§ Mr. Littleton,
in rising to move the order of the day that this bill should be now read a second time, the indulgence of the House, while he stated the nature of the measure, and the advantages which he thought were likely to be derived from it. His motive for bringing it before the House arose from a conviction which he had long entertained, that the present mode of exercising the elective franchise in Ireland was fraught with great evil, as it regarded the property of the country and the morality of the people. He thought that any measure which tended to alter the system that now prevailed in Ireland with respect to the elective franchise, that tended to check the mode by which vast numbers of available votes coming from the most ignorant class of Irish peasantry, for the greater part Roman Catholics, were procured, would receive the approbation of the Protestant community, at the moment when that community was called upon to extend important political rights to the higher orders of the Catholic body. it 177 had been said, that his object was disfranchisement, and not regulation. It was unnecessary for him to stop now, in order to examine how far the measure which had been submitted to the House, and which was printed, bore the character of a measure of disfranchisement; since he had requested that the second reading of the bill should be postponed to this day, with a view of extending protection, as far as possible, to all present vested interests. If the right of registered 40s. freeholders to vote were to expire when the period of the registration of their freeholds was at an end, those who now enjoyed that right could hold it for only three years longer. But, the House would presently see, that provision would be made to preserve, in the most perfect and unqualified manner, all vested interests which were at present in existence. For this purpose, a clause had been framed, which provided, that nothing in this act should extend to prevent any person who had register a freehold, or who should register a freehold, before the passing of this act, flora renewing that registration. He hoped that this provision would go far to remove the opposition of those gentlemen who, on constitutional grounds, had objected to this measure. After the passing of the act, there would be a cessation of the practice of multiplying those votes arising from freeholds, determinable on lives; and it would cause the creation of a different description of votes, which would be of the utmost importance to Ireland. There was nothing whatever, in the bill, which pointed at disfranchisement. By the act of 1793, a certain description of peasants were allowed to vote —those, he meant, who held freeholds determinable on lives, of the nominal annual value of 40s. It was very easy to conceive the mischiefs which were inseparable from such a system; and it was to put an end to them—to take away the capacity of creating freeholders of this description—that the present bill was introduced: but, he repeated that no existing vested interest was interfered with. If the Irish voters at all represented, in property or character, the freeholders of this kingdom, he would be the last man to interfere with so valuable a class of individuals: but, the former were not, in any way, similar to the latter. Their creation was, in fact, a fraud on the spirit of the law and of the constitution; because, by their great numbers, they kept 178 down the real freeholders of the country. They effectually suppressed the expression of public opinion on the part of that body; because, whatever they might feel as to the fitness of a candidate, they could neither return nor reject him, if the great body of those 40s. freeholders was opposed to their wishes. The freeholders to whom this bill applied, were not, like the landholders of the country, the strength and honour of the nation: they were, on the contrary, its weakness and its discredit; for they ruined the very property which reared them. For these reasons, he thought the House would act most unwisely, if they did not apply some remedial measure to an evil of such magnitude.
Nothing, as he had already observed, which was contained in this bill, was founded on the principle of disfranchisement. It trenched on no freehold right similar to that which was known in this country; and, where the nature of that species of right was most departed from —even with regard to leasehold votes—it was a measure entirely prospective. Let the House look to what the real character of the system was. By the term "freeholder," in England, was understood, one who was in the actual and absolute possession of freehold property to the amount of 40s. or upwards. There was another description of persons who also had a right to vote; he alluded to those who had an annuity, or rent-charge of property to the same amount. Such persons ought, he conceived, in justice, to be deemed freeholders. The same law which prevailed in Ireland also existed, in some few cases, in England. These were confined to bishop's leases, and to the estates of a few of the oldest Roman Catholic families of this country. This was the state of the case in England. But the Irish leaseholder, who in that country only was considered a freeholder, possessed no landed property whatever. He dragged out a miserable existence by labouring on the soil, and his right to vote was perhaps dependent on some ancient life. He not unfrequently held that right from a sub-lessee; he did not possess 40s. a year in actual and solid property; he might stipulate to pay a rent to that amount, and in default of that payment he was liable to be distrained upon, and whatever property he could call his own might be sold; he was obliged to attend at the session to swear that he was actually 179 worth 40s. a year: when he had committed that perjury, he was compelled to follow the herd to the hustings, and to vote for that person in whose favour his landlord interested himself, and of whom, perhaps, if he had the ability to judge for himself, and were left to take his own course, he would entirely disapprove. Gentlemen who were acquainted with county elections in England, knew, that no greater accusation could be made against a candidate, than that he had not personally solicited the votes of the freeholders. This was, undoubtedly, at times very inconvenient to the candidate; but, the jealousy with which the freeholder viewed any infraction of the practice, proved that he understood, and rightly appreciated, the value of the great privilege which he enjoyed; and which, therefore, he would not exercise lightly, nor in the support of a man by whom he conceived he had been slighted. But, woe to him who visited and canvassed the electors of Ireland! He was sure to fight a duel, as the reward of his temerity. He understood it was the rule in the courts of law in Ireland— [A member called out "The courts of honour,"]—he understood it was the rule in the courts of honour in Ireland, that whoever ventured to bring over to his interest the voters on the estate of a gentleman who wished to have his opponent returned, must justify his conduct at the pistol's mouth. It was said, that his hon. friend, the member for Galway, who was perfectly conversant in these matters, considered the offence given by such an act to be of so positive a nature, that he could hardly decide, whether the person so conducting himself was not bound to receive his adversary's fire, without returning it [a laugh]. It was stated in evidence, with respect to those electors, that whenever it answered the purpose of the Catholic priest to raise a particular feeling amongst them, he could do so, not only with success, but with impunity; and it was further stated, that whenever the landlord and the priest were brought forward in competition, the latter always drove the former out of the field. He did not wish to read much of the evidence, because he hoped that every gentleman had done himself, and the House, and the Catholic body at large, the justice to read it; and, if any gentleman had not done so, he hoped he should not be deemed presumptuous when he said, that that individual was not qualified to decide on this great question [hear, hear]. 180 He would now, with the permission of the House, read extracts from the evidence. In the first place he would advert to what had been stated by that intelligent Catholic barrister, Mr. Blake. He thus described the Irish 40s. freeholder:—"In general, they pay what is originally a rack rent for the land, they then build mud huts upon it, and if they make out of the land a profit of 40s. a year, a profit produced by the sweat of their brow, they reconcile to themselves to swear that they have an interest in it to the extent of 40s. a year, whereas the gain is produced, not through an interest in the land, but through their labour" Being asked "Do you think, generally speaking, that the 40s. freeholders exercise any free choice at elections?" he answered, "My opinion is, that they have none."
He would now call the attention of the House to the opinion of Mr. O'Connell. He stated, that, "in many places, the 40s. freeholder was considered as part of the live stock of the estate." And when asked, "Are you of opinion, that there is any great difficulty in making registries of freeholders without the business being very accurately performed according to law?" he answered, "The greatest facility; the clerk of the peace can appoint his deputy, any man can be his deputy for the moment; and it is the easiest thing in the world to register freeholds upon the present system, without either freehold or valid tenure to constitute a freeholder. There must be first tenure; that is to say, a grant for life or lives to constitute a freehold; in order to registry, there must be at the utmost such a rent as would leave the freeholder a profit of 40s. a year: now, I have known numerous instances, where, if a peasant was made to swear that he had a freehold of 40s. he would have perjured himself in the grossest way; and in those instances a friendly magistrate or two may very easily get into the room; an adjournment of the sessions for the purpose of registry is the easiest thing in the world, because the act of parliament gives validity to the registry, notwithstanding any irregularity in the adjournment of the sessions; therefore, two magistrates can come together very easily, get the deputy of the clerk of the peace to attend, and they can register upon unstamped paper if they please. They can register with the life described in such a way, that that life will be either 181 dead or living, as they please, at the next election; John O'Driscol or Timothy Sullivan, or any thing of that kind. Frauds with respect to the registry of freeholds are very considerable," Mr. Connell added—"but still it is, I take it, a very great advantage to the Irish peasant upon the whole, to have the power of voting given to him by 40s. freehold."—Who was there (demanded Mr. Littleton) that professed himself to be a friend to Catholic emancipation, and did not agree in that sentiment? It could not be doubted but that the act of 1793 created a great additional interest in that House in favour of the Roman Catholics, and forwarded the claims of that body. Looking at that fact, he did not disagree with Mr. O'Connell in the conclusion to which he had come;—namely, that, under the existing state of the law, it was advantageous to the Irish peasant to possess this privilege.
He now came to the evidence of Mr. Shiel, who said, when speaking of raising the qualification of freeholders, "I further think, that so far from its being an injury, it would be a benefit to the lower orders, that the qualification should be raised, and that the mass of the peasantry should not be invested, every five or six years, with a mere resemblance of political authority, which does not naturally belong to them, and which is quite unreal." He also said, "The peasantry are driven in droves of freeholders to the hustings: they must obey the command of their landlord; it is only in cases of peculiar emergency, and where their passions are powerfully excited, that a revolt against the power of the landlord can take place." He would next advert to the evidence of Mr. Hugh Wallace on this subject. His examination ran thus:— "Do you think any kindness is induced from the landlord to his tenantry, by the fact of their having those 40s. freeholds?— I question very much if there is."—"In some cases, does it not lead to acts of hardship upon the part of the landlord towards his tenants, where the tenants refuse the landlord's solicitation for their votes?—That I have no doubt of."—"Do you know in what manner some of the proprietors in Ireland are in the habit of controlling the votes of their tenants?—I know two modes by which they harass the tenants who do not vote as they wish them to do."—"Will you be good enough to state them?—One is preventing 182 them from having bog ground (the right of cutting, in the bogs of the landlord, firing for the tenant), which, in general is not granted by the leases, but is an easement that they are permitted to enjoy by the landlords; the other is, the compelling them, upon estates where it has always been allowed, that half a year's rent should be in the tenant's hands, to pay up that to the day it becomes due."—"So that, if the 40s. freeholder votes according to his own judgment, he is immediately obliged to pay up what is called the back half-year's rent, and is deprived of firing for the next half year?—Yes."—"The right of fuel is not leased out with the freehold?—It is not."—"Generally speaking, those 40s. freeholders exercise no freedom of election whatever?—Generally speaking, I do not conceive they do; I conceive quite the reverse." Thus (observed Mr. Littleton), it appeared, that, in many parts of Ireland, a man was obliged to forego the dictates of his conscience, or be starved for want of fire during the winter.
He would now refer to the invaluable unsophisticated, candid, and practica evidence of the right hon. member for Kilkenny ( Mr. Dennis Browne) which was exceedingly important. He was asked, "Did it ever occur to you, that it would be desirable to make the abolition of the 40s. freeholders a part of Catholic emancipation?" and he answered thus— "A great part of the interest of my family depends upon 40s. freeholds of the Catholic persuasion, so that you could not apply to any person who would be less likely to give you fair information upon that subject;" but the right hon. member's conscience made him speak out, for he added—"but, if you can prevail upon the 40s. freeholders in England, and upon the 40s. freeholders in the north of Ireland, who are a very sturdy race of men; if you can prevail upon them, you can do it with the Roman Catholics, but most undoubtedly it must be a general measure: if the object is a free and fair election; if the object is, that a man should represent the fair sense of the county, undoubtedly the 40s. freehold system is entirely against that." He proceeded to say—" That the present election laws are all for the encouragement of fictitious votes, because they give no power of examining at all; any man that is registered must vote; and as to going to a petition afterwards, that is quite out of the question; we can 183 hardly stand the expense of an election, much less of a petition." Now, the measure which was at present before the House was intended entirely to remove those fictitious votes; and he was really surprised that any gentleman should oppose such a measure. He was asked— "Are not, in point of fact, the small freeholders so much under the influence and in the power of the landlords, that they dare not act against them? I think they are: I think they would be very daring to do so, because they owe us generally double what they have to pay us." It was quite clear continued (Mr. Littleton), that if an individual dared to consult his own opinion in voting, he would be reminded of the half year's rent which was in arrear, and under the influence of fear, he would be obliged to vote contrary to his conscience. The House might here see the demoralizing effects of this system: and he really thought that the right hon. member (Mr. D. Browne) was entitled to the thanks of the House, for the candour which he had manifested in exposing it. If one of these freeholders, at the general election, dared to vote against his landlord, the reward of his temerity would be an ejectment from his residence. What further proof was necessary of the demoralization which must be produced by such a system, than the fact, that landlords did not only pursue this course, but that they pursued it with impunity?
In another part of his examination Mr. Blake was asked—"Do not you think a considerable outcry would be raised in Ireland, if it was proposed to raise the qualification of 40s. freeholders?" and his answer was—"If the 40s. freeholders were persons of independent property, exercising through their property a free choice, I think it would produce a very serious outcry; but I think the present 40s. freeholders are not persons likely to feel it." This was indisputably the fact. The Irish 40s. freeholder had nothing to lose. Such a loss as that of voting, would, in fact, be a real gain. He would lose a disgusting qualification, which enabled him to live by perjury; and certainly that would be a benefit. But, if the bill of the hon. baronet passed—and he did not desire that the measure he now proposed should be carried without the other—then would the Irish Catholic enjoy the gratifying feeling, that he was placed on an equality with his Protestant brother. To the no- 184 bility and gentry of Ireland the act which he now endeavoured to have carried into effect, would be one of inappreciable value, for it was a measure which would bind them all to abstain from cutting up their estates and incomes by the roots, which they were now continually doing, by raising those immense armies of fictitious freeholders. They would be obliged to depend, as the nobility and gentry of England did, on the force of public opinion. They would have no other influence beyond tint which was attached, and would always be attached, to the possession of extensive property.
There was another feature of demoralization arising out of this system, which he could not pass over in silence. it was the growing neglect and indifference of the lower classes of Ireland to the sanctity and solemnity of oaths. This was stated in the evidence to be produced by the multiplication of oaths in that country. They were, in consequence, looked upon without awe, and were frequently violated. Mr. O'Connell, in his evidence, had given a very interesting and, he believed, a very faithful statement on this point. He was asked; "Do you conceive that the multiplication of oaths, with reference to the registration of freeholds, and with reference to the proceedings at elections, as well as other oaths which are administered to the peasantry of Ireland, has had the effect of rendering them in any respect indifferent to the obligation of an oath?" His answer was, "Yes, I am convinced of it: the frequency of oaths has had a most demoralizing effect upon the peasantry of Ireland; my opinion is, that the civil bill jurisdiction of the county courts is most frightful and horrible in its effects upon the morals of the Irish people. The allowing a single individual to decide, who cannot possibly be acquainted with the bearings of character, in the first place, is not bringing justice home to the peasant, it is bringing litigation; then a single individual decides; he has an immense number of causes to decide; he cannot possibly weigh the character, for he cannot be acquainted with its shades; in the next place, it is not pleasant to him to have that task; the jury keep each other in countenance; one man is not reproached with having discredited a witness; there are twelve on the jury, and therefore they protect each other; the assistant barrister is not so, he has not that protection; then, 185 if he decides, and I have seen this to a frightful and horrible extent—if the barrister decider, he will necessarily decide in favour of the flippant and distinct swearer! the swearer who has been trained to swear distinctly up to the fact that shall constitute the law. To have a conscience is an inconvenience; therefore in the civil bill court, if he is a man of character, scrupulous of his oath, he does his friend no good at all, but the ready and distinct swearer is beyond value; and it has had this effect, that in their dealings, the peasantry, in most of them, employ their children, at a very early age, to be their witnesses, and they produce them at an age that is actually frightful to look at them."—Now, he would ask, what hope was there of amelioration in a country, where landlords were constantly encouraging the disregard and neglect of a form, which was of the most sacred character and nature? He had no hesitation in saying, that amongst the evils of the system which he had been describing, this, to which he now referred, was almost the greatest.
