§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I must begin by congratulating your Lordships on the return to the House of noble Lords opposite, I rise now with the intention and the wish to explain to your Lordships the course which the Government propose to take with respect to the Public Business of this House. After the unfortunate scene which I regret to say I witnessed yesterday evening, I cannot go into that explanation without first expressing what I feel with respect to the conduct of noble Lords opposite in leaving the House as they suddenly did in the midst of a debate. I do not believe that in either House of Parliament there lives a man old enough to remember conduct so disrespectful to the House itself, and, I must say, so wanting in respect to the noble Lords themselves. My Lords, there 572 was no reason and no excuse whatever for—I will not say insulting the House, but for what might seem to be an insult to the House by breaking off a debate which was being conducted by your Lordships, and which ought to have been conducted with that equanimity and temper which it is the custom of your Lordships to exercise in this House. And when I say there was no reason for the conduct of which I complain, I say this—that if the noble Lords opposite really believed what they said—and they said no less than that Government had wantonly attempted to deceive them and Parliament—I affirm that they are totally wanting in any proof to substantiate such a charge. But, my Lords, if they had really any proof or conviction that such was the case, that was not the moment they ought to have chosen to say so. They passed by the fitting opportunity upon which they ought to have brought that accusation against us when oil Tuesday night they accepted the discussion on the Scotch Reform Bill without any allusion to the charge that we were deceiving Parliament in consequence of the statement which Mr. Disraeli had made. I say if they had had any ground for their accusation they would have taken that opportunity of stating it, because a much stronger case could have been made with regard to the Scotch Reform Bill than could have been made out in respect of the Boundary Bill. Mr. Disraeli, it must be remembered, in the speech which was quoted yesterday, was speaking of the management and course of Business in the other House. He said that he considered the Scotch Reform Bill and the Boundary Bill as "virtually settled," meaning, of course, so far as regarded their progress through the Lower House. ["Hear, hear!" "No, no!"] The Scotch Reform Bill having thus been included in the sentence—being in fact the first that was mentioned, why did not the noble Lords bring up their complaint when we took that Bill in hand? Why is it, I ask, that this mare's nest was not discovered then? The Scotch Reform Bill was a much stronger case than the Boundary Bill, because the Amendments proposed upon the former on Tuesday night came directly from the Government, having been proposed by the noble Duke at the head of the Post Office (the Duke of Montrose).
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
Yes; Notice was given; and, that being so, I ask again, why did not the noble Lords bring forward their grave accusation on Tuesday last? And yet, having missed that opportunity, the noble Lords came forward yesterday evening, and said we had been false to our promises and had attempted to deceive the House. Had the noble Lords opposite believed the case which they strove to make out, I should have thought they would not have been able to contain themselves when the Amendment on the Scotch Reform. Bill was proposed. No, my Lords, I suspect that discovery was made by some ingenious person between the Tuesday and the Thursday, and then followed what the French call a mise en scène on Thursday night—and I might use even stronger words of it, for I never saw the like before. I stated in the strongest language I could use, both when the noble Lords left the House and before they left it, that the Government had no idea of deceiving the House in any way; that they always said that the Report of the Commissioners ought to be upheld, and that Mr. Disraeli's words were applicable only to the conduct of Business in the other House. But I will now, with your Lordships' permission, read a letter which I received this morning from Mr. Disraeli on the subject. It is as follows:—10, Downing-street, Whitehall, July 3.My dear Lord,—I have learnt your proceedings in the House of Lords last night with astonishment. The interpretation placed on my words when speaking of the progress of Business in the House of Commons is one painfully distorted. I was answering an inquiry as to the prospects of Business in that House, and in estimating them I mentioned that certain measures, though they had not formally passed the House of Commons, might be considered virtually settled—that is to say, would lead, in the House of Commons, to no further debate or division. Yours sincerely,B. DISRAELI.The Right Hon. the Lord Privy Seal, G.C.B.Now, my Lords, if you read the context of that speech in The Times newspaper, in which it is headed "The Business of the House," it is impossible for any candid man to suppose that my right hon. Friend could have meant anything but what related to the Business of the House of Commons—the course that Business was likely to take—and speaking of that he said that the House of Commons had virtually done with these two Bills. Well, my Lords, I can only say again that I deeply regret the scene that occurred last night. It really does remind me of what I used to see at a 574 school for small boys when I was seven years old, There were very small boys, not above nine or ten years old, at the school to which I refer, and when one of them was caught at trap-ball or playing any other game in which he thought he was getting the worst of it he used to run away saying, "I won't play any more." That was exactly what was done last night by noble Lords opposite, who are not quite so young as the small boys to whom I have alluded.
