§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said: My Lords, I must ask the indulgence of the House if I trespass upon your Lordships' attention rather longer than is my wont; as, on a Bill of this extreme importance, it is necessary that I should state both the details of the Bill, so as to make it intelligible to the House, and that I should also bring before you the general considerations which, in my opinion, ought to lead you to assent to the second reading. Before I proceed to the Bill itself, I may naturally be asked what is the reason for introducing a Bill at all upon this subject; and, why, when, no more than 17 years ago, a large change was made in our representative system, we should now again bring before Parliament a measure of very great magnitude, and seek to disturb again the foundations of our representative system? My Lords, I am one of those in common, no doubt, with all your Lordships, who wish that those disturbances should be as infrequent as possible. But, in the present instance, the answer is not far to seek. The measure which is now before your Lordships is one which arises naturally, I may say of necessity, from the measure of 1867. From the moment that you established throughout the great populations of our boroughs the system of household franchise, it became apparent—certainly to me, and I believe to most men—that the same system must be extended throughout 98 the country. And, my Lords, I have always had some difficulty in explaining to myself why, in 1867, the measure was restricted to the boroughs. In the first place, it is a mistake to suppose that there is a strict dividing line between our populations in boroughs and in counties, and that boroughs alone contain the artizan class to which the extension of the household franchise in boroughs especially applies. On the contrary, there are considerable districts of the country, inhabited by precisely the same men, working at the same trades, who are equally capable of exercising the vote, and who are naturally discontented, because they find that by the mere accident of residence they are deprived of the same privileges. It is obvious that that may easily happen; for instance, say, a miner or shipwright—and, equally so, men employed in other trades—may remove his residence a quarter of a mile, and thus deprive himself of a vote. But independently of that fact, I have been unable to give myself a satisfactory answer why the great class of agricultural labourers have been excluded from the franchise. I suppose that there was an opinion that there was something peculiar in that class, which made them either more dangerous, or less capable of exercising the franchise than others who had been intrusted with it. I have always thought that that fear rested on no basis whatever. Perhaps I am prejudiced in favour of the agricultural labourers, having lived among them, more or less, during the greater part of my life. But I never could perceive that the agricultural labourer was a more dangerous man than the artizan. On the contrary, he is, as a rule, a staid and sober man, not readily moved by political passion, and not at all likely to be led away so easily as the man of the town by every new doctrine that may be propounded. He is a man, no doubt, slower of speech than the man of the town; but he is a shrewd man, who understands his own interests, and he is far better acquainted with all the interests of the land, no matter of what class, than the man of the town. In these days, when we have a variety of questions of great importance cropping up almost every other day concerning property in, and the occupation of, land, and various matters besides concerning 99 its cultivation, I believe there is nothing more dangerous than that Parliament should legislate upon those subjects, inspired, as it were, principally by the population of the towns, who do not understand those questions, and that they should lose the opportunity of obtaining, at first hand, the opinions of that great class connected with the land—the agricultural labourers. To my mind it is, in the highest form of the word, a Conservative measure to give to the agricultural labourer an equal vote along with his brother and fellow-workman of the town. Now, my Lords, these being the obvious reasons for dealing with this subject, what is the practical condition of the question? For several years the question has been before Parliament, and it has been largely discussed throughout the country; and I venture to say that there was no question at the last General Election in internal politics which was more completely present to the minds of all the constituencies when they returned the present House of Commons. In these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government would obviously have been wanting in their duty if they had not, during the present Parliament, endeavoured to settle this great question; and they have approached the question at least with an earnest desire to prepare a measure which should be moderate in its character, which should not go, in the slightest degree, beyond the necessities of the case, and which should, as they hope, meet with the general approval of public opinion. They have, accordingly, presented such a Bill, and the Bill which is now before the House is, with very slight exceptions, the Bill as originally introduced. The Government introduced a Bill which is an enabling and enfranchising measure, which gives a vote to a large and increasing population, but which sedulously avoids depriving anyone, with very slight exceptions, of their present electoral privileges, and which sedulously avoids interfering with the ancient and the accustomed franchises of this country. Such is the character of the measure which your Lordships have now before you. Now, my Lords, I will next shortly explain to the House the actual provisions of the Bill; and they will be best understood if your Lordships will remember that the purpose of this Bill is to place, 100 speaking generally, the county franchise upon the same footing as the borough franchise. That is the general tendency of the Bill; and, therefore, I will first explain what the borough franchise now is, and what it will be, and then how the county franchise will stand. At present, the borough franchise in England is, first of all, a £10 occupying franchise of buildings, with or without land. That is also one of the comparatively old franchises of the boroughs. Then you have the franchise which is enjoyed by the inhabiting occupiers of rated dwellings—in other words, what is popularly known as the household franchise; thirdly, you have the lodger franchise, established by the Act of 1867. A slight change is proposed in the £10 occupying franchise. At present, there must be buildings, with or without land; in future, it is proposed that there may be £10 occupation of land only, without buildings. Then we add to this franchise an entirely new one; and, in connection with it, I must be allowed to use the term which has become popular, although perhaps not entirely accurate in its description—the service franchise. The present law is, not speaking technically, but broadly, that where a man occupies a dwelling, in virtue of his office or his employment, as part of his remuneration, and where the relation of landlord and tenant is not created, that man has no vote. A familiar instance to your Lordships is a caretaker of a large warehouse, or a gamekeeper or gardener. It is proposed by the 3rd clause of the Bill to put an end to that disqualification, and to provide that, where a man himself inhabits his dwelling-house by virtue of any office, or service, or employment, he shall be entitled to the franchise. At present, the franchise in the counties in England is, first of all, a £50 payer of rent under the Chandos Clause; then there is the £12 rating franchise; the 40s. freeholder; and copyholders and leaseholders enjoy the vote in a manner which I need not particularize. In the first place, we propose to change the £12 occupying franchise into a £10 clear yearly value franchise, and to merge in that the £50 rentpayer, who, of course, will got the vote under the new franchise. In Scotland—for the Bill applies to Scotland—the borough franchise is practically the same as in England, and we propose to 101 add to it the service franchise; and, in counties, instead of the £12 rating franchise, as in England, there is the £14 rating, which we propose to reduce to a £10 yearly value, the same as will be the case in England. With regard to Ireland, the borough franchise consists, at the present time, of the £4 rating franchise, the household franchise, and the lodger franchise. We propose, by the Bill, to substitute for the £4 franchise the £10 franchise as it will exist in the English and Scotch boroughs, and to add to the county franchise the household, lodger, and service franchises. Speaking generally, your Lordships will see that that will establish an identity of franchise throughout the United Kingdom. Now, with regard to the freehold franchise, there have been connected with it some abuses which, while the exercise of them has not been confined to any Party, are generally acknowledged as such—I mean the abuse of fagot votes. They are clearly an invasion of the true principle of voting—that true principle being that a man should have a real interest in the property which forms his qualification, and that there should be nothing illusory in his qualification. These illusory qualifications arise in two ways—firstly, out of the grant of rent-charges; and, secondly, out of the conveyance of property to joint owners. Now, we propose to put an end to the rent-charge as a qualification altogether, except in the one case of the tithe-owner of a whole parish; and we also propose to prohibit altogether the conveyance of property to joint owners for the purpose of creating votes, except where property is held jointly, either by marriage, inheritance, or partnership in trade. The result, therefore, will be that the old freehold franchise, with these exceptions, will remain purified, so to speak, but untouched, and I myself rejoice that the Government have left it so. We had next to consider the case of the nonresident voters in counties. But the abuse of non-resident votes is intimately connected with the creation of fagot votes; and if you put an end to the creation of fagot votes, I do not think it is dangerous that non-resident votes should be allowed, and it is reasonable in itself, because an owner might have a very large stake in a particular part of the country, and yet 102 not reside there. Well, then, the result of our measure is, speaking generally, this—that the franchise will be placed upon the broad and, as we consider it, solid foundation of the household suffrage; and I cannot but hope that it is a foundation which may wear for many years, and may prove to be lasting, as well as beneficial, in the interests of the country. Now, your Lordships may, perhaps, like to know what will be the probable number of voters which will be added to the Register by this measure. It is, of course, impossible to give an absolutely correct estimate; but, as far as it can be reckoned, it is probable that the measure will add about 2,000,000 voters to the present number, which is about 3,000,000; and, therefore, your Lordships will see that it is a very large enfranchising measure. These 2,000,000 voters are distributed—about 1,300,000 in England, about 200,000 in Scotland, and about 400,000 in Ireland. As an illustration of the magnitude of the proposal, I may, perhaps, add that by the great Reform Bill of 1832 no more than 500,000 voters were added to the constituencies; and, by the Act of 1867, I believe I am correct in saying that only 1,084,000 voters were added to the total then existing of 1,364,000. I have not, at present, specifically referred to one very important feature of this measure—namely, that it applies to all the Three Kingdoms alike. With regard to England and Scotland I need not say much; but as regards Ireland I feel bound to say a few words. At first, I certainly admit the problem of extending the franchise to Ireland, and adding 400,000 voters to the constituencies, seemed one very difficult to approach, and the operation appeared to be one which might bring with it some imminent and grave dangers. ["Hear, hear!"] I am in no way surprised that noble Lords, probably connected with Ireland, should cheer that sentiment. I fully admit that there are grave dangers connected with the extension of the constituencies in Ireland, and they must be obvious to all; but we had to weigh the whole matter, and to consider in which direction the path of safety seemed most to lie. I am sorry to say that there is in Ireland a very large Party violently hostile to the connection with England, ready by every means in its power to sever that 103 connection, and represented in Parliament by a body already considerable in numbers, and possessed of considerable ability and energy; and it is scarcely to be doubted that if this measure passes into law, the Party led by Mr. Parnell must receive a considerable accession to its ranks. I admit that entirely. Then we have to consider what may be said for the alternative. Now, in the first place, if it be true, as I believe would be the case, that that Party would receive a considerable accession, what does it prove? It proves that the true feeling in Ireland is not even now fully represented in Parliament; and, painful as it may be, that we should have Members sent to represent and advocate opinions which in this House, at all events, we entirely disapprove, yet, I think, that that is better than that we should remain under the delusion that we have before us the representation of the opinion of Ireland, and should not know fully and clearly with what we have to deal. But I do not say that that consideration in itself would be sufficient. There is another which seems to be far more weighty, and to which I attach the greatest importance. There is no danger more serious to the maintenance of our present relations to Ireland than that the Irish people should have a real and substantial grievance; and that, in their protests against that grievance, they should have the support and sympathy of any considerable Party in this country. As long as we, in this country, no matter to which political Party we belong, are firmly determined to maintain resolutely the Union which I believe to be necessary for the happiness of the Three Kingdoms, so long, however great the embarrassments we may suffer, we are in no actual danger. But from the moment that the Irish Separatist Party shall obtain, in this country, any large support, from that moment the danger becomes real and serious; and I can conceive no step more likely to produce that result, than that, on a question of this kind, where the sympathies, at all events, of one Party in this country—and that certainly not a small Party—are strongly aroused on the side of the extension of the franchise, you should, by refusing the extension of that franchise to Ireland, place these men upon the same side as the Irish Party. That would be an ominous conjunction, and 104 one which I believe to be the interest of all Parties alike to avert; and I look upon the danger which may arise from the extension of the numbers of Mr. Parnell's followers, as nothing to the danger which would be incurred if we excluded Ireland from the operation of this Bill. These are the considerations which have brought the Government to the decisive opinion that they ought to include Ireland in the Bill; and I think that, in the course of the discussions that have taken place, there has been shown ample justification for the decision we have arrived at on the matter. My Lords, this, then, is the Bill that is presented to this House; and it might have been hoped that, having been received in the other House and in the country with such general approval, it would have also met with sympathy and support in this House. But, unhappily, the second reading of the Bill is to be met by a Resolution, moved by one of the most eminent Members of this House; and it becomes my duty to examine that Resolution, and to see what are the grounds upon which we are asked not to assent to the second reading of this Bill. This Resolution divides itself into several parts. The first portion says—That this House, while prepared to concur in a well-considered and complete scheme for the extension of the franchise.That contains a proposition in itself—the proposition that the House is prepared to assent to a well-considered and complete scheme. I may be under a delusion, but I had thought that this measure was a "well-considered and complete scheme." It has received, at all events, all the consideration the other House could give it in the large number of 23 not very short Sittings. It was introduced into the other House in February, and it reached this House at the end of June; and therefore I think that, as far as consideration is concerned, this Bill is truly a well-considered Bill. Then, I think it is also a complete Bill. The noble and learned Earl does not, I suppose, contemplate manhood suffrage; and, unless we go the length of manhood suffrage, we could not have a more complete Bill. This House is asked by the noble and learned Earl to approve this Bill or something very like it; and then it is asked, for other reasons, not to assent to the measure, on the ground that it is not a complete and well-con- 105 sidered measure. The Resolution affirms that the House—Does not think it right to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill having for its object a fundamental change in the constitution of the electoral body of the United Kingdom, but which is not accompanied by provisions for so apportioning the right to return Members as to insure a true and fair representation of the people, or by any adequate security in the proposals of the Government that the present Bill shall not come into operation except as part of an entire scheme.Stated shortly, that amounts to this—that the House is invited not to assent to this Bill, because it is unaccompanied by a measure of redistribution. I admit that the question of redistribution is one of the highest importance, and it is impossible not to feel that a measure of this kind ought to be most closely followed by a measure of redistribution; but, now, we are asked not to assent to this Bill, because a measure of redistribution does not now accompany it. Let me advert to what took place in 1866. Then the Bill brought in by Lord John Russell's Government failed, because the other House was not satisfied to deal with that Bill without having redistribution included in the measure. ["No, no!"] Anyhow, the Bill practically failed on the question of redistribution. I wished to show that there is some distinction between the two cases. At that time, the question of the extension of the franchise necessarily connected itself directly with the question of redistribution; because, when you have a franchise which is not identical, it is obvious that, according to your redistribution, the franchise will be given to this or that body of persons. Therefore, there was plausible ground for calling for a full explanation in regard to the proposed redistribution. But the same ground does not exist now. When we are told that a Redistribution Bill ought to be introduced together with the Bill for enlarging the franchise, we are asked to do that which has never been done in the history of this question. In 1832 the great Bill of that period dealt only with England. In 1867 the Bill dealt only with England, and Scotland and Ireland were dealt with in the following year. What I wish to point out to the House is, that, plausible as appears, at first sight, the demand that Parliament should deal with the whole question at one, it is simply a demand 106 for an impossibility. If the Government had come forward with a measure for the extension of the franchise, and also with a measure of redistribution, they might just as well have declared to Parliament that they had no expectation whatever that either of the Bills would pass. But that would not be a practical course for the Government to take. It is the duty of a Government to submit measures to Parliament in such a shape, that there may be reasonable ground that they will be decided upon during the Session. But—and I state it without fear of contradiction—looking to the time that this Bill has already taken, and to the notoriously long time that the discussion of the question of redistribution must take, it would have been idle to expect that the two Bills would pass, had we taken the course which we are told we ought to have taken. I do not suppose that mere assurances from me will have any effect on those noble Lords opposite who are determined not to believe that we are sincere in our intention to deal with redistribution; but I certainly am prepared to repeat in the strongest manner—and I am certain that in doing so I speak with the voice and utter the opinion of my Colleagues—that we consider ourselves emphatically pledged to deal with the question of redistribution next Session, unless some most extraordinary circumstance should arise. [Laughter.] Noble Lords opposite may laugh; but do they think that I am so inexperienced in public affairs as to suppose that there ever was, or ever will be, a Government which could absolutely pledge itself that nothing would occur which would prevent something particular being done six months hence? But what I did say is, that, according to all forecasts that can be made, and all the probabilities of the case, and making only the reservation which it is necessary to make in public affairs, it is the full intention of the Government, and it is our absolute belief, that we shall be able—supposing, of course, that we are in Office—to bring forward a Redistribution Bill next Session. In that view, we assented to an Amendment to the Bill to make it perfectly clear that the Franchise Bill could not come into operation until the Redistribution Bill should have been fully considered by Parliament. That Amendment provides that the Bill shall not come into effect 107 until January 1, 1885; and anyone who knows the operation of our Registration Courts is aware that the result is that the voters under this Bill cannot come on the Register till January 1, 1886. I do not regard as very serious the objection which is entertained by some noble Lords, that there may be some hypothetical circumstances which would prevent the introduction of the Redistribution Bill. There is great probability, which almost amounts to a certainty, that if this Government remains in Office, there will be a Redistribution Bill next Session. But what I understand noble Lords fear is, that such a Bill might be of such a nature that there would be no chance of its passing. It may, therefore, be that your Lordships would gladly wish to hear what are the principles, speaking generally, which would be likely to form the foundation of such a Bill. They have been sketched on a former occasion by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. [A laugh.] Probably the noble Lord who laughed did not read what was said by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that I shall incur the dissent of my Colleagues behind me if I say that, in the first place, we contemplate that there should be a very considerable measure of redistribution. That I feel will approve itself to all, for nothing could be more undesirable than to have a measure of such a partial kind that we should be likely to be soon engaged again—if I may use the term—in tinkering our Constitution. The changes in our population are so considerable that it will be necessary, remembering how large a measure of enfranchisement has now been introduced, to bring forward a measure of redistribution which shall also be a large one. We have heard a great deal about electoral districts. If I thought it was the intention of the present Government to bring in a Bill which would destroy our ancient system, and substitute for it a system of equal electoral districts, I should be very desirous that the Bill and the Government with it should fall to the ground. Neither I, nor, I think, my Colleagues, have any predilection for such a revolutionary measure. If, indeed, we were beginning afresh and moulding a representative system, I can conceive that, theoretically, there might be much to be said for electoral districts 108 and a self-adjusting system of redistribution; but no system of that kind would be adapted to the present circumstances of the country, and no measure of the Government will contain provisions for establishing such a system. Then we should desire to maintain, as it is now, the old distinction between town and country; between urban populations and rural constituencies. We are not at all likely to be thought desirous of regulating the number of those who are to return Representatives to the House of Commons, and the number of those Representatives themselves, by some strict rule of representation proportionate to population. We have never adopted such a rule. In the Metropolis, for example, the population is rapidly increasing, and the Members are in no way proportionate to that population; nor is it probable that the time is approaching when we could attempt to adjust the number of its Representatives to the number of the population. It will be necessary that the principle of proportion should be applied to a greater extent than it now is; but it is not likely that we should adopt any strict system of proportion between population and representation. That brings me to a subject that has been much discussed—I mean the case of Ireland. Many gentlemen in the newspapers have settled the question very much to their own satisfaction by saying that the population of Ireland has diminished, and that that of England and Scotand has increased, and that, consequently, the number of Irish Representatives ought to be diminished, and those of the latter to be increased. Now, that calculation assumes what ought not to be assumed—namely, that the number of Representatives ought to be adjusted in strict proportion to the number of the population. In connection with this point, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been rather misunderstood. He laid it down absolutely that there should be no diminution in the numbers of Members representing Ireland; but he also threw out a suggestion that it might prove desirable to increase the total number of Members of the House of Commons, and the whole of what he said on this subject ought to be taken into account, and not one particular portion of it. Besides these questions there 109 are others by no means of small moment. There is the question regarding minority representation, and what is known as proportional representation. There are a great many such schemes. Very different opinions are entertained concerning them. Some of them, in my opinion at least, are more ingenious than sound; but, be that as it may, many of them are urged by persons of great intelligence and weight, whose opinions are entitled to much respect; and, at the proper time, I feel certain that Parliament will give a full and proper consideration to them. I think that I have now dwelt sufficiently on these points, and that I have expressed, with regard to redistribution, the views entertained by my Colleagues in a general manner. I trust I have met the objections which are raised in the Amendment of the noble and learned Earl opposite; but I cannot help thinking that there is something more behind that Amendment than appears at first sight. I do not think that the allegation that this measure is not well-considered nor complete, or that the redistribution scheme is not introduced and tacked on to it, or that the scheme may not be such as would be acceptable to Parliament—I do not think these are the sole motives for the Resolution of the noble and learned Earl. We have heard it said in some quarters—and it seems to me that it is not improper that I should allude to it—we have heard it said that it is possible there may be a Party in this country who may desire to make the occasion of this Bill coming before this House the means of forcing a Dissolution of Parliament. Your Lordships have undoubtedly the most perfect right to object to this Bill, and to reject it with the direct view that the result may be a Dissolution of Parliament. I will go further, and say that I have no doubt that to do so may be considered a good Party move. It is not for me to express an opinion as to whether it would or would not be a good Party move. I give my opponents credit for the same honourable motives which I will ask them to ascribe to me; and I will admit that when they made this Motion they thought the interests of the country would be served by it. But what I wish to put to the House is this—that the House has something very different to decide than the mere questions of the 110 interests of this or that Party. Is it for the highest interests of this country that this Bill should pass? Is it in the interests of this House that the Bill should now be laid aside? It seems to me that the very circumstances of this House ought to make it much more careful than a Representative House in a matter such as this. Owing to its constitution, its Members cannot, like the Members of the House of Commons, be suddenly