§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said: My Lords, the object of the Bill is to amend the mode in which Parliamentary and municipal elections are conducted in this country, the principal alteration proposed by it being the adoption of the system of vote by 1257 ballot. Those of your Lordships who have paid attention—as most of you have doubtless done—to the course of public discussion upon this question, are aware that this is no new question in this country; that it has for a long series of years engaged the attention of public men and of the public Press; and that it has long been the subject of annual discussion in the House of Commons. If, therefore, it has not often been brought directly under your Lordships' consideration, it must, having occupied so large a space in the public mind, have engaged the attention even of those of your Lordships who have never had a seat in the other House. The Bill seems to me to be recommended to your Lordships' favourable consideration because, as I shall endeavour to demonstrate, it is calculated to diminish bribery, to prevent intimidation, and to conduce to the orderly conduct of elections. Now, I am anxious on this as on every occasion to avoid exaggeration, and I am not, therefore, about to argue that by this, or, indeed, by any measure, the great evil of bribery can be altogether repressed; but I maintain that the adoption of the principle contained in this measure will greatly diminish its prevalence. In considering that portion of the subject it is desirable that your Lordships should advert to the mode in which bribery is carried on, and to the time and circumstances which facilitate it. The commonest and most familiar form of bribery is that by which the candidate or his agent promises the elector a valuable consideration for his vote. That is a very simple transaction, generally confined to the two persons parties to the bargain, and is one comparatively difficult to trace and easy to adopt. Now, under secret voting that form of bribery would be impossible, for a person cannot promise to pay a sum of money for a vote if he does not know how that vote will be given. Again, all who have read the evidence on the subject are aware that it is in the last hours of a hotly-contested election, when it is well known that a single vote or a few votes may turn the scale, and when those votes consequently reach a high value, that bribery is most rife. Now, under secret voting, the progress of election during the time of polling would not be known; and the persons interested could not know whether the contest was a close one or not, and that 1258 peculiar period when men's passions are most excited, when the briber is most apt to forgot those motives of principle or safety which would otherwise restrain him, and when the bribed is most likely to forget his duty to the law and to the country in the face of a strong pecuniary temptation, would not arrive. Objectors to the Ballot have urged that, while the present form of bribery will no longer be possible, it will be possible to practise it in other forms, as, for instance, by a promise on the part of the candidate to pay over a lump sum of money for distribution among certain of the electors if he obtains his election. I admit that that would be possible; but it is a mode of bribery which can be adopted now, and it is one the most liable to detection, for it requires the co-operation of a considerable number of men, the treachery of any one of whom might disclose and frustrate it. Thus, though bribery might still exist, it would, I believe, be largely diminished, while the temptations arising in the late hours of the election would be removed. Then, as to intimidation, the Ballot will put an end to this without impairing the legitimate influence of intelligence and position in bringing conviction to the mind of the less educated elector. That is undoubtedly a legitimate and advantageous influence. What is illegitimate and disadvantageous is any influence which, not bringing conviction into the mind of the elector, induces him from motives of personal interest or the fear of material injury to act against his honest convictions. The Ballot, so far from diminishing the former, would tend in many cases to strengthen it. Public opinion in the present day is altogether opposed, and rightfully so, to anything which can be called illegitimate influence, and as long as it can be said that an employer of labour or owner of property who advises his workmen or tenants as to their political course has the power of backing that advice by inflicting material injury, honest, high-minded men will shrink from giving it. On the other hand, a tenant or workman, while open to the charge of having voted under the dictation of an employer or landlord, will be deterred from seeking advice from those who, under other circumstances, might well be his advisers on political questions. I am convinced, therefore, that the Ballot, instead of lessoning the influence of pro- 1259 perty or intelligence, will give it increased scope by freeing those who are able to use it from any suspicion of illegitimate influence. I believe that the adoption of the present Bill will cause greater order in elections, and there are many provisions in it besides those which refer to the Ballot which have a distinct bearing on this question. There is a provision in this Bill which abolishes what are called public nominations, and we know what are the inconveniences which often attend such occasions. Then there is a clause relating to the keeping open of publichouses, which tends in the same direction. There is also a provision for securing additional polling-places. One great advantage attendant upon the adoption of this Bill will be that no one will know how the election proceeds until it is over, so that there will be no danger of a resort by the losing side in the heat of election excitement to irregular or riotous proceedings, with a view to prevent electors of opposite views from going to the poll. These reasons establish a primâ facie case in favour of the Bill, and I may venture to give an illustration derived from my personal experience. It happened that during my recent visit to the United States I witnessed an election in the District of Columbia, or, to speak more intelligibly to your Lordships, in Washington. That District had just been erected by Congress into what is called a Territory, and had to elect a Legislature and a representative in Congress. These were functions of great importance, exercised for the first time, and the circumstances were peculiar in this respect—that the contest was to a great extent a contest of race. The great majority of the white electors voted for one candidate, and the coloured electors voted almost exclusively for the other, so that there was a danger of a hot and exciting contest, yet the election was conducted with the most perfect tranquillity and order. In company with my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) I visited one of the polling-places, and nothing could exceed the good humour of the persons assembled round it, or the order which prevailed. Now, I admit that in the United States the Ballot cannot be regarded as secret voting, and I am not adducing this as an argument for secrecy; but it is certainly the universal evidence of all countries in which 1260 the Ballot exists at all that it conduces in a remarkable degree to the tranquillity, simplicity, and order of elections. Turning to the principal objections to the main provision of this Bill, vote by Ballot, I may classify them under three heads—that it leads to deceit and dishonesty; that the franchise is a trust which ought to be exercised openly; and that intimidation—the special evil struck at by it—is of rare occurrence, and is likely to become rarer. Now, I admit that under the Ballot it is possible for a man to vote in one way, and tell the world that he has voted in another—that is, to tell a lie about the course he has pursued, and thereby to commit a very great offence. I know, however, of no system, which is not liable to be perverted to immoral purposes by those who choose to do so, and I ask you to remember the objections of a moral character to which open voting is exposed. We are told that under the Ballot a man may tell a lie about his vote; but under open voting it is equally possible for him, if not to tell a lie, at least to act a lie. A man who, voting openly, votes from unworthy motives, from cowardice and under intimidation, against the candidate whom he believes that in the public interest he should support, and in favour of the candidate against whom he has conscientious objections, is, at least, acting a lie if he is not telling one. Moreover, when you give a man the right to vote, it is your bounden duty to secure to him its free exercise, an obligation which you acknowledge by the penalties which you impose on intimidation, though such penalties cannot really touch so subtle an evil, for it is very rarely that you can obtain evidence sufficient to unseat the candidate, or punish the offender. To attempt, indeed, by extended penalties, to follow intimidation through all its ramifications would be to establish a system of inquisition inconsistent with the free exercise of the rights of employers and landlords. As to the other objections, I have been throughout my political life an advocate of the Ballot, having always thought that the arguments in its favour preponderated over those against it; but I do not deny that objections formerly existed, which, though not conclusive, were entitled to considerable weight. When the franchise was restricted, it might have been fairly argued — as was done by high 1261 authorities — that it was a trust to be exercised on behalf of those who did not possess it. Now, however, that Parliament has so widely extended the suffrage to all classes of the community, that argument can no longer be maintained. Then, with respect to intimidation, even if formerly the influence of public opinion had diminished it, the Reform Act of 1867 has now created for it new facilities of a different and more pernicious character, against which you are bound to guard. I may remark, too, that even if the suffrage had been a trust, that could have been no argument against the Ballot, for it would have been a trust on behalf of the non-elector, and the intimidation to be guarded against by the Ballot was an intimidation very seldom exercised in the interest of the non-elector, whose interest, indeed, it was that the protection of the Ballot should be given. I admit that noble Lords opposite will have the advantage of being able to quote the opinion of Mr. John Stuart Mill as to intimidation being so rare that legislation against it is unnecessary; but I do not know whether that philosopher would hold the argument under present circumstances, for he maintained it a considerable number of years ago, and, whatever its force prior to 1867, it will not hold water now. Moreover, the evidence before the public does not show that the evil has disappeared. I am aware that I cannot refer in detail to the evidence taken "elsewhere," and which is not before your Lordships; but I believe that evidence does not bear out the statement. I must call your Lordships' attention to a description of intimidation which is mainly, if not entirely, the result of the Act of 1867, though in saying so I am not at all criticising that measure. Parliament thereby conferred the suffrage on the great body of the working classes of this country. No one who knows anything of the condition of these classes will dispute that they are especially exposed to pressure and intimidation from organized bodies of their own position—such as trades unions, and other bodies of a similar description. Your Lordships are aware of the force of this influence in respect of matters which more vitally affect a man's personal interest than the question of the vote; and I ask your Lordships to consider what the 1262 effect of such influence may be in regard to Parliamentary voting. I am prepared to admit that men of wealth and men who occupy a conspicuous position are in the present day much more amenable than they have been at some former periods to public opinion, and that that public opinion is distinctly opposed to undue interference with the exercise of the franchise; but the leaders of such organizations as I am alluding to are not amenable to it. Their public opinion, is of a totally different kind, and it is not inconsistent with it that they should exercise a pressure on individuals as to their votes. I say, therefore, without hesitation, that it is the duty of your Lordships, who in 1867 conferred upon the working classes of this country the right of the suffrage, to protect them in its free and unbiased exercise, enabling them to give their votes without the fear of the consequences which it is sometimes in the power of leaders of such organizations to inflict upon those who oppose, as they think, the interests of their class. Such are some of the arguments which I desire to submit to your Lordships in favour of the system embodied in this Bill. If I wished for an argument of far greater weight than any that can be attached to my individual opinion with regard to the circumstances of the present time, I should find it in the marked change which has happened in respect to this question in the other House since the last General Election—the first which has occurred since the Act of 1867. This Bill comes up to your Lordships recommended by large majorities in the other House at every stage, and among the names recorded in these majorities you will find the names of men of great authority and high standing, and perfectly independent of the Government of the day, who were formerly consistent opponents of the Ballot, but since the last Election have become its steady supporters. It is recommended by an inquiry before a Committee of the House, and it relates mainly, though not exclusively, to the election of Members of that House, so that it has the authority of those who have the most experience as to its principal object. I am sure that, thus sent up, it will receive your Lordships' careful consideration. It is but right that I should refer to the other and less important changes which it con- 1263 tains, all tending in the direction of securing greater freedom and simplicity in our Parliamentary and municipal elections. It purposes to abolish public nominations, and I shall be much surprised if anybody acquainted with elections argues that any public advantage is derived from such a gala of all the roughs and blackguards in a town. The show of hands has never, in the memory of man, had any real influence on an election, and its tendency is to produce clamour and violence, and to create undue and unnecessary excitement. The Bill also provides for an adequate number of polling-places. This has hitherto in counties been left to the decision of the Quarter Sessions, and, without wishing to impugn the course taken by those bodies, I think it is clear that increased facilities for recording votes hold out an inducement, not to noisy partisans, who are sure in any case to go to the poll, but to persons who shun noise and disturbance, and who have a right to be able to record their votes without difficulty or inconvenience. The Bill likewise provides that publichouses shall not be used for any election purposes, a provision applicable alike to Parliamentary and municipal elections, and the propriety of which, especially as regards the latter, has been amply shown by experience. There is another provision in the Bill upon which I would recommend it to your Lordships' attention. It is that which provides that in all cases the register shall be final. The register, it is said, is final now; but that is not, strictly speaking, the case. No person, however, can doubt that it ought to be so. I have now touched on the principal provisions of the Bill, and I fear I have already trespassed too long on your attention. It certainly would not be convenient that I should anticipate the discussion in Committee by entering into the details of the various clauses. I have thus endeavoured to explain to your Lordships the main features of this Bill, and some of the reasons which induce me to hope that your Lordships will regard it with favour. Its object is to secure greater freedom, purity, and order in our Parliamentary and municipal elections, and to afford to all classes of electors greater facilities for exercising the suffrage your Lordships have given them. I have endeavoured to show to your Lordships that while, on the one hand, it has long 1264 been the opinion of some that even under the restricted suffrage of former times it was desirable to adopt the system of vote by ballot, the argument in favour of that system has greatly increased in force since the Reform Act of 1867, and I have ventured strongly to urge on your Lordships that after having at that time given to large masses of your fellow-countrymen, with a most remarkable unanimity, the right to vote for Members of Parliament, it is your duty to afford to them the means of exercising the right that you then conferred without the fear of undue pressure, not merely from powerful employers of labour, but also from the trades unions and other combinations among their own class. I have re-called to your Lordships' recollection the change of opinion in the House of Commons with respect to this measure since the last General Election, and I have asked you carefully to consider the weight of authority with which the measure comes up recommended to you by the other House. Under these circumstances, my Lords, and for these reasons, I have no hesitation in earnestly requesting your Lordships to give the Bill a second reading.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Ripon.)
