it were to be summarily rejected the question of Reform would immediately become the subject of renewed agitation, and would again put a stop to all practical legislation upon other subjects while it is most probable that in the end we should have to assent to a Bill not less mischievous than that now before us. These considerations, in my judgment, make it inexpedient that your Lordships should reject this measure. What we should endeavour to do is, not to reject, but as far as possible to improve it. But in order to bring before your Lordships with any chance of success, those Amendments which, in my opinion the Bill requires, it is necessary that the attention of the House should first be called to the dangerous character of the Bill as it stands, and to the consequences which it is calculated to produce. When the Bill is in Committee we shall only be able to discuss the separate Amendments that may be moved, and it will be quite impossible for your Lordships to form a correct judgment upon these Amendments unless you have previously fully considered the effect of the Bill as it stands. The first step towards inducing your Lordships to adopt Amendments of the Bill is to convince you that the Bill as now brought before you is a bad one, and that some Amendment is required; which can only be done by a discussion on the general scope and character of the measure, for which the Committee will afford no opportunity. It is said that, without moving any Resolution, the results proposed to be gained from a general discussion might be attained by a mere debate on the second reading. But it does not require much Parliamentary experience to know that, whether in this or the other House of Parliament, a debate which is to conclude without any expression of opinion seldom attracts much of the attention of the House, or elicits in any marked degree the real sentiments of the assembly, In the course, then, which I have taken, my great object is to induce your Lordships seriously to consider the very dangerous character of the measure now before us; and I believe that end is more likely to be attained by my moving the Resolution of which I have given notice, than it would be if the second reading were allowed to pass without opposition and without calling upon your Lordships for any opinion on the Bill.

My Lords, the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) says that to pass a Resolution of this kind would be an insult to the House of Commons, and as I understand him, also to Her Majesty's Government. I own that I can see no fair ground for that assertion; your Lordships, as the noble Earl himself has said, are entitled freely to exercise your judgment on any measures sent up from the other House. I want to know then, what just offence the House of Commons can take if, instead of rejecting it as it is admitted we might, we content ourselves with expressing our opinion that the Bill in its present shape is not calculated to effect a permanent settlement of the question of Reform, or to promote the future good Government of the country—more especially when I remind your Lordships of the notorious fact that it was only by a very curious combination of circumstances that the House of Commons has been led to pass this Bill without serious opposition? It is well known—and I believe few of your Lordships would dispute the fact—that if the Members of the other House were individually asked their opinions of it, not less probably than three-fourths of the whole House would concur in the opinion which my Resolution expresses. I venture to make this assertion without fear of contradiction by those who have the means of observing what is passing in men's minds; and I know that what I say is the feeling of the great majority of the House of Commons, and is likewise the feeling of a very large majority of the public out of doors. By what extraordinary combination of circumstances we find ourselves practically unable to refuse our assent to a Bill which gives so little satisfaction to any one, it is not my intention now to inquire. The noble Earl, at the outset of his speech, gave us a sketch of the history of this question—of the circumstances which induced the Government to propose the present measure, and which led to its being passed by the other House. In a considerable part of what he said I myself concur; but I think that the history he gave us of these transactions was defective and therefore inaccurate. It is more of the noble Earl's omissions, than of the positive inaccuracies of his statements that I complain; and the effect of those omissions is to produce a very mistaken impression as to the causes which have led to the introduction of this measure. Were this the time for entering into the matter, I cannot help thinking that if we looked carefully into the history of the question of Reform for the last fifteen or sixteen years, we should find that the blame for the present most unfortunate state of affairs does not rest exclusively with the noble Lords behind me, on account of the part they took, but that both sides are deeply to blame, and that on a calm review of the circumstances, neither party has much right to find fault with the other, while the country may justly complain of both. But this is not a proper time for entering into that subject; for the present I wish to keep entirely clear of any party and personal topics, and to address myself solely to the great public question of the character of the Bill now before us.

My Lords, the Resolution which I shall have the honour to submit to you begins by stating that this Bill is not calculated to effect a permanent settlement of this question of Reform. I need not waste words in proving that a measure of Parliamentary Reform ought to hold out the prospect of settling the question, at least for some considerable time; there has been a general concurrence of opinion on that point among all the highest authorities, and within the last few years we have had the most striking practical illustrations of the fact—that great evil arises from leaving this question open, seriously interfering as it does with all useful measures of legislation; and I believe there is hardly one of your Lordships who would not concur with me in saying that it is one of the first requisites of any measure of Parliamentary Reform which deserves our approval that it should be calculated to effect a settlement of the question which is not likely to be very speedily disturbed. If that be so I venture to submit to your Lordships that the Bill which we are now considering does not possess that requisite; I say it does in no respect effect a settlement of the question, and in support of that opinion I will call your Lordships' attention to some of the provisions of the measure. The noble Earl opposite very truly said that the most important part of the Bill was that which relates to the borough franchise. He stated what were the reasons which had induced the Government to propose so great a reduction of the qualification, and, to think that the present borough qualification once departed from, it would be impossible to stop short of a rating household qualification. I am bound, my Lords, to say, that in a great part of the noble Earl's argument on that point I concur; I have always felt that there was much to be said for the £10 qualification. It was a test—perhaps a rough and imperfect one—but still living in a £10 house with the payment of rates and taxes was to a considerable extent a test of the fitness of a person to exercise a great political trust. It showed that he occupied a position in society, which afforded a fair presumption that that trust might properly be vested in him. It also had this advantage, that, while it admitted many of the working classes to the elective franchise, it left it likewise to depend on themselves whether it should not admit many more; because, owing to the growing prosperity of this country, in the greater number of our towns there is no industrious man who, by frugality, sobriety, and prudence, may not hope before he is far advanced in life to become the occupier of a £10 house. The effect of the £10 qualification, therefore, was not to exclude the working population, but to admit to the exercise of political power that portion of them who, by their conduct, showed themselves to be most deserving of it. But when you go below £10 the case is different; when you come to £7 or £6 houses, it appears, from the best information, that in many towns the worst as well as the best of the working classes would be admitted. The character of the qualification depends much on the circumstances of each individual town. And, above all, as the noble Earl has said, there was to my mind this great objection to all these proposals, that it is impossible to find any intelligible and satisfactory reason for adopting any one particular figure more than another. I admit also that what the noble Earl said was true, that to adopt the principle of making the right to vote depend upon the payment of rates, was to revert to an ancient practice of the Constitution, that it was apparently to come back to the system of scot and lot voters, and that therefore to adopt the principle of giving a right to vote to all householders who are rated and pay their rates has much to recommend it. I make these large admissions to the noble Earl. I concede all that there was to be said in favour of the franchise which the Government have proposed, and I own that the feeling in my own mind at first was very much the same as that of the noble Earl with respect to any departure from the £10 franchise at all—I believed that if the £10 franchise was to be disturbed as a test of value, there was no stopping at any particular sum. But the conclusion I came to was thus far different from that of the noble Earl—namely, that it would have been more judicious in proposing a Reform Bill to have adhered to the £10 qualification, and when it became necessary to extend the right of voting beyond those who could claim it as the occupiers of £10 houses, this should have been provided for, not by admitting the occupiers of houses of lower value, but by creating some new franchise not depending on the occupation of any particular description of house, but on some other qualification. It appears to me moreover—while I admit that there is much to be said in favour of the principle which the noble Earl has adopted—that in adopting that principle Her Majesty's Government altogether lost sight of the insuperable practical difficulty in its application which arises from the fact that, in many cases, the owners of houses are rated instead of the occupiers. It is under this practical difficulty that the plan breaks down. I would remind your Lordships that when the Bill was originally brought in its provisions on this point were entirely different from those it now contains. Following the example of the Reform Act of 1832, it only gave to the occupier of a house for which the landlord was rated, a right to claim to be rated and thus to acquire a vote. It was contended that this would not answer the purpose in view, and the unequal manner in which the proposed law would operate in different places was so strongly insisted upon that the Government determined at last violently to break through the difficulty they did not know how otherwise to get rid of, by assenting to the introduction of a clause suggested by an independent Member, putting an end to the whole system of rating owners instead of occupiers in all Parliamentary boroughs. That alteration was adopted almost without discussion, without any notice to the parties who might be affected by it, and without any due consideration of the consequences to which it would lead. This was a matter which ought not to have been so dealt with; but this, my Lords, is only one among the many proofs afforded by this Bill of the little care and judgment with which the question of Reform was considered before it was brought under the notice of Parliament. Now I need hardly impress upon your Lordships how necessary it was, considering the difficulties of the question and the importance of avoiding all mistakes when dealing with the future form of Government of this great country, to be prepared with the fullest information upon the subject. Your Lordships will remember that, both last Session and at the commencement of the present Session, I ventured to urge how indispensable it was to wise and judicious legislation that there should be a careful inquiry into the means by which a measure of Reform could be adopted without leading to dangerous consequences. It is to the want of consideration with which this subject has been treated that all the defects of this Bill are, in my opinion, to be attributed. I wish now, however, to call your Lordships' attention to the effect of the introduction into the Bill of the 7th Clause, which provides that in future in Parliamentary boroughs owners shall not be rated instead of occupiers, except in the single case where the house is wholly let out in apartments not separately rated; in all other cases it is required that the occupier and not the owner shall be rated. Now, let me remind your Lordships of the circumstances under which the system you are going to abolish sprang up. Shortly after the commencement of the present century various local Acts were passed, which gave power to the authorities that in those particular boroughs the owners, instead of the occupiers, of small houses should be rated. These Acts were followed up by Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act. That Act, after reciting that in many instances the owners of small houses were enabled to obtain higher rents owing to the hope and expectation that rates could not be collected from the tenants, gave power to parishes to rate the owners instead of the occupiers with respect to houses of between £6 and £20 in value. That Act never came into extensive operation, chiefly, as I believe, in consequence of its not applying to houses under £6 value, while it is precisely those houses as to which the rating of the owner was most called for; but Parliament went on passing local Acts, and a Committee of the House of Commons reported in favour of the principle of rating the owners of small tenements. A few years later—namely, in 1843—the Poor Law Commissioners presented an able and exhaustive Report upon the whole subject of local taxation; and in that Report they went very carefully into the question of rating the owners instead of the occupiers of small houses. The conclusion at which they arrived was this—that in the great majority of cases it was practically impossible to collect rates from persons occupying houses by short tenures, more especially from weekly tenants; that the rate could not be recovered from them, and that this had led to the general practice either of omitting to rate such houses at all, or else of never collecting the rates from them—the consequence being that no small part of the property in populous parishes escaped rates altogether. In some parishes, as they pointed out, as much as a fourth of the whole sum assessed was thus lost, while in few populous parishes was the proportion less than a tenth. They went on to remark that the taxation from which this one description of property was thus relieved fell with increased weight upon the other descriptions of property which paid the rates; and they pointed out that owners of small houses almost universally understood the advantage of so letting them as to render the collection of rates practically impossible, and then availed themselves of this exemption from rates in order to obtain in the shape of increased rent as much as their tenants would otherwise have had to pay in the form of rates. They urged moreover that the system of excusing a certain description of property from rates acted most injuriously, that it was demoralizing to the persons who were excused, that it rendered both owner and occupier indifferent to the amount of rates; and they concluded by saying that there were few more active sources of abuse in local administration than this system of exempting property. Two or three years later—in 1845 or 1846—this House appointed a Committee to inquire into the subject, as the other House had previously done, and that Committee also came to the conclusion that the owners instead of the occupiers should be rated in certain cases. In consequence of this general concurrence of opinion, an Act, known by the name of the Small Tenements Act, was passed in 1850, enabling vestries or other parochial bodies to rate the owners of houses under £6 value; and it is a remarkable fact that the second reading passed the House of Commons with the most trifling opposition, and that in supporting it the present Secretary of State for War stated that all those interested in local administration must be aware that the then existing state of the law bore very hardly upon the poor, and that the only objection he had to the Bill was that it was not general and compulsory in its operation. Now, it is possible, no doubt, that all these various authorities who inquired so carefully into the subject, and that Parliament in legislating in that direction for half a century, may have been mistaken; but I must say that it was not decent to reverse a policy so deliberately adopted, and abolish the system of rating owners by a clause introduced at a moment's notice into a Bill dealing with a totally different subject. I find, according to the reports in the newspapers, that deputations have waited upon the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Devon), at the Poor Law Office, to represent the various injurious effects which would be produced by this clause. They have stated that rents will not be reduced in consequence of the rates being imposed on the tenants who will thus be subject to a new burden of £2, £3, and in some of even £4 a-year. They affirm that it will be found utterly impossible to collect the rates from the great majority of these poorer householders; that under the present circumstances rents are only collected with great difficulty, and by means of a harrassing and painful character—that the collectors have to hunt up the tenants on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings in order to obtain the rent. They say that another effect of the abolition of the present mode of collecting rates from owners, would be to throw additional burdens on the heavily taxed ratepayers, and that in some parishes the loss would be not less than 25 per cent of the total amount assessed, and, of course, that loss would have to be borne by the real ratepayers. These and such as these were the representations that the deputation urged; and what was the answer made to them? My Lords, I do not find that any attempt was made on the part of the Government to deny the justice, the accuracy, or the force of those statements, or to contest the allegation that this system would operate most unfairly to the ratepayers of the parish. All that was said in reply was that political objects were paramount—that great and unexpected difficulties had arisen to the progress of the Bill in connection with compound-householders. Now, what does that amount to? It is admitting in other words that you have brought in a hasty and inconsiderate scheme for the extension of the franchise, and that finding no other mode of meeting the objection, to propose by a stroke of the pen to repeal both general and local Acts of Parliament on the question of rating; every householder is henceforth to pay his own rates. I have shown you what is the opinion of those most able to judge as to how this will work in the metropolitan parishes, consider especially how it will affect the poorest; your Lordships know the circumstances of the parishes in the east of London; you know without imposing upon them this gratuitous burden these parishes have already great difficulty in supporting the pressure upon them. We are assured, and I have no doubt with truth, that a large proportion of the rates now paid by the owners of small houses will be lost, because it will be impossible to collect them from the occupiers, many of them will quit their lodgings to escape payment, many are so poor that the magistrates will refuse to grant warrants of distress to levy the rates. What is thus lost must be recovered by increased rates on those a little higher in position. But in the East of London these ratepayers upon whom the additional burden will fall are small shopkeepers, tradesmen, and other persons very badly able to bear it, and on those working men who have some little property, and from whom the rates may possibly be levied, they will also fall with extreme severity. I ask your Lordships, then, whether such a change in the law is not likely to create discontent? Do you believe that a system, which will bear thus hardly and unjustly upon the very persons whom you are going to invest with political power, will continue? It is as certain as anything in the future can be, that when next September this new system comes into operation the clamour from those affected will be so great and the pressure upon their representatives so irresistible that this great security of yours of personal rating will be swept away. My Lords, no man can suppose that this is a permanent settlement. The very same causes that have induced a reluctant House of Commons to pass a Bill of which in their hearts they disapprove will in like manner next year induce them to remove the last of those securities that three or four months ago were announced with so much parade, and all of which, save this one, have now vanished. No doubt, this will follow the fate of its predecessors, and then no human being will be without the right of claiming a vote, except, perhaps, those unhappy persons who live huddled together, several families in a single room—or those, more unfortunate still, who have no settled abode at all. For these reasons I contend that the assertion contained in the Resolution that this Bill is not calculated to effect a permanent settlement is more than justified so far as regards the franchise. The clauses which relate to the re-distribution of seats can even less pretend to hold out a prospect of such a settlement, their effect will be to destroy the authority of prescription as a reason for continuing to places that now enjoy it, the right of returning Members to Parliament; to recognize the principle that representation should have some regard at least to the numbers of the several constituencies, and yet on the whole to increase instead of diminishing the anomalies of our existing system. By the enormous addition which will be made to the constituencies of the largest boroughs, while the increase in the smallest constituencies will be comparatively trifling, the existing inequalities will be rendered more glaring and more indefensible than ever. The result will be a distribution of political power, so utterly capricious and unreasonable, and so entirely without any foundation of reason or of expediency to rest upon, that no man in his senses can suppose that it will endure, and the question will immediately be reopened. This is no doubtful speculation as to what must happen, those who have read the newspapers, the organs of the democratic party, must have observed that they have deprecated any attempt to improve this portion of the Bill, on the ground that the very excess of its faults, as a measure for the re-distribution of seats, is an advantage, since it will ensure the question being immediately taken up by a new Parliament, in which they will have far better means of settling it to their minds. Nor is it an unimportant fact that the gentleman put forward by the noble Earl's own party as the Conservative candidate for Birmingham, has avowed his conviction that this scheme for the re-distribution of seats is merely provisional.

