§ Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned Debate on The Earl Grey's Amendment on the Motion for the Second Reading read; Debate resumed accordingly.1917
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
My Lords, it is somewhat difficult to argue against a Bill which we do not wish to reject, and which it seems next to impossible that we can amend. It seems useless, moreover, to complain of a measure when we have no prospect of any favourable result. Nevertheless, the Members of a constituent branch of the Legislature are bound, I think, to express their opinions upon this Bill—the opinions which they sincerely and conscientiously feel, and not allow ourselves to be reduced to the condition of a mere office of registration. I was very anxious to hear from my noble Friend, who propounded this measure, some statement of his views, not only as to its causes, but as to its consequences. I was anxious that he should do something to allay the fears that exist, to calm the troubles which prevail, and to give us some assurance that, in his conviction at least, great and manifold benefits are to result to the country from the passing of this great act of legislation. I heard, however, nothing of the kind from him; I heard only the one stout assertion that this measure was so Conservative as to leave no grounds for apprehension. Now, that expression was, I must say, alike comforting and astounding; but when I listened to the speeches of other Members of the Government, who, I hoped, would supply the deficiencies of the noble Earl, I heard nothing of the kind. Indeed, the greater part of the debate consisted, with some exceptions, in the endeavour to set up one Bill against another, one Cabinet against another, one Minister against another, all which had no bearing on the great question before us—namely, the Bill we have to consider, and all the mighty consequences that are to accrue from it to the present and to future generations. Now, I think we are bound to look this question fully in the face. The opinions I hold may, no doubt, seem to some exaggerated; but I am sure that those opinions are shared by many thoughtful and intelligent men, and all I can venture to say is, that they are the result of much thought and long experience; that they are conscientiously and honestly entertained; and that I think they ought to be fully stated, and as fully confuted. My Lords, this Bill comes to us under very peculiar circumstances. It comes to us from the House of Commons without a division upon the second reading — without a division on the main principles—the household suf- 1918 frage and the lodger franchise — without a division upon the re-distribution clauses—without a division on the third reading. It is therefore, in appearance, whatever it be in reality, the unanimous expression of the opinion of the House of Commons, and as such entitled to homage and respect. It was elaborated during a period of six months by the House of Commons; to us will be allowed for its consideration about six days. It is impossible, therefore, to discuss the principle of the Bill in its fullest extent. We cannot consider all the various plans of Reform, and then select the one best adapted to the necessities of the country. We are shut up to the four corners of this Bill, to say whether it be good or bad; and I should not have ventured to trespass upon your Lordships' attention had I not felt—though this, perhaps, is one of the exaggerated opinions which I may hold—that this is one of the last opportunities we shall have of expressing our opinions in a free and independent Parliament, uncontrolled by the presence of a powerful democratic assembly. Now, I do not entertain any hostility to Reform—very far from it. I have long been of opinion that Reform, though not necessary for good government, had become indispensable; indeed, inevitable. It is not necessary to enter into the various causes which have made it so; but I readily admit that some measure of Reform was inevitable. I should have wished, however, to proceed more carefully and gradually. I should have wished to hold up the suffrage as a great object of ambition to the working man; I should have wished to hold it up as the reward of thrift, honesty, and industry. We have examples before us of what may be done by working men. If we turn to the Potteries, we there see a large body of intelligent men, who, by their own act, by their own thrift and industry, have raised themselves to the possession of the suffrage. There are in that district about 9,000 potters; men in the receipt of high wages; and I am told that very nearly 3,000 of these by their own industry and care have purchased their own freehold, and are now living in their own houses. Those 3,000 working men by their own act have done that which every working man in the receipt of good wages might have done had he been so inclined. That is, to a considerable extent, my notion of Reform; but I would have gone further. I would not have kept the suffrage at £10. I 1919 would have taken it as low as the Bill of last year proposed—namely, to £7, and on this ground—that though working men are able, in many instances, by their own efforts to reach the line of £10, we must recollect that there are differences of position. A man with a family earning £2 a week is not in the same position as a man without any family with £2 a week. To meet that difference I should have been glad to bring down the limit to £7, and surely the addition of thousands of such men would be an honour and a security to the kingdom. In this respect I have always been a very considerable Radical. A Radical I am now, and a Radical I shall be to the end of my days. That of all things which I most rejoice at is to see the working man rising by his own industry and exertions from the lowest point in the scale of society to the very highest point; and if a man whom I had known as originally a chimney-sweeper filled the office of Prime Minister of this country, I should see in that one of the noblest proofs of the freedom and generosity of our institutions, and of their possessing a breadth and expansion that we ought to assert, in spite of all contradiction. But to proceed, as is done by this Bill, to lift by the sudden jerk of an Act of Parliament the whole residuum of society up to the level of the honest, thrifty, working man, is, I believe, distasteful to the working men themselves. I am sure it dishonours the suffrage, and that you are throwing the franchise broadcast over the heads of men who will accept it, but who will misuse it. Do not let us say anything in the spirit of recrimination—God forbid that I should speak in that spirit when our nearest and dearest interests are at stake—I have no charge to make against one side or the other. It may have been perfectly right for the late Government to introduce a measure of that nature into the House of Commons; it may have been perfectly right for the present Government to oppose it by every means in their power, to turn out that Government, to take their offices, and then to bring in a measure ten times more sweeping; it may have been perfectly right in the present Opposition in the House of Commons to declare that measure to be too extreme, and yet by every means in their power to prevent any limitation to it; but the measure proposed by Mr. Gladstone would, at least, have had this one beneficial effect—it would have been a gradual change; it would have 1920 given us something like breathing time; it would have given us time to accommodate the people to the change and the change to the people. The transition might not have been agreeable, yet it would have been comparatively easy. But this measure proceeds in a rough-and-ready way to carry us to the edge of the Tarpeian rock,—it topples us over like criminals, and future generations will have to estimate, by the magnitude of the fragments, what were once the dimensions and the glory of the British Empire. We are brought to household suffrage as near as possible, pure and simple, because the payment annexed to it is the very smallest payment that could well be selected. We are told that the Government came to household suffrage because they were quite sure to come to it at last. Now, there can be no doubt about that. No thinking man conversant with the state of things in this country, no man seeing the progress of opinion, and seeing how the notions of social and political equality are rapidly developing themselves, could have had any doubt whatever that in the course of a short time we must have come to the point at which we have now arrived. But why are we to jump out of the window when we can go safely downstairs? Why are we to take all at once, as was remarked by Lord Chesterfield, that peck of dirt which should be diffused over our whole life? We could have safely arrived at the same end with equal contentment to the people. I believe the measure proposed by Mr. Gladstone, however extreme it might have been according to the notions of that time, would have been accepted by the people, and that they would have been contented with it. Now, this present measure will be accepted, but not with contentment; and this conclusion will afford a convincing proof that no party should undertake to carry those measures which they have long and persistently opposed. It should be left to those who have long, ardently, and conscientiously maintained them; and that, I am sure, is the only way of giving satisfaction to those for whose benefit a measure is intended. But, then, we are told that household suffrage is the only definite and permanent resting-place. A resting-place, I would ask, in what sense? I agree with my noble Friend (the Duke of Marlborough) that there can be no finality. We are not contemplating a final measure, but only a short period of repose. Now, 1921 I hold that this is no resting-place whatever. The suffrage is not an end, it is only a means to an end, and whenever you read the periodicals of the day, or listen to the speeches delivered on the platform, in every instance you hear that the suffrage now obtained must be used for definite purposes which are described — purposes that cannot be reached under the existing system. Look, my Lords, to what happened when the last Reform Bill was passed. Was the suffrage of 1832 a resting-place? Was it not used for the purpose of obtaining the great remedial measures which have been passed since that time? Far be it from me to say that the legislation between 1832 and the present time has not been of the noblest, the most beneficial character. Ten thousand encumbrances and obstacles have been swept away, and the country is deeply indebted to that Bill for what has been done. But the suffrage now must be employed on very different matters. Between 1832 and the present time almost every commercial and political impediment and difficulty has been removed. There remain now but organic changes, but social changes—the distribution of property and the incidence of taxation. These are serious matters that deeply and intimately affect the feelings of the great mass of the people of this country. Now, my Lords, I wish to say that this household suffrage is not a resting-place even for the suffrage itself, not merely in the sense of finality, but even in the sense of repose. The measure before you goes a very great way indeed, but the arguments by which all the parts of it have been sustained go a great deal further. In the first place, I must recall to your Lordships' recollection a famous declaration made by Mr. Gladstone, when Chancellor of the Exchequer. Two years ago, I think, Mr. Gladstone made a great declaration—that every man of mature age, and not tainted by crime, had a moral right to the suffrage, [Earl RUSSELL indicated dissent.] Of course, I shall withdraw the statement if incorrect, but certainly such was the impression upon my mind. [Lord LYTTELION: Without political danger.] Without political danger. Yes; well that comes very near the point. But last year, I think, there was a declaration that flesh and blood was entitled to a vote, and this year the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirms all that by saying that the present Bill is for the purpose of restoring to the people the rights that have 1922 been taken from them. Now, my Lords, I must say that the result of all this has been to infuse into the minds of the people—and depend upon it you will never disabuse them of it whatever you may say or do—the notion that the elective franchise is a right and not a trust. I would hardly trust myself to say to what extent the issues of that notion may be pushed. That the elective franchise was a trust was a doctrine of an elevating character; now that you say it is a right, I cannot see how it is possible to remain within the four corners of the Bill which you have propounded. I heard last night a remark which comes very much in aid of that view. My noble Friend went thus far; he said that the Bill was introduced in order that there might be no class left in England dissatisfied with the suffrage—that one great object of going so low was that no condition of people may be dissatisfied with the state of things. Well, my Lords, having laid down this principle, that the suffrage is a right, I hold that you have also laid down the great principle of universal suffrage; but, when you come to the lodger franchise, see how it will work upon the whole system. The lodger franchise assumes this principle; it contemplates the voter simply as a man, and not as a man in connection with the duties of a citizen. It contemplates the voter as a man who, having a certain income, is disposed to spend ft portion in a certain way—that is to say, £10 a year for a room in which to lodge. That man has none of the duties of a citizen to fulfil. He is not under the necessity of paying rates, he has not to serve as a juror, or discharge any of the duties which fall to the lot of the householder or ratepayer. Just see how this will work. Take it in the first place in the capital and the great towns. You can form no notion whatever of the numbers that will be added to the register in London and the great towns by the lodger clause. You are going to build in the dark; you are laying down a principle of the most expansive character, so expansive that there is no human force that will be able to control it. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with statistics, but to give merely a few simple facts. There is a district which I know containing 144 houses; it now furnishes fifteen voters to the register. By this lodger franchise there will be furnished ninety-seven—that is more than six times the present number of voters upon 144 houses.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I beg my noble Friend's pardon; do I understand him to say that in these 144 houses there are ninety-seven persons who permanently occupy these lodgings from year to year, and will therefore be entitled to be put on the register under the Bill?
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
I wish that my noble Friend would wait a while; I was going to say what the condition of London and the great towns was in this respect. I was going to say that you will find in London many single houses containing many lodgers all fulfilling the conditions of paying at least £10 a year. Therefore, you can have no conception at present of the numbers that will be put upon the register under the conditions of the lodger clause. These persons are generally married men with families who occupy one or two rooms. But when you come to the other class, the great mass of unmarried men, who are lodgers, you will see how wide the principle is, and how necessary it will be that you should expand it so as to admit the large body of men who are not paying £10 a year. Bear this in mind, that a great number of the young unmarried men, many of them in the prime of life, active, intelligent, and earning wages of from 25s. to 40s., and even 50s. a week, will not come under the category of those who rent a single room at £10. A great number of foremen and superintendents are in that condition, but few others. Now, I am ready to admit that the lodger franchise will be very useful in London, because it will admit to the register a number of highly competent persons—bankers' clerks, literary and scientific persons, many who pass their days at clubs, and others in a similar position. But, numerically, they will be infinitely below the others that will be admitted. Now, of the young men that I have referred to, many live two or three in one room, paying for it 1s. 6d. or 2s. a week. Do you suppose when the register comes to be filled up, and the time arrives for the claim to be made, that these young men, finding themselves excluded when others not one hair's breadth above them in social and financial position, and in many cases in the lowest condition as regards education, are put on the register merely because they occupy an entire room to themselves—do you suppose, I say, that these young men will not feel the greatest possible dissatisfaction and discontent? Believe me, my Lords, there will be no 1924 end to the agitation that will be excited by them and their friends to have the amount of the qualification reduced. The Reform League has said that unless you reduce the qualification to 2s. 6d. a week you will exclude the very pith and marrow of the country, and I believe in many respects that is true, and that you will exclude the young unmarried men to whom I have referred, though in the prime of life, intelligent, and in the receipt of excellent wages; I believe it will be perfectly impossible to resist the claim that will soon be made on their behalf. But if you reduce the qualification to 2s. 6d. for those that will not pay more you reduce it to 2s. 6d. for those that cannot pay more. You will thus flood the towns with a number of voters totally different in character and position from the class you have selected. I know it is the fashion to say that this lodger system is almost peculiar to London. There is no doubt that it prevails more in London than in any other town. In the great manufacturing towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire married people live much more in houses of their own; but the unmarried far exceed the number of the married, and many of them live in lodgings, particularly those of the poorer sort. I will go even further, and say that statements have been made to me from country and provincial towns which show that the number of lodgers is far greater than you suppose, and I am certain you will never know the whole number with which you will have to deal until the registers are formed and their names are placed upon them. You can form no conception of the career upon which you have entered in adopting this lodger franchise. Yet, having adopted it, both that and household suffrage are absolutely beyond your recall, and, I believe, are not to be controlled. The decree once passed must be carried into effect, however uncertain the prospect, and however great the danger. In my opinion it bears us far on towards universal suffrage, and a great many people share that opinion. You see this by all the efforts and contrivances resorted to, in order, if possible, to prevent the preponderance of one class over another. If one thing was emphatically promised to us, it was that nothing should be done which should in the least degree give one class a predominance; but I think that you will find that a predominant voice has now been given. Argue as you will you cannot disprove this fact except by figures, 1925 and the more you examine into figures the more clearly you will see that in every instance the number of additional voters called into existence by the Bill will be equal to that which exists already, while in a great many boroughs the number will be increased three, four, and five fold. Surely such an increase as this brings us into the presence of the democratic influence, and will give to one class such a predominance in the House of Commons that the voice of the minority will be almost extinguished there. It was to avoid such a result that an attempt was made to introduce cumulative voting and unicorn boroughs, that Mr. Stuart Mill addressed to the other House his able but unintelligible argument upon the representation of minorities, all which shows a strong impression that democratic views will preponderate, and that something must be done, however weak and feeble, for the purpose of resisting that mighty power. It may be that democracy will prevail, and, if so we must submit to it. It has its advantages. All forms of Government have their virtues as well as their evils. But our business is now to consider, not what are the virtues, but what are the evils of democracy. Now, I venture to say that the suffrage we are about to give will produce such effects as those which I shall endeavour to lay before your Lordships. I cannot but think that the democratic influence in the House of Commons, and the preponderance given to the representatives of that class of men, will in time act in a most dangerous way against the old established and organized institutions of the country. I believe that it will act prejudicially to the Church of England. I cannot believe that the representatives of those who are in a great measure so unacquainted with the Church of England and with its benefits will have any friendly feeling towards the Church of England. When we come to look at the House in which I have now the honour to address your Lordships, I ask how it will be affected by this great democratic change? So long as the other House of Parliament was elected upon a restricted principle, I can understand that it would submit to a check from such a House as this. But in the presence of this great democratic power and the advance of this great democratic wave, which is rolling on even in spite of itself—for I believe its rapid advance is against the wishes even of many of those who give to it a consi- 1926 derable amount of its impetus—in such a presence it passes my comprehension to understand how an hereditary House like this can hold its own. It might be possible for this House, in one instance, to withstand a measure if it were violent, unjust, and coercive; but I do not believe that the repetition of such an offence would be permitted. It would be said, "The people must govern, and not a set of hereditary peers never chosen by the people." Is not what I am now saying very much in accordance with your Lordships' own observation? Are we not living in a time in which nothing is taken for granted? Everything must be ripped up to its first principles, and in vain you argue that a thing is good; your adversary admits it, but says that a change will make it better. What human institutions can stand such tests? Thus it is that we are going on at the present day. It has occurred to me for a long time, and I am certain it is true, that we have in a great measure outgrown our institutions. There is an expansive force among the people. The advance of wealth, the increase of education, the capacity, or at least the ambition, that every man now feels to occupy a higher station than that in which he has been placed by Providence—all these things tend to make men dissatisfied with the institutions of the country, because they fancy themselves cribbed, cabined, and confined by the restrictions which those institutions impose. I am not afraid of democratic violence; I believe that the changes which we should all deprecate will rather be brought about by stealthy progress of legislation. I do think we shall be put out not by any turbulent, violent acts, but with all the gradation and elegance of a dissolving view. The country may have a respect for its old institutions, but there the feeling ends. There is no longer any great spirit remaining to defend its institutions at any cost of safety, or of peace. Behind this, however, there lurk other questions of greater and more serious importance, as far as the country at large is concerned. There are many social questions to which the suffrage will be directed—questions in respect of Free Trade and Protection, of capital and labour, of wages and the relations between employers and employed; of claims now made by thousands to have a much larger share than at present falls to them of the profits of their toil and of the capital which they help to 1927 accumulate, with all the various notions of the distribution of property. Whenever you go you cannot but hear these remarks. You hear them in the various speeches made to the working men; you find them in the discussions of the working classes themselves. Let me read a passage which will show your Lordships the feeling that is growing up in America, and if in America why not here? In The Times of July 11 there was an able letter "from our own correspondent" in the United States, and in that letter I read this very remarkable narrative—Mr. Wade, President of the Senate, has been making a tour west, in the course of which he indulged himself in some extraordinary speeches. In Kansas, he said that, the slavery question being disposed of, that of labour and capital would next demand the attention of the country. 'Property,' he said, 'was not equally divided, and a more equal distribution of capital must be wrought out. That Congress, which had done so much for the slave, cannot quietly regard the terrible distinction which exists between the man that labours and him that does not.' He went on to argue that the Almighty 'never intended' that one man should work while another feasted in idleness. The position (the writer goes on to say) which Mr. Wade holds in the Radical party gives these opinions a weighty significance, and they are a striking commentary on the perverse statements of the philosophers abroad who contend that this is the country of universal content, and that jealousies of class are unknown. We may have a 'Re-distribution of Property' party before many years are over.I wish to call the particular attention of your Lordships to this, because it is a man of eminence in the United States who lays down these principles. With the strong resemblance between the two countries, the frequent intercourse and interchange of ideas, and the fraternization which takes place between the two peoples, may we not expect that what is going on in America will be imitated here, and that we shall come in this country to the assertion of similar principles and the agitation of similar questions? Let me observe that such opinions may be expressed and acted on by large masses of the working people—and here I am speaking of what I know — in no spirit of spoliation. I know that a large proportion of the working classes have a deep and solemn conviction—and I have found it among working people of religious views—that property is not distributed as property ought to be; that some checks ought to be kept upon the accumulation of property in single hands; that to take away by a legislative enactment that which 1928 is in excess, with a view to bestow it on those who have insufficient means, is not a breach of any law, human or divine. I am certain that many entertain these opinions. I am certain also that in times of distress and difficulty these opinions, urged upon them by any great demagogue, or by any person of power or influence among the people, would take possession of their minds and sink deeply into their hearts; and if they had power through their representatives to give expression to those principles, they would do so speedily and emphatically. But this measure would lead to other and certain evils. It is curious to find an hon. Gentleman in the House of Commons, who, until lately, had no strong opinion in favour of the ballot, now declaring that he should support it by every means in his power because it will be necessary now to protect mob against mob, people against people; there is no longer any fear of intimidation from rich manufacturers, rich capitalists, rich lawyers, or rich anybody else; the danger to the people is from themselves, and they must be protected from themselves. I fear that, among other things, we shall soon arrive at the institution of triennial Parliaments, and with them we shall have all the various evils of frequent elections, and thus, with frequent changes of Members we shall give the final stroke to the contemplated perfection of the House of Commons. As a counterpoise to all this we have a certain amount of securities, some of them in the shape of enactments, and some in the shape of hopes. We are told, in the first place, that this is essentially the same Bill that was first introduced into the House of Commons. It is very true that if you take a man and divest him of shoes, stockings, pantaloons, coat, and shirt, he is essentially the same man, but you have deprived him of everything which gave him decency and protection. In a great measure, that is the case with this Bill. Now the first provision is that the householder shall have paid the rates levied for the relief of the poor, and shall have resided twelve months. With regard to the personal payment of rates, I think the argument of my noble Friend (Earl Grey) last evening, that personal payment could not be universally insisted upon, was unanswerable. I am certain, from what I know and have heard, that if you insist upon personal payment of the rate, you will exclude so very many from the suffrage, that you will hardly increase appre- 1929 ciably the constituency of London. Abolish the payment of rates, and you will flood the register with such a mass of abject poverty, that you will be appalled at the result. Residence, if insisted upon, is, in many instances, a guarantee of respectability to a certain extent; but it is not so in every case, and I know many instances to the contrary, many in which a tenant has resided a year simply and solely because he has not paid his rent, and because the landlord would not turn him out, fearing that if he did, he would lose his rent altogether and not get a better tenant. Residence, no doubt, to a certain extent, is a test of respectability; but, at the same time, I will undertake to say that the 80 out of 97 persons living in the houses I have spoken of will be put upon the register if they choose, having resided in them for more than a year, and yet they will not be more than a hair's breadth above the condition of paupers. It is said that men must demand to be put upon the register, and that appears to be in some measure a security; but I doubt very much whether it is one. The sending in of claims will be attended to by caucuses and agents, if it is in the interest of any party that it should be done. If any one is interested in securing the honour of representing a constituency he will take good care that due preparation is made for the election; and, whether demands have been made or not, that those who are qualified shall be placed on the register, if they will subserve his interests. These are pretty nearly the securities given us by this Bill; but we have a number of other securities in the form of hopes. I heard from the opposite side of the House last night, and I have often heard it in private conversation, that this is a most Conservative measure. I have heard it said that the middle classes are not Conservative, but that if you go deeper you get into a vein of gold, and encounter the presence of a highly Conservative feeling. In the first place, I ask, is that so? And in the second place, what do you mean by the term Conservative? Do you mean to say that this large mass they call the "residuum," of which I venture to say that few men living have more knowledge than I have, is conservative of your Lordships' titles and estates? Not a bit; they know little about them and care less. Will you venture to say that they are conservative of the interests of the Established Church? Certainly they are not. Thousands upon 1930 thousands living in this vast City of London do not know the name of the parish in which they reside nor the name of the minister in charge of it. They are, however, very conservative indeed of their own sense of right and wrong. They are living from hand to mouth, and they are very conservative of what they consider to be their own interests. They are affectionate, grateful, and open to sympathy. If there were to go among them two persons, one a lord and the other a plebeian, they would, without adopting the lord's opinion, prefer the lord, because they would think he would have more power to forward their views. They have their own interests strongly at heart. They have no desire for plunder or spoliation, but they have rights and wrongs of their own conception, which they will insist upon maintaining or redressing. Long as I have known them, were I to go to a meeting of a thousand, take a different view of their interests from what they take, and try to persuade them to adopt my view, I am sure that 995 out of the 1,000 would vote against me, and would take good care to look out for some one who would better serve their interests. I cannot understand upon what ground you say this is a Conservative measure. I have heard it argued that we must rely a good deal upon social influences. I perfectly understand how social influences can prevail where a landlord lives among his tenants; but a totally different state of things prevails in London and other large towns. The people live together in large masses far removed from the influences you speak of, and I cannot give a better proof of it than this statement: not long ago an excellent clergyman of the Church of England told me that in the whole of his district, containing 6,000 people, there was not a single family that kept a housemaid. Look at what is going on in London and all great towns. Persons of property, and even tradesmen, are leaving town for country residences. In the neighbourhood of this House there is a remarkable congregation. Twenty-five years ago it was so rich that the minister could find agents and money for any object. The other day he told me that the wealthy were leaving the district in such numbers that the necessary agencies could hardly be maintained. It is the same in the manufacturing towns—in Manchester, Huddersfield, and others I could name. The same complaint is made everywhere—that the people of 1931 property and station are leaving the towns and are removing themselves from the working classes, and that a "hard and fast line" is being drawn between employer and employed, between persons of influence and those who ought to be subject to it. To trust to social influence under existing circumstances is to trust to the greatest of all chimeras. Another hope held out is that of education. I am sure I shall not be misunderstood when I say that the hope of education is one of the most fallacious that could be entertained at present. If you would give us ten years of preparation education might do a great deal; but what you are going to do is this, to give the franchise before you give education, whereas you should have given education before the franchise. It will take ten years to bring up the residuum by education; but it will not take six months for them, through their representatives, to destroy everthing that comes before them. I must say, when I look at the state of this vast population, when I know what they are, how easily they are deluded, how impressible and open to influence they are, I think that this gift of the suffrage is one of the most fatal gifts ever bestowed upon an uneducated people. In the interest of the people you ought to have withheld it for some years. Depend upon it, there will be no lack of rich, unscrupulous candidates, desirous of social position, and they will find the new voters purchasable as a flock of sheep. I am certain you will find, to your great regret in future, that by this measure, instead of promoting purity, you have unwittingly extended the worst political corruption. Again, it is said that we should throw our confidence on the people. Yes, my Lords, I say so too, for if they are left to follow their natural instincts it will be found they have no desire, in themselves, to make any aggressive movement on the institutions of the country. But they are easily excited, easily open to misrepresentation; a skilful and adroit orator may bring them to almost any conviction he pleases, and then say, my Lords, in what state we are. I believe that this country is by no means in the same position as it was some twenty years ago. A certain moral electric telegraph now runs through the whole of the people of this country. Anything said or done in London is felt simultaneously at John o'Groat's House, and the Land's End. The people act together rightly or wrongly by one simultaneous 1932 movement. They have common affections and common action, and if in a time of distress and difficulty demagogues should bring their influence to bear upon them, they would, in the plenitude of their power, assail almost every existing institution—Malé judicavit populus, at judicavit; non debuit, sed potuit.They would possess the power, and they would exercise it in their passion. I know that in the generosity of their hearts many would afterwards be grieved, but they would then have done that of which they would have to repent unavailingly in sackcloth and ashes. Many people are entertaining sanguine hopes that after the dissolution of 1869 there will be large returns on the Conservative side. For my own part, I cannot venture to say how that will be. But if the times be times of distress in the land, if there be a lack of employment and a lowering of wages, or anything which touches the deepest interests of the people, rely upon it that you will have no such result but a movement which will lead to very rapid changes. This, my Lords, is, I believe really the state of the case in regard to the great mass of the population, by which I mean that preponderating class which will shape the whole character of the representation, which will have the greatest influence in the House of Commons, and which will determine the future destinies of this great nation. As to re-distribution, I can only remark that I believe, as was stated last night, that it is a question which must be re-opened altogether. And I cannot blame the Government for that, for I am convinced that, upon the principles laid down, if even an angel from Heaven had drawn the clauses he could not possibly have given satisfaction. If you lay down the principle that representation must follow wealth and population, the representation will travel, as it is travelling now, rapidly to the North. New towns are springing up every day in the North, and are demanding representation. Already I have seen a list of several which are dissatisfied, and which will in the new Parliament assert their right to have a voice in the representation. You will have a new Reform Bill at every Census. Things are rapidly approaching to one great consummation—that great consummation announced by Mr. Cobden that "the towns must govern." Surely, my Lords, all these things are tending to republican issues! 1933 If we have any doubt upon that point, we may refer to the authority of Mr. Bright, who stated broadly in his speech that whatever might be the outward form, the principle of the Government must be republican or democratic; and, perhaps, one of the heaviest charges which can be brought against this Bill is that it is accelerating our already too rapid progress. What is fresh one day becomes antiquated the next. The Reform Act of 1832 gave us a pause of thirty years. But what will the Reform Bill of 1867 do? My Lords, I do not believe it will give us a pause of a single Session. Everything at the present day is swift and gigantic. We have gigantic wars, gigantic ships, gigantic speculations, gigantic frauds, gigantic crimes, a gigantic Reform Bill, and I much fear that we shall have a gigantic downfall. Our position is, indeed, full of misgivings and fears—we are bringing, suddenly and roughly, old England into collision with young England; ancient and venerable institutions to be tried without notice or preparation, by poverty, levity, and ignorance, and by many who, being neither poor, nor vain, nor ignorant, are yet too full of hot blood, effervescing youth, and burning ambition, to be calm, dispassionate and just. But, after all this, there will arise all the great social questions. From all which I have seen and heard I feel assured that there will arise in this country, and speedily, too, a revival of that great feud instituted between the House of Want and the House of Have. You then will have new schemes, new agencies, new conditions, new social questions, and new fears—and I verily believe that those who have been foremost in urging the passing of this measure will be among the very first to lament and condemn it. But, my Lords, if all this were necessary for the real advancement of the human race, if it were necessary for the interests of England, I am quite sure your Lordships would be the first to accede to it. Institutions must be expanded to suit men, and men not dwarfed or cramped to suit institutions. Yet, my Lords, I should have thought that Statesmen of high minds and patriotic hearts might have devised a scheme by which these discordant elements might have been brought into union, so that, for a time at least, all that appears jarring and difficult might have been reconciled in some one harmonious movement. But, my Lords, however dart and dismal may be the future of England, 1934 it is our duty to fight for our country, into whatever hands the Government may fall. England, though not so great and happy, may yet be a great and happy land. Whether monarchical, republican, or democratic, she will be England still; and let us beguile our fears by indulging our imagination, and by picturing to ourselves that which can never be realized—that out of this hecatomb of British traditions and British institutions there will arise the great and glorious Phœnix of a Conservative democracy.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