changed. More or less, its composition remains the same from year to year, and from Parliament to Parliament; and it seems to me that the majority of this House have to consider whether it is safe and wise to place itself permanently in antagonism to the other House, to one great Party in the State, and to the wishes of the country, and to associate it exclusively with one section of the country. Let your Lordships remember what took place in 1867. This House was then told that it was about to take "a leap in the dark;" it was told this by a Conservative Minister, and, singularly enough, this House showed a perfect readiness on that occasion to take that leap into the gulf. But now that the House is asked to accept and pass a Bill which is desirable in itself without redistribution, the noble and learned Earl opposite says—"Do not take the leap." In 1867 you opened a very large door; you added a very large number of voters to the constituencies, and you placed the whole of your borough representation on a democratic basis. In 1884, though you may for a moment prevent this Bill passing, there is no man in this House who is not aware that you must open the door further, and that we are very near the time when the whole representation of this country will rest upon a Democratic basis. Let us consider how this affects your Lordships' House. The position of this House is peculiar. There is no other such House in the world—a House in which nearly all the Members inherit their position, and the others are admitted to it only by the favour of the Crown. Must it not strike everyone how exceedingly difficult and delicate a problem it must be to maintain the useful and valuable functions of this House unimpaired in connection with the Democratic body which you will create in the other branch of Parliament. I say that even the wisest statesmanship, the gravest caution, and the utmost wisdom 111 —men of the greatest caution and prudence—will find it one of the most difficult political problems ever presented to a nation. In such circumstances, ought we not to consider, though our Party feelings may be strong and the opportunity tempting, whether it is not worth while to avoid taking such a course, in order not to place this House in antagonism to the other House and to one great Party in the country, upon this great question, which involves the consequences I have pointed out? None of us can be blind to the extraordinary changes of opinion which are going on in the world. There are some very new and revolutionary theories abroad in Europe, some of them striking deeper at European institutions than is generally confessed, and all of them occupying the attention and rousing the fears of every Government on the Continent. There is not an absolute impossibility that those Socialistic doctrines may, to some extent, reach our shores, and that we may be ourselves involved in controversies in which we shall require all our strength and the sympathy of the people generally to deal wisely and firmly with the questions that may arise. I remember a striking speech of Lord Beaconsfield in this House, in which he dealt with extreme adroitness with the Ground Game Bill, pointing out to the House that when questions arose connected with the landed property of the country, that was not the time for your Lordships to place yourselves in opposition to legislation, when that opposition was not absolutely proved to be necessary for the interests of the country; and I say that what was true of such a small measure as the Ground Game Bill is true in a much higher degree of this greater measure, because there cannot be a doubt that the large majority of the people are in favour of this Bill, their sympathies are aroused, and the action of this House is being watched with more than usual interest and anxiety. Your bitterest enemies are longing and praying for you to reject this Bill. Will you not disappoint their expectations? You have the opportunity, if you pass this Bill, of seeing one of the greatest Constitutional changes which have been made for many years take place in singular calmness. I am the last man to exaggerate danger, or to appeal to popular and violent passions; but I think there is no man 112 in this House who will not agree with me that, if this Bill is rejected, there must be a bitter and exciting controversy, in which must be involved the question of the action of this House. That being so, I ask the House to pause. You are now at the parting of the ways. Pause before you take the way that is not that of peace. I know from the unusual and ominous assembly of noble Lords opposite what we may have to expect; I well know the eloquence and power with which you will be addressed by the noble and learned Earl; but, notwithstanding that, I still venture not to part with the hope that you will not be led away by his subtle and practised advocacy to take a step which all must admit to be most grave, and which many believe to be perilous. I move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)
§ EARL CAIRNS
, in rising to move the following Amendment:—That this House, while prepared to concur in a well-considered and complete scheme for the extension of the franchise, does not think it right to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill having for its object a fundamental change in the constitution of the electoral body of the United Kingdom, but which is not accompanied by provisions for so apportioning the right to return Members as to ensure a true and fair representation of the people, or by any adequate security in the proposals of the Government that the present Bill shall not come into operation except as part of an entire scheme,said: My Lords, although I rise on this occasion for the purpose of following the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley), I am glad to say that with regard to a great deal of what has fallen from him I have no controversy with the noble Earl. I do not propose to delay your Lordships by entering into any examination of the details of the Bill, the second reading of which has just been moved. I do not propose to do so; but I will accept the general principles of the Bill as a Bill of enfranchisement. The noble Earl has compared it with the great measure of Reform passed in 1867 by a Conservative Government, and has expressed some surprise that, at that time, so large a difference as then prevailed was allowed to remain between the franchise in the boroughs and the franchise in the counties, I dare say 113 that a sufficient reason could be given why that difference was left remaining at that time; but I shall not stop now to enter into any explanation of that reason. I prefer rather to allude to what has happened since. Seven years after that Bill passed—namely, in 1874—a Conservative Government was again in Office under the Premiership of my late lamented Friend (the Earl of Beaconsfield), then Mr. Disraeli, and he had, in the House of Commons, as strong a following at that time as almost any Government of modern times has ever had. In that same year a measure was brought before the House of Commons by Sir. Trevelyan, to assimilate the suffrage in counties with the suffrage in boroughs. Mr. Disraeli stated his opinion at that time upon that question, and I should like to be allowed to remind your Lordships of what Mr. Disraeli's views were, because the noble Earl opposite has spoken of this as a matter on which there was some antipathy on the part of the Conservative Party to the enfranchisement of county voters. This is what Mr. Disraeli said on the 13th of May, 1874—I have no doubt that the rated householder in the county is just as competent to exercise the franchise with advantage to the country as the rated householder in the towns. I have not the slightest doubt whatever that he possesses all those virtues which generally characterize the British people; and I have as little doubt that if he possessed the franchise he would exercise it with the same prudence and the same benefit to the community as the rated householder in the town."—(3 Hansard,  251.)But, having expressed that opinion on the question of enfranchisement, he proceeded to explain why he objected to the Bill before the House, and these were his words—Now, Sir, my great objection to the Bill of the hon. Gentleman is this—that there is no case in which large classes of our fellow-subjects have been invested with the franchise without a general distribution of power in consequence being considered."—(Ibid. 252.)And as an illustration of the effect of admitting a large number of persons to the franchise without a redistribution of political power, he gave some figures which I will take the liberty of repeating, and which will be one of the few references to figures I shall have to make—that by the proposed enlargement of the franchise with no redistribution, the result would be that, according to a calculation he then made—speaking of the 114 enlargement of the franchise to all England—there would be 1,740,000 county voters returning 187 Members to Parliament, while there would be 1,250,000 borough voters returning 297 Members. Now, what has been the attitude of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons in regard to this Bill, as a measure for the enfranchisement of county voters? I do not profess to have read very carefully all that has been said in that House upon the subject of this Bill; but so far I have observed, putting aside the question of the extension of the franchise to Ireland, as to which the noble Earl himself has very fairly admitted that there might well be a difference of opinion—putting aside that question, I am not aware that in the House of Commons any contest has arisen with regard to this Bill merely as a Bill of enfranchisement. I believe I do not exaggerate what has taken place when I say that, although something like four mouths has passed over since this Bill was introduced in the other House, two-thirds of the time was occupied in discussing, not any question with respect to the franchise itself, but the question to which I am going to ask the attention of your Lordships—the question whether it is consistent with what has been the practice of this country, and safe with regard to the Constitution of the country, to have a large extension of the franchise unaccompanied by a measure for the redistribution of political power? Now, the noble Earl opposite, in repeating what has been advanced "elsewhere," has said that there never has been a case in which a complete Reform Bill has been presented to Parliament, or passed by Parliament. By that I suppose he means a Reform Bill in the sense in which we mean it—namely, a Bill containing, not merely provisions for an extension of the franchise, but also provisions for the redistribution of electoral power. I must take issue there with the noble Earl on that point. I have, at all events, read the history of one legislative difficulty; and I say and maintain that the Reform Bills of 1832—the Reform Bill for England, and the Reform Bill for Scotland, and the Reform Bill for Ireland—were each complete in itself, inasmuch as each contained complete provisions, both as regarded the extension of the franchise and the redistribution of seats. But what happened on the next occasion to 115 which the noble Earl has referred? He said that a Reform Bill was introduced by Lord Russell's Government in 1866; but it failed in consequence of there not being included in it any provisions for redistribution.
§ EARL CAIRNS
Well, it did not exactly fall through because of that, for it had a small majority in its favour; but so convinced were Government that, without redistribution, it would not pass, that they supplemented the Bill by another for the redistribution of seats; and, on the same day, they laid on the Table of the House of Commons Bills for Scotland and Ireland, also containing provisions for enfranchisement and redistribution. Therefore, I think I have shown that it is a mere play upon words, and not accurate to say, because you had separate Bills for different parts of the country, each complete in itself, that you never before have had at any time a complete Reform Bill. Let me ask your Lordships to consider, for a moment, what this Bill gives; because, in looking at the necessity of a complete measure of Reform, we must endeavour to see what might be accomplished by this Bill, which is not a complete measure. What will this Bill do? It will add, in round numbers, 2,000,000 of voters to the existing constituencies of 3,000,000; and, if I remember right, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, not very long ago, that the change in that respect which this Bill would make would be the greatest change made in the Constitution since the date of the Revolution. It would be very tedious to quote an extensive series of figures for the purpose of showing the effect of this measure as a measure of enfranchisement alone. Perhaps, however, you will allow me to give, by way of illustration, the effect in three instances of different constituencies—one in England, one in Scotland, and one in Ireland. The constituency in England which I will take is the Southern Division of the West Riding. As far as I can find, that is a Division which contains 766 square miles, and, as far as I can make out, the constituency in that Division, taking the present distribution, would be raised by the Bill to something like 60,000 voters. The constituency I take in Scotland is that of North Lanarkshire, which, from 116 10,000, what it now stands at, would be raised to 40,000. The county of Cork, in Ireland, contains 2,812 square miles, and the present constituency of 14,000 would be raised by the Bill to 45,000. Now, in the first place, a moment's consideration will, I think, show your Lordships that if you stop there, if you let these constituencies elect the number of Members now elected, you will annihilate in them, for all practical purposes, the representation of public opinion; and I say that for this reason—we all know that if, in a great town, you have a constituency of 40,000 or 50,000, a great number of electors remain unpolled at a General Election. But take a county like Cork, with nearly 3,000 square miles, or the Southern Division of the West Riding, with nearly 1,000 square miles, and if you create in either constituency a body of 40,000 or 50,000 electors, consider the difficulty of canvassing, or conveying voters to the poll, or providing polling places, or making adequate provision for providing the people with a knowledge of the views of the candidates on the political questions of the day. The representation of a constituency of that kind would be simply a mockery. But, passing away from this, which, it may be said, is a purely mechanical difficulty, what would a General Election be all over the country, with an enlargement of the franchise as it is proposed in the Bill, and without a redistribution of seats? It does not matter very much for this purpose whether the figures I have given are exactly precise; but, for all practical purposes, I believe I am sufficiently accurate when I say that, if you were to take the present distribution of seats, and add to that the enfranchisement proposed by this Bill, the result would be this—that in every county there would be a seat for about 10,000 electors, and in every borough a seat for about 5,000. That is the difference which you would create by this enfranchisement without a redistribution of seats. I only point that out in order to show your Lordships what would be the result of a Bill of enfranchisement alone. Now, from the speech of the noble Earl, and from the Prime Minister, I know that the Government feel the Bill must be accompanied by a redistribution of seats, and that it must be a large one; and I think the Prime Minister said, in comparing it with that 117 of 1832 and that of 1867, it would be much nearer the redistribution of 1832 than that of 1867. I want to remind your Lordships of the problems involved, and of the task to be undertaken, when we come to speak of a scheme of redistribution. We know it is the opinion of those who have studied the question most deeply that, as regards England and Wales, no case can be made out to say that England and Wales are over-represented. There has been a complaint that Scotland is under-represented; and, with regard to Ireland, there is a controversy on the subject, some contending that Ireland is not over-represented, some contending, whether you take the test of population, or whatever other tests you may apply, that Ireland has more Members than her share. Then, what are the questions you have to solve? There are also certain internal questions to be solved. With regard to England, you have to decide how you are to get the additional Members for the great constituencies created in the counties, and you have to consider how you are to get additional Members to satisfy the Northern part of the country with regard to additional representation. With regard to Ireland, you will have to decide an internal question as between the South and the North. There is a claim on the part of the North — I refer to its population and its property—to a larger share of representation, as compared with the South, as it is at present. Then you have to solve the great problem, how are the additional Members to be given to Scotland to be provided? Are they to be provided by being taken from England? Are they to be provided by being taken from Ireland? Or are they to be provided by an increase of the total number of Members of the House of Commons? Then, again, you have a large body of men in the House of Commons who attach great importance to the subject of proportional representation. You have got all these problems to solve. I do not stop now to examine or to argue them; but they are matters on which different opinions are entertained, and I wish just to indicate them as being the problems which will have to be solved, in some way or other, before the measure of Reform is complete. The result of the consideration of all these problems is this, that we 118 can easily see that there must be a very large measure of redistribution in order to meet all those to which I have referred. Now, that being so, the next question I have to ask your Lordships is to consider whether the question of enfranchisement and the question of redistribution ought to go together, or can they be safely separated? It is not in accordance with our Constitution to consider that the electors of this country at large are the real depositaries of power, the real depositaries of power being the electors grouped into particular constituencies. I may illustrate very easily my meaning by asking your Lordships to suppose that the whole of England was one great constituency, returning 500 Members by a majority of the electors. I think your Lordships will see that it is quite obvious that any return of that kind would not represent, in any way, the true voice of the country? And so with regard to the constituencies; unless you have your electors fairly and truly grouped into what may be termed a proper distribution of constituencies, you cannot get the expression of the true and right voice of the country. Now, what are the arguments against connecting these two processes, and connecting them in such a way that they cannot possibly be separated? The first argument of the noble Earl opposite, I understand, is that it would be impossible to work a measure of redistribution in one Session through Parliament. I do not know, in the first place, what reason there is for that supposition.
§ EARL CAIRNS
Together? Well, so far as the Enfranchisement Bill is concerned, the great bulk of the time occupied in consequence of it in the House of Commons has been devoted to a complaint that the measure was not accompanied by a measure of redistribution. But if there is not time this Session to pass a measure of redistribution, is it much encouragement to be told, in the same voice, that it is proposed in the next Session to pass a measure of redistribution, and that it is quite certain to be passed? What is the next argument? The Prime Minister stated—it is an argument which has not cropped up since, but I must refer to it—that one of the reasons why redistribution is not undertaken at present 119 is, that the Government must first know what will be the numerical extent of the electors under the new franchise in the different parts of the country. But inasmuch as the Bill makes no provision for registration by which that numerical strength could be obtained, the Prime Minister's argument must fall to the ground. What is the other reason? The Prime Minister said the desire to separate these two questions was because the franchise question was a national question; it raised national considerations, and ought to be argued and settled upon those considerations; but with regard to redistribution, that raised local and selfish questions of a wholly different kind; and "we want," he said, "for that reason to distinguish between the two." I have not a word to say as to his objections in keeping the two measures distinct as regards discussion, and even as regards Bills, provided he will make arrangements that one measure cannot come into force until both can come into force. It is no answer to say that redistribution gives rise to different considerations from those connected with enfranchisement, and that, therefore, you cannot provide for them in one Bill; but that is no reason for leaving one measure with the risk of coming into operation without the other also coming into operation at the same time. Authorities have contended that it is essential to the safety of any measure of Reform, that enfranchisement and redistribution should be linked together. I am glad to see sitting opposite me the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), whose speech I had the pleasure of listening to in "another place" in the Session of 1866. I have heard that speech rightly called a speech that was unanswered and unanswerable. There never was any answer given to it. I have read it again lately, and I believe no answer could be given to it; indeed, I believe the noble Earl himself could not answer his own speech. The noble Earl has said that the state of things now is different from that of 1866, and that arguments strong enough then did not apply now; that there was a different county franchise and a different borough franchise; and that questions of disfranchisement arose. With regard to that, it is remarkable, if you take the speech of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 120 that the reason now mentioned by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) is not given in the speech from beginning to end. Therefore, I am unable to agree, this being the noble Earl's argument, that that was the ground of the argument in 1866. The answer of the noble Earl opposite is no answer at all. The noble Earl says there is no disfranchisement by this Bill. The word disfranchisement is not used; but it is there just as much as in 1866. Take the case of a small borough, with, say, 500 electors. The existence of that borough would be terminated through a redistribution scheme, and the 500 electors would become 500 out of a mass of 20,000 or 40,000. What is the position of any one of these electors? In name he is not disfranchised, but his voting power is reduced to 1–40th or 1–80th of what it was before. Is not that practically just the same thing, only different in degree, from the case of the elector who, in these circumstances, would lose his vote altogether? I therefore venture to claim the authority of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the present occasion in my favour. Every word of that speech, which is wholly unanawerable, is against the procedure of the Government with regard to this Bill. In addition to the noble Earl, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Harrington) has given his opinion upon the question more than once. At different times Mr. Trevelyan brought in Bills to assimilate the county and the borough franchises; and, in 1875, the Marquess of Hartington declined to vote for the Bill, on the ground that redistribution was the larger and more important part of the question and should accompany the assimilation, and that no private Member could grapple with the question. In 1878, Mr. Trevelyan brought forward a Motion in favour of assimilation and redistribution; and on that Motion, the Marquess of Hartington said—I think my hon. Friend has done very well to bring these two subjects together under the view of the House. He has done well, because I believe that whenever the House does proceed to deal practically with this question it will insist, as it has done before, that the question shall not be dealt with partially, but shall be dealt with as a whole."—(3 Hansard,  245.)121 Your Lordships will see that the words of my Amendment are founded almost, if not quite, upon the authority of the speech of the noble Marquess. I now proceed to cite the authority of the Government as a whole. As I understand, the Government, up to a certain point, profess themselves to be alive to the necessity of combining or supplementing this measure by a measure of redistribution; they promise a measure of redistribution, and they say they have introduced into the Bill provisions for the purpose of linking in and associating in some way the measure of redistribution with the measure of the franchise. I therefore claim the Government as an authority in support of my position; but have they done it? The whole question is—have they practically succeeded in doing that which they admit they feel they ought to do? This is a small and simple issue; there can be no doubt about it; and we can easily arrive at a solution of it by examining the provisions of the Bill. What have the Government done? They have provided in the Bill that it shall not come into operation until the 1st of January, 1885. [Several noble LORDS: 1886.] No, no; the Bill provides that it shall not come into operation until 1885; that being equivalent to its coming into operation for election purposes in 1886. It is said that there can be no registration until the summer of 1885, so that, therefore, practically, there can be no election under the Bill until after next year. I must beg leave to say, in the first place, that I cannot attach any weight to that as a concession on the part of the Government; because, if the Bill had been left as it was, the effect would have been the same; for unless notices of registration had been given by the end of the present month, they could not have been available for registration next year, and it was never likely that this Bill could have been passed in time for the notices to have been so given. The Government, therefore, have really introduced into the Bill that which was practically there without the introduction of the clause. I understand it is said by some—"If you are not satisfied with the provisions of the Bill, why should it not be amended? Why should not a clause be introduced which would prevent it coming into operation until the Redistribution Bill has been passed?" Of 122 course, it could be done by an Amendment; but we are in this position—the Government were asked to take this course in the House of Commons, and they declined to do it. Therefore, if we introduce such an Amendment, which we are told has been refused, and will be refused, by the Government, that will only be to postpone to a later day of our procedure the reconsideration of the issue which we desire to take on this question of redistribution. Otherwise, if the Government are prepared to meet the difficulty by a special provision, it is easily done, and they have only to say so. Now, I want to consider for a moment what would be the state of things next Session. I must pause for a moment to ask—as we are told we can only expect one other Session of this Parliament—whose fault is it that we are driven into this position? There was no question more prominently before the country in 1880 than that of the franchise; and it was then clearly intimated that the Government would introduce a measure dealing with it. That being so, how comes it that year after year—in 1880, 1881, and 1882—the question has been forgotten by the Government until the year 1884, when we are told we must count the days before the end of this Parliament? The Government may say that there were a great many other things not thought of at the General Election that have occupied the House of Commons; but I would ask, if that has been so during the past four years, what security is there that it will not be so during one year more? The legislation with regard to the peace of Ireland may have to be renewed next year; and we know very well, by experience, what that means in the House of Commons, and how, side by side with a measure like that, a measure for redistribution would be likely to fare. The noble Earl says we can accept the assurance of the Government that, if nothing happens to prevent it, they are determined to bring in, and pass, a measure of redistribution. I quite believe in the sincerity of Her Majesty's Government. I pay them a compliment they do not pay us, for the noble Earl does not believe in my Amendment, and says that there is something behind it which is not expressed, on the ground that I am asking your Lordships to pass the Resolution 123 as against the second reading of the Bill.