I trust I have said enough to convince you that there is ample ground for the first assertion in the Resolution that this Bill is not calculated to effect a permanent settlement of the question of Reform; let me now endeavour to prove that it is equally true that it is not likely to promote the future good government of the country. The whole character of our Government, as your Lordships are well aware, depends upon the composition of the House of Commons. If that House contains a due proportion of men of ability, of judgment and integrity—if the body, taken as a whole, is one in which such men have the greatest weight, and exercise a predominating influence — with a House of Commons so constituted we may feel sure that the country will be well governed; that both the Executive Government will be well administered, and that legislation will be directed to proper and useful ends. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) has pronounced an enthusiastic eulogy on the House of Commons—he has described in language which even went beyond what I should be disposed to employ, how well the House of Commons as at present constituted has answered its purpose, and how efficiently it has discharged the important duties entrusted to it. I cannot quite join in that eulogy, for I cannot say, particularly after the experience of the present Session, that there is not much room for improvement in the House of Commons. But, under the Constitution which you propose now to establish, will you have a House of Commons equally competent to deal with the complicated, the vast, the momentous interests of this Empire? Will it be a House inclined to do equal justice to all classes in the country? In the House of Commons, as it now is, every class of the community has been able to make its voice heard, and has found its interests represented; even the views and feelings of the working classes have had able and distinguished representatives. What will happen now? The noble Earl at the head of the Government has frankly confessed that he is unable, and that, in fact, it is impossible to calculate upon what the consequences of the Bill will be. But, my Lords, even apart from those further changes which may be seen, not indistinctly, looming on the horizon—apart from the popular agitation for these further changes which the measure will inevitably give occasion to—can we expect that a House of Commons elected under this Bill will be as competent as the present House has shown itself to guide and control the interests of all classes, and to watch over the fortunes of the Empire? From all the information before us, it seems quite certain that in almost all boroughs the new voters will be at least equal in number to the old ones, while in some places they will bear to the present electors the ratio of three or four to one. Now, who are these electors of the future who will thus outnumber the existing constituency? They will be necessarily drawn from one single class, composed of those who have enjoyed the smallest advantages of education, and have had the least opportunities of gaining that knowledge which is the basis of sound judgment on political affairs. Is not this measure calculated to throw a monopoly of power into the hands of a single class? And yet you are going deliberately to hand over to this one class the absolute command — while they act together—over the representation of the English boroughs, and are thus going to make an enormous addition to the power of numbers as compared with the power of property in this country. I ask your Lordships to give these circumstances their due weight. I would ask, is it safe to hand over to this one class, who will be created by this Bill, supreme political power? I am told that to ask the question is to libel the people of England; I am told that those who will form the new constituencies are so devotedly loyal to their country and to the Crown—that their intentions are so good that we ought not to distrust them. My Lords, I do not distrust either their loyalty or their good intentions—but I doubt whether the people have the knowledge and the experience to enable them in all cases to see through the arts of those who will have an interest in trying to mislead them. I do doubt whether they will always prove themselves able to exercise a sound and wise discretion in the choice of representatives, and to send up to the House of Commons men who will perpetuate its high character as a deliberative and legislative assembly. My Lords, I cannot forget that the man who has been the instrument of perpetrating those fearful outrages which have so shocked the world, that most atrocious criminal, Broadhead, was the man chosen to be entrusted with power in managing their affairs, not only by an individual trade society, but by a large union of such societies, including some of the best workmen in England. I entirely acquit the members of those societies generally of criminal participation in the murders that were committed; I believe that those guilty of such participation were a very small minority; but I must say that the evidence which has been published is conclusive on this important point—that the classes of men who are included in these unions are men who permit themselves to be deceived by the designing men whom they have chosen as their chief advisers. I say further that, at this moment, their principal and their most trusted advisers, if we are to judge from what has appeared in the newspapers, are men who, although I would acquit them of criminality, are imbued with notions with respect to the interests of working men, and what is calculated to promote them, which, if reduced to practice in the legislation of this country, would be fatal to the prosperity, the peace, and the safety of the Empire. I cannot but fear that under the influence of these men, and with the opinions which have been shown to prevail very extensively among the working classes, Members will be returned to Parliament pledged to measures, popular at the moment, but really calculated to prove deeply injurious to those who call for them. I do greatly fear that the increased expense of elections, the obligation which the enormous addition to the numbers of the constituencies will impose upon candidates, in order to obtain their return, to have recourse to means of ingratiating themselves with the multitude repugnant to men of high and independent feelings, and to submit to the dictation of a class of jobbing intriguers who will spring up and acquire the virtual dominion of elections, I say I greatly fear that these will gradually drive out of the House of Commons men of cultivated minds and independent character, those who from their intelligence and judgment are able to give the best advice and form the soundest opinion on the great questions affecting the welfare of the nation, which the House of Commons has to discuss and to decide. I anticipate with alarm that the effect of the proposed change will be to lower and vulgarize the character of Parliament, and in proportion to deteriorate both legislation and the Executive Government of the country. These fears, my Lords, can hardly be considered chimerical by those who have looked with any attention at what goes on in our Australian colonies, and on the other side of the Atlantic. It was long ago said by Tocqueville, and the fact has since become far more evident, that the extremely democratic system of representation has utterly deprived the higher and more cultivated classes of society of all influence in the Government of the United States. They have withdrawn in despair from all attempts to take part in the administration of public affairs, and political power has fallen exclusively into the hands of jobbing politicians, who abuse, for their own selfish purposes, the power they wield. I could have wished to have added a few remarks on the lesson we ought to draw from the experience of the United States, but I feel that I am totally unable any longer to address your Lordships. The noble Earl concluded by moving his Amendment.

An Amendment moved to leave out from ("That") to the End of the Motion for the Purpose of inserting the following Words:— ("the Representation of the People Bill does not appear to this House to be calculated in its present Shape to effect a permanent Settlement of this important Question or to promote the future good Government of the Country; but the House, recognizing the urgent Necessity for the passing of a Bill to amend the existing System of Representation, will not refuse to give a Second Reading to that which has been brought to it from the House of Commons, in the Hope that in its future Stages it may be found possible to correct some of its Faults, and to render it better fitted to accomplish the proper Objects of such a Measure.")—(The Earl Grey.)


said, he was not surprised at the opposition offered to the measure by the noble Earl who had just sat down: but he was surprised that one of the noble Earl's great experience in Parliamentary warfare should have adopted a course so unusual, not to say so un-Parliamentary, as the Resolution to which he invited their Lordships' assent. The Resolution might be divided into two parts, either of which could be brought forward separately and in a sense opposed to the other. The noble Earl might with perfect propriety, and in accordance with his own views, have asked the House to affirm that the Bill before them was not suited to the wants of the country, and did not effect any permanent settlement of a great question; and upon the view so put forward he might call for the decision of their Lordships; but that course would involve opposition to the second reading of the Bill, which the noble Earl was not disposed to attempt. The second part of his Amendment, declaring that in the circumstances of the time the House would not refuse its assent to the second reading of the Bill, would equally have been capable of being moved as a substantive Resolution. But what he (Lord Ravensworth) desired to learn from the noble Earl was, what, in his opinion, would effect a permanent settlement of this agitated question? No man was better versed in all the difficulties of the question than the noble Earl himself: but did he mean to say that any Bill which he or any one else could bring forward would pass unchallenged in future Parliaments? The only guide they could have in this matter was by attempting to read the future by the light of the past. What happened after the passing of the first Reform Bill? That Bill was carried with the assent of the whole kingdom; as far as the popular voice was a criterion, the cry was for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. After it had passed, how long was it before agitation commenced again? In three years from the passing of the Bill, some of those who had taken a leading part in passing it gave the signal for a new crusade against existing institutions—for further extensions of the liberties which had been already so largely extended. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) would perfectly well recollect the Amendments moved in the House of Commons to the Speech from the Throne in the first Parliament of her present Majesty. The then Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) put forward three Amendments which afterwards formed part of the People's Charter, and the noble Earl opposite, with great justice and wit, described these Amendments as "all three compounded of the same drugs, though labelled with different labels and wrapped up in different papers." Next came the Chartist League, with its demand for annual Parliaments, universal suffrage, vote by ballot, equal electoral districts, and payment of Members of Parliament, These changes had all been supported at one time or other by masses of the people, and the cry for them swelled by popular clamour. None of them were touched by the present Bill; and as democracy embodied the spirit of encroachment, and was never satisfied with what it obtained, no doubt, when this Bill was passed, there would be demanded a still further extension of those liberties which would be so widely extended by this measure. It was to be hoped that such demands would not be complied with. All that Parliament, however, could do was to effect such a settlement of the vexed question of Reform as might, perhaps, extend beyond the natural lives of most of those who were now discussing the question; and he believed that the present measure afforded reasonable grounds that such would be the case. The noble Earl did not attempt to put an end to the existence of the Bill; but he did worse, for he attempted at the outset to destroy its character; he proposed, in effect, that before they sent the Bill to a Committee, they should condemn it. It was to be regretted that he should have taken a line so contrary to Parliamentary usage, and one which he believed was so little likely to meet with the approval of the House. One of the commonest objections to this Bill was, that the country would be involved in great doubt and uncertainty after its passing. No one certainly could venture to calculate the Ultimate results and effects of this Bill. The consideration, no doubt, was a very important one; but let them not give too much weight to it; for in how many other cases was it equally impossible to foresee the ultimate results beforehand? Take the case of an ordinary General Election. It had always proved impossible to speculate with accuracy on the character of the House of Commons about to be elected; and even in a single Election it frequently happened that nothing could be more uncertain than the result. Therefore, while it was perfectly true that ground for anxiety and apprehension as to the character of future Parliaments under this new franchise existed, the House must not be too much influenced by such fears; at the same time there were many circumstances in favour of the measure. The principle of the Bill was to remove the distinction introduced by the Reform Bill in its arbitrary qualifications of the right of voting—at the time very wisely as it was thought, but which since had grown out of favour. The condemnation now passed upon the Reform Bill of 1832 had not originated with the Conservative party. As long as the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) felt it his duty to resist encroachments and innovations upon that Bill, and to oppose the clamour for further extensions of the franchise, vote by ballot, and so forth, he might have depended on receiving the support of the party who now sat on the Ministerial Benches. It was, in his opinion, an unfortunate hour when the noble Earl gave way to the outcry raised against the Bill of 1832; for he believed that had he only continued true to his colours, as he did for many a long year, the Act of 1832 would have remained undisturbed, and the noble Earl, he believed, would have retained his place and power. The necessity for the measure now before the House had arisen partly from the weakness, partly from the ambition, and partly from the insincerity of former Governments. They had displayed all these bad qualities at different periods, and they were now paying the penalty of their own misdeeds. Insincerity was sometimes charged against the present Government; but it could never be forgotten that when Lord Palmerston's Government turned out its Conservative predecessor, because they had not produced a sufficient Reform Bill, and came in pledged to bring forward a wide measure of Reform, the question was allowed to slumber for six years during the administration of that popular and regretted statesman. Here was an instance of insincerity which the noble Earl and his Colleagues would find it hard to obliterate from public recollection. And now, after the last Government, elected with a preponderating majority of their own party, had proved unable to carry their Reform Bill, any material opposition to the present measure or any disparaging statements against the Government by whom the measure was introduced would come with a bad grace. Now, he had had the honour of representing in the other House of Parliament large and important constituencies (Northumberland, Durham, and the great town of Liverpool) important not only in respect of numbers, but in consequence of their manufactures, commerce, and agriculture, and he had, therefore, had an opportunity of making himself acquainted with the feelings of that lower stratum of the community to whom it was proposed to give a considerable extension of power. He believed that, at least upon all ordinary occasions in political life, these classes would give an intelligent and active support of the institutions of their country; and indeed he had little fear of the action of the suffrage portion of the Bill. He did not say it was other than a bold step; but he had long been of opinion that no settlement of this question would be complete or satisfactory unless its basis rested, as the basis of this Bill did, on household suffrage, and he believed that the provisions as to the personal payment of rates and residence afforded as much security as could well be obtained. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) who had addressed the House at considerable length, had gone into many different details on the subject of compound-householders, payment of rates, and other subjects; but he could not help thinking that the objections urged by the noble Earl were such as would more properly come for discussion when the changes to which they referred were debated in Committee, instead of at the second reading of the Bill. There were some matters which he must certainly confess he could not regard without very great uneasiness. He must admit that he feared the uncertainty and expenses of elections would be greatly increased by the extension of the franchise, and that the services of election agents would be more extensively employed than they were under the present system, and that the power of that class of persons would be very greatly increased. A still graver apprehension which he entertained was that there would be greater opportunity for bribery under the present Bill than even existed under the present law, because there would be a large extension of the franchise among persons in humble life, and who were, of course, open to the temptation of being influenced by pecuniary motives. He would only, however, express a hope that such apprehensions might not be well founded. He was also of opinion that the lodger franchise was fixed at too low a figure. But, whatever objections might be urged, he trusted that their Lordships would remember that the Bill had been accepted by the House of Commons, who had devoted to it an amount of industry, attention, and information such as had scarcely ever been bestowed upon any Bill, and that its third reading had passed unanimously. He trusted, therefore, that it would not be rejected by their Lordships, and that no very serious Amendment even would be proposed. Of course, it was possible for any noble Lord who was dissatisfied with the measure to move an Amendment to any clause to which he might object; but he felt assured that there was no necessity for any such Amendment as that proposed by the noble Earl, and he trusted, therefore, that it would not receive any favour at their Lordships' hands. For himself he had received at the hands of his fellow-citizens the greatest marks of confidence which could be offered to him. He now desired to reciprocate that confidence, and he should, therefore, for one give his most cordial support to the measure before their Lordships' House.