— My Lords, in addressing your Lordships on the present occasion, I must not forget that the Resolution of the noble Earl on my left (Earl Grey) is the Question immediately before the House, and that it has to be disposed of before we proceed to read the Bill a second time. The noble Earl (Earl Granville), who spoke yesterday at a late period of the evening, touched upon a variety of subjects, treating many of them in his usual light and pleasant manner, but he did not allude, in the slightest degree, to this Resolution; indeed, we have no information from him as to how he and those with whom he is accustomed to act are disposed to deal with this question. My Lords, if I rightly understood the noble Earl's answer to a question put by a noble Friend of mine opposite, the noble Earl stated that he was not disposed to concur in the Amendment. I trust that I did not misunderstand him on that point, and I shall be glad to hear that that is the determination at which he has arrived. I confess I was in hopes that, before we reached this point in the debate, the noble Earl on my left (Earl Grey), observing the feeling of the House, would have intimated his intention to withdraw his Amendment. That Amendment appears to me to have performed the office which the noble Earl stated he intended it to perform when he placed it upon the Paper. He said that its object was to lead to a full discussion of every part of the Bill before we went into Committee. Now, my Lords, the noble Earl must be quite aware that it was unnecessary for him to introduce any discussion on the second reading by means of a Resolution of this description, because he must know perfectly well that in the debate on the second reading the principles of the Bill throughout would be discussed. The noble Earl might have raised a discussion without giving notice 1935 of any Amendment; and, as the noble Earl has a better right than almost any other man to be listened to with attention on this subject of Parliamentary Reform, he might have expected that, without any notice at all, we should have been prepared to listen to him with respect and attention. But, my Lords, although this Resolution is unnecessary for the purpose for which it was placed on the Paper, I must say I regard it with some anxiety and alarm, because it appears to me to be calculated to place this House in a critical, not to say a perilous, position. We have been reproached of late for our alleged remissness and disregard of the important duties which are vested in us by the Constitution. I believe these reproaches are wholly unmerited. I am not aware that your Lordships have ever abdicated any of your high functions, or failed to perform a single duty that devolves upon you. Still, it is impossible to disguise from ourselves that these reflections which are circulating through the country are calculated to produce a very unfavourable impression respecting us; and how can it be effaced if it should be found that your Lordships were either obstructing or denouncing a measure which has been looked for with the most ardent desire, which has been watched in every stage of its progress through the House of Commons with intense anxiety, and which has been regarded, as far as we can gather from public opinion, as a satisfactory solution of the difficult problem of Parliamentary Reform? My Lords, when I turn to the Resolution of the noble Earl, the first thing that strikes me is its vagueness and indefiniteness. He proposes that your Lordships should affirm 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.Your Lordships are called upon to agree to a Resolution of this kind without any reason whatever being assigned for it. Of course, each of your Lordships may form your own judgment upon it. It appears to me as if the noble Earl had framed the Resolution with a view to unite in a condemnation of the measure, those who are of different or even opposite opinions. But reflect, for one moment, on the serious consequences which would result from a majority obtained in this manner. The House of Com- 1936 mons was engaged for five months in an anxious and earnest endeavour to settle the question of the Parliamentary franchise upon a solid and substantial basis. Both sides of that House united their energies and abilities in order to accomplish this great task. They have succeeded by concession and compromise in arriving at a settlement which they, of course, consider satisfactory; and, my Lords, when they send that measure for your Lordships' approval, are they to be told that they have laboured in vain—that all their time and all their skill have been wasted, for that in the result they have failed entirely in their object, and have passed a Bill which is not likely to effect a settlement of the question or promote the good government of the country—in other words that the Bill will be detrimental to the good government of the country? My Lords, this Resolution is calculated, as it appears to me, to produce another very serious mischief. I have said—I know others differ from me—that, as far as I gather public feeling, this measure is considered to be a satisfactory settlement of the great question of Parliamentary Reform. What then would be the effect—the necessary effect—of this Resolution? Why, to make persons discontented—to make them disaffected—to tell them that if they think they have arrived at a satisfactory conclusion they must be undeceived. If the second reading of this Bill is to pass, I think it would be more prudent, more patriotic, to give it a chance of success with the people; at all events, not to provoke a new agitation against it — an agitation of a most dangerous description, because it would be without any definite object. My Lords, this being the feeling which I entertain with respect to the noble Earl's Resolution, I would venture to ask you to consider whether it is well founded in its terms and in the statements it makes with regard to this measure. It states that the Bill—Does not appear to this House to be calculated in its present Shape to effect a permanent Settlement of this important Question.My Lords, no one supposes that any Bill of this description will effect a permanent settlement; because, as my Friend the noble Duke who spoke last night (the Duke of Marlborough) said, no human work can be permanent; but I believe this measure is calculated to be as durable as any other that could possibly be devised. I think it has been clearly established 1937 that any franchise based on a fixed line of rating or rental contains within itself elements of instability; and I was perfectly astonished to hear my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury)—who seems to apprehend from it a democratic influence and power which would go to the extent of dissolving this House—say that he approved the measure of 1866 (which we all know was one to establish a £7 rental qualification, without any payment of rates), on the ground that it would gradually lead to further reductions. Why, my Lords, in this very fact lay the objection to the measure. I find in a speech delivered by a Reformer at a meeting of the Reform League this remarkable expression, which I commend to the attention of my noble Friend—A Reform Act which pushes the line back from £10 to £8 or £6, is a mere halt—a timid, staggering step—to universal suffrage.My Lords, even the £10 franchise under the Reform Act of 1832, though by force of habit we had come to believe that it contained a fixed principle, has been unable to stand its ground. It is universally given up and acknowledged not to contain a proper basis. The noble Earl who was partly the author of the Reform Bill of 1832 (Earl Russell) has since condemned the £10 franchise. In 1859, during the Government of my noble Friend the present First Minister, when a Bill was introduced in the other House which was not for a reduction but for a lateral extension of the franchise, the noble Earl (Earl Russell) moved this Resolution—No re-adjustment of the Franchise will satisfy this House or the country which does not provide for a greater extension of the suffrage in cities and boroughs than is contemplated in the present measure."—[3 Hansard, clii. 1618.]My Lords, when my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) accepted office with all the difficulties which he has so fully described, I apprehend it was impossible for him not to face the question of Reform, and not to attempt a settlement of this long agitated question. I know there are those who think that a Conservative Government ought not to meddle with Reform; that they ought to leave it to those to whose political principles it seems more congenial. I may be bold in the assertion, but I believe that in the present state of parties the settlement of the Reform question could not have been accomplished except by a Conservative Government working in co-operation with political opponents who 1938 were determined that a safe and secure Reform Bill should be passed. I think I am entitled to express this opinion from our experience of the Bill of last year, when, although Her Majesty's late Government had a very large majority in the House of Commons, which was led by an eloquent and able Leader, they tried a Reform Bill, and entirely failed. Well, my Lords, it being necessary—as I think it was—that we should deal with the question of Reform, it became us to give the most ample and careful consideration to the matter, with the view of seeing how — the reduction of the franchise being almost a necessity—we could bring about a safe and satisfactory settlement. We determined that we would connect taxation with representation, and that no man should be entitled to the franchise who did not help to bear the burdens of the State. My Lords, this principle is not a new one. It is the old constitutional principle which existed before the Reform Bill of 1832, under the Reform Bill, and which has been involved in every measure that has been attempted since that Bill passed. The original right of voting was by scot and lot—paying scot and bearing lot; paying parochial burdens and being liable to serve parochial offices. Under the Reform Act of 1832, the franchise was coupled with the payment of rates and assessed taxes. I think the amount of £10 was fixed upon for the franchise, because at that time it was the lowest amount on which inhabited house duty was payable. That continued till 1851, when the inhabited house duty was raised, and no house under £20 was taxed; and thenceforth the franchise was not coupled with the payment of rates and assessed taxes, but only with the payment of rates. In all the measures brought in subsequently — in the Bills of 1852, 1854, and 1859, and until the Bill of 1866—the payment of the burdens of the parish, in which the house conferring the vote was situate, was the foundation of the franchise. In 1866 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Gladstone, with the assent of his Government, introduced a Bill which settled the franchise at a £7 rental, without requiring the payment of any rates whatever. That is the Bill the noble Earl who last addressed your Lordships (the Earl of Shaftesbury) approves, because it would act as a sliding scale; because it is certain not to be permanent; because it will lead to further 1939 changes. And yet my noble Friend is one who dreads democratic influence, and thinks that the consequences of this measure of household suffrage, as he calls it, will necessarily lead to universal suffrage, and to the swamping of the House of Lords. My Lords, having resolved upon the principle on which the franchise was to be based, we have never for one moment swerved from it. It is true that upon one occasion, which has been more than once alluded to, we altered the application of that principle by agreeing that the franchise should be based upon a £6 rating; thereby establishing what is called a "hard-and-fast line." In that we yielded, under circumstances which are fresh in the recollection of your Lordships, which at the present moment I very much deplore, and of which I was bitterly reminded in the fervent and eloquent address last evening of the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon), one of the Colleagues of whom we were deprived on that occasion. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) thinks that this measure of residential household suffrage, with personal payment of rates, will lead to universal suffrage. I am sure that the scheme of which my noble Friend approves is one that must lead ultimately to universal suffrage; but I am at a loss to comprehend by what process household suffrage leads to universal suffrage; and I am utterly unable to see the logical conclusion from the premises of my noble Friend. My Lords, persons of very great sagacity, who are the last to desire to alter the fundamental institutions of the country, have regarded this as the most satisfactory solution of a great problem, and as a basis on which the franchise may be securely and safely settled. Our principle, the principle of personal rating, my noble Friend says, is sure to give way. He says, indeed, that every scheme which can be suggested must necessarily give way in time. But this principle of personal rating is the one thing which we consider most important, and which we have invariably insisted upon. That being the principle of our Bill, the introduction of the lodger franchise of course breaks in upon its integrity. In 1859 a lodger franchise was included in the Bill of the Government; but in the present Bill, as originally introduced, that clause was not contained; it was insisted on by the House of Commons and acceded to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I quite 1940 agree with my noble Friend that there may be very great difficulty in preventing frauds under the lodger franchise. The proof of that franchise must depend either on the statement of the landlord or the tenant, or of both together, or on the production of receipts. But we have endeavoured, as far as possible, to guard that franchise against the introduction of fraud by requiring the residence to be continuous in the same apartments and not merely residence continued from one lodging to another. I was unable to follow the noble Lord (the Earl of Shaftesbury) when he suggested that the lodger franchise should be extended to all persons occupying apartments at the rent of 2s. 6d. a week. The only difficulty which he sees in such a franchise is that, while admitting some very respectable people, there would be danger of its introducing others of a very different character. For my part, I cannot see anything more calculated to lead almost headlong to universal suffrage than such an extension of the lodger franchise. The question of rating necessarily leads to the consideration of the case of the compound-householder—a person who has lived for a very long time in obscurity, but who has suddenly become of very great importance. Your Lordships are aware that under the Reform Act, when there is a composition for a rate, the compound-householder, as he is called, who could not vote without paying his rate, may claim to be placed on the rate and to vote in respect of it. We introduced into our Bill that clause taken literally from the Reform Bill; but the House of Commons—and not, my Lords, our side, but the opposite side of that House—insisted on sweeping away all composition within Parliamentary boroughs, and that the party who was to have the franchise should be himself rated and should pay his rates. There was an Act of Parliament passed, I think, in the 14 & 15 Vict., which enabled the compound-househelder, on claiming to be rated, to pay merely the amount of his proportion of the composition paid by the landlord. Now, I never could understand the justice of that measure, or why any difference should be made between the compound-householder thus claiming to be rated and the ordinary ratepayer. The reason why a smaller payment is accepted in the case of the landlord is that he compounds for a great number of houses and pays the rate, whether they are occupied or not, thereby saving 1941 the parish the trouble and expense of collecting from house to house. For that reason they give him the benefit of a reduction in the amount of the rate. But if an occupying householder claims to have the franchise and says he will pay the rates in order to obtain it, why he is to have the same benefit which the landlord enjoyed I cannot possibly understand. Suppose that a landlord had compounded for several houses, and that all the tenants of these houses determined that they would claim to be rated, and would pay the rate, it is obvious that the benefit would exist without the consideration for it. In the case of the compound-householder we have certainly yielded to the suggestion, which came from the other side of the House, that the composition within Parliamentary boroughs should altogether cease a certain time after the passing of this Bill. But if I might venture to express an opinion, I should have been much better satisfied if the clause copied from the Reform Act had remained in the Bill, and the compound-householder could only have procured himself to be put upon the rate, on the terms prescribed in the Reform Act.
My Lords, I have few more observations to make, but I must say a word or two upon the re-distribution of seats. The noble Earl who spoke late in the debate last night (Earl Granville) said he would put to some Member of the Government the question, whether they expected that the system of re-distribution which we have adopted is likely to be permanent? I think my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has given an answer to that question, because he says that if an angel from Heaven were to frame a clause for the re-distribution of seats — I do not know that the work would be likely to be well performed by such an agent—there was not the slightest probability that the clause so framed would give satisfaction. If I understood the noble Earl rightly, he suggested that my noble Friend, in Committee on the Bill, should re-consider the re-distribution of seats, and try whether a better system for re-distribution could not be established. I own that I was perfectly astonished at the suggestion of the noble Earl, which amounts to this—that after the House of Commons with very careful deliberation has come to certain conclusions on the subject—first as to the disfranchisement and then as to the disposal of the seats so obtained—we were to unsettle all that, and 1942 proceed, I suppose, to a new system of disfranchisement in order to make additional seats available. I should like to know how the House of Commons would accept such a proposal on the part of your Lordships with regard to a matter which is peculiarly of interest to themselves. We have a Bill before us, as I have said, the result of careful deliberation—the result, I admit, of compromise and of concession, but of wise compromise and of prudent concession. It is a Bill which, I believe, will be received with satisfaction generally, and we are now called on to consider whether we will give a second reading to the measure with a view of going into Committee, after disposing of the Amendment of the noble Earl. My noble Friend has said that he will not go into Committee on this Bill if the noble Earl's Amendment be passed; he will not go into Committee upon, a Bill discredited, disgraced, and branded upon its forehead, as being utterly improper and even hostile to the object for which it is intended. But, my Lords, I hope for better things; I trust the Resolution will not be adopted by your Lordships; I hope we may go into Committee; and then, with that calm patience and judgment which always mark your Lordships' deliberations, that you will endeavour to suggest any improvements of the Bill which may commend themselves to your wisdom, and that we shall, in the result, be able to send the Bill back to the Commons in a state in which it is likely to promote the tranquility and happiness of the country.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, the two speeches which have just been delivered to the House are surely a signsl illustration of the strange and anomalous position in which we are now placed. The speech of my noble Friend behind me, the Earl of Shaftesbury—a speech of unusual eloquence and power—expressed, I think, very clearly the opinions which until within a few weeks were supposed to be the unanimous opinions of the Conservative party. He was followed and answered—if, indeed, it can be called an answer—by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, a Member of the Government all of whose Members are steeped to the very lips in prophecies of the most disastrous consequences certain to be brought about by the transference of political power to mere numbers. My noble Friend appealed to the Government for an explanation on a point of which an 1943 explanation was wholly wanting in the speech of the noble Earl who moved the second reading of this Bill, and no one who listened to that speech can deny that the complaint of it made by my noble Friend is strictly true. The noble Earl did indeed, in moving the second reading, explain to us last night how it came to pass that the Government had proposed this measure, but he said nothing to allay the fears which he and his Colleagues have awakened in the minds of Parliament and of the country with respect to any measure which should swamp the present constituencies by the mere power of numbers. He told us that he introduced this Bill because he was unwilling to be a stop-gap; but he failed to tell us why, rather than be a stop-gap, he had deemed it to be his duty to become a weather-cock. He further informed us that he had acceded to power supported by a minority in the House of Commons, and that he determined so to conduct his policy as to convert that minority into a practical majority—But how? by adopting the principles not only of his opponents, but of the extremest section of his opponents. Now, I do not myself participate in the gloomy anticipations of my noble Friend who spoke last but one (the Earl of Shaftesbury). Let us, however, at least be honest with ourselves, and do not let us conceal from ourselves the magnitude of the changes to which we are now about to give our assent. It is no mere matter of opinion, I apprehend, but matter of simple fact, that we are about to agree to the second reading of a Bill which not twelve months but six months ago, at the beginning of this Session, no Member of this House would have ventured to propose, and which, if it had been proposed, would have been met by your Lordships with an unanimous shout of "Not-Content." It does indeed at times occur in matters of long controversy that some new and happy thought removes all difficulties and reconciles all opinions; but it is not with a case of that nature that we have now to deal. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack talked of a compromise; and this Bill is, I admit, so far as the re-distribution of seats is concerned, a compromise—or rather it is a mere makeshift; but so far as relates to the borough franchise—that great subject of contest between different parties—let us not conceal from ourselves the fact that the Bill is no compromise, for on that point it is a measure of entire and complete surrender 1944 of every opinion that has ever been held or expressed by the Conservative party in this country. I remember very well that on the first night of this Session a very agreeable and pleasant speech was made by a noble Friend of mine who now sits behind the noble Earl at the head of the Government (Lord Delamere). I never had myself the honour of moving or seconding an Address in Answer to the Speech from the Throne, and I do not quite know what is the exact amount of communication which passes between those who are asked to perform that honourable duty and the chief of the Administration. I very well recollect, however, that my noble Friend, being of a simple and confiding disposition, told us on the occasion to which I am alluding that he did not know what the Reform Bill of the Government was to be, but that he was quite certain as to what it would not be. He then gave us a repetition of some of those phrases—do not we all remember them? which passed from mouth to mouth, and were deemed the right things to say in reference to our Bill of last Session. My noble Friend informed us that the Bill of the Government was not to be a hasty measure; that it would not be an "ill-considered" measure; that it would not give a vertical reduction of the franchise; and above all it would not throw predominating power into the hands of a single class. Will the noble Earl now contend that the Bill before us answers all those conditions with which he was so ready to believe at the commencement of the Session that it would comply? Perhaps I may, be able to bring home to the minds of noble Lords opposite one or two facts which will show them that this Bill is no compromise, but, as I said before, a complete surrender of all the principles upon which they have hitherto taken their stand. It was stated in several of the speeches which were delivered last night that this was, in fact, Mr. Bright's Bill; but I believe many noble Lords on the other side were disposed to look upon that assertion as a rhetorical exaggeration. Now, I have taken the trouble to compare that portion of the Bill which deals with the borough franchise with the celebrated measure which was propounded by Mr. Bright in 1858 and 1859 in the course of an agitation carried on by that Gentleman on the subject of Reform throughout the country, and which was received with an almost universal shout of ridicule and in- 1945 dignation. The clause of the Government Bill relating to the franchise, is, however, word for word, the clause of the Bill of Mr. Bright, with this exception, that—as the noble Lord at the head of the Government has told us — the qualification for "shops or other buildings" which is included in the Reform Act is omitted in the present measure; so that, so far as that goes, the Bill is slightly more democratic than that proposed by Mr. Bright, because this and other franchises representing the small shopkeeping interests belongs to the present constituency. Practically it may with truth be said, that the clause before us relating to the borough franchise is the clause in Mr. Bright's Bill transferred literatim into the measure of a Conservative Government. Let me supply the House with another illustration of the democratic character of this Bill. In the computation which I am about to make, I fully accept the data which were furnished by the noble Earl at the head of the Government last night. I admit that instead of taking 70 per cent of the raw material of the new constituencies as the number likely to come upon the register—that being the present percentage — we must make liberal deductions on the score of poverty, and the consequent disfranchising effect of such restrictions as it may be found possible to maintain. I take, therefore, the number at 50 per cent; and, adopting the line of argument pursued by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reference to the Bill of 1860, which, I think, was not only legitimate, but quite necessary as a means of testing the true numbers of the existing constituency—I leave out of the calculation the great metropolitan boroughs, the inclusion of which would vitiate the result, because of the peculiar conditions which prevail in their case. Making that deduction I find that the total number of borough voters in England is 339,000, exclusive of the metropolitan boroughs. Of those 339,000 we learn from the statistics of last year that 249,000 belong to the middle classes, eliminating those who belong to the working classes. Now, the noble Earl opposite has admitted that, taking 50 per cent of the raw material of the new constituency as likely to come on the register—and I proceed on his calculation with perfect confidence that it is within the truth—the number of the new electors belonging to the working classes will be at least 350,000, There are already on the Regis- 1946 ter 90,000 working men, not including those in the metropolitan boroughs. You will, therefore, have under the operation of this Bill a total of 440,000 electors belonging to the working classes as against 249,000 belonging to the middle and upper classes of society. That, my Lords, is the nature of the change to which we are asked to give our assent, and to which we are asked to give our assent too by a Conservative Government, the Leader of which told us a few years ago that he conceived it to be his mission and that of his party to stem the tide of democracy. The effect of the present state of things upon the Conservative party is, to me, apparent from the fact that, while the speech of my noble Friend who opened the debate to-night would last year have elicited vociferous cheers from noble Lords opposite, it has to-night been received by them in ominous silence, and has so evidently sunk deep into their minds. There are also on this side of the House many Members of the Liberal party who look, if not with alarm, at least with some doubt and distrust, to the consequences of this large and sweeping enfranchisement of the working classes. Yet, we are about, I believe, by a very large majority, to accept the second reading of the Bill. Nor is the position in which we find ourselves placed with respect to it peculiar to the House of Lords; depend upon it, the House of Commons have found themselves in precisely the same position. The Bill has passed that House nominally with the general assent of its Members, but in reality by their general submission. Parliament finds itself under circumstances in which the great majority of its Members in both Houses feel that they have practically lost the noblest gift of man—the exercise of their free discretion and free will. I desire for a few minutes to occupy the attention of the House by an inquiry not into the reasons for this Bill, but into the causes of its appearance here. My noble Friend who sits on the cross Benches (Earl Grey) said last night that this was not a time to enter into such an inquiry. If my noble Friend had any hope that his Resolution would be assented to by the House, he was right in avoiding that inquiry; but I have no expectation of the Resolution being carried. I for one would under no circumstances vote for the Resolution of my noble Friend. It has a close family resemblance to those unfortunate Resolutions and Motions which were proposed 1947 last Session, and with results with which my noble Friend does not seem to be wholly satisfied. I, for one, will never, unless driven to it by circumstances of extreme necessity, vote for an abstract Resolution of this kind without any hope of agreeing with the Mover in the subsequent steps which he may propose to take for the enforcement of his views. I have no confidence that I should agree with my noble Friend in his Amendments, and my noble Friend has not told us what those Amendments may be. I, therefore, look upon this Resolution as entirely out of the question, and believe it will be supported by a very small minority of this House.
