HL Deb 30 July 1867 vol 189 cc405-73

House again in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 7 (the Occupier to be rated in Boroughs, and not the Owner).


rose to move the omission of the clause. He would venture to remind their Lordships that this clause was introduced into the Bill in the other House of Parliament almost without discussion, while the matter was one of so much importance as to demand that legislation should not be adopted but with great deliberation. The system of rating the owners instead of the occupiers of small properties, which the clause now before the House would summarily abolish, was only adopted by Parliament after full inquiry, and in order to correct evils which experience had shown to be very serious. The system was first introduced in some large and populous parishes where the inconvenience of rating the occupiers of small tenements became more and more felt as the population increased, and a great number of such parishes obtained local Acts to enable them to rate the owners instead of occupiers. The earliest of these Acts were passed soon after the beginning of the present century; and when they had become very numerous, the question was raised whether the object they had in view ought not to be provided for by general instead of private legislation. The subject was repeatedly inquired into by Committees of both Houses of Parliament and by the Poor Law Commissioners, and all these authorities came to the conclusion that the former state of the law was inconvenient and required amendment. It was shown that it had been found impossible to levy the rates upon the occupiers of the lowest class of tenements, and that the expense of collection was frequently so great that the attempt to get in the rates was abandoned. It was also found that the practical exemption of such houses from the payment of rates gave no real relief to the occupiers, because the rents were in consequence raised by the landlords, while an increased burthen was thrown on all other property. These facts, as to the working of the old law, having been ascertained by the inquiries made by Committees of both Houses of Parliament, and by the Poor Law Commissioners, the Bill of 1850, regulating compounding, was passed with the assent of both Houses, and after very little opposition or objection. We are now called upon, without any inquiry at all, to repeal, not only the general law thus deliberately adopted, but also the multitude of private Acts which, during more than half a century, Parliament has passed at the instance of particular parishes. And the House should remember that this clause, enacting that henceforward in boroughs the occupier and not the owner should in all cases be rated, was not adopted on the recommendation of the Government; it was proposed by a private Member of the other House, and agreed to almost without discussion, and without any opportunity to those most affected by it of preferring objection. It had caused great alarm, and the parochial authorities of the metropolis had represented to the Government that the existing system had worked well for all parties. From the 29th of September it would be compulsory to rate the occupiers instead of the owners of small tenements; a comparatively small proportion, however, of such rates would actually be collected, and the effect would be to increase the burdens of those who did pay. The change, moreover, would be made at a singularly unfortunate time. Owing to the stagnation of trade, from the financial crisis of last year, great distress prevailed in the eastern part of the metropolis. The rates had consequently risen to a frightful extent—amounting at this moment in one parish to 7s. in the pound—and, as nearly two-thirds of the houses would be practically relieved from rates, the pressure on the remaining third would be largely increased. In many of those parishes, it must be remembered, there were no wealthy residents, the population consisting of small shopkeepers, clerks, and persons in a humble position. They were now, it was stated in one of the Petitions against this clause, barely able to keep their heads above water, and they would be completely depressed by this change. The object of the clause was to extend the number of persons by whom the franchise would be enjoyed; but since, to a great extent, it would be impossible to collect the rates from the poorer class of occupiers, the very object of the Bill would be frustrated by this clause. The poor rates could only be collected quarterly, and when the parish officer demanded them these weekly tenants would remove from one parish to another, and thus evade payment. These persons would not, of course, be enfranchised; but in all these parishes there would be a certain proportion of the poorer inhabitants who, being industrious and frugal, would have a little property on which a distress might be levied, and these would be compelled to pay. The burden would fall on them with great severity; for, in the opinion of all acquainted with the former state of the law to which we were about to revert, rents would not be reduced on account of the rates being charged on the occupiers. The practical exemption of the greater part of this kind of property from rates would enable the owners to keep up their rents; so that the effect of the change would be to impose a burden hitherto unfelt upon that small proportion of the weekly tenants who would actually pay the rates. Much ill-will and heart-burning would also be produced on the part of the poorer population against the parish officers, whose duty it would be to levy the rate by all the means in their power. Warrants of distress would be frequently applied for against the class about to be enfranchised, and he would put it to their Lordships whether it was prudent to start our new system by giving such ground of complaint to both the old and new voters. The old voters would have just cause of complaint in being compelled to pay a double proportion of rates on account of the default of others; and the new voters would be subjected to a burden which they had not hitherto felt, and would be subjected to annoyance on the part of the parish officers, which would be even more grievous, perhaps, than the pecuniary impost. Moreover, the Government placed their whole confidence on the personal payment of rates, and if it were swept away we should arrive at universal suffrage; but, could it be expected that when a predominating power was possessed by the new class, this security would last even for a few months? The new Parliament would open with a universal clamour from those aggrieved by the change, and before many months we should be obliged to abandon the system of rating the poorer occupiers. It was to prevent these evils and dangers, and not from a desire to restrict the measure of enfranchisement, that he proposed the omission of the clause, and if this were agreed to it would be open to the Government to introduce clauses such as those originally contained in the Bill, or to make any arrangement they might think fit for enabling the occupiers of houses rated to the owners to obtain votes; but he hoped their Lordships would not, without inquiry and in defiance of the remonstrances of those most interested in the question, affirm a proposition which would at once and summarily abrogate the whole system of parochial management—a system which had been deliberately adopted by Parliament, and which had worked very satisfactorily. For his own part he should be happy to concur in any arrangement for preventing the omission of the clause from restricting the franchise.

Moved, "To omit the clause."—(Earl Grey.)


said, he had no doubt that the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had not the slightest intention of disfranchising the compound-householder; but it was perfectly clear, as he had almost confessed at the end of his speech, that unless the omission of the clause was followed by the adoption of other clauses, that would be the effect of his Motion. Now, if he could satisfy the noble Earl that such would be the case, he was quite sure, with the candour possessed by the noble Earl, he would not be disposed to press his Amendment. He wished to call their Lordships' attention, in the first place, to the condition of the franchise as established by the 3rd clause of this Bill, which required as a qualification that the voter should have "bonâ fide paid an equal amount in the pound to that payable by other ordinary occupiers"—which, of course, meant that he should have paid the full amount of his rate. Their Lordships had been made familiar by discussion with the case of the compound-householder, as he was called rather improperly. They would remember that there had been an arrangement sanctioned by Parliament, and established by several local Acts, by means of which the owners of small tenements were enabled to compound for the rates of their tenants; and that, in respect of the benefit which the parish derived from not having to collect the rate from house to house, saving them both trouble and expense, and also protecting them from the loss that might be incurred by unoccupied houses and insolvent tenants, an advantage was given to the landlord by allowing him to pay only a portion of the rate which was assessed on the ordinary occupier. Under these circumstances, at the time of the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, the compound-householder would not have been entitled to vote, because he would not have been assessed, had not the 30th section of the Act provided for his case. And it provided for it in this way—that he might claim to be rated, and, upon tender of the full amount of the rate, he should be entitled to vote. So matters remained until the 14 & 15 Vict., to which the noble Earl alluded. By that Act the compound-householder was enabled to vote upon claiming to be rated and paying merely that proportion of the composition of the landlord which would be the quota upon his particular house. Now, he (the Lord Chancellor) must confess that he could never understand the principle of that. The reason why the landlord had an advantage given him was, as he had stated, that the parish was saved the expense of collecting from house to house, and incurred no loss by reason of the difficulty of collecting the rate from very poor persons. Now, there seemed no reason at all why the compound-householder who desired to vote should not be required to pay, as under the Reform Act the full amount of his rate, as in the case of any ordinary occupier. As this Bill provided that the party to be qualified to vote should pay the full amount of his rate, it was quite clear that the 14 & 15 Vict., stating that the tenant should only pay his proportion of the composition would, in fact, disfranchise him, because he would not then pay the rate of the ordinary occupier. No doubt, the best mode of getting rid of the difficulty would have been to repeal the 14 & 15 Vict.; but, unfortunately, as that did not come within the scope of the Bill, it was necessary, in order to prevent the disfranchisement of the compound-householder, to introduce the 7th clause, by which composition in all boroughs was prevented for the future. That, no doubt, was an inconvenient mode of proceeding; it would have been infinitely better to have repealed the 14 & 15 Vict., and after this Bill had passed it would be competent for anybody to propose its repeal. The noble Earl said that it would be necessary, in case this clause was retained, to introduce other clauses by which the compound-householder might be put in the same position as he was in under the 14 & 15 Vict. But that would be entirely contrary to the whole principle of the Bill, which was that every person entitled to vote should pay the same amount of rate as the ordinary occupier. He did not understand what the noble Earl meant by talking of the pressure which would be put upon the tenant by the overseer. He could not understand that there would be more pressure put upon him to pay the full amount of the rate than there was at present with regard to the composition rate. The Government considered the clause a very important one, and they must resist the proposal for its omission.


said, that the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down had stated that if anybody had moved the repeal of the 14 & 15 Vict, there would have been no necessity for this clause, and also that he did not see any advantage whatever in that Act. Now, the noble and learned Lord appeared to labour under the misapprehension that the 14 & 15 Vict. was passed for the benefit of owners.


begged his noble Friend's pardon—he had said no such thing. The Act was passed for the benefit of the compound-householder, to enable him to vote upon paying his composition.


understood the noble and learned Lord to ask what principle was there in the Act? What had led to the Act was this — that a great grievance was felt to exist, inasmuch as parishes lost hundreds and hundreds of pounds because they could not get the rates from the fluctuating body of persons they had to deal with, the time for levying a distress often passed by, and the money could not be recovered. Therefore, after a great deal of trouble, several local Acts were passed, enabling the parish to charge the rates upon the owners. At length Parliament dealt with the question as a whole, and gave a general power of arranging with the owner instead of the occupier, as the money could always be got from the former; and Parliament said that, inasmuch as the owners had the risk, they would allow them to pay a composition instead of the full rate. That was the object of the Act, and it had operated with great public advantage. It seemed to him very objectionable that it should now be proposed to repeal that Act, not with the object of improving the law, but to meet a political necessity. That course, if adopted in private affairs, would be thought very foolish. He would therefore support the Amendment of the noble Earl.


said, he agreed with the noble and learned Lord that the clause should stand part of the Bill; but he did not think that the explanation which the noble and learned Lord had given with respect to the facts was quite satisfactory. He did not believe it to be true that the system of compounding was adopted only by virtue of its being very troublesome to collect the rates from a great number of small tenants. It often happened that these persons only occupied their houses for six weeks or two months, so that the collector was not able to call for the rates. The landlord, therefore, in compounding, very fairly paid 75 per cent of the full rate, the remaining 25 per cent being retained by him not only for his trouble, but for the risk he ran. By the Reform Act any person who claimed to be rated and paid the whole amount of the rate was entitled to be placed on the register; but at that time a parish in which the practice of compounding existed was rather uncommon. The noble Earl seemed to think that after the Act of 1851 was passed it was not sufficient that the occupier should pay the amount of the compound rate; but that the whole amount should be paid. He (Earl Russell) would not enter into this question further than to say that it was only on account of the trouble and risk that the landlord was allowed a deduction of 25 per cent; but in the rent the small tenement holders no doubt paid the whole amount of the rate that was due, for, unless they did, the landlord would be a loser. The reason why it was possible for the landlord to adopt this system was because the custom was to collect the rents of these small tenements every week. If you said that the tenant should himself pay the whole amount of the poor rate, the result would be that the parish would suffer. The present system, therefore, was as advantageous to the parish as it was to the landlord. It was likewise advantageous to the tenant, because many of these persons were so poor that they did not save any money and were not able to pay quarterly that which they were able to pay every week; while the landlord, collecting his rents weekly, was able to collect the rates as part of the rent. If, however, a change were to be made in this system, which would compel every occupier to pay the whole amount of his rates, the result would be that in many towns the collectors would be unable to obtain the rates from at least 20 per cent of the smaller occupiers; and the result would be that not only the poor rates would suffer, but that great hardship would be inflicted on a numerous class of occupiers. He admitted, that if the vote were based on the personal payment of rates, there must be payment of the whole amount of the rate. But the adoption of such a principle would cause much suffering among the class of small tenants. For his own part he could not see what was the essential difference between personal payment of rates and payment through some other channel. Qui facit per alium facit per se. As a householder in Westminster he had always paid his rates through an agent. [The LORD CHANCELLOR: But out of your own money.] Of course; but so did the small tenant, who paid the rate indirectly through the landlord.


doubted whether it was competent for the House to deal with this clause at all. In Mr. May's work on "Parliamentary Practice" it was laid down that in Bills of this kind their Lordships could make any Amendment provided that they did not alter the intentions of the other House with regard to the amount of rate or charge, the various modes of levy and assessment, or the persons who should pay, receive, manage, or control such assessment. Assuming that the doctrine was correct, their Lordships would find, on referring to the 7th clause, that where the owner was rated to the poor rate at the time of passing this Act the occupier was to be rated instead. That was to say, the House of Commons decided by this clause that the owner, who now paid, should no longer pay the rate. Now, if you altered the incidence of taxation under this clause, putting on the back of the occupier the burden now borne by the owner, their Lordships would interfere with that incidence of taxation which, according to the doctrine laid down by Mr. May, they were incompetent to deal with. In that case they could not deal with the clause in any manner whatever. Passing, however, to the effect of the Amendment, it would introduce into the franchise all the compound-householders of the country, and there would be no power to secure that they would in any one case pay rates themselves. Now, the very essence of the Bill was contained in the personal payment of rates coupled, of course, with the term of residence. Sir William Clay's Act enfranchised compound-householders above £10. Clause 7, as it stood, virtually repealed that Act by providing that in future all occupiers should be rated, and should pay the full rate. If the clause were struck out of the Bill, the existing law would come into force; and by Clause 51 of this Bill, which extended all the laws, customs, and enactments now in force to the new franchise, Sir William Clay's Act would become applicable to all the franchises created under this Act. All the existing compound-householders would, therefore, be entitled to the franchise, and you would have no power of deciding whether they paid rates or not. Such an Amendment would entirely alter the whole character of the Bill. As to the oppression which, according to the noble Earl (Earl Russell), would be exercised upon the tenants if they were called upon to pay rates, there were many towns — among them Sheffield, Oldham, and Stoke-upon-Trent — in which no Compound - Householders' Acts existed, and he was informed that no great difficulty occurred there in collecting the rates. He differed from the statement of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that the question had not been discussed in the other House. On the contrary, he believed it had been debated during the best part, if not the whole, of one evening. It was introduced by Mr. Hodgkinson, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Gladstone took part in the discussion. On that occasion Mr. Gladstone stated that if the terms proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were embodied in a new clause, to be brought up afterwards, he and his friends would be satisfied with that arrangement; and Mr. Gladstone added that he considered it would be a good mode of meeting the difficulty. Under these circumstances he (the Duke of Richmond) trusted their Lordships would not concur in the noble Earl's Amendment.