said, he was only induced to trouble their Lordships upon a subject of so much importance by his confidence in the indulgence which their Lordships always showed to the younger Members of the House. He was far from desiring to dwell upon the extraordinary history of the Bill to which their attention had been directed, nor did he care to examine into the arts and process by which the Bill had been moulded into its present form—a form so different from that in which it was first presented to the notice of the other House as almost to preclude the possibility of recognition. What was the principle on which the Bill was based? The much vaunted principle of the Bill was the personal payment of rates—a principle which he could not help thinking was adopted without sufficient consideration of the consequences which would attend its adoption, although it had been represented by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) in moving the second reading, as a barrier against democracy, and the test of the trustworthiness of those who were to be placed in the possession of so large a measure of power. He (the Earl of Morley) could hardly understand how this particular payment could have any such effect. The question of the compound-householder appeared to have presented itself to Her Majesty's Government at a very late hour, and even then they hardly appreciated the difficulty which it entailed. The consequence was that Her Majesty's Government was driven into a position which the House of Commons regarded as untenable. It was intended to give a vote to all householders; but those householders who resided in the parishes where the Small Tenements Act was in operation were unable to benefit by the intention of the Government unless they paid their full rates personally, and thus, as had been said, the rating franchise was in these cases accompanied with the condition of a fine. The Government deserted that position in a somewhat sudden manner. They cut the Gordian knot by abolishing the system of compounding altogether. Now, that system was, he believed, at once an advantageous and economic mode of collecting the rates in a parish. That it was so was, he thought, sufficiently proved by the fact that it was voluntary, and that it was adopted in three-fourths of the boroughs of England; in fifty-eight entirely, and in ninety-eight partially. But the Government resolved to repeal a most useful measure of taxation because they had adopted, he would venture to say, a wrong basis of representation. They, in fact, corrected an Imperial blunder by committing a parochial injustice. A right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) in the other House of Parliament had decried the system of compounding in no very measured terms. He called it a device of Old Nick to oppress the poor.


He was referring to the Small Tenements Act. He said that was a device of Old Nick, to squeeze the rates out of the poor through the landlords.


But then the Small Tenements Act was the Act that created the compound-householder, and the observation to which he alluded was no more than saying that the poor were oppressed if that were extracted indirectly from them which it was difficult to obtain directly. He should have been astonished, he must confess, if such an observation had come from one who was a democrat in politics, but coming, as it did, from a Member of the Conservative party, and from one who was looked upon as the representative of the country gentlemen of England, he looked upon it as furnishing one of the most extraordinary revelations of this extraordinary Session. If the doctrine were carried to its legitimate consequences it would amount to a denunciation of all indirect taxation, and to the establishment of what had been looked upon as one of the worst tendencies of democracy — the throwing of all taxation directly upon property. And what, he would ask, would be the result of a representation based upon the principle of rating? It seemed to him that the various parishes alive to the advantages of the present system of collecting their rates would commence to agitate, and perhaps at no very late date obtain a restoration of that system of collection, but with the proviso that the representative system should in consequence be in no way affected. Then the country would be landed in household suffrage pure and simple, and the last of the checks which had been devised would have melted away. One of the most curious things connected with the Bill, however, was that it had been called a Conservative measure. The Bill which was last year introduced was one of a very moderate character, and would have admitted to the franchise between 300,000 and 400,000 of the working classes. The present measure would admit nearly double that number; and he was at a loss to understand on what ground it could be regarded as Conservative, unless upon the ground that by its means the lowest stratum of society would be arrived at, and that it could be manipulated by the aristocracy. That was a theory which, in his opinion, however, was fallacious, and he was sure it was immoral. It was fallacious, because, although under a despotic form of Government, and with a vast system of organization, the lowest class of citizens might possibly be manipulated, yet such was not likely, and he hoped never would be likely, to be the case in a free country such as England. The theory was immoral, he might add, because it proceeded upon the principle of giving the suffrage to a certain class, not because they were fit for it, but because they happened to be manageable. It was diving beneath what was termed the Prætorian Guard to a class which from its position, its poverty, and he was afraid he must say, its ignorance, was more under the dominion of the upper classes of society; and it certainly seemed to him to assume that while the intelligent artizan was presumably Liberal, the uneducated and less intelligent was, on the contrary, Conservative. Having said thus much with respect to the first part of the Bill, he wished to add a few words with regard to the re-distribution of seats. It appeared to him, he must confess, somewhat strange that the Government, after capitulating on point after point, should at last take their stand on a principle which he looked upon as less tenable almost than any other in the Bill—he meant the principle that no borough, however small it might be, should under any circumstances lose its representation. No one, he thought, could doubt that that principle must give way before a Parliament formed on the extended basis now proposed. That it would satisfy the country few of their Lordships could expect. Even at the first election about to take place during the discussion of the Bill—that for Birmingham—the gentleman who was standing in the Conservative interest admitted in his address that the scheme of re-distribution was, in his opinion, inadequate. That such was in reality the case might be seen from the fact that ten boroughs with a population under 5,000 each and an aggregate population under 40,000 were to return ten Members to Parliament or one Member for every 4,000 persons — a proportion about ten times as large as the average proportion throughout England. Under those circumstances to ask their Lordships to regard the Bill as a settlement of the question was, he thought, somewhat inconsistent, seeing that the second part of it was inconsistent with the first, and was such as must necessarily lead to further agitation. In the few remarks which he was desirous of adding, he hardly wished to taunt the Government with their changes of opinion on the subject of Reform. He should be wanting in the respect which he owed to the noble Earl opposite, and should transgress the limits of good taste, were he to take that course. He must at the same time, as a young Member of the House, say that he deemed it to be of the utmost importance that it should be known what the principles were on which the Leaders of the parties on each side of the House founded the policy for which they hoped to gain the allegiance and support of those who sat behind them. In saying that he did not for a moment mean to speak disrespectfully of noble Lords opposite; but events had occurred this year which might well perplex more experienced politicians than himself. A moderate measure of Reform was last year resisted on the ground that its tendency was too democratic, that it would have the effect of Americanizing our institutions, and disfranchising the present constituencies. What had since occurred? A measure of a considerably more extensive character had been introduced by a Conservative Government—a measure so extensive that not even the bitterest of their opponents dreamt that they would bring forward such a scheme. A noble Lord, who was a Member of the Cabinet in the present Government, speaking last year to his constituents, stated that an £8 franchise in boroughs and a £20 franchise in counties would have satisfied the Tory party. What was the cause of the change which had since taken place? He did not wish to be understoood as seeking to maintain that change of opinion was always wrong, or that consistency in politics must always be observed; but he must say that when men in high and influential positions, to whose speeches men like himself on their entrance into public life looked for guidance and instruction, changed their opinions suddenly, it was but right that the reasons for that change should be made known. He had heard no such explanation in the present instance. He was not aware that the question of Reform had passed through any new phases since last year which could account for a change so sudden and so unexpected as that to which he was referring. The Government was taking a very grave step, and, more than that, a step which was irrevocable. It was easy to give, but impossible to take away. In speaking thus he did not wish to be understood as sharing the least in those gloomy prognostications about the future constituency in which some had indulged, at the same time, everybody must look forward with anxiety to the operation of what he might call an experimental policy. That the extension of the suffrage was demanded on grounds of justice and expediency, he believed, few would doubt. The subject, however, was one which might be dealt with in two ways. There was, in the first place, the policy of aiming at the progressive amelioration of the working classes and the concurrent extension of the franchise. Another, and a very different policy, was that of repressing the wishes of the people up to a certain point, and then bringing forward a measure of Reform so extreme as almost to wear an aspect of danger. For his own part he must own that he preferred the former policy; but he had no fears, at the same time, as to the results of the present Bill, because he had confidence in the stability of our Constitution and in the good sense of the English people. He feared that he had trespassed unduly on their Lordships' time, and he thanked them very sincerely for the indulgence they had shown him; and if he had fallen into errors, either of bad taste or want of judgment, he trusted their Lordships would attribute it to his inexperience.


said, that, although he rose after the interesting remarks of his noble Friend who had just spoken (the Earl of Morley), it was not his intention to follow him into a discussion of the details or the merits of that Bill which had given rise to the present question. If he should think it desirable to enter into such a discussion, he would address their Lordships at a later stage of the pending measure. But he rose at that moment to explain the motives of the vote which he meant to give in opposition to the Resolution proposed by the noble Earl (Earl Grey). That Resolution, as he conceived, was one which, whatever might be the truth of the sentiments it expressed, had little or nothing appropriate to that period of the discussion. It was one, moreover, which contained within itself strong elements of dissension with the other branch of the Legislature, and which might be followed by serious and most inconvenient effects. It further appeared to him that the Resolution was not supported by any such necessity as would warrant the departure from ordinary usage which it involved; nor could he say that it was called for by any practical purpose whatever. He might add that, it contained within itself a contradiction, which had already been remarked upon, and the criticism upon which appeared to him to be perfectly well founded. They were told that the Bill was not calculated to promote the good government of the country or to produce any permanent settlement of the question of Reform. He could hardly imagine more forcible terms of condemnation than these; and if the Bill was really one of that character, he should say it became the positive, bounden duty of the House, in the exercise of its legislative rights, to reject it. He confessed, therefore, that, while giving his noble Friend (Earl Grey) the fullest credit for his intentions, and even partaking to a considerable degree in the sentiments he had expressed, he could not but look upon his Resolution at that moment as unnecessary, and highly compromising to the House. Those sentiments might very well come from the mouth of an individual Member; but their Lordships were asked to express them by a formal Resolution, and as the joint and solemn opinion of their House. They had been told from the other side of the House that to pass a Bill of some kind on this subject, had become an absolute necessity; he did not dispute the truth of this assertion. In the other House of Parliament the compound-householder had been disposed of; but there was a compound necessity which made it indispensable that a Bill should pass. First, there was the natural necessity arising from the gradual development of events which no sound Statesman could leave out of the account. It was, if they pleased, a dark shadow upon the horizon; but reflecting people had seen it coming on for years with gigantic steps, and its claims could not be for ever shut out. But there was also an artificial necessity, which had acquired well nigh the force of a reality, and which had now combined with the natural one, to force, he might say, the hands of Parliament. If they asked whence arose this necessity he would affirm without hesitation that it was clearly traceable to the conduct of both those political parties, which in turn had exercised so great an influence over the progress of this all-important measure. He could not deny that he sympathized largely with those who called in question the conduct of both sides in this matter. No doubt, the Leaders of those parties had acted with honest purposes in their minds—no doubt, they had proceeded under the impression that they were performing a great duty; but he must say the result of their action had been to produce a very unfortunate position of affairs. The noble Earl who had proposed the Resolution now before the House, had remarked, with perfect truth, that the character of that Bill, and the delicate circumstances in which they were now placed, required the gravest consideration; but surely the proper time for considering and amending the provisions of the Bill would be when they arrived at the stage of Committee. Their Lordships could not hope altogether to set aside the principle of household suffrage; but if there was danger connected with its adoption, they might, when in Committee, endeavour to modify its clauses, and even to introduce additional and more effective safeguards. Such a course would, he believed, be most accordant with the practice and usage of Parliament. For these reasons, if his noble Friend pressed his Resolution to a division, he should feel it his duty to record a negative vote—reserving, however, to himself the right of giving effect, as far as his individual vote might go, to any proposition of an acceptable nature which might be brought forward in Committee.


said, he felt great difficulty in giving a vote on that occasion, and could not say that he could give his cordial support to the Bill which had been sent up from the other House of Parliament. In addressing himself to that question he felt that their Lordships' House was placed in a position of great difficulty. It was most difficult for any one of their Lordships to discuss an important measure of this nature originating in, and passed by, the other House of Parliament, for if they attempted, as his noble Friend opposite (Earl Grey) who moved the Amendment had done, to discuss it before the Bill reached that House, they were told that it was an inconvenient course, and that it was most undesirable that any discussion should take place; but, on the other hand, if they waited till the measure came up to them from the other House, and if they thought the measure dangerous and one which they ought to reject, then they were told that it was a Bill which had been sent up to them by the House of Commons, and surely they would not fly in the face of the House of Commons and reject it? Between these two objections, it was not very easy for them to discuss fully and fairly a question of such vital importance to the country as that now before them. He would venture to observe, however, in the first place, that he did not think the Bill had been introduced at a time or in a manner which he could approve. He did not think it was a good time to introduce a Reform Bill. Doubtless, there had been great agitation going on in the country; but it was not a real bonâ fide agitation of the working classes, but of paid agitators, who had got it up for a particular purpose. It was not a good time to introduce a Reform Bill when a Royal Commission had just been appointed to inquire into the nature of trades unions, and when such deplorable revelations were taking place day by day, and he thought it would have been better to have waited until that inquiry was concluded before passing any Bill like the present. Moreover, he did not think that the state of education in this country was sufficiently advanced, either in the agricultural districts or in the large towns, to enable the Government safely to propose so large a measure as that of household suffrage — well, he knew it was useless now to discuss that question—assuming, however, that it was right — which he doubted—to bring in the Bill, and assuming also that it was the duty of his noble Friend at the head of the Government—which he again doubted—to be the person to bring it in, he must then consider the measure as it had been sent up to their Lordships' House. He agreed with the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) that if the £10 line were given up there was no safe or permanent resting-place short of household suffrage. The Bill, however, which had been sent up to them was a totally different Bill from that which was first introduced into the House of Commons. One by one every safeguard—the dual vote, voting-papers, and two years' residence—had been thrown overboard, and the Bill was now a pure and simple proposition for household suffrage, clothed only in slight garments of the payment of rates and a year's residence. He hoped their Lordships would send it back to the other House more decently attired. He could not, however, vote for the Resolution of the noble Earl opposite, although he thought there was some force in its arguments. He thought the object in view would be better gained by amending the Bill in Committee. The Constitution, as settled by the Reform Bill of 1832, had suffered shipwreck, and gone down with her colours flying and all hands on the quarter deck. Another city, like that of ancient Troy, had fallen, and by similar means— Talibus insidiis, perjurique arte Sinonis, Credita res; captique dolis, lacrymisque coacti, Quos neque Tydides, nec Larissæus Achilles, Non anni domuere decem, non mille carinæ. He wished he could look forward with any degree of confidence to the future welfare of the country after the passing of the Bill; but though no less eminent a man than Mr. Bright, in passing a panegyric on the Bill, had expressed a hope that the walls of the House of Commons would never contain a less worthy assembly than they did at present, he could not but remember that the same speaker declared at Glasgow last October, that by placing a clerk at Temple Bar and by letting him catch every decently dressed man who happened to pass, 658 better Members would be obtained, and men who would pass juster laws than the present House. That did not give him much hope. He trusted, however, that, as they were able to look back upon the past history of this country with pride, they might look forward to the future with hope. He trusted that the Bill might be so amended in Committee as to render it a safer and a better measure, and that the greatness and glory of the country would be handed down undiminished to a remote posterity.