Seeing that that is so, and that we are by common consent, or, as I have said, by common submission, to give our assent to a measure having such large consequences as those to which I have referred, I hold, my Lords, this is the time, this is especially the time, when we have a right to look back upon the history of these transactions, and to ask how it is that we have come, and that the other House of Parliament has come, to be in circumstances of such stress and strain in regard to this great question of Reform? My Lords, I begin by admitting that the Liberal party have, in my opinion, been much to blame as regards the consequences which so many are now deploring, and in respect to which so many are entertaining doubts. My Lords, I trace the prime cause of these circumstances to the weakness, the timidity, and the insincerity with which the Parliament of 1860 dealt with the Bill introduced by the Government of Lord Palmerston. My Lords, I have always been disposed to admit that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) and the great party opposite which he leads have had some right to taunt us with our conduct of that question in 1860. When the Bill of 1860 was introduced by the Government of Lord Palmerston, following a General Election which had taken place especially on the subject of Reform, it was manifest that a great re-action of opinion had set in in the other House of Parliament. That Bill was, in reality, talked out of the House, and no earnestness or sincerity was shown in the manner in which it was treated. My Lords, it may fairly be said that this weakness of the Liberal party involved considerable blame on the part of the Statesmen then at its head, and on the part of the Government of which I had the honour of being a very humble Member. Now, I am not disposed to repudiate 1948 for that Government any portion of the blame which may fairly be laid upon them; but there are two observations which I would venture to make in regard to the conduct of that Government, the justice of which will, I think, be conceded on both sides of the House. In the first place, during 1860 and several years after we were engaged upon great financial measures which—although it is unusual in this country, that financial questions should become questions of party—were bitterly, and, I venture to say, fanatically opposed by the Conservative party. It was impossible in 1860 to carry a Reform Bill and the important Budget of that year, with the French Treaty attached to it, concurrently through the House of Commons. Those contests continued for several subsequent years. The other observation which I venture to make is this—that it is one thing for a Government to come to the conclusion that the present is not the time in which they can advantageously deal with any great question, and quite another thing for a Government to undertake to deal with it upon principles which they have always repudiated and disavowed. At the same time, my Lords, I am willing to admit so far that I think it was a mistake on our part—a mistake in something more than policy—not again to revive the question of Reform before the dissolution of that Parliament. Our trumpet "gave an uncertain sound," and who could prepare himself for the battle? In passing, I wish to make a remark which is suggested to me by something that dropped from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) last night in regard to my noble Friend Lord Palmerston. The noble Earl chose to assume that Lord Palmerston was personally opposed to any revival of the Reform question. My Lords, it is perfectly well known—it is no secret—that Lord Palmerston came, late and reluctantly, to the conclusion that the great settlement of 1832 required revision and re-adjustment. But he did at last come to that conclusion, and nothing which I know, or have ever heard, induces me to believe that he ever recalled that opinion, or re-considered it in the sense of being adverse to Reform. Of this I can inform the House on my own personal knowledge, that shortly after the Bill of 1860 was dropped, Lord Palmerston expressed to me his conviction that the question must, after no long interval, be again dealt with, and he even indicated to some extent the principles on which he 1949 thought a measure should be founded. My Lords, I had not the honour of seeing my late noble Friend between the last Election and the opening of the present Parliament; but I have some reason to know that when a majority of upwards of seventy was returned in favour of his Government, he was perfectly aware that the question could no longer be allowed to sleep, and that in the new Parliament he would have to take it up. My Lords, in saying so much on this subject, I hope the House will not think that I am guilty of the folly and the weakness of quoting in favour of the conduct of the living the presumed authority of the dead. It is enough for any man, however great he may be, that he governs his fellows during his own life. Each generation is responsible for its own conduct. I do not claim for our Government the authority of Lord Palmerston in regard to the Bill of 1866. I am only anxious to defend my late noble Friend from the imputation of insincerity, which I believe is wholly unjust, and to state on this public occasion that I believe Lord Palmerston fully intended to deal again with the great question of Reform. Now, I am bound to admit that, as we did not raise the question of Reform in the last Parliament, the present Parliament was not elected on the question of Reform. It was, therefore, perfectly fair and open to any Member of that Parliament who might entertain an individual opinion against the question of Reform, to oppose any Bill which the late Government might have brought in. But this I will say—that the present Parliament, partly in consequence of our conduct I admit—inherited all the timidity, all the faint-heartedness and the weakness of the last Parliament in regard to Reform. Under these circumstances, when the Government of my noble Friend (Earl Russell) determined to introduce a Bill, we knew very well the risk we were incurring. That Bill was drawn up—I am not now going into any defence of its details—with a studious regard to moderation; and we were perfectly aware of two things—the one was, that its introduction involved the greatest risk to our existence as a Government; and the second was, that if that measure was refused, no proposal of similar moderation could again be offered to the acceptance of the House of Commons. My Lords, the spirit of the late Parliament almost immediately broke out in that to which I mainly attribute the difficulties that have now arisen— 1950 namely, the attempt to form a third party in resistance of Reform. I have heard that a right hon. Friend of mine—a member of that third party (Mr. Lowe) upon a recent occasion has declared that it is with rage, and grief, and shame, that he regards the present position of affairs; and well he may. My Lords, it is a hard thing for a man of first-rate ability to find out that all his eloquence and all his exertions—perhaps I may say without offence, all his manœuvring—has ended in nothing else than this—the precipitation of those very changes which he was most anxious to avoid, and the proposal by his own confederates, in what I think was a Parliamentary sin, of the very measures which he was endeavouring to resist. But if my right hon. Friend had studied Parliamentary history I think he might have made pretty sure of what would be the result of his exertion. Third parties have never succeeded in our Parliamentary history; and why have they not succeeded? Because, my Lords, they produce an anarchy of parties; and who gain the advantage in times of anarchy? Is it not the men of extreme opinions, who take the opportunity of marching to the front? My Lords, I doubt whether in the whole course of our Parliamentary history there has been such a complete collapse of any party as there is of that which endeavoured to form a third party on the question of Reform during the last Session. They are utterly gone, "glimmering through the dreams of things that were;" they have not even left behind them that ring of froth which marks where a bubble unusually large has burst. Their very language is forgotten. They are now reviled and taunted by those who were last year their confederates as "stray philosophers." We heard of nothing last Session except about "blank" reductions of the franchise, the "predominance of classes," and the "disfranchisement?" of the existing constituency. What has become of all those phrases now? We hear not one word of them. Why, my Lords, the very temple in which this party worshipped has been razed to the ground, and the ruins have been strewed with salt; unless, indeed, it be that my noble Friend on the cross Benches (Earl Grey) who, I am afraid, gave to them, to a large extent, his encouragement and support, is left almost alone to keep alive the flame of his devotion before a solitary and abandoned shrine. My Lords, unquestionably the formation of that third 1951 party was one of the great causes of the position in which we now stand. But there was another cause, and I am not sure that it was not more powerful than any of the others, and that was, the methods of the opposition to Reform which were adopted by the Conservative party in conjunction with that third party to which I have referred. My Lords, it was an object with those parties—an object with both of them—to conceal the fact that it was their design to resist any reduction of the franchise. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) took credit last night to himself and to his party for not opposing the second reading of the Bill of last year. They were better tacticians than that—they knew that they would gain their object better by joining with the third party in mock Amendments when the Bill got into Committee. Last year, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was lectured because he had said that the Amendments brought forward during the discussions on Reform by the Conservative party pretended to aim at one thing and really meant another. It was said that it was a very improper thing for a Minister of the Crown to make such a charge. But soon after the statement was confirmed by what was said by the one political Nathaniel that the Cabinet contained; for what did General Peel tell his constituents when he was elected after his appointment as Secretary for War? The gallant General, as a distinguished Member of his party, had been of course accessory to all these transactions and negotiations which went on last Session with a view to defeat our Reform Bill without admitting that the real ground of objection was the numbers of the working classes whom it would have admitted to the franchise; and being an honest and straightforward man he told his constituents that of all the Motions which had been made in the House of Commons with a view to defeat the Reform Bill, there had not been one, from first to last, which had been made bonâ fide. These are his words—Between the first division, when the Government got a majority of 5, and the last, which placed them in a minority of 11, it might safely be said there was no bonâ fide division.I believe this to be literally true. The object of the Conservative party last year was to avoid admitting that the opposition was to lowering the franchise, and every 1952 sort of device and dodge was resorted to in order to conceal this, and, at the same time, to enable men of different opinions to vote together (very much as my noble Friend hopes to unite discordant opinions to-night) to defeat the Bill without committing themselves against the principle of Reform. That method of opposition is one of the main causes of the difficulties in which Parliament is now placed. As part of the same line of tactics there was a cry raised for some "principle"—it was said that our Bill was founded on no principle, and the cry was that it should be founded on some principle. May I venture to warn the Conservative party against hunting too much for abstract principles—for that may be said in regard to them which has been said of fire and water, they are very good servants, but very bad masters. Of one thing noble Lords opposite may be sure—that abstract principles are never Tory. I know of no abstract principle with regard to representation except this—that representation and taxation should go together; and this is a principle which leads directly to universal suffrage. I know, indeed, that an attempt is made to distinguish between direct and indirect taxation. Men having an object in view draw a line which will effect that object, and they call that a principle; but for those who have not the same object it is no principle at all; and how can you draw a logical distinction between direct and indirect taxation? There may be some countries whose finance is founded on direct taxation, and there the distinction you draw is of no avail; but in our country where of seventy millions or thereabouts of taxation nearly forty millions are raised by indirect taxation, would it be logical, in putting representation and taxation together, to exclude four-sevenths of that taxation? The "principle," as a principle, is a perfect farce. And see how this vain hunt after abstract principles has worked with regard to this measure. Last year the Conservative party said, "We will not have a rental qualification—there is no principle in it—let us have rating." That was the point on which we were defeated last year, and everybody knows that the effect of that Amendment was to diminish the number who would be enfranchised by a £6 rating, as compared with a £6 rental—for the noble Earl and his Colleagues were well aware that there was a large margin—25, 30, 35, and in some boroughs 40 per cent between 1953 the rental and the rating. They caught therefore at rating as a principle, and carried it by a small majority. What did they do when they themselves came into power? The "Ten Minutes Bill" proposed a £6 rating franchise, which was consistent with their movements of last Session; and it would have excluded the great bulk of the compound-householders. When this proposal was abandoned the Government fell back—still aiming at the same result—on what they call "personal rating." This also was intended to exclude the compounding class. By acceding therefore to Mr. Hodgkinson's Amendment, which abolished compounding, they practically gave up the personal payment of rates by admitting the whole body of compound-householders to the raw material of the franchise. At one sweep, by an Amendment upon which I believe there was no division, the Government, in consequence of the difficulties of argument in which they were placed, admitted no less than 500,000 persons to the raw material of the franchise. [The Earl of DERBY intimated dissent.] The noble Earl seems to doubt my figures; but I maintain that not less than 500,000 persons will be in a position to obtain a vote by the abolition of compound-house-holding. Had compounding been general all over the country, a personal rating would have excluded all these; but by abolishing compounding a mass of people verging on pauperism were brought in, with respect to whom it had been found convenient and profitable to adopt the system of compounding. Thus, by the notion, that the mere word "rating" contained a "principle" the Government were hustled from one conclusion to another till the Bill has been so changed that it is virtually no longer the same measure. I do not mean to say a word against personal liability to rates as a qualification for the franchise, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it is simply the principle of a pecuniary payment; and it matters nothing to the State, if you go on that principle, whether that payment is made to the landlord in the shape of rent or to the parish in the shape of rates. If is absurd to pretend that it is no indication of qualification in a householder to pay £7 to his landlord, and that it is an indication of fitness if he pays 5s. to the rate collector. Thus, in consequence chiefly of the policy of the Government, their methods of opposition to our Bill of last 1954 year, the principles to which they committed themselves, the difficulties which those principles involved, and the necessity of passing from one step to another, we have arrived at last at household suffrage, pure and simple, with the sole qualification, not of personal payment of rates, but of personal liability to pay rates.
I now come to another and more important cause of the collapse of the Conservative theory of the franchise. That theory was that all persons below the £10 line were practically one class, with interests and feelings wholly separate from the rest of the community, and that they would act together as a class; and if enfranchised in sufficient numbers would swamp the existing constituencies. Now, it is true, that the men whom you are about to enfranchise will form a numerical majority of the voters; as my noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) remarked when he went out of office, that is not a question of argument, but one of mere arithmetic. It is, however, a purely theoretical assumption that they will act together as a class, that they have different feelings and opinions from the other classes of the community, and will exercise their power as a class in the choice of class representatives. If this were so, your Lordships might well feel some alarm at the prospect before us. Let us test this theory, which if true shows that we are in a most alarming position, by the experience of the past and the present. Remember, in the first place, in mitigation of the terrors held over us by my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) to-night, that precisely the same predictions were hazarded with respect to the great measure of 1832. Indeed, my Lords, no more melancholy task can be imagined than a review of the debates in the Houses of Parliament upon any leading question that has agitated previous times—when we remember the severe exertions, the strain upon mind, and heart, and brain which any considerable Parliamentary efforts require, as well as the great intellectual powers which are sometimes exerted in their production—it is melancholy to contrast all this labour with the small value which is set upon the results by succeeding ages. Not more than one or two speeches in a generation, and those only by the greatest men, are referred to in future times, except for the purpose of seeing how weak the arguments which could 1955 delude, and how visionary the vaticinations which could frighten, the most powerful intellects of their time. I will refer, my Lords, to the case of the late Lord Lyndhurst. His form has not long departed from among us, and the sound of his noble judicial eloquence is still ringing in our ears. I beg those noble Lords who are impressed by the terrors held over them to-night by my noble Friend to go back to the speeches delivered by Lord Lyndhurst in 1832. He predicted—precisely as my noble Friend has predicted to-night—that the House of Commons would, as a consequence of the measure of 1832, become what he described as a "fierce and democratic assembly." What have been the actual results? Have they corresponded with the predictions? Have the predictions any relation to the existing facts? Has not the House of Commons for many years been crammed with the sons and the brothers, the nephews and the cousins of your Lordships? And is it not now the fashion of the Conservative party, and of that third party to which I have referred as having been so instrumental in bringing about the difficulty from which we are now suffering, to boast that the House of Commons has been the author of the greatest and most beneficent measures of legislation? Is it true, then, as a matter of fact, that the House of Commons has become a "fierce and democratic assembly?" And yet, observe that the basis of Lord Lyndhurst's arguments rested as much on arithmetic as the predictions of my noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon). It is perfectly true of the existing constituencies that there is an actual majority between £10 and £20, and that the whole power of the country, if they acted together as a class, would be thrown into the hands of the small shopocracy. That is the fact as arithmetic would prove it; but observe the enormous contrast between the predictions and the facts. This is one comfort which I draw from the experience of the past; allow me now to draw another from the experience of the present. There was no part of the Returns which we procured last year which excited more surprise than the large number of working men which it was then found were on the registers. To the immense surprise of all parties, it appeared that very nearly one-fourth of the existing constituencies might fall under the category of working men; though it was said, with a certain amount of truth, 1956 that a considerable number of keepers of beer-shops and other small shops were classed as working men, yet I believe there was but little error in our Returns, and that nearly one-fourth of the constituencies was composed of the working men. ["Hear!"] I see my noble Friend at the head of the Government cheering the argument which I now use: but I beg your Lordships to observe the use which he and his Colleagues made of those Returns last year. They are very glad now to be reminded that one-fourth of the constituencies belong to the working men; last year they said, "See how many more than you knew of this class are already on the register. You are assuredly not going to make an addition which will give to the working men an absolute preponderance in the constituencies of the kingdom." I do not know that the present Session has witnessed a revival of this argument; but was there not a wiser and more generous inference to be drawn from the facts laid before Parliament? Is it not clear that, if we were actually ignorant of the existence of the element of the working classes in our constituency, and if we learnt with surprise how strong it was, that they never could have exerted their combined strength for the purpose of outnumbering the rest of the electors, and that they must be so mixed up in habits, thoughts, and opinions with the other members of the community that their presence, as of a separate class, is never felt? The truth is, it might be said of the different classes of this country, that they have been, and I trust they will continue to be like the days of the poet—Bound each to each by natural piety.Let us look, then, in a spirit of confidence to the probable consequences of this measure.
And now, my Lords, let us look at the theory involved in the matter. The question of a revision of our representative institutions has occupied the thoughts of many able men, and an example of the speculations that have been indulged in may be seen in the volume upon Parliamentary Reform that has been published by the noble Earl on the cross Benches (Earl Grey). It may be said that my noble Friend stands alone. To a great extent that is true; but I beg the House to remember that the noble Earl is considered to represent the views of many persons, and there is no one more competent to draw the conclusions which 1957 ought to be drawn from given premises; there is no one in this House with larger experience, very few with greater ability, and none with greater honesty and straightforwardness. My noble Friend has said, "If you touch the franchise there must be a complete revision of the whole system. You must surround it with new safeguards against the predominance of a class." In fact, my noble Friend suggested no less than twelve safeguards which were absolutely necessary. I will not trouble the House by recounting them; suffice it to say that they involved not only plurality of votes and multiplication of special constituencies, such as guilds of working men, but the re-construction of the House of Commons itself. I will only say that those schemes of my noble Friend are purely visionary. They lie beyond the atmosphere of our system; it is impossible that they could form part of any practical scheme. Look at the very small attempt made by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) in the way of safeguards. Look at the fate of the dual vote, of plurality of votes in the three-cornered constituencies—of every one of the securities which the noble Earl proposed. Look at the reception they met with in the House of Commons, and which they meet with in every-day society, and your Lordships will be satisfied that none of these schemes are practicable. Evidently you will find no security in contrivances of this nature against the democratic effects of this Bill. My Lords, I am not sorry for this result. I have no confidence whatsoever in these new schemes for a complete re-construction of the British Constitution. Last year we heard a great deal about "Americanizing" our institutions. I suppose we shall hear of it no more. As regards American institutions and our own, what is the essential difference between them? Has it not been this — that ours have been a growth, theirs have been emphatically a device—a device admirably contrived, indeed, by some of the greatest Statesmen and politicians that ever spoke the English tongue, but necessarily adapted to the circumstances of a new country. Ours is a system which has grown for many generations; and although you talk of the balances of the Constitution, remember that none of them are of the nature of those suggested by my noble Friend. They are balances which arise from the condition of society, from the feelings entertained by one class 1958 towards another, and not by legal powers placed by Act of Parliament in the hands of one class to check the action of another. It is said that there were some social questions upon which the working classes are more likely to act together than the middle classes would be—and I think this is true; but I was sorry to hear my noble Friend express the opinion that the changing conditions of society around us tend to modify the influences hitherto exerted by one class upon another. May I not suggest, however, that it is possible that the great political change we are now called upon to assent to, by which the political influence of the working classes will be largely increased, will also stimulate and increase the regard in which these claims will be held by those above them; that it will tend to bring about a more friendly consideration of their claims, a greater sympathy with their complaints, a more candid allowance even for their prejudices and errors; and that, in this way, a most beneficent result may follow from our labours?
My Lords: having said so much, I will not trouble the House with many observations upon a subject which has been pretty nearly exhausted—namely, the inconsistency of the Members of Her Majesty's Government in bringing forward this Bill. I, for one, am prepared not only to admit but to assert for the First Minister of the Crown, whoever he may be, and to whatever party he may belong, a wide discretion as to the measures he may think necessary for the welfare of the people. Both Catholic emancipation and the repeal of the Corn Laws have been carried by the Conservative party; but in both those cases, the Duke of Wellington in the one case, and Sir Robert Peel in the other, manfully came forward and made admissions which justified their conduct. The Duke of Wellington, who never quailed before Napoleon, but in the very height of his power foresaw and prepared his downfall, admitted that he was afraid of Ireland: it was a noble fear—a fear which a brave man need not be ashamed to avow, and upon which a good man was ever bound to act. And so it was with respect to the Corn Laws—Sir Robert Peel admitted that he was convinced by the arguments of Mr. Cobden and others that he had been wrong in his long contest against the principles of Free Trade. I do not complain of the Government for having brought forward a Reform Bill. I do not complain even of 1959 the character of that Bill, provided they had come forward and stated plainly that they had used entirely false arguments last Session regarding the predominance of a class. But I do complain, of the manner in which this Bill has been brought forward. I will take an example — I shall not repeat anything said in the other House, and most powerfully said, and said in this House with not less power and eloquence by my noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon); but I will quote the language not of Members of the Government, spoken in another place, but of the noble Earl himself. A very short time ago a deputation from a Conservative Association waited upon the noble Earl. I presume that a reporter was present, because I find this report of the proceedings in The Times, and as doubtless the deputation was received and introduced with a view of influencing public opinion, I suppose I may accept as substantially accurate the report I find there. The noble Earl is stated to have addressed the working men who waited upon him in these terms—I regret the distinction drawn last year between the working class and other classes of the community. I think it was an invidious and unnecessary separation, because our object is not to include so many of this or that class, but to admit to constitutional rights so many of all classes as shall be capable of intelligently and soundly exercising the political franchise.The noble Earl regrets that last year a distinction was made between the working classes and other classes. Why, what does that refer to?