said, that with regard to what had passed in the other House, the fact was that if Mr. Gladstone's proposal had been adopted the present difficulty would not have arisen. He thought the argument of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) perfectly unanswerable, and, indeed, no attempt had been made to answer it. It showed that the effect of the clause would be to extend to the whole country the inconvenience which already existed where compounding was not resorted to. He agreed with the noble Earl that this question ought to be dealt with as a whole. If the system of compounding was a good one, it seemed hard that certain parishes should be denied the privilege of adopting it because they were within the limits of a Parliamentary borough. If the system was not a good one, the law relating to it ought to be dealt with independently; but he should regret to see the system abolished. With reference to the boroughs referred to by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), in order to show that no difficulty was met with in collecting the rates, although the compounding Acts were not in force, he (Earl Granville) believed that in most of those boroughs the custom was to excuse the poorer class of compound-householders from payment of the poor rates on account of their poverty, while in others Parliamentary powers existed which were very similar to those of the compounding Acts. Thus, without Parliamentary powers much was done in effect that might be done under the Small Tenements Act. If the Government had shown any inclination to allow the omission of the clause, and to rectify the matter in any manner which would not have restricted the franchise, he should have voted cordially with the noble Earl; but as they had refused to do this, and as they had pointed to the adoption of the clause in the other House and alleged that its retention was a matter of vital consequence, had insisted upon the adoption of the clause, it was impossible for him not to vote for its retention; and after what had passed it would be well that the noble Earl should consider the propriety of withdrawing the Amendment.


said, that this was a very difficult social question, and it was no light matter to take off rates that had been paid weekly in the form of rent, and re-impose them in another form upon the tenants of small houses. In large towns, such as Liverpool, it was found necessary to excuse many from the payment of rates on the score of poverty, and arrangements had been made with landlords, which had incurred the censure of the Poor Law Board, as being done without the sanction of the law. As to the right of their Lordships to touch this clause, suppose it had formed a separate Bill, would their Lordships have been entitled to reject it? [The LORD CHANCELLOR: You may reject it, but you cannot amend it.] The Amendment of the noble Earl rejected the clause; and surely there could be no difference between rejecting it as part of a Bill and rejecting it as the whole. If you could reject the Bill you could reject the clause. He was not quite sure whether it was prudent to divide on the Amendment, as a division might have the appearance of that which was not intended; and he thought, perhaps, it would be better that the noble Earl should withdraw his Amendment.


said, their Lordships would hardly agree to observations that had been made—no doubt, inadvertently—as to the competency of their Lordships to deal with clauses of this kind, or any other clause in any other Bill. Their Lordships had always maintained their privilege to deal in any way they thought fit with every clause which came up from the other House of Parliament. No doubt the other House might raise a question of privilege on their part; but with that their Lordships had nothing to do. If their Lordships rejected this clause they would interfere in the question of the incidence of taxation; but their Lordships were not the judges of the privileges of the other House, or what they would do in such a case. All he asked their Lordships to do was not to admit the principle that their power to deal with a Bill was fettered by any of these considerations. The expediency of altering or rejecting the clause was, of course, a wholly different question.


said, he felt so strongly on this matter, and had received so many representations of the injustice of the clause, that he felt it to be his duty to press his Amendment to a division. Having already so fully stated the grounds on which he proposed this Amendment, he would not repeat what he had said in reply to the arguments which had been urged against it; but there was one objection made to it which he had not anticipated, and which was so entirely untenable that he was bound to notice it. He referred to the objection which had been made to his Motion, as being an invasion of the privileges of the House of Commons, and he appealed to the noble Lord near him (Viscount Eversley) whether he ever heard the notion of the privilege of the House of Commons pushed to so utterly extravagant a pitch as it had been by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) and the noble and learned Lord opposite that evening. It must be remembered he did not propose to amend the clause, to which he admitted there might have been an objection on the score of privilege, but simply to omit it. Now it was perfectly certain that their Lordships could have rejected this clause if it had been an independent Bill; à fortiori they could reject it as part of another Bill. Indeed it might be a question whether it was not so entirely beyond the proper scope and compass of the Bill that they ought to reject it upon that ground, entirely independent of the objections to it on its merits. It had nothing whatever to do with the franchise or with Parliamentary Reform; but it was proposed in order that a very inconsiderately-framed franchise which the Government had chosen to recommend to Parliament might have a wider effect than they intended it should have. The clause proposed to abolish a whole set of laws, general and local, which Parliament had been passing for more than fifty years with the greatest deliberation. It was absurd to say that their Lordships were not able to deal with the clause. If the noble Duke and the noble and learned Lord were correct, their opinion would have this absurd consequence, that the whole Bill must not be amended at all. But the Government had already supported various Amendments, some of them injudicious ones; and therefore the doctrine they had just laid down could not be for a moment maintained. Having sat a number of years in both Houses of Parliament, he said, with the utmost confidence, that he never heard the privilege of the House of Commons put at so extravagant a height as it had been by the Members of the Government who had addressed their Lordships this evening. He could not help saying it was significant proof how completely the Government felt they had no ground to stand upon, and that the clause was indefensible on its merits, that they had gone out of their way to take this utterly untenable ground of Parliamentary privilege. It was proved to demonstration that this clause as it stood would inflict great hardship and injustice upon many parishes and individuals, and the discontent it would create would tend to shake the foundation of our system of rating, and lead to the speedy downfall of the security which it was supposed to provide. Not even an attempt had been made to dispute the fact that it would work the injustice he had asserted, or to show that this would not lead to the consequences he anticipated. He therefore called upon every noble Lord who did not wish to see household suffrage without payment of rates—without long residence—without one security—who did not wish to see this extravagant extension of the franchise, to concur with him in objecting to this clause.


said, in answer to the question put to him by the noble Earl, that he was the last person to question the power of their Lordships to make Amendments to any Bill sent up to them by the House of Commons. But that House might reasonably object to Amendments affecting rates or taxes as interfering with their privileges. In the present instance however it was not proposed to interfere with the amount of any rate or with its disposition or management, but simply to omit the clause under discussion; and, in his opinion, this omission could not be objected to by the Commons on the ground of privilege, as it related to a subject separate from the main object of the Bill, and it was quite as competent to their Lordships to reject this clause as to reject a Money Bill which they could not amend without infringing the privileges of the other House of Parliament.


desired to draw attention to the discrepancy of the two statements that had proceeded from the Government Bench as to the effect of omitting this clause. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack asserted that the practical effect, in conjunction with the previous clauses, would be to disfranchise the compound-householders; whereas the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) said that it would bring the whole of the compound-householders on the register. He was anxious to know which was the explanation given by Her Majesty's Government though, for his own part, he had no doubt that the interpretation of the noble and learned Lord was the correct one; and, indeed, the noble Earl on the cross-Bench (Earl Grey) had avowed that his object was to deprive the compound-householders of the franchise.


said, that he had been entirely misunderstood by the noble Duke. What he said was that when the new Parliament assembled not six months would be allowed to elapse before the whole system of personal payment of rates would be done away with.


said, he was certainly inclined to concur in that opinion; if, however, it were correct, it only showed the rottenness of the principle of personal payment of rates. When that principle had broken down, a very considerable portion of what Mr. Bright called the "residuum" would obtain the franchise; and this was a result to be regretted, because, though he had not the slightest fear of revolutionary consequences, he believed that there would be increased corruption in many of the constituencies. He would test this by stating the probable effect in Scotland, where there was no compounding system, but one-half of the rates was paid by the occupier and the other half by the owner of the property, while below a certain figure varying in different parishes, no rates were collected at all in the large towns. In the City parish of Glasgow, the number of houses between £5 and £10 rental was 13,000, and yet more than 7,000 of the occupiers of those houses had applied to be excused from payment of rates on the ground of poverty. Of those 7,000, no fewer than 3,100 were wholly exempted from payment; only 133 were required to pay their rates in full, and the remainder were required to pay them in part. It was probable that a similar class existed in the great cities of England, and if they were brought upon the register they would not form a very desirable addition to the constituencies. He should vote for the retention of the clause in its present form, because he believed it was an essential part of the Bill as it had come up from the House of Commons.


said, that though he thought that great difficulty would be caused by the clause as it stood, he was not prepared to vote for striking it out, unless some definite plan for removing the difficulty were proposed. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) had referred to the borough of Stoke-upon-Trent. Now, he had himself made inquiries in reference to that district, and had been informed that the number of summonses issued last year for the recovery of rates was 3,879, and that in 1,580 of these cases the costs were not recovered in consequence of the inability of the parties to pay them. He thought that if a remedy could be found for this without disfranchising the poorer class of occupiers, it would be very desirable. He had no plan to propose on the subject, but would suggest that the principle of making the qualification for the franchise dependent upon the voluntary payment of rates without any legal proceedings having been taken might not be unworthy of consideration.


suggested that their Lordships should strike out this clause, and that the Government should bring in another in the House of Commons, admitting of optional composition in all cases, and making it compulsory in cases of short tenure, where the house was held by the week or the month, or possibly even by the quarter.

On Question, that Clause 7 stand part of the Bill? their Lordships divided:—Contents 148; Not-Contents 43: Majority 105.

Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Denbigh, E.
Ducie, E.
Effingham, E.
Beaufort, D. Eldon, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Ellenborough, E.
Erne, E.
Cleveland, D. Essex, E.
Marlborough, D. Fitzwilliam, E.
Richmond, D. Gainsborough, E.
Rutland, D. Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)
Somerset, D.
Wellington, D. Granville, E.
Haddington, E.
Abercorn, M. Hardwicke, E.
Ailesbury, M. Home, E.
Camden, M. Huntingdon, E.
Exeter, M. Kimberley, E.
Normanby, M. Leven and Melville, E.
Westmeath, M. Lichfield, E.
Lucan, E.
Abingdon, E. Malmesbury, E.
Airlie, E. Manvers, E.
Albemarle, E. Nelson, E.
Bathurst, E. Powis, E.
Beauchamp, E. Russell, E.
Belmore, K. Sandwich, E.
Bradford, E. Spencer, E.
Cadogan, E. Stanhope, E.
Camperdown, E. Stradbroke, E.
Cardigan, E. Tankerville, E.
Cawdor, K. Verulam, E.
Chichester, E. Wicklow, E.
Clarendon, E. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Cowper, E.
De Grey, E.
Exmouth, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Halifax, V. Grantley, L.
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)
Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)
Melville, V. Heytesbury, L.
Sidmouth, V. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Stratford de Redcliffe, V.
Strathallan, V. Leigh, L.
Templetown, V. Londesborough, L.
Lovat, L.
Chester, Bp. Lovel and Holland, L. (L. Egmont.)
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Lyttelton, L.
Peterborough, Bp. Lyveden, L.
Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)
Abinger, L.
Audley, L. Monson, L.
Bagot, L. Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Berners, L.
Bolton, L. Mostyn, L.
Boston, L. Northwick, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Penrhyn, L.
Petre, L.
Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.) Raglan, L.
Ravensworth, L.
Cairns, L. Redesdale, L.
Camoys, L. Rivers, L.
Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.) Rollo, L.
Romilly, L.
Churston, L. Saltoun, L.
Clarina, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.) Sherborne, L.
Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Clermont, L.
Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.) Skelmersdale, L.
Clinton, L. Sondes, L.
Cloncurry, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.] Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Congleton, L. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Crofton, L.
Dacre, L. Sundridge, L. (V. Argyll)
Delamere, L.
De L'Isle and Dudley, L. Templemore, L.
Denman, L. Truro, L.
Digby, L. Vernon, L.
Dunsandle and Clanconal, L. Walsingham, L.
Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Egerton, L.
Feversham, L. Wenlock, L.
Foley, L. Wharncliffe, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.) Wynford, L.
Grafton, D. Lovelace, E.
Manchester, D. Mansfield, E.
Morley, E.
Bristol, M. Morton, E.
Salisbury, M. Romney, E.
Selkirk, E.
Amherst, E. Shaftesbury, E.
Carnarvon, E. Shrewsbury, E.
Chesterfield, E. Sommers, E.
Dartrey, E. Zetland, E.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)
De Vesci, V.
Eversley, V.
Grey, E. [Teller.] Hardinge, V.
Harrowby, E. [Teller.] Lifford, V.
Sydney, V. Methuen, L.
Overstone, L.
Belper, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Blantyre, L.
Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.) Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Clonbrock, L. Stratheden, L.
Granard, L. (E. Granard.) Strathnairn, L.
Taunton, L.
Harris, L. Wentworth, L.
Hatherton, L. Wrottesley, L.
Houghton, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8 (the Occupier to be rated in Boroughs and not the Owner: Provisoes) agreed to.


moved the insertion of a new clause repealing Sections 24 and 25 of the Reform Act, and enacting in lieu thereof that no person shall be entitled to vote for a county Member in respect of any premises situated in a borough if he would be entitled to vote in respect of such premises for the borough Member. The noble Viscount said that the object of his proposition might not be clear to their Lordships without a few words of explanation. The purpose of the clause was to place the leaseholder and copyholder in the same position as the 40s. freeholder in respect of the franchise which his property would confer. As their Lordships were aware, before the Reform Act the qualification for the county vote was the possession of a 40s. freehold; lease-holds and copyholds conferring no vote. The Reform Act altered that, by giving a vote to leaseholders and copyholders of the value of £10. But there was a distinction made in one particular for which he could see no good reason. Before the Reform Act a man who had a 40s. freehold in a Parliamentary borough could vote for the county as a freeholder and for the borough as an occupier. By that Act he was deprived of this double vote, and could vote only as a freeholder for the county if he did not acquire a vote for the borough in respect of the occupation of his freehold within the limits of the borough. By the Reform Act the owner of leasehold or copyhold property within a borough was put in a worse position than the 40s. freeholder, inasmuch as he could not vote for the county in respect of his leasehold or copyhold qualification, if it gave a vote to any other person for the borough. The object of his clause was to put both kinds of qualification on the same footing by enacting that if the qualification gave a vote for the borough, it should not give a vote for the county. He (Viscount Halifax) could not understand on what ground a nonresident leaseholder should be deprived of his vote for the county more than a non-resident freeholder, and, therefore, his object in moving this Amendment was to place the leaseholder and the copyholder in precisely the same position as the freeholder, in respect of their property within the limits of a borough, which did not give to them the right of voting for the borough. He proposed in point of fact to give him a vote for the county, unless he acquired one for the borough by reason of his occupation. He was exceedingly sorry to see any attempt made to draw distinction between two different classes of owners of property where no real distinction existed. It was generally felt that all distinctions between towns and counties were put an end to by the repeal of the Corn Laws; that in the main their interests were the same, and therefore they should all act together, and be placed upon an equal footing as respected electoral rights. An objection might be urged to this Amendment that two votes for the county would arise out of the same property — namely, the vote of the freeholder and that of the householder: but those depended upon altogether different rights, and there was no inconvenience in that, because no influence could be exercised by the freeholder over the occupying tenant—certainly no such influence as could be exercised by the employer over those whom he employed. But those who raised the point must be prepared, to be consistent, to repeal the Chandos clause, which conferred two votes, practically, on owners and occupiers, and thus created a double vote for the same place. In some cases it might even confer three out of the same property. He was not one of those who joined in the clamour against the Chandos clause, and therefore was doing nothing inconsistent in making his present proposition. A great deal of land, and especially of Church property in towns, was let upon long building leases; and the first effect of the Bill would be to give to the leaseholders of such property—wealthy and independent men—votes for the county in which the boroughs were situated. It was altogether a property qualification. Dangers to property were apprehended by some persons, from the present Bill, owing to the extension of the franchise in boroughs. Surely, if those apprehensions had any foundation, it was wise to strengthen the point exposed to danger, instead of disfranchising many persons in counties, as this measure in its present shape would inevitably do.