Before he entered more particularly into the provisions of this brief bill, he would state, that there was no novelty in its principle. Formerly, in this country, freeholders of every description, without respect to the amount of their income, were allowed to vote; and he believed that, with respect to the election of coroners, that principle still prevailed. But, by the statute of Henry 6th., the right of voting was restricted to those who had 40s. a-year, or upwards, of clear, actual property. According to the value of money at present and in the reign of Henry 6th, it might be argued, that the qualification ought to be raised. But, it ought to be observed, that there were very few freeholders in this country who did not possess a more extensive property than that which would barely qualify them to vote; and when he considered their independence, and the intelligence they possessed, they appeared to him to be so admirably qualified for the discharge of their duties, that the propriety of altering the qualification had never entered into his mind. When, in 1793, the elective franchise, under the same qualification, was granted to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, it was foretold by every man of sense in the Irish parliament, that the Catholic clergy and laity would raise the number of votes too high, and that frauds 186 of every description would be resorted to. This was soon verified; and the act of 1795 was passed, which made occupancy the condition of voting. It was by that act provided, that no individual should vote for a knight of the shire in Ireland, unless he was in actual occupation of the ground from which he claimed the right of voting. The evil, however, not only continued, but increased. A law, was in consequence, enacted, which provided, that no 40s. freeholder should be allowed to vote, unless his freehold was registered for one clear year prior to the day of election, and it also provided that the registration should be renewed every seven years, Here, then, a clear distinction was made between the 40s. freeholder and the 40l. or 50l. freeholder. But this was not all. By an act of parliament, passed in the month of June last, which was known as Mr. Browne's act, joint-tenants were prevented from voting. The preamble set forth, that certain joint-tenants were in the habit of voting for members of parliament, to the material prejudice of the improvement of the people, the right thus assumed being a colourable one only; and the bill declared, that no joint-tenants, as described in the preamble, should be thereafter allowed to vote. Here, then, was a clear, decided, prospective disfranchisement of a large body of people, and especially of Roman Catholics. That bill was agreed to by a large body of those who considered it as a step towards procuring Catholic emancipation. But now, the same persons who were still anxious for Catholic emancipation objected to the present bill, although it was intended as a powerful instrument for achieving that great measure. He did not know how the parties who were friendly to the bill of last year, could consistently oppose the present. On this point lie should be glad to hear their explanation. The whole question, it appeared to him, resolved itself into the amount to which the qualification should extend; for the principle, he had shown, had already been recognized. What the qualification should be, it was in the breast of the House to determine. Three sums had been spoken of—5l. a-year, 10l. a-year, and 20l. a-year. If the qualification were as low as 5l. a-year, it would only, as it seemed to him, increase the evil. He was sure there were but few landlords who created freeholders under a rack-rent of 40s. a-year, that could not, with equal facility, get his tenant to swear 187 that he had an interest in the land of 5l. a-year, although he only derived that sum from his labour. If the amount of the qualification should be raised to 20l., he should fear that it would have the effect of reducing the electors to too small a number for the fair expression of the public opinion. His own individual wish, therefore, was in favour of the qualification being limited to 10l.; and this he believed would be sufficient to guard against perjury, which was so great an evil in the present system, because no person would commit so barefaced a fraud as to swear to that, unless they were really in possession of it.
He would now come to the advantages which this regulation was likely to produce to the country. In the first place, it would operate as a bounty for creating that valuable class of men, a yeomanry; the absence of which, in Ireland, had, it was admitted universally, been the cause of many of the evils under which that country laboured. In the second place, it would tend to strengthen and confirm the Protestant interest, and the Protestant establishment in that country. If it were true, as was generally believed, that the population of Ireland was Catholic, while the possession of property was in the hands of the Protestants, surely any measure which tended to strengthen and to raise the respectability of the latter class was one which must be approved of by persons of every description of political opinion. In support of this view of the subject, he would beg permission to quote the opinions which had been given in evidence before the committee appointed to inquire into the state of Ireland, by the hon. member for Lowth (Mr. L. Foster), and by Mr. Blake. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find any persons better qualified than those gentlemen were, to give opinions on this subject; or opinions which were more satisfactory in themselves. This question was put to the hon. member for Lowth—"What is your opinion of the effect of the operation of the elective franchise, in respect to 40s. freeholders, since the act of 1793?" His answer embraced some of the moral and political evils of the system, which he begged leave to read, although it was only the conclusion which went directly to the point. Mr. L. Foster said—"I have no hesitation in saying (and I never met with any gentleman who would differ from me in private, whatever he might say 188 in public), that however beautiful in theory it may be to admit persons possessed of 40s. freeholds to a participation in electing their representatives, in practice it tends to any thing but their own freedom, or the assertion of their own privileges; and that it has had the operation of adding very considerably to the number of the existing population in Ireland, and still more to their misery. A more mistaken view of the subject could not be, than to suppose there is any freedom of choice practically existing on the part of those persons; it is a clear addition of weight to the aristocracy, and not to the democracy, in elections. It tends to set aside any real value or importance that the substantial freeholders of 50l. or 20l. might otherwise have; it bears them down by a herd of people, each of whose votes is of as much consequence as their own, and who are brought in to vote, without any option on their part. The only doubt that ever arises is, whether they are to give their votes according to the orders of their landlord or of their priest. The only parties that ever come in to contact in deciding which way a Roman Catholic 40s. freeholder shall vote, are the landlord and the priest; the tenant in neither case exercises any other choice than to determine which he will encounter—the punishment he may expect from his landlord in time, or that which he is told await: him in eternity."—"Has not it also contributed greatly to the demoralization of the people, in respect of oaths?—Certainly; there is no end to the perjury in qualifying for the franchise."—He was then asked, "Do you think, from your knowledge of Ireland, the influence of the priest, if generally exerted, would have greater weight than the influence of the landlord?" "I have no doubt," he replied, "that the priests ,could drive the landlords out of the field. I think they have done it wherever they have tried. The consequences are extremely to be deprecated, in reference to the unfortunate tenantry. Subsequent to the election, the landlord necessarily loses the good feeling, which otherwise he might have had towards the individual who has deserted him; the rent is called for, and it is in vain for the voter to look to his late advisers for any assistance to meet it. There have fallen within my own knowledge, frequent instances cl the tenants having been destroyed in consequent of their having voted with their clergy." 189 The subject was pursued by the hon. member for Louth in his subsequent answers—"Doyou not think that a Protestant member of parliament, depending entirely for his election on Roman Catholic constituents, would vote very much as a Roman Catholic member of parliament elected by the same persons?— I think he would, and that he does, though not with the same sincerity."—"Do you think that that portion of the Irish Protestants, whom you have stated to be adverse to the claims of the Roman Catholics, would be more disposed to entertain the consideration of those claims, if they thought any modification of the right of voting might be a part of the arrangement?—I think a great many of them would be very much influenced by that consideration, and decided by it."—"A large proportion?—I cannot speak to the very proportion: but there are many, I have no doubt."—"Does not that apply to the three provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught; how would it affect Ulster?—I conceive that in Ulster, with the exception of the county of Cavan, the Protestant freeholders are so predominant in numbers, that the Roman Catholic freeholders cannot produce the inconveniences contemplated. In Cavan, I think, the parties are more nearly balanced,"—"What would be, in your opinion, the inconvenience of depriving the 40s. freeholders in those parts of the country of the right of voting?—I think the consequence would be to diminish the influence of the aristocracy in elections, and to give to the substantial yeomanry of the north a new and important influence. I dare say the 40s. Protestant freeholders in Ulster might reel a little mortified at the passing of the law; but I beg to say, that even with respect to the Protestant freeholder, I do not think it would be any real loss to him, for I do not consider that even the Protestant freeholders of Ulster exercise their own judgment. They, too, are in the power of their landlords."—"What do you apprehend would be the effect of the alteration of the elective franchise in the other three provinces of Ireland?—I think one immediate effect of it would be to present to many of the members who now sit for the south of Ireland, the option of losing their elections, or of resisting the Roman Catholic claims. I think it would throw them, for their chance of success, on the 50l. and 20l. freeholders. I think some of the present members for the south of Ireland 190 hold their seats by virtue of the 40s. franchise."
And here he felt obliged to stop for a moment, to observe, that if he were riot advocating a bill, which was to be contingent upon, and to go along with, the great measure of Catholic emancipation, the policy of quoting the evidence of the hon. member might be questionable; but, as it was the object of that measure to restore the Catholics of Ireland to the possession of their ancient and constitutional rights, and as the bill now before the House would not take effect until the other had passed, there could be no danger of reducing unfairly the number of Roman Catholic members. The hon. member for Louth was asked, "Supposing the Catholics to be emancipated, and the elective franchise to be raised to 20l., would there not be fewer persons in parliament for Ireland, depending on Catholic constituents, than there are now?" His answer was, "Probably not half a dozen representatives for Ireland, depending on Roman Catholics: but it may be material to observe, that every thing I have said supposes the legislature shall not create any franchise intermediate between 40s. and 20l. If the franchise was raised to 5l., I am persuaded very many of those unfortunate persons who have sworn to a franchise of 40s. would swear to one of 5l. I do not think they would outrage appearances so far as to swear to one of 20l." Upon this answer, then, he (Mr. Littleton) thought he was fully justified in fixing the qualification at 10l. The principle of the alteration was so fully recognized and so ably advocated by the hon. member for Louth, that he thought he had a right to look for his support on the present occasion; and, if he should entertain any different opinion from him with respect to the amount of the qualification, it would be competent for the hon. gentleman to propose in the committee whatever sum he thought fit to be inserted in the clause.
He would now refer to the evidence of Mr. Blake on the same subject, which was as follows:—"Would the raising of the elective qualification materially diminish that influence of the priests over the voters at elections?—I think it would; and I think, in every view of it, it is a measure essential to the peace of Ireland."—" Have the goodness to explain the manner in which that measure would operate?—I think it would operate bene- 191 ficially in various views of it, as connected with political power, as connected with the subdividing of land, and as connected with the want of a respectable yeomanry in Ireland. It would operate usefully, in point of political power, because it would give extended effect in Ireland to what I conceive to be a vital principle of the British constitution—that property and not numbers should constitute the basis of political ascendancy in the state. It would operate to prevent multiplied subdivisions of land, by taking away from landlords the temptation to such divisions, which the hope of extending political influence creates; it would tend to encourage the growth of a respectable yeomanry in the country, in the same proportion, and upon the same principle; because landlords who wished to have political influence, and who could only have it through a respectable class of freeholders, would be induced to promote the existence of such a class." Upon the good sense of this answer he would be willing to rest; but, he was desirous of reading to the House one other question and answer respecting, the Catholic clergy:—"Do you apprehend, that a state provision for the Catholic clergy would be received gratefully by them and by the people?—I think a state provision for the Roman Catholic clergy, if the Roman Catholic body were taken into the bosom of the state, and received as good and faithful subjects, would be considered a great boon, and would give great satisfaction both to the clergy and laity."
After the evidence which he had quoted, as well as from the deep and anxious consideration which he had given to this subject, he could not doubt that the main and immediate tendency of this measure would be, to take from the Catholic population an influence in elections, which was neither useful to their interests nor safely exercised, and to extend that which was more properly vested in the higher orders, strengthening at the same time the Protestant establishment in that country. He had been pressed by more than one hon. member in that House to abandon the measure which was now under discussion, and to content himself rather with the appointment of a committee. He had, however, declined to do this for several reasons. In the first place, he begged to remind the House, that it was upon the evidence contained in the report of parliamentary committees that this measure 192 was founded. Whatever difference of opinion might prevail as to the nature of the remedy to be proposed, there was none as to the existence of the evil, which was admitted in its fullest extent. To attempt to reach this evil through the slow means of another committee was in vain; and, such was the spirit or evasion in Ireland, that he was convinced, any measure short of that legislative enactment which he hoped would now be adopted by the House, would only add tenfold to the perjury and to the other evils with which the present system abounded. He was not without hope, that after the statement which he had made, the hon. member for Corfe-castle, would see reason to change and mitigate some of the epithets he had bestowed upon this bill on a former occasion. He hoped, too, that many of those who had for years voted with the hon. member, would be now found to desert his ranks: that the defection would not be confined to the young recruits, who had already set the example, but would spread to those veterans, who, for the last thirteen years, had shared with him the defeat and overthrow which had, during all that period, attended the opposition to the claims of the Catholics [cheers]. There was no man who did not feel that this question had now arrived at a point where it was impossible for it to remain stationary any longer. If the public opinion was really to direct the proceedings of that House, who could deny that it was now loudly expressed in favour of the question? Who could observe the heirs apparent to some of the peerages of the realm differing from their fathers, and renouncing the old prejudices which had hitherto seemed inseparably connected with their family names, and yet doubt that the time had arrived when this question must be carried? The Catholic clergy, and the laity, were now willing to make sacrifices, much greater than they had ever before offered or contemplated. Of this disposition they could give no greater proofs than by their concurrence in the measure now before the House. There was no concession which they would not make, in return for the boon which this bill was to confer on them; and when it should be carried into effect, they were willing to pass en act of oblivion on all that had taken place, and to hold out the hand of reconciliation. He felt that he should be wanting in candour, if he did not state, that amongst his con- 193 stituents there were many persons for whose opinion on every other matter he had the highest respect, with whom on this it was his fate to differ; but he must state, that, in that part of the country to which lie alluded, the question was rather regarded as one of religious antipathy than of political regulation. He was, however, satisfied, that the same causes which had produced so great a change in the opinions of parliament, would have a similar effect out of doors, and he had no doubt that in a very short time all persons would be united in their conviction of the expediency of this measure. For his own part, he should act upon this opinion with unabated zeal: and he would now conclude by saying, he was perfectly convinced that until parliament should consent to do what was just towards the Catholic people of Ireland, they could never hope to establish that peace and union which were necessary to the well-being of the empire [cheers]. The hon. member then moved the second reading of the bill.