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
was understood to say that it referred to the statistics presented to Parliament by the late Government.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
Exactly. I knew that, and this is the admission which I desired to elicit. The noble Earl says he regrets these statistics as tending to draw a line of separation between the working classes and other classes. Who compelled us to produce those statistics? Whose argument was it, separating class from class, which induced us to bring forward that information? The noble Earl knows very well that he in this House, and his Colleagues in the other, had again and again complained that we produced no information as to the number of working men now forming the franchise and the number who would be admitted under our Bill? And it was to meet their argument and supply the infor- 1960 mation for which they called that we produced these statistics. That was last year. But what happened this year? In the first place what did the enigmatical sentence mean in the Queen's Speech about disturbing the balance of the Constitution? Do we not all know what that meant? Had we not the common sense to connect with it that which has so long been the language of the Tory party? And then has the House forgotten—has the noble Earl forgotten—the Resolutions which he himself through his Chancellor of the Exchequer, laid upon the table of the House of Commons, and to which if the Government had had their way, both Houses of Parliament would at this moment have stood pledged? The third of these Resolutions is in these terms—That, while it is desirable that a more direct Representation should be given to the Labouring Class, it is contrary to the Constitution of this Realm to give to any one class or interest a predominating power over the rest of the Community.Was this last year; and did this Resolution come from us? This speech of the noble Earl is a perfect specimen of the manner in which the whole discussion has been conducted by the Government. I complain, then, of the unfair representations which have been made; I complain that the noble Earl in his high position and with his high character and splendid talents, should have told the working classes that it is we and not he who drew this distinction. I say that this was an unfair representation of the facts, and it is a specimen of the manner in which the present Government has treated this question throughout the Session. I turn from this sad history—with which I am afraid I have wearied the House—of weakness and timidity in relation to this great question of Reform; from parties disorganized, and from public men discredited—those most discredited who for the time seem most successful—I turn with hope and confidence, notwithstanding the predictions of my noble Friend near me, to the great body of the people; because it is a people in full possession of that which is the most precious inheritance of nations—traditions which time has not dissolved and revolution has never broken—social conditions which in the main are sound, and, above all political instincts which I believe to be in the main true.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I am desirous of offering some remarks to your 1961 Lordships—particularly in consequence of what fell from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) at a late period of the debate last night, in reference to the conduct of some Members of Her Majesty's Government, who had not up to that time addressed the House. My noble Friend seemed to infer that the only Minister capable of taking part in the debate of this House was the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and that others like myself were mere puppets put up on occasions when answers were required on any matter connected with the departments over which we preside; and that the whole task of defending this Bill devolved upon the shoulders of the noble Earl. I can assure my noble Friend opposite that he never was in greater error than in making this assertion; and I think the speech of my noble Friend the President of the Council, who closed the debate last night, is a sufficient answer to that suggestion. I am quite ready to admit, and do so frankly, that I place the greatest confidence in the judgment of my noble Friend at the head of the Government, and that if on any great question, I found myself differing very materially from him, I should be inclined to doubt whether I was correct or whether the opinions of my noble Friend ought not rather to prevail. With regard to the address of the noble Duke who has just sat down (the Duke of Argyll), I shall not undertake to follow him through all the various topics he has touched on; and it strikes me that he has throughout a somewhat lengthened address blown both hot and cold on this question. At one period of his remarks, I thought he was of opinion that we were hurrying on fast towards revolution. At another part, he showed us that the Bill was necessary, and that, probably from our experience of the past, inasmuch as the predictions uttered in 1832, of impending confusion and anarchy, were not borne out by the facts, we should be led to infer there would be no greater danger of revolution from this Reform Bill than from the Bill of 1832. In one of his remarks, the noble Duke was very much in error. He said that the whole Cabinet were steeped to the lips in pledges against any dealing with an extensive measure of Reform. Now, speaking for myself—and I think I may also speak for my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal—I can say that on no occasion have we given utterance to sentiments such as the noble Duke has put into our 1962 mouth upon this question. He also stated that the principles of Reform had always been repudiated and disavowed by the party to which I belong. Now, I think, he must have forgotten what has been repeated on more than one occasion—namely, that my noble Friend now at the head of the Government, and who was at the head of the Government in 1859, introduced then a Reform Bill for the consideration of the House of Commons, and that that Bill was defeated by a Resolution moved by a noble Lord who has now a seat in this House (Earl Russell). I do not, therefore, think it is correct to say that the party sitting on this side of the House has disavowed heretofore all connection with Reform. The noble Duke also went into a great number of figures to show that by the operation of this Bill a vast number of voters of the poorest class would be put upon the register; but the mode by which he arrived at these results is so curious that I do not think we can put much confidence in his figures, nor do I believe that they show any accurate conclusion on the subject, inasmuch as he omitted to take into account the number of £10 householders who are at present excluded by the operation of the compounding Acts. The noble Earl who first addressed this House this evening, and who delivered a speech of great power (the Earl of Shaftesbury), fell into a singular error in regard to the admission of new voters to the franchise. He said, "Look at the great number of persons who will come upon the register through paying only the rate for the maintenance of the poor." But the noble Earl was not quite correct in this statement. Turning to the 3rd clause of the Bill the noble Earl will find that the claimant must have, on or before the 20th of July,Bonâ fide paid an equal Amount in the Pound to that payable by other ordinary Occupiers in respect of all Poor Rates that have become payable by him in respect of the said premises.The rates to which he would be liable would be all rates—not only poor rate, but the county, the police, and, in some instances, the borough rates. Therefore, the claimant must have borne a larger share of the burdens of the country than the noble Earl's remarks would imply. Again, with reference to the 4th clause, which relates to the lodger franchise in the boroughs, the clear annual value of the lodgings will have to include the lodger's proportion of the occupier's rates and taxes; and with that addition, I think, the noble Earl will find that he has over- 1963 rated the number of poor persons, who, under this clause, will receive the franchise. Before I touch on the measure now before the House, I am anxious to call your Lordships' attention to the remarks made last night by the noble Earl the late Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon). Although the speech of the noble Earl was full of eloquence and power, I listened to it with regret, because I considered it replete with much bitterness that was wholly unnecessary for the purpose which the noble Earl had in view. I think, even if it was necessary to prove that the Bill was of the revolutionary character he thought it was, he need not have made use of the language he did in reference to those who up to a late period were his Colleagues, and with whom he was acting in concert upon this very question. In speaking of the Bill the noble Earl stated that it would produce nothing short of a revolution. He said—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 anyone 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 great difference between the two cases; that this is a perfectly bloodless revolution; that this is a revolution effected without passion, without pressure, without enthusiasm."—[3 Hansard, clxxxviii. 1839–40.]The noble Earl contrasts these seriously one with the other—a revolution which abolished a monarchy, destroyed a Church, and swept away an aristocracy, with a measure which, as has been stated by my noble Friend who introduced the Bill, will add something under 400,000 to the borough constituency, three-fifths of whom are to be found in thirty-five boroughs. If my noble Friend entertains this opinion of the Bill—if he believes it to be the revolutionary measure he has described—why does he not move its rejection, instead of calling upon the noble Earl opposite to withdraw his Amendment and allow the Bill a second reading? I will ask your Lordships to bear with me for a moment while I read an extract from a memorable speech made by Lord Palmerston upon foreign affairs in 1850. Lord Palmerston pointed out that there 1964 were two classes of revolutionists; he said the first were of the ordinary type, and he added—But there are revolutionists of another kind—blind-minded men, who, animated by antiquated prejudices and daunted by ignorant apprehensions, dam up the current of human improvement, until the irresistible pressure of accumulated discontent breaks down the opposing barriers, and overthrows and levels to the earth those very institutions which a timely application of renovating means would have rendered strong and lasting. Such revolutionists as these are the men who call us revolutionists."—[3 Hansard, cxii. 433.]I retaliate on my noble Friend, and call him a revolutionist of the kind so described by Lord Palmerston. I will not follow him in the bitter invective in which he indulged—it is seldom that speeches full of such violence are heard in this House. While listening to his remarks I could almost have fancied myself in the House of Commons in 1846, when, unfortunately, in the party strifes which took place upon the repeal of the Corn Laws, such speeches were by no means uncommon or unusual. I think I am justified in saying that the speech of the noble Earl was one of a violent character. This is the way in which he describes his former Colleagues—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."—[3 Hansard, clxxxviii. 1841–2.]Whether this wish is expressed with regard to the opinions of the Ministers, or of his late Colleagues themselves, does not appear to me particularly clear; I trust it may apply only to the opinions, and not to my noble Friend at the Head of the Government. The noble Earl continues—I fear they will be long remembered and cited by those who are less friendly to my noble Friend than I am."—[Ibid.]If this is a specimen of his friendship, I say, "Defend me, not from my enemies, but from my friends; leave me to the tender mercies of my enemies, for they cannot treat me in a manner much more cruel than friends of that character." The noble Earl adds—They will be cited henceforth as monuments either of weakness or of dishonesty."—[Ibid.]I think I am fully justified in the statement I made, that the speech of my noble Friend was unnecessarily violent to prove his case. My noble Friend further made a complaint which was quite unfounded. He said— 1965The 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 part of the Government."—[3 Hansard, clxxxviii. 1843.]Now, considering that, during five months of debate in the House of Commons, there were something like thirty divisions, in sixteen of which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer voted against the Government, I think it is hardly fair to say that the Bill has been unduly hurried. As to the insinuation that it is the production of only part of the Government, I wish to say the whole Government are as responsible for the whole measure as any one individual, and I consider myself as bound to every part of the measure as if I had been the sole author of it. Passing from these exaggerated and gloomy forebodings, of the late Secretary for the Colonies, I would now invite your Lordships to consider the Bill which has so frightened my noble Friend. It is not necessary to enter into any details of the circumstances which have led to the introduction of this measure. Every one of your Lordships is agreed — and indeed it has been admitted on many occasions during the progress of the debate — that Reform had become a necessity. Various proposals have from time to time been made in the other House of Parliament for reducing the franchise to £7, to £6, and to £5; but these propositions have never met with such a reception that a Bill embodying them could be carried. It therefore became necessary to consider what was the point at which probably the franchise could be satisfactorily settled. The discussions which have taken place have shown how difficult it would be to fix on any "hard and fast" line, if once the £10 franchise was to be abandoned. They would all be subject to the same objections, and, my Lords, I believe the point chosen by the Government, household suffrage, with the personal payment of rates, notwithstanding all that has been said against it, is the one which will furnish the basis of a permanent settlement. It is an old doctrine that taxation and representation should go together. I believe that the addition of 400,000 to the borough constituency, three-fifths of whom are in towns of the larger class, is a necessary, and will be a 1966 judicious, extension of the franchise. With regard to the county franchise, the Government had originally fixed the limit of occupation at £15, but we did not adhere to that figure, because the great bulk of the representatives of county constituencies requested that it might be reduced to £12. I cannot think the Constitution is so rotten that the admission of such a number of voters as this Bill admits will plunge the country into anarchy and revolution. There is one noble Lord who, at all events, will not join in the assertion that this measure is of a revolutionary character. I allude to the noble Earl whose name is identified with this question (Earl Russell). In order to show that the present measure is not of the revolutionary character described by the noble Lord opposite, I will read an extract from Earl Russell's book on the English Government and Constitution. In the last chapter, written in 1865, there is this remarkable suggestion—What should be the precise amount of rent or of rating which should entitle the inhabitant of a borough to vote, or whether the old householder right of voting with three years' occupation might not usefully be the test, I will not here pretend to determine. The £12 rated franchise might well be adopted for English counties. A lodger suffrage of £10 rent might perhaps be added.and again—It is not expedient that the smaller boroughs should be extinguished by any large process of disfranchisement.Why, my Lords, this is as nearly as possible the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. Now, in the course of this debate, we were rather found fault with because we had not extinguished a great number of the small boroughs in the country. My noble Friend the late President of the Council laid great stress upon what in his opinion was the weak point of the Bill. He said the re-distribution of seats was so faulty, so bad, and so imperfect that he did not give more than two or three years at the outside before it would be necessary to have a thorough revision of the whole scheme. Now, on comparing the plan of re-distribution which we propose with that contained in the Bill of last year, I confess I cannot see so great a difference as would warrant us in thinking that the plan in last year's Bill would be permanent, whereas ours would last only two or three years.
My Lords, I come now to the Amendment, which, as my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack pointed out in the 1967 early part of the evening, is the real question before the House. And here I must assure the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that there is no one who recognizes more readily than myself his hereditary right to deal with the subject of Reform. I cannot forget the part which one very near and dear to me took with the Father of the noble Earl in 1832 in passing the measure of Reform through this and the other House of Parliament, nor the great respect, regard, and admiration which he entertained for the talents of that Statesman. When, therefore, I heard that the noble Earl intended to move a Resolution as an Amendment to the Bill introduced by the Government I looked forward with some anxiety to see what effect it would have. The Amendment is really of a most extraordinary character. It states—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.Well, if that is really the case I think the noble Earl ought to have moved the rejection of the Bill on the second reading; for it is clear that if the measure is as bad as he says it is, it ought not to pass the second reading. Then, having apparently forgotten what he had said in the first sentence—that the Bill is so bad that it will not promote a settlement of the question or the good government of the country — the noble Earl went on to say in his Resolution—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.But the noble Earl never tells us what alterations he desires and what parts of the Bill he deems defective. It is obvious that if the whole Bill be defective, the whole Bill ought to go; but if part is good and part bad, then I think we have a right to ask what part of the Bill he objects to as being bad, and what part of the Bill does not in his judgment require alteration. The speech of the noble Earl, however, condemned the Bill more strongly than the Resolution does. The tenour of his remarks was that it was inexpedient to lower the existing franchise, that the £10 franchise should be retained for boroughs, and that any qualification 1968 below that was injurious and dangerous. Then, my Lords, the Government have been twitted on account of the course they have pursued in the House of Commons, and also on account of what was stated by my noble Friend at the head of the Government at the commencement of the Session. But what does it amount to? My noble Friend, in dealing with the question of Reform, stated that it was a subject which, in the present state of affairs, could not be settled by one side of the House without the co-operation and assistance of the other. He further said he thought the best mode of dealing with the question was to take counsel with the House of Commons, and to invite the House to assist and co-operate with the Government in order that such a measure of Reform might be carried as would promote the best interests of the country. We have been twitted with this, and told that that was not the mode in which we ought to deal with Reform. We ought, it was said, to bring forward a measure by which we were prepared to stand or fall, instead of acting upon suggestions which might be made, from time to time, from different sides of the House of Commons, and that if we did not introduce a complete scheme of Reform we were not worthy to remain in office. Now, what did Earl Russell say on this very question in bringing in his Bill of 1860? The noble Earl said—And this I will say, that if you will propose any of the measures that have been mentioned this evening either for raising the franchise by making it a rating instead of a rental franchise, or by increasing the amount of the rental, or in another way that has been pointed out … any proposition of the kind shall be fairly considered by us in Committee. … If the House should prefer it to that which we have originated, it will be our duty to see whether the Bill with such an alteration would be a valuable measure, whether it would extend the franchise in a manner that would strengthen the institutions of the country; and in that case, though we might not think it a change for the better, we should be ready to adopt that alteration."—[3 Hansard, clviii. 1992.]I maintain that the words of Earl Russell are the exact counterpart of the words made use of at the commencement of the Session by the noble Earl at the head of the Government. And if my noble Friend were wrong in the course he adopted, then Earl Russell was wrong in making that statement in 1860, which I suppose neither he nor any other noble Lord on this side of the House would be likely to admit. One extraordinary thing in the course of this debate is the jealousy of the noble 1969 Earl opposite (Earl Russell) and his supporters of any attempt to deal with the subject of Parliamentary Reform by those who sit on this side of the House. It really would appear as if they had bought the fee simple of the question, and had got it strictly entailed on themselves and their heirs for ever. I cannot say that I have ever had the honour of visiting Pembroke Lodge, but I can almost fancy that were I to do so I should see this inscription over the door—"Russell, Sole Patentee and Inventor of Reform. None genuine unless signed by me. Imitators Beware." Really we are considered as if we were infringing a copyright in attempting to deal with the question of Reform. We are told by the noble Earl opposite that this is a question which we have never taken up honestly. [The Earl of CLARENDON: Hear, hear!"] Well, I beg to tell the noble Earl that the Government have most honest convictions on the subject, that we have a right to take up the question of Reform, and that it is no more the vested property of the noble Earl and his party than is any other public question which may be brought before Parliament. I am of opinion that we have a right to deal with this question in a comprehensive manner; and I believe that we are dealing with it in a manner which will conduce to a practical and permanent settlement, and that it will put a stop to that mischievous and unscrupulous agitation which has so long distracted the country. I am therefore proud of the part I have taken in bringing in the Bill, and in asking your Lordships to assent to it. Before I sit down I will merely mention one fact which I think my noble Friend may be justly proud of—namely, that the measure of Reform now under consideration is the only one which, since the year 1832, has gone through the trying ordeal of passing through the other House of Parliament; it is the only measure for reforming the Representation of the People which has reached this House, and it is one which, I believe, will promote the prosperity, the peace, and the safety of this country.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, he had no intention of addressing their Lordships on the Amendment under discussion; but the noble Duke who had lately spoken (the Duke of Argyll) had made certain assertions which rendered it necessary that he should say a few words. It had been asserted that of all the Motions made by Members of the Liberal party last year during the discussion on the Reform Bill of the late Government— 1970 from that on which the Government had a majority of 5 to that on which they had been defeated by a majority of 11—not one was of a bonâ fide character. He begged to give a direct denial to that assertion. He was enabled to assure their Lordships that the Motion made by a noble Relative of his (Lord Dunkellin) on the subject of rating being the basis of the franchise had been put on the Paper without concert with any other Member of the House of Commons. That Motion was brought forward on its merits. His noble Relative felt considerable surprise that no one else had given notice of such a Motion, and he said that if no other Member did raise the question he should do so. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) could, from his own knowledge, assert the fact that not another Member in the House of Commons knew he was about to give notice of it. But before it came on his noble relative did consult a right hon. and distinguished Member for a county, that venerable Gentleman being better acquainted than he was himself with the details of rental and rating valuations. He could, therefore, state positively that, as far as the Motion of his noble Relative was concerned, it certainly had been brought forward bonâ fide, and the noble Duke was so far at least entirely mistaken. As he had risen on this personal matter, he would take the opportunity of observing that he thought it was not very becoming in Members of the Liberal party to taunt the present Government with their change of opinion on the subject of Reform. When the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel came round on the Catholic Question to views which had been for so long a time advocated by the Liberal party, and opposed by those two great men, that party did not taunt them. Again, when Sir Robert Peel, abandoning the opinions previously held by him, came forward with a measure for a repeal of the Corn Laws, his noble Friend (Earl Russell) and the Liberal party received him with acclamation as a honest and a high-minded Statesman. Acting on the same principle, he was prepared to give his support to the noble Earl at the head of the Government in his endeavours to pass this Bill, instead of taunting him, because he was offering a large measure of Reform. He did not think the Bill a bit too large, but he could not say that he thought it a very good Bill. He hoped his noble Friend (Earl Grey) would not press his Resolution; for, though he agreed in its statement that the measure was not satisfactory, he did not think it would be wise to adopt 1971 it. He objected to portions of the Bill having reference to the compound-householder and the re-distribution of seats, but he was not prepared to reject it as a whole. He might observe, also, that he regretted the Bill did not afford means for an expression being given to the opinion of the minorities, and he hoped that some such means would be proposed in their Lordships' House in a form that would enable them to enter a protest. He could not concur with those who thought that the position of the Reform question had not so advanced since last year as to make it necessary for the Government to take up the matter with a view to a settlement. Their Lordships must recollect that the most able and eloquent man in this country aroused the people of the North of England last year on the occasion when in five days he made six speeches, any one of which any man might have been proud to be able to deliver. Then there had been processions, with banners bearing such inscriptions as "Bright, Gladstone, Russell, and Manhood Sufrage." Under those circumstances, could it be said that we were in the same position as we were at the time of the lamented death of Lord Palmerston? Though not in any way connected with the Conservative party, he had been glad to see them come into power, because he knew they must take up the question of Reform and bring it to a settlement. As for the Bill before their Lordships, he thought that, whatever might be its demerits, the Government were right in adopting household suffrage, because it was the only resting-place. He believed that to be the opinion generally entertained throughout the country, and that there was no fear of class acting against class, as some persons seemed to apprehend. Therefore, though he thought the Bill required Amendments, he hoped that, with Amendments, it would be passed cordially and without delay.
said, it might appear somewhat strange that after a period of only thirty-five years the House should now be called upon to make another constitutional change. But if their Lordships considered the history of parties in the interval, they would see that those sitting on that (the Ministerial) side of the House were not responsible for the change which had become inevitable, but that the responsibility really rested with the noble Earl, lately the head of the Government, (Earl Russell) and those acting with him. 1972 That noble Earl was one of those who were most instrumental in carrying the Reform Act of 1832, and after it was passed he said that the measure might be regarded as a final settlement of the question. But in the year 1852—so inconsistent was his action with his own declaration—he himself brought forward another measure of Parliamentary Reform; a course which he repeated a few years later as the organ of the Government of Lord Aberdeen; and other measures again were introduced by him in the years 1860 and 1866. But after these successive proposals, after the long debates which had occurred in the other House of Parliament, after the frequent changes of Government which had resulted from the agitation of this question, it was impossible for any Government, from whatever side or party it might be formed, to omit to deal with the question. It being, therefore, compulsory upon the present Government to deal with the question of Reform, what was the course most advisable to adopt? He frankly confessed that at one time he thought that a reduction to £6 or £7 might have been a desirable change—and he had never made any statement showing that he was opposed to a reduction of the franchise—but, after full consideration of all the circumstances, he had come to the conclusion that there was no safe and permanent resting-place till you got to household suffrage. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) seemed to think that this was a measure which must end in revolution; and yet he, himself, declared that a reduction of the borough franchise was inevitable; and he suggested that the limit should be fixed at a £7 franchise. Noble Lords opposite objected to the Bill on the ground that it afforded no resting-place; but would a £7 franchise afford any resting-place? What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) say last year on this very subject? "Can you believe that this thing, which nobody wants, will be accepted as anything but a step to universal suffrage, or that it is likely to form in any way a permanent settlement of the question?" On the whole he (Lord Feversham) was of opinion that household suffrage, guarded by personal payment of rates and residence, would be safer than a £7 rental without any security of payment of rates, and with no assurance whatever that there would not be increased agitation for a further reduction of scale. The noble Earl who spoke first that evening (the 1973 Earl of Shaftesbury) seemed extremely apprehensive of the lodger franchise. If he really feared its operation, it was open to him and other noble Lords to move either that the amount be raised, or that the clause be left out altogether. But, certainly, there were a great number of persons who would be admitted under the lodger franchise who would form a very respectable order of voters, and might safely be intrusted with the franchise. As regarded the Amendment of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) he thought it most unfortunate that the noble Earl should have thought it his duty to propose the Resolution he had moved. It expressed a sentiment, the accuracy of which he (Lord Feversham) denied. The Resolution stated that this measure could not be regarded as a permanent settlement of the question, and noble Lords opposite seemed to have accepted that view of it, and argued from that point. He (Lord Feversham) really would like to understand what noble Lords opposite would consider a permanent settlement? As regarded the borough franchise, at least, they could not make the assertion that it lacked the character of permanence. The noble Earl the mover of the Amendment went into a long argument respecting the compound-householder, contending that the provision doing away with compounding could never stand, and that it was necessary that in some cases the landlord should pay the rates. But he (Lord Feversham) must remind the noble Earl that it was on the Motion of an hon. Member on the Opposition side of the House, supported by the full strength of his own party, that the alteration was affected in the Bill upon the express ground that if the compounding system were kept up the principle of this Bill could not last. The Opposition side of the House insisted that the compounder should be abolished, and that every occupier should be liable to pay his own rates, with a view to the permanent settlement of the question; and now the noble Earl urged that this very alteration tended to impair the permanence of the settlement proposed by the Bill. As to the counties, it was quite true that no great demand for Parliamentary Reform had ever proceeded from them. The late Mr. Cobden, speaking at a meeting of Reformers in the West Riding, on one occasion, confessed that he regarded the extension of the franchise in counties as a matter of secondary importance, because there already existed the 40s. freehold 1974 franchise, which was within the reach of any labouring man. He (Lord Feversham) had had the honour of sitting in the other House as one of the representatives of a division of the county of York, where there was a large body of 40s. freeholders, and he was proud to say that they formed as Conservative a class as any other in the constituency. He consequently did not look with any jealousy upon a reduction of the franchise in counties. With regard to the reduction of the county occupation franchise from a £50 rental to a £12 rating, there could be no objection to that—it would enfranchise a very large number of most respectable persons whom it would be impossible to ignore. The noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) said, last night that the reduction to a £12 rating would cause a great disturbance of the county representation in populous counties by the increase of voters in the unrepresented towns. But if the noble Earl had referred to the Returns laid before Parliament last Session, he would have found that the number who would be admitted under that change in the unrepresented towns, with a population over 5,000, was not so large by a good many as the number of those who would be admitted in the rural districts of the counties. So that the disturbance by which the noble Earl was so much alarmed would not, he believed, take place. He now came to the subject of re-distribution of seats. A great deal had been said by noble Lords opposite on that subject as to the impossibility of regarding the measure as a permanent settlement; but he (Lord Feversham) believed that no provision or proposal on this subject that could be framed was likely to be regarded as a final measure; but he thought there was good ground for believing that the settlement of the question proposed by the present measure was as good as any other which could be effected. No substitute for that settlement had at all events been suggested by any noble Lord who had spoken against it. The Government, it was true, were recommended to extend their scheme of re-distribution; but he should like to know how those by whom the recommendation was made would accomplish that object? Would noble Lords opposite like to see it attained by the disfranchisement of some of those small boroughs, such as Richmond and Ripon, in which they and their Friends were more or less interested? In dealing with the question of re-distribution of seats, the fact must never be lost sight of that coun- 1975 ties were most inadequately represented as compared with boroughs, their relative populations being taken into account, and that that disproportion would still continue to be very great, notwithstanding that it was proposed to give twenty-five additional Members to counties by the present Bill. The very knowledge of that fact would, in his opinion, prevent any wide-spread agitation from taking place with the view to disturb the proposed settlement, because it would be felt that the counties might demand a large increase in the number of seats allotted to them if those small boroughs were disfranchised which had hitherto to some extent contributed to counterbalance the inadequacy of the county representation. The Government, he might add, had been taunted by noble Lords opposite with having failed to vindicate the consistency of their conduct in dealing with the subject of Reform. He was not there to offer any vindication of that conduct, because his noble Friends were perfectly well able to take care of themselves. He must, however, ask those noble Lords by whom the taunt was thrown out how it was that they had never thought of offering any defence of their own conduct, although they had sat for six years on the Ministerial Benches without fulfilling their political pledges? He did not know that he need trouble the House with any further observations. He would only add that their Lordships might be justly proud of the people among whom they lived; he, for one, entertained no feeling of alarm as to the consequences which might result from the admission of the working claases to the exercise of the franchise. He said so, although he was perfectly aware that the present Bill was a measure of a very wide and extensive character; but trusting to the energy, the intelligence, and the enlightened patriotism of his countrymen, he felt that in admitting them in larger numbers within the pale of the Constitution we should be strengthening their attachment to the institutions under which they lived, while, at the same time, we should be promoting the happiness and contentment of the people.