I will now, my Lords, explain to your Lordships the intentions of the Government with respect to the Business of the House. We repudiate the accusation that has been made against us—we feel it the more that it was entirely undeserved. But after you had left your seats, and scarcely anyone remained on that side except one or two of your own supporters who blamed your conduct, we thought it would not have been respectful to the House to continue the discussion of the Bill. The discussion was accordingly adjourned. We were accused of hurrying your Lordships, and we have put off both the Boundary Bill and the Scotch Reform Bill to Monday next. My Lords, in doing that we certainly have to apologize to independent Peers who might have wished to move Amendments in both of these Bills, but whom now, for I reasons I shall explain in a moment, the Government, I am afraid, will be obliged to request not to move those Amendments. Therefore, to a certain degree, we shall have prevented those independent Peers from taking action. To them I must tender an apology on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and I must ask my noble Friend behind me (Earl Beauchamp), not to move his Amendments in the Boundary Bill. We regret to have to ask him not to persist in those Amendments, for the reasons which I will give. My noble Friend, perhaps, is not aware that this is a question of very deep importance, both as respects the country and, I may say, the honour of the Government. We have been long taunted with wishing to remain in Office as long as possible, from the most paltry and sordid motives. We are therefore most anxious to meet these accusations. Our most anxious desire is, as has been stated in the House of Commons, that there should be a General Election as soon as possible, and with some considerable trouble and difficulty we have so managed matters that I believe such a consummation may be arrived at in November next. But, 575 my Lords, it is necessary, as you all know, according to the Reform Act, that the claims for registration should be put in by the 20th of this month; there must be four days previous to these claims being put in, and therefore it becomes quite evident that the Boundary Bill and the Scotch Reform Bill must receive the Royal Assent by Friday next or this day week. I say the Scotch Reform Bill, because your Lordships will recollect that the seats of seven English boroughs will be transferred to Scotland, and that if the Scotch Reform Bill be not passed by Friday next the electors in those boroughs will be placed in such a position that, while deprived of their borough votes, they will have no means of putting in their claims to be registered as county electors. We are, therefore, placed in this position—that we are obliged to pass these Bills as quickly as we can, or else it will be impossible to have an election until after Christmas, or, in fact, till next year. These are the grounds, and in fact the only grounds, on which the Government are obliged to resist any Amendments to these Bills. It is not on account of any thing that occurred last night, because I positively deny the truth of the allegations which were then made against us. But it is under the necessity which I have described that Her Majesty's Government consents to induce your Lordships to pass the Bill without the Amendments.