said, that no satisfactory reason had been given for the introduction of so sweeping a measure, and there were, he thought, many reasons why it should not have been introduced at all. He had listened to two long speeches that night, but he had heard nothing to account for the course that had been taken. They were told, he believed, last July, that probably no Reform Bill would be brought in; and it was certainly astonishing to find that the very party which last Session denounced a £7 franchise as subversive of everything in our institutions that we held most dear, and destructive of the balance of political power now came forward and proposed a measure of household suffrage. He did not wish to say anything against household suffrage, and he had no desire to taunt Her Majesty's Ministers with their change of opinion; but he should like to ask what had occurred since 1866 — what change had come over the spirit of their political dream—that whereas last year a £7 Bill was destructive of everything they held most dear, household suffrage was at present a Conservative measure, and not only a Conservative measure but a Conservative triumph? It had been argued, indeed, that the Bill of 1866 was founded upon no principle—that it was founded upon a "hard and fast line," and that there was no reason why they should fix upon £7 more than upon £6, or £5, or £4; whereas the present Bill had the great merit of being founded upon an intelligible principle—the principle that the discharge of public duties should accompany the right of voting. But if the great virtue of a man was that he personally paid rates, how was it that in that measure they found a lodger franchise? But what public duty did a lodger perform? It was strange that the Government, beginning with the "Ten Minutes Bill" and a £6 rating franchise, should have drifted into household suffrage. This was not a result they could have originally contemplated, or so prudent a Minister as Lord Stanley would not have stated that it was a great mistake to suppose that it was the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill in accordance with the views so ably mid consistently advocated by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). But was not this Bill the very embodiment of the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham? When originally introduced the Bill was clothed with a multitude of "securities." What the fate of those securities had been they all knew well. A prominent Member of the party opposite had said, "A security as a security is of no use whatever. If it is right in itself it may be retained; but as a security it is of no avail." What had become of the dual voting? It was dead. Where were the voting papers? They were dead. Where were the fancy franchises? They were put to death by the very person who introduced them. And what Member of their Lordships' House was bold enough to guarantee the existence of this first of all securities, the personal payment of rates? Was it probable that the man who was fined for his vote, that the landlord who lost the advantages of composition, least of all that the vestries, whose trouble and inconvenience would be greatly increased, would allow this scruple of the Government to weigh for any time against their own interests? And how long would the Govern-allow their own scruples to weigh with themselves? When this Session was finished the personal payment of rates would have had its day—it would have discharged the purpose for which it had been brought so prominently forward; and was it likely that Ministers in future Sessions would attach any extraordinary value to a provision which had now been a most useful stalking horse? They would see the compound-householder rise again like a new Phœnix from his ashes; but he would have his vote, his landlord would pay his rates, and the compound-householder himself would return Members to Parliament. Turning now to the Amendment before the House, he begged to say that in the general tenour of the Resolution he entirely concurred, as he believed did most of their Lordships, as well as a great proportion of the other House and of the people out of doors. No one thought that the way in which the Bill had been carried through the other House was satisfactory. No one believed that the Bill was final—for it was on the very face of it that probably next year, but, if not, within a very short period, there must be a new redistribution of seats. He would ask the noble Earl (Earl Grey), however, to consider whether if he pressed the Resolution to a division any greater blow could be inflicted upon the Liberal party? It might and no doubt would be said that when household suffrage had been brought forward by a Conservative Government—household suffrage which for many years had been the special object of their political hatred—that the Liberal party opposed it because they had no confidence in the patriotism and the great moderation which the people of this country had so fortunately for themselves brought to bear on political questions—that they were afraid of household suffrage and distrusted the people more than did a Conservative Government. He did not mind declaring that the Bill of 1866 was preferable to the present Bill. How many of their Lordships, how many of its opponents in the other House, how many in the country would not give anything to bring it back? But now that household suffrage had been accepted—and he must say unanimously accepted—on the third reading by the other House of Parliament, the Liberal party in that House could not wish to reject the Bill on its merits. It was not because they feared household suffrage that they regretted the Bill of 1866, but because they wished to have proceeded in the old tracks of the Constitution. They would rather do by two steps, or even three, what they were now asked to do by one. It was the most gigantic experiment ever proposed by any Government. They did not shrink from it, however, on that account. Looking back to the happy past, they looked forward with confidence to a happy and glorious future.