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read, a second time this day six months, said:* My Lords, it is not my intention to reply to the speech of the noble Marquess who has just proposed the second reading of this Bill. I do not intend to question the principle of the measure, nor even to enter upon the merits of the measure itself. I simply protest against being called upon at this season of the year to discuss a measure of such vital importance — a measure which, whether it be for good or evil, must produce the most material effect upon the political and moral character of all our people. Now, in rising to oppose the second reading, I may be asked, why I put myself forward so prominently upon this occasion. I will say that, having a deep and conscientious feeling upon the character of this great measure, I have thought upon it much. I have considered the magnitude of the subject-matter; the advanced state of the season, the impossibility of an ade- 1265 quate attendance — the impossibility of looking at the whole length and breadth of the question, of examining all its details, of plunging into all its depths. I saw, therefore, that its postponement was necessary. In that sense, and with that view, I felt that the postponement of this great question should be moved by some one who was free from anything like the colour of party or political purpose. I therefore made the proposition with great reluctance to my noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) that I should undertake this duty; and I did undertake it, because I am not connected with either side of the House, and my noble Friends sitting on the Treasury bench will admit that I have more frequently supported than opposed the Government; but now, my Lords, how stands this matter? On this, the 10th of August, we are summoned to give a second reading to a Bill of singular importance. It is no ordinary Bill. It is a Bill not ordinary in its principle. It is novel; for although it has been before submitted to the other House, it has never been submitted to this House—at least, not in such a way as that it could be debated, only two or three Peers having been present. People may have a general knowledge of a subject, but it is never fully considered until put before them for their inquiry and decision. Therefore when the question is proposed for action it comes before us with the force of novelty. It comes before us on the 10th of August—a Bill, I say, of a novel and singular principle, a Bill with a great variety of details which hitherto have never been submitted to this branch of the Legislature. They are intricate and unfamiliar. The Bill, moreover, contains 57 clauses, and the schedules are quite as important as the clauses. The House of Commons had the Bill before them for six months. For two months they have been actively engaged in its discussion, and yet we are now summoned to despatch this business in as many days as the House of Commons had months. We are told, indeed, by the Prime Minister that we shall have ample time; but I should like to know what is his definition of ample time. To do justice to this great measure would carry us, with the second reading and Committee, into the early part of September. During the whole of that time the House of Commons would be sitting 1266 to receive our Amendments, and we should be sitting afterwards to see whether our Amendments were agreed to or not. By that time we should get well into the month, and yet without being able to produce a proper measure which would be worth the acceptance of the country. But, while the Prime Minister says we shall have ample time, there are others who say, give them no time at all. This is a question, say they, purely for the House of Commons, one to determine the mode of obtaining seats in that House, and that we have no right to interfere. Now, I know no question in the whole history of legislation which is so completely an Imperial one. Almost any question hitherto submitted to your House would sink into comparison with it. If carried, it may be for good or evil; but it will, at all events, produce serious and permanent effects on the constitutional habits, on the minds, thoughts, and feelings of the people of this country. I have taken, my Lords, the most favourable view of it; but let us look at the question as it really is. When we talk of the Bill occupying so short a period of time, and of its going back to the House of Commons, that issue is on the assumption that the Bill we have received is a workmanlike and manageable Bill. But it is precisely the reverse. I should like to know whether any one of your Lordships seriously and honestly considers that the Bill is a workable Bill. On the contrary, would not even the Government admit, in candour, that it is an impracticable Bill, and one which ought not to be passed? The details of the Bill are incoherent, confused, and contradictory. We have testimony from many who are admirers of the Ballot that this measure is unsatisfactory. On Clause 26 (Payments not made through agent or included in return deemed to be corrupt) Mr. Forster moved that it be omitted, upon which Mr. Fawcett said—If it were so omitted, he would unhesitatingly say that his vote on the second reading had been obtained under wrong pretences.It was struck out on a division, and therefore Mr. Fawcett stands to his declaration that his vote for the second reading had been obtained under false pretences. Well, then, there was another Gentleman in the House of Commons—I am afraid I must not name him, or the noble Earl, as before, will 1267 call me to Order, but he is a Gentleman of very strong opinions. On the question relating to publichouses, he declared that that clause was of more value than all the other clauses of the Bill put together. What became of that clause? That clause was reduced to a mere minimum, so flimsy that I have high authority for stating that some regard it as worthless, and others as absolutely unintelligible. We know also that of 100 Amendments given Notice of by one side of the House, and that the Liberal side, not one was carried; we may be sure, therefore, that those Members will consider this Bill imperfect, at least to the extent of their unaccepted Amendments. But this is not all. Our perplexities do not end here. There are further difficulties in the case. Virtually, if not formally, there are two Bills before this House. In 1870 Her Majesty's Ministers produced a Bill for secret voting. In 1871 they produced another. These Bills are diametrically opposite, and absolutely contradictory. It is right that these two Bills should be subjected to minute examination, and that we should have for comparison the same advantages enjoyed by the House of Commons. The first Bill qualified in great measure the power of secret voting, because, with a view to prevent personation and to detect bribery, it contained provisions for a rigid scrutiny. This Bill makes secret voting absolute and complete, and thus renders the detection of personation and bribery almost impossible. We are entitled to weigh, to compare, and contrast these two measures, and I ask how it is possible to do so in so short a time, and with such a variety of matters to be considered? We have a right not only to consider the clauses which are in the Bill, but the clauses which have been left out. Now, to begin—several important clauses relating to bribery have been thrown over without remorse. Take, for instance, the public-house clause to which I have referred; in the original Bill it was the 27th clause, and was of much larger scope and power. The clause is now a very poor affair, unintelligible, as I have already said, and worthless. I was told, indeed, by a Member who was in the House of Commons during the discussion, that it was evident something must be done; and that they therefore adopted this clause, making the best of a bad 1268 job. We have a right to consider how that state of things can be improved. Such a provision may be made the most valuable in the whole of election matters—anything by which inebriety and rioting may be prevented prior to the election, and at, and following the election, would be important indeed. But this clause will be inoperative—it is absolutely good for nothing. But your Lordships have the power to make the clause ten times more rigid and comprehensive. Your Lordships, in this matter, can be of great assistance to the Commons. They are very much under the influence of the licensed victuallers. Your Lordships are not so. Your Lordships may therefore come forward and say—"We know what is the very best thing to be done—we are determined to carry a good repressive Bill, and there shall be no scene of drunkenness or disorder on the day of election." But, my Lords, we have now no time to sit here and take all the evidence on that point. We have no time to compare the two Bills, the one providing for a scrutiny, the other excluding it. The Government themselves are not united upon the matter, and we ought to have the benefit of their doubts. Even the Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons which sat on the Ballot (the Marquess of Hartington) and one of their Colleagues, declared that he adhered to the first Bill, not to the second, although he had adopted the second under the pressure of a political exigency. Now we are not under that political exigency, and we have therefore to look at the matter in all its bearings, and see if we cannot get a good and safe measure for the benefit of the country. But I would go a step further and look at some of the details. What does this Bill provide against personation? Does it do anything at all? It talks a great deal about personation; it imposes a certain penalty, but gives no means of detection. Yet personation is one of the greatest evils with which the colonial Legislatures, having adopted the Ballot, have had to contend. That, therefore, is another matter which requires the most serious consideration, and a great deal of evidence. The 18th clause of the original Bill provided for the payment of election expenses, so far as the returning officer is concerned. That clause was thrown out by a large 1269 majority. But, my Lords, the question arises whether such a clause ought not to be in the Bill. I dare say, if we could take evidence and invited inquiry, and devoted plenty of time to it, we might come to the same conclusion as the House of Commons; but I must say it is a matter which has weighty claims on our consideration. I should wish to inquire how far such a provision would be a necessary consequence of the Act of 1867. I should be glad to know how far the working classes approve or object to such a measure, and how far it would be right and safe to grant it to them; but the inquiry, in all its various ramifications, cannot now be made; it can only be made during the approaching Recess. There was also another Amendment proposed in the Commons—that the polling-booths should be kept open till 8 o'clock; but that, too, was rejected. That point requires a great deal of time and inquiry, for many of the working classes cannot leave their employment till very late; and I know, from long experience, when traversing the counties of Lancaster and York, that it is impossible to get together meetings of the working class, when in full employment, till 7 or 7.30, and in London till 7.30 or 8 o'clock. Now, we must assume that the working classes are most anxious to exercise their franchise. And we have our interest in it too—in a restricted franchise there is safety; but if you are to have a suffrage unrestricted, the greatest safety will be found in bringing to the poll the greatest possible number of voters. The stirring and mischievous are ready enough to record their votes. It is the quiet and occupied who remain at home; and it is for the welfare of the country to obtain their suffrages, as the mass of the people, in almost every land, are disposed to peace and order. But despite these imperfections, it has been said, I believe, by a Cabinet Minister (Mr. Forster), that whatever the opposition to this Bill, it will certainly be carried within a very few months. Very possibly; but that is the very best reason why the greatest care should be bestowed on it so as to make it as perfect and complete as possible. A charge has been made against this House that it does little or no work. Now, in the first place, is the fact so? Is not the Private Business of the House notoriously well done? Have your Lordships not always done well what you 1270 have taken in hand? Now, I am not going to complain of the Government nor of the House of Commons; but I will observe that if the Commons would send up their Bills somewhat earlier, and if some of the Government Bills were originated in this House, they would find the work accepted, and, I am sure, well and admirably discharged. But I do protest against this House being treated like a set of lacqueys in an antechamber, waiting in idleness till it please their masters to declare, both in time and measure, what work shall be assigned to them. Then, it is said, if we are so ready to work, why not set about it? Simply because there is no urgency. To talk of urgency is an abuse of the English language. Is there any great and overwhelming necessity? The people, I know, may be agitated up into anything, but, at present, they appear to be very tranquil on the matter; and it is impossible to say that the trades unions on the Tyne approve the Bill, for they declined to select their own delegates by this Ballot. If the measure is not urgent, why should your Lordships waste your time and health in a needless work, which, when done, must be imperfect and insufficient for its purpose? Hurried forward, ill-digested and rude, it would, if passed, be a disgrace to the Statute Book. Is this urgency which is now pressed on your Lordships felt in "another place?" I understand that there is a great desire on the part of Members to shuffle off all public matters and go to other avocations; and I am told that though there are nearly £16,000,000 in the Estimates still to be voted, a large number of the Members of the House of Commons are calculating that the Appropriation Bill will reach this House by the 19th of the present month. Now, will the Prime Minister call his friends together, assure them of the necessity of considering every Estimate, controlling Supply, making the Motions of which they have given Notice, and of redressing, at the constitutional moment, the public grievances, and acting as vigorously in August as they would in March? He will do no such thing; and, if he did, no one would pay to him the smallest attention. There are, however, some matters of urgency — there is the urgency of water supply in prospect of the cholera, to which your Lordships would readily give your time and health 1271 in regard to the welfare of the country if they were sent up to this House, but nothing has been done with them. There is Sir Charles Adderley's Bill for sanitary measures. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of it to the safety and comfort of the people. Now, that is a case where something is better than nothing, while the Bill before us is one in which nothing is better than something. Now, I know not how it is with your Lordships; but for myself, I have had threats of the popular indignation thrown broadcast at my head. My Lords, I know full well the power of the people, and am prepared, on all suitable occasions, and in all proper ways, to conform to their opinions. But I am not going to "Alexander them up in lying odes," to tell them they are demigods, and that wisdom and truth dwell with them, and with none other. Many of them possess fine hearts and great common sense; and to them I appeal, and ask whether we are not taking the best course for their interests in postponing this measure, so that it may be amply considered in the country. If they said that they wanted no such measure, your Lordships would be spared the tedious discussion of the details of a Bill. But if they should say that they required a measure, then, I believe I am not going too far when I promise, on the part of your Lordships, a most ready and respectful attention. But there have been other menaces, which, no doubt, are explainable. One, I am sure, is so. A most distinguished Member of the other House (Mr. Forster) declared that he would send up the Bill to your Lordships, and throw upon you the responsibility of rejecting it. Now, everyone who knows that right hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware that he is far too amiable and gentlemanlike wantonly to menace anybody; but I have no doubt, that could I have heard him talking to himself, his phraseology would have been to this effect—"This is a bad Bill, a very bad Bill, and I and the Commons cannot make it better, but we must pass it, for we are under disagreeable pledges to do so; we must send it to the Lords, who will soon see what a monstrosity it is; they will set it aside, and then, like honest men, take upon themselves the whole responsibility." That is precisely what I invite your Lordships to do; and I appeal to Her Majesty's Government, 1272 I appeal to the House of Commons, I appeal to the country at large, whether you will not have the approval of all reasonable and thinking men, if, without passing judgment on the principle of the measure, we set it aside simply and solely in order that it may have in the next Session a full, free, fair, and deliberate consideration.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day six months.")—(The Earl of Shaftesbury.)
§ LORD ACTON
said, he thought the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) was justified in speaking upon this measure, not as a party man, but as one solicitous for the honour and influence of this country, and he would endeavour to follow the noble Earl's example. He did not think it consistent with such sentiments to throw aside as inopportune the consideration of a question which came before their Lordships in reality for the first time after 40 years of popular agitation. The defence of the present measure was that it bore upon it in what it contained and in what it omitted the sense of the two opposing parties. The resistance to the principle of secret voting was in general founded on the same basis as the opposition to reform in the representation. Sir Robert Peel, on the first occasion of the discussion on the Ballot, said that it would be absurd to contend that a man of £10,000 a-year should not have more influence than a man of £10 a-year; and as each had only one vote, the only way in which that glaring inequality could be redressed was by the exercise of influence. A distinguished Member of the Whig party also stated on one occasion that the agricultural tenants had no more predilection for those they voted for than the pipes of an organ for the tune they played. However, the measures passed by Parliament during many years had banished that notion, and it was not now open to them to say that the representation should not be real. It was said, when the Reform Bill of 1867 was under discussion, that by sinking a shaft through the Democratic drift they would come to a Conservative substratum. Though that expectation had not been realized, the question now arose whether in extending the franchise it was intended to give to the voters the opportunity of expressing their own feelings, or to 1273 prevent them from doing so by the exercise of what was called influence? He thought that a question of too grave importance to be dismissed in an unceremonious way. After the House of Commons had devoted many days to it at the busiest part of the year, their Lordships were now invited not to pay to their labours the tribute of serious examination, but to declare at once that all that time and labour had been wasted for no more urgent reason than a desire for a speedy Prorogation. To nullify the votes of the majority of the other House of Parliament was a power which their Lordships possessed, and which they exercised with a sparing and a cautious hand; but they were now invited to do much more—not to assert a difference of deliberate judgment, but to avoid the issue of argument altogether, and to reject the measures sent up from the House of Commons without discussion whenever it might chance that the minority of that House had prolonged its opposition until the beginning of August. If their Lordships adopted that principle they would prepare for times of greater political excitement, and more evenly-balanced parties, a new and dangerous element of constitutional discord. Nothing was further from his intention than the presumption of giving advice, nor did he intend to discuss the importance of preserving harmony between the two Houses of Parliament. It had been urged with great force that no such contingent object should divert them from passing a distinct judgment on the merits of the questions brought before them; but no such question arose now, and no such opinion should restrain them from shrinking from the full and fair discussion of a measure the object of which was secrecy in name, but the substance of which concerned the integrity of the poorer class of voters.
§ LORD ROMILLY
said, there were two questions before their Lordships—first, whether they should consider this Bill at all; and, in the second place, whether, after considering it, they should agree to pass the second reading. Those two questions were perfectly distinct, and the noble Earl's (the Earl of Shaftesbury's) Amendment to negative the first question had been moved solely on the ground that at this season of the year it was impossible for their Lordships duly to consider the Bill. He 1274 thought that to pass such an Amendment would not be creditable to their Lordships. They had large and important duties to perform in a fit and proper manner, and he did not see why they could not give the same attention to a measure in August that they could give to it in February or in March. No doubt there might be domestic duties to call Members of their Lordships' House away from London at this time of the year; but they should remember that their paramount duty as Peers of the Realm was the work of legislation. He believed that if their Lordships would only grapple with this measure they would find that a short time would be amply sufficient to carry them through all its details. He felt somewhat warmly on this subject, because these were times when it was highly important that their Lordships should put themselves right in the estimation of the public, and when, in order to secure the continuance and preservation of a second Chamber, they should not shrink from the performance of the duties which fell on them. He was the more surprised at the noble Earl's Amendment, because if there was one man who had never scrupled to sacrifice any time for the benefit of his fellow-creatures, it was the noble Earl who had moved the rejection of the Bill, and certainly that noble Earl ought to be the last to shrink from giving up the necessary time required for the consideration of this measure. Their Lordships ought either to say that they were not fixed by any period of time, or else they should pass an Act of Parliament declaring that they would take into consideration no measure which came up to them after the 1st of August. When he (Lord Romilly) was Solicitor General Parliament met on one occasion in November, and continued sitting until the following September. [Several VOICES: The year of the Reform Bill.] No, it was long after the Reform Bill. The arguments on the subject of the Ballot had been so fully considered that he would not detain their Lordships with many remarks upon the principle of the Bill; but he would say that its merit was entirely distinct from the question of time. The principle of the measure was secrecy of voting, and there had always been two questions open to consideration in discussing that principle—first, whether secrecy of voting could be obtained, 1275 and, in the second place, whether it would be desirable to obtain it. He would assume that secrecy of voting could be obtained in such a manner as to make it impossible to ascertain how any person voted except by his own assertion, and in reference to its desirability it should be borne in mind that the essential theory of the Constitution was that the electors should choose their representative. But how could they make that choice unless they were free from every species of influence? Secrecy of voting would give that freedom from influence, and the present Bill therefore only reduced the theory of the English Constitution to practice. A great deal was said about the responsibility of the voter and about the franchise being in the nature of a trust. But to whom were the voters responsible? If to the public, it was only another way of saying that they were responsible to themselves. This question of the Ballot had become one of a totally different character from what it was 50 years ago, and it now possessed a highly Conservative character. Fifty years ago the question involved was one as to the undue or illegitimate influence of property; but the influence of property had very much diminished since then, and a new element of great importance had arisen. A great contest was now rising between capital and labour, and the influence which was exercised by trades unions and by the public opinion of a lower class of persons, was of a totally different character from anything that had arisen yet. The most important feature in this Bill was that it would put an end to popular intimidation. The noble Earl had stated that trades unions had determined not to use the Ballot in any of their proceedings, and no doubt they did so for a good reason, because the employment of the Ballot would no longer enable them to deter others from voting in any way they thought right, and thus compel the voter to inflict a serious injury on society for the benefit of the union. It was essential that their Lordships should not allow it to be believed that, out of laziness, or out of a desire to go and amuse themselves in the country, they shrank from their duties, and would not entertain a measure of the greatest importance. The Bill had received much consideration from the other House, and all that time would now be thrown 1276 away unless their Lordships consented to consider it also. It was not a new measure. The Members of this House had had for many years abundant opportunities of considering the principle; yet now they could not devote a fortnight to the discussion of a measure which, in whatever point of view it was regarded, was one of vital interest to the country. Whether or no they were ultimately able to go through its provisions, at least he hoped they would now read it a second time, and see whether they could not in Committee surmount the obstacles which were now presented, but which he believed would vanish if once faced in a proper spirit.