After Clause 8, moved to insert the following Clause:— That Sections Twenty-four and Twenty-five of the Act of the Second Year of William the Fourth, Chapter Forty-five, be repealed, and that in place thereof it be enacted, No Person shall be entitled to be registered as a Voter for a County Member or Members in respect of any Premises situate in a Borough if he would be entitled to be registered in respect of such Premises as a Voter for a Member or Members of Parliament to serve for such Borough.—(The Viscount Halifax.)


said, he concurred in the general principle that it was desirable to place the leaseholder, the copyholder, and the freeholder in the same position; but he thought he should be able to make it clear to their Lordships, on a close examination of the clause, that it went a great deal further. The subject was in itself a most difficult one, and the Amendment which the noble Viscount had placed upon the paper was one of the most difficult to comprehend that he had ever seen. At first sight it appeared so Conservative a proposition that several noble Friends, on his side, had asked him whether he intended to oppose it. But, on a more minute examination, he discovered that it, in reality, had a tendency very different from what appeared on the surface. By the law, as it stood at present, a freeholder in a borough, not occupying his freehold, is entitled to vote for the county; and his tenant, if paying sufficient rent, votes for the borough. The object of the noble Viscount's Amendment was said to be to place the leaseholder and the freeholder on an equality; but, in fact, if this Amendment was carried, leasehold property would be placed in a better position than freehold. The noble Viscount proposed to repeal the 24th and 25th sections of the Reform Act, which gave to the freeholder a vote for the county unless he possessed an occupation vote in the borough. The 25th clause provided that no leaseholder or copyholder should vote in respect of any leasehold or copyhold property in a county within the limits of a borough if the lessee of that tenement possessed an occupation vote for the borough. The Amendment of the noble Viscount repealed those clauses, and enacted that no person should be entitled to be placed on the register in respect of any property in the borough if the occupying tenant were already entitled to vote. By the noble Viscount's proposition three votes might be given in respect of the same property. The ground - landlord might let to the leaseholder property to the value of £10 per annum, which would entitle him to the possession of a vote for the county; the ground-landlord, himself, would remain in possession of a vote for the same property by virtue of being a 40s. freeholder; while the tenant of the leaseholder would vote for the borough in respect of his occupation of the premises. There would, in fact, be three persons qualified to vote for the same property—namely, the ground-landlord, the leaseholder, and the occupier, the two former voting for the county, and the latter for the borough. If, however, the property was freehold, there could be no more than two votes registered—one in virtue of the ownership, and the other in virtue of the occupation. He contended, therefore, that he was justified in asserting that leasehold property instead of being placed on a position of equality with freehold property, would in reality be placed in an improved position. The effect of the Amendment, if adopted, would be to increase the town element in the counties to an extent which would be injurious to the county constituencies. A similar provision was, he believed, originally inserted in the Bill introduced last year by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell). That provision, as he was informed, was subsequently withdrawn, but it was said that the effect of it at Birmingham alone would have been to have given county votes to 5,000 leaseholders in the neighbourhood of that town. Believing that it was not advisable, either for the counties or boroughs, to have so strong an infusion of that town clement in the county constituencies, he trusted their Lordships would reject the Amendment.


asked, whether the case was not precisely the same at this moment, where the owner in fee, the long leaseholder, and the occupier, could all vote for the same property?


said, that he expected the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) would only have been too happy to consent to the Amendment, seeing the large number it would add to the county constituency. As the Bill stood it actually deprived many persons of a vote who now possessed it. The Bill gave to £10 occupiers a vote for the borough; but a large number of persons who, before the Act had the right of voting for the county would lose their right, because they did not possess a vote for the borough. The Bill would, therefore, deprive them of rights which they now possessed.

On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 41; Not-Contents 135: Majority 94.

Ailesbury, M. Cranworth, L.
Normanby, M. De Mauley, L.
Ebury, L.
Airlie, E. Foley, L. [Teller.]
Albemarle, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Chichester, E.
Clarendon, E. Harris, L.
Cowper, E. Hatherton, L.
Dartrey, E. Houghton, L.
De Grey, E. Leigh, L.
Ducie, E. Lovat, L.
Fitzwilliam, E. Lyttelton, L.
Granville, E. Lyveden, L.
Kimberley, E. Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)
Morley, E.
Russell, E. Methuen, L.
Spencer, E. Mostyn, L.
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Halifax, V. [Teller.]
Sydney, V. Romilly, L.
Saye and Sele, L.
Belper, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Camoys, L.
Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Belmore, E.
Bradford, E.
Cadogan, E.
Beaufort, D. Camperdown, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Cardigan, E.
Carnarvon, E.
Cleveland, D. Cawdor, E.
Manchester, D. Chesterfield, E.
Marlborough, D. Dartmouth, E.
Richmond, D. Denbigh, E.
Rutland, D. Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)
Wellington, D.
Abercorn, M. Effingham, E.
Bristol, M. Eldon, E.
Camden, M. Ellenborough, E.
Exeter, M. Erne, E.
Salisbury, M. Essex, E.
Westmeath, M. Fortescue, E.
Gainsborough, E.
Amherst, E. Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)
Bathurst, E.
Beauchamp, E. Grey, E.
Haddington, E. Cloncurry, E.
Hardwicke, E. Colonsay, L.
Harrowby, E. Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]
Home, E.
Huntingdon, E. Congleton, L.
Leven and Melville, E. Crofton, L.
Lichfield, E. Delamere, L.
Lovelace, E. De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
Lucan, E. Denman, L.
Malmesbury, E. Dunsandle and Clanconal, L.
Mansfield, E.
Manvers, E. Egerton, L.
Minto, E. Feversham, L.
Morton, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Nelson, E.
Powis, E. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Romney, E. Grantley, L.
Selkirk, E. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Shaftesbury, E.
Shrewsbury, E. Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)
Sommers, E. Heytesbury, L.
Stanhope, E. Kingston, L. (E. Kingston.)
Stradbroke, E.
Tankerville, E. Londesborough, L.
Verulam, E. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Wicklow, E.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E. Monson, L.
Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Hardinge, V. Northwick, L.
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Overstone, L.
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.) Penrhyn, L.
Raglan, L.
Lifford, V. Ravensworth, L.
Melville, V. Redesdale, L.
Sidmouth, V. Rivers, L.
Stratford de Redcliffe, V. Saltoun, L.
Strathallan, V. Seaton, L.
Templetown, V. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Peterborough, Bp. Skelmersdale, L.
Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Arundell of Wardour, L.
Bagot, L. Sondes, L.
Berners, L. Southampton, L.
Bolton, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Stratheden, L.
Cairns, L. Strathnairn, L.
Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.) Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.) Templemore, L.
Vernon, L.
Churston, L. Walsingham, L.
Clarina, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)
Wentworth, L.
Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.) Wharncliffe, L.
Clinton, L. Wrottesley, L.

Resolved in the Negative.


rose to propose the clause of which he had given notice, enacting that no person should be entitled to vote at any election of a Member of Parliament who could not write a legible hand, and that the Privy Council should frame and issue regulations for giving effect to that provision. He would admit that he had not much hope that this clause would be accepted by the Committee; and he perceived that the clause, partly he feared from some personal reasons connected with the proposer of it, had been received in some quarters with a certain amount of ridicule. His belief was that it was too reasonable a clause to pass; and he conceived that it was greatly justified by the nature of the present Bill. It was not his habit to trouble the House often, and he had not thought himself entitled to take any part in the general discussion of that great subject. He had neither taken a part in the very easy task of showing the inconsistency of household suffrage with the previous character and proceedings of the Conservative party, nor in that other task—also not a difficult one—of making some sort of defence for that party on account of the change of circumstances. There was no doubt that there had been a great change of circumstances. The late Government had been turned out by members of their own party, and the present Government could not help coming in; and when they were invited and entreated by, he might say, the whole country to bring in a large measure of Reform, he could not conceive that it was possible for them to avoid doing so. He believed that if that Bill, even as it stood, had been brought in last year, it would have been jumped at by the whole Liberal party with united acclamation. At the same time, he must say, it seemed to him very marvellous that the Conservative party should have been found bringing in such a measure; for he believed that if a year ago the intelligence of the whole country had been asked what was the dividing line between the Conservatives and the Liberals, the answer would have been that it was in household suffrage, pure and simple; because when it was said that it was not household suffrage pure and simple which was now proposed, he supposed that no one imagined that every man who occupied a house, it might be only for a few days, was to receive the franchise. The Bill would establish what was commonly understood to be household suffrage. As to his Amendment, he thought that, in common sense, some respect ought to be had to the personal qualification of those who were to exercise the franchise; and it seemed to him monstrous that in so many large towns the well educated and intelligent population was to be overborne—as would be the case under the Bill as it stood—by what was called a set of "roughs" who could not even write their own names. On that ground he ventured to propose that there should be so far an educational test that the voters should be able to write. He did not mean to go into the details by which such a proposition might be made practicable. He was aware it was a question of some difficulty; but he had no doubt that for the Privy Council to frame proper regulations on the subject would be easy with the expenditure of a very little ingenuity. It had been suggested that he should leave out the word "legible;" but that would make the whole thing absurd. And when he was told, as he had been in the newspapers, that his clause would disqualify half the statesmen and public men of the day, he thought that was a preposterous argument. He did not require that everybody should like the late or the present Prime Minister, write a beautiful hand, but only that every voter should be able to write legibly; and he believed that anybody who had ever learnt to write could, if he took the trouble and wrote slowly, write legibly. He had received suggestions from persons of skill on that subject, who believed that his proposal was perfectly practicable. Among those persons were Mr. Edwin Chadwick and other authorities. For instance, it had been suggested to him that the test of being able to write should be applied, not at the time of election, but at the time of registration. He did not suppose that his proposal was likely to be accepted at that moment, but he wished strongly to express his agreement with those who thought that by this, or, if possible, by some more effective measure, some attempt should be made, now that that large extension of the suffrage was to take place, to stimulate the spread of elementary education among the people.

Moved, "That from and after the Expiration of Six Months after the passing of this Act no one shall be entitled to vote at any election of a Member of Parliament who cannot write a legible Hand.

"And be it enacted, That the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council are hereby authorized and required to frame and issue Regulations within Three Months after the passing of this Act to carry the last preceding Enactment into effect."—(The Lord Lyttelton.)


said, that the Amendment had at first sight a certain reasonable appearance; but on consideration it could not be agreed to, because the fact that a man could read and write was no guarantee that he was a respectable member of society. Their Lordships must all have had experience that the most immoral classes in society—namely, tramps, begging-letter writers, and impostors—often wrote the best hand. There was one advantage, at least, in a man not being able to write a legible hand—he could not forge. One of the most valued friends he had ever had wrote so remarkable a hand, that having occasion to write a letter to a stranger, the only word that could be read was the name of a gentleman in the county. The person to whom the letter was written acccordingly took it to this gentleman to see if he could tell him what it was about and who it came from. He would urge their Lordships to remember that the possession of the faculty of reading and writing was not a sufficient qualification to prove a man to be a respectable member of society. It was the greatest mistake to suppose that instruction was the same thing as education. Some day he should probably come before their Lordships with this Bill in his hands to ask them to give the greatest possible freedom and facility for religious instruction. A clever man without religion was like a vessel without a pilot or a rudder. The Amendment was, in his view, utterly useless.


said, there was this peculiarity in the proceedings during the last two days—that certain speeches against certain propositions had decided persons to vote exactly the opposite way to that which the speakers had intended, and if anything could induce him to vote for the Amendment it would be the speech they had just heard. His principal objection to this clause was of a practical character, arising from the difficulty of laying down a standard and framing regulations for carrying out the Amendment. With regard to legibility of handwriting, he could not agree with his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) in the principles he had laid down. They all knew that the late and present Prime Ministers wrote a very good hand; but they also knew some statesmen who wrote remarkably bad hands. He was, for a very short time, at the Foreign Office, when it was his duty to correspond with many distinguished representatives of Her Majesty at Foreign Courts. One of them wrote so illegibly that he felt himself compelled to ask, with due humility, whether it would be convenient to them to send him copies of their private letters and to keep the originals themselves. One of them apologized, and promised to be particularly legible for the future—a promise which he certainly never kept. He might appeal to his successors in regard to one diplomatist who had just retired from his post with the regret of two countries, and ask them to say whether copies of his letters would not very often have been, more acceptable than the originals. It was worthy of consideration whether, if this test were exacted from persons unused, to writing, their very nervousness would not prevent them from complying with it.


said, he believed his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) merely desired to fix upon a minimum test of education, and he did not believe, there would be any practical difficulty in the way of carrying out the Amendment. If an educational test were established at all he did not see what milder or simpler form it could take than was now proposed. A proposition for an educational franchise had been fairly discussed in the other House of Parliament. It was, however, a great novelty in this country, and he did not feel much hope that it would be established. He was afraid all they could do was to endeavour to bring about, by other means, the result the noble Lord desired. Let them try to teach every man who had a vote to write. It was by means of popular education alone that the enormous change now proposed could be made without danger.