§ EARL RUSSELL
After the accusation which the noble Earl has made against those who went away from the House last night, your Lordships cannot be surprised that I should endeavour to vindicate our conduct. At the outset I may say that in the course we thought it our duty to take we did not intend to create a sensation, as was done during the American War and the French War; but rather to indicate our sense that the Government were taking a very unusual and objectionable course. If the noble Duke the President of the Council (the Duke of Marlborough) had said that, as there seemed to be a misunderstanding on our part of the words that had fallen from the First Lord of the Treasury, the Government were ready to postpone the question in order that they might consider it further, I should have said at once that was quite satisfactory, and I am sure my noble Friends near me would have joined me in that expression of satisfaction. But the noble Earl said that we were guilty of disrespect to your Lordships' House. Now, 576 our only complaint was against the Ministers of the Crown; our only dispute was with them. But, on the other hand, I must complain of the noble Duke that he was himself disrespectful towards the First Minister of the Crown. He said he had never heard what the right hon. Gentleman had stated, and did not know what he had stated. Now, the First Minister of the Crown is the organ of the Government, and when he speaks in the House of Commons he, to a great degree, binds the Government. His Colleagues ought, at least, to accept and act upon his statements. The noble Duke, however, was so disrespectful to his Chief that he entirely disregarded the statement of his Chief, and did not take the trouble to attend to what he had said, and apparently did not care a farthing what had been done. Therefore, if we were disrespectful to the Government the noble Duke was disrespectful to the Head of the Government. Now, if the Government came down and told us that upon the Scotch Reform Bill they would support the Motion to strike out the clause for the disfranchisement of seven English boroughs as agreed to by the House of Commons, I should say in the same way that it would be contrary to the language held by the Government in the House of Commons to attempt now to preserve those boroughs, and increase the numbers of the House instead.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
We never intended to alter that clause; and I wish to explain that the reason we were obliged to pass the Scotch Reform Bill without Amendments as soon as we could was that it must be passed before the 13th, because those seven boroughs are included in the Bill, and voters within them will be in a dilemma if the Bill does not pass within that time.
§ EARL RUSSELL
The same question arises with regard to the Boundary Bill, because Mr. Disraeli said, "My great object is to carry the three supplementary Reform measures;" and in another speech, that he meant to promote despatch. It is evident from the Registration Bill that that must be the object of the Government; and it is obvious that if we alter the Boundary Bill as proposed there cannot be despatch, because the Bill would go back to the House of Commons; it would be the subject of great discussion if those boundaries were enlarged; probably after a great deal of discussion there would be a decision adverse to the pro- 577 posal made in this House, and in that case we should have fresh debates here, and we could not hare that despatch which is the object of the Government and of all parties. The situation in which we are placed is certainly a new and strange one, and I am very glad to find that those who are responsible for it are uneasy. They being uneasy—and it is Bentham, I think, who says it should be the object of Parliament to make Governments uneasy—our object is attained.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
The noble Earl is quite right in saying that the position is a somewhat strange one. In that opinion I think every one of your Lordships will concur. But a charge was made last night against the Government of a distinct breach of faith, and noble Lords took so strong a view that they withdrew from the House. Notwithstanding the appeal of the Leader of the House, I think that my Amendment on the Boundary Bill is an insignificant matter compared with the character of this House and with the charges which the noble Earl opposite has so lightly and recklessly made. It is rare that such charges are made in this House; it is rarer still to find that they are neither retracted nor apologized for. I suppose noble Lords opposite went upon the principle that if you throw mud enough some is sure to stick, and that they make these charges quite irrespective of the consequences to those who indulge in such an ignominious mode of warfare. In my opinion the charge has been completely and satisfactorily disposed of. ["No, no!"] If not, it is the duty of those who believe that a breach of faith has been committed to call upon the House to express an opinion on the subject. Such a charge ought not to be lightly made; it ought to be disposed of one way or the other; and I think the country will view with some surprise and regret the conduct of the noble Lords who do not withdraw that charge. With regard to the Amendment of which I gave Notice, it is difficult for an independent Member of your Lordships' House to resist such an appeal as has been made to me under present circumstances. The question of Reform has long been made the stock-in-trade of noble Lords opposite. They have been loud in their professions of Reform, but have invariably found some pretest for evading the fulfilment of their pledges and the enfranchisement of their fellow-countrymen. The effect of ray Amendment would 578 have been to enfranchise 18,600 additional electors, who would have gained votes under the proposed enlargement of these borough boundaries. That is a fact which has not been disputed, and which I trust the constituencies will bear in mind. That fact, taken in connection with the persevering efforts of noble Lords opposite to disfranchise the freemen, will test the value of those liberal professions of which we have heard a great deal too much. I am not going to enter into the general question of Reform. If I thought tha the charge of breach of faith could be sustained against the Government, or that by acceding to the appeal that has been made to me I was giving any countenance to so unsubstantial and trumpery an accusation, I should not yield to that appeal; but, as I believe that in the opinion of your Lordships the charge has been satisfactorily met, and that it is one of the most contemptible mare's nests ever trumped up in this House, I think it is due to the Government that I should not resist the appeal they have addressed to me.