§ EARL CAIRNS
I may tell the noble Earl that I quite believe in his sincerity. I also believe in the sincerity of the Prime Minister. I believe the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly sincere the other day, when he promised the Opposition in the House of Commons to give them a day for the discussion of affairs in Egypt. He was perfectly sincere in making that promise; but it so happens that the day was not given. I read, with some astonishment, in the papers of to-day that the Prime Minister compliments the House of Commons upon their marked good sense in refusing to do that which the Leader of the House—the Prime Minister—had pledged himself to do. The same thing may occur again as to the Redistribution Bill; and perhaps the Prime Minister may again have some reason for taking a similar course, and complimenting the House on their marked good sense. Now, what may happen? A Redistribution Bill may be brought in. It is not likely to please everybody; and suppose it does not satisfy those who are not the supporters of the Government. What will be the consequence? Was there ever before an engine of this kind put into the hands of a Government? The Party say—"We do not like this Redistribution Bill;" the Government say—"You must either take it or leave it; if you do not take it, you leave the election to the new electorate without any redistribution at all." Is that a course which it is fair to take towards Parliament—to call upon Parliament to legislate under duress? Again, suppose those who otherwise would support the Government think that the Bill does not go far enough, that they are indignant, and the Government have not the momentum to carry the Bill through, and it is shelved. Or suppose those whose seats are affected on both sides—for this is not a Party question, and there will be a considerable number—refuse to sacrifice their seats, and, having voted for a large increase of the electorate, determine to go back to their constituents, and the Bill fails on that ground, as it well may. Now, I want your Lordships to consider what will be the consequence if this Redistribution Bill does not pass, and there 124 is an election of Members of Parliament with the old distribution. What would the House of Commons be? It would not be elected by any permanent electoral body which either side in Parliament accepts as a permanent electoral body; it will be a Convention Parliament, elected by those who, by a merely temporary accident, are the depositaries of power, and whom neither side in Parliament intends to be the permanent depositaries of power. You would, therefore, get a Convention Parliament elected by those bodies who are mere temporary depositaries of power; and suppose that when that House of Commons assembled they were to say—"We are bound by no pledge; we will undertake no redistribution; we are quite satisfied with things as they are; we will remain as we are; we will have no Redistribution Bill; things suit us very well as they are at present; and as they are at present they shall remain?" They are the masters of the situation; they remain the masters of the situation; and you have a fundamental change made in the Constitution of the country simply by an accident. It is this danger—I call it a grave and serious danger—that I ask your Lordships to guard against. It is idle to say that we oppose ourselves to any wish of the country in this matter. We appeal to the country; we desire to be judged by the country. It is a calumny to say that we set ourselves against the country, or against a measure of Reform. We desire that that which has been done on all former occasions in the reform of the Constitution should be done now, and that a peril and danger of that character should, if possible, be avoided. My Lords, I have endeavoured briefly, and I hope fairly, to place before your Lordships the bearing of this question. I have preferred to confine myself to argument, and I have not referred to any of those considerations by which this question has been surrounded out-of-doors. Your Lordships have received, with regard to the decision to which you ought to come on this Motion, a considerable quantity of good advice and some menace. The advice has come from various sources; but the menace has come mainly from one quarter, and that quarter, I venture to think, one from which menace to this House was neither fitting nor Constitutional. My Lords, it would be inconsistent 125 with the dignity of this House to respond to the menace. I feel persuaded that, in the course which your Lordships will take, you will be of opinion that any menace, such as we have heard of, can only recoil on the heads of those, however eminent they may be, by whom the menace was uttered; and as to your Lordships, I feel persuaded that in your decision upon the matter you will not be deterred by threats from supporting this Amendment if you approve of it; and that, on the other hand, you will not be provoked, as some might be, by threats, to support the Amendment unless it has your entire approval. I believe that the Amendment which I now propose has the approval of the great majority of this House, and I believe it will have the approval of the country. In that belief I place the Amendment in your Lordships' hands.
To leave out from ("That") to the end of the motion for the purpose of inserting the following words ("this House, while prepared to concur in a well-considered and complete scheme for the extension of the franchise, does not think it right to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill having for its object a fundamental change in the constitution of the electoral body of the United Kingdom, but which is not accompanied by provisions for so apportioning the right to return Members as to ensure a true and fair representation of the people, or by any adequate security in the proposals of the Government that the present Bill shall not come into operation except as part of an entire scheme.")—(The Earl Cairns.)
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, although I rise after the noble and learned Earl who has just sat down, I do not rise to address to the House a strong controversial speech. I rise rather to explain very shortly the reasons why I shall myself vote conscientiously for the second reading of this Bill, and to address to the minds of the independent Members of this House some arguments which, I trust, may not be wholly unacceptable to them. Let me, in the first place, refer to the few remarks which have fallen both from my noble Friend below me (the Earl of Kimberley) and from the noble and learned Earl opposite (the Earl Cairns) in regard to the functions and position of this House. I shall, in the first place, dissociate myself entirely from everything approaching to the language of menace. I agree with the noble and learned Earl opposite 126 that such language addressed to this House is hardly Constitutional, and I hope it will not influence a single vote in your Lordships' House. But I trust it will not be considered unworthy of the dignity of this House, if I say, in passing, that I have read with astonishment the language used by men of conspicuous literary position; language which I can characterize in no other term than as scurrilous, and as overpassing all the decencies of public life. I wonder what those persons think of us who address such language to this House? My noble Friend has referred to our peculiar constitution, and the immense privilege we enjoy in having a voice in the legislation of this country. It is an immense privilege; but let it not be forgotten that it is balanced by an immense disadvantage. If we are hereditary Members of this House, we are also shut out of the other House of Parliament. All that great channel of public life is shut against us. The privilege that we enjoy is, indeed, an immense privilege, of which we may well be proud, considering its origin and its history; but we shall be proud of it only, if it is accompanied with some real and substantial power. When I say some real and substantial power, I do not mean, of course—for neither House has that—conclusive power against the public opinion of the country; but I mean some real and substantial power—some responsibility in that Legislature of which we form an important part. I do not know whether many of your Lordships know of the circumstance; but I remember well that one of the most distinguished Members of this House—I do not know that he said it in public, but I am aware of the fact—when he succeeded to the Peerage, being then a Member of the House of Commons, felt so anxious to retain a seat in that House, that he actually consulted the highest Constitutional lawyers in this country, to know whether it was possible for him not to take up that Peerage, in order that he might continue to be a Member of the other House. And, my Lords, I say this, that I believe there are many of us who would be glad to exchange the peculiar privilege to which my noble Friend referred for the other; and if we are to have no substantial right to exercise our functions for the public welfare, I, for one, should infinitely prefer the 127 privilege of having access to the other House. Now, my Lords, with regard to another point, I wish to repudiate an assertion lately put forward. Some language was recently used in a debate raised by my noble Friend below me (the Earl of Rosebery) in an interesting speech on the character and position of this House. I will not say my noble Friend himself made use of the assertion; but one or two noble Lords who followed him alluded to the fact of Members, who do not habitually attend this House, being summoned for the purpose of taking part in great debates and Divisions. Now, I do not object to what are called Country Peers coming to take part in our proceedings. It is a mistake to suppose that only those living in the neighbourhood of St. James's or Piccadilly reflect or understand the public opinion of this country. It has been lately one of the great items of the Radical creed to say that the London Press does not so much represent the opinion of the country as the Provincial Press does; and I so far agree with this that I think that Peers resident in the country, and who attend to their duties on their estates, who read the daily Press away from the excitement of the capital, and keep their minds acquainted with the course of events, are quite as well able to judge of public matters as the few dozens of Peers who habitually attend the Sittings of this House. Therefore, instead of deprecating the presence, I rejoice at the presence, of a great many noble Lords opposite who do not usually attend our debates. The truth is, that every part of this country is full of public life, and every Peer who comes up from the country, if he has given his mind conscientiously to the matters before him, is just as able to decide upon them as any Members of this House who are continually resident in this Metropolis, and nightly present in this House. But now comes the question, how are we best to exercise this great privilege which belongs to us by hereditary right? There is one fact which we must all acknowledge. The debates of this House and the votes of this House are no longer decisive of the fate of Governments. I am not sure that there ever was a time in the political history of this country when the votes of this House standing alone were decisive of the fate of Governments. I 128 think this fact indicates our duty and our line of duty. Both political Parties are, to a great extent, independent of the individual; and, in my opinion, the individual is also to a very large extent independent of Party. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), in some good-humoured banter which he addressed some weeks ago to my noble Friend (the Earl of Wemyss), spoke, I thought, in a tone of some contempt of what lie called "the Cross Bench mind." My Lords, I disagree with him. I am conscious very largely of partaking of the nature of the Cross Bench mind. I have been summing up the years during which I have had the honour of being in high Office since I entered this House. I find that the total number of years I have been in this House is 37, and of those 37 years I have been 18 years a Member of various Cabinets. I have thus some right to know what are the advantages and the disadvantages of the Cross Bench mind and of the Treasury Bench mind. They each of them have their dangers and their temptations; but I have no hesitation in saying this—that it would be well for this House if a great majority of its Members had the Cross Bench mind; and if every man was determined to vote upon the merits of every question that came before him, then he must necessarily be of that mind. Let me, in confirmation of this argument, address the independent Members of this House, and let me recall a few circumstances of personal experience, not because they affect myself, but because they affect important questions of public interest. When I first came into the House I sat on the Bench opposite with that group of statesmen of whom the late Earl of Aberdeen was the centre and the most distinguished ornament. That group of men were essentially Cross Bench men. They had come out of the great Conservative Party, and they maintained for some years an independent position between the two sides of the House. Now, my Lords, I say this—that during the years in which the Earl of Aberdeen and his late Colleagues had a powerful influence upon this House, there never was a time when its debates were better; there never was a time when its votes had more sanction from the people; there never was a time when the in- 129 fluence of the House of Lords was greater than during that period. During that period the votes of this House could not be counted upon by the Government Whips in the event of a Party Division. I recollect very well an old Friend of mine, a strong Conservative, a Tory of the old school, lamenting the state of things that had arisen. He said that—In my early days the votes of the House of Lords could be counted upon with perfect accuracy and safety. There would be a certain number of Whig Peers and a certain number of Tory Peers who would vote true to their colours, and we knew exactly what the decision of the House of Lords would be; now, however, we do not know.I believe that was a great improvement in the character and position of the House of Lords. Now to pass from the House to individual men. I entreat noble Lords opposite who are disposed to answer the Whip rather than to answer their own individual consciences upon such a question as this—I entreat them to ask themselves, is it true that they lose influence by taking an independent course, independent of their Party Leaders? I hope my noble Friends on the Treasury Bench and the Front Opposition Bench will forgive me this breach of discipline, this preaching of rebellion to their respective sides; but I ask, is it true that individual Peers or individual Members of the other House of Parliament lose influence by taking up a position independent in its character? Look at the case of my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor. During a former Government of Mr. Gladstone, his conscientious objections brought him into a position in which he differed from his Colleagues, similar to that which was taken by the Earl of Aberdeen, and there is now no man in the House who has a greater influence than my noble and learned Friend. I appeal to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who is Leader of this House, and who was my Colleague in that Government. He must remember that we were perpetually getting into scrapes of various kinds. I will appeal to him, whether we were not always supremely happy when we could lay hold of the skirts of Sir Roundell Palmer? In the present House of Commons there are two distinguished men, who, by a similar accident, by similar rules of conscientious opinion adverse to the general politics 130 of their Party, stand in a similar position; and I ask are there any two men who have greater influence upon public opinion, and upon even the opinion of Parliament, although they may not always be followed into the Division Lobby by all whom they may influence, than my right hon. Friend Mr. Goschen and my right hon. Friend Mr. Forster? Let me give another case affecting the independence of Members. I can speak of it more particularly as I was not present on the occasion, and because I have no personal feeling in the matter. I can ask you to look to the case which occurred in the House of Lords a Session or two ago upon the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill. I have always thought that what was done on that occasion, although it may not have been agreeable to the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), was in the highest degree creditable and honourable to both the parties concerned, and to your Lordships' House. The noble Marquess opposite was perfectly right in urging that there were the greatest possible economical objections to the Bill, and in pressing those objections upon his Party; but I maintain that the minority of his Party, who took the other view, and who said that, on the whole, the balance of argument was in its favour, and who rebelled against his authority on that occasion, and enabled that Bill to pass through this House—I say that that action on the part of the Conservative Party redeemed, to a very large degree, the position of this House in the opinion of the country. Well, now, my Lords, I wish to apply the Cross Bench mind, the independent mind, to this question of the franchise. My Lords, I have some recollection of the question of Reform. In no less than three Cabinets of which I had the honour to be a Member the question of Reform was brought before me, and I have no more dreary recollection than of the manner in which Reform was dealt with in those days. We were perpetually counting numbers and discounting proportions, seeing how many voters would have to be added by a £6 franchise, by a £5 franchise, by a £4 franchise; and then a rating £5 franchise, a rating £6 franchise, and so on. We were always counting numbers and trying to apportion exactly, as far as we could, the number of voters in 131 what we supposed to be a safe limit of the Constitution. It was in the middle of this state of things that Mr. Disraeli came in; and I must say now, after the years of controversy have gone, and the grave has closed upon that distinguished man, I must do Mr. Disraeli the honour and the justice to say that, in my opinion, it was a real stroke of genius when he said—Let us depart from these old ruts of figure franchises; let us go down to something like a principle; let us go down to the old franchise, which is one of the most familiar franchises of the English people, and let us found our new franchise upon household suffrage.My Lords, I shall say nothing as to the political morality of that view. It was certainly a curious vindication of the ways of Providence that that right hon. Gentleman, who had attacked Sir Robert Peel with conspicuous bitterness, was himself the instrument of a change in the Constitution and policy of this country in the circumstances of which his own conduct bore a close analogy to the circumstances which he had condemned. All that is forgotten now; but my own belief is that if Lord Beaconsfield is to be remembered in the history of this country as undoubtedly he will be remembered, it will be for the most remarkable political career any man has over had. He will be remembered in the Statute Book, above all, for the household franchise which he passed. What is the lesson we have derived from that? I draw this conclusion, my Lords—that all our anxiety with regard to numbers was a mistake. We were constantly led into the belief that English society lay in horizontal strata; and that, as you went down from one into another, you went down into a deeper and deeper abyss, until, at last, you got into the deepest of all which would overwhelm all the others. What has been the actual operation of the household franchise? Why, in a very few years after that great measure had been passed, after that leap in the dark, as it was called, had been taken, we had the strongest Tory Government that this country had seen for generations. Well, my Lords, let us take heart from that. We may depend upon it the same thing will recur as regards the county areas. The county areas are much less homogeneous than the borough areas, and there will be a greater variety in the opinion represented 132 by the new county constituencies. Now, my Lords, is it not clear to every man who takes an independent view of this matter that the assimilation of the county and borough franchise is a matter of absolute necessity? I go a step further. I say that even if this measure of county franchise is dissociated from redistribution no alarming consequence will follow. I fully admit that it would be well to accompany the one with the other, if we could; but I deny altogether, looking at it from an independent point of view, and in the light of experience, that the dangers are ahead of us which have been predicted by my noble and learned Friend. The noble and learned Earl asserted that a Parliament elected on the new franchise, and with the existing constituencies, would not be a Parliament, but a Convention. That, certainly, appears to be a monstrous exaggeration. What will be the effect of the operation of lowering the county franchise? The general effect will be that the county areas and the county constituencies, not the borough constituencies, will be reinforced. I do not for a moment deny that the county constituencies, as now existing, will be largely modified in character. But it is the county constituencies that will have their numbers increased. Look at the effect of this in regard to redistribution. What is the Radical programme, or supposed to be the Radical programme, on the subject of redistribution? It is to accumulate Members in the great cities and large industrial centres. That is the universal inclination and desire of the Radical Party. That is the tendency of their language. If I am not misinformed, that is the desire of a section of the Cabinet, who want to pledge the Government to particular measures of Reform. It is, perhaps, somewhat unusual, and an extraordinary failing, for Members of a Cabinet to endeavour to bring pressure of this kind upon their Colleagues; but it appears from the Public Press that one Member of the Cabinet has indicated that the City of London should have at least 40 Members under the scheme of redistribution. I say it is the tendency of the Radical Party to accumulate Members in the cities. But what will be the effect of this Bill on redistribution? It will be to strengthen the 133 county constituencies; and they will have a right to object to that accumulation of Members in the cities and boroughs. They will have a right to claim their share in the allotment of Members from the disfranchised boroughs. What did my noble