said, he held in his hand a petition praying for a Reform in the Representation of the people in parliament. Though favourable to the principle of parliamentary reform, he certainly could not concur in the prayer of his constituent, from whom this petition, came; still, however, as the petition was, drawn up in language respectful to the. House, he thought it ought to be received. The petition was from Mr. George Worgman, a jeweller, in the Strand. He prayed that the House might do away with the complex machinery at present used in borough elections—that they would repeal the acts against bribery and corruption at such elections. By these means, he thought the higher orders would be duly represented. It was the higher orders, the petitioner thought, and not the lower, which were not duly represented in that House. He further thought, that if the laws against bribery and corruption at elections were repealed, that influence might be openly exercised which was now carried on through, dark and secret channels; that an advantage would arise from giving to men of property sufficient to purchase the patronage of a borough, that fair representation in parliament to which such property was entitled. He also prayed, that the House would sanction bylaw the open purchase and sale of seats in that House. It was well known, the hon. member observed, that such bargains daily took place, and he could see no objection to making those seats, which were now the objects of secret bargain and sale, open to the public competition of such as might be disposed to expend their money in that way. The petitioner, in speaking to him on this subject, had stated, that this was the only kind of reform to which it was likely the House would agree, and he thought it would be attended with many advantages. The last prayer of the petitioner was, that large towns, such as Birmingham and Manchester, should be empowered to return members, in order that the balance might be kept true by the representation of the popular interests, and in order to keep open the channels for aspiring candidates who might wish to advance to official appointments. The plan of Mr. Worgman was therefore no wild or visionary project, incapable of being rendered intelligible, but a plain, comprehensive 1207 scheme, which certainly had some plausibility to recommend it. The petition was very respectfully worded.
The petition was then brought up and read; setting forth:
"That the House, during the reign of Edward the First, and for two centuries following, was summoned chiefly to vote supplies to the Crown, and to sanction the public acts of the ruling power; while so doing it exercised the right to protect the interests of the people, by promoting judicious laws, consequently the vital interests of the Crown and of the Barons (the great landed proprietors) were deeply concerned in its decisions; that the Crown and the Barons, in those early times, by means of their high stations and their landed possessions, influenced the electors in very many boroughs, and took especial care that the members returned should be parties interested in guarding their high privileges in the House; and moreover, that by those means it has occurred, that the great majority of Boroughs were never under the influence of the popular interest; that during the fatal conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster, the great power of the Barons was considerably lessened by the ravage of war, and by attainder, and further by the policy of the house of Tudor, which tended to enrich the Commons, and to repress the ancient Nobility, by opposing the growing power of the House to the unruly licence of the Barons, and by tacitly acquiescing in its assumption of new and great privileges, and legislative authority, which the Sovereign, by means of his great influence, occasionally made use of as an engine of state; that during the reign of the Stuart Family, the popular interest in the House obtained so firm a hold on public opinion, by its successful endeavours to reform the government, that it was enabled to outvote the members deputed expressly to guard the interests of the Crown and of the Nobles, which curb upon the representatives of the people being reduced below a useful standard, the popular interest propelled the machine of government into the most unwarranted excesses; that at the glorious Revolution of 1688, the coercive power of the government (consisting of King, Lords, and Commons) was combined, and became indissoluble in the House, principally through the wisdom of their proceedings, and the singular spirit of the representative system, which intro- 1208 duces members deputed by the King, Lords, and Commons, to guard their rights and all other preponderating interests; even those great dependencies on the Imperial Crown of these realms that have not the legal right to elect members to protect their interests in the House, do, by dint of property and connexions, through the medium of Boroughs, introduce Deputies, by which happy facility impartiality is secured, and the House has become the efficient governing Senate of this extended Empire, and diffuses the coercive power over its vast and disjointed territories; consequently, it is no longer the representative assembly of the Commons, charged principally to vote supplies to the Crown; that a more efficacious Senate could scarcely be constituted by any modification of the Election Laws, yet, the petitioner is of opinion, that there exists a strange anomaly between the letter and the spirit of those laws; the letter of the laws ordains, that by means of County, City, and Borough Elections, the people of the united Kingdom, or the popular interest, shall be represented in the House, without ordaining any mode of election for many other great and valuable interests that equally require direct representatives; and further, it declares, that it is a crime to vote from interested motives, when such motives are the springs to all worldly transactions, and that the most solemn oaths shall be taken to ensure the due performance of those laws which are morally bad, because requiring a factitious virtue in man contrary to his nature; now these oaths are well known to be ineffectual, and to produce much immorality and subterfuge (as was evinced by the late disgraceful proceedings at Grampound), because opposed to that strong and honourable feeling of self-interest which pervades human nature; fortunately, the spirit of these laws, or the Borough system, has introduced a counterpoise to the popular interest, and the secret working of that system paralyzes those laws that attempt to impede its progress by obstructing patronage and influence, which are the honourable appendages of property and possessions; impartiality results from the practical working of the Borough system (which enables all weighty interests so carefully to guard their rights and possessions by their respective Deputies, that the public good becomes the basis of their proceedings), not from the choice of unbiassed 1209 members, who cannot be actuated with sufficient zeal, nor possessed of adequate knowledge, to advocate with effect the interests of others, although they may be good umpires; the petitioner, being convinced that the machinery of the system is susceptible of great amelioration, that the scandal, meanness, and immorality, attending many Borough Elections, may be done away with, and that a more honourable and direct mode of representing the higher interests may be resorted to, prays, That the House will take into its serious consideration the propriety of assimilating the election laws to the spirit of the representative system in operation by repealing those laws that attempt to obstruct patronage and influence at elections, but which only force them into a secret and degrading channel, and bring odium on all parties concerned; and that the House will confer on the landholder possessing the power in close Boroughs to depute members to the House, the legal right so to do, without the intervention of nominal electors, who have long since been deprived of the use of their right by the tide of events, and which the petitioner considers more available to the purposes of good government in the hands of the possessors of the land, who now exercise that right; the petitioner further prays that the purchase and sale of a limited number of seats in the House may be declared legal, that being the only mode many great interests in this extended Empire have of introducing deputies, and it is extremely desirable that none should be excluded the benefit of an advocate in the House, whose interests are so important as to induce them to make the necessary sacrifice; lastly, the petitioner prays, that the right to elect members to the House may be granted to very populous towns, to protect the popular interest, which may be prejudiced by the reform proposed, and to keep open the channel through which aspiring candidates, dependent on popular favour, hope to obtain useful distinction, and to advance to official appointments; and for any further reform which, in the wisdom of the House, they may consider conducive to plain dealing and honourable conduct at elections."
§ Ordered to lie on the table.