§ LORD LYVEDEN
said, the measure before them was a very important one, the principle of which their Lordships were invited to decide upon within two days after its introduction. Was that the manner in which important measures had hitherto been dealt with? He thought not. Their Lordships ought to be enabled to give a long and serious discussion to any measure which was sent up to them; but in this instance that was not the case. The noble and learned Lord who had just sat down (Lord Romilly) had declared that their Lordships were anxious to go to their amusements in the country, and that for that reason they declined to legislate on this subject: but he could not admit the accuracy of that statement. If their Lordships did now discuss the Bill he believed that the country at large would think they had not properly discussed it, considering the period of the Session and the manner in which the measure had been introduced to them. He did not rest his opposition to the Bill entirely on the question of time, for he had a much broader question—that of principle—to rest it upon. It was due to the character and dignity of this House that even in the dog-days their Lordships should consider measures sent up from the other House, however much reason they might have to complain of the conduct of the Ministry and the other House in sending these measures so late in the Session. On the question of courtesy between the two Houses, he could not help thinking that the House of Commons had erred; but it was not for that reason that their Lordships ought to disclaim all consideration of the Bill itself. The noble Marquess (the 1277 Marquess of Ripon) said the Bill would put an end to all electoral intimidation and corruption. He believed it would put an end to neither. Corruption would be just as rife under the Ballot as it was before the Ballot, and it would be more easily carried on. The noble Marquess said no man would give his money for a vote if he did not know the result of giving it. Surely his noble Friend must remember, from his past experience of elections, that plenty of money was now spent by a candidate upon the mere probability that votes would be given in his favour; and that would be always so. He remembered an instance in which some county electors insisted on riding to the poll at the candidate's expense in a chaise and four. Before voting they secured the money necessary for their return in the same manner. And then they went and voted against the candidate who had paid for the chaise. It was on such speculative proceedings as those that money was often paid at elections. As with corruption, so with intimidation. It would be carried on under the Ballot upon a much larger scale than it was at present. A landlord who was despotic now would be despotic hereafter, and would bring his influence to bear upon his tenants with redoubled energy. All that would happen would be, as Sydney Smith said, that men who voted against their landlords must talk with the wrong people, subscribe to the wrong club, huzza at the wrong dinner, break the wrong head, and lead a long life of lies. It was now said that the Ballot was a test of Liberal opinions. He had always voted with the Liberals, and had always voted against the Ballot. His rev. relation to whom he had just referred, and who had supported the Liberal cause, and made considerable sacrifices for it, had also always opposed the Ballot. And it was not till this year, when the Ballot was said to be a means of re-uniting the Liberal party, that he had heard such a test of Liberal opinions applied. Now, he (Lord Lyveden) was a Liberal of much older date than the present Prime Minister. He was a Liberal when that right hon. Gentleman was not merely a Conservative but an high Oxford Tory; and it was rather hard upon him and others that the right hon. Gentleman should now stand at the head of the Liberal party, and, because he 1278 had changed his mind on the subject, should protest that others had not the right to rank as Liberals unless they supported the Ballot. Why was the Ballot brought forward at a moment when it was less wanted than ever, and when, in consequence of the extension of the franchise, there was much less corruption and intimidation in existence? If it had been brought before them with all the aid of public opinion at its back, there might have been a reason for forcing it on their Lordships' notice. But where were the public meetings, and where were the Petitions in its favour? He found that 66 Petitions had been presented for the Ballot during the Session, including, 9,338 signatures. That was the extent of the popular demonstration for the measure. The noble Marquess said that, owing to recent changes in the franchise, the Ballot had become more necessary than ever. But, as the noble Marquess fairly admitted, that was not the opinion of Mr. Mill, nor, he believed, was the late Mr. Grote of that opinion. The Bill had been brought forward at a most inopportune time, when there was apparently no interest manifested by the country on the subject, and when certainly there was no such demand made by the people as to justify its consideration by their Lordships at that advanced period of the year. He did not, however, rest his objection to the measure on the ground of time, as upon the serious alteration it would make in the Constitution of the country. The late Lord Derby, when speaking of his Reform Bill, said that his Government were taking a leap in the dark; but by the adoption of the Ballot they would be going further—they would be leaping into the dark. It was not sufficient to show that there were defects in the present system of open voting. Because the sun brought to view certain evils which would otherwise be concealed, you might as well desire to have eternal night. In his opinion the Ballot, instead of being a liberal, was a most illiberal measure, for the result would be to narrow men's minds and preclude all discussion upon subjects which ought to animate men in the discharge of a political duty. It gave him great pain to vote against his noble Friends below him; but the time had come when moderate men should openly oppose measures against which 1279 he believed the mass of moderate men protested. It was from the want of such protests by moderate men that society had suffered so greatly in a neighbouring country, and from the same cause the same result might happen here. The Bill would introduce a sneaking and a selfish suffrage instead of that open and manly expression of opinion which had given us free institutions and an indomitable people. He believed it would inflict serious injury upon the Constitution; and he should, therefore, vote against a Bill which was imperfect in itself, which had been adopted as a means of rallying the Liberal party without due regard to the serious objections which existed to its principle, and which their Lordships were asked to pass at the shortest notice with still less regard to those objections.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I am sure that, at any rate, my noble Friend who has just spoken requires no more time for the consideration of this question; and I am glad to find that his reason for opposing the Bill is not that upon which noble Lords opposite rest their opposition. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment (the Earl of Shaftesbury) was exceedingly strong in his language, and in his desire to make as strong an argument as possible used expressions which I hardly think were warranted. After saying that this House was always ready to work—a statement rather inconsistent with his own Amendment, the gist of which is that your Lordships decline work on this occasion—the noble Earl asked—"Are we to wait as lacqueys to obey our masters?" My Lords, I cannot help deprecating such an expression in discussing this question. This is not the first time an important measure has come up very late to this House, though, should the noble Earl unhappily obtain a majority, this may be the first time your Lordships have refused to discuss an important measure on such grounds. In 1835, when a measure certainly not inferior in importance to this—I mean the Municipal Corporations Bill—came up to this House it was discussed in the month of August, and was not finally settled between the two Houses till the beginning of September. I want to know how it is we have degenerated so much that whereas in 1835 we could give sufficient time to the details of such 1280 an Act, involving not only political questions but questions of property, we cannot remain at our posts as long if necessary now? Then the noble Earl laid much stress on the provisions of the Bill, and said—"Are we to waste time and health on that which is worth nothing? Shall we not at once throw out this monstrosity?" Now, I trust the argument will never have much weight that your Lordships should grudge time and health—if, indeed, your health is injured by staying in town in August—in order to discuss an important measure sent up here by the other House. Such an argument should have not even a feather's weight. If the Bill be indeed a monstrosity, it will be right that you should throw it out. But I ask your Lordships whether it is consistent with common sense or reason to assume that a measure which has occupied the other House of Parliament for months together, which has held together the vast majority of its Members, who evinced the most untiring anxiety for its success, and who watched every stage of its progress with such unwearied zeal—I ask whether a measure that enlisted such enormous and continuous support as that can be properly described as a "monstrosity?" My noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) said less bribery and intimidation existed now than formerly. As to bribery it is difficult to judge; but no one can deny that at the last Election an amount of bribery prevailed which makes everybody desire, if possible, to diminish it. Then as to intimidation, as my noble Friend (the Marquess of Ripon) said, new forms of intimidation have sprung up, and if it were only for the purpose of preventing intimidation of one another by the working classes such a measure as this is necessary. My noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) says that this measure is not demanded by the country; but is it, I would ask him, possible that it could have been supported by such large majorities in the House of Commons if that were the case? It seems to me that the desire of the country on the question has been sufficiently expressed to lead your Lordships to the conclusion that the Bill is one which requires at your hands the fullest consideration. There is an argument which has been advanced with respect to the Ballot on which I wish to say a word. It is contended that the franchise is a 1281 trust; but the argument is one which, in my opinion, cannot be maintained. A vote, it appears to me, is a trust only in the sense that it is a political privilege conferred on a man that he may use it for the benefit of his country. That being so, the whole question is whether he would be more likely to exercise the privilege for the public benefit if he were to vote by ballot or to vote openly. In my opinion, the weight of argument is in favour of his not being compelled to take the latter course. It is entirely a mistake to suppose that because a man records his vote openly he is actuated in doing so only by honourable and proper motives. Is it not the fact, on the contrary, that a great many persons under the present system vote from the meanest possible motives in a particular way? Are not votes constantly given with the expectation of obtaining some favour, or because of the fear of some one whom it is the object of the voter to please? If such motives as these were removed, a great good would, I think, be effected. I do not, at the same time, see why the adoption of the Ballot should do away with the exercise of reasonable and legitimate influence? If a man is to be persuaded into the adoption of a particular line of action he will be persuaded whether he votes openly or secretly. If, on the contrary, he is exposed to such influences as those to which I have adverted, the Ballot will be of great service. The operation of the Ballot in the colonies has been adverted to, and it has been said that there it has been ineffectual to prevent personation. My noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) was quite right when he stated that personation is found to prevail where secret voting exists; but he is quite wrong if he supposes that our colonies which have adopted that system are of opinion that it is a failure. On the contrary, they entertain the strongest convictions that, on the whole, the greatest advantages are derived from the adoption of the Ballot. The justice of that view I could prove by several quotations, with which I will not now trouble your Lordships. I may, however, observe that Mr. Cowper, who was Prime Minister in New South Wales, denies that he asserted that personation in that colony was an increasing evil. He said it had not been put down, 1282 but that he considered it might be checked by greater rigour on the part of the returning officers. "I have not anywhere admitted," he adds, "that it was created or aggravated by the operation of the Electoral Act of 1858. That Act has been in force for more than 12 years, and has given very general satisfaction." My noble Friend opposite contends that the clauses relating to personation in this Bill will not afford the slightest check against it; but it is perfectly possible, he must admit, under the Ballot, to say that a man who has voted had no right to vote, although it may not be known in whose favour his vote was recorded. Under the Bill a very heavy penalty would be inflicted on anyone who was found guilty of personation, and I venture to think that if we went into Committee upon it, it would be found that the protection which it affords against that offence is considerably greater than any which exists under the present law. Then my noble Friend went on to allude to other clauses, one of which, that relating to publichouses, is of great importance. For my part, I do not know how a more stringent clause could well be framed than that which deals with this point, and which makes penal the use or hire by a candidate of any room in a publichouse in connection with his election. If any improvement can be introduced into the clause, why should we not go into Committee and consider the matter? My noble Friend referred also to the omission of the clause relating to the expenses of elections; but I would remind him that it would be impossible for this House at any time to introduce into the Bill a clause of that kind throwing these expenses on the rates. The omission cannot, therefore, I think, very fairly be urged as a reason why the Bill should not be discussed. My noble Friend on my left spoke of the great political changes which would be likely to result from the adoption of this measure; but to me it does not seem to possess all that political importance which my noble Friend attaches to it. It would, in my opinion, have a great effect in preventing intimidation; but to say that it would alter the general character of the constituencies is, I believe, to indulge very much in the language of exaggeration. I have not, at the same time, the least doubt that in constituencies in which there are large numbers of work- 1283 ing men a very high degree of importance is attached to the Ballot. The opinions of those men ought, I think, to be carefully considered, and noble Lords opposite who gave us household suffrage, of which the Ballot is a necessary corollary, ought not to show any reluctance to read this Bill a second time. It is not for me to offer advice to your Lordships; but I cannot but regret that there so often prevails in this House a desire to find the way how not to do a thing, and to get rid of measure after measure which comes up to us with the approval of a majority of our countrymen. It would be a great misfortune, it seems to me, that we should do anything which would place this House out of harmony with the general feelings out-of-doors, and I do not look upon it as wise that measures which are deemed to be conducive to the best interests of the country should be rejected two or three times by your Lordships, and then assented to at last. Is there any noble Lord who does not suppose that such will be the eventual fate of this Bill should you decide on throwing it out tonight? If that be your conviction, how can you increase the political influence of this House by opposing it on a plea which would, I think, reflect no great credit on our proceedings?