I feel, my Lords, that, in dealing with an important subject such as that under our consideration, it becomes every man who has striven with ardour for the advancement of Liberal opinions to take care that he is not influenced by feelings from which the best and noblest minds are not exempt, and which are 1976 likely to arise from annoyance at seeing the objects for which he has laboured attained by different agents, and by other means than he desired. This, my Lords, is my position, and, I believe, the position of many more Members of your Lordships' House. The objects which this Bill proposes to accomplish are the very objects which we have long laboured to carry into effect; and noble Lords opposite have, perhaps, under these circumstances, a right to ask why we do not accept the measure with satisfaction and delight; why we should found any criticism upon it; why we should not hail them as converts whom we are glad to honour; and why we should not look forward with them in a common hope to the common, advantage of the country? The reasons why it should be otherwise are to be found, I think, by examining a little into history, and by a slight study of the minds of men. No one can, in my opinion, seriously consider the political history of any nation without coming to the conclusion that it was a positive advantage that measures which must be carried by some one should be carried by those who had long laboured to promote them, who had made sacrifices for the cause, and, as it were, given hostages in its support. There is no noble Lord whom I address who does not, I imagine, believe that it would have been far better that the question of Free Trade should have been settled by the noble Earl below me (Earl Russell) than by Sir Robert Peel. I say this, not because Sir Robert Peel did not carry out the policy on the subject to which he became a convert with the most perfect earnestness and the most perfect honesty of purpose, but because it seems to me that in doing so he damaged not only his own political reputation, but the political reputations of those friends by whom he was surrounded, and filled the public mind with a distrust—I will not say of the truth and sincerity of their convictions, but of the political capability of the Statesmen not simply of the Conservative party, but of public men in general. It is because I entertain those views that I was sorry to see Catholic Emancipation carried and the repeal of the Corn Laws affected by the very persons by whom those measures had been previously constantly opposed. The result of such a state of things is that it is impossible a suspicion should not grow up in the country leading to the conclusion that those changes of opinion imply one of two things—either that our 1977 Statesmen do not bring to the consideration of questions of the utmost importance that full knowledge and that ability which they ought to do, or else that alterations in their policy are produced by considerations of political expediency. Now, my Lords, I do not wish to speak of political expediency in terms of disrespect; it ill-becomes any man to do so who takes an interest in politics in a constitutional country. All I shall invite your Lordships to do is to consider whether this measure, brought forward as it is now, does not bear with it the inference that its authors are compelled to act as they are acting from some overpowering necessity, or some less worthy motives? I may be told that, so far as matters of detail are concerned, Parliamentary Reform has not been opposed by the Members of the present Government, or their Friends in the other House of Parliament. No man, in his senses, however, can believe that, if the Conservative party had frankly co-operated with my noble Friend below me and the representatives of the late Government in the House of Commons last Session, a result as to this very question might not have been obtained which would have been eminently satisfactory to Parliament and the country. Let me suppose that, instead of that long series of captious Motions which ultimately brought the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) into power, there had been, on his part, and on the part of his followers, a frank acceptance of the principle of the measure introduced by the late Government, and a desire to arrive at the best possible compromise as to matters of detail—can anybody imagine that, under those circumstances, a slight display of temper or a little over-earnestness, such as was attributed to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer — and no man possessed of his great powers, with a noble future before him, can always guard against displaying some little over-earnestness in a great cause—would have prevented the carrying of an important measure if the Conservative party had only met him in a spirit of conciliation, and with a sincere determination to do their best to aid the Government for the good of their common country? That was not, however, the spirit which was exhibited by the followers of the noble Earl last year; and therefore it is that we have come to the consideration of this question of Reform in the present year, not in that calm and philosophic manner which its 1978 importance demands, but with a good deal of party heat, and something of party animosity. I have no wish, nevertheless, to dwell upon the past. I will only say that I earnestly hope the present Government, having brought this great measure forward, and carried it through the House of Commons by means—I will not say unfair—but by means direct and indirect, will fairly consider the consequences of what they have done, and will not, as men and Statesmen, shrink from giving full and due effect to the machinery which they are about to set in motion. What I fear, and what seems to me to give a gloomy aspect to what others may regard as a joyful anticipation of bringing within the pale of the Constitution such large masses of the people, is that, in future, certain difficulties and collisions may arise between the upper classes in this country and the interests of the lowest classes of the community, as they will be represented in Parliament under the new order of things. The noble Earl at the head of the Government has desired, like Mercury of old, to be superis deorum gratus et imis. I do trust that there is no ground for the belief which is strong in the country that the Conservative party look forward, by dint of some species of management and manipulation, to prevent the free exercise of Liberal opinions. If it does, I am sure it will find itself very much in error. I am sure that, if it thinks it will find anything like general servility or unworthy feelings in what are called the lower classes of this country, it is only deceiving itself. Among the lower classes, no doubt, there may exist many foolish opinions and mistaken sentiments; but let education be extended among the people, and there need be no fear of the admission within the pale of the Constitution of those large classes and those new interests. Still, the introduction of those classes and interests will inevitably bring with it certain consequences, for which your Lordships will do well to be prepared. In his great work on Democracy M. de Tocqueville clearly recognizes and powerfully enforces the absolute necessity of rulers understanding and being ready to meet the natural and inevitable tendencies of that principle of Government. I ask those who, by their votes to-night, are about to invest with the elective franchise untold millions of future Englishmen, to recognize and comprehend the sacrifices and the duties which they are necessarily 1979 imposing on their own party. When you have placed your representative system on the broad and popular basis which you are now proud of doing, and are taking credit for doing, do not shrink from the inevitable effects of the machinery which you have created. When measures come up hereafter from a democratic House of Commons, affecting, as they will do, many points of your social life which you hold dear, and in respect to which your opinions may differ widely from those entertained by the masses of the people—when questions affecting the distribution of property, affecting the incidence of taxation, affecting, perhaps, your own daily amusements, as in the case of the Game Laws, come before you, as they must do, with all the weight derived from a democratic House of Commons, do not let your Lordships be found encountering them in an angry or an undignified spirit. Do not forget that to-night you are inaugurating a democratic House of Commons, and that you have the means of meeting and of moderating the action of that great assembly by using your own great influence, power, and intelligence through the many legitimate channels which are open to you. You can influence the large sphere of society in which you move, and in which you are justly respected; you can influence them, not by the arts of corruption and intimidation, or by any of those methods which only occur to ignoble minds, but by the just and salutary means which your high authority and position have given you. If you follow out those principles you may inaugurate a great and happy era in the history of this country; and, instead of collisions occurring between the democratic power and the power of this House, this House may acquire still greater authority, still greater interest, and still greater sympathy in the minds of the people of this country, who cling with great tenacity to the traditions and influences of the past.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
said, the real state of affairs with which their Lordships had to deal was simply this—that they had a great measure before them, a measure to which they must attend, and one the greater part of which must be passed into law. The noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Houghton), said that that Bill was the inauguration of democracy — and certainly that was no light matter. They had not to consider what particular party — whether Whig 1980 or Tory — had brought them to their present position; but, being in that position, how they should deal with the great measure before them, without regard to the antecedents of either side, or even to the antecedents of the other House of Parliament. He thought that a question of this kind should be treated in their Lordships' House—the great Senate of the Empire—in a higher tone than had characterized these discussions elsewhere. They were told—and he thought no one would dispute the fact—that they were about to inaugurate a democracy. Now, they knew what democracy elsewhere had been, and they could not flatter themselves that its consequences in England would be entirely different from what the world had ever seen before. Their Lordships were told they might rely on the social condition of the country; but then that social condition was in a great measure dependent on the political condition; and one of the first efforts of democracy would be to employ its power to get rid of those social influences on which alone reliance was now rested, having first got rid of all their constitutional safeguards. It was wise, therefore, to look around and see at least whether there was not something which might mitigate at least the immediate effects that were anticipated as the consequence of their present proceedings, and here he must earnestly protest against the phrase so often used in connection with this question — namely, "the enfranchisement of their fellow-subjects." Surely Englishmen were not slaves, even though they might not be voters. If the doctrine they heard on that point was to be admitted, then, even after the passing of that Bill, there would still be millions of slaves left in England. But that notion was founded on an erroneous idea of what English freedom was. That freedom was the right to say and do what was within the law—it was freedom of action, freedom of thought, freedom of the press—a freedom which no other country had enjoyed or did enjoy at this moment. Was the freedom of America, though she possessed universal suffrage, greater than the freedom of England? Was the freedom of France, though she likewise possessed universal suffrage, greater than that of this country? The people of those countries according to the detestable and abominable theory he was adverting to were freemen, while those of England were slaves. No refutation of 1981 such an argument was necessary. The great problem, however, in dealing with the present question was how to give a more extended suffrage to the poorer classes of their countrymen—which he admitted to be desirable in itself—without extinguishing the suffrage of all the rest of the community. Was that problem solved by this Bill? Had the measure so arranged matters that in enfranchising numbers they would not disfranchise the existing constituency? Why, the effect of the Bill would be to throw all political power into the hands of the poorer classes. There was not a single borough in which the poorer classes would not absolutely have the predominance; and as the towns governed the House of Commons, and the House of Commons governed the country even as it was, and would govern it still more after the adoption of that measure, what they were practically doing by this Bill was not to enfranchise the poorer classes, but to disfranchise every other class. The influence of property would be first attacked. In proof of that a Gentleman who had just been returned for Birmingham as the Colleague of Mr. Bright, said, in his address to the people there the other day, if he were returned he would vote for putting a check upon the accumulation of landed property. He said nothing, however, about preventing the accumulation of commercial property, or property in the funds. He quoted this as a specimen of the language they might look forward to for the future. It was impossible to expect that questions of this kind would not arise. They would be raised, and property would become the object of attack in every form. The towns would be under the domination of the poorer classes—and the towns had more than two-thirds of the representation—and though the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had referred to the inadequate representation of the counties, he had not redressed the injustice. The result, therefore, would be that our Constitution would have no elements of stability, and that it would be entirely under the control of the poorer classes. Education might do something to mitigate the evil; but the character of men was formed more by institutions than by the education given at schools. Would schools make men wise and moderate, and free them from the temptations to hold opinions on political and social matters, to which the poorer classes were naturally exposed? These were the reasons which should induce him 1982 to vote for the Resolution of his noble Friend (Earl Grey), should he press it to a division, not for the purpose of obstructing the Bill, but with the view of introducing into it those modifications and changes which would, in some degree, mitigate the dangers and evils which he was afraid would result from it in its present shape. He believed their Lordships would be supported by public opinion in so doing, for, both publicly and privately, people spoke with bated breath of democratic ascendancy, and he thought the House of Commons would be glad if they carefully went over the Bill, it having been bustled through that House with conflicting decisions, so that Members sometimes hardly knew what the result was. He desired, while giving increased representation to the poorer classes, to accompany the measure with such precautions as would secure, not to their Lordships, not to the rotten boroughs, but to the middle and educated classes, their due share in the Government of the country.
§ LORD CAIRNS
My Lords, there are three subjects of very different relative importance which have been brought before the notice of your Lordships in the course of this discussion. There is first the question of the merits or demerits of the Bill before the House; the second is the question of the Amendment which has been submitted to you by the noble Earl (Earl Grey); and the third is the question which has hitherto occupied the greater portion of the debate—the consistency or inconsistency of the Conservative party. The noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Harrowby) differed materially in one respect from the speakers who preceded him; for I think he is the first Member of the House who has announced his intention of supporting the Amendment. He has, moreover, abandoning that topic which has hitherto been the staple of this debate—the question of the consistency of the Conservative party—addressed himself to what is, I venture to think, the more important subject with which we have to deal—the question of the merits or demerits of the Bill before us. I hope the noble Earl will forgive me for saying that I am not able entirely to follow the argument which he has addressed to us. The noble Earl contends that the result of the Bill will be that in every borough in the country the poorer classes will have the majority, and 1983 that therefore the poorer classes will govern the boroughs, the boroughs will govern the House of Commons, the House of Commons will govern England, and thus the poorer classes will govern England. Now, my Lords, this rather reminds me of the old example of reasoning, which was never, I believe, regarded as very accurate — the child of Themistocles governed his mother, his mother governed her husband, her husband governed Athens, Athens governed Greece, Greece governed the world, ergo the child of Themistocles governed the world. The conclusion of the noble Earl was one of the same kind. Now, my Lords, the merits or demerits of the Bill resolve themselves into the consideration of its four cardinal features—the borough franchise, the lodger franchise, the reduction of the county franchise, and the re-distribution of seats. I quite agree that, of these four propositions, the most important is the borough franchise; and putting aside for a moment the examination of the charges of inconsistency which have been brought forward, I would ask your Lordships to consider this question as if we were free from any party recrimination on one side or the other. What is the point from which we have to start in dealing with the borough franchise? I venture to say, without hesitation and without fear of contradiction, it is this—that the borough franchise cannot be maintained as it now stands. I do not say whose fault it is—I do not say whether it is a good thing or a bad thing — but the fact cannot be disputed that the existing borough franchise cannot be maintained. That franchise was created in 1832, and was created, as I think every one will admit, in a sort of rough-and-ready way—not upon any abstract principle such as the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) contended for, but as perhaps a somewhat hasty solution of the difficulty under which the Government of that time had to act. There is no doubt that in fixing the borough franchise at £10, what was done was substantially to create a privileged class in each constituency out of the householders of the country at large. I agree that the measure has worked extremely well; and, as far as I am concerned, I should have been very glad had the country remained satisfied with that suffrage. I believe that as it has worked well in time past so it would work well in time to come. It is useless, however, to express 1984 our opinion as to what we should have been content with, for I repeat that, as a matter of fact, we must start from this point — the impossibility of maintaining the borough franchise as it now stands. But, I ask your Lordships to go a step further; I maintain that it is utterly impossible on either side of the House for a measure to be brought forward and submitted to Parliament which should attempt to fix the borough suffrage at a higher figure than, at the highest, £6. Again, I will not stop to inquire the reason of this, or who is responsible for it; but I maintain that, as a matter of fact, you have no choice but to start, not even from a £10 franchise, but from a £6 franchise. Now, let us consider seriously on what reasoning you could maintain a £6 franchise, even supposing it were passed into law; I can quite understand that there might be strong grounds for insisting on the continuance of the £10 franchise. It would be a very fair argument to say, "Never mind how that franchise was originally introduced; let it have been introduced without a principle and without any particular reason for it; but here it is—it has existed some thirty-five years, and the very fact that it has had such duration, and that the privileged class created by it has exercised its power so long and so well, is of itself a reason for maintaining the suffrage at that point." But, abandoning that point, as you are obliged to do, I ask what reason there is for creating a now privileged class in this country? Upon what ground can you say to the householders "We will create out of you an entirely new privileged class, in whose hands we will deposit political power in the boroughs, and every person who does not come up to that prescribed figure of £6, however virtuous he may be, however excellent a citizen, however worthy of trust and confidence, must be excluded?" I would ask, moreover, whether there is any person in the country at this time who proposes to accept £6, or any other specific amount, as an ultimatum — as a point at which the question may be settled, and from which there should be no subsequent departure? I apprehend, my Lords, that there is no one who has stated his readiness to accept that figure. And have you any doubt as to the result if, at this time, a Bill were introduced in the other House of Parliament proposing for the borough franchise the figure of £6 instead of £10? I will state to your 1985 Lordships what would happen if that were done. As certain as a measure was laid upon the table of the House of Commons proposing a £6 rental franchise you would have a counter proposal from the opposite side of a £5 rental — you would have something analogous to what is termed a "Dutch auction," where everybody bids down instead of bidding up, and you would have the two great parties in this country divided by the wretched controversy whether the franchise should be 20s. higher or lower.
Now, my Lords, I have submitted these few observations to your Lordships for the purpose of asking you to follow me to this extent—that just as you are unable to remain at the present point of £10, so it is utterly impossible to select any figure—be it £8, £7, £6, or £5—where you could expect to find any permanent resting place in the agitation for Reform in this country. If that be so, the consequence is inevitable—that we have no place at which we can halt unless we adopt the principle of giving the suffrage to the householders generally of this country, that is, to the householders living in Parliamentary boroughs, and complying with such conditions, as to residence and payment of rates, as may be thought expedient. Now, what are the objections raised to the suffrage as it stands in the Bill? My noble Friend who sits behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon), to whose words of eloquence and nervous power we all listened last night with unqualified delight, even though we might not look at the subject from the same point of view, said that his main objection to this franchise was its uniformity. Now, my Lords, I must say I am unable to understand that objection. It appears to me that if this suffrage has one merit above another, it is that it, is not liable to the charge of uniformity. I can understand my noble Friend saying that the £10 franchise is a uniform franchise, or, that a £6 franchise—a franchise to which I believe my noble Friend under certain conditions was willing to accede—would be a uniform franchise; and so of any other figure which might be proposed. But if there be one kind of franchise which avoids the charge of uniformity it is, I apprehend, that franchise which says to the householders of the borough constituencies at large, "Provided you discharge the duties which are laid upon you in the shape of taxation, and have resided for a certain period, no matter what the value of your house 1986 may be, or the rent you pay, you shall have a vote." What was the next objection to this franchise? It was that this is household suffrage pure and simple. My Lords, you may approve this franchise or you may not; but it is not household suffrage pure and simple, because it is accompanied by these three most important qualifications—the qualifications of residence, of liability to rates, and third, and not the least important, of prepayment of rates. Now, there can be no greater or more important qualifications attached to the franchise if you desire to ascertain the competency of the persons who are to exercise it. By requiring a period of residence—I do not speak of the length it is to be—you avoid a class of persons of a migratory character. By liability to rates you insure on the one hand that the person who is to exercise the suffrage has to bear his share in the burdens of the country; and, on the other hand, by the prepayment of rates, that he is giving a fair and reasonable proof of his thriftiness and punctuality in the discharge of the burdens laid upon him. But then it is said that these conditions may be swept away. If that is a prophecy, I am not able to answer it, for it is impossible to refute a prophecy; but if it be the statement of a fact, then I admit the conditions can be swept away, and so can any system of suffrage you may establish. There is no point at which you can fix the suffrage, no condition which you can annex to it, which the power of Parliament cannot sweep away. To say, then, that it may be swept away is simply to assert what no one can dispute—the omnipotence of Parliament. But as to the permanence of such conditions we have a case in point. Parliament in 1832 annexed as a condition to the franchise the prepayment of rates. That was thirty-five years ago; and I am told that persons have sometimes found that condition irksome, and yet I believe there has not been any agitation for the removal of that condition. I think the proposition has never been made until within the last few years, and judging from what has occurred last year I do not think the proposal to get rid of the prepayment of rates is ever likely to find much acceptance in the other House of Parliament. But what is the other and third objection to this franchiser? I have listened with great attention to the statement of the noble Earl who moved the Amendment (Earl Grey) for the purpose of discovering what was his objection to the household suffrage 1987 created by the Bill. The noble Earl made some very large admissions. He owned that the idea of household suffrage had great charms for him, that there was a great deal to be said in its favour, and that it had long appeared to him to be the ultimate resting place in our system of representative Government. But what are the objections which the noble Earl now urges against the suffrage? Now, my Lords, I pray you to observe the great objection which the noble Earl entertained. He said—"You are taking up this suffrage at the expense of disturbing the existing relations as to rating between the owners and occupiers," and he told your Lordships that there was great apprehension felt by the vestries at the idea of the rates being thrown upon the occupiers, as from their past experience they knew it would be impossible to recover the rates from the poorer class of occupiers. I cannot help thinking that such remonstrances as have been made by the vestries upon this subject have been made without full consideration of the working of this measure. My Lords, without going in detail into that most obnoxious question of the compound-householder, what is the point in substance? It is that in those cases where compositions were allowed, the owner of the small tenements paid, say £75, in consideration of collecting the rates himself, whereas these tenements, if the rates were thrown upon the occupiers, would have paid £100. But the difference between the £75 and the £100, if properly calculated, was intended to represent nothing more than the cost and risk of collection if the rates were thrown on the occupier, not the owner; and if that be true, I am at a loss to know how the vestries can lose anything which they are entitled to receive if the rates be properly collected. And then there is another consideration which these bodies appear to have entirely overlooked. They speak of the difficulty of collecting the rates under the old system. They have not had any experience of what the effect will be when the payment of rates, as a condition of the franchise, comes to operate upon the occupiers of these small tenements. Vestries assume that it will be no inducement to an occupier to pay his rates when he knows that if he does he will obtain the franchise. That, however, is assuming too much. But returning to the noble Earl's argument, it appears to me that the two portions of it were not merely inconsistent 1988 with each other, but positively suicidal; because it amounted to this—"You are making an arrangement which will be disastrous to the vestries, because the rates thrown upon the small occupiers will be lost; and, on the other hand, the small occupiers in the boroughs are so numerous that they will outweigh and overpower every other class of voters." Now, the noble Earl cannot have it both ways. If the rates are lost to the vestries, the small occupiers will not entitle themselves to the franchise; and, on the other hand, if they outnumber the electors over £10, they must have paid their rates and met the claims of the vestries.
Now, my Lords, I pass from the borough to the lodger franchise. I own it has always appeared to me that, considering the matter in an abstract point of view, there was no kind of franchise which had more to recommend it. The question of the amount at which you should fix the qualification is a wholly different one. But suppose you had a fair and proper amount, I want to know why the fact that the circumstances of a man do not make it necessary or convenient to keep a dwelling-house—his being unmarried, or without a family—and he is therefore not liable to payment of rates—I say I want to know why a man thus situated, who is able to afford a lodging of a proper amount, should be prohibited from the possession of the franchise? In a Conservative point of view, supposing that the franchise is not degraded to too low an amount, I think the lodger franchise is one which may well commend itself to the attention of the Conservative party. There was a circumstance at which I was somewhat surprised, and which seems to me to afford a curious proof of the different workings of different minds. I heard my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) say last night that the lodger franchise is a necessary introduction to manhood suffrage.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I said that the lodger franchise rested on a very precarious line, which, if broken, would land us at once in manhood suffrage.
§ LORD CAIRNS
Of course you could not come to manhood suffrage until the present line was broken. Now, I join with every one of your Lordships in admiring the high, conscientious motives which have influenced every step taken by my noble Friend on this question, and I do not, therefore, mention by way of taunt the 1989 fact that he was a Member of the Government of 1859, though not in the Cabinet, by which a lodger franchise was proposed in the House of Commons. But what I was going to ask your Lordships to observe was the different way in which the same question strikes different minds. My noble Friend looks upon a lodger franchise as a source of danger, and as placing us on the high road to universal suffrage. There is a right hon. Gentleman, a Friend of mine and his, in "another place," whose marvellous eloquence and ability no person admires more than I do—Mr. Lowe. He has certainly shown the most prudent caution with regard to any alteration of the suffrage; and I should judge, from what we heard from my noble Friend last night, that in a great many respects his views agree with those of Mr. Lowe. Now, how does the question of the lodger franchise strike Mr. Lowe? When the Bill of the Government was introduced into the other House of Parliament there was no proposition for a lodger franchise. What did Mr. Lowe say? He said—It is a great omission in the Bill of the Government that they do not deal with the important question of lodgers. If universal suffrage finds its way into this country it will be through the lodger franchise if neglected. You will go on lowering the franchise for houses until there comes to be a great disparity between tenants and lodgers, and then the lodgers will get it removed; and as everyone is either a householder or a lodger, unless like Diogenes he lives in a tub, or sleeps under the dry arches of Waterloo-bridge, you will get a very low franchise indeed. This is a matter that calls most imperiously for arrangement."—[3 Hansard, clxxxv. 964.]Now, my noble Friend is, of course, not bound by what Mr. Lowe says; I only mention this in order to show how easy it is to conjure up evil on the one side or on the other with reference to a franchise of this kind. My noble Friend sees in the lodger franchise an element of danger, and thinks it would land us in manhood suffrage. Mr. Lowe thinks that the neglect of a lodger franchise would be eminently dangerous because it would have exactly the same result. But then it is said with regard to the lodger franchise, "You take the 'hard and dry line' which you have abandoned with regard to the household suffrage." Of course you do. You cannot help doing so. I want to know what other line you would have? Would you take the line which Mr. Lowe suggests—the line of the tub? When you deal with those who have no dwelling-house, and who are not subject to rating, it is 1990 necessary to take a "hard and dry line" for the purpose of determining their right to the franchise. Everything I have said is entirely irrespective of what the line should be; and I will say candidly—though I do not know how far the Government think the line at present drawn desirable or not—that it seems to me to be not a very good line. It looks very much as if the limit of £10 had been selected merely upon the old decimal principle which led to the £10 limit in the Reform Bill of 1832. Now I think, in the case of lodgings, you ought to provide a test based on some intelligible principle. Nothing can be more various than the different rents paid for lodgings in different places. You will get in a provincial town for £10 a year a lodging which will indicate a great amount of respectability and steadiness on the part of the person who occupies it: but for the same sum in London you will get a wretched room hardly fit to be compared with the tub of Diogenes. So great is the rent of rooms in London, that what may be a good line there, is utterly unsuitable as a line in any other town in the kingdom. I would rather see a £20 lodger qualification fixed for London; for large towns with over 100,000 inhabitants, £15; and for smaller boroughs, a line of £10. But whatever is done ought to be done on some steady and intelligible basis.