§ Mr. Leslie Foster
said, that after the appeal which had been made to him by the hon. gentleman who had just sat down, he trusted he should be forgiven for obtruding himself upon the House at that early period of the debate. The evidence to which the hon. member alluded, had been given by him in another place, under the sanction of so solemn an obligation, that it must necessarily express the precise opinions of his mind on the subject to which it related. He had no hesitation in repeating here that of which he was fully convinced; namely, that the existing state of the elective franchise in Ireland was a great evil. But, when he said this, it by no means followed that he was prepared to go the same lengths with the hon. gentleman, or to adopt the measure which he had. proposed. The existence of the evil was admitted, but the path which was intended to lead out of it might be so replete with danger as to be worse than the evil itself. If the hon. gentleman was prepared to apply his remedy to every description of fictitious freeholds in Ireland, he was ready to go along with him. But, if the measure which he proposed was calculated, like the present, not to accomplish the end which it had in view, but to place matters upon a footing more objectionable and more unconstitutional than they were now, and to give place to greater immorality than even at present prevailed, then he felt compelled to with- 194 hold from it his assent. The rock upon which the hon. gentleman's scheme would be wrecked, seemed to him to be this: the hon. gentleman carefully avoided meddling with the fictitious freeholds when they assumed the garb of fees simple, but he attacked them with a bold hand indeed when they were only terms for lives. This subject had never been alluded to in the evidence taken in another place. No questions relating to it were put to him, and it was not, of course, for him to obtrude his opinions on the committee. Here, however, it became a prominent feature in the question before the House. In the first year of his present majesty, chap. 11, an act was passed for regulating the manner of taking the polls at elections. He believed there was no speech made on that occasion: he had referred to the debates, and could find no mention made of it, nor did he know by whom it was introduced, but he thought it was by the hon. member for Queen's County. There was nothing in the title of this bill which could induce any one to suppose that its operation would be to introduce a whole host of Irish voters into elections. Let the House look at what the law had been previously, and see what was its present operation. Formerly, the freeholder in fee had been required to register his title, and to produce the instrument under which he claimed; swearing at the time he gave his vote, that he was in the personal occupation of the property in respect of which he voted. The present law, however, removed all those wholesome precautions; and if the voter would swear that he was entitled (not that he was in possession), and without any production of title-deeds, he was immediately qualified to vote. There were in Ireland many commons on which some of the lower order of the peasantry had made successful encroachments, and occupied no mere land than was covered by the hovels in which they dwelt. The number of those persons who were thus entitled to vote was so great, and for election purposes so important, that in some counties they entirely .crushed the 40s. freeholders, and put them hors de combat. Nay, he knew more than one county in which this description of persons returned both the members. They seldom took the trouble to register their property; that being done for them by some of the neighbouring gentlemen. They had no landlords, and no body to interfere with, or to control them in 195 the tortious possession they had obtained. He hoped he had said enough upon this subject, to shew the House the necessity of discontinuing such a system; and he called upon his hon. friend, if he wished the House to go all lengths with him in his bill, to insert in it a provision for the destruction of the fictitious freeholds in fee simple, as well as those in estates for lives. He hoped he had convinced the House that he was more careful in his destruction of the fictitious franchise than his hon. friend. He should be satisfied if a clause was inserted in the bill, precluding all alleged freeholders now and hereafter from registering their fees, unless they could show at the same time that they were rated to the county rates for two acres of land. A provision of this kind appeared to him of the most equitable nature, because it would have the effect of excluding none but such as ought to be excluded from voting. No person could be more desirous than he was to apply the principle of the bill, if it were so arranged as to operate universally upon the elective franchise.
§ Mr. Brougham
rose, after having been repeatedly called for. He said, he was unfeignedly sorry that this question had been interposed between the discussion of the other bill. He approached it with all the anxiety which the insufficient information he possessed on the subject must necessarily occasion; but he was induced to do so from a consideration of the awful circumstances — he did not exaggerate when he applied to them that epithet—in which the House was placed. He felt, that as a sincere and fervent friend to Catholic emancipation, he had great reason to complain,that he and those who thought with him on that important subject, should be called, whether they would or no, to the discussion of this collateral question, which—and this was "the head and front" of his complaint—had no necessary or natural connexion with that of Catholic emancipation; but which was brought in as if it were part and parcel of the bill of his hon. friend the member for Westminster, and made to proceed pari passu with it. It had been read the first time immediately after that bill had been read the second time; and it was now to be read a second time, just before that bill was to go into a committee; and it was to come out of that committee just at the time the other would be reported. He understood, too, that it was intended to 196 engraft upon the bill before the House a clause, that it should not take effect, until six mouths after the other bill should have been passed. He hoped that so remarkable a solecism, so palpable au absurdity, as that of taking security against their own acts, would be avoided by the House. He hoped that so venerable a body as the parliament of England would not set the example (for as yet such a proceeding was without precedent) of saying, we are in such a state of ignorance as to what we are doing, that we can take no step in this matter, without saying this shall go for nothing unless we do a certain other thing. He was a sincere, a warm, and an enthusiastic friend of the Catholic question. From the first moment at which he had come to a solemn conviction on that subject — from the moment at which he could make his vote in that House available in support of his conviction—he had steadily and conscientiously advocated the question. Now that he had entertained sanguine hopes of its success—(and God knew that if ever its success seemed particularly necessary, it. was at that moment) — he found himself placed in the cruel situation of being called upon to decide another question,upon minutes of evidence which furnished contradictory information, and which, therefore, left him in total ignorance of its real merits—a question which upon the face of it (whatever appearance it might assume when it should be sifted) sounded disfranchisement. Upon this question he was told he must now decide, or he would he impeding the success of that measure, which he believed was of vital and absolute necessity to the safety of the empire. This was the first ground of his complaint. If he were inclined to be dogmatical, he should say, that he disapproved of the measure. For aught he knew it might he a very sound one; it might deserve all the encomiums passed on it by the hon. member for Stafford; it might deserve the attention of the House; but, it was novel in its nature, prima facie it sounded disfranchisement, and it came upon them with such rapidity and urgency, that the House had no opportunity of inquiring into its real merits. Did not all this prove to the House the necessity of pausing? They were called upon to adopt a measure which the hon. member by whom it was introduced told them was particularly founded upon the evidence of the hon. member for Louth. That hon. member got up in his place and 197 said, "I am wholly against the measure. My evidence means no such thing as you imagine. Either I will agree to no bill at all, or I will have one that shall go much further. I will have not only the tenants of leases for lives disfranchised, but the tenants in fee simple also. The elective franchise is, in Ireland as in England, too large already; we find the numerous voters at elections troublesome." Was this not enough to induce the House to pause? They were told by a class of men who had carried their dogmatical notions almost as far as, and with a similar spirit to the religious persecutions of other times—he meant the political economists, who had held up a valued friend of his, (Mr. Malthus), to public ridicule, only because he differed from Mr. Ricardo in a mere metaphysical, not a practical point—that they ought to pass this measure, for the purpose of checking that redundant population which he was ready to admit was a great evil in Ireland. When, however, he looked into the evidence, he saw nothing to support this dogma of the political economists. It was the same with respect to the subdivision of property, on which great stress was laid by the same sect; and thus the reasoning, however ingenious and satisfactory to the persons who advanced it, was altogether worthless, because it was in no respect borne out by the facts. Another sect said, " the Catholics, greatly to their credit, have agreed, clergy and laity, to give up this question of the elective franchise, and, in return for this valuable concession, they expect at your hands the measure of emancipation, although they will be greatly injured by the sacrifice they have made." Now, he did not understand the "although." This was a point not, perhaps, of much importance, but it was disputed. One man said, the Catholics were injured by this concession, and another, that the Protestants were injured. But now for the main body of the sentence. How did it appear that the Catholics had made any such concession? It was least fit to know in what terms they had made it, in order to ascertain its validity. Where were the "granting words," as the lawyers called them? They would be found in the statement of his hon. and learned friend Mr. O'Connell, their attorney properly authorized. He was asked, "Do you conceive that the system of 40s. freeholds, connected as it now is with the law between landlord and tenant, is such as 198 to ensure a fair representation? " And he answered, "It is impossible to say that; it has its advantages and disadvantages; it gives to the owners of great estates great influence: that, I believe, is a good deal in the spirit of the modern practice in parliamentary representation: it opens the door, however, for considerable frauds; and though I am quite convinced of the frauds, I see great difficulties in altering it. I should be glad, though it is a very crude opinion, if the qualification were 5l." But in the next page, he said, "In my humble judgment, it would not be at all right to meddle with the 40s. freeholders. .I have not expressed any opinion favourable to raising the franchise at all." Was this concession?—was it not the very reverse? He was asked again, whether he thought "that the species of improvement in Ireland, which there is fair reason to believe exists, has a tendency to place the social system in Ireland more upon a footing of similarity to that of England in that respect, and therefore to correct the evil of 40s. freeholders?" and his reply was, "I am entirely of that opinion; I think the progressive improvement in Ireland is such as is calculated to do away a great deal of the inconvenience of the present system, and to render it quite unnecessary, if it ever were necessary, to make any alteration certainly unadvisable." It would not become parliament to rush upon the course proposed by the honourable mover; the question should be made the subject of deliberate inquiry.
He had heard a great deal said about the evils of an enslaved peasantry, such as the 40s. freeholders on leaseholds for life were said to be; and a picture had been presented to the House, which was certainly calculated to arrest attention. With much diffidence he ventured to suggest, that the real cause of the evil was not to be found in that circumstance. His reason for saying so was this—that having listened with the most anxious, and he hoped lie might say accurate, attention to the speech of the hon. mover, he recognized hardly a feature of the picture which he had drawn of the herds or droves of peasantry being brought up under the lash, it might almost be said, of their masters, which did not apply to other places quite as strongly as to Ireland—in a less violent degree, no doubt, because the Irish freeholders were somewhat more numerous, and somewhat more dependent on their landlords, than the same descrip- 199 tion of persons to whom he alluded elsewhere. What would the hon. member for Staffordshire think of the picture which he (Mr. Brougham) could paint, without borrowing one false tint, or exaggerating a single line, of the conduct of certain great landholders in England? He .would suppose that a landlord was desirous of maintaining his interest in a county. He would say to his tenants—he would not make use of the names O'Driscol and O'Shaughnessy, they would only do for Ireland — but the tenants should be called Thompson or Jackson; the landlord then would say to Thompson and Jackson, "You shall have a renewal of the leases of the farms on which your ancestors have lived undisturbed for generations, on one condition; which is, that you shall qualify yourselves to vote for a knight of the shire by getting a 40s. freehold." Of course, Thompson and Jackson found it necessary to consent to this arrangement. The freehold was a mere cover, but the tenants kept it for the sake of their farms, just as the Irish freeholder kept his bog. It was the bog which kept the Irish freeholder in order, and made him submissive to his landlord. Without the bog, the Irish 40s. freeholder would be no more an evil than the 40s. freeholder in England would be, without the farm to which he was annexed. In England, as well as in Ireland, it was the practice for tenants to be brought up in droves, to vote at county elections. The counterparts of the O'Driscois and O'Shaughnessys in England were obliged to do just what their landlords pleased; unless they had the good fortune to have a lease on parchment, unshackled with any condition. The evil lay in the natural influence of property. This influence existed in England as well as in Ireland; and it must exist every where. There was a city in England represented by two of his hon. friends, for which freeholders voted as well as freemen. Certain landlords in the neighbourhood, who had an Interest opposed to that of the freemen, granted leaseholds for lives, exactly after the Irish fashion. Let not members, then, run away with the idea, that the evil which was complained of was quite peculiar to Ireland. It existed in principle in this country also; and the cause he believed was deeper than many persons imagined.
Much had been said on the subject of perjury. Men, it was stated, came up in droves to vote, as 40s. freeholders, who 200 were only leaseholders for lives. How, it was asked, could those men afford to purchase freeholds? Why, the landlord gave his tenant a freehold, without consideration of course; but then he received 50s. rent for the land. Under those circumstances the tenant took upon himself to swear that the freehold was his own. He knew that the same thing was done in England. One other word now with respect to perjury. The commission of perjury was stated to be one of the greatest evils of the present system; and the putting an end to it was one of the greatest advantages held forth as likely to result from the passing of the bill. No man could entertain greater horror of the debasing system of false swearing than he did; but, let it not be supposed that the practice was confined to the Irish peasantry, whom it was proposed to disfranchise in order to prevent it. He would say nothing of the Irish grand juries and their presentments—that was forbidden ground. But, he knew what took place nearer home—not on the part of electors, but of the elected—not in the county of Tipperary, but on the ten or twelve square feet of ground on which be was standing [a laugh]. Did it become those whom he was addressing, to declare that they could not contemplate without abhorrence that a man should swear he possessed certain qualifications, which, in fact, he did not possess—to hold up their hands, and bless God, that in this country people could not be found, as in Ireland, to take the dreadful and sacrilegious oath that they were worth 40s. a-year—to rush down with a bill to save the souls of the Irish peasants? Did it become them to do this? He would not stop to inquire whether the Irish would feel obliged for the attention which the House manifested towards the safety of their souls. They must be convinced, that parliament was extremely anxious with respect to their spiritual concerns, however their temporal matters might suffer under its management; but, it might perhaps be suspected, that they would rather desire that parliament should be more careful of their purses, and leave their souls to take care of themselves. But no: the cry was, disfranchise the Irish freeholders, and put a stop to perjury. Let the House take care that they did not disfranchise themselves. He was credibly informed, that certain members of that House — of a former parliament—of course it could not 201 be of the present that be was speaking—did sacrilegiously make oath in the Lord Steward's office on one day, and at the table of the House on another, that they were worth 300l. a-year in lands and tenements, when some of them were not worth a shilling, and others had no land at all [a laugh]. Suppose the Irish freeholders should bring such a charge against the House. He should be without an answer to it. He might, it was true, look big, and say, "Do you know what you are doing, in imputing systematic perjury to the members of this House? It is a breach of privilege, and I will send you to Newgate." To Newgate they must go; for he could have no other means of getting rid of the charge [hear, and a laugh]. It could not be denied, that it was the practice of senators to do that, for doing which the Irish freeholders were now to be disfranchised. The fathers of honourable members had done so before them; and they, their worthy sons, swore perhaps more glibly, that they were worth 300l.a-year in land: nay, they went further—they did what the Irish freeholders could not do, because he apprehended they did not know bow to write—they gave in a schedule, specifying very minutely the particular county and parish, and hundred, in which their lands and tenements were to be found [a laugh]. It did not, then, become the House to be particularly nice on the subject of perjury. It was all very well and proper to express a becoming horror of the crime; but when they came to disfranchise people on account of it, they should beware lest they disfranchised themselves [hear, hear]. But, the practice in question was not confined to members of that House. He would allude to a profession, than which none was more honourable—he meant that of arms. He had no doubt that the first gallant officer who might speak on the question, would express his contempt of the Irish freeholders for their false swearing. The members of the House, who were not connected with the army, entertained a more religious feeling on the subject, and talked of the sacrilegious nature of perjury; but officers of the army, being men of honour, would in all probability express their surprise and indignation, that any being could be found so degraded, as to swear that he was worth 40s. in land,when in fact he was not. These very officers, however, when the question was about the buying of a commission—did 202 not swear to be sure—that was out of their line; but—always declared upon their honour, that they had given no more than the regulation price, though they knew all the time that they had given double [hear]. An hon. friend near him informed him, that this practice was now discontinued; which he was glad to hear. —Hitherto he had only spoken of laymen; but it grieved him inexpressibly to be compelled to state, that the Church itself was not without a stain. It grieved him much to say this, and particularly because it would be the means of taking much preaching out of the mouths of those persons whom his hon. friend, the member for Knaresborough, once described as people clothed in an odd dress in another House [a laugh]. Those reverend persons were in the habit of talking of perjury as a crime not to be heard of without abomination: they declared that truth, sincerity, and frankness were the essence of religion. If, then, perjury was criminal when committed by laymen, it must be ten times more odious when practised by churchmen. And yet, what did these reverend persons do? He would suppose that a reverend gentleman was to be inducted into a bishopric of about 4,000l. a-year. He declared in the name of God, that he felt inwardly moved—[a laugh]—yes, that he felt inwardly moved at that moment by the Holy Ghost, to take upon himself the office of bishop and the administration thereof, and for no, other reason. Now, here was this reverend person solemnly declaring, that he took upon himself to discharge the duties of bishop, in consequence of a call from the Holy Ghost, and for no other reason; although he knew at the same time, that he had opposed the Catholic question and the claims of the dissenters on a thousand occasions. How all this could go forward was a mystery which he professed himself unable to understand; but, he supposed it was calculated for the end which the parties had in view. He could not, however, help thinking, that the members of that House who took one oath, and the bishops and clergy out of doors who took another, were the last persons in the world who should be so exquisitely squeamish with regard to the conduct of the Irish Catholic freeholders, whom they had all along treated, and still wished to treat, as if they were the only mortals under heaven who had ever been guilty of perjury [hear]. He would say nothing with re- 203 gard to Custom-house oaths, because they went to the swelling of the revenue [a laugh]. A great and flourishing revenue was doubtless a great blessing, and God forbid that he should do any thing to injure it!