I had the honour to meet Dr. Jarvis of Massachusetts at a Social Science Association annual dinner, about four years ago, and he had assured the meeting that no one was admitted to the franchise in his county, who could not read and write. This, after a time, might be carried out in England, and when we considered how many criminals in the Calendar appeared to be persons who could neither read nor write, we might think it desirable that this condition should attach to the franchise, if dangers arose from the want of knowledge at future elections.


said, that everything that fell from his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) was entitled to great respect, but he must remind him that the Bill was an enfranchising and not a disfranchising Bill. Unfortunately, the state of education in this country was such that an Amendment imposing such a condition would have a more disfranchising effect than the vote of last night on the lodger franchise. It would also impose a very invidious task upon the Committee of Council. He presumed it would be the duty of that Office not only to frame regulations for carrying out the Amendment, but to devise a certain system and standard up to which the candidate must come. It would also be the duty of that Office to impose the examination to which candidates for the suffrage must submit. Considerable complaint had already been made as to the mode in which the educational tests had been carried on by the Educational Department, and if they had in addition to assign the standard and impose the examination, the dissatisfaction would be largely increased.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.


proposed the addition of a clause providing that no person who, after the passing of the Act, shall become a freeman of any city, town, or borough, shall be entitled as such to be placed on the register, saving the rights of existing freemen. The noble Marquess said, that the venality of this class of voters had come under notice in every inquiry respecting municipal and Parliamentary elections that had of late years been instituted, and Committees and Commissions had been all agreed in representing this class of voters as hopelessly corrupt. The only objection offered to the proposal in the other House, that this was a measure of enfranchisement and not of disfranchisement, was of no force; for the Bill before the Committee was in name, and, he hoped, was intended to be in fact, a Bill to amend the Representation of the People; and this proposal, he submitted, was one which would indisputably amend the representation. Moreover, as to disfranchisement, a number of existing electors would be disfranchised in the four boroughs which were to be punished for their corruption, and the argument employed with reference to lodgers, that the franchise should rest on the possession of some property, applied with equal force to freemen as to others, who ought not, merely as such, to possess votes. Neither was his proposition one that would disfranchise anybody who now had a right to vote—it would merely apply to such as might become freemen hereafter.

Moved, after Clause 8, to insert the following Clauso:— No person who after the passing of this Act may be elected, made, or admitted a Freeman of any City, Town, or Borough shall be entitled to register a Vote, or to vote as such for the Election of any Member of Parliament for such City, Town, or Borough: Provided nevertheless, that such Person may be registered as an Elector and may vote for a Member or Members of Parliament for any Place for which he shall be entitled to vote by reason of any Franchise created by this Act or otherwise; and nothing herein contained shall prejudice or affect any Right or Privilege, Municipal or Corporate, to which he may be entitled, except the Right to vote as a Freeman for the Election of a Member of Parliament."—(The Marquess of Clanricarde.)


said, he would not enter into a discussion on the merits of this class of voters; but would simply remark that the clause was negatived in the other House without a division, and that it was contrary to the principle of the Bill, which was that there should be no disfranchisement.


reminded theis Lordships that the clause would disfranchise no existing voters. The freeman franchise had been preserved in the Reform Act on the ground that the occupation had been placed as high as £10; but, now that the occupation franchise had been placed on a wide basis, there was no necessity for retaining this exceptional qualification.


said, that at his instigation a Commission inquired into Corrupt Practices at Barnstaple, where the freeman qualification existed, at great expense to the country and with very little result. A Bill for disfranchising the corrupt voters by name was given up by the Government of the day, and the consequence was, that at municipal dinners and on other occasions, these men, so far from being penitent, gloried in their shame. Bribery continued to prevail in that borough, and was notoriously very rife at the last election. The freemen were conspicuous among the corrupt voters, and, having been brought up in habits of corruption, it was to be feared that they would contaminate the class about to be admitted into the constituency. On this ground he supported the clause. It should be remembered that the Bill disqualified the persons guilty of bribery at Totnes from voting for the county. He thought that disposed of the argument that this was an enfranchising and in no respect a disfranchising Bill.


said, that when he had experience of Liverpool he could say that the freemen there were as free from corruption as the £10 householders. If the Committee looked at Lancaster they would see that respectable farmers were quite as guilty as the poorer class of voters.


said, that this testimony of the noble Earl was somewhat comforting after his observations the previous evening. If the noble Marquess went to a division he should support him. It was quite clear that a great many freemen would come in under the provisions of the Bill even if the clause were adopted.


said, that they must extinguish bribery in high places before they could extinguish it among the freemen. The bribery of office was far worse than the bribery of which the poor man was guilty.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.


As this may be a convenient opportunity, I wish to call your Lordships' attention to an Amendment placed upon the Paper in my name which I venture to think well worthy of your Lordships' consideration. I know that in the discussion of this Bill time is a considerable object, and therefore I will take the liberty of placing before you, in the briefest possible way, the proposition which I have to make, and the reasons which I have to advance in support of it. The proposition is one which concerns those constituencies, and those constituencies only, that return three Members to Parliament. Your Lordships may desire to be reminded of the number of those constituencies at present. I believe there are eight constituencies in all which return, according to the present system of representation, three Members each to Parliament. By the present Bill it is proposed that one of these constituencies—namely, South Lancashire — shall cease to return three Members, and that it shall be divided into two parts to return two Members each. There remain therefore seven constituencies returning each three Members to Parliament. I also put aside at present the City of London, which returns four Members, and about which I shall have a word to say by-and-by. Those who consult that useful publication the Parliamentary Companion will find that out of those seven constituencies there are only three at present where the Members are all of the same party and sit on the same side; in the case of the other four there is a division, two Members for each sitting on one side of the House and one on the other. The Bill now before the Committee proposes to add four new "three-cornered" constituencies—namely, Liverpool. Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds. We shall then, supposing the Bill passes in its present form, have eleven of those three-cornered constituencies. Now, what I have said with regard to those we have at present, and what we know of the political opinions of the four constituencies which are to be added, will, I think, satisfy your Lordships that the proposition which I am about to make is one which cannot be held or conceived to be in the interest of any particular party. Indeed, as far as party is concerned, it would, I believe, leave both parties very much in the same position as regards those eleven constituencies as they are now. There is, therefore, no reason why the proposal should not be considered on its own merits, without regard to any advantage to be gained by one party or the other. I should also wish to add that, as for as I am concerned, it is not intended to have any connection with any other Amendments which may be offered to your Lordships' consideration. I venture to think my proposition worthy to be considered upon its own merits, whether it be followed by any other Amendments or not. I own most frankly that I cannot but foresee that, if it should happen either in a short or a longer time that there should be a further alteration in the distribution of electoral power, the great probability is that such alteration will go in the direction of increasing the number of those three-cornered constituencies. I own also that this consideration does make me more anxious that some proposition of this kind should be adopted; because, although the existence of those anomalous constituencies, at present, is limited to a very small number, when they come to be increased by a larger number there will be a still greater need to counteract the accumulation of numbers in particular constituencies. Now, the proposal which I have to make is very simple in its operation, and very easily described. I ask you to consent to a clause which will, in each of those three-cornered constituencies, limit every voter to a vote for two Members only—which will put him, in point of fact, upon the same footing as a voter in any other constituency — I mean, of course, constituencies which return two Members. In other words, my proposal is that no advantage should be gained by a voter because he happens to reside within a three-cornered constituency over another who may reside in a constituency returning two Members only. This proposal does not lay the least claim to originality, if originality would be a merit; it has often been made before, and was made on one occasion by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) when, as the organ of the Government, he embodied it in the Bill presented to Parliament in 1854. I will not repeat now what I ventured to express to your Lordships a few nights ago, as to the fact that the creation of those three-cornered constituencies is really a complete departure from what is now familiarly termed "the old lines of the Constitution." So far as the history of our Constitution is concerned, these three-cornered constituencies are an entire novelty, and their creation imposes the necessity and gives the opportunity of dealing with a very serious question—the question of the want of representation of the large masses who may happen to be in the minority in particular districts. Let me ask you what is the amount of the minorities in constituencies of this kind. I will take the twelve constituencies which I have mentioned—that is to say, the eight three-cornered constituencies we now have and the four which are proposed to be created by this Bill. If your Lordships refer to some Returns on the table you will find that, speaking in rough numbers, the population of these twelve constituencies alone would amount to something like 2,300,000 persons. It is impossible to say what may be the number of the minority in each of these constituencies; but taking them to be one-third, yon have in that way something like 700,000 or 800,000 of a population who, unless some provision is made for the expression of their opinions, are wholly unrepresented in our electoral system. I think you will agree with me that in most cases, if not in all, the minority in these constituencies are the possessors of a great, if not of the greatest, amount of property and intelligence. Certainly that would be so in the case of the constituencies of populous towns. I do not desire to enter into any question whether the majority or the minority are likely to be right; but it can hardly admit of controversy that in the case of large masses in our large towns the great bulk of the property and intelligence will be found of necessity in the minority and not in the majority. In addition to that, the fact is apparent that unless the representation of these large constituencies is divided by consent or by legislation, the minorities to which I have referred, representing so large an amount of intelligence and property, are never brought into actual and direct contact with the legislation of the country. I know it is the fashion to say that these minorities, though not represented in their own particular constituencies, are sure to be represented indirectly, if not directly, in some other constituencies. But that argument, if admitted, would go entirely to the root of our whole representative system. The same argument was adduced during the discussion on the Reform Act of 1832. When it used to be contended then that large towns like Manchester ought to be represented in Parliament, the answer was, "No doubt Manchester is not represented directly; but the opinions of the inhabitants are represented indirectly by those who are Members for some other place." If, then, the argument be worth anything, it would go to the principle of indirect representation, and would be an answer to all appeals made for the enfranchisement of large and growing constituencies to which we are now giving the franchise. Now, I think I cannot do better than state what seem to me to be the advantages of such a system as I have proposed. These must obviously be looked at from three points of view—the advantages to the general legislation of the country, the advantages to the Members who would be selected under an arrangement of this kind, and the advantages to the constituencies themselves. Now, with regard to the Legislature, the advantages which I think would be gained by this system would be these—you would obtain in the persons of those who would be the representatives of the minority in these large constituencies a body of men of great intelligence and of great independence; you would have those elements of advantage which exist in the representation of small boroughs, and, at the same time, you would be perfectly free from the disadvantages and defects of the small borough system. If these minorities could return Members to Parliament, it seems to me that you would be able to provide seats for persons whose claims upon a constituency would be the claims of intelligence, freedom from any popular excitement or prejudice, and independence. Now, these are just the advantages which we are in the habit of saying have been obtained through the medium of small boroughs; and when you come to curtail the representation of small boroughs, or even abolish them, it would be desirable if, avoiding what is injurious, you could get that which is beneficial in the small borough system — getting it, however, in another shape. I think further that the Legislature would have in such persons an extremely steadying element in times of popular excitement. So long as you had only eleven or twelve constituencies, the operation of the plan I propose would, of course, be very small, and it would not, perhaps, have any very strong countervailing influence. But I look forward to a great extension of these constituencies, and, in that case, if you should get some forty or fifty, and an equal number of Members representing the minorities in those constituencies—I do not care on which side of the House they may sit—you would obtain a steady, stable element in the representation of the country which would have a most beneficial and salutary effect, especially in a time of any great popular excitement. In addition, you would gain this very great advantage:—without in the least entering into the comparative merits of Members for populous towns and of county Members, I think your Lordships must have observed that in a Representative House there is of necessity a very considerable sameness and monotony, both in the Members for large towns and the Members for large agricultural counties respectively. It is not a fault to be laid to any one's charge; the nature of the case requires it. Take the Members for the large manufacturing towns throughout the kingdom. They have very much the same views; their constituents have very much the same interests; the Members express the interests of the majority of their constituents; the majority is generally a majority in one direction; and the result is that you get in the House of Commons a body of men representing large manufacturing and commercial constituencies who are distinguished, I agree, by great ability and, if you please, intelligence, but at the same time by great sameness and monotony of character as regards the expression of their political sentiments. Now, I think it would be of great advantage to break in upon that political sameness; it would be a great advantage for the Legislature to have among them not only men who, representing the majority in the manufacturing towns, express the views most prevalent there, but also others who, representing the minority, would thus produce diversity, change, variation, in the sentiments expressed in the other House of Parliament and in the political tone of that assembly. There is another point, too, which deserves consideration. We are in the habit of saying that questions of politics are Imperial questions. That is, no doubt, quite true. At the same time questions are constantly arising which, in one aspect, are questions of general political interest, but which are more or less connected with local interests and bear upon local claims; and thus a question which, in a general point of view, is of political interest to the whole country sometimes becomes coloured and affected in many ways by the aspect in which it is viewed in different localities. No doubt in discussing general questions of political interest it would be of the greatest possible advantage to hear how those questions were viewed, not merely by different localities, but by different bodies of men in the same locality. That result you would obtain by the plan which I propose. I will not dwell further upon its advantages to the Legislature, but will pass to the consideration of the advantages which would be gained by the representatives of those large constituencies themselves. No doubt at the present moment there are are such things as Members sitting for the same constituency and yet differing in their political opinions. Happily, that is often so at present. I think it impossible to deny that the contact and intercourse with each other of Members of different political views sitting for the same constituency are highly beneficial. But at present—one must speak frankly upon such matters—it is impossible not to see that the intercourse between two men of different politics sitting for the same constituency must occasionally be influenced by a sort of rivalry—an apprehension of the bearing which their different views and interests may have upon their fate at some subsequent Parliamentary contest. Now, that would be entirely avoided by the arrangement which I propose. You would then have from the same constituency two Members representing the majority and one representing the minority, communicating freely with each other, and without the slightest tinge of jealousy or apprehension that the interests of one would jar or conflict with the interests of the other in the constituency. Moreover, I have the strongest opinion that there could be nothing more beneficial for public men and for Statesmen than that a public man of one way of thinking in politics, differing in opinion from the majority of a large constituency, should be brought face to face with the majority of the constituency, even although in doing so he should become the representative of the minority. I venture to think, for example, that if some one unconnected with manufactures, yet selected by property and intelligence and representing the minority in a manufacturing constituency, were brought face to face with the majority there, he would derive great benefit from the free expression of their views; and in the same way, some person chosen by the minority in an agricultural constituency, and not perhaps in any way connected with agriculture, would derive considerable benefit from being brought face to face with the majority in that constituency. Again, with regard to the constituency itself—and this is one of the most important views of the case—observe the advantages which would be gained. First, I believe you would gain the greatest possible local satisfaction. There is nothing so irksome to those who form the minority of one of those large constituencies as finding that, from the mere force of numbers, they are virtually excluded from the exercise of any political power; that it is in vain for them to attempt to take any part in public affairs; that the elections must always go in one direction, and that they have no political power whatever. On the one hand, the result is great dissatisfaction; and on the other, it is disinclination on the part of those who form the minority to take any part in affairs in which it is important they should take a prominent and conspicuous part. Another advantage of this proposal is that there is in it nothing that is invidious in the way of dividing constituencies into classes according to rateability or their stake in regard to property—there is no giving of a Member to one class of society, and thus distinguishing it from the rest of the community. Propositions of this kind are necessarily invidious; but mine contains nothing which can be considered invidious by any member of a constituency. In addition to that, it would do much to soften the asperity of political feeling which sometimes, though not often, prevails in large constitnencies. I mean that, as a general rule, Englishmen exhibit such a spirit of fairness that they would be well content with any arrangement which gives to the majority of any large constituency the right of choosing two Members, and at the same time leaves one Member who would be the representative of the minority. Of this I am perfectly sure — and, although some treat it as an objection, I think it a great advantage of the scheme — that contests would be very much diminished in large constituencies, where contests are most expensive — so expensive that the mind almost recoils at hearing the sums which they cost. Contests, practically, would come to an end, and, as they did, so would danger of bribery and corruption. You would have great constituencies divided into great component parts; you would have each portion well represented; you would have freedom from expense, freedom from the irritation of political feeling, and from the curse of all elections—bribery. These are the advantages that it appears to me would follow the adoption of the proposal I venture to make. I have heard only two objections urged against this measure. I do not think the proposal I make was made in the other House of Parliament; but it has, of course, been a subject of discussion; and the only two objections I have heard are these:—First, if you adopt any measure of this kind, tending to the representation of minorities, you must introduce it also into constituencies represented by two Members. The result of that will be you will have one Member for each side, the one balancing the other, and you will neutralize and perhaps paralyze the whole representative system of the country. Now I make no proposition for the representation of minorities in constituencies returning two Members. On the contrary, I venture to think that any proposition of that kind would be open to very great objection. I think the great merit of the proposal I make, as compared with what has been called cumulative voting, is that, if you adopt my proposal, from its very nature you cannot carry it beyond the three-cornered constituencies; it must begin there and rest there: whereas if you introduce cumulative voting, even into three-cornered constituences, I believe you would find it difficult to resist the argument, in point of principle, which would say it ought to be carried further, and introduced into constituencies returning two Members. The other and more practical objection which I have heard is this—that supposing a vacancy occurs in the middle of a Parliament in respect of the seat occupied by the representative of a minority it must fall into the hands of the majority. Of course, at a General Election the arrangement would work without difficulty; the three seats would have to be filled up, and electors would vote accordingly; but if a vacancy occurs by the death or resignation of the Member representing the minority in the middle of a Parliament there is an election to supply his place, and the majority must be allowed to vote, and practically to choose the candidate. I quite admit that; but it does not appear to me to be a fatal or a serious objection to the proposal. This is one of those matters in which what happens in one constituency will be fairly counterbalanced by what happens in another, through the respective majorities and minorities being of different political opinions. I do not think we need trouble ourselves about a slight circumstance of this kind, which, if the principle be a good one, will not affect its working in any way. These are the only two objections which I have heard; and if there are others, they will, perhaps, be stated. Without sharing alarm, while sharing anxiety as to the result of this measure, which introduces into the constituencies great numbers that have not had votes hitherto, and alters the system under which a select and privileged class have hitherto had the choice of Members of Parliament, I venture to press upon your Lordships that it will be worth your consideration and care to provide an arrangement by which, at all events, while we give additional force and weight to numbers, we shall not lose sight of the advantages which may be derived from considering the interests of the property and intelligence of the country.