Now, my Lords, let me say a word with regard to the reduction of the county franchise. On this matter I think we are all agreed. In the first place, nobody suggests that it would be desirable to retain the county occupation franchise at £50. In the next place, we must remember, that the House of Commons in the present Parliament, upon an issue presented to it last year, has distinctly negatived the line of £20 as too high. You therefore have to depart from the £50 county franchise, and you find it impossible to have a franchise so high as £20. Under these circumstances the Bill proposes a £12 rating franchise, which will be something like a £14 or £15 rental—a somewhat higher limit than was proposed by the Bill of last year. There, again, you may say is a "hard and dry line." So it is; but you have in the case of counties, a difficulty to deal with which it is difficult to see any way of getting over. If it could be got over, it would be better to have a yielding and elastic line. The difficulty is that you cannot base your county occupation franchise on a dwelling house. Such a basis would be entirely 1991 foreign to the policy of a county franchise; and therefore, though the hard line for counties is very much to be regretted, I do not, at present, see how it is to be avoided. My noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) objected to this part of the Bill because of the effect it would have upon the county constituencies, and he made a quotation on this subject from Mr. Mill's work. Now, I cannot help thinking that my noble Friend misapprehended somewhat Mr. Mill's object in making that statement. What Mr. Mill said was that if you have a £10 franchise in counties, the result will be that the £10 occupiers will outvote the landlords and the agricultural tenants together. But the drift of Mr. Mill's argument was not against lowering the county franchise at all, but to prove that you should carry it down still lower, in order, by bringing into the ranks of the constituency the class of agricultural labourers and occupiers, to prevent the £10 occupiers in large rural towns from having a predominating influence in counties. That is a question well worthy of consideration, if any means could be devised of departing from the "hard line" of a £12 rating suffrage. But the difficulty I have suggested exists, and I repeat I do not at present see how it is to be got over.
Well, then we come to the question of re-distribution; now, no system of redistribution was or ever could be proposed which was not open to objection. But although we have heard noble Lord after noble Lord rise and object to this scheme of re-distribution, I have not heard from any noble Lord what he would suggest as an alternative. We have heard many complaints of the scheme in the Bill; we have heard no specification of what ought to be substituted for that scheme. Of course in all these cases, it is a choice between two evils and it is impossible to answer arguments when you are not presented, by way of contrast, with what is to be substituted for the measure proposed. There is, however one point connected with the re-distribution of seats which I think is worthy of the deliberate attention of your Lordships either at this or at some subsequent stage of the Bill. The re-distribution part of this Bill proposes to create four new constituencies, which are to have three Members each. At present you have in England seven or eight constituencies returning three Members each. You are 1992 now asked to create four more—so that you will have in all twelve three-cornered constituencies, as they are termed. I own I look with great jealousy upon these three-cornered constituencies, dealt with in the way they are proposed to be dealt with. We hear a great deal about the old lines of the Constitution. I beg leave to say that no line in the Constitution ever knew anything about three-cornered constituencies; they are entirely a modern innovation; they were never heard of until the Reform Bill. The way they were introduced was this—the Government of the day had disfranchised all boroughs that they thought ought to be disfranchised, and they had supplied all places which they considered required Members, and they had some seven or eight Members left. They did not well know what to do with them; and at last they accumulated them upon the seven or eight constituencies which now return three Members. The old theory of the Constitution was that every constituency in the kingdom should return two Members, and neither more nor less, except London, which was always an exception. I had recently occasion to look at the Roll of Parliament of the reign of Henry VIII., and I found that 111 boroughs returned 222 Members to Parliament. I believe that no constituency had ever returned more than two Members except London; and that no constituency ever returned one Member until some Welsh boroughs were created. I want your Lordships to consider the great inequality of the electoral power which is created when you have got one constituency returning one Member, another two, another three, and another (the City of London) four. Take London, Liverpool (which is to have three Members), Stafford, and Birkenhead, and you have constituencies returning respectively four Members, three, two, and one. Take the case of a householder in each—men living in houses of exactly the same kind, and occupying the same social position. In London the householder has a share in the creation of four Members of Parliament; in Liverpool he will share in the creation of three; in Stafford he may vote for two; and in Birkenhead for one. There cannot be a greater inequality in the exercise of electoral power than that which gives a different number of Members to different constituencies. You may say it is not of much consequence when you have only twelve of them; but we 1993 had only eight, and now we are to have more still. I want your Lordships to consider what was the consequence of the rule of the Constitution that each constituency returned two Members only. It was the constitutional way in which minorities were represented. You had got constituencies all returning the same number of Members. If the advocates of any view were in a minority in one place they were in a majority in another; and in that way all opinions in the country were represented. The more you accumulate votes upon any particular constituency, of necessity you must lower the total number of constituencies in the kingdom. You cannot accumulate Members upon constituencies without taking them from others; you therefore reduce the chance of the minority throughout the country of having their opinions represented. I am not going to say anything in favour of cumulative voting. I believe there are such serious objections to it that, although much may be said in its favour, I do not think your Lordships could be induced to accept it. With regard to these three-cornered constituencies, however, if you are going to add to their number, there is a proposal, made by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) in 1854, which I do say is well worthy of full consideration. I allude to the proposal that in these three-cornered constituencies the electors should vote for two out of the three Members. I cannot help thinking that a measure of that kind would be productive of excellent consequences. I do not say this from a party point of view, for it would leave both parties where they are; but it would be an excellent thing to find the homogeneousness and monotony of the representation of large manufacturing towns broken in upon by an arrangement which would enable a Member of opinions differing from those of the majority to come in contact both with electors and with the Legislature as the representative of that which, after all, is one of the most important of constituencies, the minority of a large commercial or manufacturing town. You are destroying—I do not say improperly destroying—the smaller constituencies; you are overlooking what I believe to be portions of the finest constituencies in the kingdom, the minorities in large commercial towns, which at present have no direct representation; and I venture to throw out the proposal I have referred to for your Lordships' consideration. I regret the proposition was not distinctly 1994 made in the other House of Parliament. The House discussed the suggestion of cumulative voting, which I am sure the House of Commons never would agree to, because it would disturb the seat of every Member in the House; but the proposal I refer to would not disturb a single Member's seat.
My noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) objected to the Bill on the ground of the great haste with which it had passed through the House of Commons. I do not know what the noble Earl means by haste; but I am somewhat anxious to learn what he would think was leisure. The Bill itself and the discussions which paved the way for it have occupied the House of Commons as nearly as possible five months. I do not think this is an instance of great haste or precipitation. Considering that the debates of past years have covered a great deal of the ground which had to be gone over if the House of Commons could not in five months pass a Bill altering the Representation of the People, I confess I do not know in what time it could do it. Another and a graver charge made against the House of Commons by the noble Earl who moved the Amendment (Earl Grey), and repeated by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Camperdown), whose first speech your Lordships listened to with so much pleasure, is that although this Bill has passed through the other House of Parliament, it is a Bill which more than three-fourths of the Members of that House dislike or detest. I do not think it promotes harmony and good understanding between the two Houses of the Legislature to make such a charge as that. It is a charge of the grossest hypocrisy against the Members of the House of Commons to say that they have deliberately passed through all its stages one of the gravest and most important of measures which could have been sent up to this House, and that while professing to approve it by their votes, in their hearts they disapprove it. I freely admit in regard to every Bill for altering the Representation of the People it seems natural that a representative assembly should look upon it, from a selfish and private point of view, with dislike. It must be so. It is impossible that a representative assembly can ever, if they consult their own inclinations and views, look with much delight on a Bill to annihilate their own existence and alter the constitution of their assembly. I believe there is nothing but a sense of public duty 1995 which can ever induce the House of Commons to pass a Bill to Amend the Representation of the People. I believe, however much from a selfish point of view they may have preferred a continuance of the present state of things, a sense of public duty, of the highest and most noble kind which can actuate public men, led them to pass the Bill now sent up to this House. If suggestions of the kind referred to were made against your Lordships in the other House, how would they be approved by your Lordships? Suppose, my Lords, insinuations of this kind were made as to this present debate. I have heard noble Lords opposite rising one after another and stating — I heard the noble Lord the late President of the Council and the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Argyll) both state — that they liked household suffrage very much, that they could not have too much of it, that they are firm believers in it; and then—a most singular thing—whenever we are warned from this side of the House in solemn tones against household suffrage and the consequences that are likely to ensue from it, the cheers come from the front Benches on that side of the House—
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Although I admired the ability of the speech of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon), I never cheered any portion of his remarks which were directed against household suffrage.
§ LORD CAIRNS
I say that the cheers which, coming from those Benches, applauded the attacks made upon household suffrage by various speakers on this side were much more demonstrative than one is accustomed to hear in your Lordships' sedate discussions. However, suppose I were to dispute the sincerity of any of your Lordships' professions on this point, that would be only equivalent to what has been said of the House of Commons. The House of Commons send up solemnly the Bill which is now before your Lordships, and yet statements have been made here that the House of Commons have passed a measure which they detest in their heart.
Allow me now to say a very few words on the second part of the question—namely, the character of the Amendment which has been submitted to you. I should be very sorry to say that anything proceeding from the noble Earl (Earl Grey) was hardly Parliamentary; but really I am bound to doubt very much whether 1996 any Amendment of this sort was ever before presented to Parliament on the second reading of a Bill. I have always understood that on the second reading of a Bill two kinds of Amendments might be proposed. One kind was an Amendment that the second reading should be postponed to a distant day, with a view of defeating the Bill altogether. The other kind of Amendment is when there is an objection to any particular provision or principle of a Bill. In this case it has been considered of late years that you may make that particular provision or principle the subject of a Motion on the second reading, for it might be convenient to take issue on that particular point before going into Committee, in order that those who had charge of the Bill might consider whether they would withdraw the Bill or make such alterations as the House might require to be introduced. An Amendment of this latter kind was proposed on the second reading of the Reform Bill in the House of Commons in 1859, as perhaps some of your Lordships may remember. But the present Amendment belongs to neither of the kinds which I have described. On the one hand it contemplates the passing of the second reading, while on the other it does not single out any particular portion of the Bill for animadversion. It throws a cloud over the whole, without suggesting any part of the Bill to which exception should be taken. And now, my Lords, just observe the position which this House might be placed in if it were to adopt this Amendment. In substance, the Amendment says that this is a very bad Bill and ought to be completely changed, and that as it stands it cannot answer the purpose for which it is intended. Suppose, then—and I confess I do not myself suppose for a moment such a result is likely — suppose this Amendment should have the support of your Lordships. One noble Lord may think the Bill goes too far, while another may be of opinion that it does not go far enough; but still all those noble Lords, notwithstanding that they hold wholly different opinions respecting different parts of the Bill, might perchance vote together, and so carry the Amendment. Well, but what would be the consequence? You go into Committee after having passed this general condemnation of the Bill. All these various objections are then brought forward in detail, and every one of them may possibly be re- 1997 jected, and not command anything like a majority of your Lordships' House. And, if so, what position will you occupy when the Bill comes on for the third reading? Of course, if the Bill comes out of Committee without any Amendments being carried, there can be no objection to passing the third reading, and you would, therefore, have to read the Bill a third time, after having—if I may be allowed to use the expression — stultified yourselves by saying on the second reading that the measure was a bad one, and one which ought not to be passed. Can an Amendment which might lead to such a result be Parliamentary? But, it is not only an un-Parliamentary, but positively a mischievous Amendment; for it destroys a measure which it affirms should, in some shape or other, be passed. I venture to ask the noble Earl, who is a Statesman of experience, whether he really can believe that any Government could keep its seat for twelve hours if it accepted an Amendment in this form — whether, after an Amendment of this kind was carried, any Government could propose to go on with the Bill? I beg to say that it would be simply impossible for any Government to have an Amendment of this sort carried against it, and then to proceed with the Bill. Therefore, my Lords, though it may not be intended to be so, this is, in fact, an Amendment the success of which will necessarily defeat the Bill.
And now, my Lords, if I ask your Lordships to bear with me while I say a few words on the question of the consistency or inconsistency on the part—I will not say of the Government, who are able to defend themselves, but of the Conservative party, in which I take no little interest, I will promise not to trespass upon your time at any great length—neither will I place the matter on debatable ground nor imitate the charges which have been made with considerable freedom during the course of this debate. It is, I think, interesting to note in the first place from whom these charges of inconsistency mainly come. The noble Earl opposite, the late President of the Council in his very interesting speech last night—[a laugh]—well, it was certainly very interesting to me, because the noble Earl told a number of anecdotes which I never heard before about what different persons were reported to have said to various other persons ii the course of the discussions on this measure; and I think he told a story of 1998 somebody who was said to have said to somebody that the Whigs were — I believe the phrase was—"dished." Well, my Lords, the Whig party is a very influential party in this country; and I much object to hear, even from the lips of the noble Earl, homely expressions of such a kind, reviling that great and venerated party. But there is one part of the creed of that great party which I cannot help thinking has had something to do with this charge of inconsistency. There is no doubt that it is a part of the creed of the Whig party, and firmly held by them, that they have got the prerogative and the monopoly of bringing in Reform Bills, and their great aim and object is to be the possessors and proprietors of a sort of Pandora's box, though with contents of a different kind, and to let them out one by one, and not too much at a time, for the benefit and delight, the reverence and the love, of a grateful country. I do not in the least object to the party entertaining that view; but accompanying that article of faith is another which I do object to, and that is, that it is the bounden duty and occupation of the Conservative party to be always opposing the Reform Bills which the Whig party are to be always bringing forward—and there is no doubt that the Whig party think very little indeed of a Reform Bill unless it be a Reform Bill which they are to have the credit of carrying, and in regard to which the Conservative party shall have performed their duty by opposing it; for otherwise they, the Whigs, are unable to represent themselves to the country at all in their proper light, and character, and colour. Now, again, I think that in considering these charges of inconsistency, we must remember what inconsistency exactly means in relation to a subject of this kind. It is very easy for a Statesman to appear to be consistent at all times, repeating always the same formula on the subject of the representation of the country; but I think it would be a very false idea to suppose that a man who, under all circumstances, repeated and maintained the same formula with regard to Reform was really a consistent man. Not to go very far I will apply this test to the noble Earl opposite, who was at the head of the late Government. The noble Earl (Earl Russell) once entertained and expressed the idea that after the Bill of 1832 no further Reform was necessary. In 1852 1999 the noble Earl was of opinion that the time had come for further Reform; but he did not find many to agree with him. The noble Earl entertained a similar idea in 1854; but I do not think many more agreed with him then. Now, these ideas might well be entertained by the noble Earl at different times without in the least exposing him to a charge of inconsistency. I apprehend that questions of this sort are questions of time, of manner, and of degree. And now, my Lords, let me remind your Lordships as shortly as possible what is the course which the Convervative party, acting in flagrant violation of the principles and views of the Whig party, have pursued in respect to Reform. In 1859 the Conservative Government brought in a Reform Bill. I do not want to go into its merits now, but the fact is palpable and very well known that, in that Bill was proposed a reduction of the county franchise, greater and more extensive than any Government had ever brought before the House of Commons. A lodger franchise was also proposed in that Bill. It is quite true that it did not propose any reduction of the borough franchise. Well, that Bill, with these very large changes, was supported by the whole strength of the Conservative party; but there is no doubt that any anyone who will read what was said at the time will bear me out when I say that a very considerable number of the rank and file of the Conservative party expressed their opinion that they would have been well satisfied if it had been proposed to reduce the borough suffrage to £8. Indeed, two of the most eminent, not only of the Conservative party, but of the Government itself—Mr. Walpole and Mr. Henley—felt it their duty to leave the Cabinet at that time, and one of their reasons for so doing was that they thought the wiser and safer plan would be to reduce the borough suffrage to £8. You know the fate of that Bill. Many of those who then objected have since regretted that a Reform Bill of this large and extensive nature, not merely proposed by a Conservative Government, but supported by the Conservative party, was not carried. Then came the Bill of 1860, which has been referred to by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), and which, as every one knows, when introduced was "talked out"—I believe that is the phrase—not by the Conservative but by the Liberal party. Well, next we had the Bill of 1866—the 2000 Bill of last Session. I desire to state most frankly and fairly my impression with reference to that Bill. There were four main divisions taken in the course of the proceedings on that Bill. One was on the Motion known as Lord Grosvenor's Amendment, which affirmed that the whole scheme of Reform ought to be brought forward in one measure. The second of those divisions was on Mr. Walpole's Amendment to raise the county franchise to £20; the third was on the Amendment condemnatory of the arrangements for re-distribution; and the fourth, in which the Government were in a minority, was ont he question of rating as against rental. Now, my Lords, I think I shall be borne out by those who remember what took place, when I say that last year a very strong desire was manifested by many of the Conservative party that arrangements should be made which would enable them to accept a compromise, so that the Bill might become law. It does not matter whether the compromise which they were then disposed to accept would have been the right one; but I believe the compromise which they would have accepted would have been the fixing of the borough franchise at £8 and the county franchise at £20. The noble Earl (the Earl of Camperdown) who spoke on the other side last night asked what had become of that compromise? I will tell him what became of it. The Conservative party found that it was impossible to obtain any compromise of that kind. The proposition for the £20 county franchise was negatived; and so far from there being any disposition to accept an £8 borough franchise, many of the leading supporters of the Bill avowed that they were only taking £7 as an instalment, and would proceed to get the franchise afterwards reduced below £7. Of course, therefore, it became impossible for those who wished for a compromise to entertain a hope of any compromise being agreed to. It has been stated to-night by the noble Duke that those who complained of the £7 franchise because of its probable influence on the franchise of persons occupying houses of above £10 rental, ought to be more disgusted with the household franchise of this Bill on similar grounds. I venture to think that is an entirely fallacious assumption. I only speak for myself, but I still entertain the opinion which I held before—that the peculiar vice of the £7 franchise was that it 2001 would have brought into existence a number of voters which would about equal the £10 voters, and that it would have brought in just that section of voters below £10 who would be most likely to pull together to outvote those above them. I say that is the difference between a franchise at £7 and a franchise spread widely over all the ratepaying householders throughout the country. I agree with the noble Duke that it is idle to suppose that all the voters below £10 would run together on ordinary occasions; but the section which the £7 franchise would have brought in would be more likely to run that way. We know, however, that on most subjects there is a considerable difference of opinion between what are called the higher artizan classes and those below them. I am astonished, therefore, to hear the charges made by the noble Duke in reference to the Bill of last year. Speaking, not of the opinions of individuals, but of the opinion of the great Conservative party as a whole, I believe they would have been extremely glad to take what they would have considered to be a fair compromise. I believe their position in all the stages of the Bill was perfectly bonâ fide. They did not object to a reduction below £10; but there were differences of opinion as to the extent to which the reduction ought to go. Well, the Government resigned. They were the best judges of the course which they ought to take; but I ask jour Lordships to consider how completely the position of affairs has changed. The noble Earl at the head of the Government said the other night that Government came into office wholly unpledged as regards the bringing in of a Reform Bill; but I maintain that the Conservative party were not unpledged on the question; for among that party there was perhaps not a single borough Member, nor hardly a county representative, who, on some occasion, had not told his constituents that he did not object to a fair and reasonable measure of Reform: what each person might consider to be a fair and reasonable measure of Reform is another question. Whether the Government were pledged to bring in a Reform Bill or not, I say the Conservative party were pledged on the subject. It was necessary, therefore, to bring in a Bill, and it was absolutely necessary to settle the question this year. I maintain that any one acquainted with public affairs cannot have any doubt on the latter point. 2002 Now, suppose that under those circumstances the Government had brought in a Bill proposing to fix the franchise at the figure so often referred to—£6, you would have had the process of underbidding, and underbidding, even if defeated, would have led to a rankling feeling on the part of those who had suffered the defeat. The result would have been that it would have been impossible to come to a permanent settlement of the question. A new mode of treating the question had therefore become necessary. In the question of concession or non-concession, it is important to consider whether it was the Government which led the Conservative party, or the Conservative party which forced the Government. I venture to say that in this case the Government have not been in advance of the Conservative party; and that is the difference between the present case and the case of the Duke of Wellington in 1829, or that of Sir Robert Peel in 1846. I say the Government have not been in advance of the Conservative party. Your Lordships will recollect what happened early in the present Session, after the Resolutions had been brought forward in the House of Commons. The House of Commons expressed the opinion that the Resolutions should be withdrawn, and that a Bill ought to be brought in by the Government. The Government did introduce or promise a Bill which proposed to reduce the borough franchise to £6 and the county franchise to — I do not recollect what figure—I believe it was £20. That Bill was announced to the House, and was before the public for two days. Now, I am not going to speak of what happened at a meeting which we all heard of, but which, personally, I know nothing about; but this we do know from general report—that there was the greatest and most intense dissatisfaction felt by the Members of the Conservative party on the ground that the measure did not go far enough, and that it was utterly impossible such a Bill could settle the question. I say, therefore, that when the Government, abandoning that measure, introduced the measure which now lies on your Lordships' table, they acted exactly in unison with the wishes and tendencies of the Conservative party, If in 1846, when Sir Robert Peel proposed a great change in the commercial policy of the country, he could have come down to the House of Commons and said that in proposing it he would be supported by the whole Conservative party 2003 —that he proposed it on his own responsibility, but with the support of his party—I ask whether he would have thought it incumbent on him to resign office? That is exactly what makes the difference between the case of Sir Robert Peel in 1846 and that of the present Government on this occasion. I hold it to be the duty of any Government proposing measures in opposition to their party not to lean upon the other side for support, but to resign office, if necessary; but I also hold it to be the duty of a Government who have the assent and support of their party to propose such measures as they think best suited to the wants of the country. My noble Friend behind me—and, again I say, do not suppose that I am going to taunt him with inconsistency, but I want to remind him, and to remind your Lordships of one fact, which will show how very careful we ought all to be in making assertions, or in uttering expressions of opinion upon subjects connected with Reform, or connected with the franchise, which come from anything but a sincere and earnest conviction that these measures are required by the state of the country — my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) objects to the uniformity of the borough franchise, and he feels considerable alarm at the introduction of household suffrage. But, my Lords, what was the measure which my noble Friend was prepared himself to have assented to? My noble Friend stated to your Lordships not very long ago his view of this question and of the duty of the Government in respect to it. Again, I say I mean not to taunt my noble Friend with what he then said, but to rely upon his words as the just and proper expressions of one so clear-sighted as he is on questions of this kind. Speaking of the question of Reform, my noble Friend said—I felt that this question ought to be dealt with, and that considerable classes of our fellow-subjects might safely and with advantage be enfranchised. I admit the necessity and the justice of such a measure. I thought, moreover, such a measure might well be a bold and a new one, not too closely linked in character to former measures relating to this subject. And at the same time I have all along felt—and my Colleagues will confirm me as to this point—that an ample measure should be brought forward in an ungrudging and free spirit, because I believed that unless that were done there would be no chance of settling this vexed question upon an enduring basis. … In proof of my readiness to accept a large measure of enfranchisement, I may mention that, personally, I should not be afraid to go down to that point which is sometimes said to be the only 2004 resting-place—namely, household suffrage—in all those boroughs which exceed a certain limit of population, and to establish a £6 rating franchise in other minor boroughs. I mention this to show that, individually, I had no objection to deal with the question; but, on the contrary, was prepared to accept a large measure, providing only that the conditions on which it was granted were in my opinion satisfactory and safe."—[3 Hansard, clxxxv. 1290–1.][The Earl of CARNARVON: Hear, hear!] I read the whole of this quotation because my object is not to establish a charge of inconsistency. But I ask your Lordships this question—Can it be possible to suppose that in this country you could establish household suffrage in large boroughs, and then tell the smaller boroughs next door to them that, below the broad line of the £6 suffrage, they should have no vote? Yet this was the view, this was the measure which my noble Friend was prepared to have advocated or to have assented to—a measure which I say would have been as certain to lead to the results he has deplored to your Lordships as anything which has actually taken place can possibly do. But my noble Friend says there is not merely an inconsistency with regard to the past action of the party; there is an inconsistency in introducing a measure with certain checks and safeguards, the whole of which are ultimately withdrawn. I want to say a word about "checks" and "safeguards." I wonder who it was that first called them "checks" and "safeguards," because I do not believe that any one of them could ever properly have deserved the name. What are they? Something has been said about voting papers. Now voting papers may be very good or very bad. I think there is a great deal to be said for them: I think there is also something to be said against them; but they have no earthly connection by way of security or safeguard with a household franchise. They might equally be introduced with a £10 franchise; they are wholly unconnected with household suffrage. The next safeguard we heard of was the compound-householder. The compound-householder is a most mysterious subject, because hardly any one ever refers to it without introducing a theory which is perfectly startling. How could the compound-householder ever be a safeguard? What was the state of things when the Bill was originally introduced? A considerable number of the boroughs of the kingdom had not got the system of composition at all. I do not know what 2005 the proportion was exactly—I believe it was less than half, but I will call it half the boroughs of the kingdom. With regard to those boroughs which had not got composition Acts in force, the Bill as originally laid on the table of the House of Commons was identically the Bill which is at this moment before us; there is not one iota of difference in the operation of the Bill—it stood precisely then as it stands now. As to these boroughs, therefore, the compound-householder could have been no check—no safeguard. With regard to boroughs in which the composition Acts prevailed—there is no doubt that the operation of the Bill was different. The compound-householder had to make his claim, without which he could not be rated, and when rated he was to have a vote. That arrangement was the subject of animadversion in the House of Commons, and the result was—rightly or wrongly I do not stop now to inquire—that the House decided that the other half of the boroughs should be put, with regard to compounding, upon exactly the same footing as those of which I have spoken. There was consequently no taking away of a safeguard, but a reducing of the whole Bill to conformity with what had been the provisions of one portion from the very first. There is another, and perhaps, a still stronger reason to show that the compound-householder never could have been a safeguard, and that lies in the fact that whether there was to be composition or not depended, not upon Parliament, but upon the vestries of the different parishes; these might have compounding one year and not another; and hence no one could possibly say that compounding was a safeguard. Then as to residence: of course residence is a security and safeguard—a security against a migratory and uncertain population; the period of residence, I admit, has been altered, and it is for your Lordships to say whether you think the alteration desirable. I will speak very frankly upon the point; I think a better arrangement would have been not to have proposed one term for qualifications above and another for qualifications under £10, but, as we know that the greater number of tenancies commence in the month of March all over the kingdom, to have declared that all persons registered in July should have been in residence from the 25th of March but one next preceding. But what was the last and great security said to have 2006 been adopted — that on which my noble Friend laid so much stress? The security of the dual vote, which has been abandoned. Now, I ask your Lordships whether you believe that any mortal ever could have imagined that the dual vote was a security intended to be relied upon for the purpose of introducing household suffrage? I know it is said—I have heard it said—that although, when you came to think about it, it was quite clear that the dual vote could not be maintained, the Government put it forward as a security to the acceptance of the Bill which they were bringing into the House. I have found the statement which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the dual vote when that was first introduced, and I think it right and fair that your Lordships should have this placed before you. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said—What is expressed in the fifth Resolution is the belief of the Government that 'the principle of plurality of votes, if adopted by Parliament, would facilitate the settlement of the borough franchise on an extensive basis.' I wish to make an observation on that Resolution. In the first place, a very great error has prevailed as to the meaning which the Government associated with this plurality of voting. Our intention was that any person who possessed one of the four new franchises that I have mentioned, if he were an occupier in a borough, or if he had a right to vote for a Member of Parliament, should vote, not merely for the occupation qualification, but also for any one other of the new franchises which he might possess. We believe that if that principle were adopted it might have led to results very satisfactory to large numbers of the people of this country."—[3 Hansard, clxxxv. 941.]Now, my Lords, observe what follows:—But we are bound to state frankly that this is not a view of the case which, if we are permitted to bring in a Bill, we shall at all insist upon. It seems to us that it is not desirable to make any proposition on these questions which we have not a fair prospect of carrying to a successful issue, and therefore, although I myself believe that it is a principle well worthy of our consideration, for it involves nothing invidious in its character, applying alike to all classes, yet it is not one which I am now in any way recommending to the House, or announcing that we should act upon it if we had permission to bring in a Bill."—[Ibid.]Now, why do I read that to your Lordships? To show that the dual vote never was presented to the House of Commons as a security or a safeguard, but that the distinct announcement was made that it was proposed for consideration only, and that the Government did not intend to insist upon it.