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, he thought there was no political significance whatever in the measure which was now before their Lordships' House, and it was not from any considerations of a political character that he intended to approach it. On the contrary, if approached at all, it should be approached solely on the question of the vital principle which underlay the whole Constitution; but on the present occasion he was not going to follow the example of one noble Lord who had spoken, and traverse the whole ground which had been covered by him. He wished to address himself entirely to the Amendment of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury). It had been his good or bad fortune within the last three years to contest one of the largest constituencies in the United Kingdom, combining in itself all the elements of territorial, commercial, and agricultural prosperity, with a very large infusion of the working classes. But never throughout the contest—never throughout the other contests which took place at the begin- 1284 ning of the present Parliament—had this issue of secret voting risen either directly or by implication; and he ventured to think it would only be consistent with common courtesy to the constituencies if a measure of this length and breadth, before being submitted to both Houses of Parliament, had been submitted to them in order that Parliament might have an opportunity of knowing what they really thought upon it. He believed there was a great and growing indisposition throughout the country to the adoption of the institution of secret voting. That question might be decided in a certain measure during the next Recess if, by the action of their Lordships, time was given to the country to express its opinion on the measure. That was the first reason why he objected to the Bill being introduced at the present moment. The second reason was alluded to by the noble Earl who introduced the Amendment, and was the extreme imperfection of the Bill as submitted to their Lordships' House. One of those imperfections, which had been alluded to by the noble Earl, was the absence from the Bill of a clause originally introduced and supported by the whole of the Government for the payment of the necessary expenses of an election by the constituencies themselves, and not by the candidates. He was unfortunate enough to differ on that point from most of his friends. He had come to the conclusion that some such provision ought to exist in the Bill, and it was a question which he had fully hoped would have been introduced into this House and fully argued. It was, in his opinion, highly desirable that, after making due provision for the prevention of fictitious candidatures, the necessary expenses should be thrown upon the constituencies, who, after all, ought to be the gainer by the election of a representative. In that conclusion he might be right or wrong; but the question could not be discussed in a Bill introduced into that House for the first time on the 10th of August. Another proposal which was introduced by the Government into the Bill, but emasculated in Committee, was that relating to publichouses, and how far it should be allowable to use them during the course of an election. Anybody who had been practically conversant with contested elections for seats in the 1285 House of Commons knew that the clause, as it now stood in the Bill, was not worth the paper on which it was printed, for it would not have the slightest effect in putting an end to the drunkenness and debauchery which unfortunately now so frequently prevailed on those occasions. Well, then, to what causes could they attribute the fact that a Bill so imperfect as this had been submitted to their Lordships at this late period of the Session? He thought they had not far to look. It had been stated, he believed, by an eminent Member of the House of Commons that the responsibility of rejecting a measure thus imperfect should be thrown on their Lordships' House. The Bill, it appeared, was to be forced through the other House of Parliament by every possible means; clauses were to be struck out because they happened to impede its progress; and then it was to be laid before their Lordships when there was no time for the full or fair discussion of its provisions, and when the only mode of dealing with it was either to accept it as it was or to reject it. And he wished that was all; but he was afraid he had heard a whisper during the last night the Bill was before the House of Commons of something that was at the bottom of this measure. It was this—that whatever differences there might have been in the Liberal majority of the House of Commons during the passing of another measure which had now passed their Lordships' House, the Bill relating to the electoral franchise was to be a sop to those who were, and always must be, the dangerous class of the Liberal administration, the Gentlemen who sat below the gangway of the House of Commons. So this Bill had been pushed forward day by day, night by night, and week by week, until it had been presented to their Lordships, not in the original shape in which it left the promoters' hands, with upwards of 50 clauses, with schedules as important, if not more important, than the Bill itself, and all this on the 10th of August, when at least a month's discussion would scarcely serve to reinstate the measure in all its pristine simplicity, and to give it that form and shape which it assumed when it was first introduced into the other House by Government. He had heard it stated that the rejection of this Bill would come with a peculiarly bad taste from their Lord- 1286 ships' House. He could not admit that such an objection was valid, if it was propounded by that branch of the Legislature who, even within the last two years, had felt no scruples in initiating legislation which resulted in striking from the roll of that House four spiritual Peers. He, for one, had never complained, if such were the conscientious opinions of those who had introduced that measure, that that measure had been introduced. But he now complained that a measure undoubtedly affecting the elections of the House of Commons, and undoubtedly affecting the best interests of the country, was submitted for the consideration of their Lordships' House at a time when their Lordships would be called upon to pass it unquestioned, in spite of the example which had been so recently and so effectually set by the other branch of the Legislature. He felt this was not time, either of the Session or of the evening, to detain their Lordships at any considerable length; he would only say, therefore, that while he yielded to none in respect for a House to the consideration and courtesy of which he had been deeply indebted while he had the honour of being a Member of it, he felt that the exigencies of the present occasion were such as to leave their Lordships no alternative. The country looked to their Lordships, and could look to none else, to afford it that breathing space and time necessary for the consideration of the question; therefore, he had to ask their Lordships to meet the Bill with an earnest, respectful, but emphatic negative.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
, in supporting the second reading of the Bill, said, that the question before their Lordships divided itself into two distinct considerations, the first being one of time, and the second relating to the Preamble of the measure. On the first point he would merely remark that the Amendment of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) bore, on the face of it, no possible allusion to time, but was directed altogether against the principle of the Bill. The object of the representative Assembly was that it should represent the free and unbiased opinion of the whole country, unchecked by hopes of advantage or fears of disadvantage. He would not inquire whether the franchise was a trust, or a duty, or a right; but which- 1287 ever it was, provision should be made that those who possessed the franchise should have the power of exercising that trust, or duty, or right, in a manner perfectly free, unfettered, and unbiased. And how, he should like to know, could that be accomplished except by secrecy pure and simple? With regard to bribery, the noble Earl had stated that the Bill would certainly not reduce it; but, on the contrary, would have a tendency to introduce all sorts of immoral influences. Speaking merely from an à priori point of view, and having no personal experience of elections, he thought that the old proverb must hold true that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, and it was not likely that a candidate, if he wished to bribe, would give the same sum for a contingency as for a certainty. The fact of the state of the poll being kept secret would render it impossible to manipulate what were called "the 3 o'clock men" as at present. He thought, judging from the evidence before the Committee, that bribery was diminishing; but the Bill, besides striking a blow at bribery, would also tend to diminish intimidation, which from the recent extension of the suffrage must be materially increased. Intimidation was of various kinds. It might come from employers, or from landlords, or from the masses; but wherever it came from it was equally to be regretted, and it was equally necessary to meet it by some measure that would prevent it. Though the evidence showed that intimidation was also diminishing, it should be remembered that there were forms of intimidation which were not illegal. It was not illegal for a customer to pass by a shop which he had been in the habit of dealing with; it was not illegal for a landlord to reject a tenant; it was not illegal for a person to cease to employ a man. But these causes were all equally important and equally potent in influencing the votes of Parliamentary electors, and it was not possible to deal with them except by secret voting. How was it possible for any criminal law, however extensive and stringent, to touch causes such as he had mentioned? He held it was now particularly opportune to introduce a Bill such as was now before the House, looking to the vast number of electors who had been admitted to the franchise—and he thought wisely ad- 1288 mitted—four years ago. The class of voters then admitted to the franchise was precisely the class which was most likely to be influenced by hopes of advantage or fears of disadvantage from the exercise of their vote. Now, if they had enfranchised these men, were they going to deny them the protection which secret voting afforded them? One point had been lost sight of in that night's debate, chiefly because it was of collateral consideration, though it was not the less important. It was the question of the improved machinery for collecting votes which the measure would afford the people. Anyone who had had an opportunity of going round the polling-places of France and the United States, whatever value they might attach to the elections themselves, could not help being impressed with the extraordinary regularity, quiet, and order with which those elections were carried on. And he ventured to assert that the Bill before the House deserved to be read a second time by their Lordships, if only for doing away with those scenes of disorder and turbulence which disgraced what they were accustomed to call the free English nation. He would only say, in conclusion, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had used very strong language in describing the Bill. He had called it a monstrosity, and said that it was utterly unworkable in principle and details. These were rather strong expressions, especially as the noble Earl never stated one single point where the Bill would prove unworkable or where it could be improved. It was said there was no call for this measure by the country. But it had passed the House of Commons by an immense majority; and they might assume that the House of Commons represented the opinion of the country at large. Believing, as he did, that this Bill would improve the conduct at our elections, both in the manner in which they would be carried on and in the character of the votes which would be given, he ventured to hope that their Lordships would not be induced by any considerations of time to accept an Amendment which clearly dissented from the principle of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