and learned Friend say? He quoted Mr. Disraeli, as pointing out that the population of counties, with an exception of a few cases which you could count on the fingers of one hand, was very much larger than the population of cities. That was the fact which Mr. Disraeli pointed out, and I believe he was the first to impress it on the mind of Parliament. In spite, therefore, of the pledge of the Government to deal with this question of redistribution next, and in spite, also, of the possibility of their being put off, or thwarted in their intention of doing so, I think we may look to the future of redistribution with comparative satisfaction, with peace and comfort; and I do not believe there is the danger which has been dwelt upon by my noble and learned Friend opposite. Before I sit down I wish to say a word in regard to the character of this measure. The noble and learned Earl referred severely, I think, to the language of the Prime Minister, some few days ago, in "another place," with regard to the action of this House. I do not altogether dissent from the first opinion that the word "quarrel" was unnecessarily severe, as characterizing what may be a mere temporary difference of opinion between the two Houses; but what I am surprised at is this—that the second part of Mr. Gladstone's speech has not attracted more attention than it has. The second part of that speech, so far from being minatory or intimidating, was, to my ear when I heard it, eminently reasonable and moderate; but, more than that, it contained an obvious allusion to circumstances which some of your Lordships may not have noticed, but to which I may be excused for referring. I hope, however, that in what I say I will not be supposed to be speaking from any information I have obtained of what has taken place in the Cabinet. The circumstances, as they have appeared, before the public, are sufficiently remarkable. During last winter a Member of the Cabinet, or, if I am not mistaken, two Members of the Cabinet made electioneering speeches in the North of 134 England, and both made speeches which struck me at the time as obviously intended to bring pressure on their Colleagues to induce them to introduce a fundamentally new Radical franchise—a one-man one-vote franchise I think it was called. That was the programme, so far as I could gather it, of the Radical section of the Cabinet. Very soon afterwards we had another very remarkable statement from another Member of the Cabinet. Again, we had Lord Hartington addressing his constituents and holding out a flag of distress. He did not wish—at least, so it seemed to me—that this Radical pressure should be brought in the Cabinet, at least without some counter-speech being delivered; and he distinctly indicated his doubt whether that complete and radical change would be, or ought to be, adopted by the Government. Now, the second part of the speech of Mr. Gladstone attracted the attention of the House of Commons and the public, and, indirectly, the attention of this House, to the unquestionable fact that this Franchise Bill has been drawn up on the most moderate lines. This was well explained by my noble Friend below me (the Earl of Kimberley), who, it seemed to me, made a most able and conciliatory speech. But it does not rest on this evidence of my noble Friend. We have these public statements on the part of other Members of the Cabinet, and they show that there must have been some contest and some difficulty on the part of the Prime Minister in carrying through the Cabinet, and through Parliament, so moderate and rational an extension of the franchise. Under these circumstances, and looking to the circumstances that all parties in the State had been pledged to admit an extension of the franchise; feeling that it has been brought before Parliament in an eminently reasonable and moderate form, and that if it is rejected the action of this House will be liable to be misunderstood and misrepresented out-of-doors, I appeal earnestly to every independent Member of this House to support the second reading of this Bill.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
My Lords, I am not going, at this very early period of the debate, to attempt to adduce any additional arguments to support the case put for- 135 ward so eloquently and conclusively by my noble and learned Friend; but, as one jointly responsible for the Reform Bill of 1867, and, in that respect, differing both from the noble Marquess and the noble and learned Earl behind me, I desire to state why it is that, after much consideration, I have determined to support the Amendment of my noble and learned Friend. I do not think that the noble Earl opposite will accuse me of being guided in the course I am taking by Party motives, and still less will he attribute factiousness to me, for I have on some occasions supported the Government when I considered that they were taking a course which the interests of England demanded, though, in doing so, I had to separate myself from those with whom I generally act. I hope, therefore, that my conscientious opposition to this measure, in its present form, will not be misinterpreted. My Lords, it is not necessary that I should enter into the principle of the Bill, because I hesitate to accept a measure admitted by its authors to be incomplete; and upon this rests the question whether it will be a safe and just measure for your Lordships to accept when complete, or whether it may not be made complete in a way which will render it destructive of all those principles which we have hitherto held sacred. My Lords, the principle of household suffrage in boroughs having been conceded in 1867, it appeared to me certain that a similar extension of the franchise to the rural population would, sooner or later, be demanded by those who found themselves outside the limits of the boroughs, and who would naturally feel desirous to possess that franchise which was enjoyed by their fellows only separated from them by an artificial line. There were various modes of giving them that vote; and the noble Earl and his Colleagues have, as usual, chosen the heroic course, and have assimilated, purely and simply, the town and the county franchise throughout the Kingdom. Now, I think such a course would be justified if, at the same time, a carefully considered measure for the redistribution of voters were brought forward; and if, instead of swamping the existing constituencies by importing into them the lowest class of voters in the country, the Government had simultaneously with this measure, or in any 136 mode, brought forward a Bill which would provide for a redistribution of voters to take place at the same time as the extension of the franchise, the objections I entertain to the Bill would have been greatly modified. I see my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Derby) taking notes; and as he has been alluded to, he will forgive me if I venture to say how entirely I agree with the opinions he expressed on a former occasion, upon the Motion made by my noble Friend the Master of the Horse (the Duke of Westminster) in 1866. It seems to me that that Motion was precisely the same as that of my noble and learned Friend behind me, only different in words. The Motion brought forward by the Master of the Horse was this—That this House, while ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform, is of opinion that it is inexpedient to discuss a Bill for the reduction of the Franchise in England and Wales, until the House has before it the entire scheme contemplated by the Government for the amendment of the Representation of the people.That is, I say, almost identical in language with the Motion of my noble and learned Friend behind me. On that occasion the Master of the Horse was seconded by the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and he will, perhaps, forgive me if I call to his recollection the words he made use of, because they are so apt and apposite to the present occasion; and I shall wait with some interest to hear how my noble Friend separates the opinions he held on that occasion and the vote I am afraid he is likely to give on the present occasion. The words he used were—Who can say that the Cabinet of next year, though still composed of Members sitting on the Liberal side of the House, will be the identical body which we now see before us? Who can tell what question, foreign or domestic, may arise, leading to a dissolution of Parliament after the passing of the Franchise Bill—supposing it to be passed in the present Session—and before the Bill for the re-distribution of seats is brought on for discussion? … What we really want is some guarantee that the body which deals with the question of enfranchisement shall be in a position also to deal with the question of the re-distribution of seats. … The question of the re-distribution of seats is that which ought to be taken first, because, of all matters connected with the representation of the people, undoubtedly the greatest anomaly is the unequal distribution of electoral power."—(3 Hansard,  1168–9–72.)That I regard as a perfectly unanswerable 137 argument; and I think that if I sat down now after reading those words I should justify the vote which I mean to give to my noble and learned Friend. The Government are not exactly of one mind on this question. The Prime Minister has stated, both on introducing the Bill and in his speech on the third reading, that the majority to be enfranchised by the Bill will be agricultural labourers; while Mr. Shaw Lefevre thinks—he is not sure—that nearly half will be agricultural labourers.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
The noble Earl opposite says that Mr. Shaw Lefevre is wrong. That may be so; but these contradictory opinions show that I am right in believing this to be an incomplete measure upon which the Government are not all agreed. They are not agreed as to the numbers that would be enfranchised; and, therefore, I look to the opinion of another Gentleman, for whose opinion I entertain the highest respect, and that Gentleman is Mr. Goschen. He said—An Election on the new franchise, as I can conclusively prove, will add immensely to the strength of the urban democracy. …. In 30 county constituencies out of 95 the addition to be made to the constituency from what I may call the industrial and urban element will be so great as to entirely outvote the agricultural constituents. …. The urban element will be strongly increased. … They will be enfranchised in such numbers that in 30 county constituencies returning 60 Members there will be an entire transfer of political power from an agricultural and farm class to the urban class."—(3 Hansard,  1868–78.)Therefore it is that I hesitate to give my vote for the second reading of this Bill, which enfranchises a great number of voters, without, at the same time, being assured that it is to be accompanied by a Redistribution Bill, which will correct the anomalies of which Mr. Goschen speaks. There are other anomalies to which I could point. For instance, the two constituencies of Calne and Liskeard return two Members between them, having 1,763 voters; while South-West Lancashire, which, if this Bill passes, will have about 60,000 electors, will also have but two Members. The towns of Kinsale, Ennis, and Portarlington, with 590 electors and three Members between them, will be on an equal footing with the county of Cork, 138 which, under the Bill, will have 45,000 electors. The effect of the Bill in regard to Ireland would be to place the occupiers of mud-cabins, rented at under £1 a-year, in an enormous majority. Two things occurred to me on the statement of the Prime Minister—first, what security have we that the Government will be able to introduce a Redistribution Bill; and, secondly, what security have we, if a Redistribution Bill is introduced, that it will be of a satisfactory nature? Who can tell what complication of foreign affairs may prevent the introduction of a Redistribution Bill? Many things may arise which will render it impossible for the Government to carry out the pledges they have given and the intentions which, no doubt, they have now. With regard to the second point, some of the more advanced Members of the Government are said to be in favour of equal electoral districts; and, however much the Prime Minister may be opposed to them, we cannot forget that Ministers have before now given way to their more advanced Colleagues, and have been converted in a very small space of time. We know that, at least, one Member of the Cabinet was strongly opposed to the inclusion of Ireland in the Bill. He may now think that equal electoral districts are equally undesirable; but by this time next year he may be convinced, by his more advanced Colleagues, that this is a measure which commends itself to him, and which ought to be placed before your Lordships. If the pledge given by the Government is not fulfilled it places us in this position, that we shall have no Redistribution Bill. If a Redistribution Bill is not passed, we shall have an election under the new franchise with the old boundaries, and anyone who has the smallest knowledge of what goes on in "another place" can imagine whether a House of Commons so elected would be very likely to agree to a redistribution which would confer a fair representation on all classes in the country. At all events, I decline to fix the franchise until I know how it is to be distributed; and I am, therefore, induced to vote for the Amendment. I am not opposed to the extension of the franchise. The late Lord Derby characterized the Act of 1867 as "a leap in the dark;" but is there any reason why, because we took a leap in the dark in 139 1867, that in 1884 we should with our eyes open jump into an unfathomable abyss? The Prime Minister called this a Conservative measure, and the reasons which he gave for so calling it are rather surprising. He said—We have been told that this is a Bill to insure the permanent existence of a Liberal Government. Is that an equitable or a liberal mode of looking at public questions? Is it a rational mode? Whom are we asking Parliament to enfranchise? Why, Sir, taking England and Scotland—I will not speak of Ireland, because the case is separate—the largest enfranchisement about to be made … is the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourers. Is that a proceeding taken by the Government which has in view nothing but the perpetuation of its own Ministerial power? Is there any class in the country which is so liable to influence from above—I do not mean illegitimate influence. … is there any class so liable to this influence as the agricultural labourers of this country? Why, Sir, nothing but the greatest misconduct of those over them ever could separate the agricultural labourers from the farmers, the landlords, and the clergy; and yet the Bill which we are bringing in, and which seeks to enfranchise this great mass of men immediately associated with the farmers, landlords, and clergymen, who are the bases of the Conservative power of this country, does not for one moment shield us from the charge of the Opposition that we are seeking to enfranchise those who are, more than any other, our political opponents, for the purpose of perpetuating our own power. Sir, I humbly and respectfully say that that it is not a rational argument. Then, what are we to say as to the service franchise? Does that look very like the action of a Government seeking to perpetuate its own power? Are the gamekeepers, the gardeners, the coachmen, who are chiefly, certainly very much under influence, not illegitimate, but, perhaps, legitimate—are those generally persons who are in the service of Liberals, or are they not, in the enormous majority of cases, in the service of our opponents?"—(3 Hansard,  1436–7.)Well, I was not myself of opinion that gamekeepers and gardeners were the monopoly of Members sitting on the Conservative side of the House. I thought I had heard of Chatsworth and Trentham, and other large places owned by noble Lords of Liberal views, at which we may presume that gamekeepers and gardeners are employed. I do not wish to add anything to what has been said about the unconstitutional language of the Prime Minister. But, my Lords, I hope you will not be prevented by it from giving a conscientious vote. I am quite prepared to admit that your responsibility is great; but I do not think that it is unreasonable that we should require substantial guarantees 140 that a measure which is admitted by its authors to be incomplete shall not come into operation unaccompanied by such a fair re-arrangement of voting power as shall give full representation to all classes and interests in this country. With such a safeguard as that, I should not fear a large extension of the suffrage; but without it, if this Bill passes, I foresee great and immediate peril to the interests and prosperity of the country, and, in the not distant future, to the dignity and integrity of the Empire.
THE EARL OF JERSEY
said, that a great responsibility rested on every one of their Lordships in reference to the Bill under consideration. A decision of great moment had to be taken, and no one should be absent from his post, or shrink from the duty that rested on him. There was no disagreement in principle between the supporters of the Amendment and those who shared his views. The extension of the franchise to 2,000,000 of people was a stupendous change, and they could not know in what direction the new voters would use their influence. They might be sure, however, that their opinions would be reflected in the legislation of the country. It was consequently very necessary that an extension of the franchise should be accompanied by a Redistribution Bill. That House was only discharging its proper functions when it took care not to allow a measure, which was confessedly one-sided and full of dangers and anomalies, to pass. But it would be quite possible for their Lordships to pass an Amendment which would delay the operation of the present Bill until after the passing of a measure of redistribution, and both Bills might then come into operation at one and the same moment. But it was essential that the Bill should be complete both as regarded extension of the suffrage and redistribution. He fully admitted the right of that House to reject this measure; but the question was, would it be wise to refuse to go into Committee on a Bill which their Lordships did not oppose on its main principle? If they did refuse, in what position would they place that House? Were their Lordships to refuse to consider a Bill which had passed the other House without opposition to its main principle, and to say that they could not amend it in Committee? On the contrary, they 141 ought to give it a most careful consideration. Whatever happened this Session the question of Reform would not slumber; and it would keep that House awake until it was settled. The die would be cast in a few days, and he feared that it was not the Conservative Party who would cross the Rubicon and march on to Imperial Rome. If the Bill were not passed, other questions besides the extension of the suffrage would come to be discussed, which it would be far better for England if they were not discussed at a time of public excitement. If their Lordships' House lost the day, their influence over a future Reform Bill would be very slight, and they would have to bend low. They were, indeed, being asked to fight a battle in which their enemies would be able to choose the field and the time of attack, whilst they themselves would have no safe line of retreat left open. If there was hesitation in the Conservative camp now, what would there be six months hence, when the will of the country would have been clearly expressed? Of course, he did not allude to the vulgar taunts and violent language which had been used, and which might irritate, but would not influence. He did not envy the men who sought to embitter our political contests by charges of the grossest and most slanderous kind. But he spoke of the unmistakable way in which a brave and organized people were able to show the bent of their determination. Now was the time for noble Lords to act with honour to themselves and satisfaction to the country. If they did not do it now, they would have plenty of leisure to regret it by-and-bye when the great opportunity had passed for ever. He did not wish to minimize the enormous change they were asked to sanction. No doubt, a large number of new voters would be introduced, and then questions would be brought to the surface which affected the condition and the lives of the working classes. But the solution of such questions was the cause for which statesmen worked and nations existed; and no Government could be really strong which did not rest its basis upon the genuine support of the people. It was better that popular grievances should be discussed in Parliament than that they should be hawked about on banners. Their Lordships had no right to 142 say that their countrymen would prove dangerous to that sense of security which was essential to the prosperity of the agricultural and manufacturing classes, and to the welfare of the country. He would say to noble Lords on that side—"Let the Conservative Party show that they can deal frankly with popular measures." The most useful task the Conservative Party could set before them was to moderate measures and to avoid ugly rushes; and the widening of the basis of the Constitution was, after all, a process which had been going on ever since the days of the Conqueror. It might be asked whether the new voters would be a danger to the State. That was a question which it was hard to answer; but there would be danger in giving agitators the chance of working upon the feelings of disappointed men. Above all, nothing should be done wantonly to irritate the feelings of the working classes; nothing could be more injurious than that any action of that House should have the effect of alienating the working from the upper classes. To-morrow night their Lordships would have an opportunity of doing one thing or the other. If they gave a second reading to the Bill they would express their approval of a measure conferring popular rights; if, on the other hand, they accepted the Resolution of the noble and learned Earl, they would, while not opposed to its principle, reject a measure conferring popular rights without even considering its important details. As he felt bound to vote against the noble and learned Earl's Resolution he could not do so silently. He must express his sincere regret that he could not follow his Leaders on this occasion. The ties of Party ought not to be lightly disregarded; but a time might come when even a strong adhesion to Party should give way to a sense of pure conviction; and he was satisfied that in voting against the postponement of the extension of the franchise to his countrymen he should be acting for the best, truest, and most permanent interests of his country, to which he owed his first and paramount duty.