After Clause 8, moved to insert the following Clause:— At a contested Election for any County or Borough represented by Three Members no Person shall vote for more than Two Candidates."—(The Lord Cairns.)


My Lords, whatever may be the merit of the clause which the noble and learned Lord recommends, the proposition gains from the ability of his advocacy, and it is always most difficult to follow him, and convince those who have heard him that he is wrong in his arguments. I do not believe that in this instance the noble and learned Lord's case is as strong as, by his eloquence and talent in advocating it, he has made it appear to be. My first objection to his proposal is that it is entirely a new-fangled one. The plan exists in none of our institutions that I know of. In our municipal institutions it does not exist; certainly it does not in our political institutions; and I am not aware that such a plan of voting has been introduced into any of the public or private companies, which are now so numerous. I think the reason of that is obvious. The mind of an Englishman is a very straightforward piece of machinery, and I may say he generally puts the question in black and white. Upon the subject of discussion he is accustomed, and has been accustomed, ever to obey majorities, to be ruled by majorities, and to be obedient to the decisions and verdicts of majorities. If you agree to this proposition you are going directly contrary to the customs and habits of the country. But is this principle of representing minorities a fair proposal when we are amending the Representation of the People? What has been our object in introducing three-cornered constituencies by this Bill? We are not, as I said before, governed entirely by the numbers of the population, but we do, as far as discretion allows, pick out among the constituencies those who contain the greatest populations, and we add to the number of their representatives. To each of the four towns the noble and learned Lord has mentioned — Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham — we have given an additional Member: and why have we done so? We have done so to give them additional power of representation, not of minorities, but in the Lobbies of the House of Commons; and if the scheme of the noble and learned Lord is followed you will take away with the one hand what you have given with the other. I will take the case of Manchester. You have given Manchester three representatives. If you adopt the scheme of my noble and learned Friend, what happens? That, practically, the majority in Manchester is represented by only one Member in the House of Commons. The second Member is neutralized by this "outrigger" who represents the minority. Therefore, the original object you had in giving three Members to Manchester is defeated entirely by the scheme of the noble and learned Lord. Not only so, but if the scheme is adopted Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leeds will actually stand in a worse position than smaller boroughs which return two Members, because those smaller boroughs, if their opinions are strong, one way or the other, will send two Members to the House of Commons representing those opinions, and they will therefore be practically represented by twice as many Members as the larger towns we wish by this Bill to render more powerful through their representation, in Parliament. I do not know whether that may be the object of the noble and learned Lord; but his proposal appears to me, in the first place, to be one tending totally to defeat the object of the Bill. One of the advantages which the noble and learned Lord mentioned was that the tendering of the scheme would be to diminish, if not altogether to put an end to rivalry between candidates and to election contests. In some cases, no doubt, the frequency of contests would not only be diminished but they would actually cease. The candidates would meet together in order to ascertain what should be done. They might, perhaps, find out that one-third of the constituency, plus one, represented the minority, and in that case they would have nothing to do but to shake hands and to set down one name as representing the minority and two others as representing the majority; and in that case there would be no contest. Now, I think the principle of three-cornered constituencies is a very bad one, and I hope they will never be increased. It is said to have been first adopted in consequence of the Government, at the period of the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, having begun to disfranchise before they had ascertained what places they ought to enfranchise. They ultimately found that they had too much stuff on their hands, and not knowing what else to do with the surplus Members they gave a third Member to some of the counties. Whether that tradition is true or not I cannot say. My noble and learned Friend has stated that his proposal will, if adopted, tend to soften asperities. Now, though we certainly all wish that as little asperity as possible should be imported into political discussions both in Parliament and in the country, I very much doubt whether, to attempt by such means as this to put an end to contest and rivalry, you will not produce a tameness in regard to politics very much to be deprecated. In this country there is great freedom of speech, and I think the — what I will call fighting propensities of Englishmen at contested elections are rather beneficial than otherwise, if such elections do not recur too often, and the rivalry is not carred too far. Of course, if you had annual or even triennial Parliaments the country would not be the better for the frequent contests that would take place; but I think the contests and discussions which now occur in the different counties and boroughs of Great Britain periodically are most beneficial to the country. These contests extract the real opinions of the great mass of the people; but you will have in many cases on almost private compact and agreement for dividing counties and boroughs if the triangular system is introduced, and this I think much to be deprecated. I believe that the House of Commons did not discuss exactly the same proposition as that of my noble and learned Friend, but still that House discussed a scheme very similar to it, relating to the cumulative vote, and rejected it by a considerable majority. Under the circumstances I do not think it will be beneficial either to Parliament itself, or to the Members of Parliament, or to the country at large, that the system of a clear and straightforward representation by majorities should be abandoned and that the proposed arrangement should be adopted. For these reasons Her Majesty's Government cannot, I am sorry to say, agree to my noble and learned Friend's Amendment, and I hope your Lordships will vote against it.


I hope your Lordships will consider this proposition well before you decide against it. It was thought prudent to insert a like provision in the Reform Bill, introduced by the Government in 1854, and I may mention that the late Duke of Newcastle and Sir James Graham were Members of a Committee of the Cabinet which reported in favour of the plan. The noble Earl oppoposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) has objected that this is a novelty. I fully admit it; but are we to reject every novelty? Let me remind your Lordships that the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland has been a most effective one since the Revolution of 1688, but that it has been at the same time a Government of extreme complexity. It has only succeeded by reason of the blending of various powers—the blending of the prerogative and influence of the Crown, the rank and influence of the aristocracy, and the rights and liberties of the people into one compact force, which has acted powerfully and harmoniously. Now, let us consider what was decided upon soon after the Revolution as the principle of Government. It was stated very ably by the late Lord Macaulay, who showed that in 1693 it was decided, under the advice of a man who had given very bad advice before, and nearly ruined the country—I mean Lord Sunderland—to have a party Administration. Previously to that time the Administration had been variously composed. Sometimes half of the Administration were of one party and half of another, no clear and decisive line of action being laid down for the Government to adopt. Well, in consequence of that advice of Lord Sunderland a party Administration was formed towards the end of the reign of William III. The same system was adopted by Queen Anne who formed first a Whig and afterwards a Tory Ministry. A Whig Ministry was installed in the early part of the reign of George I., and soon afterwards Sir Robert Walpole came into power. That was the commencement of the system which has prevailed ever since. Under that system it has been found necessary to have a great part of the Administration in the House of Commons, and of course Members of that House must be found who are qualified to fill great offices in the Administration. Now it commonly happens that the men who possess the confifidence of great manufacturing towns and great commercial cities are persons very deeply and very extensively engaged in business and trade, their time being occupied by those pursuits by which they have amassed their fortunes and placed themselves at the head, as it were, of the towns in which they reside. Generally speaking, they are so completely taken up with their business that it would be a very great loss to them to accept an office with a salary which is trifling in comparison with the fortunes they are making. Then, again, take the leading men in the great agricultural counties. They are often men of large fortunes and devoted to agricultural pursuits. They may be very excellent magistrates at the Quarter Sessions, but still they are not men who have studied the course of political affairs, and they would be very unwilling to leave their country avocations and comforts and their delightful homes, in order to engage in political pursuits and devote themselves entirely to the duties and labours of office. But we had many nomination boroughs previously to the Reform Act of 1832, and since then there have been boroughs which, though not nomination boroughs, were still very small boroughs, which give an opportunity of entering Parliament to the very class of men—such, for instance, as the late Sir Robert Peel—who had from an early period of life given themselves up to politics. In 1832 we found ourselves on the road to the abolition of small boroughs. We are now on the road to abolishing them still further. The question then arises whether, if we maintain scarcely any constituencies but large communities, we can carry on our complicated system of government. Shall we find in great commercial cities and in large communities men who would be willing, and at the same time able, to fill our great offices with credit to the country? It will not do to say, as the noble Earl opposite has said, that this proposition is entirely new. That is not a sufficient answer to the proposal. You are making great changes, and if you change one part of our complicated system without changing the other parts you will put the whole machinery out of gear. I believe, perhaps, it is with me a kind of superstition, that our constitutional system is the best plan of government ever put in practice; but if you deal with it in the way to which I have just referred you will find that it will fail in some way or other. The monarchy, the aristocracy, and the people will be pursuing different paths, and the Constitution will be brought to such a pass as to make us despair of its future. Now let us consider what the effects of the proposition of the noble and learned Lord will be—first, with regard to Parliament, and next with regard to the constituencies who send representatives to Parliament from the counties and towns. With regard to Parliament, I think that whether in such a place as Manchester, where the great current of opinion is in favour of what are called Liberal politics, or whether in the county of Buckingham, where the great current of opinion is in favour of Conservative politics, it would be a great advantage to have one man of moderate views returned to Parliament. You are more likely to bring about such a result by the plan of the noble and learned Lord. I believe that by means of such a plan you would introduce into the House of Commons men of moderate views whose influence would tend to reconcile parties on those occasions, which now and then arise, when neither extreme is completely right, and when the influence of moderate men is of much use in allaying the heat of party passion. Then let us consider what would be the case as regards the constituent bodies. The noble Earl says that if the Amendment were adopted the views of the majority of a constituency returning three Members would not prevail in the way those views prevail now—that if one of the Members were returned by the minority of, perhaps, more than one-third of the entire constituency, the majority would not feel that they were fully represented, inasmuch as the vote of one of their representatives would be neutralized. Well, I must say that I think a party would be rather unreasonable if they were not satisfied with having two to one of the representatives. If there were fifty constituencies so divided, the majority would have 100 votes in a division, and their opponents only fifty. I think the majority might be tolerably well satisfied under such circumstances. But is there no other advantage? Suppose a town has 20,000 voters, and that 12,000 are of one side in politics and 8,000 of the other, would not that town be better represented if both the 12,000 and the 8,000 were represented than if only the 12,000 were represented? The gentleman who first impressed me with those opinions as to three-cornered constituencies mentioned to me that in a great manufacturing town where there was a very considerable Conservative minority, men of the greatest respectability, men of wealth, and men of education, were in such a state of political irritation from the fact of feeling themselves reduced to the position of mere ciphers at elections that they were sometimes ready to support candidates of even extreme democratic opinions. The advantages of the plan now proposed would be felt in important counties as well as in large towns. Is it not a fact that persons who have lived together in the greatest harmony, both as regards business transactions and social relations, sometimes have their friendly communications entirely broken by party contests in counties? Ten or fifteen years have sometimes elapsed before friendship, thus interrupted, has been renewed again. I own I think it extremely likely that one of the effects of the system proposed by this Amendment would be that, if two Members were to be elected by the majority and one by the minority, the respective parties would come to such an arrangement as would render a contest unnecessary. There is, however, no ground for the apprehension that all political activity would cease, because at present the plan would only apply to twelve constituencies, and at no time would it be likely to extend to one-half of the entire constituencies. I can well understand men who are extremely intolerant and exclusive in politics objecting to give any voice to those whose political views are distasteful to them; but I cannot understand such an objection being urged by those who are in favour of having public opinion fairly represented. I think that when you are making a great change in our old, and, I may add, mysterious Constitution, of which Mr. Canning said, "It was fearfully and wonderfully made," it will be wise to consider every proposition by which the change can be made to harmonize with that which we all admire, which we all love, as a form of government. For these reasons, my Lords, I think you ought not lightly and inconsiderately to reject the Amendment which the noble and learned Lord has proposed.