These were the grounds of some of the doubts which he entertained with respect to the measure before the House, in a moral and religious point of view. He would now revert to his grand objection to the bill as a political measure. It was said, that the bill was to smooth the way for Catholic emancipation. If any thing could induce him—he could not say to overcome his objections to the bill, for he was in a state of ignorance respecting it—but, if any thing could induce him to vote for the measure in the dark, the great boon which was held out would be the most powerful bribe that could be offered him; if any bribe could induce him to desert what he believed to be his public duty. He would willingly bow to what all men both in and out of that House regarded, the high authority by which the measure was recommended. It was supported by the Attorney-general for Ireland, who had, who could have, no other object in view than the benefit of Ireland. Hardly inferior to him in authority, was his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, who, though he possessed no more information on the subject than the rest of the House, was inclined to support the bill, because he was led to believe that it would tend towards the attainment of the object which, to his immortal honour, he had so ably and so earnestly struggled for — the happiness of Ireland [hear, hear]. But, there was another authority to whom—he stated it with all possible respect for the two gentlemen whom he had before alluded to—he bowed with still greater submission. He stated this in the presence of the two honourable members, because he knew that they would be the very first to render that respect which was due to such revered authority—he meant the right hon. baronet who sat near him (sir J. Newport). That right hon. baronet was one of the truest patriots, one of the most disinterested statesmen, whether in the House or out of the House, whether in regard to the interests of the empire generally, or of those of his own, to him dear and beloved, country—and he trusted that that country would prove grateful for his exertions, not only now, but when he should 204 be taken from them, to have his name enrolled with that of Grattan, in the eternal remembrance of his countrymen. When he found the authority of this distinguished individual given unflinchingly and unqualifiedly in favour of the bill before the House, he felt staggered, and almost inclined to say that he would follow his opinion blindfold; for, if there was any man whose opinion upon a great, difficult, and constitutional question, he would be disposed to follow, or to advise others to follow, blindfold, it was the right hon. baronet. He was called upon to take a great step in the dark; but, had no evidence to show that the measure would be effectual for the object which it was professed to have in view. He had no evidence to prove, that that object was a legitimate one; and he had any thing rather than evidence, that it would conciliate the people of Ireland. He had, on the contrary, strong reason to believe, that it would split them into schisms, if not alienate them from the great question of emancipation [hear].
But, this was not all. Under the present system, the Irish peasants were well treated by their landlords; and they were secure of their tenure on the land. Mr. Shiel, in his evidence before the committee, expressed his opinion, that the proposed disfranchisement of the freeholders would be submitted to, if Mr. O'Connell were to use his influence to that end. But, was that a ground for parliament to legislate upon? He thought highly of Mr. O'Connell, and believed that his influence in Ireland was the best pledge of conciliation; but he was of opinion, that Mr. O'Connell was the last who would wish for the passing of the bill, and afterwards to proceed amongst his countrymen to make it popular. Mr. Shiel expected that Mr. O'Connell would go amongst the Irish peasantry and say, "We have got the Catholic question carried on account of this measure." How would that sound in their ears? There was no doubt that Catholic emancipation would be productive of incalculable benefits to Ireland; but its good effects would not be immediately felt by the peasantry. Mr. O'Connell, however, would have to go to his countrymen and say, "We have carried a measure which opens to us the Bench, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords, and all the price which we have paid for these concessions is the abandonment of your elective right" [hear, hear]. 205 This was the sort of argument which Mr. Shiel expected Mr. O'Connell to use to his countrymen; and, what was still more extraordinary, he expected him to use it with success. Mr. O'Connell, however, would use no such argument. He had his evidence against the measure. Mr. O'Connell's opinion might be right or wrong, but it was against the measure.
He would venture to lay down, as a general proposition, that there was not a more wholesome and safe principle of legislation, than that every great measure of public policy should be considered, and adopted or rejected, on its own merits, and not in connexion with another measure of not much greater importance than itself. What was the consequence of the left-handed, complicated, confused mode of legislation, which it was proposed to pursue on the present occasion? He might call it the cabinet mode of legislation by compromise, but he wished to avoid giving offence. The House might decide upon a whole set of measures, and not adopt the right one after all. The bill was held forth as a bribe, to induce those who were opposed to the Catholic question to vote for it. In this way it was impossible that the bill could be decided on its own merits, any more than the Catholic question. If the bill should, on consideration, be found to be improper, let it be rejected; even though by that circumstance the Catholic question should lose the support of the three votes which had been promised in consideration of the passing of the bill [hear]. If the proposers of any measure were to offer to one member the command of a ship, and to another that of a regiment, to induce them to support it, he should certainly consider it a bad mode of legislation; but not so objectionable as that of bribing members to support one measure by passing another. Our ancestors, it should be remembered, had always been most cautious in meddling with the elective franchise, They had been cautious, when it was proposed to extend that privilege; as he had no doubt their descendants would be, if such a proposition were now made. If for instance, he were to propose that copyholders should be allowed to vote, he was quite sure he should not be able to get many members to give half a vote far his proposition, who were nevertheless disposed to run helter-skelter to vote for the bill before the House, as if it was one of the most plain and reason- 206 able measures imaginable. Still more cautious, however, had the House always been in adopting any measure, the object of which was, to narrow the elective franchise. He would remind the House of the conduct pursued with respect to Grampound, a little borough having not more than about thirty voters. Corruption on the part of the electors had been clearly proved in that case; yet, committees were appointed and evidence heard; and the bill for disfranchising the borough did not pass through the House, in less than two sessions. The bill for disfranchising Helston was before the House for three sessions, and was finally rejected. Yet, the House was now called upon, without any inquiry whatever, to disfranchise a whole class of voters. What had our ancestors done still further back, and in a time of greater authority in constitutional matters? The measure approximating nearest to the one before the House was the Splitting act, of which lord Somers was the author. In the first volume of his Tracts lord Somers, had left a note containing his opinion with regard to the Splitting act, and that opinion certainly was favourable to such a measure as the one before the House. But, was that act brought in tacked to another question, as a sort of make-weight? No; it was introduced as a part of the legislation of a whole session on the same subject. Look at the session of the 7th and 8th of king William, and it would be seen, that the attention of parliament was directed throughout that session to the question of parliamentary reform. It was the standing topic of the period. The Treating act was passed in a few weeks after the Splitting act. Another bill for regulating elections was passed, stage by stage with the Splitting act; that bill, however, was not passed into an act, because the king refused to sanction it. That bill contained a clause, which proposed, that the practice of voting by ballot should be universally adopted in England. He mentioned all these circumstances to show that the Splitting act was not brought forward as a make-weight for another question, but was one of a series directed to one common object, which almost exclusively occupied the attention of parliament during a whole session. If any one would take the trouble to look at the divisions on the measures to which he had alluded, it would be found, that they were never carried in houses of less than from three 207 to four hundred members. This was the sort of legislation which it became the House to follow. Any measure which tended to restrain the elective franchise of the people ought to be subjected to the most careful scrutiny. He trusted that the House would not rest satisfied with being told, that the bill had been considered in a committee. That would be any thing but an answer to his call for investigation. That committee was appointed to investigate every subject connected with Ireland. He wanted the bill to be made the subject of a special investigation. He would defy any member to prove that any question had been proposed in the committee, except in one direction, as to the merits of the bill. The very first witness, on whose evidence the bill was said to be founded, stated that another and a better remedy might be found. Under these circumstances, was he asking for too much when he demanded inquiry? No two witnesses had agreed on the subject in the committee; and he would venture to say, that no two gentlemen from Ireland in that House would be found to give the same description of the fact, or the same opinion as to the remedy. The subject required discussion. Of facts regarding it, the House was in possession of few; of consistent statement, none. It would, in his opinion, be unsafe and unconstitutional to pass the bill without inquiry. The conciliation of Ireland was the grand object. Who in that House would be bold enough to say, that if the present bill and the Catholic question should be carried, the one measure would recommend the other—the one giving an immediate benefit to a certain class of Catholics, and the other taking away a privilege from another class not immediately benefitted by the former measure. If any man would say that, he might admire his boldness as a prophet, but he would not feel disposed to take him for his guide. If the Catholic question was carried by itself, it would be received by the people of Ireland as a pledge of conciliation: but, if it was coupled with the bill before the House, it would be liable to misconstruction. These were the doubts and forebodings which he could not help feeling on the subject. It was said that, by agreeing to the present bill in the dark, the Catholic question would be carried. He did not believe it. He thought that those persons who said so were reckoning without their hosts; at 208 all events, he was afraid they were reckoning without their lords [a laugh]. It was not for him to allude to what passed in another House of parliament, except as matter of history; but, he would say, that he had heard of passages delivered in another place which gave him an alarm, not only for good. government, but the safety of the constitution of this country, and for the stability of the monarchy as by law established, and at the Revolution of 1688 settled. The passages to which he alluded had given him so deep and serious alarm, that he protested before God he could not believe his ears when the news was brought to him that morning. It was impossible for him even now to believe what was stated. The papers must be filled with libels that must be false. For no man living could believe that a prince of that House, which sat on the throne by virtue of the Revolution of 1688, should promulge to the world, that, happen what would, when he came to fill another situation, if all—
rose, admidst tremendous cheering from some parts of the House, and cries of order from other parts. As soon as silence was restored, the right hon. and learned member said he rose to order. The reason he had not taken an earlier opportunity of calling his hon. and learned friend to order, and putting a stop to such a discussion was, that his hon, and learned friend, in alluding to what had passed on former occasions, in the early part of his speech, had declared, that he would only allude to such passages historically. When he found, however, that his hon. and learned friend was proceeding to allude to what had recently passed in the other House of parliament, and to designate the person to whom his observations applied, in terms which could not be misunderstood, he felt it to be a duty which he owed to that House, to the illustrious personage alluded to, and to that great cause in which even now he did not cease to think his hon. and learned friend sincerely interested, to prevent him from continuing a course of observations in his present heat of temper, which, he was satisfied, he would in his calmer moments regret.
§ The Speaker
said, he was certain that the House would pardon him for addressing a few words to them a that moment. If the inference drawn by the right hon. gentleman who had last addressed them was correct—if his anticipation of what was coming from the hon. and learned 209 member was right—there could be no question that the hon. and learned member would be out of order. It was impossible for him to define what was the order of the House more strictly than the hon. and learned member had done, on taking up the subject which had occasioned the present interruption. It was his business to expect, after the hon. and learned member had so strictly defined the order of the House, that he would not depart from what he had laid down. On the whole, he must repeat, that if the anticipation of the right hon. gentleman was correct, unquestionably the further proceeding in the course which he had commenced would be most disorderly.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, he doubted not that the right hon. and learned gentleman meant nothing but kindness to him, and also to the Catholic question. At the same time, it seemed to him, that after what had fallen from the Chair, he was entitled to say that the right hon. and learned gentleman had proceeded somewhat prematurely. He had interrupted him before the proper period had arrived. No member had a right to interrupt another because he himself expected that that other member was going to be disorderly. Good God! was ever such a thing heard of? In the parliament to which the right hon. and learned gentleman formerly belonged, such a course might have been pursued; but it was the privilege of a member of an English parliament to go on free from all interruption, until he said something disorderly. If he did any thing disorderly, he did it at his peril. His words might be taken down; and he would never utter in that House, or in any other place, any thing which he would have the least objection to be taken down. He spoke for the privileges of the House; but he also spoke for the consistency, credit, and character of the House. Why, this was like the perjury question, of which they bad heard that night. Had no man ever before heard of an allusion to another place? Scarcely a debate took place in which sonic allusion was not made to it; sometimes under the flimsy shelter of the phrase, "another place which it is not allowed me to name." His right hon. friend the member for Knaresborough, not long ago alluded to the bishops directly. Why, it was only that very evening, that another hon. member had made an allusion to the same incident. But, was not this base spirited on the part of the House? If the 210 members of that House habitually adverted to proceedings in the House of Peers —if he himself had heard the words of the lord Chancellor canvassed in it not twenty-four hours after the noble lord had uttered them—if the lord Chancellor himself had afterwards, in the House of Lords, repeated the same words and coupled that repetition with a reply to the observations which they had called up— if all this had been done, was it not an unworthy course, which was now attempted to be taken against him? Was it not base for the House of Commons to say, "You may attack the bishops—the Woolsack—the lords, collectively or individually, if you will; but, if you only glance at the heir presumptive of the Crown, privilege shall rise up against you, even before the words which are to constitute the offence can be uttered"—an hon. and learned member (himself the most disorderly in all the world) shall get up and complain that you are out of order, not because any thing irregular has been said, but—quia timet—merely because he apprehends that something possibly may be.
rose to order. He said that the hon. and learned gentleman was out of order still. If he was not, let him explain what those two words, quia timet, meant [excessive laughter and cheering].
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he would put it to the hon. and learned gentleman himself, whether, engaged, as the House was, in the discussion of a measure of great importance, he would introduce a topic likely to unfit the House for the immediate business before it? Would not the hon. and learned gentleman, upon cool reflection, feel that it would be better, at all events, to abstain from any such allusions?