§ THE EARL OF FIFE
said, he felt too much the importance of this measure, which he feared had not received as cordial a reception as the country could have wished, not to rise to make a few remarks in its support. Before he endeavoured 143 to apply himself to the arguments they had recently heard from noble Lords opposite against this Bill, he would like to remind them that, although described in the Amendment as a fundamental change in the Constitution, it was really the natural outcome of that wise and beneficent measure introduced by their late Leader, and which they never ceased to hear lauded as a masterpiece of Conservative statesmanship. They were, however, asked now to reject this measure, because it did not contain a redistribution scheme. Considering that the Bill only reached their Lordships' House in the second week of July, it seemed to him evident that had a redistribution scheme been tacked on to it, it would not have been heard of within those walls this year at all. But, of course, that was an object which no noble Lord had in view. They were enthusiastically assured that, had a Redistribution Bill been simultaneously introduced, the Opposition in "another place" would have vied with the Government in hurrying on the enfranchisement clauses, so as to reach and amicably discuss the redistribution scheme without any further loss of time than had already been consumed. Those Members whose Parliamentary career was to have been unfortunately interrupted would have resigned themselves heroically to their fate, and, like Curtius of old, have willingly sprung into the gulf of their political extinction. It was difficult to contemplate without a smile this beautiful vision of more than Roman patriotism. But, to descend to the lower level of arithmetic, it was simply impossible to believe that a Bill containing more pages than this one did lines, and each clause bristling with difficult and often personal questions, could, in these days of legislative congestion, have passed through Parliament in the same space of time as had been consumed by this Bill, or even in thrice that time. He could hardly conceive that anyone could seriously deny that every clause—he might say every line—of that Redistribution Bill, so eagerly asked for, would have been hotly contested for weeks and months—not only by English and Scottish Members, but by those from another quarter who had developed and perfected the new science of Parliamentary Obstruction. In connection with redistribution there were numerous and 144 gigantic questions. He would only mention the representation of minorities, as an instance which must lead to protracted debates. Practically, Governments, like individuals, must bow to the necessities of time and space; and when the head of a responsible Government distinctly stated that he could not see his way to treat in one Session the two parts of a Reform Bill, it seemed to him that to oppose that procedure was to say that neither part should be dealt with all, or it was an attempt to convict the Prime Minister of disingenuousness. If one was to believe all the sinister reports one heard, one would have to conclude that the impossibility of passing two Bills united was the real cause for wishing them to be introduced together. They had heard a great deal about the argument that this Parliament was no longer young, and that, should a Dissolution inopportunely occur, the new House of Commons would be returned by the swollen constituencies, which had not been wheeled into line by a Redistribution or oven a Boundary Bill. No one could deny that that would be a most objectionable occurrence, and he had always gathered that that was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. He was utterly at a loss to understand why that should be a reason for declining to give a second reading to this Bill. No doubt noble Lords opposite held in small esteem the limited capacities of those who supported the present Government. His clouded political vision could not get beyond the conviction that, if such a catastrophe as a Dissolution was to be threatened, it would be within the power of the Party opposite to avert it, and, indeed, that it could only be brought about by themselves. Of course, if they allowed the wild spirits of their Party, who were teaching them so energetically the new articles of their political creed, to revive every fought-out contest and renew day by day every discussion, not one but two Sessions might pass without a redistribution scheme becoming law. But, in the absence of systematic resistance from the Party opposite, there could be no doubt that a Redistribution Bill would be passed next year. They themselves said that it was possible to pass the two Bills in one year. How could they doubt the ability of the Government to carry out so much more modest a programme? But he was told that the ob- 145 ject was not to defeat the Franchise Bill—they all knew how zealous in that cause the Tory Party had always been—but solely to insure that the two parts of any Reform Bill should go together. Surely, if that were the only object of the Opposition, they had gone about a strange way to obtain it. Their evident course, one would think, should have been to support this Bill on the second reading, and reserve themselves the right in Committee of inserting such clauses as they might think necessary to delay the time at which this Bill should become operative. The most remarkable feature of the Amendment they had before them, and of the debates which had taken place generally upon the Franchise Bill, was that franchise had been the one thing neglected. Opponents had attacked the Government for not introducing another Bill, or had attacked the supposed contents of that other Bill. But few had fairly and candidly attacked the Bill face to face. Why was that? He thought it sprang mainly from two reasons. First, because they had had 17 years of the enfranchisement of the town labourer, and, in spite of the influx of 900,000 voters, the enlarged boroughs had sent up much the same class of Representatives as before; and, secondly, because, as was well shown in the House of Commons by Mr. Walter, some 39 of these boroughs were agricultural boroughs, and in them, at all events, they had had 17 years' experience of the very same agricultural labourers whom it was the object of the Bill to enfranchise everywhere. For those two reasons he ventured to think that the demand for the county franchise could not be logically or wisely opposed. That had been so well felt that it was now sought to defeat that Bill on a side issue—not as to what it contained, but as to what it did not contain. Those were manœuvres worthy neither of a good cause nor of a great Party, and they would meet with the failure which they deserved. Without troubling their Lordships with long quotations, he would remind them how Lord Beaconsfield had spoken as long ago as 1852—In the construction of that memorable law, the Reform. Act of 1832, there was a very great deficiency, which consisted in a want of due consideration of the rights of the working classes to the franchise. … Under our old system, by the suffrages of the freemen, the political rights of the labourer were acknow- 146 ledged by the Constitution. We virtually destroyed those rights in 1832.The exclusion of the labourer from the pale of the Constitution in 1832 was always regretted by Mr. Disraeli; and he never ceased to glory in the fact that he had done something to restore them to the position which he said they occupied in the time of the Plantagenets. What had been wisely done for the urban must now be done for the rural labourer; and when they were told by the Amendment that it was a "fundamental change in the Constitution of the electoral body of the United Kingdom," they were led to think that, in drawing up a specious Amendment, noble Lords had allowed their desire to defeat this measure completely to overcome their memory and their logic. He quite expected that they would oppose the Redistribution Bill, and subject it to searching criticism; but that was only another reason for clearing the way by removing previously from discussion the simpler, plainer, more general question of the franchise. It dealt with large questions of electoral principles, applicable to all parts of the country alike, and it was a question on which the constituencies were practically agreed; while the redistribution question, depending essentially on details, local and personal, might naturally raise a host of totally different objections, and had, therefore, best be separately dealt with. Another argument, of which he utterly failed to see the application, was that the constituencies had not been directly consulted. At the last Election the question was placed before the country by Liberal candidates of every shade; and, even 10 years ago, in the Election of 1874, the majority of Liberals had declared themselves in favour of the assimilation of the borough and county franchise. Speaking for Scottish constituencies, one of which he was then returned for, he could bear witness to the fact that the question was very generally discussed; and he recollected himself having given one of his first votes in favour of what was then known as Mr. Trevelyan's Bill. In any case, it seemed to him a somewhat startling doctrine to lay down that every question of great importance was to be specially and separately submitted to the judgment of the constituencies. That was, he believed, the mode adopted in the Swiss Republic, and they all 147 knew that it was a favourite method with the Cæsarism of the Second Empire in France. It was, in short, the system of the plébiscite transferred to our shores. French Radicals held that Members of Parliament were delegates and not Representatives, and that they must follow and obey the mandat impératif. Then, as soon as anything touching the Constitution was brought forward, a new Chamber had to be elected, which they called a "Constituante." Was it maintained by the Conservative Party that the mandat of the present House of Commons did not include a Franchise Bill, and that the country must be asked at once to elect a "Constituante?" It would, indeed, be startling to find noble Lords opposite, in their anxiety to get rid of a moderate Liberal measure, which must inevitably pass, adopting one of the most dangerous Continental perversions of our Parliamentary system. No one could fail to look beyond the present discussion to the political situation in which the country would find itself should that Amendment be carried. The Franchise Bill was a measure which the House of Commons, by large and repeated majorities, had passed for the reform of its own Constitution—majorities before which paled the slender figures of former historical Divisions on this well-worn question. They all recognized the Constitutional theory that the House of Lords had the right to delay legislation when the voice of the other House was uncertain, or that of the country doubtful. But it was flying in the face of all evidence to maintain such now to be the case. He would not condescend to notice the argument that there was no loud clamour to justify the introduction of the Bill. If there was one thing which could strengthen our hope in the political future of the nation, it was the calm and Constitutional, though firm and unmistakable, manner in which the people had expressed their support of that measure. The days of physical menace had been rendered useless, and no one wished to exchange the peaceful demonstrations they were soon about to witness for wild and lawless disturbance. Still, it would go forth, disguise it as they might with ingeniously-contrived sentences which no one would read, that the House of Lords was opposed to the principle of Reform, and was prepared to resist the clearly- 148 expressed wish of the nation. It was impossible to conceive a situation fraught with graver danger, or more calculated to discredit the position and legislation of that House, the numbers and aggressiveness of whose enemies was not likely to diminish. He hoped it was not presumptuous on his part, as a recent Member of that Assembly, to appeal to that House, whose long career had furnished many solid proofs of political wisdom, even now to cast aside all Party spirit and political prejudice, and to lend a helping hand to broaden the basis of that Representative system which their ancestors had patiently built up. [Loud cheers.]
said, he could not understand the cheers with which the speech of the noble Earl beside him (the Earl of Jersey) had been received by noble Lords opposite, because he simply proposed to do indirectly what the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) proposed to do directly. The Government admitted that what was asked for by the Amendment was desirable; but they would not take the only precaution by which it could be secured. Nothing had been more distinctly announced than the determination of the Government not to postpone the coming into operation of the Bill until a Redistribution Bill had been passed. He could not think that the course which the noble Earl (the Earl of Jersey) recommended their Lord ships to take was one worthy of adoption. If it resulted, as he (Lord Balfour) believed it would, in the failure of the Bill to pass, it would not mitigate the opposition which the decision of their Lordships' House was likely to excite, but would rather increase it; because, instead of being attacked, as he supposed they should be, for delaying the passing of the Reform Bill, they would be told they had done it in a dishonest way; that they had put into the Bill an Amendment so vital as to be a second reading question; and that, therefore, they had done in Committee what they were afraid to do in an honest way on the second reading. This would not be a satisfactory solution, because if this Bill passed and redistribution failed to pass next year, there would be a large body proclaimed by Parliament fit to be voters who would not exercise the franchise because redistribution was not passed. There were elements of much greater agitation in this course than in the course 149 proposed by the Amendment. The noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) did not oppose the principle of Reform. He accepted it, and all he said was that it must be accompanied by redistribution, or delayed until a Redistribution Bill had also been passed. He could not conceive a fairer position for them to take up than that. Nor did he see how it could be said that they were defying the will of the people, because the people had never been asked whether they would sanction an extension of the franchise without redistribution. If it was the case that the question was before the people at the last Election, it was, at least, on the understanding that it would be an entire scheme, and not a fragmentary scheme such as this. If anybody said that their Lordships were defying the will of the people, it said extremely little for their mental acuteness; and if they endeavoured to make the people believe it, and did not believe it themselves, it said still less for their political honesty. It might be that if the Amendment were carried the "ardent and sincere" supporters of the Government would get up a good swingeing agitation against the House of Lords, as was recommended in an evening newspaper, with the object of diverting attention from the failure of the foreign policy of the Government; but that would be no more than a trick. The question of adding 2,000,000 new voters was a question of sufficient importance to be referred, as a whole, to the constituencies. No great prominence was given to it at the last Election. Lord Hartington only said, in his address—"It is acknowledged that the system of popular representation is still incomplete." And it would be still incomplete if this Bill passed. Mr. Gladstone in his address only mentioned, in an enumeration of subjects—"A more equal distribution of the political franchise." If this Bill passed there would not be a very equal distribution. There was no precedent for the course now adopted by the Government. Reform Bills had been passed for England in one year, and for the rest of the Kingdom afterwards, and there was no reason why that precedent should not be followed now. The Government had chosen to do what was easy and delay what was difficult. A Franchise Bill gave something, while a Redistribution Bill would 150 take something away; and unless they united the sweet and the bitter in one scheme, the bitter had very little chance indeed of being accepted. The utterances of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies had often been alluded to; but he could not for bear quoting one other passage that was most apposite to the question under discussion. In 1866, when in Opposition, Lord Stanley used these words—You cannot deal conveniently or satisfactorily with the question. … unless you know what is to be the nature and what is to be the extent of the constituencies you are about to create. …. We ought to take the question of the re-distribution of seats before we take the question of an extension of the franchise."—(3 Hansard,  2059–61.)The reply the Government now made to that was that they could not carry the scheme in one year in addition to the franchise, as a Redistribution Bill would take three times as much time as the Franchise Bill had taken. If that was so, it was extremely doubtful whether the Redistribution Bill would be carried next year, and then they would be face to face with the difficulty which all parties were anxious to avoid. If, however, a fair and complete scheme of redistribution had been produced on the authority of the Government, even if it had not passed through the House of Commons this Session, it would have committed the Government to carrying it; and much of the hostility which the present Bill had encountered would he thought, have been avoided. He would like to say one word with regard to Scotland. Scotland, by the confession of everybody, was entitled to an increase of Members. The Prime Minister, and again the noble Earl this evening, had told their Lordships that there would not probably be any Members taken away from Ireland. He congratulated the people of Ireland upon their good fortune; but he did not think it would be very satisfactory to the people of Scotland, because, while Ireland was over-represented, Scotland was under-represented, and England had no Members to spare, and they in the Northern part of the Island knew what was likely to happen, though they had a just case, if it conflicted with the interests of the larger country South of the Tweed. He did not attach much importance—nor, he believed, did the people of Scotland—to the suggestion that the total number of Members of the House of Commons 151 might be increased. Another great point made against the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend was that the Government had made a great concession. They had provided that the Bill should not come into operation until January, 1886. That, he thought, was no concession, asit was almost done beforehand by the efflux of time; but he valued it for this reason—that it was a public acknowledgment on the part of the Government that it would be an unfair and improper thing that these two schemes should be separated. What, however, would be the position of Parliament if the Bill were to pass on the faith of a promise that a Redistribution Bill would follow next year? Would it not be that they must accept the scheme of the Government—the whole scheme and nothing but the scheme — and that it would not be Parliament, but the Government, who would decide what should be the redistribution of seats. Assuming, however, for a moment that the present Bill passed, and the redistribution scheme failed, 2,000,000 of new electors would be put into the county constituencies, the result of which would be the utter destruction of the balance of power between the urban and the rural interests of the country. In England and Wales at the present time there were 297 borough Members, and 1,651,000 electors, or, in other words, every borough Member represented 5,500 electors. The present number of county Members was 187, and the county electors numbered 996,721—therefore each county Member represented about 5,100 electors, or nearly equal to the number represented by a borough Member. But how would the numbers stand if these 2,000,000 voters were enfranchised? The county electorate in England and Wales would be increased to 2,400,000, so that in that case a county Member would represent 12,834 electors; and was that what the Prime Minister would call an equal distribution of the electoral franchise? The constituencies of Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire were about 18,000 electors. He had nothing to say against enfranchising the shipping population on the Clyde; but their interest was urban and not rural, and why should they be put into the counties of Lanark and Renfrew, and make these rural constituencies 152 into urban ones? A distinguished Member of the other House, Mr. Goschen, speaking of the effect of that Bill, said that in 30 county constituencies returning 60 Members there would be an entire transfer of power from the agricultural to the urban class. Was that just to the agricultural labourer, whom the Government professed to take under their special protection? The distinction between the urban and rural voters would be obliterated; and after recent experience in connection with the Cattle Plague Bill, they could judge what justice they were likely to get for the rural districts of the country if the county Members were to be swamped by the urban electorate. Supposing the present Bill were passed, and supposing there was no redistribution of seats carried before the next General Election, he believed that the question of redistribution would be indefinitely postponed; and some of the more astute wire-pullers who managed those matters for the other side had deliberately made their calculations on that footing. Supposing they set those 2,000,000 new electors the task of redistributing the political power of the country, how did they think the Representatives would set about it? How could they ask those Representatives who were sent to a new Parliament to curtail the power of those who had just sent them there? In this matter they had not only to deal with the opinions of the Members of the Government opposite; but they had to look at the published opinions of other Members of the Government, some of whom were in favour of manhood suffrage, equal electoral districts, and the payment of Members. This Bill would be used simply as a means to gain those ends, and for no other purpose. He called particular attention to a passage of a speech delivered in November at Bristol by the President of the Board of Trade, in which he said that their object should be to reduce the power and influence of the minority, and that they should give a fair representation to the majority, and that he was glad to find that the friends of whom he had been speaking were all agreed that, at all events, the present system of minority representation was altogether bad and reprehensible. "Let us unite," he added, "to abolish this stupid, silly, and unconstitutional device. When we 153 have done that we can sit down and see whether any substitute is necessary." He feared that the urban voters to whom they were about to give this power might agree with Mr. Chamberlain in not taking any care for the representation of minorities. In these circumstances, could their Lordships be blamed for wishing to see the complete scheme of the Government before they bound themselves hand and foot, and handed themselves over to the domination of the Caucus? The only security they had was the assurance of the Government that a redistribution measure would be brought in next year. He joined with other noble Lords on his own side of the House in accepting those assurances, and who said that they believed that the Government fully intended to pass that Bill. It was a different thing, however, to bring in a Bill of such a kind and to pass it; and their Lordships had no security that even if the Bill were brought in the Government would be able in this matter to carry out those good resolutions. This security was not enough to induce him to assent to the passing of the Bill. If it was the case that they would be met by hostility, they would not in the slightest degree abate that hostility by passing the Bill on the present occasion. On the next occasion when their Lordships threatened to throw out a Bill those threats and menaces would be renewed, and the only result would be that the hostility would be changed into contempt. Their Lordships would not turn aside the hostility of their foes, and would incur the distrust and contempt of their friends, unless they adhered to what he believed to be their conscientious opinion. It was said that their Lordships had taken their stand on an unfortunate issue. The issue had not been of their seeking. They had been forced into it by the circumstances of the case aud by the manner in which the whole question had been dealt with by the Government. He denied that there would be a spontaneous agitation against their Lordships' House, not for defying the will of the people, but simply for asking that an opportunity should be given for the will of the people to be declared on a matter of vital importance to them. He should cheerfully vote for the Amendment of the noble and learned Earl, and maintained that if there was to be a 154 quarrel it had not been of their seeking. If there was to be one, however, they would not forget the concluding part of the quotation made by the Prime Minister, and bear themselves bravely in that quarrel.
said, it had been stated by the noble Lord opposite that it would be dangerous to lower the franchise further in Ireland. He (Viscount Powerscourt) maintained that the Irish people had already obtained the franchise to a sufficient extent in order to allow them to give full effect to anything which they desired. The English people hitherto had been pursuing a course which was in the direction of repressing Irish opinion; and if their Lordships did not extend the franchise to Ireland he feared they would only increase the hostility which existed among the people of that country by the continuance of the Union, while they would not do anything to diminish the power they possessed of using the franchise they already exercised. If they did not give to Ireland the franchise, they ought to be logical, and take the alternative step of disfranchising Ireland altogether and govern it as a Crown Colony. No one, however, would go the length of proposing such a step as that. He supported the second reading of the Bill.