THE DUKE OF MONTROSE
As my name was appended with the full consent of the Government to an Amendment to a clause in the Scotch Reform Bill for extending the boundaries of Glasgow, it is right that I should say a few words upon this subject. If I had supposed that there was any breach of faith or anything like what is called "a dodge" in such an Amendment I should certainly never have proposed it; but I did not think that there was any such pledge given as noble Lords opposite seem to suppose. The noble Duke the President of the Council and the Lord Chancellor both supported the Amendment upon that understanding; and when the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) says we were guilty of disrespect to the Prime Minister because we were not aware of the words he uttered, I answer that this was very natural, for the words of the Prime Minister referred merely to the course of the Business in the other House. He said that certain Bills had passed, that others were in progress, that the Scotch Reform Bill and the Boundary Bill were virtually settled, meaning as regards the Business of the House that there would be no more discussion upon them there. The accusation of noble Lords opposite, therefore, was perfectly unfounded; and I cannot understand at this moment how they can sit there and not state, like honourable Gen- 579 tlemen, that they were mistaken. Have you any right to say that Mr. Disraeli was telling a falsehood? He says he did not mean what you supposed. That is the explanation of the matter; and if the question were put to any twelve men in a jury box every man among them would say that that is the natural meaning of his words. I repeat that there is no ground for the accusation; but the moment it was made I felt that it applied to the Amendment in the Scotch Reform Bill as much as to any Amendment in the Boundary Bill, and that if one was given up the other should be given up also.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If I interpose, my Lords, it must be as a peacemaker, for it seems to me that we have got into rather warm latitudes when such words as "contemptible," "trumpery," and "falsehood" are introduced into our discussions. I was told that when I came into this House I should find the atmosphere one of temperate, calm, dignified serenity; but really I find it this evening a good deal warmer work than in the House of Commons. What I wish to suggest is that we are trying to decide a question which belongs to the House of Commons. It is quite clear that if Mr. Disraeli gave any pledge he did not do so with the consent of his Cabinet, because they knew nothing about the matter. Now, whether Mr. Disraeli did or did not give that pledge, or whether, putting it in the delicate words of the noble Duke, Mr. Disraeli told a falsehood—
THE DUKE OF MONTROSE
I beg leave to correct the noble Marquess. I said nothing of the kind. I merely asked whether noble Lords opposite meant to say that Mr. Disraeli told a falsehood?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am very sorry if I have misquoted the noble Duke, but he was in the recollection of the House. What I would suggest is that this very delicate and unpleasant question is not one for us to decide. The Members of the House of Commons are perfectly competent to deal with those who are in their midst, and to decide questions of an invidious character. I would humbly suggest that your Lordships are now satisfied that the Members of the Government in this House did not intend to be parties to any such pledge as that alleged to have been given in the other House, and that we should pass over the matter as one no longer within, our jurisdiction.