It is quite problematical whether the introduction of this scheme into the Bill will not impede its success, and I look at it more as a promise than a certainty. I beg to remind your Lordships that, in 1853, Mr. Locke King had said on introducing his County Franchise Bill— He hoped still more that he should not be told that he ought not to press it now because they had a promise of Reform. He was heartily sick of these promises of Reform. It was the discussion on a similar occasion which induced the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) to make a promise of Reform, but the fulfilment of that promise caused nothing but dissatisfaction and disappointment."—[3 Hansard, cxxvi. 1046.] In 1858, the noble Earl, now on the front Opposition Bench (Earl Russell), said, on leave being given for the introduction of another Bill on the same subject— For my part, I think the right course will be at once to accept the Bill of my hon. Friend and not listen to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that we should vote for the previous Question. We should remember that a 'Bird in the hand is worth two in the Bush,' and in that spirit support the Motion of the hon. Member for Surrey."—[3 Hansard, cxlix. 1828.] The noble Lord proceeded to remind the House how, in 1854, Lord Jocelyn, in the House of Commons, had dissuaded the noble Lord from bringing in a measure of Reform, and how, in their Lordships' House, the noble Earl, now the First Lord of the Treasury, whose absence every one in this House deplored, earnestly entreated the Earl of Aberdeen not to bring in a Reform Bill, when, in the opinion of every one except that noble Earl war was imminent; and how, in 1854, the noble Earl on the front Opposition Bench was unable to carry on that Reform Bill containing a provision like that proposed by the noble and learned Lord; but now that a Reform Bill has gone through nearly all its stages, it was most unadvisable to adopt a proposition, however ingenious, which would jeopardize the passing of this Reform Bill, and deprive the concession to four great boroughs of all its weight.


said, he felt he could add little or nothing to the able and searching argument which had been addressed to their Lordships by the noble and learned Lord who proposed this Motion; but the subject was one of such vast importance to the country that he thought it the duty of any one who had considered the subject with earnestness to come forward and state his views with regard to it. We were entering on a new and unknown region of our representative history: very few of their Lordships were able to look forward with any certainty to what might take place after the passing of this Reform Bill. In view, therefore, of the difficulties of the future ought they not to look back upon the past to see whether experience had pointed out any evils which timely precautions might be able to palliate, and being fore-warned by the past, we ought to be fore-armed for the future? One of the strongest arguments urged last year against the Bill of the late Government was that it admitted so large a body to the franchise that it, together with the kindred elements in the existing constituencies, would overpower all other classes of the community. He agreed with the noble Duke who spoke on the second night of the debate on the second reading (the Duke of Argyll), and who so ably pointed out that, until the statistics procured by the late Government were made known, no one could have conceived how large a body of working men were already in possession of the franchise. As they had not hitherto combined, he did not think it unreasonable to hope they would not do so under the increased constituencies. He did not therefore apprehend that danger would result from this extension of the franchise; but it might give rise to difficulties against which we ought to provide some protection. This was, perhaps, a speculative difficulty; and though he did not himself attribute great importance to it, he was aware that it had great weight with many persons when considering the present measure, and ought, therefore, to receive careful consideration; but there were evils of a more practical character which experience had very clearly pointed out. In America, for instance, for many years past, great complaints had been made that large numbers of persons, men of influence, of intellect, of wealth and position, refrained from taking any part in political life. Why was that? Because they felt that they were a hopeless minority, whose opinions were crushed by the overwhelming mass of the majority; they were, as the noble Earl (Earl Russell) had said, cyphers in the political world. If we looked at home we should find in all the great constituencies large bodies of men who did not care to go to the poll, and large bodies who refused to be put upon the register. Did not this arise from a similar cause—from feeling themselves cyphers in the constituency? They learned from a statement made a few nights ago by an hon. Member (Mr. Hughes) in "another place," that in his constituency, out of 26,000 voters, 10,000 abstained from voting. Surely that was an evil for which some palliative was required. And was it to be wondered at that interest should cease to be felt in many cases by the electors? All the sixteen Members for the Metropolis were of one shade of political opinion; yet those who sat on the Opposition side of the House were not so prejudiced as to suppose that Her Majesty's Government had not the support and sympathy of large numbers of residents in the metropolis. It was said that if not directly represented, those Conservative electors who in London were in a minority were represented through the majority some where else. As far as the House of Commons in that aggregate was concerned, he believed the answer was a sound one: but he did not look upon it as a complete and sufficient answer, and it certainly gave but very poor comfort to the individual constituency in which the minority were thus extinguished. Their opinion was entirely crushed, and that he took to be a very great evil, remembering that one of the great objects of representative government was to interest the greatest possible number in the public affairs of the country. Several remedies for this condition of things had been proposed, but he would not discuss them in any detail; it was enough to say that one of them had now been brought forward in a practical shape, and he believed it would have the desired effect of protecting the minorities. It was not the wish of those who, like himself, supported the Motion of the noble and learned Lord, to give the minorities an equal voice with the majority; their only desire was that the constituencies should be fairly represented, and that if a minority attained a certain proportion of the whole constituency, they should to some extent receive representation. The plan, he believed, was an exceedingly impartial one; in one place a Conservative would be returned by the minority, in another a Whig, and in another an extreme Liberal. It was the duty of their Lordships to look forward in legislating, and the day will probably come when the electoral districts of this country will be changed to a far greater extent than at present. They might anticipate a day, possibly not far distant, when equal electoral districts might be introduced into this country. If such a system should ever be established, of what enormous value would it then be to have tried beforehand the experiment—for to some extent it was an experiment—embodied in the present Motion! The proposal, if it proved successful, would enable them to mitigate to some extent the evils apprehended from equal electoral districts. For his own part, he heartily supported the Motion of the noble and learned Lord. He believed that it would tend not only to prevent great numbers from overpowering small ones, but would foster political feeling in the local constituencies, and would supplement to some extent the small boroughs, which undoubtedly had introduced many eminent and distinguished men to Parliament.


said, he was sorry to find that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to resist the present Motion. For his own part he approved it, and should give it his cordial support. Among the arguments used by his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal there were some that he had heard with great surprise. His noble Friend had stated that, in his opinion, this system of three-cornered constituencies was an erroneous system, which ought on no account to be encouraged. Well, but who had encouraged the system; who had increased the number of these three-cornered constituencies? Why, Her Majesty's Government. To the existing constituencies of that class they added by this Bill third Members for the boroughs of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Leeds. Whom then were their Lordships to trust as the representatives of Her Majesty's Govermcnt—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had introduced this proposition to the other House of Parliament, or his noble Friend who had denounced it that evening? His noble Friend seemed to think that the third Member elected by the minority would occupy a disadvantageous position as contrasted with his colleagues. His noble Friend said he would be an "outrigger"—a term he (Earl Stanhope) did not clearly understand. He must even confess that he had never heard it before. But be its meaning what it might, he altogether denied that the third Member so elected would stand in any inferior position. The largest and most valuable constituencies in this country nearly all comprised a most respectable and influential minority. His former knowledge of Manchester enabled him to state that, although the Liberal majority in that town was very decided, there was a most respectable, and, for a minority, a most numerous body of Conservatives. The same thing might be said in an opposite sense of the counties where Conservative feeling prevailed. One of the noble Dukes on the Conservative Benches no doubt would stand aghast at what he was going to say; but as a landed proprietor in Buckingham he felt bound to declare that the Liberal minority, as far as numbers went, were very well entitled to a seat. He did not mean for a moment that there would be any danger to the seat of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose undoubted genius, great ability, and long experience in public affairs, would always place him at the head of the poll in that county, whoever else might be a candidate — he merely asserted, from his knowledge of the county, that supposing the circumstances to be such as to favour the election of a Liberal candidate, as far as numbers went that candidate had a fair claim to be returned. It would be of enormous advantage to temper in some such manner the extreme rigour of the principle which would elect all three Members upon one side; and, for his own part, he should never consider any plan of representation complete which did not give one Conservative Member to such a city as Manchester, and one Liberal Member to such a county as Buckingham. It was only by this system of blending different interests and mitigating the asperities of party feeling that a House of Commons could be brought together that would work, as we all desired it should do, in harmony, and in accordance with the best interests of the country. For his own part, he had always regretted that this system was not introduced by Her Majesty's Government at the very commencement of the discussion. Let their Lordships not deceive themselves as to the magnitude of the change now before them. He believed that so great a change had never been proposed by peaceful legislation; greater changes undoubtedly had been made as a consequence of civil war or foreign invasion, but speaking solely of peaceful legislation, he did not think that they would find that so great a change had ever been effected. What was it they were about to do? They were about to transfer the government of this country from the middle classes, who, speaking as a whole, had exercised it during the last thirty years, to those whom he might describe as the wages class—the class subsisting on weekly wages. This was an immense change. He did not say that the Constitution would sink under such a change; nor did he altogether share in the gloomy anticipations that had been expressed with so much ability, with so much force, and with so much knowledge of the subject by the noble Earl he saw opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury). Still, however, no one could say where they were going. They were taking a leap in the dark. Like the Prince in the Persian tale, they might possibly alight on a bed of roses, but it was equally possible that at the close of the descent they might find themselves on a mass of flints. Under any circumstances, he trusted that their Lordships would not shut their eyes to the magnitude of the change they were effecting. With all frankness he acknowledged that he had been deceived in the anticipations he had formed with regard to the first Reform Bill. In 1831 and 1832 he had, speaking honestly to the best of his lights, predicted all kind of evil and danger from the Reform Bill which was at that period anxiously discussed and finally passed. In those predictions he had been, as he desired frankly to acknowledge, entirely mistaken; and that fact led him to hope that he might also be mistaken now. That chance—or, if their Lordships would rather say, probability—did not, however, deter him from saying that, considering the uncertainty which beset their path, it behoved them to take every possible precaution to avert danger. He regretted exceedingly that the plan of a third vote had not been proposed at the commencement. Their Lordships would remember that when the Bill was introduced, in contemplation of the great changes it was calculated to bring about, it was accompanied by a great number of safeguards and securities. One by one those safeguards and securities had fallen—one by one they had been swept away. He confessed his regret that the Government, in framing their Bill, had not instituted a larger number of three-cornered constituencies. Had they done so, and accompanied it by a proposal similar to the present, they would have secured to the minority a share in the representation; they would have guarded against the excess of popular violence in places where, in the torrent of opinions, no barrier was regarded and no private opinion cared for, and where the only object was to secure every seat that could be gained. He believed that to give an effectual though limited share in the representation in large and populous places to those who by inheritance, by education, and by property, were qualified to exercise the franchise to the advantage of the public would be displaying consistent and statesmanlike discretion. He must say, therefore, that he gave his entire assent to the proposal of his noble and learned Friend. That proposal came before their Lordships under peculiarly favourable circumstances, considering the ability with which it had been urged and the high character which the noble and learned Lord had already acquired with all sides during the short time that he had been a Member of their Lordships' House. It was quite true, as had been urged by one of the noble Lords opposite, that the proposal would, in the first instance, affect only twelve constituencies; but he would be a very short-sighted observer of the signs of the times who did not entertain an apprehension that the change in Parliamentary representation now carried so far, would be carried by other hands still further. If then it should be found necessary to new-model in another manner the distribution of political power, this principle of a vote limited to two Members wherever three existed, would, he was convinced, if admitted, open a path by which much complication and danger might be averted. He had, until this moment, refrained from urging objections to the Bill, however strong his opinions might have been with regard to particular provisions, because he did not see how they could, under the circumstances, do other than accept the measure sent up to them. In spite of its many defects and shortcomings he, therefore, advised their Lordships to accept the Bill, and to throw no substantial obstacle in the way of its passing. He did not, however, regard this Amendment as any substantial obstacle, while it would go far towards conferring on the measure the moderate character which they desired it should possess. On a question of this nature party considerations sank into comparative insignificance, and when he saw it possible to amend the Bill, and to render it more perfect, such considerations would not for a moment affect the course which he should take. His remarks did not apply to such Amendments as the one which had emanated from his noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey), because the success of such Amendments would endanger the passing of the Bill; but as to the Amendment moved by his noble and learned Friend, and in favour of which he should record his vote, that Amendment, in his opinion, while it would tend to the most surpassing benefit, would by no means be open to the same disadvantage, nor liable to the same result.