said, the gravity of the question before the House must be his excuse for venturing to offer a few words of earnest remonstrance against the attempt of the Government to force through Parliament an incomplete measure of electoral reform, one which might hereafter be made instrumental in coercing the Legislature to pass a one-sided and disastrous Redistribution Bill. It was quite true that the Ministry had pledged themselves to introduce a Supplementary Bill; but there was no sort of guarantee that this all-important and indispensable complement of the Franchise Bill would be a just measure, dealt with by the Government in an impartial and statesmanlike spirit. In the opinion of all moderate men enfranchisement and redistribution should stand or fall together, and in divorcing them the Cabinet appeared to have had but one object in view—namely, Party advantage, the preponderance and perpetuation of Radical sway, for in the event of this disjointed measure being 155 passed the existing constituencies would be swamped, and the better educated and wealthier classes would be virtually disfranchised. It should be clearly understood, and could not be too forcibly or too frequently impressed on the public mind, that their Lordships' House was not opposed to a Franchise Bill. On the contrary, having accepted the principle, they were prepared to extend the suffrage, if coupled with securities for the rights of other people; but they declined to hand over to the new electorate the work of redistribution which determined the character of the Parliamentary Reform Bill. In order to guard themselves from being compelled to accept a, bad Bill from the present Parliament, or a much worse one from the next, they must retain their control over the franchise, which, in his judgment, could only be done by throwing out this imperfect measure. Their Lordships would be abundantly justified in taking this bold but wise and Constitutional course, and in doing so would, he ventured to think, be giving effect to independent public opinion as distinguished from that spurious article which was made by their opponents to masquerade as such.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, the remarks of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Powerscourt) in regard to the probable increase of agitation in Ireland for a dissolution of the Union if this Bill were not passed to include Ireland contained a very different argument from that held by the noble Earl who moved the second reading of the Bill. But as to the main principle of the Bill, he and those around him approved of the extension of the franchise to the agricultural labourer. They were not afraid of the agricultural labourer; they thought him quite equal in many respects to the artizan, and quite as well qualified for the exercise of the franchise. This extension was the logical result of the Act of 1867. But the question of such extension of the franchise had not been put before the constituencies at the last General Election. In his famous Mid Lothian campaign, the Prime Minister, no doubt, made several references to the extension of the franchise in the counties; but though the Liberal candidates might have referred to the subject in their speeches, very few of them had alluded to the subject in their published 156 election addresses. He had taken the trouble to inquire into this point. The Bill of 1867 added something under 1,000,000 electors to the Register. This Bill would add 2,000,000. He was glad to see that creation of fagot votes, by which both Parties established votes in the City of London and elsewhere in the country, was to be practically abolished. But how were the 2,000,000 new voters to be distributed? Everything turned on that. This opinion was supported by Mr. Bright, who said—I will undertake if you give me the distribution of seats to produce whatever results are required.And Lord Hartington, in 1870, said—I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) has done very well to bring these two subjects together under the view of the House. He has done well, because I believe that whenever the House does proceed to deal practically with this question it will insist, as it has done before, that the question shall not be dealt with partially, but shall be dealt with as a whole."—(3 Hansard,  245.)It was argued, why oppose the second reading of a Bill of which you approve? Why not amend it in Committee? Well, several noble Lords might be satisfied if they could fix a date before which the Bill should have no operative effect; but this the Government had already absolutely refused to accept. "What happened on Mr. Albert Grey's Amendment? Mr. Gladstone, last month, said, in "another place"—Now, it is proposed that some enactment should be put into the Bill which takes note of the declaration of the Government as to redistribution. But we should object in the highest degree to the indefinite hanging up of the new constituencies, and we should be extremely glad, on the other hand, to meet the wishes we have heard expressed without injury to the public objects which we have in view.It seemed to him very remarkable that the Government had not availed themselves of the Franchise Bill as a lever to push forward the Redistribution Bill. The Franchise Bill was a popular measure; the Redistribution Bill, by its very nature, must encounter opposition. If the two Bills had been pushed forward pari passu, he believed they would both have passed this Session. They had but a very faint outline of the Government plan of redistribution, not founded on the opinion of the Cabinet, but merely on the personal view of the Prime Minister. Mr. Gladstone, on the 20th of February, said—"I have no objection 157 to make a little sketch of my own on redistribution." The House would be placed in this very difficult position if it passed this Bill—it would either have to accept any scheme of redistribution next year, or there would be a General Election on the new constituencies without any redistribution at all. Then, with regard to Ireland, it was certainly a strange time to add 400,000 additional voters when a stringent Coercion Act was in operation; and he was informed that the number would be nearer 600,000 than400,000. At the time of the Union, when Ireland received its 103 Members, the population was, 7,000,000; but it was now only 5,000,000. It might, therefore, well be considered whether the number might not now fairly be reduced. Even at present the Irish Members exercised too great a control over legislation. But they would come back with such numbers as to practically hold the balance of Parties. Scotland, it was said, was to have its Members increased from 60 to 70; but the population of Scotland was only 3,500,000, and London, which had a population of 4,500,000, only had 22 Members. The Prime Minister based some of his arguments on the distance of Scotland, which he contended was 350 miles distant in the nearest part from London; but the only explanation appeared to be that Scotch Members were such staunch supporters of his that he thought the more of them there were the better! The Bill before the House was a great Constitutional change. It was said by one of the present Cabinet Ministers to be as great a revolution as that effected in 1688. Full consideration should be given to the subject; indeed, it might be necessary to appoint a new Boundary Commission, since changes had taken place since the last Commission reported in 1868. We were always told how perfect was the Constitution of the United States; but the House was, perhaps, not aware how extremely difficult it was, and what checks existed in the United States against any change in the Constitution. Any alteration of the Constitution required a majority of two-thirds both in the Senate and House of Representatives, and a similar majority in each of the Legislatures of the 38 States of the Union, before it could come into effect. He would quote to their Lordships the 158 words of an American gentleman, an author, who had lately written to him upon the subject:—If you will listen to a Republican citizen of a Republic, do not let your suffrage be any more universal. What we are going to do with our universal suffrage, which means a steady tendency towards the spending of the money of those who have by those who have not, becomes every day a more difficult question.As he had said, he strongly believed that Her Majesty's Government would have found the introduction of a Redistribution Bill at the same time as the present Bill a much easier procedure than what they had now undertaken. In conclusion, he wished to express his full concurrence in, and hearty support of, the Resolution of his noble and learned Friend.
§ EARL COWPER
said, he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, and against the Amendment. There was no doubt that when the Reform Bill of 1867, which gave household franchise to boroughs, was passed, the county franchise was left in a very unsettled state, and discontent naturally prevailed amongst the county populations. None of the noble Lords who had spoken had alleged that it was bad in the abstract to adopt household suffrage in the counties; but what was objected to was that by introducing such a number of electors as this Bill would create the present constituencies would be swamped. There might be some cause for such fear if the classes to be enfranchised all voted together. But it was a matter of experience that they did not, because of the influence exercised upon them by those socially above them. If, however, those who were called the upper classes did not succeed in retaining their hold and in leading and influencing those below them, there was no hope or chance of their being able to hold their own by any scheme of redistribution, or by any Minority Clause. He would not argue for any length of time the question of Reform. He considered it a foregone conclusion that the proposed reform must be effected; and he would turn to a point which was of more interest—namely, the consideration of the effect which their conduct with regard to this measure would have upon the present and future condition of the House. It was impossible for anybody to be for many years, as he had, a Member 159 of that Assembly without having its interests warmly at heart. It had been felt by many, no doubt, that the responsibility and anxiety of the Government must be very great; but he thought at this moment that the responsibility of the Leaders of the other Party in the House was very great also. The latter had the future of the House in their hands. In a recent debate on the promotion of the efficiency of their Lordships' House, they were told that the House was not what it ought to be, nor what it was in the time of their ancestors; but he thought that what had given the House a blow as much as anything else was the number of times they had thrown out measures, or passed such Amendments as to destroy them, and then, after a display of opposition for a very short time, had eaten their own words. All this had tended to damage their position in the country; and it was because he did not wish to be placed in such a position again that he invited their Lordships to pass this measure. They had had quite enough of standing up for the purpose of being knocked down. He earnestly hoped they would be saved this time from being placed in the dilemma of either having once more to give way or of taking their stand in an untenable position. He did not wish it to be supposed that their Lordships were always to give way when the other House differed from them. On the contrary, the chief hope which they had of regaining their position in the estimation of the public was that an opportunity would occur when they could resist some ill-advised, pernicious, but popular, measure passed by the other House in a moment of Party passion. Such an opportunity had not come then. The Bill was generally admitted to be a good one, and the country desired it. If there had been no agitation in support of it, it was because the country felt certain that it would pass. But the moment it was attempted to frustrate the measure, he believed they would see the force of the violent current of public opinion underlying this matter, and they would be sorry they attempted to stop it. The position which the Opposition had taken up to make their grand fight upon—on which so much depended as to the future power and position of the House—was a very complicated one, and one which it was extremely difficult for the people 160 to understand. Indeed, it was almost impossible for them not to think it was really the measure itself which they were anxious to oppose, and that they were only hindering it in this particular way in order to strengthen their hands in doing so. With regard to the question of redistribution, all he could say was, that if the Government should be mad enough to attempt to manipulate the subject of redistribution in order to give to certain classes of political opinion more than their fair share of representation, the opportunity which their Lordships wanted would have come. They would have a good ground for fighting upon, and they would be supported by all influential people in resisting such iniquity. But supposing the worst to happen, and that an appeal were made to the country under the new franchise before the introduction of a redistribution scheme, would that be a great calamity for the Party to which noble Lords opposite belonged? Would this increase of the county voters make the county constituencies all change their political views in favour of Liberalism? It had not been proved that if, by any trickery on the part of the Government, an appeal were made to the transitory constituencies created by this Bill, the Party now in power would derive any very great advantage. The only conceivable reason for bringing forward the Amendment which had been proposed seemed to him to be a desire to force a Dissolution. If he was right in believing that that was the reason, he warned noble Lords that they were playing a game which might result not in success, but in failure. The only justification which noble Lords could have for pitting themselves against the House of Commons in a death struggle was their belief in their chance of success; but they should remember that this chance was very doubtful, and, in any case, that success could not be considered complete, because they would appeal to constituencies already condemned. The rejection of the Bill by their Lordships would be an excessively rash step, which might have very disastrous consequences.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, that what their Lordships had to consider was, what was best for the interests of the country; and, so long as they did that, they must not give too much consideration to what the consequences to themselves might be. 161 He proposed to deal with a portion of the Bill, which had not yet been dealt with. They had had nothing distinctly stated as to the effect of this measure on Ireland. He believed that there was no feeling against Reform on his side of the House, provided that a fair measure of redistribution formed part of the proposed scheme; and if a measure of redistribution was necessary for Great Britain, it was ten times more necessary that it should be introduced before a Franchise Bill for Ireland became law. In Great Britain it was proposed to add largely to the constituencies in the counties by granting household suffrage; and although there was grave danger, unless a fair measure of redistribution should be introduced before the Act should come into operation, that the large urban population which would be thrown into the county constituencies would have the effect of swamping the agricultural interests, yet the natural law-abiding tendencies inherent in the people of England were such that the enfranchisement of these classes, even though it would interfere with the just representation of the agricultural portion of the community, would not have the same terrible results as those which would be produced in Ireland by the enfranchisement of the disloyal, and the swamping of the loyal classes. In Ireland the Government proposed to add more than double the number of voters to the list of those who already enjoyed the franchise; and almost all this addition was derived, not, as in England, from classes representing various interests, but from one single class, who were bitterly opposed to the Union between the two countries, and were among the strongest supporters of Mr. Parnell. If a Franchise Bill were introduced for Great Britain which showed on the face of it that an addition was to be made of twice the number of those who at present had votes, and that by it the whole of the educated, propertied, and loyal classes were to be swamped by mere numbers, and thus deprived of political existence, did their Lordships think that such a proposition would be listened to for a moment? Yet that was exactly what this Bill proposed to do for Ireland; and the fact was that that country, never having adopted law-abiding habits, and not having made anything like the same progress in education that this country had done, 162 had been, from time to time, left out from the full advantages with regard to the franchise which had been conceded to England, for the simple reason that it was not considered safe to legislate for her upon the same lines. Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Trevelyan the other day declared that it was intended to give the franchise to every capable citizen. That was a most excellent proposition; but how were they to arrive at what a capable citizen was? The proof of capability which seemed to satisfy the Government consisted in the occupation of a mud cabin, consisting only of one room. They did not consider that education had anything to do with a man's being capable, because the new electors would be taken from a class 40 per cent of which could not read and write. They did not consider that it was necessary to prove capability by taking the slightest interest in, or having the slightest knowledge of, the politics relating to the Empire; because everyone who knew anything of the class proposed to be enfranchised in Ireland was aware that their sole political creed was a hatred of England, with a desire to obstruct the laws laid down for the government of Ireland. If anybody doubted this let him read Mr. Healy's article in The Fortnightly Review some few months back. See what Mr. Healy declared—It is of little moment to us what policy is adopted for England or the Empire. The Whigs say one course is best and the Tories the opposite. To the Irish Nationalist concerned for his own country it is a toss up which side he supports. The Celtic husbandman, grubbing out his living on some stony hill-side, recks not of haute politique."It was a curious fact, too, that they had the Government admitting, by the Prevention of Crime Act, that a certain section of the present voters in Ireland were not to be trusted as jurors to determine the guilt or innocence of a prisoner, yet they seemed to believe that even a lower class still were capable of exercising the most sacred trust that could be confided to a citizen. During all the agitation, the Government had had to rely on the loyalty and disinterestedness of the special jurors; and yet these very men, who came forward with great courage and determination to uphold the law—often at great personal danger to themselves—were for the future to have no voice in the selection of Representatives for their country. It had been stated, 163 on good authority, that on the present franchise Mr. Parnell would return after the next General Election with about 70 followers. That would leave something like 33 Members, whether Liberal or Conservative, to represent the Irish Loyalists, who admittedly numbered over 1,500,000, and might be something like a fair representation according to numbers, though it would not be at all a fair representation if property, education, or intelligence were considered; but this Bill, without redistribution, would bring about this result—that the 1,500,000 Loyalists, scattered, as they were, all through the constituencies of the country, having a majority in very few, indeed, even of the Ulster counties and boroughs, would probably be represented by not more than six or eight Members, while the remaining 3,500,000 would be represented by 95. Would it be possible, then, for the English Parliament to pass a fair measure of redistribution, or to withstand a demand, however mischievous, even that for separation, if backed up by 95 out of the 103 Irish Members? They were told by Mr. Gladstone that the loyal minority would be protected by the English and Scotch Members if their interests should be threatened. That, indeed, might be so, if there were no divisions of Parties in England. But it was ridiculous to say, so as long as Party government remained, and we had proof positive that the Government of Mr. Gladstone was not capable of withstanding the pressure of only 30 Members following the lead of Mr. Parnell. If this was not so, would they have had this plethora of Irish legislation—would they have had compacts, and Kilmainham Treaties, or such a measure as the Irish Land Act, when they knew from the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) that such a measure had never even been contemplated by Her Majesty's Government when they first came into Office? Was there any likelihood, then, that the Liberal Government, who had been so much inclined to listen to the voice of the charmer with only 30 Members at his back, would suddenly become so vigorously firm and utterly callous to the results as to withstand proposals made I by the same insinuating person when backed up by a compact phalanx of 95? The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), in speaking at Liverpool on September 6, 1883, of the landowners' position, said— 164That, unhappily, in the best of all possible worlds, abstract rights do not go for much when there is no voting power behind them.If the noble Earl was correct, what hope was there that the loyal minority in Ireland could trust to the English and Scotch Members to defend their rights? As he had already stated, the Irish Loyalists were not a small body. On the lowest computation they were 1,500,000, and yet the Government to which the noble Earl belonged was prepared to deprive them of that voting power in the House of Commons which even by mere numbers they were entitled to, that afterwards the so-called Nationalists might deprive them of their abstract rights. Mr. Gladstone had stated that 50 years ago England stood before the whole civilized world as a culprit with regard to her government of Ireland, but that now the civilized world had altered its opinion. What would the civilized world think if it saw 90 or 95 out of the 103 Irish Members uniting in demanding concessions which England would have to refuse? The world would consider that the 95 represented 9–10ths of the Irish people, and would not be aware that by one-sided legislation they had condemned 1,500,000 of all that was best in the population of that country to political extinction. Then, what would occur if history repeated itself and another Prevention of Crime Act had to be passed? There was nothing in this Bill which was likely to prevent the recurrence of agitation. In fact, he should say very much the reverse, because the agitators openly told them that they were prepared to make use of the Bill for the purpose of further agitation for the dismemberment of the Empire. The Bill would destroy the possibility of governing Ireland in the future, and the outlook was far blacker with regard to the destinies of that country than it had ever been at any time in the past. But there was another, and to England a more important, question. How would it be possible to carry on the Government of this country with 95 Obstructionists acting unitedly against whatever Party might be in power? For these reasons, he should vote for the Amendment before the House. If they had a fair measure of redistribution for Great Britain and Ireland, giving to each country the representation it was entitled to from its population and property, and guarding 165 securely the rights of the minority to be represented, the matter would be very different. But as this Bill, on the face of it, was incomplete, and came before them with only a shadowy promise of redistribution; as it laid down no lines upon which the ridiculously small boroughs should be grouped, or the loyal minority in Ireland represented, he could not have any confidence that it would be rendered less dangerous, so far as Ireland was concerned, by any measure of redistribution which might be introduced by Mr. Gladstone. He understood that, at least, some 480,000 new electors in Ireland were to be added to the 224,000 who at present formed the constituencies. They knew that of the inhabited houses 447,205 were rated at or under £1. They knew that the electors of the future who occupied these houses outnumbered several times all the other electors put together, and were, unfortunately, uneducated, disloyal, and bitterly opposed to the interests of the Empire. The new electors, who had no political ideas of their own, would be led like sheep by anyone who happened to give vent to the vilest Socialistic doctrines; and they who had the true interests of Ireland at heart were asked to support this incomplete measure, which, as it at present stood, was bound to destroy every prospect of prosperity, to bring closer the question of separation and all the terrible miseries of desperate civil war, and to cut off, without a possibility of return, every hope they had ever indulged in for the future of their unfortunate land.