My Lords, it is difficult for any of us to give to the measure now before the House—a measure so profoundly affecting the public interests as this — a dispassionate consideration; it is peculiarly difficult for one so closely connected as I am with its antecedents. I am not sure that the best mode of forming a correct judgment is not to throw one's mind back to the state of affairs such as it was rather more than twelve months since. At that time it will be remembered that my noble Friends who now occupy the Treasury Bench sat on the other side of the House; whilst, on the other hand, noble Lords opposite and right hon. Gentlemen in "another place" directed the Administration of the country. It will be in the recollection of every one that they introduced a Bill for the Improvement of the Representation of the People in Parliament. Nor will it be disputed that that measure was met by great opposition from both sides of the Speaker's Chair, but certainly from the Conservative side. Now, my Lords, I think I am within the strict limits of fact if I say that the main burden of all objections to that measure resolved itself into two points—first of all, the defective information upon which Parliament was asked to legislate with regard to so important a question; and, secondly, the tendency of that measure "to swamp," as it was called, by the numerical preponderance of the artizan classes, the industry and intelligence of the rest of the community, Now, I ask at the outset how we stand at present with regard to these two arguments. If the information last year upon the large measure then introduced was defective, the information upon which we are now asked to legislate upon a much larger measure is absolutely none at at all. Take, for instance, the lodger franchise, to which allusion has been so frequently made to-night. My Lords, we have had to guess, for neither facts nor figures have been supplied to us, as to the number of individuals to be enfranchised under it—it may be 100,000, it may be 500,000—I have myself heard both estimates formed, and upon very plausible calculations; but whether it be the one or the other it is absolutely impossible to say. It is a leap in the dark, whether it turn out right or wrong. But if we are in doubt as to the information upon which we are proceeding, there is no doubt whatever as to the tendency—I will not say "tendency" I will say the certain result—of the Bill "to swamp," as my noble Friends on the Treasury Bench would call it—for the word was often in their mouths last year—property and education by the vast numerical preponderance of the artizan classes. One person may hold that this is good, another that it is evil; but the fact remains absolutely past controversy — that if they ever should come to a division property and education will be numerically and hopelessly outnumbered. Now, the borough franchise, which, as my noble Friend at the head of the Government tells us is the main feature of this Bill, has two capital characteristics: each of which, I think, bad, but both combined seem to me very formidable—first, that the borough franchise is very low; secondly, that it is absolutely uniform. It is low to a degree; lower—I speak under correction—even than the suffrage proposed by Mr. Bright eight or nine years ago. Certainly, on Mr. Bright's own showing, it is lower than the electoral franchise in the United States. It is again, with one exception I believe, lower than the electoral suffrage in any one of the British colonies. Of course, as any child can see, the result of such a lowering of the franchise is to disfranchise property and intelligence in two ways. It disfranchises, first and directly by the swamping process; it disfranchises, secondly and indirectly, but as surely, because we know from certain experience that when you carry the franchise down beyond a certain limit you cannot induce the richer and more educated classes to take part in the elections. You may regret this; you may say it is a sign of moral degeneracy; but the fact remains beyond question, and woe to you as Statesmen if you, in your legislation, deliberately shut your eyes to the fact. It is not that I object to the franchise merely because it is low; I have never personally felt indisposed to a considerable lowering of the franchise, because in my opinion the working classes have not that distinct voice in the representation of the country which, I think, it would be better on the whole for the country that they should have. Looking to all the circumstances of the present time, I even think the absence of that distinct representation to be an evil, and I prefer, in order to obtain a representation of the whole nation, that they should have a distinct voice. But there is obviously a difference between this and the general abasement of the suffrage in all the boroughs of England, without reference to population, character, or local circumstances. I object, therefore, to that uniformity, and I object to it not merely because it strips the public life of England of all that variety and richness which, as I conceive, have been its glory for generations past, but because it seems to me to be eminently dangerous. My Lords, remember that henceforward in every one of these borough constituencies, the tendency of which will be to swell into larger and larger dimensions, their character will grow identical. Imagine the broad, sensitive surface of public opinion in these boroughs, connected as it is and will be by all the varied influences of the time in which we live — postal communication, telegraphs, railways — conceive that broad, sensitive surface vibrating at every single touch of strong, passionate feeling which may sweep over the country. In fair weather, indeed, it will be all plain sailing; but, after all, we think it only reasonable that Reform Bills should be constructed not for fair weather but for foul. Critical times will come, difficult questions will arise—questions such as stir men's minds to their lowest depths; questions which lay hold of the imagination; questions such as we have ourselves seen during the last seven or eight years — wars on behalf of oppressed nationalities, like Poland or Italy, or on behalf of some popular leader like Garibaldi; and is it conceivable that any mere prudential and politic considerations will be able to withstand the tremendous volume of combined opinion which will then arise from, and re-act upon, these centres of thought and feeling? It has been repeatedly said that the wars in which this country has been engaged during the last century were due to our aristocratic Government. I do not believe that an aristocratic Government is usually very warlike. It is rather a democratic Government that is disposed to war. An aristocratic Government is generally cautious, just as a middle-class Government is generally very timid. It is therefore but too probable that this change in your electoral system will give rise to the most violent oscillations in your foreign policy, and may possibly lead you into difficulties and even into wars lightly undertaken, perhaps to be lightly abandoned. These are some of the dangers which may result in our foreign policy. But when the principle of numbers is combined with uniformity, the danger at home is hardly less. I do not wish to speculate upon any of the delicate subjects of legislation that may hereafter arise—such as the rights of labour, the incidence of taxation, or the relations of the employers with the employed. I will not even go so far as to say that the class into whose sole hands you are giving the sovereignty of the country is necessarily unfit to exercise the franchise. But I say, not on my own authority, but on the authority of noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen now forming Her Majesty's Government, that the transfer of power into the hands of any one class in the community—no matter what class—is injurious to the public weal. I remember well a speech delivered last year in "another place" by a noble Friend of mine whom now I see on the Woolsack (Lord Lytton) a speech which all those who heard it will doubtless also remember. My noble Friend whose presence in this House is one of its most recent but one of its chiefest ornaments, said, as I think with unanswerable truth, "Place power in the hands of any single class, and what must be the result? Give a majority to the clergy, to the agriculturists, to the manufacturers, and immediately, respectable as those classes may be, your legislation will at once become unduly clerical, or agricultural, or manufacturing." It must be so. It is merely human nature. But then we are told to hope — and I must say that the hope seems somewhat a selfish one—that the social habits of this country will enable us to tide over for our time, at least, the period of difficulty which may be coming, and that the traditional influences of the past will counterbalance the facts which we are building up under this Bill. My Lords, I believe tradition in this country to be a very great force—in no country probably more so; but, at the same time, tradition and traditional influences are a very feeble barrier against an absolute transfer of power from one class of the community to another. When once you have transferred the whole power of the State into the hands of another class—when you have gone further and made the House of Commons accessible only to rich men or to demagogues—when you have made it irksome to men of cultivation and refinement, and odious to men of conscience and principle — you will find that your educated classes will first feel themselves powerless, and then, before long, will become silent. But, again, you put your trust in another security; you trust in the great force of wealth. Now, I tell you I have no faith in wealth: I never heard of wealth saving a State; I believe, on the contrary, it will fail you at the critical pinch. I admit it is quite true that you will have rich men returned to the House of Commons. But how returned? That is the question to answer. They will be returned committed to further and deeper pledges of democratic extension. They will not be less the delegates of the popular will because they are millionaires. But suppose that men are returned with Conservative and Constitutional principles on their lips, does anybody believe they will remain unaffected by the strong tendencies of the great boroughs they will represent? But take even a more favourable view still. Suppose the very same men are returned that now sit in the House of Commons. I still contend that their course of conduct must be different, because, though they may sit for the same seats, they will be returned by constituencies of a very different nature. There will, as I think was once said, be all the difference between these men, now and then, that exists between an actor who speaks to the boxes and an actor who speaks to the gallery. My noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government alluded to another security on which we might rely—the personal payment of rates. I might be spared from saying anything on this point after the admirable remarks of my noble Friend opposite (Earl Grey). With my noble Friend, I say that the personal payment of rates is not "the" principle of the Bill; it is only one principle. I quite admit that it is a very good principle as far as it goes; but as long as you have the lodger franchise resting upon a "hard and fast"—and, allow me to say, a very precarious—line of £10 rental, it is idle to say that the personal payment of rates is the principle of the Bill. It is a principle, but only one of several. Again, I am at a loss to understand how this personal payment of rates can contribute to the knowledge or fitness of the new voters. It is the first time I ever heard that ratepaying was favourable to the moral character of an individual. Why, the fact is, as we all know, it is purely a local arrangement. One local authority will assess at one figure and another at another. What moral principle is there involved in making one man pay 5s. and another 10s. in order to obtain a vote? In old times the old scot and lot voters were payers of rates; yet I believe that the purity of the scot and lot voters was not always so immaculate as might be inferred if such arguments were to be accepted. There is one more point on which we are sometimes told, if not to rely, at least to lay aside all apprehension. My noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) dwelt upon it in introducing this Bill — I mean the county franchise. I know very well there is a general opinion that the county franchise as laid down in this Bill will lead to no great disturbance of the existing balance of power in the counties. It may perhaps, be so. In the agricultural counties I am prepared to admit that probably there will be no change—parties will there perhaps, remain divided pretty much as they are; but in the urban and manufacturing counties, where you have scores of manufacturing towns, containing 5,000, 8,000, 10,000, or 12,000 people, none of which are to receive under this Bill, direct representation — in those counties there will be bodies of new voters under this £12 county rating franchise, who will certainly have quite as much effect on the county representation—if not more—than the famous 40s. freeholder ever had. I do not say whether this change in the counties will be for good or for evil. The whole of this Bill is so purely conjectural that it is impossible to speak of it with anything like certainty. But the probability is that a great disturbance in the county representation will take place, and it is well that noble Lords on this side of the House, who have felt and expressed themselves strongly on the subject in former years, should consider the point; and I say this not merely on my own authority, but on an authority which I suppose both sides of the House, will receive as unimpeachable—that of the Member for Westminster, Mr. Mill. The noble Duke on the Treasury Bench seems exceedingly amused that I should quote anything from Mr. Mill. If the noble Duke will listen to what I will read, he will see that it applies directly to the point at issue. What does Mr. Mill say?— If every elector in the disfranchised boroughs and every £10 householder in the unrepresented towns obtains a vote for the county, these objections will give place to a still more fatal one; for such a measure would be little less than the complete political extinction of the rural districts. Except in the few places where there is still a yeomanry, there exists in the agricultural population no class but the farmers intermediate between the landlords and the labourers. A £10 franchise will admit no agricultural labourer; and the farmers and landlords would collectively be far outnumbered by the £10 householders of all the small towns in England. Now, my Lords, that is Mr. Mill's testimony on this point; and I could quote, but that I fear it would weary the House, another testimony which would be received certainly with approval on this side of the House, that of Mr. Baxter, who has written a good deal on the subject, and whose pamphlets have been frequently quoted during the Reform discussions in Parliament. He gives a list of urban and agricultural counties, in which he points out that, on the same principle Mr. Mill has described, while a £10 franchise would give an increase of about 50 per cent in the agricultural counties, in the urban counties it would yield an increase at the rate of two and a half to one. It is idle in a case like this to quarrel as to words. Reform is a correction of abuses; but a wholesale transfer of power from one class to another is a revolution, and this measure to which we are asked to give a second reading is, I believe, nothing short of a revolution. I know no single instance of any one Bill in modern times passed through any Legislative Chamber which has involved such enormous and abrupt changes, such an absolute break with the past history of a country as this Bill does. The only approach to it is that famous night in French history when, at a single sitting, the whole of the legislation and government and traditions of France were swept away. I fully admit there is a vast difference between the two cases; that this is a perfectly bloodless revolution; that this is a revolution effected without passion, without pressure, without enthusiasm. My noble Friend at the head of the Government says that the Bill passed the House of Commons unanimously. I must, on the other hand, take the liberty of saying that it is a measure passed without the cordial approval of any one class, or, except the Treasury Bench, of almost any one single individual on either side of the House. I agree with what I understood my noble Friend who moved the Amendment (Earl Grey) to say, when he remarked that much of all this is due to the action of different parties and classes in this country. My Lords, for thirty-five years the middle class of this country have had the chief power in it; for thirty-five years they have used it, and they have prized it. But now, at the very first summons, they have capitulated and they have surrendered, without raising, I may say, one little finger in self defence. On the other hand, a certain section of the Liberal party have always found this weapon of Reform a very convenient weapon of Parliamentary warfare. They have used it, they have invoked it, their invocation has been heard— Vota exaudita malignis Numinibus"— and their prayer has been granted to them in fuller proportion than they desired. But, my Lords, while the middle class have thus yielded Reform unwillingly, and whilst a certain portion of the Liberal party have encouraged it, Conservative leaders at least have denounced in constitutional language the dangerous and fatal doctrine that there should be a wholesale transfer of power to any one political class, and that property and education should be absolutely swamped by numbers. They denounced it in the name of the Crown, the Church, the House of Lords, of every great institution with which the public life of this country has been bound up. But now we are told on very eminent authority in the House of Commons that the Crown, the Church, and the House of Lords never were safer than now; that democracy in England is a bugbear and an impossibility, and that household suffrage has always been the esoteric doctrine of the Conservative party, and the secret faith of Conservative Cabinets. My Lords, whatever others may say or do, though I stand alone a mere unit, I repudiate and I protest against this statement. I protest against it not only as being inconsistent with fact, but as being a gross and palpable insult to my understanding. My Lords, I am not a convert to this new faith, and I will not stultify, by any act or word of mine my own course of action: I will not stultify the very existence of the Conservative party. For, if this indeed were so, if household suffrage really be the secret faith of Conservative Cabinets and of the Conservative party, and has been for years past—if during the time we have been opposing successive Reform Bills as they were introduced, if whilst last year we denounced a £7 rental franchise as leading directly and immediately to revolution, we all the while cherished the hope of a uniform household suffrage—why, my Lords, I would heap ashes on my head, and would acknowledge with all humility, but yet with all sincerity, that the whole life of the great party to which I thought I had the honour to belong was nothing but an organized hypocrisy. My Lords, it would be far better, because it would be consistent with facts, to admit at once that there has been a change of opinion. We are sometimes told that all things are allowable in love and in war; better say at once that all things are allowable in politics, and do not scan motives too closely. My noble Friend at the head of the Government is, no doubt, familiar with the lines— Mutemus clypeos, Danaumque insignia nobis Aptemus: dolus, an virtus, quis in hoste requirat? It would be far better, I believe, to admit that change. Changes in politics as in everything else there must be. God forbid that I should preclude any public man from a change of opinion, if he believes it to be right. God forbid we should lay down such a doctrine. But I say this—that the character of public men is not private property, and when these great, violent, and abrupt changes are made, it would be well that, as in the case of the late Sir Robert Peel, they were marked by some evidence of personal self-sacrifice, some unquestionable proof of disinterestedness and sincerity of motive. My Lords, dangerous as I believe this measure to be, I believe the mode in which it has been brought through Parliament is more dangerous—far more full of evil augury for the future. My Lords, where are all the securities, where are all the principles, where are all the asseverations of Cabinet Ministers so freely made at the commencement of the Session? They have gone—they have disappeared. I wish very much they had gone to the land where all things are forgotten. I fear they will be long remembered and cited by those who are less friendly to my noble Friend than I am. They will be cited henceforth as monuments either of weakness or of dishonesty. I ask the House to consider for one moment what are the different steps by which we have arrived at our present position. At the beginning of the Session, in the speech which Her Majesty was advised to deliver, we were distinctly told that the balance of power should not be unduly disturbed. I will not stay to consider how far that pledge has been observed. I pass over that. But we started in this question with Resolutions which, as the noble Earl at the head of the Government said, were tentative. We know the fate of those Resolutions. We started with the plural vote; the plural vote fell. [A noble LORD: The dual vote.] I beg pardon; in the Resolutions the word used was "plural"—the plural vote fell; it was exchanged for the dual vote; and that suffered the same fate and passed away. But then the two years' residence was a security; the two years became one year. The county franchise was £15; it sunk to £12. The educational franchises remained—those franchises, which a short time ago were to give lateral along with vertical extension, and which we were told to regard as the salvation of the Constitution, have disappeared. The voting papers have dropped out. These securities, as I stated when I was unfortunately obliged to leave the Cabinet, I believed to be illusory; but even I never imagined they could have faded away so rapidly and entirely as they have done. Now, look at the different changes which have been made by this Bill as it comes to us from the House of Commons. We have already converted a £10 rental into household suffrage, limited by residence indeed, and further by this, that those who are unable from poverty to pay rates are excluded from the franchise. We have converted a £50 occupation county franchise into a £12 rating franchise. The House of Commons have added the lodger franchise on a "hard and fast line," which, if it ever breaks down, will land us at once in manhood suffrage. We have destroyed the compounding system, and with the destruction of that system we have dislocated the financial arrangements of many of the largest towns in the kingdom. We have adopted a system of re-distribution which settles nothing and unsettles everything; and which, it seems to me, very conveniently leaves open the door to equal electoral districts at no very distant time. We have doubled—aye, and a great deal more than doubled, the total number of the constituencies; besides which we have added all those who will come in, whatever their number may be, under the lodger franchise. Indeed, through the whole course of the proceedings in the House of Commons, every Amendment which was in the broad sense of the words Conservative and Constitutional, has been rejected, while every Amendment which was democratic and antagonistic to the ancient constitution of this country has been accepted; and, to crown it all, the measure has been sent up to this House by the House of Commons with a speed and an absence of discussion which would be remarkable even in a measure of minor legislation. My noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government, in dealing with this question, seems to congratulate himself that all this was the work of the House of Commons. My Lords, I fairly own I am puzzled to say whether it be the work of the House of Commons, or the work of the Government, or the work only of a part of the Government. Take, for instance, the lodger franchise. If I am not mistaken, my right hon. Friend Mr. Gathorne Hardy, the Home Secretary, and Sir John Rolt, lately Attorney General, both spoke strongly against the principle of the lodger franchise; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the proper time had come, dissipated all their objections, and not only cordially accepted the lodger franchise, but declared that he himself was the father and the author of it. Look again at the course adopted with regard to the household-compounder. Under the first proposals of the Bill, Her Majesty's Government retained the compounding system; but an Amendment was moved, and subsequently carried, after passing through various stages, for its abolition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at once rose and said that nothing had ever been nearer his heart than the destruction of this compound householder system. Then, my Lords, it was proposed to give a third Member to six of the large towns. But this was objected to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being not only dangerous to the Bill, but dangerous to the first principles of the Constitution. The opposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer prevailed; but the proposal was renewed shortly afterwards, and it was then proposed to give a third Member to three of the large towns. And what was done? My right hon. Friend Mr. Adderley, than whom there is no more straightforward and conscientious Member of the House of Commons, speaking on behalf of the Government, objected to this as being fatal to all the principles both of the Bill and of the Constitution. But before long the Chancellor of the Exchequer again rose. He not only disposed of Mr. Adderley's argument; he not only accepted the third Member for the three towns, but he voluntarily threw in a fourth town, into the bargain. Now, my Lords, all this places us in a very painful position, and it is well that we, especially those who sit on this side of the House, should consider the position in which we are now placed. To me it appears that we have slid down through broken securities, through specious principles, through Ministerial inconsistencies, into which I must venture to term an abandonment of all principles, a total confusion, and demoralization of all parties. Now I do protest against this most earnestly. If henceforward this is to be the rule of action, if henceforward there is to be a race and a competition between the two great political parties in the country to see which can outbid the other, it is clear that the Constitution of the country, or what remains of it, cannot survive even for a few Sessions. My noble Friend speaks of this as if it were a settlement of the question. I wish I could feel any such confidence from the manner in which the Bill has passed the House of Commons. We have a scheme of re-distribution of seats which is evidently incommensurate with the gigantic proportions of the new franchise. The small boroughs are doomed unless they develope some new and unexpected Parliamentary excellences. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has stimulated the demand for representation on behalf of the large towns by first offering that representation and then withdrawing it. I even doubt whether the much-vaunted household suffrage itself is secure when in the same Bill you have a lodger franchise resting on a £10 rental and a county franchise resting on the "hard and fast" line of £12. But the misfortune of all these changes is that the evils are not confined to the present measure:—they have a tendency to produce further changes, and he must be very blind indeed who does not even now see that the result of the present measure—the passion for change, whether in things necessary, or unnecessary, which is growing up. The foundations of political faith are broken up. Notions which even a few months ago would have been inconceivable are now the subject of open debate. There is nothing so steadfast, nothing so sure in the Constitution that it is not already a matter of question. My Lords, this is a very dangerous temper. It is a temper which before now has been the precursor of revolution, and those who mark the signs of the times at home, and who, casting their eyes abroad, see the great tempests which, of late years, have swept over the face of the civilized world, and notice the powerful agencies at work, may well look with anxiety at the dark and unknown country upon which Her Majesty's Ministers invite us to enter. You are hazarding a great experiment—an experiment on a country with old traditions, and an area of soil alike limited and coveted—on a country whose trade is sensitive, and whose commerce rests on the precarious footing of credit. Even if success were to crown your work, you would not be justified in it. The mere fact that you are making such an experiment under such circumstances is its own condemnation. It is very painful for me to have to speak in these terms of a measure introduced by those with whom I have for many years acted in relations of political and personal friendship; still, there are times when personal feelings and private affections are but as dust in the balance, and when even the displeasure of personal and political friends must be cheerfully accepted. I have spoken to-night freely, and it may, perhaps, be thought by some, bitterly; but there has not, in fact, been any personal bitterness in what I have said. Had I indeed wished to speak bitterly I could have easily done so. I need only have gone back to those famous speeches of 1846 and 1847, in which the right hon. Gentleman now Chancellor of the Exchequer made the iron of his sarcasm to enter into the soul of one who, whatever the shortcomings of his policy, was, I believe, a high-minded and disinterested English Statesman. The best proof I can give that I feel no personal bitterness in this matter is that I earnestly entreat my noble Friend who brought forward the Resolution this evening not to press it to a division. I think my noble Friend may at the end of this debate be satisfied with what has passed. He will gain nothing by pressing his Resolution to a division. But there will come a time for Amendments in Committee, and I am sure that we shall enter upon the consideration of those Amendments in a better and a higher spirit if the subject is lifted altogether above party prejudice and party passion; if we are to save the one side from receiving and the other side from imposing a party humiliation.


desired, as one who was unconnected with the Government, to tender his cordial thanks to the Government for having brought forward this great and important measure of Reform. He would not delay their Lordships by discussing how much or how little bitterness the noble Earl who had just sat down (the Earl of Carnarvon) had imported into his speech. The noble Earl, in the course of his speech, said, that all things were allowable in politics. ["Oh, oh!"]