My Lords, It is always a matter of difficulty and invidiousness for Her Majesty's Government to adopt any course opposed to that which is marked out and suggested by the noble and learned Lord who has acted and still acts with so friendly a disposition towards them, and has rendered them such important service during the progress of this Bill. And, my Lords, it is a matter of no slight difficulty to oppose a proposition of this nature, which has on its surface so much of speciousness and so much of apparent plausibility to recommend it. Nevertheless, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to warn your Lordships that it is their strong belief and conviction that the acceptance of this proposition will be attended with very serious dangers and very serious complications to our constitutional system. The subject is one which has been very much under the consideration of the Government: it is not now brought forward for the first time; it was raised in the other House of Parliament; and Her Majesty's Government have had frequent opportunities of considering whether it would conduce to the sound and good government of the country. They believe, however, after mature consideration, that it is not one that ought to be introduced into the Bill; and that though on the one hand, much may be said in its favour, its disadvantages are on the other hand so great that they ought not to accept it. This proposal appears to be advocated from two or three points of view. The noble Earl who hast just spoken (Earl Stanhope), looks upon it as one of those safeguards which he regards as necessary to counteract the effects of a measure which he believes to be too democratic in its character and to be likely to lead to injurious results. On the other hand, this proposal is also supported by noble Lords opposite, and from them we have but one opinion—that they are not afraid of their countrymen nor of the democratic tendencies of the Bill. If the ground, therefore, taken by the noble Earl behind me is correct, I claim on that account the support of the noble Lords opposite. But, my Lords, the noble Earl behind me has taken my noble Friend (the Lord Privy Seal) very seriously to task, and in very warm and fervid language, for having stated that he could not approve three cornered constituencies. Now the scheme of re-distribution under this Bill as first introduced by Her Majesty's Government did not contain three-cornered constituencies. Those three-cornered constituencies were part of a subsequent plan which was recommended to the Government, and strongly supported in the other House of Parliament, and which, although they had not originally proposed it they ultimately adopted. I do not mean to say that Her Majesty's Government are not responsible at the present time for those three-cornered constituencies which are now included in the Bill; but what I say is that although they accept the responsibility at the present time they were not the advocates of them at the outset. My Lords, we have had a strange doctrine laid down by the noble Earl who spoke last. The noble and learned Lord who has brought forward this proposal stated that he asked your concurrence in it, because it could only apply to twelve constituencies at the present time and that, therefore, it was a matter of no great importance. He admitted he proposed it as an experiment; that it was an experiment which might or might not succeed; in the noble and learned Lord's opinion it was a valuable experiment to try; but he recommended it to your Lordships' adoption because of being of so limited a character, it was a safe experiment to make. But what we have heard from the noble Earl who has just sat down and if I mistake not also from the noble Earl opposite, is that they look upon this as the commencement of a new system which is ultimately to change and revolutionize the constitutional representation of England and that this is to be extended not to twelve but to fifty constituencies, and thus may form a very important feature hereafter in the whole distribution of our representation. If this is the view which is to be taken, I think Her Majesty's Government are fully justified in hesitating before they give their assent to this proposal. If this principle is to grow by degrees until it has largely interwoven itself with the Constitution of this country, surely we ought to pause before we take a step from which there may be no receding, on a matter so vital to the interests of the nation. I confess I cannot understand the argument of the noble Earl, whom I do not now see in his place (Earl Russell), and who, in very glowing language, gave a powerful sketch, as he is so well able to do, of the Constitution of this country. The noble Earl went back to the days of Charles II., and described the origin of party government. He stated that it was this that had brought England up to her present pitch of greatness; that it was by the blending of all parties and interests together that the country had arrived at its present condition of harmony, and at that state of agreement and general vigour which is the characteristic of her institutions and her people. But I could not understand the logical position of the noble Earl; because, if that be the case—if it is under our existing Constitution and our existing mode of voting that England has attained her present position, and has maintained her vigour up to this time—on what pica and on what ground can he come forward and ask us to introduce this important change which, it is admitted, will have a most material effect on our future system of representation? Allusion has been made to the operation of this proposal in preventing contests in boroughs; and I cannot help thinking that a proposal of this sort would tend very materially to do away with that important element in the freedom of constitutional election—namely, contests both in boroughs and in counties. The inevitable result of this mode of voting would be to greatly reduce the number of candidates who would offer themselves to constituencies. Matters would be arranged in boroughs by electioneering committees. Candidates would be nominated by them, and it would be agreed by them who should become the representative of boroughs. Those candidates would simply be put forward on electioneering tickets, very much as is the case in America, and the elections would take place without an opportunity being given to the constituents generally to express their opinions as to whom they would think it most desirable to have returned. Certain candidates would be selected by the most active, most pushing, and most ardent partizans of the place, who would form themselves into committees, and the electors would merely be asked to record their votes for A and B, without being allowed to chose from a number of rival candidates. My Lords, I can conceive nothing more prejudicial or more fatal to the vigour of our English system of election than that this mode of voting should prevail. The plan is a specious one, but it has this essential defect in it—that it would deprive of all its vigour, the House of Commons, whose decisions have always, in a remarkable degree, commanded the confidence and respect of the country. Whatever verdict the House of Commons may pronounce, the country abides by it, because it feels that the verdict of that great assembly is the verdict of the majority of the country. That is the simple theory which has pervaded all our institutions; that is the theory which Englishmen understand; that is the theory which has contributed to give Parliament all the authority which it has always exercised; and I fear that if this new system were established the House of Commons could no longer be looked upon as representing the opinions of the majority, but as being a kind of divided, nondescript, non-homogeneous body, whose decisions would, to a great extent, lose their weight and authority. My Lords, this question has been fairly considered by the other House of Parliament, and the decision pronounced upon it with that instinctive perception which the House of Commons always has of its own rights, its own privileges, and its own safety, does, I believe, fully express the true character of this measure; and in the very large majority of 134 who voted against this proposal in the other House, I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) actually recorded his opinion against it, as being one which was neither consistent with the safety nor the authority of that great assembly. My Lords, I will not trespass further on your attention, but Her Majesty's Government feel that, however much they regret to have to differ from my noble and learned Friend, this is an Amendment which they cannot approve.


said, that although Her Majesty's Government had been enabled to defeat the proposal for creating additional three - cornered constituencies when that proposal was supported by the great body of the Liberal party in the other House of Parliament, yet on thinking the matter over again afterwards the Government, on their own responsibility, had thought fit to adopt some of those very same three-cornered constituencies. The noble Duke who had just spoken (the Duke of Marlborough) did not seem to object so much to that system being applied to twelve three-cornered constituencies as to its being afterwards gradually extended further; and, indeed, it would appear that Her Majesty's Government preferred sudden changes to gradual ones. As to the present proposal preventing election contests, he could not conceive how anybody who was acquainted with the evils frequent at such contests could object to their being avoided as much as possible. He thought that the arguments addressed in favour of adopting the Amendment were overwhelming. The general tone of those arguments had been from a Conservative point of view, and he was afraid that the great majority of their Lordships having declared themselves against any Amendment of a Liberal character would have a detrimental influence in the country. But every measure of progress had begun with a minority. That was the case with all the great measures, from Catholic Emancipation down to the Reform Bill of last year. He believed that the great majority of the other House were opposed to Reform last year; but this year there was hardly a Member of that House who was not in favour of it. He thought that the representation of minorities was above all to be desired by those who wished to avoid sudden and violent changes, because by the weight and influence of an intelligent minority great measures might be carried gradually, and in a safe and deliberate manner, and not suddenly and by jerks, like the repeal of the Corn Laws. He believed that this proposal might be advocated quite as much from a Liberal as from a Conservative point of view, and it was as a Liberal that he should support it.


My Lords, I am glad to have this opportunity of drawing your Lordships' attention to some of the real points in this question, instead of following my noble Friend who has just addressed your Lordships in those some what party considerations which have tinged his speech. I believe that of all the questions connected with Reform that come before us this especially ought not to be regarded from a party point of view. The difficulty I experience is this — that the whole subject has been so fully discussed, and the arguments in favour of this proposal have been so unanswerably urged, by my noble and learned Friend, that it is almost impossible to adduce any fresh considerations on its behalf. I may, however, be allowed to take my departure from a somewhat earlier point of view than that of my noble and learned Friend. I am not prepared to say that the present electoral system is not, in the absolute preponderance which it gives to a bare majority of electors, accompanied by a certain amount of evil and injustice. That evil and injustice, qualified, as it is, by various considerations, may be endured; but when once your new constituencies come into existence the evil and injustice will become almost insupportable. Look to the position in which we are placed. It is competent in any constituency for a majority, however small, if they are organized and held together, to disfranchise the minority, however large. Take an extreme case, which, for illustration, is as good as any other. In any constituency composed of 100 members a majority of 51 can disfranchise the remaining minority of 49. Is this fair? Is this reasonable? Is this just? In the United States, where all questions are pushed to an extreme, we have seen how a not excessive majority is able not only to disfranchise but absolutely to silence the minority. But in the present case, while you are placing the small boroughs of this country under sentence, there is, on the other hand, a tendency for the large boroughs to grow larger under this Bill; and my noble and learned Friend has conclusively pointed out that, as a matter of fact, candidates and Members for large constituencies, with a few exceptions, such as that of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), are assuming a type of character which is gradually becoming lower. In the nature of things it must be so. As we know, all large towns are democratic, and men of independent views will not agree to that compromise of opinions to which allusion has frequently in these discussions been made, and prefer to retire into private life rather than consent to fill the character of mere delegates. That is the difficulty with which we have to deal; and what is the remedy which my noble and learned Friend proposes? He proposes, as I understand, that you should give to a minority which is more than one-third of the whole constituency a share in the representation. And if the present system is accompanied with mischief to both parties, making the majority arrogant and overbearing, and the minority discontented and dissatisfied with their position, a great advantage would be gained by adopting the proposal of my noble and learned Friend. I rest my concurrence in this Motion upon the argument that the representation of the minority is advantageous alike to the majority and the minority, to the electors and the elected; that it is neither a Whig scheme nor a Tory scheme—neither a Conservative nor a Liberal scheme, but that it is conceived in the interest of all parties and all classes in this country. I listened with very great attention to the objections urged by Her Majesty's Government to this proposal, but the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) will forgive me if I say that I did not hear from him one solid argument in opposition to this clause. He started, indeed, by stating that there were advantages and disadvantages on both sides of the case; but the noble Duke, after doing but poor justice to the advantages, forgot to state what were the disadvantages of the present proposal. The only argument I heard from my noble Friend (the Lord Privy Seal) who spoke on the part of the Government, was that this is a "new-fangled" scheme. But I say that it does not lie in the mouth of a Government which is introducing a measure that is revolutionary to take an objection like that; and I am confident that there is no illusion so fatal as to suppose that you can adopt a new system in part mid with it retain the fragments and meaningless remnants of an old one. If you are prepared to enter upon this new path, then you must go into it with new conditions and new securities for the future. The noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) said it was the habit of the English people to be governed by a majority. Now, accept this statement as a matter of fact within certain limits; but I know no doctrine so wretched as the theory that the majority must be all in all. It has been a minority over and over again in history, in politics, in religion, in literature, in science, in philosophy, and in every department of human thought and action that has first stirred the great questions by which the welfare of mankind has been assured, and their moral happiness raised. But then my noble Friend has said that this clause will have only a very limited application. That is a matter which rather concerns us who support this proposal, and who are content to accept it as a principle, which we believe may work out beneficial effects, than those who object to it on the ground alternatively of it being too small or too large. If, as has been said, the tendency of this proposal would be to put an end to contests I should hail it as an advantage. What are twelve contests? How will the absence of twelve contests throughout the whole country produce that stagnation of public feeling on which my noble Friend dwelt as an argument against the proposal? Nay, even in a party point of view, I deny that it can produce any possible inconvenience. Of the seven existing three-cornered constituencies there are three which are at this moment held exclusively by one party; and as the principle would be applied to the four great towns which are to have an additional Member, those towns will balance the three seats held by gentlemen of one way of thinking. But let the House consider what the alternative is if they reject the proposal of my noble and learned Friend. That alternative is obvious. You have, you say, added a third Member to large towns, not only in virtue of population, but also in virtue of wealth; but if you refuse this proposal you defeat your own intentions, and reject, in fact, the representation of property, placing the representation of those great towns simply and solely upon numbers. Need I ask your Lordships to consider what, before many years, that principle would bring us to? It has been admitted on all hands that we are entering on a very democratic system of government. Now, there are two forms of democracy; there is the mere democracy of the mob, which avenges itself and comes to an end very soon; but there is a higher form of democracy, ideal and visionary as it may be, with which some cultivated minds may hold sympathy — namely, the organized, representation of the nation as a whole. Give that and you give some chance to your new system. Deny it, and that new system must inevitably crumble to pieces. Your Lordships will recollect that during the Crimean War Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden, having expressed opinions which were somewhat unpopular among their constituents, lost their seats, and for a short time were excluded from the House of Commons. Now, I have certainly no sympathy with the views which are generally propounded by Mr. Bright; but I say frankly that the absence of a man so eminent as Mr. Bright in many ways is, would be a very serious loss to the House of Commons. But, under such an electoral constitution as that which you are now creating, this might very easily happen; and a Member quite as popular as Mr. Bright might find it very difficult to obtain a seat even in one of the three-cornered constituencies to be created under this Bill. In every point of view, therefore, Conservative or Liberal, this proposal offers a shelter for the expression of those thoughts and opinions which lie off the highway of public life in this country, and for those whose Independence of character, in a time of public agitation, forbids them to acquiesce in the popular cry of the day, whatever it may be. For these reasons I heartily concur in the proposal of my noble and learned Friend. We have now arrived at a point of vital importance; and I earnestly entreat your Lordships to dismiss from your minds all party considerations, and to look at this proposal neither with reference to party nor to previously formed opinions, but simply as Members of the House of Lords, conscious that we have a great trust to discharge, and conscious of the responsibility which attends the manner in which we discharge it on this occasion.


believed that, so far from the Liberal character of the Bill being restricted by this proposal, it would really be enlarged. The representation of minorities really rested on the great principle that every Englishman should, in one way or another, be represented; and that, as far as practicable, individual opinions should find expression. It had been assumed, somewhat too gratuitously, that in all these cases the minority would return a Member; but the real advantage of the proposal was that it would induce the minority in large constituencies to come forward and express their opinions. The entire abstention from politics of men of a philosophical turn of mind, and of men of extreme and peculiar views, was a great evil, and it was very desirable to encourage the expression and development of individual opinion. It had been said that this plan would be a check on democracy. What, however, made the word democracy distasteful was the fear of its power being abused; and, just as an absolute and tyrannous monarchy or an insolent aristocracy should be held in check by every legitimate means, so should the abuse of democratic power be guarded against. The present proposal was not only calculated to serve that purpose, but to encourage and develop individual liberty; and it was perfectly consonant with the best provisions of the Bill, and with the principles and traditions of our Constitution. He was thankful to find that the proposal had received such a fair consideration from both sides of the House. No opposition had been offered to it except by the Government, who seemed to regard it from an extremely democratic point of view. Their Lordships had now an opportunity of exercising a very beneficent influence, and, while not impeding the progress of this great measure, of materially allaying any apprehensions which were now entertained as to its operation.


regretted that so much party feeling had been displayed in this debate, for he had hoped that on this question such feeling would, as in the other House, have been put aside. He had always been a thorough party man, and regarded government by party as very beneficial to the country; but he felt bound to support the clause as a safeguard against the dangers of the enormous change about to be made. He would not do so, however, if he thought it hostile to the Bill as a whole. The Bill had been most laboriously discussed in the House of Commons, and deserved the most careful consideration at their Lordships' hands. They were not there, however, merely to register the decisions of the House of Commons, but to express their own opinions as the hereditary branch of the Legislature, and in doing so they had a right to have a liberal construction put upon their motives. He would prefer, as more consonant with his own feelings, if the proposal were to give only a single vote to every elector. That was a thing which everybody, even the commonest voter, could understand. He did not see why a voter in the City of London should have three votes more than an elector in another constituency. The single vote would secure the great constitutional principle that representation and taxation should go together; and it had this further merit—it would confine every constituency, whether represented by three, two, or one Member, to the simplest mode of attaining its object. He owed strong allegiance to the present Government; but then he felt that he was only taking an honest and straightforward course in doing what, in his opinion, was best for the country. He accepted the proposal of his noble and learned Friend as an instalment, his main objection to it being that it was so limited in its character. It only applied to twelve constituencies—he should like to have the principle applied to all the constituencies in the country.