§ LORD FITZGERALD
said, he had listened with great pleasure to the debate, and the speeches which he had heard had satisfied him that in that Assembly there was no opposition to Reform, that there was no unwillingness to widen in the large manner that was proposed the basis of the Constitution, and that their Lordships were prepared to embody and give effect to the popular will. He had so recently come among their Lordships that he had no experience of his own by which he could guide them; but he could assure their Lordships that long before he became a Member of that House he had made the subject a constitutional study, and had arrived at the conclusion that the House of Lords was one of the great safeguards of the Empire, and that when the honour, interests, and stability of England were at stake they were safe in their Lord- 166 ships' hands. It was not for him to use any threats or the language of menace; but he wished to warn their Lordships against the dangerous course which they were now going to pursue. When questions of great public interest, involving matters of large national effect, standing outside the region and influence of Party, came before their Lordships' they were discussed with calmness, with dignity, with the desire to benefit the people, and with no other object. But there was another view, which presented one of the weaknesses of the House; and that was that it was one-sided, and so absolutely Conservative, that when they came to a political and Party question of that House with its 500 Members, more than 300 followed the Conservative banner, and could come to but one conclusion. He did not think he was exaggerating when he stated that the noble Marquess opposite held the issue in his hands. But what was the consequence of such action as that? He wished to call their Lordships' attention to a matter of history, from which they might gather instruction. In 1866 Mr. Gladstone proposed a moderate Reform Bill—he believed it was a £7 rental—accompanied at a later stage by a plan for redistribution. If that Bill had been permitted to pass it would have settled the question for a very long time. An Amendment was carried, which was considered fatal to the Bill. The Government withdrew the Bill, they resigned, and Lord Derby became Prime Minister. Immediately upon the rejection of the measure occurred the Hyde Park riots and large meetings throughout the country. One of the last meetings which took place—in January, 1867—was characterized by extreme violence. Mr. Disraeli thereupon proposed in the House of Commons his well-known 13 Resolutions on the subject of Reform. Household suffrage was not among them. These were followed by a Bill. Both the Resolutions and the Bill were withdrawn, and Mr. Disraeli subsequently brought in what was known as the Ten Minutes Bill. The noble Marquess seemed to doubt the appellation; but he should recollect that Sir John Pakington, in his explanation in the House of Commons, stated that the Bill had been resolved on in the last 10 minutes of a Cabinet Council. That was the Bill which ended in household suffrage, so that the moderate measure 167 of 1866 culminated in the household suffrage of 1867, which brought about the present Bill as its necessary sequence. If the Amendment now before the House was carried—and he did not doubt the power of the Opposition to carry it—let them look at the consequences of the step. He was not in the secrets of the Government, but he assumed it was improbable they would resign. Extreme men in the other House were all hoping and expecting that the Bill would be thrown out. That it would eventually be passed was quite certain; but the interval would be occupied in getting up an agitation less in support of the Bill than against their Lordships' House. The Bill would be reintroduced in a Winter Session, and would again be pressed upon their Lordships; and its rejection by the Opposition would be followed not by a resignation of the Ministry, but by a Dissolution of Parliament. It did not then matter one bit who became Prime Minister. If even it were the noble Marquess opposite he must come in to carry a more extended Bill than the one now before them. This was inevitable. All history told them that. But what would happen in the country? Did their Lordships want a repetition of the scenes of 1832? Another Bristol in flames, riot and disorder in the country, the Archbishop of Canterbury compelled to pass to and from his Palace at Lambeth to this House by water, and such popular manifestations as had raised a controversy respecting the site on which the Houses of Parliament might be prudently and safely erected? The noble Marquess, in speaking once of the House of Lords as he wished it to be in all the political structure of the country, said that he desired that their Lordships should be trustees to see that the will of the constituencies was carried out. The noble Marquess was not speaking of redistribution then, but of the Franchise Bill. Now the case was reversed. The Franchise Bill had passed the other House with overwhelming majorities. It was approved in principle. It was adopted in its principle by their Lordships. Redistribution was to come, and their Lordships, as trustees, ought to reflect the wishes of the constituencies. Would they do so by rejecting this Bill? The Amendment would destroy the Bill. The House of Lords would get credit for having thrown 168 out the Bill in an unreasoning manner. Elsewhere there were extremists who were waiting in hope that the Amendment would be carried. They wished it—they expected it. Their Lordships were being led, or the noble Marquess was being driven, into an impasse from which there would be no retreat, and where there could be nothing left but unconditional surrender. It might not be to-day, nor this Session; but it would come. He appealed to their Lordships to avoid these difficulties by passing the Bill. Let them not play into the hands of professional agitators, and make their power greater than it was at present. Let them accept this Bill and wait for a just measure of redistribution from the hands of the Government.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
With one part of the speech of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) I cordially agree; I refer to the portion in which he extolled the Cross Benches and vindicated the character of the Cross Bench frame of mind. I do hope that, after the eloquent appeal of the noble Duke, the House will see the wisdom of granting, what has frequently been asked for, greater accommodation on the Cross Benches. The noble Duke has shown that the Cross Bench mind is large, liberal, and expansive; but the accommodation on the Cross Benches is exceedingly limited, and capable of no expansion. With the remainder of the speech of the noble Duke I do not agree at all. I cannot agree that this Bill, unaccompanied by redistribution, is free from danger; I think it is fraught with very great danger. I cannot agree that it is the duty of independent Peers to vote for the second reading of the Bill, unaccompanied with the certainty that the Bill cannot come into operation until a Redistribution Bill is passed. The proper course, in my own view—and I hold a very strong opinion about it—would be to read the Bill a second time, and to insure that the Bill should not be operative until a Redistribution Bill has been passed either by an Amendment in Committee, or by an Instruction to the Committee, or by refusing to go into Committee until the Redistribution Bill was before the House, and had been read a second time. None of these courses had been adopted; and, therefore, I do not feel justified in voting for the second reading of the Bill, however 169 much I approve of its principle. The Amendment of the noble and learned Earl embodies my views very nearly; but I believe that my Amendment expresses more clearly the views of the majority of the House. The objection to the noble and learned Earl's Amendment is that it is somewhat vague. I do not see how I, or anyone, is to know what he means by a well-considered scheme for the extension of the franchise. I have, therefore, placed on the Paper an Amendment, to the effect that the House agrees with the Bill in its main principles if it had only been accompanied by a Redistribution Bill. It may be very well understood in this House that such is the meaning of the noble and learned Earl's Amendment; but surely it is advisable, in a case of such great importance, to consider the feelings, and even the prejudices, of the country, and to avoid, as far as possible, any misunderstanding. It should be distinctly understood that the objection to passing a Franchise Bill alone is that its principles may be rendered null and void by a scheme of redistribution. What has been called the centrifugal theory seems to me eminently absurd. I cannot see on what principle men living at a great distance from the seat of Government should be given a larger share of representation than those who live near to it. If any exception were to be made, I should have thought it would have been in the opposite direction, and should go on the principle that people living near the great centres of intelligence and information were, if anything, more qualified to judge of the affairs of the nation than those who lived in the more remote districts. A good deal might be said about the exclusion of woman's suffrage from the Bill. If the principle of property involving duties, and duties carrying with them privileges, of representation going with taxation, is to be at all considered, there is a good deal to be said on the question whether property paying taxes and involving duties should be divested of the privilege of conferring a vote merely through the accident that it is held by a female, and not by a male. The Bill is a good Bill in its main provisions, which are household suffrage, the assimilation of the county to the borough franchise, the consequent admission of a very large number of citizens to the franchise, and the application of the Bill to Ireland. 170 In all these points I cordially approve of the Bill. It is generally conceded that household suffrage is a fair basis of I representation; and, no doubt, the assimilation of the county franchise to the borough franchise is an act of justice. It has been said that the Bill is not opportune; but it would be hard to find a time in the history of the country when the absence of foreign complications left I the people so free to turn their attention to domestic concerns. Then it is said the people are not earnestly anxious for Reform. It is true that we have seen I no violent agitation on the subject, and I am glad of it; for it is unwise to allow legislation to wait on agitation. We have had quite enough of that in Irish affairs; and it is far better that a sound Reform Bill should be passed before it is pressed imperatively upon Parliament by any violent agitation throughout the country. The condition of Ireland is brought forward as a strong reason for either postponing any extension of the franchise indefinitely, or for limiting the operations of the measure to Great Britain. I do not agree with either of those propositions. It appears to me most absurd that England, Scotland, and Wales, should wait because Ireland is in a disaffected state; and I have a very strong opinion that; any Reform Bill should be applied to Ireland as well as to the rest of the United Kingdom. To refuse to place Ireland on the same footing as the rest of the United Kingdom would be to give Ireland what she has been in vain looking for—a real grievance. We have seen the disastrous effects of agitation in that country conducted without any solid basis whatever. What might we not apprehend from an agitation founded on a real and tangible grievance? And what are the consequences to be feared from equalizing the Irish franchise with that of Great Britain? The worst thing that would happen would be that the Party of which Mr. Parnell is the acknowledged head would be somewhat increased. Well, would that make so great a difference? In cases in which Parties are pretty nearly balanced in Parliament, it is obvious that Mr. Parnell and his Party can now control legislation. With an extended franchise, he will probably receive a slight accession of power, and that is all. As long as Ireland returns a certain number of Members to Parliament who are bent 171 on carrying their ends by illegitimate means, by making government difficult, if not impossible, by Obstruction and not by argument, the affairs of the country can only be carried on by one of two methods—either by private understandings, underhand negotiations, and secret Treaties, which are most immoral, or by such a combination of the Representatives of England, Scotland, and Wales, as would render them independent of the support of Mr. Parnell's followers. I cannot imagine it to be possible that Great Britain, with some 25,000,000 of inhabitants, would allow the destinies of the United Kingdom and of the British Empire to be entirely swayed by Ireland with about 5,000,000 of inhabitants. If they do, it is unnecessary for us to trouble ourselves about legislation; for it is certain that in that case the common sense, the manhood, and all the governing qualities of this country, would have departed. So I do not think that even if Mr. Parnell is reinforced to the full extent that is anticipated, any great harm can be done. But I do not myself believe that his Party would be permanently strengthened. The great evil in Ireland is that, practically speaking, only one class is represented in Parliament. To make society stable, all its various elements and different classes should be duly represented and fairly balanced. I believe that if not immediately, at any rate in the long run, the admission of labourers in Ireland to the enjoyment of the franchise would have a most beneficial effect. The Irish labourer is badly housed and badly educated, but he is not unintelligent; and I fail to see that giving him power to make his wants known through, his Representatives in Parliament could be injurious to the State. The Irish labourer knows about as much of politics as the English labourer; and if you give the franchise to the latter, I do not see how you can fairly refuse it to the former. Moreover, the Irish labourers did not receive sufficient consideration in the recent legislation applied to Ireland, and they are consequently discontented, and discontent breeds sedition; would they not have a better chance of improving their social and material condition if admitted to the franchise than they have at present with all the voting power in the hands of a class opposed to them by nature? Then, it is said, it is exceedingly dangerous to increase the number 172 of Members sent to Parliament who are in favour of repealing the Act of Union, or of a complete separation of Ireland from Great Britain. But how is it possible to avoid having Members returned holding those views, if those views are entertained by the majority of the people? Every argument that can be used against an extension of the franchise in Ireland would apply with equal force in favour of disfranchising the whole country. Under a representative form of Government, it is useless to object to the political opinions of the Representatives chosen of the people. It is lamentable that any persons should exist in Ireland holding that separation could possibly be beneficial to that country. But, after all, it is not really so much the nature of those political opinions themselves that is dangerous, as the manner in which the Representatives of the Irish nation endeavour to enforce them. I look upon the idea of separation as folly and madness, and I trust that by time, increasing education, and common sense, it may be eradicated, more especially if those who hold the opposite opinions receive that protection from the violence of their opponents which it is the first duty of any Government in Ireland to afford. But I maintain that to refuse the franchise to the Irish people, because they entertain views which we may think entirely wrong or mischievous, is wholly unconstitutional, and contrary to the first principles of popular representation. I can very well understand anyone advocating that persistent obstruction on the part of a Member should be followed by disfranchisement of the constituency which returned him; but to say that you would deny the suffrage to those who hold any particular set of opinions, however objectionable or erroneous you may consider them, is utterly at variance, not only with Liberal principles, but also with the principles of Parliamentary Government itself. With regard to the main provisions of this Bill, I entirely agree with them. The assimilation of the county to the borough franchise is, I believe, generally approved as an act of justice. Our Constitution will, I think, be strengthened, the stability of our institutions will be insured, by the admission of a large number of citizens to the franchise. Upon the broad basis of the people the Constitution rests, and by them alone can it be upheld. I have no 173 fear of the people; on the contrary, I welcome their admission to the franchise as an accession of strength to the State. The more intelligent citizens we admit to the franchise, enabling the wishes, the views, the prejudices, the needs of all classes and all interests throughout the country to find due expression in Parliament, the more secure will be the foundations of the Constitution, and also the fabric reared upon them. Now, it is because this Bill as it stands, without redistribution, would run exactly counter to those objects—because it must stifle public opinion—because it does not admit of the voice of the people being heard in a Constitutional manner in Parliament—that I object to it. A Bill for the extension of the franchise on this great scale, nearly doubling the number of voters, and containing no provision whatever that their votes shall become operative, nor any provision whatever that the votes of those already having the franchise shall not be entirely swamped and nullified, is a gross absurdity. It is like constructing a locomotive with nothing but the boiler and no machinery, and then kindling the fire. The result must be immobility for a time, and eventually explosion. No doubt we have the pledge of the Government that they will bring in a Redistribution Bill. I believe they are perfectly honest; but they are undertaking to do what it may be impossible for them to perform. That has been clearly shown by the noble and learned Earl who moved the Amendment. The Government do not give us any indication of what their redistribution scheme will be. The noble Earl who moved the second reading said the Prime Minister had given a sketch, and he would do the same, as possibly our memories were defective. But the sketch of the noble Earl was a mere sketch of a sketch—the shadow of a shade. It indicated nothing, unless it be that Ireland is to continue to return more than her fair share of Members, to which I entirely demur.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I did not say that the number of Members for Ireland would not be altered. I said the matter was one for fair consideration.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
I am glad to hear that; and I hope the consideration will end in giving Ireland the number of Representatives which is her 174 just due, and no more. To give her more than she is justly entitled to is mere Quixotic nonsense, unfair to Great Britain and dangerous to the State. We are told that the importance of this question is such that it is impossible to wait any longer for its settlement. Surely that is no reason for precipitancy. That argument lies just the other way. The more important the matter, the greater its magnitude, the greater is the care required in handling it, the more necessary is it that we should not be in a hurry about it; and we ought to face any agitation rather than allow the measure to pass in an incomplete state. We are, I think, on the eve of making a gigantic organic change in the Constitution. No other people in the world, I believe, would regard the matter so carelessly, or deal with it so rashly. Take the example of the great English-speaking Republic across the ocean. Look at the extraordinary care with which the Constitution there is safeguarded against ill-consdered, incomplete, or sudden change. If such a scheme as this were before Congress—if a scheme in any way altering the representation of the people, or involving any change whatever in the Constitution, were before Congress—it would be necessary that it should be passed by two-thirds of both Houses as an Amendment to the Constitution, and the Amendment would then have to be submitted to the Legislatures of every State in the Union, or to a Convention of the people of each State, and approved of by a two-thirds majority of them. The nearest equivalent to that with us would be this—the frame of this Bill would first have to be passed by two-thirds of the other House, then by two-thirds of this House; then It would be submitted to a plébiscite in every county, and if passed and accepted by two-thirds of the counties of England it could be passed through Parliament. My Lords, there is no justification for saying that this House is necessarily delaying the measure. It is better that every man, for whose benefit this Bill is intended, should wait rather than that we should pass it in a form so incomplete that it would be absolutely impossible to tell how it might work. My Lords, what on earth is the value of a vote? The vote is of no use unless it is of potential value in returning 175 a Member to Parliament. You cannot eat it. You cannot clothe yourself with it, even in this hot weather. You cannot sell it—at least, you ought not to be able to do so—and under this Bill, without redistribution, it is quite possible that thousands and thousands of votes would be of no use whatever as far as the representation of particular opinions in Parliament is concerned. The vote by itself is of no use at all, and can be of no good to anyone unless it can be used in returning a Member to Parliament. One Cabinet Minister avowed that he had been unable to look at it as good or bad in itself. It was nothing in itself. Mr. Chamberlain said also that he could not conceive a Redistribution Bill so bad that it could make the extension of the franchise bad. I do not believe that. I believe that, however large an extension of the franchise may be, every bit of good might be taken out of it, and it might be rendered useless by a bad Redistribution Bill. My Lords, how are we to judge? How can we possibly judge of this Bill as it stands now, seeing that some of the most important points must be discussed in connection with the Redistribution Bill? Unfortunately, a Reform Bill has become an impossibility to us. A Reform Bill should contain some means of adjustment. It is a great blot on our system that the electorate should have to be amended or extended from time to time by means of Reform Bills. An honest Bill ought to do something to protect the rights of minorities from being completely swamped. It ought to strike the balance between the rights of property and the rights of mere numbers; and surely, my Lords, if we could do nothing else, we should provide that the rights of majorities shall be properly guarded. By this Bill, I do not see whether anything whatever is to be done to protect minorities. I am of opinion myself that minorities should be represented, and that property should be considered as well as mere numbers. I hold that the main feature in our system is that individuals, human beings, should be represented in Parliament, and that the policy of legislation in this country shall in the main be governed by the wishes and will of the majority of the people. That is exactly what appears to me to be rendered quite impossible under the present Bill. Under it we shall have 176 large county constituencies having no stronger representation in Parliament than some small borough of 10,000 inhabitants. Mr. Gladstone himself admitted that the counties are not fairly represented. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) said the same thing, and agreed with Mr. Gladstone that the counties, owing to their very strength, must be assured that a proper Redistribution Bill will be brought in and passed. How are the counties to do this? What Constitutional means have they of asserting their rights? They would be overruled in Parliament, and it appears to me that the only possible way in which voters in counties could institute an agitation is by violence out-of-doors. My Lords, we have heard a great deal of the fatal consequences which will happen to this House. Well, my Lords, if we pass this Bill we shall have thousands of voters under it who will not be able to use it, to whom it will be of no value, and to whom the only effect would be to force on a reluctant majority in Parliament the necessity of doing them justice. That does appear to me to be an extraordinary Bill to advocate. I cannot conceive how any statesman can desire that anything so unconstitutional, so foreign, to our habits and circumstances, should pass through Parliament. I approve entirely of the admission of those large numbers. I approve entirely of many points of the Bill; but what I claim for these large numbers that we propose to admit is that they should be granted something more than a mere sterile vote. I claim that they should have a right to make their voice heard in Parliament. I claim for them that they should not be entirely swamped by the votes of boroughs. I think it is our duty not to allow any measure to pass through this House that does not secure that those to whom we give votes shall have votes of some real value to them, in the way of enabling them to express their opinions in Parliament. These are the reasons why, while I entirely agree with the main principle of the Bill, I entirely disagree with passing the Bill in its present state. Not that I object to anything whatever in it; but that I see that if it is passed without a Redistribution Bill, the only effect will be that the privileges and advantages which I hope to see accorded to my fellow-countrymen will be taken from 177 them. We have no assurance that a Bill for remedying these evils will be passed into law.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
said, the only result of the debate, so far as he was concerned, was to strengthen his determination to vote for the Bill. He had listened with great interest and great profit to the many speeches that had been delivered that evening, and to none more so than to the speech delivered by the noble and learned Earl who had proposed the Amendment (Earl Cairns). The Motion of the noble and learned Earl said that—While prepared to concur in a well-considered and complete scheme for the extension of the franchise,he did not think it right to assent to the second reading of the Bill. He (the Duke of Marlborough), however, had not heard, in the speech of the noble and learned Earl, anything as to what he would consider to be "a well-considered and complete scheme" for the extension of the franchise. However great were the difficulties which a new Member must experience who ventured to address their Lordships in an important debate, he thought he was not wrong in saying that the action of the Opposition on an occasion like the present was without parallel to one who had not the experience of some of their Lordships. And the more so on the present occasion, not only on account of the great issues involved in this debate, but because it was impossible to speak out clearly and with emphasis, without apparently, though unintentionally, making a direct attack on the views of a very important body in that House, and more especially on the policy of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), who held what they knew to be a large and homogeneous following. No one could admire more than he (the Duke of Marlborough) did the great abilities of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition; and yet no one could feel more firmly convinced than he did on that occasion that the policy which the noble Marquess had advocated to their Lordships was one which was fraught with all the peril of a manœuvre in the face of an enemy, without any of the corresponding advantages that might ensue from victory. He could not believe that they were in possession of the ultimate views of the 178 noble Marquess, for it was impossible that so staunch a Leader of Conservative principles, so experienced a tactician in Parliamentary warfare, should court so manifest a defeat without the walls of that House, unless he was aiming at some position of the enemy which he hoped successfully to assail. They could hardly suppose that the noble Marquess, however great the intellectual ascendency which he undoubtedly possessed over his followers, would venture to lead them on the forlorn hope of forcing an appeal to the electorate on this side issue of a Franchise Bill, in order that, on that unpropitious field of battle, he might review before the constituencies the whole, and especially the foreign, policy of Her Majesty's Government. Surely, he must be aware that, whatever the faults and failings of Her Majesty's Government — and he (the Duke of Marlborough) did not endorse all their policy—they would be completely lost sight of in the question which would be practically alone before the country by the action of their Lordships' Chamber. The peculiar feature of the present occasion was the unusual solidity of the Conservative ranks. They had not been accustomed to see this burying of the political hatchet of late years, since the noble Marquess succeeded to the magnificent political inheritance of the late Lord Beaconsfield. They had lately read in the papers of the Conservative Caucus that met in judgment to consider this measure. Some noble Lords who attended that meeting did not, it appeared, agree with the opinions expressed at that meeting; but they were overruled, and it was determined to throw out this measure as soon as it reached this House. He was not prepared to say whether that was respectful to that House; but he was surprised that the noble Marquess should be so little alive to what would naturally be the opinion of an outsider, of one who was not within the charmed circle of his own surroundings. Such a method of dealing with a measure might, no doubt, not have been surprising in former days; but he believed, from a Party point of view, the Motion of the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) was in every way an unfortunate one. In reading over the debates which took place in that House on the Conservative Reform Bill of 1866 and 1867, he was struck with the fact 179 that the speeches delivered on those occasions gave expression to three fears—First, the venal and corrupt character of the lower classes; second, the uncertain temper of those classes, and the fear that the rights of property would be destroyed; and, third, that no settlement of the question would be satisfactory that was not based upon household suffrage. Now, however, those arguments were abandoned, and the only ones adduced on the Bill were that it was inopportune, and that it ought to have been accompanied by a measure of redistribution. As to the latter point, their Lordships must admit that there was force in the contention of the Government that no such Bill could have been passed this Session; and, beyond that, he questioned very much how far it was wise for that House to prescribe to the other the limits of its constitution and suffrage. With regard to the former contention, he would ask what their Lordships wanted in the way of expressing the opinions of the country? It was said there had been no agitation in favour of the Bill; but, on the other hand, as far as they could judge by reading the papers, and by the public expression of opinion, there was a great deal of feeling in favour of this Bill. There had been no meeting of agricultural labourers or farmers at which any Resolution was passed in opposition to the Bill; and there had been no representative assembly in any industrial centre that had denounced the Bill. Therefore, in every way, it seemed to him that the general expression of public opinion was in favour of the Bill. Was it necessary that they should have Clerkenwell explosions in order to prove the reality of the demand for this measure? It had been also said that the present Parliament was not elected to reform the franchise. But nothing was more distinctly brought before the constituencies at the last General Election. There were two aspects in which the question might appeal to their Lordships. The first was, Was the measure before the House one generally desired by the people, and one which would be advantageous to the people? That it was so was admitted by the Amendment of the noble and learned Earl. The second aspect was, Was the Bill Constitutional in its character? As to the argument insisted upon, that this measure, 180 not being accompanied by a redistribution scheme, was unconstitutional, it was not tenable. It might have been advisable in 1866 that both sides of the question of Reform should be before Parliament together; but, in those days, there was one franchise in the county and another in the borough; while today the problem was simpler, because the franchise was more uniform. The Bill was a perfectly natural development of the Conservative Reform Bill, and he could see nothing in it in the nature of a radical change. It was a most Conservative measure, and the way had been prepared for it by the Education Act and the Corrupt Practices Act. If they were to accept the principle that household suffrage must be some day acceded to, he did not think it could be acceded to under more favourable circumstances. He felt very strongly that the present stage was one of very great importance to the future both of that House and of the country; and holding, as he did, that the Amendment of the noble and learned Earl in no way controverted that position, he hoped their Lordships would read the Bill a second time, and go on to consider it in Committee. He could not think it would be for the advantage of either the country or the House that they should refuse to consider a measure which interfered with no legitimate interests at present existing, and which had occupied the whole of the effective time of the Lower Chamber throughout the Session. If, after two afternoons' debate, they were to throw out the Bill, he thought they would be considerably to blame; and he, therefore, would vote for the second reading of the Bill. He did not think that any inconvenience would result, even although an Election took place under the extended franchise before redistribution had been dealt with.