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that any recommendation coming from the right hon. gentleman was entitled to his best attention; but he could not disguise from himself, that the fact to which he had alluded formed a most important feature in the question before the House. The cry of the advocates of the present measure had been, "Carry this bill—carry the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders—not upon its own merits, but because it will carry with it the question of Catholic emancipation." Why, this might have done well twenty-four hours ago—twenty-four hours back, gentlemen might have expected to carry Catholic emancipation 211 with the help of the bill now under discussion; but, what gentleman at the present moment would say, that he had any hope left of so carrying it? The very last plea in favour of the bill before the House—the only plea that ever could have been urged for it—was departed. What pledge had he now, that even if he abandoned his duty as a senator, if he consented to legislate without investigation, to vote in the dark, where the rights and interests of thousands were concerned—what pledge had he, that he should ever receive any consideration at all, for thus voting in the teeth of his own perceptions, and betraying the important trust reposed in him? There had been some show of temptation, while it could fairly be said, "Give up the rights of these freeholders, and the Catholic bill will pass; but, did any man believe now, that with the present, or any other measure, the Catholic bill would pass? Would not the ominous news of the day in which he was speaking, go forth through all England, and all Ireland, as the knell of despair, rung over the Catholic question, and those interested in it for ever? Ought not the knowledge of that news to operate upon the House? He said, that it ought; and the conclusion which he drew from it was this—fair, honest warning was given to the Catholics and to the country—they had reasonable and candid notice: want of conscientiousness and plain frankness in the avowal of an intention was the last charge that he meant to bring against any man [hear, hear]. He would not go nearer to the question than that. But though this frankness was honest and conscientious, still the Catholics had not less a very honest and conscientious avowed obstinacy to deal with: for no monarch who ever sat upon the English throne had ever been prepared for such resistance to his people on behalf of the Catholics as was now not only meditated, but openly avowed against them. Then he ( Mr. Brougham ) held up this warning, and repeated it, for the benefit of Ireland and of the Irish members; and what he said to them was, "Do not believe that any thing will ever carry the Catholic question but a powerful majority in the House of Commons." But if, instead of such majorities as 17 and 27, to save the whole empire from a convulsion, which the events of the last twenty-four hours led men still more anxiously to think of—if, to save at once England and Ireland, a large increase in the majority 212 on the Catholic question might be hoped for, the present moment—the present reign was the time for its. appearance [hear]. A little while, and it would be too late. A brief time, and the opportunity would be gone for ever. A little rest—a little slumbering—a little folding of the hands to sleep—a little more pausing in apathy, as we had gone on to do session after session, parliament after parliament, for twenty years— a little more of this, and we should find despotism and intolerance coming upon us like an armed man; and the power of pacifying Ireland, and of saving England, would be gone for ever [loud cheers]. He was no lover of discord [a laugh from tile ministerial benches]. He repeated it—he was no lover of discord; and those who would deem him such were themselves only not lovers of discord, because they preferred to what they called discord and commotion, the solitude and silence of passive obedience, and the bending before absolute and uncontrolled despotism. He respected the conscientious feeling of every man. Heaven forbid that he should not give to the honest differences of opinion in other men the same degree of tolerance which he claimed for his own. He said —he had said it out of doors, and he repeated it now in the House—that a want of conscientious frankness, was the last charge that he would bring against any man. But it did happen, that the men sometimes who had most of that frankness, unless at the same time they were men of enlightened understanding, were, of all others, the most irreclaimable; and that, in fact, all hope of recalling them from their errors—so help them God [cheering and laughter!] was but visionary. Under these circumstances, then, it became the House to set itself in order, and to embrace the very earliest opportunity—for to lose one might be fatal—of going up to the other branch of the legislature with an overpowering majority upon the Catholic question. He repeated, that nothing short of an immense majority—little short of unanimity—could be successful. He repeated, that there was not an hour to be lost; for the time might come when even such a majority would be ineffectual. There might come a time, and honourable gentlemen would do well to recollect it, when the unanimous vote of both Houses of parliament, joined to the expression of opinion from the .whole country, would have no other consequence than to lead 213 to an irreparable breach with the Crown. He recommended the House, therefore, and he did it sincerely, to reject the adjunct and to pass the great measure at once. He said, "Do that act while you still have power to do it: that power may not remain for ever." The hon. and learned gentleman sat down, amid loud and continued cheering, by again reminding the House, that they had timely notice—warning to be acted upon before the last opportunity pissed away—that they could not fail in carrying the question of Catholic claims, without involving England in the deepest peril and confusion.
§ Sir J. Newport
warmly supported the present bill, which he deemed to be one of vast importance, independently of its connection with the great question of Catholic emancipation, and one which was calculated to contribute to the safety and happiness of Ireland. He certainly felt some surprise, after the declaration of his hon. and learned friend who spoke last, that he was entirely without information on this subject, at the decided manner in which he had expressed his opposition to the bill. The policy of the measure had been fully investigated before the committee; where every opportunity had been given to gentlemen of the most opposite political opinions, to give information on this subject. The ruinous effects of the existing system upon the morals and happiness of the country had been fully established be fore that committee. His hon. and learned friend had characterised the measure, as one of disfranchisement; but it was no such thing. It did. not disfranchise one single individual; it preserved their existing rights to all. It merely said, that no such enrolment of freeholders should take place hereafter. He had often stated his conviction of the necessity of the measure. He had now but to repeat that opinion. His hon. and learned friend would injure the great question by separating the present measure from it. He wondered how any friend to the cause of emancipation could act as his hon. and learned friend had acted. He would carry the all-important measure on its own single merits if he could; but, if he could not carry it alone, he would try to carry it accompanied by another measure. He earnestly entreated every man who wished well to the peace of the country, to support the measure before the House as an auxiliary to the main measure of conciliation, Catholic emanci- 214 pation. After a few further observations, which were inaudible, the right hon. member concluded, and left the House through illness.
rose and said:— shall not detain the House long; and I confess, Sir, that I never rose to address the House with more painful feelings than at the present moment. I am particularly glad that my right hon, friend, whom indisposition has just compelled to leave the House, has preceded me on the present occasion; because I feel greatly cheered by the reflection, that the sentiments of one of the best and most tried friends of, his country differ, in almost every particular, from those of my hon. and learned friend. I am desirous of explaining to the House the ground on which I took the liberty of calling my hon. and learned friend to order. I do not regret the course that I took; on the contrary, I feel its propriety still more strongly, after what has fallen from the hon. and learned member since I adopted it. I do not either from my habits in the Irish parliament, to which my hon. and learned friend thought proper to allude, or from the little experience I have acquired in this House, think he was entitled to say that I called him to order before he had really committed a breach of it. He seems to have interpreted rather too largely the declaration from the Chair, because Sir, you delicately avoided telling him in direct terms, that he was grossly out of order. I am fully aware that though it is not strictly regular to allude to what passes in the other House of parliament, it would he absurd to watch over-anxiously particular instances of deviations from strict regularity, provided they remain within reasonable and proper limits. But, I will call to the recollection of any body who heard my hon. and learned friend, whether this was not an occasion on which mischief' was about to be done, and on which I was warranted on an interference, which, on another occasion, might have appeared punctilious anti pedantic. In one sentiment which fell from my hon. and learned friend I agree entirely. I agree in the necessity of passing this measure; and of passing it without the delay of an hour. I must take the liberty, however, of saying, that many of the sentiments which fell from my hon. and learned friend were, in my judgment, eminently calculated to defeat this measure of emancipation. I agree with my hon. and learned friend, 215 that it is most essential to the success of the Catholic cause, that the question of emancipation should be carried by a large and overwhelming majority. But, I confidently appeal to every member of this House, whether the speech of my hon. and learned friend was not calculated to defeat that object, and to interfere with the success of the cause.—I was somewhat surprised, Sir, when my hon. friend, the member for Louth, came forward with arguments, which he thought proper to urge in direct contradiction to his own evidence, under the solemn obligation of an oath. I would not, of course, be supposed to throw the slightest imputation on the hon. member, nor even to insinuate that that additional sanction would be more binding on him than his own sense of honour; but, it certainly did sound strange in my ears, to hear my hon. friend put forward arguments, completely in the teeth of every thing he had recommended to the committee of the House of Commons. I shall not enter into the evidence from which such copious extracts have been read by my hon. friend, who brought forward this subject with so much ability; but, I wish to place before the House the argument of the hon. member for Louth, and the conclusions he has drawn, so much at variance with his own evidence. His complaint against the measure is, that it does not go far enough, but that it should be extended to the disqualification of all holders in fee; but, does my hon. friend mean, that we should carry our principle to the length of disfranchising a body of men like the yeomanry of England? Now, what is the ground upon which the hon. member supports his opinion? Why, forsooth, because certain vagrants have settled in certain commons in Ireland; who by acts of rapine and disseisin, have obtained a title to certain lands. Why, then, if this be so distressing an event to the hon. member let him bring in a bill to disfranchise them. He admits there is a great existing evil, which this measure, as far as it goes, is well adapted to remedy; but, because a parcel of travelling tinkers have migrated to the bogs of Drumskele, in the county of Louth, he turns round upon us and says, that, unless we so change our measure, as to render it impossible for any rational man to adopt it, he will resist it with all his might [hear, hear!] Now,if the speech of the hon. member surprised me, the House may judge of my consternation, when I heard my hon. 216 and learned friend, the member for Winchelsea, adopt his argument; nay, more, misrepresent it, and carry it to a length which the hon. author himself never contemplated. Of course I do not mean for one moment to assert, that my hon and learned friend would be capable of wilfully misrepresenting any thing, either here or elsewhere; but, so it is. Such is the wonderful power of his talent and eloquence, that, whatever argument is favoured with his adoption, receives a force and extent of which its originator was wholly unconscious; and when my hon. and learned friend felt himself in that cruel and grievous situation which he his so feelingly depicted—impelled by a sense of duty to do that which might be detrimental to a measure to which I know he is attached; I really do lament most heartily, that, instead of applying all those powers of ridicule in which he is unrivalled, and that faculty of exposure which belongs to him, in a degree that I never witnessed in any other man in any house, to demolish the argument of the hon. member for Louth, he should have exercised his transcendant abilities to embellish and support it. But to come to the argument—I think I have some ground to complain of my hon, and learned friend. That he is an ardent friend to Catholic concession, does not rest upon his assertion or on mine: he has given proofs of it too strong for any man to doubt his sincerity. The extent of his services cannot be over-rated; but, I have perceived on this occasion, and with great regret, what he has never shown on any other: his extreme rapidity of conception and wonderful facility of utterance, has, by unremitting exercise, become a weakness, which has led him into statements, which, in the sober reflection of his cooler moments, his own excellent judgment would disavow. I appeal to the recollection of this House, whether my hon. and learned friend his not pressed into his service, in opposition to this measure, which, for aught he knows (as he himself declares), may be sound and salutary; for my hon. and learned friend set out by stating his entire ignorance of the merits of the measure, of which, I must do him the justice to say, he gave the most convincing demonstration as he went along. I would appeal, I say, to all who hear me, whether the effect at least of his address was not to awaken prejudices which might defeat the measure, the success of which we all have at heart? My hon. and 217 learned friend says, that the object of the measure is to put down perjury, and he asks, what right we have to interfere in such a question, when every man in the House perjures himself? And then, in one of his flights, he takes a range amongst the army and clergy: but, what has all this to do with the question? And, to come to the real argument, even admitting that the qualification for sitting in this House does lead to perjury, and supposing the army and church not exempt from the stain, are we in no instance to cure the evil when we have it in our power? If any other member had pursued such a line of conduct, would not my hon. and learned friend have called it a jump? Why should he resort to such a line of argument? I cannot suppose he could have been desirous to press into his service popular topics for the purpose of exciting prejudice. Have I not a right to complain that my hon. and learned friend has all through his speech assumed as facts what he was bound to prove were facts? He has condescended to nickname this measure, and then calls upon you to reject it. But, what right has he to call this a measure of disfranchisement? Catholic emancipation, he says, would be a great good, and although not immediately felt, would be materially beneficial, and would conciliate Ireland; whereas, this measure would be immediately felt by the people, and felt as an injury. The whole scope of his argument is, that instead of producing content in Ireland, this measure will excite a ferment amongst the Catholics themselves; but, Sir, let me inform my hon. and learned friend that this measure does not go to disfranchise a single human being now alive. If this be so, I would ask, what is there in the bill to justify the ferment which my hon. and learned friend anticipates amongst the Catholics; or how can he reconcile his desire for conciliation with this glowing appeal to their prejudices? He seems to apprehend, that the Catholics of Ireland will be more alive to constitutional jealousies than to their own interests; in the heat of argument he was prevailed upon himself to believe that their constitutional feelings will be aroused by abstract considerations. In his estimation, they must be most powerful and acute reasoners, for they will overlook the general benefit to be conferred, whilst their feelings will be directed to the immediate operation of a measure which can affect 218 no man living. My hon. and learned friend seems to suppose, that the Irish parliament differed from all others on points of order; and I should infer that he thinks the Irish people differed from the inhabitants of all other countries, and entertained opinions repugnant to all the principles which regulate human actions. But, says my hon. and learned friend, "I do not know whether this bill is good or bad —I have kindly feelings towards it—I am not opposed to it."—But, to my mind, he presented as ugly an appearance as I ever witnessed: he exhibited very little of that affection and endearment which distinguish a zealous friend from an adversary. One thing he could not at all endure: he could not bear the idea of joining this measure with any other; he was opposed to it, because it had the appearance of a bribe. But, the time presses—a large majority even will not carry the measure —nothing short of unanimity will accomplish the object—still he could not consent, such was his sense of duty, to the proposed measure. This really appears to me standing a little too much on the knight-errantry of logic. He will not consent to unite a measure which may be good, for aught he knows, to another measure, which, he contends, if accomplished, must be beneficial to the empire. This appears to me the very romance of delicacy, and if my hon, and learned friend, in addition to his other numerous avocations, should devote his talents to the writing a novel, he might, no doubt, find a very interesting tale on his delicate embarrassment, and introduce some sentiments, which, although extremely suitable there, were ill adapted to the sober discussions of an assembly like the House of Commons.—Now, I will frankly state to the House my opinion of this measure; and, in doing so, I am not afraid of leaving my character for frankness in the hands of the House. My decided opinion is, that this measure is in the abstract good; but even if I thought it, to a certain extent injurious, not unjust, but faulty in some respects; or if I thought it calculated to accomplish a greater good, I would adopt and support it, for the purpose of obtaining the higher benefit. That is my creed:—I openly avow it; and there is not an honest man in the House who will condemn it. My hon. and learned friend complains, that we have joined this measure to the emancipation of the Catholics, which has no natural connexion with it; and he states it as a grievance, 219 that it should be placed close by the side of the larger measure, and that the motions of the one must wait upon the progress of' the other. But, have they, in fact, no connexion? Now, we propose to admit the Catholics to the participation of the constitution; and, how are we met? "What, (say our opponents) will you emancipate this immense Catholic population, and allow the mob to rush in and take possession of those seats?" And, am I to be told that a measure which takes away this power from the hands of the mob has no natural connexion with the great question of Catholic emancipation? But, take the other view of the question. Suppose the question should not be carried, I know of no other way in which the Catholics can advance their cause, than through the agency of the 40s. freeholders; so that, in fact, in every way in which the measure can be contemplated, it is strictly and inseparably connected with the question for removing the Catholic disabilities. My hon. and learned friend complained bitterly of the cruel situation in which he was placed; but I never saw a man in such circumstances who appeared more happy; or who drew upon his own rich resources in higher perfection. I never knew him disdain more completely the consideration before him, and throw himself upon the energies of his own mind, and the extraordinary powers of his fancy and eloquence, than upon this rack of torture, on which he placed himself, complaining of us for having taken him by surprise, by the unexpected introduction of a measure, which, for the last three months, every body well knew was intended to be submitted to the House.