I hope the House will bear with me, even at this late stage of a discussion so amply and ably maintained, if I rise to say a few words in support of the vote I mean to give. The alteration proposed in the Bill by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cairns) is principally recommended on the ground of its being desirable to give a representation to minorities. That I conceive to involve a principle of undoubted usefulness, and one which is the special boast of this country. The rules of Parliamentary proceeding have always been eminently favourable to its application, and that sense of fairness and justice which marks the character of British freemen has never failed to give it a warm reception in meetings called for the discussion of interesting and important questions. My Lords, it has been my lot to witness in foreign countries, and most especially in a country no less celebrated for the love and establishment of free institutions than any in the ancient world, an exercise of the contrary doctrine; which served to convince me that the triumph of a party, when fiercely zealous for its opinions, is but too often carried to the extreme of violence and cruelty unless restrained by an habitual respect for the rights of a defeated party. I remember that, when I was in Switzerland, at a time of civil contention, terminating in the complete ascendancy of the Radical party, I found that the chief leader of that party maintained the right and duty of himself and his adherents to crush their opponents, and to deprive them of all independence in matters both of Church and State. This, my Lords, was not an idle expression of opinion; it was carried into effect to such a degree that persons who abstained from attending Divine Service in the Protestant Cathedral of Lausanne—the headquarters of liberty—not on any grounds of doctrine or discipline, but on some slight reason of religious taste, were prevented from exercising the rites of worship in their own houses. The police were sent into the privacy of the domestic circle, and by order of the Government substituted, as I have been informed, a lawless violence for the family performance of a sacred duty. More than this—the language of another partizan was that the level of equality should even be driven over genius; and, unhappily, we are beginning to perceive unmistakable symptoms of the application of this monstrous notion even in this land of free discussion and respected minorities. I mention these facts as so many testimonials of the truth which has shone forth so strongly in the speeches delivered in favour of the clause which is now passing to a division. I sincerely hope, for the reasons already stated, that the clause in question will be carried, and, for myself, I shall not hesitate to give it my willing and cordial support.

On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 142; Not-Contents 51: Majority 91.

Cleveland, D. Lichfield, E.
Grafton, D. Lovelace, E.
Manchester, D. Lucan, E.
Rutland, D. Mansfield, E.
Somerset, D. Minto, E.
Wellington, D. Morley, E.
Morton, E.
Bristol, M. Nelson, E.
Camden, M. Powis, E.
Normanby, M. Romney, E.
Salisbury, M. Russell, E.
Westminster, M. Selkirk, E.
Shaftesbury, E.
Airlie, E. Shrewsbury, E.
Albemarle, E. Sommers, E.
Amherst, E. Spencer, E.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Stanhope, E. [Teller.]
Camperdown, E. Stradbroke, E.
Carnarvon, E. Verulam, E.
Chesterfield, E. Wicklow, E.
Clarendon, E. Zetland, E.
Cowper, E.
Dartmouth, E. De Vesci, V.
Dartrey, E. Eversley, V.
De Grey, E. Exmouth, V.
Denbigh, E. Hardinge, V.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)
Lifford, V.
Ducie, E. Melville, V.
Effiingham, E. Sidmouth, V.
Eldon, E. Stratford de Redcliffe, V.
Ellenborough, E. Sydney, V.
Fitzwilliam, E. Templetown, V.
Fortescue, E.
Gainsborough, E. Arundell of Wardour, L.
Grey, E. Aveland, L.
Haddington, E. Belper, L.
Hardwicke, E. Berners, L.
Harrowby, E. Blantyre, L.
Huntingdon, E. Bolton, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Londesborough, L.
Lovat, L.
Cairns, L. [Teller.] Lyttelton, L.
Camoys, L. Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)
Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)
Methuen, L.
Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.) Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Chesham, L. Mostyn, L.
Churchill, L. Northwick, L.
Clarina, L. Overstone, L.
Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.) Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Clermont, L. Ravensworth, L.
Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.) Rollo, L.
Clonbrock, L. Saltoun, L.
Cloncurry, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Cranworth, L. Seaton, L.
Dacre, L. Sherborne, L.
Delamere, L. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
De Mauley, L. Southampton, L.
Digby, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Dunsandle and Clanconal, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Ebury, L. Stratheden, L.
Foley, L. Strathnairn, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.) Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Gage, L. (V. Gage.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Taunton, L.
Grantley, L. Templemore, L.
Harris, L. Truro, L.
Hatherton, L. Vernon, L.
Heytesbury, L. Walsingham, L.
Houghton, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Wenlock, L.
Wentworth, L.
Kingston, E. (E. Kingston.) Wharncliffe, L.
Wrottesley, L.
Leigh, L.
Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Sandwich, E.
Tankerville, E.
Beaufort, D. Hawarden, V. [Teller.]
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Strathallan, V.
Marlborough, D. Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Richmond, D.
Abercorn, M. Bagot, L.
Ailesbury, M. Boston, L.
Exeter, M. Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Abingdon, E. Churston, L.
Bathurst, E. Clinton, L.
Beauchamp, E. Colonsay, L.
Belmore, E. Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]
Bradford, E.
Cadogan, E. Congleton, L.
Cawdor, E. Crofton, L.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) Denman, L.
Feversham, L.
Granville, E. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Home, E.
Leven and Melville, E. Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)
Malmesbury, E. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Manvers, E.
Monson, L. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Penrhyn, L.
Raglan, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Redesdale, L. Sondes, L.
Rivers, L. Tenterden, L.
Romilly, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Clause added to the Bill.

Then, on the Motion of Lord CAIRNS, the following Clause was agreed to, and added to the Bill:— At a contested election for the City of London, no person shall vote for more than three Candidates.

Clause 9 (No Elector who has been employed for Reward at an Election to be entitled to vote).


moved the omission of the clause. Any of their Lordships who had been a Member of the other House of Parliament, or had taken part in elections, knew very well that the first thing which a candidate did, was to go to an agent and employ him for the purpose of promoting his election. That agent was very often a solicitor and a man occupying a highly respectable position in the borough or the county, well-known to most of the constituents. There was no reason whatever why such a person should lose his rights as a citizen; but by this clause he would be totally disfranchised, He might be, and almost invariably was, quite respected, in large practice, and every way qualified to exercise the franchise. To pass such a clause would be to east a slur upon his character; and, for his part, he should be quite ashamed, if he were a candidate, to go to such a man and ask him to act as his agent, knowing that the penalty for so doing would be that he would be deprived of the right of citizenship. He was in favour of abolishing all possible restrictions upon the right of voting, and he did not think that policemen or Government clerks employed in the Post Office ought to be disfranchised. They were a useful class of citizens, and there was no reason to suppose they would be more liable to be affected by improper influences than any other class of the community. At that late hour he would not trouble their Lordships with any further remarks, but simply move the omission of the clause.


contended that if the clause were defensible, and if what were equivalent to criminal consequences were to follow the employment of an elector by a candidate, the employment of persons in the capacities of agent, clerk, messenger, &c., ought to be made illegal; otherwise a candidate would have to meet a difficulty with which he would not know how to deal. Hitherto these agents had been employed; was their employment now to be put an end to? If this were not made clear, candidates would find electors hesitating between employment and the sacrifice of their votes, and very great inconvenience would result.


urged the retention of the clause, which had been adopted by the House of Commons in their desire to put an end to every pretext for corruption in contested elections.

After some discussion, which was inaudible,

Clause amended and agreed to.

Clause 10 (Disfranchisement of certain Boroughs).


moved the omission of Great Yarmouth from the clause.


, in moving, as a further Amendment, to add at the end of the clause the words "before the 1st day of January, 1880," the effect of which would be to substitute a suspension of the franchise until that date for total disfranchisement in the case of four boroughs, including Great Yarmouth, specified in the clause, said, he had felt considerable reluctance in placing on the Paper the Notice which stood in his name, but he was induced to do so by the reflection that it was the duty of that House not to allow a great measure like this to pass with any trace upon it of gross injustice. With regard to this question of disfranchisement, their Lordships were placed in a different position from that of the Members of the other House, inasmuch as they did not hold their seats by the favour of any constituency, but they partook rather of the character of a judicial assembly, and consequently they were not likely to be influenced and carried away by popular feeling as the other House. The matter ought not to be considered from any party point of view; and, for himself, he had no personal feeling in this matter, having no connection or personal knowledge of any one of the boroughs it was proposed to disfranchise. He was not aware that he had any knowledge of a single person residing in either of them. It was solely in the interest of justice that he brought this Amendment forward. He put these boroughs all together, though they stood in different positions, but all were proposed to be disfranchised, on the ground of bribery. He did not mean to say that the case of Totnes might not at a future period be proved different from that of Great Yarmouth. The case of the latter borough was the strongest of the four. In 1861 the population of that place was 38,810, and the number of registered voters 1,645. At the last election 1,432 voted. Of those 438 were guilty of receiving bribes, and 98 were bribers, and 29 were guilty both of giving and receiving bribes. There were 1,200 voters against whom no case of bribery had been proved. Now, there were three classes of persons affected by the proposed disfranchisement. First, the existing electors—those who were guilty of receiving bribes, and those who were not; and the very large number of expectant voters who would be placed on the register should this Bill be passed without this disfranchising clause. He had nothing to say in favour of those who had been guilty of bribery. He should be glad to see them punished, and he would support any measure that would put down bribery. But what he wished to know was why those who had not been guilty of bribery were to be involved in the same punishment with those who had; and, above all, why other persons who could not be guilty because they had at the time no votes, but who would have had them under the general provisions of this Bill, should be denied their franchise for the sins of their neighbours? In the following clauses it was provided that no elector of Great Yarmouth or the other boroughs should vote for the county in which they were situated in respect of any qualification situate within the boroughs, but if the object had been to punish those who were guilty of bribery, why were they not prevented from voting in any constituency? When they came to the succeeding clauses he would move the insertion of words to the effect that the guilty parties should be incapable of voting at any election of Members of Parliament. He should also propose that the boroughs should only be disfranchised till the year 1880. The probable result of his Motion, if carried, would be that these electors would be excluded from using the franchise in these boroughs for a period of about three Parliaments—which would be, in fact, adopting the principle now acted upon by the other House of suspending the issue of the writs for a period of about fifteen years. In one instance the House of Commons had suspended the issue of a writ for three years. And further, it appeared to him that if they excluded the 438 persons who had been proved guilty at Great Yarmouth the remainder might be considered too small a number to return Members to Parliament; but in the course of fifteen years a great change would take place, and nearly one-half of the present constituency would disappear. The privilege of returning Members was one that belonged to these boroughs, and on what ground of justice could they declare that this privilege should betaken away from the children and the children's children of the present electors? A very obvious objection would, no doubt, be raised by Her Majesty's Ministers—namely, that the seats taken from Great Yarmouth and the other disfranchised boroughs had been disposed of, and that if the representation were restored to them in 1880 there must then be a new re-distribution, or the number of the Members of the House of Commons must be increased. He admitted that he was not disposed to increase the number of Members of the House of Commons. But nobody believed that the Bill would be a permanent settlement, and the portion of it that was least likely to be permanent was that which related to the re-distribution of scats. This was not the fault of the Government, He did not believe there could be brought forward at the present moment a re-distribution scheme which would be free from objection; but, also, from the nature of things, no plan of re-distribution could be permanent in this country. He was prepared to hear it stated that if it was a gross injustice to disfranchise those condemned boroughs permanently, it was at least a small injustice to disfranchise them for fifteen years. He admitted the difficulty, but he thought that the suspension of the writ for fifteen years would be a sufficient warning to the electors. But it was not consonant to the practice hitherto observed that total disfranchisement should be inflicted on such large constituencies, and where the guilt of bribery had not been brought home to half of the voters; nor was it consonant to the principles of justice that these places should be selected, because they had chanced to be found out, while a score of other boroughs, equally guilty, escaped. He did not believe that any borough of the size of Great Yarmouth or Lancaster had before been disfranchised, or that there had been disfranchisement in any case in which one-half the electors had not been concerned in corruption. The original proposal was a blot upon the Bill and he appealed to their Lordships to remove it.

Moved, at the end of Clause 10, to add ("before the First Day of January One thousand eight hundred and eighty.")—(The Lord Romilly.)


said, that his noble and learned Friend (Lord Romilly) admitted that those boroughs ought to be punished. The only way of punishing them was by depriving them, as boroughs, of the power of returning Members to Parliament. His noble and learned Friend had himself admitted this, because he proposed to deprive them of the right of sending Members to Parliament for a certain number of years. Only those voters who were rated at amounts between £10 and £12 would be totally deprived of votes; for those who were rated at £12 would have votes for the county. Small boroughs, as in the cases of Sudbury and St. Albans, had been heretofore punished on account of the prevalence of corrupt practices, not by a suspension of the writs, but by total disfranchisements; and in a question of corruption he could not draw a distinction between small boroughs and large boroughs. The seats lost by these boroughs were disposed of by the present Bill, and the boroughs could not be again put in possession of them without increasing the total number of Members. His noble and learned Friend had, indeed, suggested that between this and 1880 other seats might become disposable, and that these boroughs could then drop into the vacant places. But, surely it would be better to trust the case altogether to the discretion of the House of the House of Commons, which, if it thought proper, could restore their forfeited privileges to these boroughs after a certain period.


said, it was not entirely accurate to speak of the punishment of particular boroughs for acts of bribery. The right to return Members of Parliament was a trust to be exercised for the public benefit, and if bribery became habitual in any borough, and the trust could no longer be exercised for the benefit of the public, it ought at once to cease. For that reason he could not support the Motion of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Romilly). But, of course, if a time came when the trust could again be exercised for the public advantage, it would be open to the House of Commons to confer the right anew upon the boroughs now; deprived of it.


thought it would be an act of gross injustice in the case of Lancaster not to give to the persons who had petitioned the other House of Parliament, declaring that their names had been erroneously returned by the Commission as parties guilty of taking bribes, an opportunity of proving their innocence and of establishing, as some of them stated that they could do, a satisfactory alibi.


said, there were a great many other important constituencies, which, if the circumstances had been inquired into after the last election, would have made just as bad a figure as Great Yarmouth. Great Yarmouth was neither better nor worse than any other borough.


thought that no such case had been made out on the part of the condemned boroughs as would justify their Lordships in interfering to so great an extent as was proposed with the re-distribution of seats. At the same time, in the case of Great Yarmouth, there were some exceptional circumstances, and he had been glad to hear from the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor) an indication of opinion that at some future period it might be possible to restore to that borough the privileges which were now withdrawn.


said, that no Petition from the parties referred to by his noble Friend (Lord Skelmersdale) had reached their Lordships' House; but the House of Commons would, no doubt, take care that all proper opportunities of explanation were afforded.

On Question, That those words be there inserted? Resolved in the Negative.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 14, which disqualify persons reported guilty of bribery in the disfranchised boroughs as voters for the several counties in respect of qualifications arising in the said boroughs, agreed to, with Amendments.

House resumed; and to be again in Committee on Thursday next.

House adjourned at half past Twelve o'clock A.M., till Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.