I beg my noble Friend's pardon — I implied exactly the reverse.


was sorry to have misunderstood the noble Earl, but he did not perceive at the time that he was speaking ironically; but still the noble Earl had used a licence which had given him the greatest pain. When the noble Earl questioned, with so much severity, the conduct of the Government, he must have forgotten that at the commencement of the Session he was himself a Member of the Ministry who put into the mouth of Her Majesty a recommendation to her Parliament to deal with this question, and without unduly disturbing the balance of power, freely to extend the franchise. After that recommendation the whole question became one of degree; and the speech of the noble Earl, which was in the "No surrender" tone that would have suited Lord Liverpool's time, did not come with any degree of weight from one who was a Member of the Ministry at the beginning of the Session. The question was now one of only how far the franchise should be extended, and it was no longer possible to consider whether it should, or should not, be extended at all. The Amendment of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had imported into the discussion a topic foreign to the real question before their Lordships, and almost invited their Lordships to an impeachment of the legislation of the House of Commons; but, after the appeals which had been made to the noble Earl from both sides of the House, he took it for granted that the Amendment would not be pressed to a division. With the greatest respect, therefore, for the noble Earl, many of whose observations he regretted that he had been unable to hear, he should refrain from discussing the Amendment, and pass to the consideration of the Bill itself. The noble Earl who had just sat down (the Earl of Carnarvon) had indulged, to a considerable extent, in glowing denunciations of what he was pleased to call the tendency of the Bill to uniformity in the borough franchise. But, whether for good or evil, at a £10 rental we had uniformity at present. And, as a matter of calculation and argument, he wished to know why a dead level of uniformity at a £10 rental was fraught with blessings which could not be disputed, while a dead level of uniformity at the ratepaying franchise was fraught with pains and evils to all posterity? If the evil lay in the mere uniformity, it could make no difference whether it were fixed at £10, or at a rating residential suffrage. The most important feature of the Bill was admitted on all hands to be the manner in which it dealt with the borough franchise. The universal wish expressed in the discussions of the last few years had been to put the question of Reform, in boroughs especially, on such a basis as to suffer this question no longer to be a disturbing element standing in the way of practical improvements and hindering useful legislation. Did this Bill provide a reasonable prospect of a permanent settlement of this vexed question? In its enfranchising clauses it went far, he believed, to fulfill the definition given by Mr. Pitt, seventy or eighty years ago, of the attempt which should be made to improve the representation of the House of Commons by providing that the House should be "an assembly freely elected from all classes of the people in such a manner that between them and their representatives there should be the closest union and the most perfect sympathy." To those who objected to the Bill under consideration he would put this question—was there, at present, an entire sympathy between the constituencies and the Members of the House of Commons? If there were now such a sympathy existing, why were they afraid to extend a system which had worked so well? If, on the other hand, they allege that no such sympathy existed between the classes about to be enfranchised and their present representatives in the House of Commons, they brought an indictment against the institutions of the country more severe and scathing than any which had ever yet been put forward. He believed that the country was in sympathy with the House of Commons; and that, if care were only taken to extend the franchise to those who would make a judicious use of it, they would strengthen the institutions of the country by enlisting the affections of a still wider class. The provision for personal payment of rates had been passed over very lightly by some speakers; but he ventured to state that all who were acquainted with the Constitution of the country would admit that the principle was correct and sound. Taxation and representation had been connected with each other from the earliest periods of our history; to insist that those who wished for representation should, with the privilege, bear the burden of taxation was an argument at once, simple, intelligible, and cogent. Mr. Hallam, whose opinions as a political writer were always viewed with respect, writing with reference to the year 1624, when this question was much discussed, said— There seems, on the whole, great reason to be of opinion that where a borough is so ancient as to have sent Members to Parliament before any charter of incorporation proved or reasonably presumed to be granted, the right of election ought to have been acknowledged either in the resident householders paying general and local taxes, or in such of them as possessed an estate of freehold within the borough. The very principles there laid down by Hallam as part of the ancient Constitution of this country were the very principles upon which this Bill was founded. They were told told that personal payment of rates as a guarantee was not maintainable. What possible system could be maintainable if it were not one so simple in itself, so sound, and so much in harmony with the Constitution? Again, it was said that this Bill did, in one step, what ought to have been done in many. Now, he (Earl Beauchamp) regarded it as one of the crowning merits of this Bill that at one bound it settled a question which had been long a source of agitation, and which, without some bold measure of this kind, must still have troubled the political horizon. If the principle itself were right, their Lordships would doubtless be of opinion that in the face of the great evils of agitation it would have been the height of folly and of danger to protract any longer the settlement of this great question. Noble Lords who had spoken—even those who viewed most unfavourably the conduct of the Government—had all with one voice indorsed the opinion that if the line of £10 were once departed from it was impossible to stop short of household suffrage: and the Government had done wisely in coming to the conclusion not to seek a resting place short of household suffrage. One reason, he believed, why the Bill of last year excited so much dissatisfaction was that, being founded on no principle, it held out clearly the prospect of a dangerous and unsatisfactory agitation. This it was which induced the Conservative party to make such protests against the Bill as ultimately convinced the country that if the subject were dealt with at all, it could be dealt with only in the way now proposed. In extending the liberties of the people of this country frankly there was no danger he believed; but it was both dangerous and unwise to haggle, to compromise, to attempt to make reductions which should only "keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope." In the courage Ministers had shown, he believed they had likewise exhibited the greatest wisdom and prudence— Tender-handed touch a nettle And t'will sting you for your pains; Grasp it like a man of mettle, And it soft as silk remains. The borough franchise proposed by the Bill would admit the most respectable of the working classes—not those only who earned wages of a certain amount but all who had given pledges to fortune, and further all those living by their own labour whose skill, intelligence, and good conduct, it was hoped, would justify the country in reposing confidence in them. The noble Earl told them he was afraid that the extension of the county franchise would result in its reduction to £10. That was not the proposal contained in the Bill; but, so far from entertaining a dread of such a reduction, for his own part he thought it would have been an improvement if the county franchise had been put on an equality with the borough franchise; for he could not understand why the artizan who was a ratepaying householder in a borough should have a vote while the well-conducted labourer in an agricultural village, who by payment of rates made an equal claim to the franchise, should be denied it. He had long been of opinion that a gradual change was taking place in the character of the constituencies; and that the opinion was no longer as well-founded as it might once have been that the counties were the stronghold of Conservatives and the boroughs of Liberals. The result of very careful observation had convinced him that the counties now were gradually passing into the hands of the Liberals, while some of the largest towns were becoming Conservative. This result he attributed to the spread of education, within the last twenty-five years especially, which had naturally exerted its influence most strongly on the great centres of population and industry, leading the artizan to withdraw his countenance from the demagogue, to abstain from agitation, and to give his sympathies to those who were his true friends. Dreadful pictures had been drawn of what would happen if this Bill passed. The argument was one which he had often heard described as the "hobgoblin" argument. The noble Earl who had just spoken (the Earl of Carnarvon) said that an aristocracy was prudent, the middle class pacific, and the lower class warlike; and he alluded to Poland and Garibaldi, and predicted that under household suffrage the foreign policy of England would be warlike: but he (Earl Beauchamp) was by no means convinced that the noble Earl was correct in fact, or justified in his inference. He did not believe that the enthusiastic multitudes who at public meetings passed resolutions in favour of Poland, or tendered ovations to General Garibaldi, were, in fact, the classes who would be enfranchised by this Bill. It was all very well to talk in magniloquent language about the conduct of the masses, but when they knew the exact number of the male occupiers in the various boroughs of the country, those masses which in the distance appeared so frightful presented no alarming aspect. If he placed any belief in the predictions of the noble Earl he should indeed tremble for the future of his country; but he was convinced that the time had gone by when they could base the defence of their country on tradition and compulsion. It was all very well in the time of the Plantagenets and Tudors to depend upon such means—or even in the earlier days of the House of Hanover—but they must be prepared in these days to defend their institutions by argument, and it was because he believed our institutions could be so defended that he should give his support to the second reading of this Bill. If he supposed their Lordships to be a knavish oligarchy, if he supposed that the Established Church was a nest of patronage, if he supposed that the tenure and succession of land were odious to the people of this country, then indeed he might have some ground of reproach against the Government for introducing this Bill; but as he believed that our institutions were thoroughly rooted in the affections of the people of this country, he looked forward with confidence to the passing of this measure. If he supposed that the army and navy were unpopular, or that the administration of justice was corrupt, he might tremble for the consequence of extending the electoral franchise; but as they knew that the two services were exceedingly popular, and that no suspicion ever attached to the administration of justice, we had no reason to fear descending into the arena of argument, instead of defending our institutions by blind tradition or compulsion. So long as our present institutions existed, this country was, in his belief, safe, because they were natural outgrowths of the English character. Sir George Lewis had said:— If a community is thoroughly disorganized, no form of government, however cunningly devised, will obtain stability—will afford security to property and protection to persons. No political frame could have acquired permanence in France at the end of the last century. The saying of the French bookseller, who, on being asked for a copy of the last Constitution, said he did not deal in periodical publications, illustrates the state of things which then existed. But our institutions did not, fortunately, admit of any such description. Then it was said that, even if the present measure was sound, wise and just, as he believed it to be, the Conservative party had no right whatever to deal with the question. He did not at all wonder at noble Lords opposite clinging with great tenacity to the doctrine that Reform was their political privilege. That doctrine had admirably served its purpose for the last thirty-five years. But he had yet to learn that the settlement of 1832 was as venerable as was pretended. He wanted to know why no Conservative should lay a profane hand on that settlement? The £10 borough franchise might be infinite wisdom; but in fact it was only the creation of yesterday—it had no defence on the ground of antiquity. Why then should they be precluded from dealing with a question the time for dealing with which had frequently been announced as having arrived? In 1852 Her Majesty, in Her gracious Speech from the Throne, said:— It appears to Me that this is a fitting Time for calmly considering whether it may not be advisable to make such Amendments in the Act of the late Reign relating to the Representation of the Commons in Parliament as may be deemed calculated to carry into more complete Effect the Principles upon which that Law is founded. If Her Majesty had recommended that course in 1852, and if succeeding Governments and succeeding Ministries had invited Parliament to pursue the same path, he could not see how the Conservative party could be taunted with inconsistency in acting upon that advice. The events of 1830 and the events of 1846 were sufficient to show that the Conservative party were not slow to express their opinion when they believed that they had been deceived or betrayed by their Leader. In 1830 the Conservative party melted away like a, snow-wreath, because it was believed that the Duke of Wellington had deceived his party in reference to the subject of Catholic Emancipation. In 1846, again, the Conservative party was broken up, because they believed they had been dealt with unfairly by their Leaders on the question of the Corn Laws. But was that the case now? Did they not find on the present occasion the Conservative party adhering to their Leaders, and passing a Bill in spite of the presence of a hostile majority in the House of Commons? When, therefore, the Leaders of the Conservative party were taunted with sacrificing their honour and convictions in order to retain office, the charge met with no response in the ranks of the Conservative party; and in thus finding no response such charges were inconsistent with the past history of this country and of the Conservative party. If the Conservative party, while in opposition, had carried an appropriation clause, pledging the House to the distribution of a portion of the revenues of the Irish Church for the purposes of education—if the Conservative party had, upon the faith of that Resolution, taken office, and then abandoned the course to which they were so pledged, then, indeed, might they have been taunted with inconsistency. If the Conservative party had proposed a Resolution expressing the necessity of lowering the borough franchise, and after ousting their political opponents from office by means of that Resolution had quietly allowed the matter to drop, then, indeed, the Conservative party might have been taunted with inconsistency. If the Conservative party had defeated the Government on an Irish Arms Bill, and six weeks after ousting their opponents and acceding themselves to office had without any fresh outrage or violence brought forward and carried the same Bill—then, indeed, they might have been taunted with inconsistency. Taunts of inconsistency came with a very bad grace from a party by whom such things had been done. Something had been said about the abandonment of securities, especially the dual vote. Now, he would not venture to say how far the Ministry were responsible for the abandonment of that proposal. He was not prepared to say that the dual vote might not be a very right, wise, and beneficial proposal: but the salvation of this country from the surging waves of democracy was not, in his opinion, dependent upon so small and minute a provision as the dual vote. It was said that the Bill, in dealing with the question of re-distribution, left it in such a position that it was idle to expect that it would be a permanent settlement. He should like, however, to know whether the existence of the small boroughs was in any degree a greater anomaly than the disproportion between the county and borough representation. If the principle of numbers, which he thought a fallacious one, was to be the basis of our electoral system, why were the claims of the counties to be lost sight of, and the advent of the time proclaimed in the words of Mr. Canning, referring to the principles of the French Revolution— When each fair burgh, numerically free, Shall choose its Members by the rule of three. On the whole, he for one thought it was impossible, with any degree of justice, to deny that a fair compromise had been arrived at under all the circumstances of the case, and he believed, moreover, that there was a reasonable prospect that it would last. Entertaining these views, and being of opinion that the imperfections of the Bill—for he admitted that it had imperfections—were in great measure due to the hostility with which the proposals of the Government had been met in the House of Commons when they did not occupy the commanding position in which they were now placed, and that it might effectually receive the final revising touch in their Lordship's House, he should cordially support the second reading—confident that the measure would be received with favour by the people at large, who would know how to give their due share of credit to those wise and prudent Ministers who, amidst jarring councils, had solved a most difficult problem with wisdom and success.


I am very glad I gave way to my noble Friend and Relative who has just sat down, and I trust he will not think it is from any want of respect that I do not follow him closely through the arguments he has advanced. I wish, at the same time, to state that the noble Earl is entirely mistaken in supposing that we on this side of the House regret that the securities by which this Bill was originally surrounded were successfully opposed by our Friends in the House of Commons. I would also remind the noble Earl, who complains of the noble Lord who spoke before him for appearing to have forgotten the declaration in the Queen's Speech with respect to Reform, that the sentence in which the subject was alluded to by the noble Earl (Earl Beauchamp) in moving the Address in Answer to that Speech, was so singularly short that we were under the delusion that the topic was one which was distasteful to him; whereas it now seems that, following the example of the Members of the Cabinet, he was all the time concealing within his breast that burning desire for household suffrage which he has this evening proclaimed. There is one piece of advice, I may add, which I should like to give the noble Earl in passing, and that is that he should refrain in one respect from taking the course which he has just now adopted, for he will really run some risk of losing his character as a Reformer in the present day if he condescends to use not only the arguments but even the very phraseology of that antiquated and obsolete Reformer, Mr. Bright, who applied the phrase "hobgoblin argument" in reference to an argument that had been put forward by Mr. Lowe. But, passing from the noble Earl, I would observe that the noble Earl who commenced the debate declared that those who sit on these Benches had no right to disparage the present Bill. Now, the noble Earl was clearly premature in making that remark, because, as it happened, nobody on these Benches had said a word; and, I may at once assure him that I rise with no intention to disparage the greater part of a measure which was attacked by a noble Earl on his own side from a point of view with which I cannot sympathize, but with an earnestness, a sincerity, and a power of argument which have caused me to be surprised that no Member of the Government should have thought it necessary to answer him. I am not aware that we have ever discouraged any young Peer on this side from speaking; but it has been said to night, as matter of special remark, that the noble Earl at the head of the Government is in the habit of giving encouragement to the young Members of your Lordships' House. I am bound to admit that that encouragement is not confined to his own political Friends, for he always treats the young Peers who speak on this side with singular courtesy. I may further state that if he treats the two young Peers who have spoken from the Benches opposite to-night with great courtesy, it will be evidence of considerable magnanimity on his part. But, be that as it may, while I entirely acquit the noble Earl of a desire to discourage young Peers, I must say that there is an impression that he does discourage his middle-aged Colleagues from taking part in any important debate like this question of Reform. When a question affecting his department comes on for discussion each noble Lord rises in his place, and speaks with the authority which becomes its Chief; but when any question of importance is debated, involving points of difficulty which may have been deliberated upon and determined by the Cabinet, then the noble Earl, who is a host in himself, rushes into the fray, sometimes, indeed, with the support of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, but never, by any chance, do his Colleagues who sit immediately beside, aid him by the utterance of a single word. There is a noble and learned Lord, indeed, who sits opposite (Lord Cairns), who has accepted the honour of a seat in this House, and who has thus lent to our deliberations the immense advantage of his legislative and judicial capacity; but it is, I cannot help thinking, rather hard upon him that he should be called upon to defend measures proposed by the Government, which he had no hand in framing, and a policy which, I believe, he in his heart often disapproves, instead of having those measures and that policy supported by their natural defenders. I am told too that the most extraordinary efforts have been made during the last fortnight to secure the presence of a noble Lord of immense genius and great eloquence to speak in this very debate. I am told that that noble Lord has be taken himself away—no doubt, with the praise worthy desire of hiding his talent—and that he has been hunted from London to Hertfordshire, and from Hertfordshire back to London for the purpose.—[Cries of "Question!"]


appealed to the noble Earl, if the Bill being read a second time was not the question before the House? but was called to Order by certain noble Lords.