§ EARL CADOGAN
said, that, whatever might have been the misapprehensions which had been fostered with regard to the action of the House of Lords on the question, it could not be denied that the speeches delivered in the course of the present discussion had tended to make perfectly clear the issue now before the House and the country. It was not on the principle of the Bill that they were divided; and he, therefore declined to enter into a discussion of its details and principles. The noble Earl opposite (the 181 Earl of Kimberley), in the able and conciliatory speech with which he moved the second reading of the Bill, had felt it his duty, no doubt, to indicate to the House the main principles on which the Bill was framed; but it was evident that he had also entirely comprehended the position presented to the House, and felt that it was not a question of the equalization of the franchise in counties and boroughs upon which the opinion of the House would be asked. Although sitting on the Front Opposition Benches, he (Earl Cadogan) claimed a perfectly free right of action in a matter of so much importance. If he declined to enter into a discussion of the principles and details of the Bill, it was not because he wished in any way to shirk an expression of opinion; but he might say that, as far it went, he thought it moderate in principles and Conservative in its tone. With regard to the main object, he had always felt that the assimilation of the franchise was, if not a corollary, a natural sequence to the reduction of the suffrage in boroughs, and that had been the opinion of the Conservative Party as much as of the Liberal Party. This feeling pervaded the Conservative Party both inside and outside that House; and throughout the discussions upon it in the other House the Members of the Opposition showed no unwillingness to concede the principle of the equalization of the franchise in counties and boroughs. That being so, he did not believe that it would be easy to make political capital out of a misstatement so gross as that the Conservative Party were opposed to the equalization of the borough and county franchise. But how were they to estimate the effect of a Bill which, whilst it extended the franchise to 2,000,000 in the counties, retained the anomaly of allowing small boroughs, and of allowing voters in the boroughs, to also vote in the counties? There was a difficulty in discussing a measure of this sort in the absence of any knowledge of the intention of the Government in regard to redistribution; and he was surprised to hear it said that, if the Bill passed without redistribution, no evil effects would ensue. There was no instance in the Parliamentary history of the country of any large addition being made to the electorate without arrangements being also made for a fair apportionment of politi- 182 cal power. When Lord Chatham advocated Reform in 1770, he did so with a view to abolishing the corruption in the rotten boroughs; and, in Wilkes's scheme in 1776, it was proposed to give additional Members to the Metropolis and the large counties, and to disfranchise rotten boroughs. Subsequent reforms also, down to 1860, were, in the main, schemes for the redistribution of political power. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), speaking on the question some years ago, said that the redistribution of seats ought to be taken first, for the greatest anomaly was the unequal distribution of electoral power. And Mr. Bright had stated that he could give every man a vote, and yet frame a redistribution scheme which would make the redistribution far worse than it was before. And other great statesmen supported the view that additions to the franchise ought to be accompanied by redistribution. It was said that the Government would introduce a scheme of redistribution without delay; but he thought that it had been satisfactorily proved that, however good the intentions of the Government were, noble Lords opposite would not be prepared to deny that it might be entirely out of their power to insure the carrying of the measure which they might introduce. Of the character of that measure the House had no knowledge. The Prime Minister had, it was true, when introducing the Bill, proclaimed his views on the subject; but he was careful to say that was his own personal opinion, and was not binding on any of his Colleagues. To-night, their Lordships had a repetition of these personal redistribution schemes. He confessed he was not much enlightened by the information which had been given them by the noble Earl opposite on the subject; but this much was clear—that, as far as any complete and well-matured scheme was concerned, Her Majesty's Government had come to no decision whatever. They were, therefore, asked to say what they would recommend the Government to do. In case their Lordships saw fit to accept the Amendment, and Her Majesty's Government declined to go on with the present measure, he would suggest that there were still some means open to them of passing a complete scheme during the present Parliament. He would apply this test to the sincerity 183 of Her Majesty's Government. If this Bill were not thrown out, and Her Majesty's Government were really disposed to pass a measure of Reform, let them introduce the same Bill next year, accompanied by a measure of redistribution. In that case, there could be no earthly reason why both Bills should not pass before the end of next Session. He believed the Prime Minister was correct in saying that a Redistribution Bill would meet with considerable opposition, and require much discussion; but the enfranchising scheme would have the advantage of having passed through the House of Commons, and of having, so far as he could judge, met with the approval of their Lordships' House. If the Government were sincere, and would introduce a scheme of enfranchisement and redistribution next year, he did not see why the two should not come into operation in 1886; for it would be always possible to pass a Bill for registration which would enable the new voters to exercise their privileges by that time. Therefore, he claimed that there need not be even any delay if the House adopted the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend (Earl Cairns). Of course they would be told that they were standing in the way of the franchise; but, as his noble and learned Friend had pointed out, the Government themselves had wasted four years since coming into Office—time during which they had never thought of redeeming the pledges they said they gave in 1880. To try to pass an enfranchising Bill without an accompanying redistribution scheme was likely to cause considerable delay; because a Redistribution Bill was, in a great measure, a disfranchising Bill, and, therefore, the inducement to Members to pass it was not the same. As to the course proposed by "a Cross Bench mind," and supported by his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Jersey), that they should pass the second reading of this Bill, and afterwards introduce a clause insuring that in no case was the Bill to come into operation until the Redistribution Bill was passed, he had not been able to gather anything from the Government as to the suggestion. But, as far as they were able to form an opinion from the utterances of the Prime Minister, that was a course to which Her Majesty's Government would most certainly object. 184 The Prime Minister would certainly not agree to an indefinite postponement; because, as he had said, it would place the power of passing the Reform Bill in the hands of the House of Lords. But what would be the position of their Lordships' House if, after passing a Bill for enfranchisement, they inserted a clause that the new voters were not to exercise their right until a Redistribution Bill was passed? They would have 2,000,000 voters whose right to vote was acknowledged, and who would not be allowed to exercise that right, owing to a clause introduced by their Lordships' House. He certainly thought that the position of their Lordships in the face of the country would be more perilous and more indefensible than if they took the more straightforward course of adopting the Amendment now before the House. If they went to the country on the principles embodied in the Amendment of the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) they, he believed, would receive the support of the constituencies. At any rate, there would be a plain and definite issue before the country. He denied that, in opposing the second reading of the Bill, they were opposing the wishes of the country; while in the subject of Dissolution, he held that no Government could be sure, after five years of Office, and with the experience of the two last General Elections, of any longer possessing a mandate from the country, and after the bye-elections of the past few months he did not think that the Government could feel any confidence that they were supported by the constituencies. With regard to what had fallen from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Cowper), it would be to the welfare, interest, and position of that House if, when the question arose between it and the county, their Lordships asserted themselves as an authority in the State. He yielded to no one in his affection for their Lordships' House; but when, as the price of maintaining their status and preserving their authority, they were expected to do that which they believed it to be their duty not to do, to give way where they thought they ought to resist, he, for one, should no longer value the honour of sitting in the House, and he should not regret if the country either modified the Second Chamber, or swept it away altogether. Some years ago the right rev. Prelate 185 (the Bishop of Peterborough), at whose restoration to health they all rejoiced, warned the House against being made a Registration Court for the decisions of the House of Commons; but, after listening to that eloquent speech, the House decided against the views of the right rev. Prelate. The year after, at the General Election of 1868, the country decided upon the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and the majority of this House bowed to that decision. In like manner, on this question, it would yield to the constitutionally expressed wishes of the constituencies. Those who supported the Amendment were prepared to appeal to the opinion of the country on the question as soon as the Government would allow them to do so; and when the time came they would abide by that opinion, and would not fear the result.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
said, that the course of the debate had been remarkable for the unanimity with which the principle of the Bill had been accepted. Without a word of criticism, it had been accepted on both sides of the House. Another peculiarity of the Bill was seen in the fact that, throughout the debate, the principle of the Bill had been very little discussed at all, and the discussion which had taken place was virtually outside the four corners of the measure. Still, the question was, whether they would or would not assent to the principles of the Bill? It was said that the Bill was incomplete and not sufficiently considered; but, looking at the long discussion in the House of Commons, and the debate that evening, he could not admit that argument was justifiable. It had been discussed for 23 days in the House of Commons, and it certainly was complete as far as regarded the franchise—as complete as any Bill that was ever submitted to Parliament. The Amendment meant the rejection of the Bill. It was not without precedent that a Reform Bill had been met by a Resolution. Seventeen years ago the noble Earl (Earl Grey) moved a Resolution which, although it did not negative the second reading of the Bill, described it as an incomplete and unsatisfactory measure; and an able authority said of the Resolution—I doubt very much whether any Amendment of this sort was ever before presented to Parliament on the second reading of a Bill. I 186 have always understood that, on the second reading of a Bill, two kinds of Amendments might be proposed. One kind was an Amendment that the second reading should be postponed to a distant day, with a view of defeating the Bill altogether. The other kind of Amendment is when there is an objection to any particular provision or principle of a Bill."—(3 Hansard,  1995–6.)Those words were the words of the noble and learned Earl who moved the Amendment on the present occasion (Earl Cairns). Under which category did he class this Amendment? Did it object to any principle of the Bill? Why, the whole gist of his speech, and of others on the same side, was in favour of the principles and provisions of the Bill. The noble and learned Earl would not say he desired to postpone the second reading, with the view of defeating the Bill altogether. The Amendment moved, therefore, did not come within either of the qualifications the noble and learned Earl had laid down; and, therefore, it was unprecedented. The Amendment consisted of two parts. The first part stated that the Bill was incomplete without a redistribution scheme. If, however, their Lordships rejected the Bill on that ground, did they not run the risk of having their motives misinterpreted, at any rate, by the country? Would it not be said that they had taken that opportunity of rejecting the principle of the Bill without considering it? It had been stated that no Franchise Bill had been introduced before without a redistribution scheme being coupled with it. He should like to appeal to the experience they had had of the two Reform Bills which had been presented to Parliament by Conservative Governments in the course of the last 25 years. Were those Bills conspicuous by large measures of redistribution? The redistribution scheme of 1859 affected only 15 seats. Was that a complete scheme compared with the large number which the Bill proposed to enfranchise? Then, what was the character of the Bill of 1867? That was a Bill of the greatest importance, so far as the franchise was concerned; but the number of seats which it was, in its original form, designed to redistribute was only 30. Was that a complete scheme of redistribution? In those two Bills the redistribution was a mere sham. Did their Lordships think, for a moment, that a scheme of redis- 187 tribution, at all commensurate with the immense importance of the Franchise Bill now before their Lordships, could have been introduced in connection with the Franchise Bill, with the smallest chance of passing through the present Session of Parliament? He admitted that, if there had been a chance of common agreement between Parties, that might have been possible; but there was no indication of any agreement between Parties on this subject. He had never before heard it suggested that the best way to expedite the passage of a vessel on a safe and easy voyage was to overload it with cargo; and, in the same way, the experience he had had of political life did not lead him to suppose that a Bill would be expedited in its passage through Parliament by adding a vast amount of debateable matter to it; and hence Her Majesty's Government, therefore, had determined not to overload the Franchise Bill with redistribution. No one admitted more freely than the Government that the Bill, without a measure of redistribution, was not a complete Bill. The noble Earl who spoke last but two (the Earl of Dunraven) objected to the Bill, because, while it created a large number of new voters, it would not give them sufficient power. On the other hand, the speeches made by noble Lords opposite that night against the Bill had an exactly opposite tendency, maintaining that while they gave a large number of electors power, they did not place a proper check and limitation on that power by a measure of redistribution. The Government fully admitted the necessity of a measure of redistribution; all that they denied was the possibility of passing both a Franchise Bill and a Redistribution Bill in the same Session. The Government had given a sketch—they did not pretend that it was a finished picture—of their views on the subject of redistribution; and, as far as that sketch went, it appeared to him that the lines on which it proceeded were eminently satisfactory. He agreed heartily with what fell from his noble Friend behind him (the Duke of Argyll) as to the in-advisability of introducing such a novelty as electoral districts. He thought that, while correcting existing anomalies, they should respect, as far as possible, the peculiarities of different constituencies, and especially to maintain the 188 ancient distinction between town and county constituencies. The noble and learned Earl opposite (Earl Cairns) had spoken of the great inconvenience that would result if a Dissolution took place between the period when the new voters were enfranchised and the time when the Redistribution Bill might be passed; he gave several specific instances of constituencies in which the voters would be enormously increased by the present Bill; and he told them that the Parliament returned under such circumstances would be no Parliament, in the regular Constitutional sense of the word, but merely a Convention Parliament. He would ask the noble and learned Earl how he reconciled that statement with the course taken by the Conservative Government in 1867, when in many boroughs the constituencies were increased by four, and even five, times their number of voters, and yet no addition was made to their Representatives. Did that make the Parliament returned in 1868 a Convention Parliament? The principle of the present Bill had not been challenged. The differential franchises were doomed in 1859, when a Conservative Government introduced a Bill assimilating the county and borough franchise; they were doubly doomed 17 years ago, when another Conservative Government gave the boroughs household suffrage. If that was the case, and if both sides were agreed that the present measure as it stood was incomplete, requiring to be supplemented, where was the difference between them? The Government said it would have been impossible to introduce and carry a complete scheme of Reform in one Session, and that they proposed to carry a complete scheme in two Sessions. Noble Lords opposite, on the other hand, said that they would not pass a Franchise Bill until the Redistribution was actually before the House. He asked them did they really doubt that the country desired that Bill? The House of Commons had passed it by successive and powerful majorities; and they had no doubt that the Reform Bill at the last General Election was one of the important tenets of the Liberal creed. It might be said that there was no agitation in favour of the Bill. Why was that? Because it was thought that the agreement in the principles of the Bill was so unanimous that its passage might 189 almost be considered to have been accepted as a foregone conclusion. He asked their Lordships, therefore, was it wise to wait for agitation; was it not better to anticipate the wishes of the people than to wait until they expressed themselves in a disorderly and unruly manner? Did their Lordships not receive a lesson in 1866 and in 1867? There were no mass meetings, no agitation in 1866. The Liberal Government brought in a Reform Bill, but it was defeated; and in the following year, after certain events had occurred which he need not describe to the House, the Conservative Government introduced a Reform Bill far wider in its scope than that of their Predecessors. At the present time, therefore, it was fitting that they should learn experience from the last occasion. He asked their Lordships to consider carefully the grounds upon which they objected to the passing of the Bill. He did not for an instant deny the Constitutional right of their Lordships' House to reject or amend the Bill. He did not believe for a moment that if, in their opinion, it was for the public good that it should be done, they would not be prepared to do so; but, at the same time, it seemed to him that politics was a practical and not a theoretical science. They were discussing a question of political expediency, and not of abstract law; and the question their Lordships had to decide that evening was whether they were choosing the wisest or fittest opportunity of exercising this right which they claimed. It was said it would be impossible to amend the Bill in Committee. Upon that he would not express an opinion; but upon this point he would express an opinion—that the course they were pursuing that night was one that would throw out the second reading of the Bill which the nation was anxiously waiting for, and [...] might depend upon it that the nation at large would not be very nice in making a distinction as to the motives that impelled their Lordships to this act. They would judge by the results, and they would see that their Lordships had refused to discuss the Bill itself; they would see that their Lordships had rejected its principles—["No, no!"]—they would see that. He was not, for a moment, saying that for himself; but they might depend upon it that it 190 would be said in every meeting from Land's End to John o' Groat's, that the Lords took the opportunity of rejecting a Bill with which they had no real sympathy. He was quite as jealous of the honour and dignity of the House as any of their Lordships could be; but if they took up the position he had indicated, he, for one, ventured to state, with all submission, that it was a position from which they would inevitably recede, and he feared that they would hereafter find it difficult to yield with their influence absolutely unimpaired. He would regret that; and he therefore earnestly urged upon their Lordships to pause and reflect, both on account of the grounds upon which they were about to give their votes, and also on the consequences which would result, before they followed the noble and learned Earl into the Lobby. He would take a higher ground than that; and he would urge their Lordships to pass a Bill which he believed the nation most anxiously desired, which he believed was for the welfare of the country at large, and which would conduce to the stability of their representative institutions.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(The Earl of Carnarvon.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Further debate adjourned till To-morrow.