said, it was really a mockery to ask their Lordships to entertain this Bill at this period of the Session. They could not be expected to plunge into those entangle- 1289 ments which had held the House of Commons for several months. He believed their Lordships would disappoint the country if they consented to entangle themselves in the thorns and quicksets of this measure, which was not simply a measure for the introduction of the Ballot, but for the revision of the whole arrangements of elections. And what, then, would happen? Of course, it could not be expected that it would be swallowed whole without consideration. Some Amendments must be expected. They would have to send the Bill down again to the House of Commons to have the Amendments considered. But where would the Members of the House of Commons be then? They would be across the water, they would be scattered up and down in all manner of places, and there would be none present except such fragments as Her Majesty's Government might be able to collect—a mere rump of a House of Commons. If their Lordships were prepared to swallow the Bill at one gulp, it would be different; but this would be impossible. Everyone knew that it was full of details, and requiring material Amendments; and every Amendment would require to go down to the House of Commons, and that House could not consider them. That being so, it was sufficient to say—"We will not consider such a measure at this time." To the measure itself he had great aversion, not for its party operations, but for its effect on the national character. It was altogether a shabby process. It was for the protection of shabby voters. It was to prevent a man from declaring his vote, however much he might wish to do so. It shut him entirely up, and the bearing of the Bill on the British voter was most accurately described in one of the comic periodicals the other day, which represented a British voter with his eyes bandaged, his mouth muzzled, and his whole body padded, and supported by the Leaders of both sides of Parliament, who were saying to him—"What more can we do, my good man, to protect you?" What more could they do to the voter to hold him up to the ridicule of the world? The Bill prevented a man from saying—"I gave you my promise, and I have fulfilled it." Surely that was fostering a shabby feeling, and was not honourable to the country. He believed such a course of conduct was dangerous to the moral standard 1290 of the community. Then, with the increase in the number of the constituents the need for protection against either bribery or intimidation was much diminished. One vote among 20 was of great value; but one vote among 20,000 was not. In that case there was much less temptation to bribery. Many constituencies were so large that they could not be bribed. Even where bribery existed it was doubtful whether this Bill would not rather protect, than diminish it. He did not think that secret voting was one of the things which the English people admired. He believed that only one Petition had been presented in its favour, and that was not likely to have been the case if men had their minds set on some great political object. Often when he had voted by ballot at a club he had felt ashamed of himself. That did not look as if people cared much for it. He knew something of the feelings of the working classes, for he had stood four contested elections for Liverpool, and he believed that the desire of those classes was not to vote secretly, but to march up together to the poll, and make a boast of their opinions. He believed the principle was altogether false. It was a move avowedly intended to keep the Liberal party together, which was rather a difficult matter in these days; but he did not think that even that inducement should move their Lordships to give their precipitate sanction to such a measure.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
My Lords, I shall occupy but a very few moments while I state the grounds which will guide me in the vote I am about to give. I shall not trouble you with a review of the arguments on one side or the other. I know them all. I have heard the luminous statements of Mr. Grote, whose loss we all regret; I have heard year after year the pleasantries of Mr. Berkeley, and all the arguments on both sides which have been repeated over and over again. I will not trouble you by going into that part of the subject, but will only say, in passing, that for my part I have always felt that a public duty should be performed in a public manner. There is something monstrous to my mind in having it performed in secret. The voter is put into a private apartment, where he is supplied with a paper or a card to perform his functions. I would much sooner retain the system 1291 of public voting, which has existed all my lifetime, and during the lifetime of those who have gone before me. But, at the same time, if the whole constituency of the country are anxious for secret voting, let us give them an opportunity of saying so. They will be able to express their opinion when they have got this scheme before them. This Bill deals with 40 Acts of Parliament, parts of which are repealed; it came up to us two days ago, and we are asked to pass it without delay. The Prime Minister has said that the question of time ought to have no weight with us. But what does he do himself when asked to vote on the Irish University Bill, which is intended to give the same liberty of education as is given in the English Universities? He says—"I cannot do it; time prevents." When he is urged to proceed with sanitary measures, he says—"It is too late; they must be with drawn; it is impossible to proceed with them now." But if that be so, my Lords, why does this Bill come before us now? One hears in society a little which may explain the matter. The fact is, the Government are in a great difficulty. The Session has been a very unsatisfactory Session. You are perfectly aware of the blunder of the Budget. You know how the Government have broken down on the question of local taxation, and on other questions—and such is the esteem in which Ministers are held that many of them durst not show themselves to their constituents. It is very convenient to them to have some rallying cry. They do not much care whether we pass the Bill or do not pass it. In fact, it will answer their purpose quite as well if we do not. They will say—"We are all for the Ballot, but the House of Lords will not pass it. Personation does not much signify, and therefore we have got rid of the former Bill and will allow personation to flourish." But let us send the Bill to the country. It is much better that the country should have an opportunity of seeing the Bill with all its difficulties, and all its defects, than that their Lordships should pass it without full consideration. If the people are anxious for the Bill, the Government will be able next Session to bring it forward. All these beautiful speeches made in the House of Commons have been read by the constituencies, or at least a good deal of them. 1292 The time will not be wasted, because the House of Commons will have done that which we are told it is the special function of the House of Commons to do—that is, to instruct the country in the formation of its political opinions. Therefore, I recommend you to vote with the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), and to put the Government out of pain upon this subject. If we were foolish enough to read the Bill a second time and find then that we could not go on with it, what would be the good of that, I should like to know? It is much better to say that we cannot go into the Bill at this time of the Session any more than Mr. Gladstone could go into many other questions which were brought before the House of Commons. That seems to me to be the common sense of the matter. The Government have put aside all the duties they had to perform. Why were not the Votes with regard to the Army brought forward in time? In the same manner, why were the Navy Estimates delayed? Every day brings some new misfortune to the Government. It is the most unlucky Government that ever was. Whether one takes a walk to the House through the Parks, through Trafalgar Square, or even along the Thames Embankment, everywhere evidence is to be found how the Government have mismanaged it. What a mess they have made of it in the Park here and in the Park in Ireland! Their Army cannot march and their ships cannot swim. It is a very unfortunate circumstance that the Government should go on blundering in that way. If your Lordships refuse to read the Bill a second time now and allow the Government to bring it up next year, you will, in my opinion, do a great service to the Government and something becoming the dignity of the House of Lords.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Duke who has just sat down has given some singular reasons for declining to proceed with this Bill, on the ground that there is not time. He has told your Lordships that he is perfectly prepared on every part of the subject. He has heard all the arguments advanced by Mr. Grote and Mr. Berkeley, and he is perfectly acquainted with all that can be said on both sides. But if that be the case, why, then, should he, of all men, complain of want of time? The noble Duke did find time to talk about Trafalgar 1293 Square, and the Parks, and the Thames Embankment, and, in fact, about anything except the Ballot. That certainly is a most singular mode of dealing with a subject which has been brought regularly before this House, upon which the attention of the House of Commons has been occupied for weeks, not in idle declamation, but in hard, hearty, and laborious work, and upon which there have been no fewer than 70 divisions. I have always believed this to be a great work. I have believed that when you give a vote to the people, it ought to be not a sham but a reality. I am therefore surprised at the course taken by the noble Duke. But I am equally surprised at the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) who moved the Amendment. The noble Earl who finds time, as your Lordships all well know, to do all works that he considers it his duty to perform—he has no small sense of duty, and in that respect the country owes him not a little for the time and labour he devotes to it—the noble Earl, I say, tells us there is no time. But while he says there is no time he shows that he himself is most accurately acquainted with the details of the Bill, and also with the details of the measure which preceded it, and yet he proposes to reject the Bill, not upon principle, but because he says it is impossible to discuss it. But he showed perfectly well that he could discuss it as ably as he discusses other Bills in this House, and I can say that he has bestowed time, pains, and labour on the subject. The noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) took us to task in a more serious matter. He said the whole thing was a mockery, and that those who brought it forward knew it to be a mockery. If the noble Earl means that we knew we should be beaten, that is perfectly true. From the appearance in this House of many noble Lords whom I have not often had an opportunity of seeing here present, and who have not come up to give us the benefit of their discussion of the matter, but have come up simply to say they cannot discuss it, we are not likely to succeed in carrying the second reading of the Bill. But if the noble Earl meant that we did not wish to pass the Bill, I give to the statement a flat and positive denial. We did wish to pass it, and we do wish to pass it. We do wish your Lordships to take into consideration a measure which has been amply 1294 discussed and deliberated upon by the other House of Parliament, and which it must be idle to say we have not time to speak upon, when every noble Lord who has spoken in this debate has discussed the merits of the Bill. I believe the mockery will be on the side of those who refuse to entertain the Bill on the plea of want of time to discuss it, and not on our side in bringing it forward to discuss it. Surely, the House of Lords must have degenerated! I recollect that in my first Session of Parliament, in 1848, your Lordships sat till the 5th of September. And what was done on the 10th of August? The Duke of Wellington entered into a discussion of our relations with Austria, and a Bill of some importance which had been brought up from the House of Commons passed a second reading (Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill). Your Lordships' patience was not exhausted until the 24th of August, when the noble Lord who sits at the Table as Chairman of Committees, and who keeps us in good order with reference to the forms of the House, finding his patience was exhausted on going into Committee on that day—14 days after the day we are now speaking on—obtained the concurrence of your Lordships to a Resolution that the Bill ought not to be further proceeded with, having regard to the late period of the Session, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the subject. The other House has worked about three times as long as your Lordships, for while your Lordships sit generally about three or four hours, the other House sits eleven or twelve hours. There would be ample opportunity for discussing those points which were raised by the noble Earl, and what he regards as the defective portions of the Bill. Therefore I think one has a right to complain of the objection to proceeding with this Bill being put on any other than the real ground. Your Lordships do not like the Bill. It is very reasonable that there should be two opinions on such a subject; but I think that those who are so anxious to have open speaking and open dealing in all matters ought openly to say that they do not like the Bill. I must say a few words on the merits of this subject, on which I expressed my opinion 20 years ago, and to which I have not yet met with any answer satisfactory to my mind. The noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) said this is a shabby 1295 Bill, and that voters ought to deal openly, and take a straightforward and manly course. Let me state two instances which directed my attention strongly to the necessity of the Ballot. I sat for the City of Oxford, and there, as your Lordships are aware, a great many of the servants of different colleges possess the franchise. They one and all complained most bitterly of the persecution they had been subjected to in a recent election. I may state that the persecution has never been repeated. But very shortly before that election the name of every college servant was printed in distinct and coloured type, in order that their names might be known to the heads of all the colleges. The other, and much more striking instance, was this—A Conservative politician, the late Sir John Rolt, a dear friend of mine, attempted to open a Conservative borough. He failed. A Petition signed by one-third of the electors of that borough was presented to the House of Commons, praying that the borough might be disfranchised in consequence of the tyranny that they were continually exposed to, and the vexation, trouble, and annoyance of every election. A Committee was appointed to investigate that matter. That Committee was by no means strongly Liberal. It contained the names of Mr. Henley, Sir John Pakington, Mr. Stuart Wortley, and one or two others whom I might mention. That Committee reported that although there had been no personal communication of the patron of the borough with the electors, yet, regard being had to the numerous ejections consequent on the two preceding elections, they were unanimously of opinion that the electors had at the last election voted under the influence of undue constraint. It is said that the franchise is a trust. Every gift given to us by Providence is a trust, which we ought to exercise in a proper way; but it is a simple fallacy to say that the franchise is a trust in the sense in which it is used. It is not a trust, because nobody can enforce it. It is said that the franchise is a trust for the non-electors, and therefore the electors ought to vote openly. Do you think the non-electors are able to form an opinion as to the propriety or impropriety of a vote? If you think the non-electors would like to