§ LORD RAVENSWORTH
wished to say he was no party to the Amendments of which Notice had been given by the noble Earl, nor to the withdrawal of them, and that in Committee he should move that the boundary of the borough of South Shields be remodelled according to the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) has drawn a contrast between the proceedings of this and of the other House of Parliament. He says he thinks that we present here a scene as exciting as any to be witnessed in the other branch of the Legislature. But my noble Friend forgot that your Lordships have a great safety-valve which has not yet been tried in the other House, and it is that, whenever a contest arises here, if it assume the appearance of seriousness, one side of the House can walk out and leave the other in undisputed possession of the field. I venture to say that if that be established as the uniform practice of either House it will be found one of the best possible sedatives against excitement, and will always have a most effectual result in preventing disputes from assuming the character of hostilities. But I only rise in order to remind your Lordships of the course which the Government feel compelled to take with regard to the future progress of these measures. In the other House of Parliament a Bill has been introduced for the purpose of arranging the various dates which have to be considered with reference to calling into existence the new constituencies, and preparing for a dissolution of Parliament. Before it was introduced the dates in it were considered by the Government with the greatest anxiety. The whole measure was based upon the assumption that the Boundary Bill and the Scotch Reform Bill would receive the Royal Assent by the 13th instant. The Bill was referred to a Select Committee of the other House, and that Committee virtually endorsed the propositions which were contained in it; and they in their turn also assumed that the two other Bills referred to would receive the Royal Assent upon the days named. If we had been favoured with the continued presence of noble Lords last evening, and if your Lordships had thought it right to make the Amendments proposed, there would have been just time sufficient to send the Amendments to the 581 other House for consideration; but the result of the delay that has occurred—the Boundary Bill having been deferred to Monday—is that if the Amendments were made and we consider them on Monday, it would be utterly impossible for the Bill to pass through the necessary stages in this and the other House in time to receive the Royal Assent on the 13th inst. In point of fact, three or four days would be lost, and the times are so calculated that I may say the loss of an hour—certainly the loss of a day—would derange the whole plan of the Registration Bill and so overturn all our arrangements for a General Election this year. These are the reasons—I am sorry to say the imperative reasons—which oblige the Government to abstain from any support of a proposal which would alter in any substantial manner either the Boundary Bill or the Scotch Reform Bill. Let me say a word as to the accusation which was made last night. The Scotch Reform Bill as it stands now provides that the boundary of the borough of Glasgow shall not be altered. In the other House a proposition was made by the Government to alter that boundary in accordance with the wishes of the Corporation, and the opinion of the House was taken. In the first instance there was a tie; but upon the second division there was a majority of 5 against the Government. The noble Duke (the Duke of Moutrose), with the assent of the Government, had given Notice of Amendments to alter the boundary of Glasgow in the manner desired by the Corporation, and of these Amendments Notice was given on Monday morning; on Tuesday evening the Bill was in Committee, and the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) complained that they had not been printed sufficiently long to give an opportunity to consider them. If it was the case that in the other House of Parliament the term "settled" was used with regard to the Boundary Bill in the sense of implying a pledge on the part of the Government that they would not be consenting parties to any alteration, it follows that the same pledge was given with regard to the Scotch Reform Bill. I cannot help thinking that the accusation made so gravely last night was an after-thought; because on Tuesday last the noble Duke complained that time had not been given to consider this Amendment about Glasgow. I therefore think that the accusation, however well it may have ans- 582 wered its purpose, found its first entrance into the minds of the noble Lords yesterday; and after the cool reflection they were able to bestow on the matter last night after they retired from Public Business, I had expected that this morning they would have been prepared to withdraw the accusation, which I think is quite untenable. They had ample opportunity of considering whether the words on which they founded the accusation would sustain it; for when the other elements of ability and talent on the Opposition side left the House last night, and the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) alone remained, we appealed to him to give us the words on which the charge was founded, and he said that the noble Earl who had left the House had taken the words with him. We were thus placed in an awkward position for continuing the discussion with the noble Duke single-handed, and without the words on which the charge rested. I trust now that noble Lords, especially as they have attained their object, and by delay have prevented any Amendments being made in the Bill, will admit that the construction they put on those words was altogether unwarranted.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said:—Speaking on behalf of several of my Friends and myself, I have to say, we do not wish to recede from the position we took last night. Without any disrespect to the House or to the Government, we do not apologize to the House, for the simple reason that we believe we did no more than was necessary to mark, in the strongest manner, our sense of the unusual position taken by the Government. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) has alluded to the warmth of this discussion. I do not know whether I spoke with any warmth yesterday; but if I did, I am quite sure that to-day the warmth has passed away. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack suggests that for the future when we become more than usually excited, there is a safety-valve which can be opened, by one side of the House walking out. Well, the value of that safety-valve has been proved in this instance, at all events; for, by our retirement, we have succeeded in defeating the proposal for the alteration of the Bill. But we may derive another lesson from this discussion; and that is, that we should possess a still more effectual sedative, if the Government would abstain from press- 583 ing an Amendment of this kind, after it had been disposed of in the House of Commons. My noble Friend near me would admit the physical superiority of the Lord Privy Seal; but would the noble Lord opposite like to pursue the comparison and measure by inches the intellectual stature of the two? ["Oh, oh!"] Do noble Lords object to the comparison, evidently intended by the noble Earl himself, or to my remarks upon it? The Boundary Bill and the Scotch Reform Bill were read a second time in this House without any remarks being made on the part of the Government, except that it was necessary to pass them in the most rapid manner. Then we find three or four sheets of Amendments to the Scotch Reform Bill on the Paper, and the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) objected to discussing them without further Notice. Thereupon, the Lord Privy Seal got up and said the Amendments were unimportant, with the exception of one, which he would postpone to Friday. Then we were astonished and surprised at an Amendment to the Boundary Bill being proposed, contrary to what we had been led to expect from the words of the Prime Minister in the other House. With respect to our secession last night, we might quote precedents for our conduct in walking out of the House; for, on more than one occasion, the Members of the Government in the other House have gone out in a body, because it was inconvenient to commit themselves on either side in a division. The practice, therefore, is one on which they are not entitled to pronounce an unqualified condemnation. Last night we were challenged to go on with the discussion. In the position in which we found ourselves, what were we to do? We remonstrated; but on finding that our remonstrances were perfectly useless, we went away. If we had remained, we should have been placed in a minority, and, under the circumstances, I think we took the right course in leaving the House. There would then very likely have been a great collision between the two Houses—for 1 do not think there was the slightest chance of these Amendments being passed into law, and therefore, in all probability, the delay which has been so much objected to would have arisen in that way.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
As allusions have been made to me by three or four speakers, I think I have a right to address the House. I wish to relate to the House 584 an anecdote about the Scotch Reform Bill. Notice was given on the Paper that the Scotch Reform Bill was to be read a second time on the very day it was printed and circulated, or at all events not more than a day after. On that day I went across the House to the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal and said to him, "We intend to move no Amendment of any importance to this Bill. I think it is a very good Bill." I was very much surprised, however, to see that when I expressed this favourable opinion of the Bill a very dark cloud passed over the countenance of the noble Earl. He evidently did not approve my saying it was a good Bill; and the suspicion immediately occurred to me—"Is it possible that the Government intend in Committee and without Notice to move important Amendments?" However, I dismissed that suspicion from my mind, and it was with infinite amazement that I afterwards saw on the Paper a number of Amendments, some of which, indeed, were merely formal, but one of which involved a most important alteration of the arrangements come to in the other House of Parliament. Although I have not hitherto said anything on the subject, I can assure noble Lords opposite that they have misconstrued my silence; it was my full intention, when that Amendment was brought forward, not only to oppose it on its own merits, but also to express my strong opinion that the pressing of it would be a breach of the undertaking which the Government had entered into in the House of Commons.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I have now had the honour of being a Member of your Lordships' House for twenty-four years, but never during that period have I witnessed anything with so much shame and regret for the character of the House as the scene last evening. I have been present at many warm and keenly-debated political discussions; but before this I never heard one in which there was introduced so much personal virulence and so many misrepresentations—and persevering misrepresentations. My Lords, I will admit that the expression used by Mr. Disraeli in the House of Commons might be capable of the misconstruction which was put upon it. At the same time, looking at all the circumstances, and considering that the expression was used on an occasion when the House of Commons was discussing what time there might be for their deliberations on particular mea- 585 sures which were passing through that House, and were to be submitted to this—looking at these circumstances I think it is quite clear that the remark of Mr. Disraeli simply meant that the Scotch Reform Bill and the Boundary Bill might be considered as settled so far as the House of Commons was concerned; that they would not occupy any more of the time of that House; and that in their then condition they would be sent up for the consideration of your Lordships. Now, what happened with regard to the debate on the Irish Church Bill? A division was taken in the House of Commons, and a very large majority gave a decision ad-Terse to the