I have to apologize to the House if I have said anything which is not in accordance with the rules of debate. I was about to go on to express a hope that any little inconsistencies which the noble Lord, to whom I was alluding, might have found it difficult to avoid, will not prevent him from giving us that intellectual treat in defence of this Reform Bill to which we shall all listen with pleasure, and with the utmost consideration. As to the noble Lords who sit beside the noble Earl at the head of the Government, I would give them a little of that encouragement which is, I expect, now denied them. They must, I am sure, have noticed, the other day, when one of the strongest personal attacks was made in the House of Commons on some of their Colleagues, not one of the Gentlemen so attacked made any reply; though he must say that he considered it of the greatest importance that when men of the highest honour were accused of such political misconduct they should answer for themselves, and not by their silence lead to great distrust in political Leaders. The truth was that every one of those noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen had been so dreadfully scalded that it was very natural that they should shrink from the very coldest water that could be offered to them. There was not one of them who had not made some declaration or urged some important principle or some policy of high intention, and who had not found that some two or three days, or perhaps only some two or three hours, afterwards they were completely rolled over and left in the mud. Now, noble Lords opposite had great advantage over their Colleagues in the other House, for they could not be held responsible for having defended the various courses of the Cabinet in reference to the Resolutions, or to the "Ten Minutes Bill," or other matters. The noble Duke who succeeded me, for instance, in the office which I had the honour to hold (the Duke of Buckingham), and who always speaks in a tone and manner which is so agreeable to the House, enjoys this great advantage over some of his Colleagues—that he is not responsible either for the want of consideration of the question of Reform which was exhibited during the autumn by the Government, nor for the course which they took with respect to the "Ten Minutes Bill." His task, therefore, indealing with this question now is one comparatively easy as contrasted with that of some of the Members of the Cabinet in the other House. But, to pass from that subject to the important question of the course which the House ought to take with respect to this Bill, there were two points introduced into the discussion by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) in moving the second reading. He, in the first place, went into a history of the Reform question, which was characterized by the noble Earl who followed him as imperfect, owing to faults of omission; I am afraid I must add that it was imperfect also from faults of commission. There were, for instance, some statements of facts which have no absolute foundation in the history of the Reform question. But I am not very desirous of imitating the example set by the noble Earl so far as indulging in personalities is concerned. I must prefer acting upon the rule which he laid down at the beginning of the Session as to the propriety of avoiding all personal recrimination and applying ourselves earnestly to the question in hand. The noble Earl has very properly given us a defence of his conduct in dealing with Reform. Your Lordships may remember the saying of a certain person, who said, "I do not care who makes the laws of a country if I can make its songs." I do not think that applies very much to this country, which is not governed by its songs; but there is no doubt that in times of political excitement there are jokes and anecdotes which run about the kingdom—jokes and anecdotes invented, perhaps, by ingenious persons, and attributed to men of great distinction, particularly if they have a reputation for ready wit and repartee. Well, a few weeks ago an anecdote of this sort was in circulation, to the effect that one of the Conservative Friends of the noble Earl went and complained to him of the extremely revolutionary character of the measure he was hurrying through Parliament; and it was stated that the noble Earl gave no defence of his measure, but said "Don't you see how it has dished the Whigs?" Now, it may be a very desirable object to "dish the Whigs." I believe the story was fabricated; but some things have been mentioned to-night, and have passed very recently, which make me think that there has been a feeling of this kind towards their political adversaries which has in important particulars very much guided the policy of the Government. An accusation was made the other day, not by a Liberal, but by a noble Lord a strong Conservative — namely, that Mr. Gladstone (who had been censured for it) had insisted that ten separate alterations must be made in the Reform Bill; and in going over the whole of these ten alterations that noble Lord showed that subsequently the Government had agreed to every one of them, but had rejected the single Conservative restriction which that noble Lord sought to impose. Well, what was the answer? It was, I believe, impossible to deny the statement; but the answer was, "That does not signify; don't you see that Mr. Gladstone was in a minority fifteen or sixteen times?" Was not the feeling, then, this — "As long as we damage a political opponent we don't care how much of our own principles we abandon, or how much of the principles of that opponent we adopt." ["Oh!"] Does the noble Earl deny that statement; does he deny that the Conservative restriction was the only one which they rejected; does he deny that the defence offered on that occasion was exactly that which I have stated? With regard to the important portion of the Bill dealing with the franchise, I beg to say that I do not look upon it in the slightest degree with those feelings of alarm which have been expressed in some of the speeches made this evening. I have had a very humble share of responsibility in the preparation of almost every Reform Bill, excepting the noble Earl's, which has been proposed since 1851. My own individual feeling in all those cases was that Reform was a good, and not an evil thing. I was inclined towards a considerable extension of the franchise, limited only by what we could practically carry in the face of what we thought was a very serious Conservative opposition, and also limited by what a noble Earl (the Earl of Morley) who has preceded me so well described as the belief that organic changes are better made tentatively and gradually than all at once. At the same time I certainly should have preferred it if the franchise had excluded what has been frequently spoken of as "the residuum." But when a household franchise has been adopted by the House of Commons, and proposed by a Minister of the Crown, I for one would not think for a moment of withholding my support from it, and I do not at all believe it will have the evil results which have been prophecied to-night. So far from its weakening the character of the House of Commons, I do not think there is a doubt but that a Representative Chamber gathers fresh strength from the infusion of a more popular element; and I do not believe—though this effect has been much insisted upon—that the character of individual Members of the House of Commons will be deteriorated. It is quite clear from what we know now that men of great personal ability, without fortune or family connection, will find seats in that House. I feel sure that great lawyers and other professional men will continue to obtain access to the House of Commons, and that men who are neither rich nor members of the aristocracy will not be debarred from entering it. There are parts of this measure which I do not think can hold together; and it was impossible to hear the long, able, and detailed argument of the noble Earl on the cross Benches (Earl Grey) without feeling that the Government ought to take this opportunity of improving it. But with regard to the franchise part of this Bill, with regard to the household suffrage, with regard to the lodger franchise—which is a real Reform Bill for London, and elsewhere is a mere middle-class franchise—I give it my most cordial and earnest support. Then comes the question of re-distribution. It is very curious to look back to what occurred last year, and to see that the strongest attack to which we, rightly or wrongly — I think wrongly — yielded, was based on the alleged absolute necessity of having before us the whole of our re-distribution scheme before it was possible to deal with the subject of Reform. Speeches were made in favour of that view which were called unanswerable, but which to my apprehension were at the time completely answered. But what has happened? You have brought in a Bill this year dealing with the franchise and also with the subject of re-distribution in a way which it is clear cannot endure, although it has been much amended since the Government introduced it. The question of re-distribution, as far as I know—and I have either heard or read most of the speeches made on it—has not been referred to in connection with the franchise; and yet this was the point on which we were defeated in bringing in a moderate measure last Session. When I say that the re-distribution scheme of the Government has been considerably amended I wish to repeat a question which has been twice put this evening on a matter upon which I think it is important that the House should receive a fair answer from the Government—namely, whether this re-distribution scheme, which has been condemned in this House by every person who has spoken this evening except the noble Earl, which has been condemned by a Conservative candidate on the hustings before a great constituency, which is universally condemned by the press, and condemned also, as far as I know, in private conversation, alike by the friends and the foes of the Government—whether they do or do not believe that this scheme of re-distribution will last—I will not say for a generation, or fifteen, or ten years—but whether they will say that from the bottom of their hearts they believe it will last for five, four, or even three years? If they do not believe that, what a position are we placed in? I do not suppose they wish the question of re-distribution to ripen as that of household suffrage has ripened. I do not suppose, if there is any question of amending it this year, that they think all the agitation of this country should be concentrated on this particular question. But what will be the consequence if such an agitation arises? Why, that next year you must double or treble what you now propose to do, if you would satisfy both Houses of Parliament. But if that is not the case, and even should you manage to tide over next year, and avoid bringing in a new scheme of re-distribution, what would happen the following year with a young and ambitious Parliament returned by a new constituency, wishing to do great and astonishing things, and with, perhaps, a great contempt for their predecessors? It is quite clear that you would then have an extensive and even a sweeping scheme of re-distribution proposed, and which it would certainly be difficult in any effectual manner to resist. What was one of the arguments used by the noble Earl with respect to the franchise? I was rather surprised to hear that his argument was all based on the dread of defeat. It was this—"We have been defeated twice before; we do not care to be defeated again; we were determined to have a victory." There was another argument about what is generally called the "hard and fast line" being inferior to the principle embodied in household suffrage. I never could understand the meaning of that argument, or what the principle, here, spoken of is. If you mean by a principle something which cannot be changed again, you must go down to universal suffrage. Moreover, how does your principle apply to the lodger franchise? How, again, does it apply to the £12 county franchise which you have recommended? But the noble Earl adduced another argument which I regard as of great weight and importance. He said—"I have made great sacrifices, and have suffered some obloquy in order to settle this question on something like a permanent footing, so as to get rid of the agitation of the subject, which has too long obstructed all the other legislation of the country." That, I admit, is an argument of great force; and it is the really valid one upon which I think the Government ought to rest the course which they have pursued this Session. But if you apply that reasoning in the case of the franchise, why, I ask, do you neglect equally to apply it when you come to the question of the re-distribution of seats? The noble Earl opposite made a personal appeal to the noble Earl (Earl Grey) to withdraw his Amendment — an appeal in which, individually, I am not disinclined to concur. But will the noble Earl opposite allow me to make an appeal to him? It is perfectly impossible that the noble Earl at the head of the Government should not feel a great attachment to this House which has been the arena of his great intellectual triumphs for one-half of his political life. What is the course he proposed to adopt with regard to this House in respect to the passing of this Bill? The noble Earl's power and influence at this moment is, I believe, paramount in this House. The noble Earl has long been at the head of the great Conservative party. At this moment I am not quite sure that he has the full allegiance of their feelings and thoughts; but he has certainly their full allegiance as to their votes; and with regard to this House, he has a power almost superior to the Queen's prerogative of making Peers, by practically having the selection of the Scotch and Irish representative Peers, whereby he gains an immense accession of strength. ["No!" "Hear, hear."] That power, I must add, he has exercised with merciless severity towards the minority of both of those Peerages; for no individual, whatever his position, his ability, or his character, has the slightest chance of representing either of those Peerages in this House unless his political opinions perfectly coincide with those of the noble Earl. There is one exception, indeed, but that only proves the rule. Moreover, the last time there was a great party division in this House there was a majority against the Government of Lord Palmerston, who, I believe, was the most popular Prime Minister we have had in this country since the Duke of Wellington. That noble Lord recommended to the Queen the creation of a number of Peers about equal to those which the Liberal party had lost by the extinction of Peerages and by the accession of Conservative sons of Liberal fathers. The noble Earl, however, departing from the boast of his first Administration that they had only made three new Peers, and those being all instances of signal public services, has gone on recommending Her Majesty to make Peers of persons, perfectly unobjectionable in themselves, but certainly swelling the majority which he commands in this House. Now, I want to know how this great power and influence is to be employed with regard to the character of this House? The noble Earl, at the early part of the Session, in answer to the noble Lord on the cross Bench (Earl Grey), gave an assurance that this House would have ample time for the fullest consideration of the principle and details of the Reform Bill when it should come up to us; and I ventured, in the absence of the noble Earl behind me (Earl Russell), to say, on behalf of this side of the House, that we cordially concurred in that arrangement. Now, is that assurance to be interpreted by our merely being allowed to talk—which nobody can prevent—or are we to be allowed to make any remark whatever on the Bill as it passes through this House? I observed the other day, in an unauthorized, and I hope, erroneous report of a private meeting of the followers of the noble Earl, that the noble Earl said it was necessary this measure should be passed by this House absolutely without Amendment. [The Earl of DERBY: I did not say so.] I am very glad to hear that contradiction, and I should be still more glad if I might make it the basis of a hope that we may be allowed to make such Amendments as can be made safely and without any danger of collision with the other House. The noble Earl was perfectly justified, I think, in saying that he had suffered much obloquy, and sacrificed much for the franchise question, which has been settled in a manner which has received the sanction of the House of Commons, and has received the approval of the country at large, and that though he might admit some trifling Amendments with regard to the details, nothing would induce him to consent to vital changes with regard to that matter. That may be so with regard to the franchise; but with respect to the re-distribution scheme, if the noble Earl would frankly admit that it is one that is not likely to last, and would cordially co-operate with the House in making this wise, safe, and singularly graceful concession to the demands of public opinion, he would, on the one hand, place this House in a stronger position with regard to the esteem and affection of the people of this country, and would, on the other hand, do that which, in the best sense of the word, is an eminently Conservative measure. I have no right to speak with authority, but I venture to say in the name of those who sit behind me (and I believe I might say so for others out of the House) that if the noble Earl made any declaration of that sort we should not only cordially vote for the second reading of the Bill, but should meet him in a friendly spirit in every respect. We should impose upon him no pre-conceived notions of our own, but should prefer that Her Majesty's Government should take the initiative and the credit of amending that scheme of re-distribution which they have already framed. I believe, too, we might trust to the good sense of the House of Commons not to put itself in collision with this House on so popular a measure as this, and that we should certainly obtain the approval and sanction of the whole country. I have been interrupted in the course of my remarks, and I am afraid I have said things displeasing to some of your Lordships; but I apologize for having done so, and have only spoken from a sincere desire that this Bill should be made acceptable to the country.


said, he must take exception to the statement of the noble Earl who had just sat down, that the noble Earl at the head of the Government selected the Representative Peers for Scotland exclusively from among those of his own politics. [The noble Earl was then understood to refer to the opinions of certain Scotch Peers who had been elected.]


admitted that his statement was too general; but that substantially he was correct in what he had stated.