know how these imaginary trustees have acted, why did not you enfranchise the non-electors and 1296 make them exercise the duty themselves? Happily, you have done that to a large extent. But still I treat this whole theory of a trust as a simple fallacy from beginning to end. There never was any trust of this description. The franchise is a right and privilege which every man who has it exercises for the benefit of his countrymen and himself in selecting the man he thinks best capable of attending to the affairs of the country That being so, why should that vote necessarily be given in public? Nobody knows how a jury has voted. The jurors do not give their votes in public even when life and property are concerned. It is said that the Ballot is un-English; but I think it most essential that an Englishman should have the right of voting as he pleases without being subjected to inquiry. The noble Earl said the humbler classes are opposed to the idea of secret voting; but it is a fact that there is nothing which the humbler classes so much detest as a prying into their private affairs. Is that a course which your Lordships would like? It is an English instinct to resist impertinence, on the same principle if an impertinent fellow obtains access to your house, you call a policeman to remove him. During the time that I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have carried through four or five Bills relating to intimidation and bribery. I had hoped that this question would have passed out of the domain of party altogether, for I believe the Bill will only be a political measure in the sense that it will enable your Lordships to obtain the real opinion of the country. The Bill was supported in the House of Commons by majorities varying from 70 to 90. Can your Lordships say that the majority did not represent their own constituents? I do not believe that the constituents have not had an opportunity of making their voices heard. The constituents knew that the Bill would pass with a large majority, and therefore there was no need of their sending Petitions to the House of Commons in favour of the Bill. Everything went forward exactly as they could wish. When the Bill has come up with this majority, we have a fair right to say that it has come up with the sanction of the constituents of the country. Every man has a right to be placed in the position of being able to give a vote without bias. The noble Earl said it would be shabby to vote 1297 secretly. Is the noble Earl aware that in large places like Westminster or the City of London, where there are numerous shopkeepers, half of the constituents who were registered did not vote at all. These were the shabby men. They would not vote because they could not do so without making sacrifices to which they would not submit. I do not think that people are called upon to sacrifice their all at an election. I believe that is a degree of virtue which we are not entitled to expect. In the colonies, where the Ballot is in operation, it is not found that there are more shabby or deceitful persons than in England. It is not the character of our people to be shabby or to lie; but if there is any such misconduct, it is on the part of those who vote against their own opinions. If we have hopelessly brought up this Bill for your Lordships' consideration, we have at least done so with perfect sincerity, and with an anxious desire that it should pass. This measure every year becomes less and less a party measure. It is our duty to save electors, not merely from civium ardor prava jubentium, but also from vultus instantis tyranni.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords, I had the honour of a seat in the other House of Parliament for many years, and in the course I propose to take this evening in supporting the Amendment of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), I shall not be influenced by any want of courtesy to that House, or by any desire to do anything which can be so regarded in the other House of Parliament. I wish to give the vote which I shall give on this occasion solely on the ground that this measure has been brought up to us at a period of the Session when it is impossible to give it that consideration which its importance and the greatness of the subject demand at our hands. I was rather astonished to hear the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Kimberley) draw an argument from what took place in a previous Session of Parliament to show that it was not too late to deal with this subject in the present year. For that instance, the only one he quoted, he was obliged to go back 36 years. But, if the noble Earl's argument was good for anything, it must be because the case he mentioned was on all-fours witht he present position. I will describe what took place at the time to which he referred. In the year 1835 1298 there was a change of Government after Parliament mot. The House of Commons adjourned from the 20th April to the 12th of May for the election of Ministers. The Municipal Corporations Bill was brought in on the 5th of June, and it came into the House of Lords on the 21st of July, or 18 days before the period at which this Bill was introduced; and it was the great measure of the Session, to which the whole attention of Parliament was devoted. I appeal to my noble Friend to say whether that is a case in point. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack took us back to 1848, and I waited to hear at what period of the year the discussion of important measures took place then. I thought he was going to give us a period long after this; but on a sudden he came to a stop, and said that by a Motion of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, the sitting was put an end to on the 24th of August. If, then, we could get through the discussion on the new points brought forward by the noble Earl by the 24th of August, it is clear a considerable time beyond that would be consumed in considering all the points included in the four corners of this Bill. The Bill consists of 57 clauses—it has schedules with as many as 16 tables, and one clause contains 10 sub-sections, and another 23 sub-sections. Therefore, it is useless to say that there is a possibility of successfully discussing the Bill within a feasible time. Discussion must necessarily take place in the other House on the Amendments made here, if Amendments were proposed; and if any changes were made in them they must be considered again by us. I venture to say that if the Bill was now read a second time, and if it went into Committee, and was discussed as such a measure ought to be discussed, before the Royal Assent could be given to the Bill, it would be something like the end of September. I do not intend to go into the merits or details of the Bill; but I cannot help remarking upon some of the observations that were made by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He so far differs from the Prime Minister in saying that this is not a party measure, and that it will give no special advantage to the Liberal party. The Prime Minister, in discussing the Bill "elsewhere," stated that the Liberal party had been disorganized by the Army Bill, and that this Bill would have 1299 the effect of amalgamating it. The noble and learned Lord also stated that he considered the Ballot to be a thoroughly English mode of dealing with the subject, because every Englishman wishes to have a right to vote as he pleases. But, then, does the Bill give him that right? There is a provision in the Bill which insists that, whether the elector wishes to do so or not, he must vote in secret. The noble and learned Lord said further, that every man considered it an impertinence that it should be made known how he voted.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
Very well; but I think I should not strain the argument by saying that if it is well founded then it is an impertinence for your Lordships or Members of the other House to be asked how they voted. I thought the noble Marquess who moved the second reading of the Bill (the Marquess of Ripon) rather damned it with faint praise. He said the advantages arising from the Ballot were greater than the disadvantages which could be alleged against it, and that seemed to be but a very slight recommendation. I wish, however, to direct my remarks to the question of time, and I say that in discussing a measure of this kind it is essential to know that you are settling the question with which it deals. If it is to be discussed at all it should be once and for all. Now, my Lords, we cannot shut our eyes to what takes place in the other House of Parliament; and I ask, after what has taken place there, if there is the smallest possibility of this measure satisfying both sides of the House. I say the measure ought to be a settlement of the question. You may say that it will not satisfy the Opposition side of the House, and that they are not likely to be satisfied with a measure of this kind. But is it likely to satisfy hon. Members who sit upon the Ministerial side of the House? I think that what has taken place clearly proves that such is not the case. My noble Friend alluded to a great number of Amendments placed on the Paper in the other House. One-half were proposed by Members on the Ministerial side of the House, and I think it is fair to conclude that these Gentlemen in placing these Amendments on the Paper showed that they thought the Bill an imperfect measure. I cannot imagine 1300 that they would have brought forward these Amendments, unless they believed that by proposing and carrying them they would improve the Bill. It may be said that those Amendments were discussed, and that some were adopted and others rejected; but that is not the case, because, if report speaks truly, the whole of the Liberal party were invited by the Prime Minister to his house, and there told that if the Amendments on the Paper were persisted in the Ballot Bill could never go through the House of Commons, and silence, which has been characterized as Pythagorean, was enjoined upon them, and the Amendments were withdrawn. Now all those Gentlemen who withdrew those Amendments, not at their own wish, but at the earnest desire of the Prime Minister, think that the Bill is not in a satisfactory state, and it is not unfair to assume that on the first occasion they would urge their views on the Legislature, and therefore we should be passing a Bill which would not be a settlement of the question. My noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) showed that it was imperfect in one clause, and if one clause was imperfect a dozen might be. In regard to the question of voting papers, it was stated by a Member of the other House (Mr. Muntz) that seven voting papers were taken such as are provided by this Bill, and given to seven hon. Members, and it was found that after the mimic voting only one paper had been marked properly, and that six were consequently blanks. It is not unreasonable to declare that at this period of the Session we cannot discuss a Bill which has so many details, and includes such intricate points. Well, now, my Lords, I want to know where is the urgent necessity for asking your Lordships at this uncommon time of the year to go into the discussion of the measure. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies stated this Bill was generally desired by the labouring classes. But I am bound to say that so far as I know we have no evidence before us that could lead us to think that their feeling is in favour of this measure. I do not know whether it was before the country at the last General Election. We all know that the Prime Minister made a very lengthened canvass of a large and an important constituency—a division of the county of Lancashire—and put forth a programme of vast character with such 1301 foreshadowings of change, that men's hearts positively trembled when they thought of the measures he was to bring forward. But the question of the Ballot was never hinted at as being one of those pungent Liberal dishes which have been offered to the present Parliament. It may be said that in Lancashire the Ballot is not so necessary as in the smaller boroughs where intimidation is practised; but when he was canvassing Greenwich, did the right hon. Gentleman ever mention the subject that is now declared to be a panacea for all the electoral evils that exist in the country? When the present Ministers took office I believe that the majority of them were not in favour of the Ballot, and therefore I think it hard to ask your Lordships to proceed at this period of the Session with a measure which is the offspring of new-born zeal on the part of the Government. My Lords, one word before I sit down as to the responsibility attaching to this House on the present occasion. I know that it has been stated that grave responsibility attaches to the House of Lords if they throw out this Bill; great responsibility will attach to them if they do not proceed with it and sit for weeks and weeks, and, having discussed it, send it down to the other House. My Lords, I am willing to share this responsibility with some of the most distinguished Liberal Members on that side of the House, and if noble Lords on the other side who are likely to vote with us on this occasion are not ashamed of doing it, and are willing to incur this responsibility, I am equally ready to incur that responsibility. My Lords, I do not think there is any responsibility attaching to throwing out this measure. But I think a grave responsibility does attach to the First Minister of the Crown in urging through the other House, with a rapidity and a haste which ought not to be seen, a measure which proposes to revolutionize the whole mode of voting at elections in this country, and that solely for the purpose of throwing upon your Lordships the responsibility, if any there be, of rejecting this Bill.