My Lords, I feel that I owe to your Lordships an apology for the length of these observations; I own I am extremely 2007 anxious that this Bill should receive your Lordships' assent. I myself look upon it as a measure entirely consistent with the Conservative policy—meaning by the Conservative policy that policy which strives to maintain and strengthen the institutions of the country. I say that for one simple reason: such is the force, such is the strength, such is the rapidity of the formation of public opinion and its effect in this country, that I believe it is utterly impossible for the country to be governed by any party otherwise than in accordance with the opinion of the great majority of the householders in this country. As that is so, and as it is a fact which we must all acknowledge, I maintain that it is safer to have the expression and the force of that opinion inside rather than outside the legislative power of the country. I do not at all deny that I feel anxious—I am sure there is no one of your Lordships who must not feel anxious—as to the result of any measure so great as a measure for the change of the Representation of the People of this country; but I certainly do not at all entertain the gloomy views relative to this measure which were announced by my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) last night. I will not use the term to which the late President of the Council (Earl Granville) objected—I mean the word "hobgoblin." But there is a very agreeable writer, with whose works I am sure my noble Friend behind me is acquainted, who tells a story of a certain philosopher who used to swallow a chimera for breakfast every morning; and that is a kind of food the taste for which is very apt, I am afraid, to grow and increase. My noble Friend, in words the eloquence of which we must all acknowledge, described the way in which the broad and sensitive surface of public opinion in this country would vibrate in response to the gusts of passion which might at times sweep over it. I have no doubt of the effect which gusts of popular passion might produce; but I want to know whether such an effect might not be produced by gusts of popular passion at the present moment? When the broad and sensitive surface of public opinion vibrates now to the gusts of popular passion, is our present Representative Assembly altogether free from their influence? I wish to ask my noble Friend which of the two things he looks upon as the safer—that in times when the passions and prejudices of the people of a country are stirred to their depths there should be added to those 2008 passions and prejudices a feeling—perhaps a bitter feeling—that these passions and prejudices cannot find legitimate expression in the Representative Assembly; or, on the other hand, that a certainty should be entertained that, whatever those passions and prejudices may be, those who entertain them will be represented in Parliament by men who would give fair and full expression to their sentiments? My noble Friend says that changes, such as are now proposed, are often the prelude to revolution. My Lords, I have not so read history. I venture to think it is much more accurate to say that revolutions are produced because changes of this kind are not made wisely and in good time. There is, indeed, one danger which to my mind would be a source of serious anxiety, and that is, that there should be any risk that the only Bill relating to the question of Reform which has passed the House of Commons since 1832, or which I believe could pass that House, should meet with rejection at your Lordships' hands. I know not whether I should speak of the Amendment that has been submitted to our notice as a real thing on which it is proposed that we should come to a division. If I am to speak of it in that light I would beg your Lordships to consider well the issue which it raises. The rejection of this Amendment will not preclude you from discussing and amending the measure before you in any form and at any length you may please. To accept the Amendment will be equivalent to the rejection of the Bill. That is a responsibility which I entreat your Lordships not to assume.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I feel great difficulty and a deep sense of responsibility in rising to address your Lordships at this time of night, and after so long a discussion carried on by noble Lords on both sides of the House in speeches of great ability, and which have produced a considerable effect upon your Lordships' minds; but I think it my duty, seeing that, both in former times and recently, I took an active part in the debates on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, to tell your Lordships what occurs to me on this momentous question. The noble Earl at the head of the Government laid before us yesterday his reasons for introducing the present Bill to our notice. I am not disposed in any way to find fault with him for having brought forward a measure of Reform. There is no truth whatsoever in those charges and taunts which have 2009 been made against the leading Members of the Opposition, to the effect that we looked upon the question of Parliamentary Reform as a monopoly of our own. I told the noble Earl at the beginning of the Session that if he brought forward what I considered to be a good Bill dealing with the subject I should support it; but that, if I regarded the Bill as bad, I should not feel bound to support such a measure. It appears to me that in legislating on this question there were two objects to be sought and two evils to be avoided. One of the objects to be sought was to give the elective franchise to a great class—which has become more and more numerous—and that is the class of skilled artizans in this country, whose industry and intelligence have placed them among the best members in the community as to their fitness to exercise the privilege of voting for representatives of Parliament. The expediency of such an extension of the franchise has been acknowledged repeatedly, not only by noble Lords sitting on this side of the House, but by Members of the Government themselves. Another object to be sought was, in my opinion, that if a measure of Reform were introduced at all, it should be of such a nature that, without aiming at a completely permanent settlement of the question, it should, at all events, effect a settlement of it for some years to come. This is an object which it has been declared on both sides to be desirable, and which no one has thought to be beyond the scope of reasonable expectation. One of the evils which it was desirable to avoid was, I thought, that any greater scope to enter the House of Commons should be given to a class of persons—of late years greatly on the increase—who are known in the country and perfectly recognized by everybody who has anything to do with elections, and who having in the course of a prosperous commercial life succeeded in acquiring very large fortunes, have come to boroughs in this country, perhaps from Australia or some of our distant possessions abroad, and spent large sums of money in corrupting the electors of those boroughs by means of bribery and treating, and by these means obtain seats in the House of Commons. Another evil to be avoided was that of giving fresh scope and encouragement to renewed agitation on the subject of Reform. I must say that it appears to me undesirable that this class of persons 2010 should have additional facilities for obtaining seats in the Legislature. Now, I must say it appears to me that the noble Earl who has brought forward this Bill has laid before us a measure which fails to accomplish the objects to which I have referred, and which tends rather to promote the evils I have pointed out. In the first place, the skilled artizan, occupying the highest position among the working classes, and whom everybody has declared it to be desirable to admit into the electoral body, though they will certainly obtain votes under this Bill, will be entirely outnumbered and overwhelmed by the very great number of householders upon whom you are about to confer the franchise, and their weight in the representation will consequently be little or nothing. In the next place, this measure is of such a character that almost every one who has spoken on the subject—certainly every one on the Liberal side, and, I believe, many on the Conservative side also—pronounce it to be so defective as far as the re-distribution of seats is concerned that the subject will certainly have to be reconsidered within a very few years. Well, I wonder, I confess, that the noble Earl should have introduced a measure which is liable to criticism of that kind. I waited patiently and anxiously to hear from him the reasons why this particular measure has been brought forward. I listened to his explanation, and learnt from it that being twice before in the position of Prime Minister in a minority in the House of Commons, he did not choose to be placed in that disagreeable position again. That was, of course, a very natural feeling on his part; that he should desire to carry a measure of Reform by means of a majority of the House of Commons was an ambition of which no one can complain. But then there were other considerations, I think, which ought to have been taken into account. The noble Earl ought, in my opinion, to have reflected as to whether the measure which he was about to introduce would or would not be likely to operate for the good of the country. To that consideration he seems, however, to have paid little, or rather, I should say, no attention. I was reading, as it happened, this morning the close of the late Sir Robert Peel's account of his difficulties in connection with the Roman Catholic question, and of the reasons which induced him at length to consent to remain in office and support their claims. At the end of the memoir, while he states in the most solemn manner that 2011 his object was to serve his Sovereign and his country, he admits that something of human weakness might have mingled with his motives, and that he might have wished to be—A daring pilot in extremity.Others may have a similar ambition, but there are lines following this, which must not be forgotten, in which Dryden says—Pleas'd with the danger when the waves rose highHe sought the storm; but for a calm unfitWould steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.I think these lines applicable to the noble Earl, because I believe he has rather accepted these difficulties—he has rather sought for them—but I venture to think that before venturing so near the sands as he has done, the noble Earl ought to have considered that it was possible his ship might strike upon them, that he might lose the valuable lives which he ought to have preserved, and risk a precious cargo which it was his business to save. With regard to the borough franchise proposed by this Bill, it has been said over and over again that the reason why household suffrage was adopted without any pecuniary value being attached as a condition, was that otherwise "a hard and fast line" must have been taken, and that thence you must have descended lower and lower. I own I wonder very much at the impression that argument has produced, because if it is good for anything it affects many other Acts of Parliament. It affects this very Bill itself—for how can you say that £5, £6, or £7, is a "hard and fast line," and that if you adopt it, you will be driven down to £4, £3, and £2—how can you say that, and not admit that the same thing holds good of your £10 lodger franchise and your £12 county franchise? How can you say that a £6 franchise is unsafe, and that the lodger franchise of £10 is safe, and the county franchise also? It appears to me that the argument as to the one, is equally applicable to the other two. Why, the history of our laws and institutions shows that a given line of pecuniary value may last for centuries. The 40s. freehold qualification has lasted 430 years, yet nobody pretends that it might have been reduced to 35s., 30s., 20s., or even 1s. a year. So with regard to many other things; I believe that all our municipal offices depend on a pecuniary franchise. And yet the authors of this Bill, who have found this a convenient argu- 2012 ment to use in order to avoid adopting a proposal like that of the late Government, have thought it quite safe to rest the lodger franchise and the county franchise on "a hard and fast line," and have not dreamt that it will ever be disturbed on that account. It is perfectly evident that if the Government had chosen to adopt a £5 rating, or a £6 or £7 rental franchise it would have been accepted by Parliament, and the measure would have passed without difficulty, and might have lasted some twenty or thirty years, and there would not have been any such alarm felt with regard to it as has been expressed by my noble Friend who moved the Amendment, by the noble Lord (the Earl of Shaftesbury) who spoke first to-night, and by other noble Lords. Then, with regard to this proposal of the household franchise, I have neither that exaggerated estimate of its merits which some appear to entertain, nor do I feel those gloomy apprehensions in respect to it which others have expressed. My belief is that this measure will give rise to a great deal more treating and more bribery than we have ever had at elections in this country before; and I suppose that that will be the case because the lowest class of householders are a very ignorant class; and it is with ignorant persons, who do not know or care what political measures are carried, or what candidates may succeed at elections, that treating and bribery have their effect. These are the persons who are open to bribery and treating, and therefore I believe that these evils will be greater under this Bill than they have been heretofore. I do not apprehend that the Throne will be destroyed or the Established Church annihilated—I have no fears of that kind—but I do think that the household suffrage now proposed is a change which is very much for the worse, and one which may therefore be expected to have its effect on the House of Commons, with whose conduct for the last thirty-five years the noble Earl declares himself satisfied—a sentiment in which I entirely participate. I believe that within that period our Parliamentary Elections, with some gross exceptions, have generally been carried on soberly and steadily, and persons worthy of the confidence of the country have been returned, while also during those thirty-five years there have been passed, without any danger of revolution, without any disturbance of the public peace, many measures which are of the greatest importance 2013 to the welfare of the country, prominent among them being the measures for the settlement of the tithe question, the reform of municipal corporations, of the Poor Laws, and for the promotion of Free Trade. With regard to the county franchise, I will not make any observations. My Lords, the other great portion of this Bill deals with the subject of redistribution of seats. And here I must say I think that, having made so very large an extension of the franchise, having carried the franchise so low, having probably whetted the appetite for greater changes, to have left the distribution of seats in such an unsatisfactory condition as will ensure a renewal of agitation on that subject, so that further changes must be made, was a most unwise proceeding. As far as I have seen, all persons—some advanced Liberals, and all those who with myself belong to the main body of the Liberals, are unanimous in saying that as soon as this Bill is passed they will agitate and promote as far as possible some larger scheme of re-distribution of seats. My own opinion, I must say, is in favour of the small boroughs. I agree with what the noble Earl has said on this subject, and I think it is quite enough, to show that those boroughs have been of use, to mention that such men as Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, Lord Grey, Lord Brougham, and Lord Macaulay have all, except Lord Macaulay, been defeated in popular elections, and each of them had recourse to elections by a small borough, and thus their eminent talent was preserved to Parliament, which would otherwise have lost it; and I cannot expect that, in such constituencies as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Bristol, with such a low household franchise, many such men will be returned to Parliament. But, my Lords, while I say this, I think you cannot expect that, in the present circumstances of the country, all these very small boroughs, containing a very few householders, can be preserved. I do not believe that any argument which can be urged in their favour would satisfy the country, and, therefore, satisfy the House of Commons, that these boroughs should be retained to the extent to which they are retained by this Bill. If that be the case, it is a proof that this measure is not a settlement of the question. Now, it does seem to me that that which we should aim at, and that which your Lordships should endeavour, and may fairly en- 2014 deavour, to do, without encountering any collision with the other House of Parliament, but rather, I should think, satisfying them in respect to their views, would be to diminish the number of Members for these smaller boroughs, and also to do that which this Bill seems to do, but does not do to any great extent—I mean to rectify the great injustice which is done to the counties by giving twice as many representatives to the boroughs as compared with the counties, having regard to population and other considerations. We had a ruler once who certainly dealt with these things according to a rough-and-ready method. I refer to the Protector, Cromwell, who took it into his head to be a Parliamentary Reformer. He began by making a union with Scotland and with Ireland; and, having done that, he invited Manchester and Leeds to send Members to his Parliament. Those towns never sent Members to Parliament again until the year 1832. Cromwell gave a representation of 300 Members to the counties and only 144 to the boroughs. That arrangement may, perhaps, have been adapted to the requirements of his day; but, of course, it is not suited to those of the present day, because since that time our manufactures and our commerce have grown, and cities and towns have become places of such importance as to be entitled to representation. Still, I think the counties, considering their population and wealth, are entitled to a greater share in the representation than they now possess; and my belief is, that if you gave them a greater representation, and if there were to arise any flood of innovation proceeding from the new borough constituencies, you might have in that county representation a breakwater upon which the country might rely, and which would prevent any changes endangering our institutions. The noble and learned Lord who last spoke (Lord Cairns) was good enough to say that the clause which I proposed in the Bill of 1854, providing that, in an election for three Members, electors should not be entitled to vote for more than two candidates, was a good provision, and would tend to the welfare of the country. That clause only applied to counties, for at that time there were no borough constituencies having three Members. Now, my opinion at this moment is entirely in favour of that plan. I believe you would thereby get moderate men; because the Members who would be elected for places 2015 like Manchester and Birmingham might be men of a Conservative tendency, but at the same time men who would have the confidence of their fellow-citizens; while the Members elected in the counties would be country gentlemen, with such Liberal tendencies as to make them very moderate and temperate in their political views. I think, therefore, you would improve your representation in that way There may be no danger in the step we are taking, the fears which are entertained may be unfounded; but if any danger exists you would guard against it by adding to the number of what are called three-cornered constituencies both in boroughs and in counties, and by enabling the electors to give votes to two candidates only. Such being the general features of the Bill, I have no desire to go further into it; but I cannot avoid taking notice of that other question which I regard as of immense importance—namely, the course which has been pursued by what is called the Conservative, but what I think is more properly called the Tory party, with regard to this question. A noble Friend of mine (the Marquess of Clanricarde) has remarked that when Sir Robert Peel changed his policy with respect to Catholic emancipation, and when he changed with respect to the Corn Laws, the Liberal party were quite ready to applaud his conduct and to give him their hearty support. That, no doubt, is true; but then it must be remembered that the course pursued by Sir Robert Peel was one which deserved, I think, to be applauded. He went through a very painful process in making up his mind that the course he was about to pursue was for the good of the country; but, having made up his mind, he declared it openly to Parliament, and pursued the course he had marked out for himself, as I believe, with great integrity, devotion, and patriotism. Now, with regard to the measure which we introduced last Session, the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) has evidently taken for granted the truth of a rumour which circulated in the Conservative Clubs, but which was entirely opposed to the real facts of the case. The noble Duke said he had heard it stated that Mr. Bright recommended that the franchise question should be dealt with by itself, so that when a new Parliament was elected a leverage would be obtained in order to effect an extensive re-distribution of seats, and that the late Government accepted that advice. Now, the facts of 2016 the case are these—Mr. Brand went to Lord Palmerston after the measure of 1860 had failed, and told him that he thought he could not succeed in dealing with the re-distribution of seats together with the settlement of the franchise; he advised Lord Palmerston therefore, to bring in a Bill dealing with the franchise only. Lord Palmerston replied that he did not think either one measure or the other could be carried in the then existing House of Commons, and declined to accept the advice so offered him. Now when, owing to the unfortunate death of Lord Palmerston, I succeeded to his office, I proposed to the Cabinet that if we could frame a measure of Reform which was likely to be acceptable to the country, and which would meet with the approval of Parliament, we ought to do so, and I asked Mr. Brand what prospect he thought there was of carrying such a measure? Mr. Brand gave the same advice that he had given to Lord Palmerston, and stated that he thought a measure dealing with the franchise only would be successful, and that it would be better not to combine with it the re-distribution of seats. Mr. Bright, about the same time, expressed a similar opinion at a public meeting. Now, for my part, having the highest opinion both of the ability and integrity of Mr. Bright, and believing him to be sincerely devoted in the cause of Reform, I advised the Cabinet to proceed as Mr. Brand and Mr. Bright had suggested. With regard, however, to the other portion of Mr. Bright's advice—that we should wait for a new Parliament before dealing with the re-distribution of seats, so far from agreeing to that suggestion, the Cabinet determined, and Mr. Gladstone announced their decision in the House of Commons, to propose a measure of re-distribution in the next Session of the then—that is the present Parliament — and not in a new Parliament. The noble Duke is therefore entirely misinformed both as to the original author of the advice and as to the degree to which it was accepted. Well, we introduced the Bill, and although the main body of the Liberal party supported it, a section of them unfortunately fell into the mistake of accepting service under the enemy. The consequence was that many adverse Motions were made, all of which were supported by the 270 or 280 Members of the Conservative party; so that it was obvious from the first that, with these two combined parties seeking to de- 2017 feat the Bill, it was probable that on some occasion or other we should be in a minority. It so happened that a near relation of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) was the person who finally obtained a Vote against the Ministers. I remember that Mr. Canning, speaking of an hon. Friend of mine, stated that the hon. Gentleman had made himself the paw of a certain domestic animal, and I think the noble Lord (Lord Dunkellin) was very much in the same position. There are some things in connection with the proceedings of last Session which are very remarkable. Not the least remarkable is that while the loudest declarations were made by many persons—and no doubt by Lord Cranborne and General Peel very sincerely — that a measure giving the suffrage to £7 householders in boroughs would be a great democratic innovation, and would lead to a democratic form of Government — while these declarations were made it appears to have been the intention of the Leaders of the Conservative party to introduce a measure going much farther in the direction of democracy, and, as it were, to outbid us by a more sweeping change. Such a charge against public men seems so incredible that I feel bound to quote the words reported to have been used in making it by Lord Cranborne—I have no doubt, however, that those who then urged us to resist that Bill had calculated in their own minds the course they intended to adopt. I have no doubt that a Bill such as that which has now been brought before the House was in the minds of the heads of the Conservative party, but that, owing however to what no doubt was our misapprehension, we have been bitterly disappointed, and the result is that we now find ourselves committed to a Bill which is in every sense more democratic than that which was introduced last year by the right hon. Gentleman opposite."—[3 Hansard, clxxxvi. 1569.]Now, that is a very extraordinary charge. The charge was openly made: the Ministers to whom it applied were present. The Leader of the Conservative party in the House of Commons was present; but so far from any contradiction being offered there seems to have been a sort of pride in hearing it made, and in admitting that for many years this democratic measure was in contemplation; and that while they thus declaimed against the democratic tendencies of the then existing Government, they themselves leant to measures still more democratic. Another extraordinary circumstance is that a right hon. 2018 Gentleman of very great talents (Mr. Lowe) connected with the Liberal party, who strongly deprecated any measure going below the £10 franchise, made speeches of great power and eloquence, which were cheered to the echo by the Conservative party. The walls of the House of Commons resounded with the cheers with which they greeted those speeches. But after that, when it was once known that the Conservative Government meant to go much further in the line of democracy, Mr. Lowe again addressed the House, with perfect consistency, with equal ability, with undiminished rhetorical power; but, so far from giving the same response, the audience whom he addressed on the Conservative side were entirely silent. This showed the great talent and power of the Leaders of the Conservative party. It was once said of a great actor—He cast off his friends like a huntsman his pack,For he knew when he pleased he could whistle them back;and while the Conservative Chiefs were meditating great democratic measures, they allowed their followers to cheer at the great alarms about a £7 franchise, being quite sure that they could make them dumb at any moment, that they could make them feel the lash, and whistle them back whenever they pleased. This, at all events, is not a common change of opinion; but it requires the power of an actor not inferior to Garrick to do that. There was a pretence of great alarm at the prospect of revolution, and fear for the destruction of the House of Lords and the Church if our Bill should pass; and yet the noble Earl and his Friends were all the time prepared to go much further than those against whom their attacks were directed. This conduct may be said to be very adroit, and no doubt it was so. This line of action may be compared with that which was followed by Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington. I remember when the Duke of Wellington said that he would introduce a Reform Bill, though a much more moderate one than that which the Government of Lord Grey introduced; for he said that he did not think he could show his face in the streets unless he did what he thought his duty to his Sovereign. But Sir Robert Peel said he could not walk erect into the House had he not refused to be the instrument in doing that which he 2019 had repeatedly described to be a dangerous innovation. Well, these two great men were sincere and had sincere convictions. But it appears that adroitness and ability in the present day consist in acting a part as if you were deeply impressed with one set of opinions and then to avow that you entertain opinions entirely different. Such conduct may be exceedingly adroit, but I find it impossible to believe that either this House or the other House of Parliament, or the country in general, will entertain any sincere respect for those who practise it. And now, my Lords, I will say a few words with respect to the Amendment of my noble Friend, and the course which I will take with respect to it. I consider the House very much indebted to my noble Friend for having brought forward his Amendment. We have had an interesting debate, in which the House has been enlightened by the different views which have been expressed. I agree with my noble Friend in his description of this measure; but there is a part of the Amendment which it is impossible for the House to adopt, because my noble Friend asks the House to declare that the measure is not calculated to promote the future good government of the country. I confess myself that I have great doubts as to the future operations of this Bill. I certainly do not feel much confidence about it, and I do not think the House generally can feel confidence that it will operate to the future good government of the country. But those who take the gloomy view of it may be mistaken, and therefore, on the whole, it would not become the House to adopt the Amendment. The observations of the noble Earl and those of the noble and learned Lord who spoke last (Lord Cairns), have a great deal of force—that those who wish to propose Amendments can propose them equally well though this Amendment be rejected. Therefore, containing as it does the words to which I have alluded, I certainly cannot vote for the Amendment of my noble Friend. I agree with him when he says that the Bill will not effect a permanent settlement of the question, and I hope Amendments will be introduced in Committee for the purpose of improving it; at the same time I believe it is quite impossible so to improve it as to give all the substantial benefits to the country which ought to be derived from a Reform Bill. The noble Earl has said that the provision 2020 for the payment of rates would be found in my Bill of 1854; but I find, on looking at that Bill, that its provisions were an extension of the principle of that in 1832, and although there was a provision that all voters should be rated, yet there was no obligation to pay the rates as a condition prior to the registration of the voter. That provision in the Bill of 1854, therefore, was substantially the same as that of the Bill of last year. But after the decision of the House of Commons on this measure, it will be quite impossible to expect that they will consent to an Amendment which will totally alter its basis. I hope my noble Friend will not persevere in his Amendment, and if he does so it will be impossible that I can vote for it.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, after the discussion that has taken place, I must say it appears to me almost inexplicable why this Amendment should have been moved. It cannot have escaped remark that, in the course of this debate, although the Amendment has been nominally the subject of discussion, hardly any one has said a word with respect to it, and not one a word in defence of it. I cannot except even the noble Earl (Earl Grey) who introduced the question to your Lordships' notice; because, from the state of exhaustion in which the noble Earl found himself, at the close of a lengthened address — his voice failing at the time he was about to announce the grounds on which he would recommend the adoption of the Amendment—he was unable to state the reasons which had led him to introduce it. Since then no one has spoken in its favour—indeed, no one has addressed himself to it except my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns), who has given a most complete argument against its adoption. I conclude, therefore, that the noble Earl will follow the advice given by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell), will withdraw the Amendment, and give your Lordships no further trouble about it. As I have said, I cannot understand what was the motive for introducing this Amendment, unless it were to lead the House into the belief that there would be a division at the end of the debate—a belief or hope which is about to be frustrated—and, therefore, to keep a greater number of your Lordships in the House. If this latter was the noble Earl's object, it was not a very important one, but it has answered its purpose. Had the Amendment, however, never been introduced, your 2021 Lordships would have had the same opportunity of discussing the provisions of the Bill either at this or at a subsequent stage. For my part, I have not the slightest objection to the lengthened discussion extending over two nights, which has taken place. But, having troubled your Lordships at some length, on moving the second reading of the Bill, I am happy to say that on this occasion I shall occupy your time but for a very short period, and that only for the purpose of correcting one or two mis-statements, and giving one or two explanations.
