Sir R. Fergusson
rose to present a petition from the town and parish of Dysart, in Fifeshire, signed by 1,200 persons, praying for a reform in parliament. He remarked on the very great distress suffered by every class of the community, and could not avoid saying, that as ministers were well apprized of its existence, they had acted very injudiciously in introducing that mockery of a committee for inquiry, which could but ill come up to the distresses of the people. He avowed himself a firm friend to parliamentary reform, but protested against the wild doctrine of universal suffrage, which had appeared so very prevalent.
presented a petition from Kilmarnock. He said, he was certain that no man in that House would assert that Scotland was represented. The gentlemen in that House from that part of the kingdom, might as well be said to represent New Holland as Scotland. It was true that the people might, under the severity of distress, mistake the real remedy, but that could be no argument why no remedy should be applied. The petition stated, that seats in the House of Commons were bought and sold like tickets for the opera.
§ Mr. Peter Moore
presented a petition from the burgesses and inhabitants of the town of Birmingham. It not only prayed for parliamentary reform, but complained of not being represented in parliament. It had been agreed to in a most numerous meeting, distinguished by the greatest order.
§ Mr. Brougham
expressed his satisfaction at hearing his hon. friend state that 311 the meeting was orderly and peaceable, and such he firmly believed was the case in the great majority of the popular assemblies that had lately been held throughout the country. He remarked, that whenever a slight breach of the peace had occurred, the circumstance was blazoned abroad, and affixed as a stigma to the great body of the people, but no acknowledgment was made of the good demeanour of those large meetings of 40 or 50,000 persons, where not the slightest disposition to outrage was manifested. He desired to impress it on the House, that all the petitions so numerously signed, which had been crowding to their table, afforded sufficient evidence of a populace in general peaceably disposed, who looked to that House as the only power by which their grievances could be redressed. It was owing to this that so many just praises issued from every part of the House on the good conduct of the people, such, he was confident, as, under similar distresses, was never equalled in the history of any nation. He was unwilling to say a word that might seem to anticipate the report of the secret committee. Until that report came before the House, it was the duty of every member to keep his mind as unprejudiced as possible, that, like a juror, he might come to a dispassionate- examination of the whole case; but he should grieve exceedingly, if, notwithstanding the general tranquillity of the nation, some districts should be found where a serious spirit of discontent had been manifested. If, however, it was too early to form an opinion respecting the promised report, it must he considered too early for any one to act on it. Yet, within the last twenty-four hours, it appeared that some members of the committee had come to a practical conclusion on the ill conduct of many of the people. He was extremely sorry to find that a place usually free from political feelings, and not devoted in general to secular topics, should have been, after the precedents of the worst times of our history, prostituted to party purposes.
§ The petitions were ordered to lie on the table.