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, during the many years I have had the pleasure of a seat in your Lordships' House, it has been my unfortunate fate, with the exception of the period during which Lord Aberdeen was in power, to find myself opposed by a large majority, 1302 which was often swelled by a few of my own personal and political friends, and nine times out of ten I have felt more pain from their opposition than from that of the great Conservative party opposite. I have nothing of that feeling on the present occasion, although the noble Duke has referred to some of those from our side who are likely to vote with him. The noble Earl who brought forward this Amendment (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has supported us on many occasions, and I hardly know anyone who has laid more stress upon the impolicy of this House opposing the other House on any matter as to which public feeling was excited. The noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) has made an exceptional speech, for he took a facetious view of the circumstances of the case, and, while enjoying that privilege to which he is entitled, he was not quite particular as to the accuracy of some of his statements. He reproached Her Majesty's Government with the entire failure of their legislative endeavours in the present Session; but I entirely deny the justice of that attack. There were nine subjects recommended by the Crown to Parliament, and of them four have fallen through by the force of circumstances on which I need not dwell; but four measures of a very important character have already become law. One was of immense importance, for it gave a really national character to the great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Another was the settlement of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, which involved some difficulties, another had reference to trades unions, and last, but not least, there was the measure for the re-organization of our Army. This Bill, too, has successfully passed through the other House of Parliament. My noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) did not shrink from dealing with the principle of the Bill; but he has, if not an hereditary, at least an avuncular right to oppose the Ballot. He stated clearly the whole of the arguments against the Ballot; but what has fallen from the other side? Absolutely no argument whatever as to the principle of the Bill, except that the noble Duke could not avoid referring to some of the arguments of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who said that this Bill would secure to every man the means to vote as he pleased. The noble Duke turned that off by saying he could not vote openly; but it should be re- 1303 membered that an elector cannot now vote exactly as he pleases, so far as the form of recording his vote is concerned; and I maintain that the noble and learned Lord was perfectly correct. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment appealed to my candour, and said that if I would consult our legal advisers and my Colleagues, they would tell me that the Bill was most faulty in its drawing, and he afterwards assured your Lordships, with regard to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster), of whom he spoke in a kind and complimentary manner, that he was quite sure his object was to introduce the Bill to this House, as it was so absolutely bad, in order that your Lordships might reject it, and he might be free to introduce a new Bill next year. Now, I believe with my right hon. Friend that the object is a great and desirable one, and I can state that he is entirely of opinion that the Bill in its present shape would attain it. So that if the noble Earl relies on my candour he is bound to withdraw his Amendment. The noble Duke appealed to me as to whether there was any analogy between the case of this Bill and that of another Bill which was mentioned by my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. My answer is, that in all essential points the two cases appear to me to be nearly similar. It is quite true that the second reading of that Bill was on the 28th of July, which is earlier than the present date; but your Lordships gave a second reading to that Bill with the intention of hearing counsel upon it, which took an enormous time before you came to the real question as to the progress of the Bill. You patiently went on hearing counsel and introducing Amendments into the Bill up to the end of August. The Bill was then sent down to the Commons with your Amendments, which were considered on the 7th of September. That is the answer I have to make to the noble Duke's appeal to my candour, and I say, therefore, my noble Friend the Colonial Secretary was justified in all that he stated on this subject, and that it did not require any change of temperature in this House to enable it to do what it has done before.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My recollection is that it was exactly of a contrary character. I remember your Lordships in- 1304 troduced clauses in the Bill, and when it went back to the House of Commons my noble Friend did not speak in such complimentary terms of this House as I am accused sometimes of indulging in, and declared that the Amendments introduced made it impossible for the House of Commons to accept it at all. The noble Duke says there is no other instance. I think there are other instances. My noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack alluded to one where a second reading was given at the end of August. What became of that Bill—which was one of a most important character, for abolishing the local Indian Army? It was read a second time at exactly the same time of year as we have now arrived at—on the 10th of August, 1860, after a prolonged debate. The noble Duke continued in that strain. He asked how many clauses there were in the Bill. I forget how many clauses there are; 57, I believe. How many clauses were there in the Irish Land Bill and in the Irish Church Bill? These Bills, I venture to say, excited greater interest in this House than any other in my recollection. The one had 72 and the other 73 clauses; and the one occupied four nights, the other five nights, in Committee. But it is said, if we did consider this Bill and went into Committee upon it, what assurance could be given that the House of Commons would fairly consider any Amendments that might be made in it? Now, Her Majesty's Government were quite ready to take upon themselves the responsibility. Encouraged by the support which we have received in the House of Commons, we have no doubt that if you will proceed to the consideration of this Bill, and will amend it in Committee, the House will give every consideration to your Amendments. The noble Duke said their Lordships could not be expected to give a second reading to a Bill unless they could rely on its giving satisfaction in "another place." How could there be greater security for this than was furnished by the fact that in 70 divisions most of them, with the exception of one, were carried in its favour by majorities of 70 or 80, while the third reading was carried absolutely without a division. I have been reproached with giving my advice as to what course the House ought to pursue. Now, my personal advice is of no value, and holding the position I do, I do not 1305 think that this would be the place for me to give an opinion as to the course which the House ought to pursue on the present occasion. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) has accused me of holding the doctrine that we ought to adopt any law which a Liberal Minister choose to propose to us.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Of holding the doctrine that the whole duty of the House of Lords was to obey a Liberal Ministry.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Well, I decline to accept that as my definition of the duty of the House. The reproach has existed for a hundred years that this House has not enough business to do at one time of the year; but on the first Bill we introduced this Session the noble Marquess reproached the Government for having introduced it here, and I therefore think that it is a little unfair to use that argument now. Supposing we introduced a Bill merely on our own authority, I should not ask you to deal with it except on its own merits. But I do say that when a Bill is introduced by the officers of the Crown—when that Bill is carefully and deliberately considered and amended—and we have the strongest possible evidence that it has been carefully considered and amended—the concurrent testimony of two right hon. Gentlemen who, to do them justice, do not often agree—namely, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, who paid equal compliments to the care, deliberation, and patience with which the House of Commons had dealt with it—when such a Bill comes up to this House, I do not say you are bound to pass it if you think it would be to the harm of the nation if it did pass; but I most deliberately say that it is your duty to give it a fair and careful consideration. The noble Marquess's doctrine is that we must either be more powerful in this House or else that we had better cease to exist. Now, I believe there would be great difficulty in giving practical effect to either of those suggestions. I do not think that this House is without power—in fact, I think it has a very great deal of power—but I believe that you could not in the present circumstances of the case, by any line you took, greatly increase the power which you now possess; and if, on the other hand, there should be any of us who, trusting to our names, our great 1306 possessions, or our great abilities, think we should prefer another field for displaying them, I believe the abolition of this House of Lords is a difficult thing, and that there is not one here who has a chance of seeing it. I remember the case of a gentleman who was advised by competent persons that his house must be pulled down or else it would fall. He therefore determined to pull it down, and he sold the material to a contractor; but the house was so admirably built that the contractor found the greatest difficulty in pulling it to pieces. In the same way, I believe there is not the least likelihood of our ever seeing the abolition of the House of Lords; both for personal and public reasons I should most strongly object to it. But what I think you can do, is not to destroy the House of Lords, but somewhat to weaken its just influence and prestige with the nation, and I think the best thing you can now do is to show no reluctance to undertake real work in the service of the nation. The House of Commons has sat this year the almost incredible time of 1,030 or 1,040 hours, between 120 and 130 of which have been after midnight. I have carefully abstained from counting the hours during which your Lordships have sat, either before or after the hour of 12 at night; but I say that in the great majority of the Members of this House, except the occupants of this bench and one or two noble Lords opposite, we have taken opportunities of paying attention to other things both in town and country, and I am afraid that if we give that as a reason why we will not consider measures after a certain date in August we shall diminish, in the opinion of the public, our zeal and readiness to tackle to work when we are called upon to do so. I shall not, my Lords, trespass further on your attention; I have confined myself to the very small issue on which it has pleased you to place this question. Speaking absolutely against nope, I do earnestly regret that your Lordships are not likely to give a second reading to this Bill.
§ On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 48; Not-Contents 97: Majority 49.
§ Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a on this day six months.1308
|Hatherley, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Saint Albans, D. [Teller.]||Congleton, L.|
|De Tabley, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Ebury, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Eliot, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Gwydir, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Lurgan, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Cowper, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Ducie, E.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Kimberley, E.||Monson, L.|
|Morley, E.||Northbrook, L.|
|Saint Germans, E.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Halifax, V.||Robartes, L.|
|Sydney, V.||Romilly, L.|
|Torrington, V.||Seaton, L.|
|Oxford, Bp.||Stratheden, L.|
|Acton, L.||Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]||Vernon, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Beaufort, D.||Portarlington, E.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Powis, E.|
|Richmond, D.||Russell, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Sandwich, E.|
|Somerset, D.||Shaftesbury, E. [Teller.]|
|Wellington, D.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Stanhope, E.|
|Hertford, M.||Bangor, V.|
|Salisbury, M.||De Vesci, V.|
|Abergavenny, E.||Hawarden, V.|
|Amherst, E.||Hood, V.|
|Bathurst, E.||Melville, V.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Strathallan, V.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Braybrooke, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Devon, E.||Carleton, L. (E. Shannon.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Churston, L.|
|Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire.)||Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)|
|Howe, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Lanesborough, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Colonsay, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Delamere, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Denman, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Egerton, L.|
|Fisherwick, L. (M. Donegal.)||Penrhyn, L.|
|Fitzwalter, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)||Rivers, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Scarsdale, L.|
|Grantley, L.||Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)|
|Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)|
|Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)|
|Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Heytesbury, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Kesteven, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Leconfield, L.||Strathnairn, L.|
|Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)||Templemore, L.|
|Lyveden, L.||Tredegar, L.|
|Northwick, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Oranmore and Browne, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Ten o'clock, 'till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.