—But now, let us come to the measure itself; and I would beg of gentlemen, whatever their opinions may be, to examine it in its own abstract shape. But, before I enter upon this part of the subject, I wish to make one observation. Should my right hon, friend near me ( Mr. Peel) think this measure not bad in itself, but likely to produce good, yet holding his particular opinions on Catholic emancipation, I should not blame him, if he resisted this measure, on the ground that his opposition would defeat the more extensive question, which to his mind appears fraught with evil: at the same time, I must say, and I speak it not in the niggardly spirit which is sometimes displayed of admitting sincerity on the ground of courtesy; I shall not use that uncourteous courtesy towards my right hon. friend; but 220 in the honest sincerity of my heart I say, that no man would be less disposed than my right hon. friend to defeat a measure which is good in itself, on account of its connexion with any other measure to which he might be opposed. We complain of the act of 1793, which has been so truly described by the hon. member for Louth, as having begun at the wrong end, by letting in the rabble and shutting out the higher classes; the consequence of which has been, that the country gentlemen of Ireland let out their land, and subdivided it into small freeholds. This was the system which led to all the unfortunate consequences. If one of those poor wretches was prosecuted for perjury, his landlord went bail for him, and he was never heard of afterwards, Was not this in itself an evil of a serious nature? The next proceeding is this; and let the House observe, all these facts art emphatically detailed in evidence, although my hon. and learned friend complains of want of information. The landlord gives this wretched being a freehold, which may not be worth forty pence, comprising, perhaps, an acre of land and a miserable hovel, the rent of which he could never pay without the addition of his own labour; but if he can earn 40s. a year on his land, he then swears he is a 40s. freeholder,; but should he refuse, the landlord tells him, "you must give up your land; I'll not keep an idle, lazy, lubberly fellow who will not swear he is worth 40s. a year." Is the House, then, to be told that they are not to provide a remedy for this flagitious evil, because the clergy or the army, or even members of parliament, do not always adhere to the truth?—topics which form good subjects for amusement when my hon. and learned friend wishes to indulge his fancy, but which are very feeble arguments against remedying this crying evil. I could not help thinking that my hon. and learned friend displayed somewhat of the alacrity of an advocate, in selecting from the wide range of his own imagination, all those popular topics that could be plied against the cause. The present system leads to the most painful consequences. At an election, the landlord says to his agent, "Send those 500 men to the market." Generally speaking, they neither know nor care for whom they vote; but, should his religious feelings be aroused, should the priest be called into action, then arises a contest between the priest and the landlord, neither of them seeking 221 to elevate the, poor peasant, but to get possession of him. The consequence of which is, to insult the landlord and degrade the priest. But, after the heat of the contest has subsided, the poor wretch retires from the religious excitement, and has to settle with his landlord, he has to make up his rent, he is unable to do it, and is dismissed; and the result is, that the poor man is ruined by yielding to his religious feelings, and resisting the tyranny of his landlord. Thus the peasant was habituated to a perpetual contest with his landlord, in which the latter always succeeds. Are these things disputed in the evidence? Do we want witnesses to prove that perjury has been committed? Why, it was distinctly proved before the committee of this House— a committee composed of persons of all opinions, who were inclined to probe the subject to the bottom. I have no recollection of any measure in support of which such satisfactory evidence was adduced before a committee. Do we, by the measure we propose, affect the independence of elections? No such thing. On the contrary, we secure the purity of election. I hold in my hand an account of the number of persons registered for eight years in thirty-two counties, from which returns were made, and what was the proportion? In the year before the election, the proportion was of the 40s. freeholders, 18 to 1 of the 20l. and 50l. freeholders. The consequence of all this was, that the independent freeholders were overlaid, and the principle of election was wholly destroyed. The hon. member for Corfe Castle (Mr. Bankes) was so fired with constitutional zeal, which the courtesy of the House compels me to admit is great, but one particle beyond which I am not prepared to go, [a laugh] has declared, that he would rather expire on the floor of this House, than sacrifice one portion of his fine Runnymede feelings [cheers and laughter]. I do admire, most exceedingly, the fine spirit of the ancient barons, when it bursts out through the hon. member for Corfe Castle. But I hope it will be some consolation to him to learn, that this measure is not intended to affect England. There may be modes of managing votes in some of the towns in England; but with English towns I profess myself wholly unacquainted. At present, I address myself to the hon. member for Corfe Castle, and I trust his feelings will be appeased by the circumstances to which I have adverted. 222 We propose no violent change: the measure is to be slow and gradual in its operation; the result of it will be the raising up a class of sturdy, independent yeomanry in Ireland, who, in the fulness of time, will be fitted for the same rights which are enjoyed, and wisely exercised, by the people of this country. This is the principle of the measure: it disfranchises no man: it will produce no violent effect on the country; and it is entitled to support, because it appears calculated, from the evidence which has been received, to give general satisfaction. With respect to one part of the evidence, my hon. and learned friend has been much mistaken, I mean the evidence of Mr. O'Connell. I have read that evidence lately; and the meaning of it appears obviously to me to advise the committee not to meddle with the subject; but this I understood to apply to the operation of the measure by itself without any other—which no man would advise. I do not wish to attach to the character of Mr. O'Connell, more value than I think properly belongs to it. I must do him the justice to say, that he enjoys a large portion of the confidence of the people of Ireland. I had very little intercourse with that gentleman until after the recent discussions in this House; but, from what I have seen of him, I cannot hesitate to declare, in the face of parliament, that I do not believe there is any man less disposed than Mr. O'Connell to abuse the extensive confidence he enjoys amongst his countrymen, or more desirous to employ it for the benefit of his country [loud cheers]. I myself have been lately in Ireland, and have had much intercourse with people of various opinions as to the policy of the measure. They appeared to me to approve of it. It has also the support of my right hon. friend (sir J. Newport). There are many other Irish members sitting round my hon. and learned friend, who can inform him as to the operation of the measure; for although I cannot sympathize with him, or suppose him in any unpleasant predicament, arising from a want of acquaintance with the great general principles of this or any other important question, yet, on the details of the measure, I must give him credit for the most absolute ignorance. However, he is surrounded by those who can best inform him; and they, I believe, with one or two exceptions, are persuaded the measure will give general satisfaction. Let him 223 consult them, and still more his own excellent judgment, flinging aside, for the present, the aid of his rhetoric, and he cannot fail to arrive at a sound conclusion.—Sir, I need not describe the solicitude I avow myself to feel for the success of this bill. I hail its accomplishment, not alone as it advances the hopes of the Roman Catholic, but I sincerely hail it with reference to the satisfaction it is calculated to impart to the Protestants of Ireland. I mean, that it is calculated not only to conciliate that portion of the Protestants of Ireland who are friendly to the repeal of Catholic disabilities, but even those who still continue adverse to its accomplishment. And here it is impossible that I should not express the heartfelt gratification that I, in common with all those who look forward to the completion of the great measure of Catholic relief, have felt at the great advance that question has received, by the accession of such support as has been afforded to us by the vote of my hon. friend the member for the county of Armagh. If any one thing could excuse a feeling of envy or jealousy in my mind it would be, I confess, towards him; enjoying, as he does, the proud consciousness arising from his generous, manly, and honest declaration. Returning to this measure, my hon. and learned friend has asked, even though it should be coupled with the accomplishment of Catholic relief, who is the bold man that would venture to say that this measure will afford relief to Ireland? I meet the interrogatory of my hon. and learned friend: and, though I do not profess myself as the votary of that extreme political courage, which I have often found to be more an indication of rashness than firmness, yet, with my conviction of the propriety of the measure—with my knowledge of the general impressions that exist in Ireland as to its necessity—I am that bold man. I do in my conscience believe, that, coupled with the substantial measure of relief, it will not only conciliate the Catholics, but give increased security to the Protestants of Ireland.—And here I have to complain of my hon. and learned friend, that in the whole of his excursive speech, he has altogether thrown out of his view what that security demanded. But, though he disregarded it, it is a consideration that I confess has never been out of my calculation. To obtain the great measure of relief to the Roman Catholics of Ireland has been the ob- 224 ject of my utmost anxiety. I have been always solicitous for that great accomplishment—now, more than ever. I feel that a day should not be lost before the House carried this vote into effect. But, strongly as I feel its necessity, I am still persuaded, that if it were carried into effect, leaving an existing distrust in the minds of the Protestant of Ireland, it would be a curse instead of a blessing. Let it be recollected, that in the progress of this great cause, every foot of it has been reclaimed ground. It has made its way gradually—the triumph of enlightened views and irresistible argument. And therefore it is that, since first it was introduced to the consideration of the legislature, there never was a moment when the result of such continued exertions was more likely to be frustrated—when the cup was more likely to be dashed from the lip on the brink of enjoyment, —than at the moment I address you, by. any indiscretion on the part of any honourable member. I beg my hon. and learned friend to believe, that I think him incapable of any such intention. I never can forget his super-eminent services to this great cause. No man who feels for the prosperity of Ireland and the security of the empire, can forget the important benefits which, in the exercise of his powerful talents, my hon. and learned friend has given to those great objects. But, without presuming to pronounce on the reasons, it was impossible not to see with regret, that even he is labouring this night under an effort which was eminently calculated, though not intended, to defeat-the great object for which he had heretofore so powerfully struggled, and by so doing to dash from Ireland the blessing, the very moment that it anticipated its fulfilment. There are many other topics connected with this great question which press themselves on my consideration, but I feel that neither my own strength, nor my feeling of respect to the attention with which I have been honoured, will permit me to intrude further on your patience. I leave, therefore, the question to the enlightened judgment of the House.
said, he was unwilling to trespass on the attention of the House; but he could not avoid, alter the direct manner in which his name had been introduced, saying a few words, for the purpose of repelling the charges that had been made against him. He begged to deny that he had ever said he would rather lose 225 his head on the block, or forfeit his estate, than consent to the measure before the House. It was most true that he had opposed it, when it was first introduced, though it was then in a different shape from that in which it now appeared: and notwithstanding the alteration, he still opposed it,because he considered it a harsh, unnecessary, and unconstitutional infraction of the privileges of the people. His hon. friend who introduced it had deviated from the original principle, as contained in the printed bill, and it now appeared that it was not intended to apply to any person in perfect possession of the elective franchise. This, no doubt, rendered it less objectionable; but still he saw enough objectionable in it to induce him to adhere to his former opinion. it was said, that the Catholic question would conciliate the people of Ireland. If it were carried, he hoped it might have that effect; but he did not wish to accompany it with a measure which he was certain would be a permanent source of discontent and disaffection in that country. The hon. member then proceeded to contend, that the bill was an uncalled-for violation of the privileges of the people; that if there were abuses in the mode of exercising the elective franchise in Ireland, those abuses ought to be pointed out and remedied; but that it would be a most dangerous precedent to attempt to correct the abuse by with drawing an admitted right of the people. He thought it was setting a bad precedent for the freeholders of England, to sanction a principle that the 40s. qualification should be raised to ten pounds; and he concluded with moving, as an amendment, "That the Bill be read a second time that day six months."
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that, after the excitement raised by what had fallen from the hon. and learned gentleman opposite and his right hon. and learned friend, he regretted that he could not hope to attract the attention of the House as he intended to confine himself to the merits of the bill before them, without reference to any other question. Taking a view of it upon its abstract merits, and without, looking at it as contingent upon another bill, which he also disapproved, his observations would be very brief. His right hon. and learned friend seemed to think, that there was some inconsistency between the opinions he expressed is 1817, and those which he 226 delivered on Friday last. Now, there was, he would contend, none. In 1817, he had argued that the bill of 1793 gave no substantial power to the Catholics, though he admitted that what they then obtained was properly given; for, as Mr. Burke had justly said, there was a vast difference between the exercise of the elective franchise, and the admission to office. To this point alone had his observations in 1817 extended. He was ready to admit to his right hon. and learned friend, that there did exist great abuses in the present mode of exercising the elective franchise in Ireland; in the mode of creating fictitious freeholds; and in swearing to freeholds which did not exist; and he was prepared to consider any measure for the purpose of applying a remedy to the evil. But, in looking to the measure proposed, he doubted whether it would have any such effect; or rather he was convinced, that, as a remedy, it would be most injudiciously and unjustly applied. He concurred in what had been said by the hon. and learned gentleman opposite, that it would be most precipitate to make such a change without having full information on so important a subject. He did not mean to assert, that if inquiry was gone into, and it could be proved that the passing of this bill would strengthen the Protestant interest in Ireland, he would still continue opposed to it; but, under any circumstances, he should have great hesitation in supporting any measure which would make a change in the elective franchise as it now stood. On this principle he had opposed all the motions for reform which had been submitted to that House. He had opposed the bill for altering the present system of the elective franchise in Scotland, and increasing the number of voters: and he had now great doubts of the justice or expediency of any measure for diminishing the number of voters in Ireland. Let the House consider what would be the effect of this measure. He held in his hand a return of the number of freeholds which had been registered in Ireland for years back. He did not mean to say that this furnished a correct list of the number of persons now entitled to vote from freeholds, for, no doubt, many of the persons who had registered within the time specified were dead. But, the contents of the returns would afford a sufficient illustration of his argument. The list contained an account of the number of 40s., 20l., and 50l. freeholds regis- 227 tered in Ireland within the last eight years. From it it appeared, that since the year 1818 the number of 40s freeholds registered in the county of Tyrone was 13,000, and the number of freeholds of 20l. and upwards, registered within the same time, was only 273. Now, he thought it was a hard thing to say, that this immense number should be deprived of the elective franchise without any investigation. His hon. friend who brought in this bill had said, that he would not raise the qualification from 40s. only to 5l., because it would increase the evil. Was not that in itself an argument for inquiry? It was contended, that the object of the bill was, to assimilate the practice in Ireland to that in England. The bill could do no such thing. It went only to oblige the freeholder to swear to 10l. instead of 40s.; but, if so much abuse already existed by persons swearing to 40s. freeholds which they did not possess, what security did this bill afford against partiess wearing to a higher amount? What guarantee did it afford against perjury in the one case more than in the other? It was said, that the voter would be obliged to take the oath mentioned in the schedule of the bill; but, on looking at the schedule, he found not a word was said about any such oath. Let the hon. member look at his own bill, and he will find that it contained no such oath. But, even if it had, it could afford no greater security than was afforded by the law as it now stood. It was possible that that oath was left for the decision of the committee. He contended that the House should have some information, in its present stage, in order to form a correct judgment of the whole bearings of the present bill.—He would now examine how far the measure would affect the Protestant interest in Ireland. Mr. O'Connell had stated in his evidence, that this bill would have the effect of lessening the power of the aristocracy, and of increasing the influence of the Roman Catholics. Did this show that the Protestant interest would be benefitted by it? In looking at the returns to which he had before alluded, he found that the greatest number of 40s. freeholders (the extent of which had been ascribed as a cause of the great discontent and disturbances in many parts of that country) was in the north. In the county of Kilkenny there were registered, since 1795,3760 40s. freeholds, and they sent two catholic members to parliament. [a laugh.] By Catholic members he 228 meant members who supported the Catholic question. In the county of Fermanagh, he found the number of 40s. freeholds registered in the same period to be 26,900, and that county sent two members to parliament who invariably voted against the Catholics. Now, when he compared these facts, he must have something stronger than the arguments he had that night heard, to make him believe that the 40s. freeholders were a cause of distress or disturbance, or that the disfranchising them would be an advantage to the Protestant interest. If these freeholders were, for the greater part, Catholics, it would only show that they acted under the influence of property—an influence which had its weight in this country, as well as in Ireland. But, if they were Protestants, the House ought to pause and inquire, before they disfranchised them. In the county of Waterford, in which there existed, for a time, the greatest distress and dissatisfaction, the number of 40s. freeholders registered since 1793 was 7,000. While in the county of Antrim, which consisted, for the greater part, of Protestants, the number registered in the same time was 29,500. Now, he put it to the House, that if these were Catholics, and consented to return Protestant members, or members opposing the Catholic question, there could be no danger to the Protestant establishment in allowing them to retain the elective franchise; but, if they were Protestants, he would ask what boon was held out to them for the privilege of which they were thus deprived? [cheers.] It was said, that this bill, concurrently with the Catholic Relief bill, would raise the Catholic from the state of degradation in which he was now placed. Admitting that argument to go for what it was worth, it might be an answer to the Catholic for the loss of his franchise; but, what answer would it be to the Protestant for the sacrifice of his constitutional privilege, which he had never abused? [hear.] In the eight counties of Ulster, the most flourishing part of Ireland, he was informed, for he had not the returns before him, that the number of 40s. freeholders registered within the last tight years was 190,000, while in fourteen counties in the south of Ireland, where so much distress and disturbance had existed, the number did not exceed 168,000. Were not these grave subject for consideration, before the House proceeded any 229 further with a measure, which was to disfranchise so extensive a portion of the ,people of Ireland?