My Lords, the first thing that strikes me as somewhat remarkable with respect to this discussion is that, although the criticisms upon the Bill have been neither very sparing nor moderate, yet with regard to anything to be substituted for the provisions criticized there has been not only an entire absence of any suggestion, but a most extraordinary discrepancy of opinion on the part of the four or five Peers who have spoken against the Bill, not one agreeing with another as to the principal objections to be made to it, nor as to any particular provisions—nor as to what they would have substituted for them. The noble Earl who introduced the Amendment, made, as he said, very free admissions with respect to the franchise. He said, that in his mind, there was a great deal to recommend a household suffrage, he was very much disposed to adopt it, and he went on to say he also agreed with those who held that between the £10 franchise and household suffrage there was no resting point; for if you did not adhere to the £10 franchise, you must perforce come down to household suffrage. But another noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) took a different view, for he said he would prefer adhering to the £10 franchise. But, however excellent it may be theoretically to adhere to the £10 franchise, is there any one of your Lordships who thinks it possible? The £10 franchise has been condemned again and again; and if I am to adopt the alternative of the noble Earl that there is nothing between £10 and household suffrage, and it is impossible to remain at £10, then the case for household suffrage, as proposed by Her Majesty's Government, is clearly made out. But that is not the view taken by other noble Lords. I must now take into consideration the views of those who have favoured us with the gloomy and Cassandra-like vaticinations 2022 with respect to the future of this Bill. The noble Earl who has spoken last, and then my noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon,) differing altogether from the noble Earl who moved the Amendment, concur in one respect. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) asks us why we should jump out of the window when we might go down the stairs? But would it be of much use to go down the stairs if, on getting to the first landing we were kicked down to the second, and from that to the ground? Would that be a preferable mode of exit? My noble Friend uses an extraordinary argument. He says, "I agree that you ought to reduce the franchise." And why? "Because," he says, "in a few years more you will be called upon for a further reduction, and in a few years more to reduce it further still." Thus we are to go down two or three flights of stairs and terminate at the same point as we now arrive at. Now, the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) will remember what was said thirty-five years ago about "bit-by-bit Reform." That was the expression used; and the noble Earl will recollect how strongly he argued, and I to the best of my ability argued, and others argued, against the impolicy of making these bit-by-bit Reforms, stimulating thereby the appetite of the country for fresh concessions and laying the groundwork for future and never-ceasing agitation. I wholly differ, therefore, from the notion that a moderate reduction of the franchise should take place now, with a view to the extension of the franchise hereafter, thus keeping up agitation, instead of terminating it. My noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) considers that the franchise we have fixed is too low; but following the example set by most of your Lordships who have spoken, he does not tell us how much too low it is according to his judgment. He says it is both too low and too uniform; but my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns), has, I think, shown that so far from being uniform, it is the present franchise which is open to that objection, while that which we propose is calculated to ensure a considerable variety. When, however, my noble Friend says that the franchise is too uniform he again fails to inform us how to vary the uniformity; as far as I understand his remarks he seems to contemplate the distinct representation of the labouring classes. If he does so I cannot conceive any element of discord so great, any source of embar- 2023 rassment so certain, as that a number of men should meet in the same House of Commons, one set among them representing the higher and the wealthier, and the other the poorer and the lower classes, and that these men should be brought face to face charged with separate interests, instead of representing the combined interests of the whole community. If I rightly understand my noble Friend, I cannot conceive a more objectionable proposition than that of a separate representation of different interests. Then, again, the noble Earl who has just sat down (Earl Russell) has condemned the franchise proposed in the Bill; but having condemned it, he tells us that on the whole he does not see the way to improve it and to make it more moderate or Conservative—only he suggests the doing away with that which is our main restriction upon an unlimited household suffrage—namely, the payment of rates which secures for the new voter a permanent, substantial, stable occupation. On the other hand the noble Earl the late President of the Council, differing from all the rest, and replying to the gloomy forebodings of my noble Friend, says he finds no fault with household suffrage. These are some of the differing opinions which have been expressed during the discussion. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) wishes to adhere to the £10 franchise, but he would go down bit-by-bit.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
Yes; but what is to be done in the next stage? We are to go down the flight of stairs by degrees, descending in the first instance to a £7 franchise, and going gradually lower until we come to the household suffrage which we are now proposing. That is the noble Earl's proposal. Then comes my noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon), who says, "Your new franchise is too low, but I cannot tell how much higher it should be." Then comes the noble Earl (Earl Russell), who says, "Your franchise is very objectionable; but on the whole I don't see how I can amend it, except by a change which would make it more radical and more democratic than before." And lastly, the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) says, "I have no fault to find with the new franchise." My Lords, it is easy to start objections to a Bill of this sort, and I can quite understand the Motion of the noble Earl who moved this Amendment; because, while he states in 2024 that Amendment that the Bill was objectionable, he takes good care not to say in what manner, on what side, to whom and for what reason it was objectionable, and he thus escapes from the difficulty with which your Lordships will have to contend if we go into Committee—as I suppose we shall—the difficulty of pointing out the particular objections entertained to the Bill, and of suggesting the particular Amendments by which it is proposed to remove those objections. That is the difficulty which awaits noble Lords who have been very free in condemning the course taken by the Government, but who must come to book in the Committee and tell us what they propose to substitute for the parts which they condemn. Well, then, my noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) is alarmed about the lodger franchise, and tells us that we are proceeding upon imperfect information in this respect. I admit that we are proceeding upon very imperfect information. He says we may be admitting 100,000, or even 500,000 new voters under the lodger franchise. I do not think the latter estimate is likely to be accurate. My noble Friend opposite, the late President of the Council, who is all in favour of a lodger franchise, calls it a real metropolitan Reform Bill. I am inclined to agree that this lodger franchise in the Bill will have a very great effect in the metropolis, and a very small effect in other parts of the country. Be the effect, however, what it may, we are not the persons who can claim the merit or the demerit of the lodger franchise. It is true that in 1859 we proposed to introduce it; but we afterwards found that there were considerable difficulties in carrying it into practice, and therefore it was not originally introduced into the present Bill. In lieu of it we proposed what are known as the "fancy franchises," by which we hoped to give votes to the most intelligent and the best portion of the labouring population. But Mr. Gladstone introduced this lodger franchise last year, and he did not adopt the estimate of 500,000 or even 100,000 persons whom it would enfranchise; but, having made such inquiries as he thought necessary, he declared that the number enfranchised would not exceed 60,000 at the outside. [The Earl of CARNARVON explained.] Whatever estimates we were proceeding upon, we were proceeding upon the estimates furnished by the late Government. As my noble Friend well knows, the lodger fran- 2025 chise formed no part of our Bill, but was pressed upon us by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and those who, finding it not in the Bill, suddenly thought it became a question of the greatest possible importance, although last year, when they introduced a measure, they treated it as a matter of comparative indifference, I will not deal with the question of securities, the absence of which so much distressed my noble Friend, further than to say, with regard to the dual vote, which was proposed to be added, and by which we thought we could give additional weight to some of those classes who, both by property and intelligence, appeared to have a superior claim to representation, that the dual vote when brought before the House of Commons met with no favour, and was forthwith withdrawn, as being absolutely incapable of being passed. With regard to two years' residence instead of one, my noble Friend must be aware it was not abandoned by the Government. We divided in favour of two years' and were beaten by a considerable majority. I ask my noble Friend whether he is prepared to say that, because we gave up the dual vote, and because a considerable majority of the House of Commons, largely composed of the Conservative party, declared that they wished, not to have two years' residence, but one, therefore we ought to have abandoned our proposal of household suffrage limited by one year's residence and personal payment of rates. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey), in the course of his speech yesterday, began by saying that, in my retrospect of what had taken place, I had been guilty of various errors—sins of omission and sins of commission, erroneous statements, false dates, and false quotations. It is very easy to make such charges, but it would have been more satisfactory if the noble Earl had specified what the errors, mis-statements, and mis-quotations were; but, as he has not done so, he has not given me an opportunity of replying to what he said. I am unable to say I may not have been guilty of some inaccuracy, but, at all events, I did not make a single quotation in the whole of my speech—and what the other errors were I am at a loss to understand. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) introduced his favourite expression about "dishing the Whigs." He related a number of anecdotes which he said he had heard, among others was one to the effect that a deputa- 2026 tion having called upon me, and forcibly represented their objection to this measure, I had not a word to say about the measure beyond asking, "Don't you see how it has dished the Whigs?" The noble Earl said immediately afterwards that he believed the story was a fabrication. If it was a fabrication, I do not understand with what object the noble Earl introduced it; still less do I understand for what reason he rested upon that fabrication, an argument, which can only rest upon the probability of its being true; because he proceeded to say that the course pursued in the other House of Parliament gave him reason to believe that this anecdote was not unlikely to be true; for the Leaders of the Conservative party were ready at any moment to sacrifice their political consistency and honour for the purpose of throwing discredit upon their political opponents, therefore, he thought I was likely to have made use of this expression. He went on to support the charge against the Leaders of the party by saying that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was challenged in the House of Commons with having given way, upon ten different occasions, on important points pressed upon him by Mr. Gladstone. He repeated the statement that had been made, and in many instances satisfactorily and entirely refuted in the House of Commons. He repeated it, and said that the object of the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to prove that he was not acting under the imperious dictation of Mr. Gladstone. I can only repeat the assertion that Mr. Gladstone's name appears in no less than eighteen divisions among the opponents of the Government. Therefore, says the noble Earl, the answer he gave to the charge of being led by Mr. Gladstone was that, if he had been so led and had been compelled to give way, he had at least the satisfaction of placing Mr. Gladstone in a minority on eighteen different occasions. I want to know was that a fair representation of what took place in the House of Commons? The noble Earl went on to comment on the course I am adopting here. He complimented me on the readiness with which I always give encouragement to young Members on either side of the House; but he went on to say that he should attribute to me a great amount of magnanimity if I would speak in courteous terms of the two noble Earls who addressed your Lordships last night. I assure the noble Earl and the 2027 House that it does not cost me the least magnanimity to give an unqualified tribute of admiration to the talents and ability of the two noble Earls, one of whom I heard for the first time, and who certainly spoke with considerable power and great self-possession, and the other, of whom I had had the pleasure of hearing once before, and whom I then admired, not only for the ability with which he made his statements, but for the singular modesty and propriety with which he addressed the House. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) charged me with taking all the business of the House upon myself, only availing myself occasionally—as I am always happy to do—of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who has spoken to-night, and with keeping my Colleagues in the background. He alluded to this more particularly in consequence of none of my Colleagues having risen to answer immediately the speech just addressed to the House by the late Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon.) If that speech did not receive an immediate answer from a Member of the Cabinet, I take upon myself the whole responsibility of that proceeding. It was upon my own suggestion that an immediate answer was not given to that address by a Member of the Cabinet, for I was desirous not to introduce into the debate anything of an acrimonious or personal character. I did feel that the attack which had been made upon us by the noble Earl was one which on the spur of the moment it might be difficult for his late Colleagues to answer in terms consistent with the respect and esteem which we have for his high character, however much we might deprecate his language. It was upon that ground, and that ground alone, that when the noble Earl sat down an immediate reply was not given to his speech from this Bench. I confess that when my coble Friend began his gloomy vaticinations with regard to the future I could not help thinking of lines in Collins's Ode to the Passions. Probably, he recollects the glowing description given in the song of Hope—how she looked forward into the future with delight, but her song was interrupted—I do not for a moment mean to compare my noble Friend to the Passion there represented—but the poet goes on to say—And longer had she sung—but, with a frown,Revenge impatient rose,He threw his blood-stain'd sword in thunder down,2028And, with a withering look,The war-denouncing trumpet took,And blew a blast so loud and dread,Were ne'er prophetic sound so full of woe."Woe to your statesmen," says my noble Friend, "if you follow so melancholy a course." But my noble Friend gives us the satisfaction of hearing that he did not mean the slightest personal offence, and that, however severe might have been his animadversions upon his Colleagues, he had not the slightest personal bitterness toward us. Now, it is most satisfactory to receive that assurance, because it shows to what an extent a man may misinterpret the tone, the language, the gesture, the manner of another. I certainly could not have conceived how my noble Friend, when he was pouring down upon us the vials of his wrath, and charging us with organized hypocrisy, with the repudiation of all our pledges and the violation of all our principles—I could not otherwise have conceived that that was the language of a sincerely attached Friend, overflowing with the milk of human kindness, only sorrowing over the backslidings of Friends he esteemed beyond measure, and over whose misdeeds he could not forbear dropping the tribute of a tear. I believe my noble Friend said he felt no bitterness; but if the expression of that speech were the expression of no bitterness, I should like to know how my noble Friend would express bitterness. I should like to know what stronger language could be used respecting the course pursued by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom I am bound to do the justice of saying that we owe the progress and success of this measure mainly to the calm endurance, the indomitable patience, the temper and the perfect invulnerability to such attacks as those made by my noble Friend, We owe to my right hon. Friend the success with which this measure has passed through the House of Commons, in a manner which has conciliated the esteem and support of opponents, without, at the same time, alienating the good-will of Friends. My noble Friend even went back to the period of 1846, and reminded the right hon. Gentleman of the attacks which he made upon Sir Robert Peel at that time. Why, I recollect hearing from my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack that there was a barrister who made use of this argument, "Now, my Lords, I have an argument which I will not mention, and it is this." In the same my noble Friend, in substance, remarked, 2029 "If I intended to be bitter, which I won't be, I should allude to a subject which I won't allude to"—namely, the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman towards Sir Robert Peel in 1846. Remembering the words of the Psalmist, I would rather say, "Let the righteous rather smite me friendly and reprove me." I confess that I bow my head to the chastisment which my noble Friend has thought fit to inflict upon me, and I only thank my stars that after such an exhibition of his friendship I am not likewise to incur his hostility. If that is his kindness, God help those who are subjected to the outpouring of the venom of his wrath! To turn, however, from that point to another which the noble Earl (the late President of the Council) mentioned in the course of his speech; he gave me the credit of possessing in your Lordships' House a paramount influence—and in this respect he did me more than justice—and he attributed it mainly to one cause—namely, the very free use I had made of the privilege of creating Peers. Now, I confess that such a statement, proceeding from a Member of a Whig Government, not a little surprised me, I say nothing of the Peerages created in acknowledgment of the services and sacrifices of the supporters of the Reform Bill of 1832. But are your Lordships aware of the comparative number of Peerages created during the reign of Her present Majesty by the Whigs, who are so shocked at the idea of creating Peerages, and by the Conservative party up to the commencement of last year? The Conservatives created fifteen Peerages in that period, and the Whigs created sixty-five; and yet the noble Earl attributes the paramount influence which I am supposed to possess in this House to the lavish way in which I have advised the Crown to create Peerages. Though the noble Lord made those remarks on the character of the Bill, he did not go so far as to suggest any specific Amendment; and I think that when, referring to the paramount influence which he was pleased to attribute to me in this House, he asked whether I would permit any Amendments to be suggested, he could hardly have done me the honour of attending to the observations which I made at the close of my remarks. I said that, fully recognizing your Lordships' right to deal with the measure according to your own discretion and sense of justice, we would be perfectly ready to consider with attention any suggestion for Amendment which might be 2030 made by noble Lords opposite, or any Amendments which they might think it right to propose—of course reserving to ourselves the right of deciding whether we ought to adopt them. I think after that frank declaration it was rather superfluous of the noble Earl to ask me the question which he put on the point.
I have only one other observation to trouble your Lordships with. It has reference to re-distribution. The noble Earl asked me yesterday whether I thought the system of re-distribution proposed by the Bill would last five or four, or three or two years, or even one year? My Lords, it is difficult to say how long any system of re-distribution will last. There is a constant change going on as regards the relative importance of different towns, and the effect of such changes must be, after certain periods, to render re-distribution necessary and absolutely indispensable; but may I not fairly ask my noble Friend what he proposes to do with the question of re-distribution? I am ready to consider any proposal which he may have to make; but I think it is hard to call on the Government to upset what has been done by the House of Commons, merely because my noble Friend does not approve it, and at this period of the Session to bring forward a new plan of redistribution, even could we be so fortunate as to hit the precise point to which he thinks re-distribution ought to be carried. I think it but fair to ask what the noble Earl proposes—whether he proposes to strike out a number of the small boroughs, or to take more Members from boroughs to give them to counties? I wonder whether the latter proceeding would be liked by the House of Commons. But my noble Friend sheltered himself under the convenient declaration that he had no preconceived scheme. [Earl GRANVILLE said, he did not press it on the Government.] Then the noble Earl had a preconceived scheme, which, with all its details and Schedules, he thinks we ought to send down to the House of Commons at this period of the Session with a hope of their adopting it. I must say, my Lords, with reference to this and other matters referred to in the speeches of my noble Friend, that I do not think it is fair to make objections to particular parts of the Bill without saying in what way the supposed defects ought to be remedied, or taking the Parliamentary course of placing on the Paper notice of Amendments. My Lords, 2031 I have to express my satisfaction with the general tone of the speeches which have been delivered. I do not go into those charges of inconsistency which have been levelled against me and the other Members of the Government. In the position we found the question, we felt it to be absolutely necessary to bring forward a measure of Reform, and such a one as we had reason to believe would meet with the general acquiescence of the House of Commons. Under that paramount necessity, I am perfectly willing to risk any taunt which may be used, or any charge of inconsistency which may be made against me and my Colleagues. Considering the altered circumstances of the case, I do not think any such charge can be pressed against us with any semblance of justice. But apart from those charges, I am satisfied with the way in which the Bill has been dealt with; I only hope that the noble Earl who brought forward the Amendment, seeing that the sense of the House is so decidedly against it, and the noble Earl having attained the object for which, I presume, the Amendment was moved, will now withdraw it, and allow the Bill to be read a second time.
For reasons which I stated very fully at the time, though it appears that the noble Earl opposite (Earl Beauchamp) did not hear them, I still think this was a proper Amendment to submit to the House; I think it was one which it would have been for the advantage of the House to adopt, and the reasons adduced against it have not been satisfactory to my mind. I am not, therefore, prepared to withdraw it. At the same time, I have never been disposed to give unnecessary trouble to your Lordships. The Resolution has not received in the course of the debate that support which I had reason to believe would be accorded to it—more especially from my noble Friend (Earl Russell), who has altered the opinion which he expressed in favour of the Resolution when I submitted it to him, and adopted an alteration which he suggested in its terms. Finding that to be the case, though I shall not withdraw the Resolution, but shall give my own voice in favour of it when the Question is put from the Woolsack, I shall not challenge what no doubt the noble and learned Lord will declare to be the decision of the House. I may be permitted to refer to something which has been said by my noble Friend, the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of 2032 Argyll). It is a matter of very small importance to your Lordships, but to me it is of great consequence that misapprehension on the point I refer to should not exist. My noble Friend has commented very severely on the conduct of some Friends of mine in the House of Commons, who in the last Session of Parliament attempted, as he said, to form a third party, and attributed to me that they acted by my advice. Now, I beg to inform my noble Friend that he is totally mistaken. It is perfectly true that I did approve the Resolution that was moved condemning the introduction of a Bill confined to the franchise alone. That was the opinion I expressed on the very first day of the Session, and before Her Majesty's Government of that day had declared the course that they would take. That is an opinion which I still believe to have been just and sound, and, therefore, I did entirely approve the Resolution proposed by my noble Friend Lord Grosvenor. But subsequently to that the conduct pursued by the small party to which I have referred was not only not in accordance with any advice of mine, but was directly contrary to my expressed opinions. The opinion I constantly pressed on my noble Friends was this—that it was not expedient to attempt to defeat the Bill, that it was not expedient to attempt to alter the franchise which was proposed, that it was still less expedient to attempt to overturn the Government which then existed; but that the right policy for them to pursue was to propose certain Amendments which in my opinion would tend to render the Bill proposed by the Government of that day a safer and better measure than it was as originally introduced. But I was in no respect the adviser of the measures which were taken. It is now stated that these were adopted with a view of throwing out the Bill. With regard to the greater part of those Friends of mine, I do not believe that they had any such intention. I do not think that the course which they took was judicious, but at the time I firmly believe it was not their intention to defeat the Bill, and I am convinced their only object was to promote what they thought to be the public good.
§ On Question, Whether the Words proposed to be left out shall stand Part of the Motion? it was Resolved in the Affirmative: Then the original Motion was agreed to;2033
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
It will be for the convenience of your Lordships that I should state that, with a view of allowing time for the framing of any Amendments which noble Lords may be desirous of submitting, we propose to fix the Committee on the Bill for Monday next. By that time I trust that Notice of any Amendments which it may be thought desirable to introduce will have been put upon the Paper.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past One o'clock, a. m., to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.