My Lords, we have heard many speeches this evening from noble Lords of great ability and eloquence, but, with the exception of a few friends and supporters of the Government sitting immediately behind the Treasury Bench, the speeches to-night have for the most part been couched in terms singularly condemnatory of the Bill which Her Majesty's Government have submitted to the consideration of the House. When, however, we come to the speech of the noble Earl the late President of the Council (Earl Granville) we find in it a different tone. The noble Earl, with the exception of some trifling details, has not found it in his power to find any substantial fault with the measure, and he has therefore, with that redundancy of humour and sarcasm for which he is so distinguished; thought it consistent with the usual practice of Parliamentary procedure to launch some shafts—innocent it may be—at those Members who have recently joined Her Majesty's Government. It is quite true that those Members are not so experienced as the noble Earl in powers of debate; but when he says that they have not ventured on any occasion during the present Session to express their views on important subjects, I would remind him that when subjects of great importance have occupied the attention of the House they have been matters naturally appertaining to the office of Prime Minister, and therefore on which he would naturally take upon himself to speak; and therefore though the Members of the Government may not have risen to speak, except on departmental questions, I believe it has been from no unwillingness to take part, whenever occasion required, in defending the conduct of the Government to the best of their ability. But there was no portion of the scheme of Her Majesty's Government for the reform of Parliament upon which the noble Earl was able to put his finger except that which relates to the re-distribution of seats, And when my noble Friend who moved the second reading expressed a hope that the measure would be final, or, at all events, that it would last for a considerable period, the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) fixed upon the scheme of re-distribution as eminently imperfect, and as one which could not stand the test of time. In spite of your boasts of finality, said the noble Earl, it cannot be final; as soon as a new and ardent Parliament shall assemble one of its first acts will be to frame a much more extensive scheme of re-distribution. But how can the noble Earl with any consistency advance such an objection against the scheme of Her Majesty's Government, when, as was known at the time, and scarcely denied, the measure of the late Government was urged upon them by the hon. Member for Birmingham, who was known at the time to have a very large influence in the councils of the Government, who acted towards them as a kind of amicus curiæ, and not only advised the Government to deal with the subject in two separate Bills, but boasted that the extended suffrage was proposed in order that it might serve as a fulcrum to be used by a future Parliament to pass a much larger and wider scheme of re-distribution. I believe that was well known to be the case at the time. [Earl RUSSELL: No!] The noble Earl thinks it his duty to deny it. But the thing was well known and commonly spoken of at the time, and if there was one thing more than another which favoured the general belief it was the persistency of the noble Earl's Government in adhering to a policy so strongly condemned by their friends in the House of Commons, and which ultimately led to their overthrow. My noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) has certainly drawn in dark and ominous colours the fearful effects which he anticipates from the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. I have often listened with pleasure to the noble Earl; I have admired his eloquence and valued his friendship; but on the present occasion I cannot admire either his logical accuracy or his consistency. In the first place, if my noble Friend had been altogether opposed to Reform his speech would him been one of the most effective that could be launched against the introduction of any Reform Bill whatever. But when I heard the speech of my noble Friend I was reminded that it bore a very strong similarity to speeches that have been delivered in "another place." In fact, it seems to be the reflex of opinions which are consistent when coming from a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) from whom they come with great effect and power; but I cannot say that they come with the same consistency, power, or propriety from my noble Friend. My noble Friend was a Member of the Cabinet that considered the question of Reform, and he himself admits that he would not have opposed a very material lowering of the franchise. In fact, I am not at all sure that he did not go so far as to say that under certain conditions and in certain circumstances he might have been willing to adopt even household suffrage. But we are not aware what the reasons are—for my noble Friend has not explained them which have led him to take the severe view which he has now adopted, nor has he favoured us with the considerations which have frightened him from his previous convictions. I suppose my noble Friend would not object to a limited suffrage—indeed, I believe the Bill which was called the "Ten Minutes Bill," in which a £6 rating was proposed, was introduced at the suggestion of my noble Friend. To that Bill, which had the inestimable advantage in my noble Friend's eyes of drawing "a hard and fast line," he would not have objected. I will not trouble your Lordships with figures further than to show from Returns before your Lordships' House what the difference would be between the franchise as proposed by the Bill of Her Majesty's Government — or rating household suffrage—and the franchise based upon a rating of £5, as was at one time proposed by the Government—mainly, I believe, to meet the wishes of my noble Friend. Allowing for those deductions which have been explained by my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) in moving the second reading of the Bill—and what those deductions are we have the best means of ascertaining—it appears that the proportion of electors enjoying the municipal franchise in those boroughs where there are no compounding Acts is about 50 per cent of the householders. Now, three years' residence is required for the municipal franchise, and but one year's residence for the franchise under the Bill. Taking that as the basis of calculation, it will come out that the difference between a £5 rental suffrage and a rating household suffrage is 148,500. It is, then, on account of the small difference of 150,000 voters distributed over 200 boroughs that my noble Friend, with his accustomed eloquence, his strong feeling, and undoubted sincerity, but in high colouring, has depicted the fearful consequences which must result from passing this Bill. We have been challenged to defend the Bill of of the Government.

Now, it is perfectly true, as the noble Earl opposite has said, that I, at least, joined Her Majesty's Government free and unfettered. My noble Friend did me the honour to ask me to accept a seat in his Cabinet, and, knowing full well what the measure was which he intended to introduce, I told him that of that measure, coupled with the safeguards with which it was then surrounded, I had no fear, and I freely joined the Government of my noble Friend. But in what position did the Government find themselves in regard to this question of Reform? Was it a question which the Government of the day wished to bring forward? I can say, and, I believe my noble Friend said it for himself, that he would have been very glad that the settlement arrived at in 1832 had been left undisturbed, that the working classes as they rose higher and higher in the scale should adapt themselves to the franchise, not Parliament adapt the franchise to them. But was it possible for any Government to stand still in the matter? I think the best testimony that I can give on that subject is to quote the words of a Gentleman of great acuteness, on the Liberal side, who has taken a leading part in the debates on the question, and who is well qualified to hold a high position in any Government—I mean Mr. Horsman. In 1859 during the debate on the Bill of my noble Friend, Mr. Horsman, in one of the addresses he delivered showed truly what had been the course of proceeding on the part of the Liberal party, and what was the damnosa hereditas which they left to their Conservative successors. Mr. Horsman said— It is admitted that we, the Liberal party, have excited the national expectation of Reform—and it is we who have proclaimed the necessity for that Reform. It is admitted that our own efforts at legislation have hitherto failed. It is admitted that it is the most difficult of all questions to cope with, and the most delicate and perilous to trifle with… It is we who, ever since 1851, have kept the question dangling before the eyes of the nation. It is by us that promises have been made, and performances postponed in a manner which has certainly not diminished the difficulties of legislation."—[3 Hansard, cliii. 458.] It was in this state that Her Majesty's Government in 1859 found the question of Reform. How did they attempt to deal with it? I believe I may fairly say that on both occasions — now and in 1859—when the Administration of the noble Earl who is now at the head of the Government brought in measures of Reform, they had one object in view—that of passing a measure which should be as permanent as possible. On the other hand what has been the course pursued by the Administrations of the noble Lord opposite? On no occasion have they brought forward a measure framed on any other model than that of 1832. The Act of 1832 reduced the suffrage to £10, and since then there have been proposals on the part of Liberal Governments for simply lowering the franchise to one figure or another—certainly a rough and ready method of arriving at a conclusion, but certain to produce no result save one of general dissatisfaction. The noble Earl who is now at the head of the Government attempted, however, to deal with the question on some clear and definite principle; and though I do not say that the principle of the Bill of 1859 was the one which ought to have been adopted, still it contained something definite, tangible, and reliable. The borough and the county franchises were assimilated, and you thereby secured a basis of legislation to which you could look as a permanent settlement—because with such an assimilation you do not bring into close contact a man paying one amount in a county and having no vote and a man in a borough who pays a lower sum and yet has a vote. That was the strong argument then made use of, and I am not at all sure that Parliament did wisely, at the instance and under the tutelage of the noble Earl opposite, to reject that measure. The Government have in this Session again acted in the same manner—they have again met the necessity which was imposed upon them—a necessity not of their own creation. After 1859 we had the Bill of 1860, after that the Bill of 1866, and then we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire with all the power of his eloquence and genius endeavouring to urge the masses and to inflame the popular mind, telling them that they should never rest until they had attained their object—namely, that almost of manhood suffrage. My noble Friend at the head of the Government had that state of things to deal with; was it possible, then, for the Government to shelve the question of Reform? Would not the House of Commons have at once been asked to declare that no Government could command its confidence which did not bring in a Reform Bill? Well, then, how did the Government act? First, a series of Resolutions were moved in the House of Commons; I think nobody can blame the Government for having adopted that course. Your Lordships must remember the treatment of the measure introduced by my noble Friend in 1859. That measure, brought forward with the most perfect sincerity, was met by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) with a Motion which was intended not only to defeat the measure but to oust the Government. It succeeded; and during the next six years no honest measure of Reform was brought before Parliament. In this instance, therefore, it was natural to proceed by Resolutions, which should rather indicate the intentions of the Government, and elicit opinions in the House of Commons, than put up as it were a butt at which the Opposition might aim their shafts. What was the measure the Government then introduced? I will pass by the measure which was introduced but afterwards abandoned owing to the unfortunate defection of three Members of the Cabinet, and will go to the original measure to which the Government then recurred. The measure to which the Government recurred was based upon rating household suffrage. That was the limit beyond which it was not likely the House of Commons would go. Well, then, did the Government rush blindly into this sea of democracy? Did they abandon their principles? Did they give to the winds all that they had before professed? No. Their measure was framed in a true Conservative spirit, and was based on the principle that it would be right to have a final point upon which reason and common sense would bid them to rest. At the same time, in order that the middle classes might retain that amount of influence—I will not say of preponderance — to which they were entitled, it was provided that, under certain conditions of property, persons should possess two votes. A two years' residence was also required as the necessary qualification for obtaining the suffrage by the payment of rates. I pass over the compounding Acts, because, though hard things have been said of the Government upon the subject, there is no doubt that, as the discussion proceeded, the House of Commons itself, as well as the Government, became more and more enlightened upon the working of these Acts. But how did Parliament treat the safeguards which we honestly and conscientiously introduced into the measure? The Liberal Members and the Colleagues of the noble Earl in the other House helped to sweep away these safeguards; which, moreover, did not find sufficient favour and support even from the friends of the Government. The Government therefore came to the conclusion that it was better to abandon those safeguards rather than risk the passing of the Bill. They had the alternative of adhering to their own plan, or of submitting to the decision of Parliament, and give up those safeguards which they had deemed necessary. It was a difficult and a painful alternative; but it was one from which the Government did not shrink. They felt that, having introduced on their responsibility a measure of this nature, and having seen the strong public feeling which existed on the subject, it would be better to accept the measure as moulded by the House of Commons rather than relegate the question to another Session. One objection urged in the speeches of noble Lords who have preceded me is that we are inconsistent. I trust that I have disposed, in a great measure, of that charge. No doubt, the Government were obliged to yield to the times. Public opinion, the majority of the House of Commons, and the general march of events rendered the passing of a Reform Bill an imperative necessity; and, under all the circumstances, the Government thought it best to agree to the changes made in the Bill rather than incur the danger of putting off Reform for another year. I say that we can bear this charge of inconsistency; we have had no double objects to serve. If the Government had thought it more conducive to the public interest to resign their seats they would willingly have done so, and have invited noble Lords opposite to take office. But we were not of that opinion. Throughout we acted conscientiously, and according to what we believed to be for the good of the country; and I believe that the country, in time to come, will not be ungrateful. The only argument used with much force, and advanced by the noble Earl who moved the Resolution (Earl Grey), is that evil has been done by abolishing the compounder. This may be a matter of parochial importance, and may create difficulties which will have to be surmounted; but they are not of that gravity or of that importance which the noble Earl would make them out to be. The Government are charged with not having known anything about the laws relating to compounding, with having gone on in the dark, and with having suddenly, and without due consideration, consented to abolish compounding. But the subject was before the Government at first; they understood it, and their Bill provided a plan of dealing with compounders. They were not new in relation to the Reform question. They existed, to a large extent, at the time of the passing of the old Reform Bill; and many compounding Acts have been passed since that date. Adopting the plan of the old Reform Bill, the Government proposed that persons resident in houses compounded for were not to lose their votes, and provided that the compounder, who tendered payment of his rates, and made application for his vote, should be placed on the register. It is not to be denied that there was some semblance of a fine being imposed on the compounder; but I think the charge originated in the fertile brain of a right hon. Gentleman distinguished for the microscopic powers of his mind. But, my Lords, these inconveniences were not great in amount. The Bill might have been left as it was brought in without any serious detriment to it. No doubt, numbers would have availed themselves of the means of placing themselves on the register, and those not sufficiently anxious about a vote to have made the necessary application, and to have submitted to the ridiculous and insignificant fine, would scarcely have been worthy of being placed on the register at all. When it was proposed that compounding should be done away with it was the duty of the Government to give a careful consideration to the proposal; they did so, and found that on the whole the balance of advantage would be on the side of abolition; that it would produce a simplicity unknown before in the levying of the rates, and that it would do away with many inconveniences. The Government felt that in acceding to this, which came, not from their own, but from the opposite side, they were doing their duty, and facilitating the progress of an important measure. I think I have answered most of the serious objections urged against this Bill. It is impossible to say this Bill will be final — what human things are? Is it possible that, in the rapid advance of human events, the rapid change of human opinion, and the progress of education, anything can be permanent? Amid all this change, the "Rest and be thankful" idea of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) is not a realization of the present, but rather a dream of the future. If the Bill of last year had been carried, would it have been permanent? Nothing is permanent, and we can only hope that as this country, under the guidance of Providence in the past, has enjoyed freedom from violent changes and bloody revolution, so in the future the same merciful Power will guide the course of public events, and over-rule the course of legislation, that it may be marked by good sense, good feeling, and subordination of class to class — that we may be saved from violent changes, and that these direful prognostications may not be realized. Whatever may happen — whether the measure succeed or fail—the Government will have conscientiously done their duty, and they are but men, capable of exercising human powers. They have done their duty in a way which I believe in my conscience involves no danger to the country; but which will calm agitation and lead the public mind into more peaceable, thoughtful, and rational channels, and do away with this pernicious agitation which has been poisoning the country so long; and in after years I believe the Government will be looked back upon as a Government that deserved well of its country.


said, that, as several noble Lords wished to address the House, their Lordships would perhaps allow him to move the adjournment of the debate to to-morrow.

Motion agreed to; further Debate adjourned till To-morrow.