—He would now beg the House to consider what the effects of this measure would be. Was it desirable, he would ask, to hold out a bonus to the multiplication of 10l. freeholds? Would it give Ireland such a yeomanry as its friends would wish to see established in it? It appeared to him, that the abolition of the 40s. cottiers would not produce any beneficial political effect, and that the multiplication of 10l. freeholders would only increase the number of miserable farmers. The argument of his hon. friend the member for Louth, appeared to him to carry considerable weight with it. When they were introducing a great, political innovation, they ought not to argue from the state of things existing at present, but from the state of things which would exist when the change had taken place. Now, he would ask whether there would not be the same noxious effect produced by the fee-simple tenure as by the 40s. tenure? Was there any thing in the present bill to prevent a man from erecting a number of houses, and from conveying them in fee-simple to the freeholders? Was there any thing to prevent him from saying to them I will give you a house on a certain tenure, but I will attach to it a quantity of land or of bog, which you shall hold on an uncertain tenure, so that whenever an election comes, I may have a hold upon you for your vote?" He had looked at the bill with considerable attention, and he must confess that, after all his pains, he could not find in it any security against such a practice. He contended that the bill was not calculated to strengthen the Protestant interest, or to assimilate the freehold tenures in Ireland to the freehold tenures in England, or to remedy any of the evils which Mr. O'Connell had described as arising out of the present system of 40s. freeholds. He maintained that at present the House had not sufficiently inquired into the subject, and implored it to weigh the arguments which had been urged against it, instead of passing it precipitately, without examination. This bill, it ought to be recollected, was contingent upon the passing of the great bill which was to emancipate the Catholics. It was only to take effect under the new circumstances which were to arise in consequence of the passing of that bill, when there was to be an oblivion of all 230 discords in Ireland, and When all classes of his majesty's subjects were to be knitted together in peace and amity. If such a result should arise from that measure, the necessity of disfranchising the 40s. freeholders would be gone for ever; and if it did not, this bill would not be any security for the Protestant interest, inasmuch as its effects would not be immediate, but prospective. He knew that he was not taking that side of the argument which was likely to facilitate his own views on the Catholic subject; but, he was pursuing that line of conduct which was dictated to him by a sense of public duty. He was unwilling to deprive the lower classes of Ireland of a privilege which, when it was first granted to them, Mr. Burke had described as of inestimable value; and above all, he was reluctant to begin his career as a parliamentary reformer by disfranchising, almost without examination, a large portion of the electors of that kingdom. Under these circumstances, he should oppose the bill, being convinced that members were not at present in possession of information which would justify them in giving to it their support.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, he would support the bill as being calculated to remove many of the evils of Ireland, especially when taken in conjunction with the great measure of relief. He referred to certain practices which had taken place in his own county and in others with which he was acquainted, under the present system; and contended that the bill would be attended with the most beneficial effects, by operating as a remedy both to evasion and artifice. Upon the whole of this question he perfectly concurred in the sentiments expressed by the late Mr. Fox, in his speech on Mr. Grey's motion for a reform in parliament, in May 1797. The sentiments of that great man were so applicable to the present occasion, that he could not better support his own views than by quoting them to the House. The hon. member then read the following extract from Mr. Fox's speech: —"I have always deprecated universal suffrage, not so much on account of the confusion to which it would lead, as because I think that we should in reality lose the very object which we desire to obtain; because I think it would, in its nature, embarrass, and prevent the deliberative voice of the country from being heard. I do not think you augment the deliberative body of the people by counting all the heads, but that 231 in truth you confer on individuals, by this means, the power of drawing forth numbers, who, without deliberation, would implicitly act upon their will. My opinion is, that the best plan of representation is that which shall bring into activity the greatest number of independent voters, and that that is defective which would bring forth those whose situation and condition take from them the power of deliberation. I can have no conception of that being a good plan of election which should enable individuals to bring regiments to the poll. The desideratum to be obtained is independent voters, and that, I say, would be a defective system that should bring regiments of soldiers, of servants, and of persons whose low condition necessarily curbed the independence of their minds. That I take to be the most perfect system which shall include the greatest number of independent electors, and exclude the greatest number of those who are necessarily by their condition dependent." He requested gentlemen to bear in mind, that there had been several public meetings in Ireland since the bill was introduced, and that there had not been at any of those meetings a single voice or hand raised up against it. Not to mention others there had been one in Carlow, and one in his own county, in neither of which there was a single dissentient. For these reasons he should give his cordial support to the bill; especially as it was connected with the measure so likely to be attended with the best Consequences to the peace and prosperity of that unhappy and injured country.
Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald
declared his intention to vote for the second-reading of the bill. His only objection was, that the qualification did not appear to him to go high enough. He was surprised to hear any person who knew any thing of the state of Ireland contend, that some measure of reform was not necessary in the elective franchise. Even if this bill was not to be accompanied with the one for the relief of Roman Catholics he should be prepared to support it. No regulations hitherto proposed had been found effectual. He would not now pledge himself to the amount of qualification. He should be better pleased if it were higher. The only effect of raising it to 10l. would be to render perjury somewhat more difficult. With even a qualification to that amount he feared that numbers would still remain in the situation mentioned by Dr. 232 Kelly, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Tuam, in his evidence before the committee, and be compelled to take the oath. A higher qualification would afford a greater security against perjury. This bill was intimately connected with the morality of the country, and he trusted it would be carried by a triumphant majority. Much, he thought, might be done in the committee, to improve the enactments, and render them more adequate to the end proposed; and he would most willingly lend his assistance to any proposition that might be made in the further stages of the bill, with a view to ultimate improvement and completion.
§ Mr. Butler Clarke
said, he would vote for the bill. If ever there was a measure calculated to ruin the country, it was the system of 40s. freeholders established in Ireland.
Mr. Martin ,
of Galway, said, that in voting for this measure, he certainly did not consult his own interest in a very material degree. In justice to those who had brought it forward, and to the attorney-general for Ireland, he must say, that it was forced upon their consideration, by some who would not be otherwise disposed to vote in favour of the concession. There was no popular print in Ireland that had not expressed an Opinion favourable to it. For his own part, he should be the last man that would support it if he did not think it would forward the Catholic claims. He was not at all disposed to concur with those, who cast a stigma on the 40s. freeholders. If his hon. colleague were present, he would not deny that they did not deserve such a stigma cast on them. In an arduous contest which had taken place for the county which he had the honour to represent, crowds of the freeholders were put on board ship, and stowed into the hold, for the purpose of being brought to poll for his hon. colleague. Some of his own tenantry had been corrupted to vote against him. They were confined like slaves, within walls eight or ten feet high. But, after all, when they came to the poll, they voted for hint. The ship was a revenue cutter, a king's ship, and it conveyed these electors to the coast to vote for a violent whig, against one who was known to be, in general, a supporter of the measures of government. His support of this bill was wrung from him. They ought not to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders; after availing themselves of the services of these men, they were going to 233 use them like bees, to smother them in the hive, after obtaining the honey. He should vote for the bill, though not with any great hopes of furthering his own interests.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, he could not allow the House to come to a division without thanking the hon. member for Staffordshire for bringing in this bill, and without offering his evidence, that no measure could be produced more intimately connected with the future welfare and prosperity of Ireland. He had never met with any person who objected to this bill out of doors—of course he was not speaking of any person who objected within them—who was not actuated by private motives rather than by the public good. He would give the House a case in point, to show how the system worked. A gentleman, of large landed property in Ireland, and a man possessed of every virtue save that of residing on his estates in that country, was called upon by the government to discharge the duty of high sheriff, in the county in which his property was situated. He endeavoured to get rid of the duty imposed upon him, but not finding it possible, he said, "By G—d, if I am obliged to go to Ireland by the government, I will make myself an M. P. to vex them." The consequence was, that he took with him to Ireland 2,600 leases, and when he got there, parcelled out his estate into 2,600 subdivisions, so minute, that to live upon them would be complete beggary. He now said, "I will walk into parliament without asking the vote of a single man in the independent county in which I have the honour to reside." The cause a evils like this was the low qualification for the elective franchise—the remedy, the augmentation of that franchise, and the consequent increase of the independence of the voter. But, it was said, that hundreds of thousands would be thereby disfranchised: he admitted that this would follow in the case of these 40s. freeholds; but in most instances the parts of that body which it was of value to preserve would have the power of reaching the suggested augmented qualification. Therefore, no evil would befal the really independent voter; and, who could lament the dispersion of the really dependent one? The House would feel no regret at the abandonment of the present system in Ireland, if they could once behold a procession of these wretched 40s. freeholders, as they had been described 234 by those who knew them best, driven on and drilled by a task-master to pronounce the name of their master's nominee, occupying on their route the stalls of kindred cattle dislodged for their accommodation. If this degrading and odious system were once seen generally, its incompatibility with the freedom of election would be so notorious, that every voice would be raised against it. If it were not so late an hour of the night, he thought he could demonstrate, that there was no subject more intimately connected with the welfare of Ireland than this, or which so prominently challenged revision.
paid the highest tribute to the candour, honour, and integrity of the hon. gentleman who had spoken last; but regretted that he could not concur with him in disfranchising so large a portion of the population of Ireland. He felt, indeed, the mortification of differing on this occasion from many Irish friends, to whose opinions he was in general warmly attached; but he could not consent to make such a change in the elective franchise for Ireland as would effect a sweeping disfranchisement of this nature, upon a mere vote, without the ceremony at least of a previous inquiry. He was sorry to trespass on the attention of the House, whilst he protested against this deprivation of power from nine-tenths of the people; besides, if the precedent were set in Ireland, where was it to stop? Did the people of England feel nothing for the result? [Here the hon. member was interrupted with loud symptoms of impatience.] He vehemently insisted upon his right to be heard, or else he would say that that was a disgraced assembly. He declared that he would not be silenced by clamour; and repeated, that the interruption could not affect him, although it would disgrace those who resorted to such a mode of stifling argument. He begged, as the firm advocate of the Catholic question, to disclaim the incidental aid offered by the promoters of this bill; for what, after all, did this bill call for? For a remedy which the gentry of Ireland had already in their hands; namely, to abandon the practice of corruption among their tenants. Let them correct their own disgraceful conduct in creating these 40s. nominal freeholders, and there would be no necessity for such a measure as this. Let that portion of the gentry of Ireland who spread corruption among the people begin by reforming themselves, and then they need not ap- 235 pear before parliament with such a bill as this; which admitted their own disgrace while it proscribed the most humble part of their own dependents. They first made the poor man their tool, and then they called upon parliament to make him their victim. But after all, was there more corruption in the lower body of the elective franchise in Ireland than in England? In behalf of the poor Irish he denied that there was, and he was astonished that his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, could think so, and consent to diminish a principle for which he had always been so unqualified a supporter. He strongly condemned the conjunction of such a measure as this with the Catholic bill, which ought to be liberally conceded without suspicion or reservation. It was quite a weakness to look for securities in the way in which some gentlemen thought. But this bill really offered none, and he must oppose it, even at the risk (if he supposed such could arise) of the loss of a question, of which his family had, through good and bad times, been the steadfast and persevering supporters. The time would come, if they even overlooked the present wholesome opportunity, when they would feel that it was arrant folly to legislate in this manner. They must take the Catholic question upon its own great merits, and unconnected with such inconsistent bills as this; which established a dangerous precedent, besides inflicting a positive and partial injustice. He opposed this bill with reluctance, from its supposed connexion with a question so dear to him from principle and from hereditary attachment—a question which five-and-twenty years ago he had vainly endeavoured to impress upon the parliament of that day; but he must do his duty both to the people of Ireland and of England, and take care, that while they were legislating in the spirit of freedom upon one question, they did not in another aim a vital blow at the rights of the lowliest class in society.
§ Mr. Goulburn
rose, also amidst loud cries of "question." He said he could assure the House he did not mean to detain them; but he was desirous of saying a few words, lest the vote he should give might be misinterpreted. He would oppose the bill; for he thought the security it offered no security at all. They were called upon to encounter an immediate danger; and as a security against it they were offered a remedy which was only prospective, and would not come into 236 operation for years to come. But, if the bill were not connected with the other measure—if it stood on its own grounds—he should be ready to vote against it. He did not take this part from any liking to the 40s. freeholders; but because he thought, before any such measure was proposed, it should be distinctly proved that an evil was felt, and that the measure proposed would be an efficacious remedy. But as to the extent of the evil, there were great differences of opinion. Some persons were of opinion, that all the poverty and misery of Ireland arose from this system; while other;, of equal respectability, asserted that it produced no evils at all. The House had received one report from the committee; but it did not contain all the evidence which had been given on this subject. Until all this was known, it must be plain to the House that they were legislating on incomplete evidence. To show the House the imperfect state of their information, he would just read to them the evidence of a gentleman who was distinguished both as a good magistrate and as a most respectable country gentleman. He meant general Burke, than whom a more excellent man, or one better qualified to give an opinion on such subjects, did not exist. When general Burke was asked, whether the 40s. freeholds tended to the subdivision of farms, and to the increase of population, his answer was "Not so far as his knowledge went." And this was with reference to the county of Limerick, where, if in any part of Ireland, such consequences might particularly be expected. When general Burke was asked, what were the advantages which the 40s. freeholder derived from his franchise, and whether he felt that his situation was improved by it, his answer was, "He feels great pride. I have seen him come back from registering his franchise, exultingly exclaiming, 'I can now make a parliament-man.'" It was general Burke's opinion, that to deprive the Irish 40s. freeholder of this feeling, would be to deprive him of a great deal. He would now refer to the evidence of colonel Curry, a man next to general Burke, the best informed on the subject that could be found. Colonel Curry was also of opinion, that the 40s. freeholders had great pride in the possession of their franchises. What was the inference to be drawn from all this? That the subject was in the progress of inquiry, and was not ready to be pronounced upon. The 237 hon. member for Galway had said, that nothing was so pure and virtuous as the electors of that county, who, when they were brought to vote for one candidate, actually voted for another, of whom they entertained a better opinion. The hon. member for Armagh had made quite a different statement, and had quoted in its support, the opinion of Dr. Kelly, the titular archbishop of Tuam. But, supposing the existing evil to be as great as it had been described to be, would the measure which was now proposed prove an efficient remedy for it? Did the hon. member for Armagh, who alluded to an occurrence in one of the northern counties of Ireland, suppose, that if the bill under consideration had existed in the shape of a law, the practice of which he complained would have been prevented? Would any Irish gentleman possessed of an estate of 30,000 acres find a greater difficulty in dividing it into 2,600 10l. shares than in 2,600 40s. shares? If the Queen's county was to be contested after the passing of this bill, did the hon. member for that county suppose that 10l. freeholders would not be furnished in as great a number as 40s.? But, he would keep his word with the House, and would not trespass longer upon their patience. All he asked was, that they would not decide until they had obtained all the information which could be furnished them by the committee now sitting, and a great deal more.