Government. The Government, thereupon, allowed the Bill to pass through its future stages without any further opposition, in order that it might be sent up to your Lordships. But will any human being venture to contend that your Lordships were not perfectly free to deal with that Bill because the Ministers in the other House, after one debate and division, said it was not their intention to give the House any further trouble by dividing again upon the measure? Will any person say that the Ministers thereby debarred themselves from the right of dealing in this House with the measure as freely as if nothing had passed in the House of Commons? I admit, however, that the noble Lords opposite misconstrued that which to my mind was clearly and plainly the real meaning of the Prime Minister; but I think, my Lords, that, when that misinterpretation had been emphatically repudiated it might, have been open to the noble Lords to express their regret that such ambiguous terms had been used as to lead to such a misconstruction. But for them to persist in endeavouring to affix a stigma on the Government is to do that which I have never seen before, and which I hope I shall never see again. I think also, my Lords, that a most ungenerous use has been made of the course which the Government pursued last night. I say nothing about the dignified form of the retirement from the House of the noble Lords opposite who imitated, though on a very small scale, a memorable proceeding on the part of Mr. Fox, which was not generally approved at the time. But what was the consequence? Finding that under the pressure of excited feelings the noble Lords opposite refused to remain and discuss the question under consideration, Her Majesty's Government said— 586 with what I will not call an excess of generosity, because I approve entirely the course they adopted—"We will not subject ourselves to the imputation of taking advantage even of the voluntary absence of our opponents. We have the power of passing this measure now without any opposition from the other side, but we will allow our opponents time to reflect on the charge which they have brought against us." The noble Earl (Earl Granville) says that the course which the noble Lords opposite pursued last night was vindicated by the success which attended it. Now, I must say that is a most ungenerous remark. It is equivalent to saying, "We calculated on the generosity of our opponents." ["No, no!"] What, then, did the noble Earl mean? To me his remark appeared to mean, "This move was successful, and why? Because if we had remained there would have been a division in favour of the Government, but our retirement acted on their generous feelings." If the noble Lords opposite had asked for further time to consider the question on the ground of the short Notice they had received, I am certain, from what I know of my noble Friends on this side and from the course they pursued last night, that they would have agreed to a postponement of the Bill. As it is, however, the Boundary Bill will have to be passed without the consideration of these Amendments, and we shall be compelled, without argument and without any comparison of reasons, to disregard the recommendations which the Commissioners, acting under the authority and by the direction of Parliament, made after investigating the whole subject during four or five months. This is a painful position for the House to be placed in; but as it is so placed I do not at all wonder at the course which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government of yielding to the necessity of the case, and abandoning what they considered material Amendments rather than subject the country to the great inconvenience of having the Bill indefinitely postponed. Again I say that, in the course of my experience in this House, I have never heard anything so ungenerous and insulting in its tone as the cheer with which the opposite side of the House met my noble Friend's announcement that, in deference to the feeling on that side, the Government intended to withdraw the Amendments. I trust that on cooler reflection the noble Lords opposite will do justice to the motives 587 which have actuated their opponents, and that after the solemn declaration which has been made on this side of the House they will, at all events, have the grace to withdraw the imputation which they have passed, without the shadow of a pretence, on the conduct, the motives, and the character of the Government.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
wished to say a word on the general question of breaches of faith with Parliament. He thought there had been more than one. Last year it was distinctly stated that the question of the boundaries was to be referred to a quasi judicial tribunal, in order that the questions relating to those boundaries might be settled without reference to party principles or local jealousies. That arrangement was acceded to, and Parliament had a right to expect that it would be strictly acted upon. But how had it been carried out? Why, no sooner was the Report of the Commission presented than those local jealousies which were to have been so carefully excluded were all admitted as an element in the consideration of the matter. That, in his opinion, was a signal breach of faith with Parliament. There had been another breach of faith with reference to the representation of the people in Parliament. When the English Reform Bill of last year was passed every one supposed that the representation was settled as far as England was concerned; but when the Scotch Reform Bill came on for discussion in the House of Commons this Session the question of the English representation was re-opened, and several seats were taken from England in order that they might be transferred to Scotland. That, in his opinion, was another breach of faith with Parliament. Putting aside the occasion of the present miserable debate, which had given an opportunity for a display of feelings not in accordance with the gentlemanly habits which usually characterized the Members of their Lordship's House, he thought that in the two instances to which he had referred Parliament had reason to complain of its not having been fairly treated.