§ Lord Milton
confessed, that the present was a subject which he did not approach with any great satisfaction. He agreed very much with what had fallen from the hon. member for Galway; and under the circumstances of the case, he should at least vote for forwarding the bill through its present stage, although he owned that it was no great favourite with him. He concurred also in much that had fallen from the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department. Acknowledging as strongly as any man the evil that arose in Ireland from tie 40s. system; he perfectly agreed with the right hon. gentleman that it was a matter of great doubt if it could be cured by this measure. He believed that much of that evil arose, not so much front the nature of the qualification, as from the means taken to regulate its exercise. If there was any one branch of the subject more pregnant with evil than another, it was the register law. That was the great source of the evil. Nevertheless, he admitted that the small- 238 ness of the qualification in Ireland was in itself a great evil; but perhaps the mischief and inconvenience of it arose more from the state of society in that country, than from the franchise itself. If there was any thing in the bill, however, which particularly recommended it to his adoption, it was a tendency belonging to it, which it might appear singular in him to praise. It was one misfortune of Ireland, and of all countries of less advanced civilization —a misfortune which it would require many years to remedy—that property in general belonged to a few distinct proprietors. If the bill, however, possessed any quality which (surprising as it might appear, that he should praise) appeared to him to be peculiarly entitled to approbation, it was, that it struck a blow at that oligarchy, of which he was a component part. The existing oligarchy was one of the great curses of Ireland. In that point of view, it certainly would be very advantageous; but he frankly acknowledged that it did not appear to him to be by any means certain, that the individuals who followed in the train of the oligarchy, and were made the instruments of its power, did themselves set a much higher value on the elective franchise than had been generally admitted by the witnesses who were examined before the committee. He thought the oligarchy of Ireland much too powerful. He wished that a part of their power might be thrown into the hands of the middle class in that country; if such a class could be found. At any rate, he would try to solve the great problem of the possibility of doing so. Nevertheless, he was not upon the whole indisposed to say that he believed he might be induced to give up the elective franchise in question, for the sake of the other great object in view. Rather than relinquish that great object, he would, if it were found absolutely necessary to do so, pay the price for it of supporting this bill. But, he trusted the House would not allow the measure now under consideration to pass out of their power, until they had first seen how it went with the other important proposition.
§ Mr. Grattan
declared, that the bill now proposed was so contrary to the spirit of the constitution, so material a change in the law of the country, so extraordinary an invasion of popular rights, that he could not bring himself conscientiously to give it his support. Its principle was tremendous. Let that principle 239 be once admitted, and where would it stop? If it were just to convert the 40s. qualifications into 10l. qualifications, it might by and by be considered just to convert 10l, qualifications into 20l. qualifications; and so on, until all the counties of Ireland were brought to the condition of close boroughs. There might be cases of abuse in some of the Irish counties; but ought parliament to legislate for two-and-thirty counties, on the ground of the existence of a few individual instances of abuse? What had Dr. Doyle said of the three counties of Kildare, Carlow, and the Queen's county? That in two of them the system did not operate at all mischievously, and in the Queen's county, but little so. The 40s. freeholders were the people. To strike off all the popular class of electors at one blow appeared to him to be a monstrous proceeding; and one to which he could by no means consent. Why might it not be used as a precedent in this country? If the legislature could thus get rid of 200,000 voters at once in Ireland, what was there to prevent their doing something of the same kind at some subsequent period in this country? He wished things to be kept as they were; and was no friend to that description of reform. Instead of such steps as these, let the gentlemen of Ireland attend to their property, and endeavour to improve the condition of the people. He could not be satisfied until he had thus relieved his mind by entering his protest against this most unconstitutional and monstrous plan of reform.
Sir F. Burdett
began by paying a high compliment to the splendid talents of the right hon. and learned Attorney-general for Ireland—talents which that right hon. and learned gentleman was employing in the promotion of the prosperity, honour, and glory of Ireland, or rather of the empire; for it was in vain to talk of separating the interests of the two countries. What was beneficial to Ireland must he beneficial to England. With respect to the measure immediately under consideration, it had been opposed by his hon. friend who had just sat down as an enemy to reform. He did not before know that his hon. friend was an enemy to reform, but whether he was an enemy or a friend to reform, this measure had no connection with what was generally understood by that name, and ,could not he connected with it. Nor was he himself less attached to the cause of reform than he had always been. It was 240 sufficient for him to say, that the present was a conjuncture of circumstances which might never again occur. Here was an opportunity of reconciling and uniting the two parties, of Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, by obtaining for the one a valuable boon, and by prevailing on the other to be contented will a moderate security. At so easy a rate was it proposed to amalgamate interests which had, hitherto, been distinct and in opposition. He would not say whether the present measure would or would not, in its present form, meet all the grievances which were connected with the existing state of the elective franchise in Ireland. Those who thought it would not do so, ought to allow the bill to go into a committee, and there to propose such modifications as might render it more operative. But, he must say, that when the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland came forward as they were now coming forward, laid aside their ancient prejudices, and shewed a disposition to hold out the hand of friendship to their Catholic countrymen, the English members of the united parliament would incur a great responsibility, if, against the express sense of their Irish brethren, they declined to accede to a measure which was considered by them to be so beneficial.—Seeing he did, the critical situation of circumstances—seeing as he did a large body of the Catholics, and another large body of the Protestants, coming forward, and making the common declaration that the success of the present measure was necessary to the success of the great measure of Catholic relief, he should think he acted very reprehensibly, if he were to permit any abstract principles, however pure and admirable, and beautiful, to stand in the way of his concurrence in so great and practical a benefit [hear, hear!]. To those who said that nothing would be got by this measure, he would reply, that the greatest advantages would be secured by it. He was not standing there as a Catholic advocate. He was an advocate for the interest of the country generally. He was as much the advocate of the Protestant interest in Ireland as he was of the Catholic interest there. Nay, he had no hesitation in saying, that if those two interests were at issue—if they were found to be incompatible with one another—he should certainly side with the Protestants of Ireland. That would be his natural feeling and alliance. But, when he saw the Protestant 241 interest in Ireland greatly endangered by the state of the Catholic mind in that country—when he saw an opportunity present itself of reconciling their differences—when he saw the Catholics of Ireland prepared to receive with gratitude what the Protestants were willing to yield with satisfaction—when he found the happy moment had arrived when the Protestants conceived that their interests might be secured, while their Catholic brethren were relieved—when the Catholics conceived that the measures by which that relief was to be accompanied were unobjectionable—when all the great ancient topics, prejudices, and dangers had disappeared—when they appeared as mere shadows—and when the opposite danger was so urgent of allowing six millions of men to remain discontented, in consequence of a refusal of their claims—he could not think it safe or practicable under such circumstances, to act with those hon. members who were disposed to sacrifice a great national benefit for vague and uncertain theory [hear, hear!]. He must say that he thought. the hon. member for Armagh had conferred the greatest obligations on his country. That hon. member had performed a duty to his country, and had conferred a benefit on her, at which he would feel reason to rejoice the longest day he had to live. He trusted his country would be grateful to him for his efforts. He trusted, also, that the admirable observations which had fallen from that hon. member, and from the right hon. and learned gentleman who preceded him, would not fail to convince the House of the necessity of uniting the consideration of the present bill with the consideration of the great measure of Catholic emancipation. Firmly believing the two propositions to be dependent on one another, he should give all the support in his power to the present bill, in every stage of its progress. Supposing—which, however, he was by no means prepared to admit—that all the objections which had been urged to the details of the bill naturally existed, it would surely be very practicable to cure them in the committee. There all the contradictory and hair-splitting difficulties of various hon. gentlemen might be reconciled. Some of those difficulties proceeded on one ground, and some on another. By some the hardship was proclaimed of taking away the franchise from the freeholders. But those unfortunate persons were misnamed; they were held 242 indeed, but they were not free they were scarcely more free than the slaves in the West Indies. Some of the persons best informed with respect to the state of Ireland had declared, that the practical effect of the present state of the elective franchise in that country was a great evil in itself, and one which ought to be remedied, without reference to any other consideration. They declared, that the freeholders in question were no freer than a gang of negroes in the West Indies. It was true that they might revolt and rebel; but they did it at their certain peril, and were likely to do it not of their own will, but at the instigation of others. Whether all this, and much more of the same kind, were or were not true, he would not take upon himself to say; but he had never heard any one speak of Ireland, who had not represented the state of the elective franchise in that country as one of the principal sources from which flowed the various evils by which she was oppressed. This, however, he would take upon himself confidently to say—that we should get a great boon, if we could exchange the present bill for that important measure of Catholic emancipation, which was calculated to give peace and security to the empire. The hon. member for Wicklow talked of the present bill as disfranchising a great body of the people. It was not so. True, it would disfranchise some. But, as he had already observed, it was an earnest of peace and conciliation. Such a proceeding was peculiarly propitious at a time when Ireland was in a state of tranquillity, unprecedented in the history of that country; and that, too, a state which had resulted from the mutual inquiries of the two parties who had heretofore been so acrimoniously opposed to one another. It was pleasing to find, that when from recent circumstances gentlemen of the two religions were brought together, they soon found that they had mistaken each other—that they had indulged in exaggerated notions, and had been influenced by feelings of unwarranted resentment; when the two parties came to know one another, each found that the character of the other was different from what it had appeared to be, and both were willing to make every possible sacrifice for mutual accommodation and conciliation. Under those circumstances, he implored the House not to reject the bill before them. He implored them not to look at it in the light of a measure affecting 243 the rights of election—not to regard it as a distinct proposition—but to consider it as a proceeding indispensably necessary to reconcile the Protestant interests of Ireland to the concessions that it was proposed to make to their Catholic brethren, and to induce all parties to unite, heart and hand, in the establishment of the peace of Ireland on the solid basis of civil and religious liberty.
§ Mr. Denman
said, he could not refrain, consistently with his feelings, from explaining the reasons which compelled him to dissent from the bill before the House. To him it appeared to be a most unnatural proposition, coupled with the other great measure on principles utterly inconsistent with the progress of that measure; which he was sure would prosper better if it got rid of this unaccountable incumbrance. He must say, that it was with surprise he heard his hon. friend the member for Westminster, talk of the operation of the present bill as trifling; for if it were trifling to interfere with and destroy the rights of electors, he was at a loss to know what could be justly deemed important. Nor was his opposition to the measure founded on the ground of its reference to Ireland alone: he dreaded it as an example to this country. He dreaded lest, in some future combination of circumstances, it might be adduced as a precedent for some fatal inroad on the constitution. It appeared to him, that the inference attempted to be drawn was, that if the Catholic disabilities could be removed, it mattered not under what system of laws Ireland should be governed. He would make no such concession. The question did not belong to Catholic more than to Protestant; nor to Ireland more than to England. It belonged to them all and they ought to view it with equal alarm. He was not to be told that they could found upon it no precedent for invading the franchise of England; because be knew on what slight pretences things of this sort were raised into precedents. He would arm against the most distant approach of a theory so pregnant with evil consequences. Why did not this subject commence with an examination in a committee? The measure as it stood was totally different from that which the hon. member for Stafford had at first proposed. He entreated the attention of the House for a few moments. If the majority of the House should prove to be in favour of the measure in its present stage, he would not 244 pertinaciously persevere in his opposition to it as he had formerly done in his opposition to those temporary, but unconstitutional measures, to which, in a moment of alarm, the parliament of this country had agreed. If the great body of the friends of Catholic emancipation felt that it was indispensable to keep this bill and the Catholic Relief bill together, he would cease to oppose the present measure. As, therefore, he should express his opinion but once, he trusted he should be pardoned for trespassing for a few minutes upon the patience of the House. The whole case made out in favour of the bill was, that it would prevent perjury; but, could not this specie of perjury be prevented by a little attention to those higher persons, who were said to use these voters to their corrupt. purposes? The House was bound, before it passed such an important measure, to inquire into the number of individuals who had a right to vote, and into the precise effects of the species of vote which they were about to annihilate. Some were for disfranchising voters, of 5l. freeholds, some of 10l., and some of 20l.; and amidst this confusion of opinions and this uncertainty of data, what an immense sacrifice the House was about to make of popular rights! Mr. Blake was of opinion, that the elective franchise, according to the constitution, ought to be in the ratio of property, and not of numbers. He should like to know where such a principle was to be found in any record of the constitution. If this measure of disfranchisement were justifiable in Ireland, why should it not, at some future time, be applied to England? The bill was founded upon the sole principle, that because a man was poor, he was dependent, and therefore at the mercy of the landlord. Major-general Burke, before the committee of the Lord, had denied that it was a system for these freeholders to traffic their votes for money, and declared that the sub-division of the land was only made for the purposes of acquiring a better rent. This evil would of itself cease upon the introduction of English capital into Ireland The present system made the peasantry of Ireland feel themselves of some consequence, in the scale of society, from the solicitation that their landlords were obliged to make to them at periods of election. If the bill stood by itself, there was not a shadow of a case made out for it: there was nothing proved which would at all authorise the 245 House to disfranchise any class of the people. As to the idea of effecting a bargain of emancipation by it, to whom was the benefit of the contract to accrue? It was no bargain as between Protestant and Catholic; it was no bargain as between high and low Catholics. It had been supported by aggregate and county Catholic meetings; but there was no statement of the number of 40s. freeholders who voted for the destruction, if they voted at all, of their own rights and liberties. He denounced the measure as one of those expedients devised by enemies to thwart the general question. It was of a piece with the veto, with the question of long oaths, and the other means of cajolery. What did the veto do in 1809, besides securing the chancellorship of Oxford for lord Grenville? If he could admit the danger threatened, he could not admit the safety of the measures proposed. They were any thing hut securities. And, was this a time to yield them, when the fortress of bigotry was stormed, and the picked men of the garrison were ready to surrender? The scales and films had confessedly fallen from the eyes of many adversaries of emancipation. Could less have happened, supposing those gentlemen to be sincere, if this bill had never been heard of? He felt obliged to vote against it, and to state to the House his reasons for so doing.
said, that at any time he would have considered this measure as a boon to Ireland, if emancipation had not accompanied it: not but that he would have supported the bill for emancipation in the first instance; because it would be unjust to deprive Ireland of one iota of her seeming rights until justice were done to her people. His firm conviction was, that in supporting this measure, he was stripping an oligarchy of a power which they ought not to possess. He should vote for it under the impression, that by so doing, he should deprive various classes of the Irish gentry of the means of jobbing—a system which was most disgraceful to them, and most ruinous to the country. It was a system that must ruin the independence of general elections; and therefore he should support the measure. But, above all, he would support it, because if that system continued, it would ultimately exclude persons of the middling classes of society from all real share in elections. He appealed to those who were best acquainted with Ireland, 246 and asked, whether the 40s. freeholder was not the raw material out of which the Irish gentleman manufactured all his disgraceful jobs. They who had not been in the southern parts of Ireland could have no conception of the miserable dependance in. which these 40s. freeholders existed on the estates of their landlords. Their whole existence, indeed, was attached to the wretched acre which they held; and it might, therefore, easily be supposed, that they were the mere tools of the owner of the land. Should this bill pass, it was his conviction that it would be proved one of the greatest boons which the united parliament could confer upon Ireland.
§ Mr. Lambton
said, that, notwithstanding the resolution he thought he had taken of not interfering in this discussion, except by a silent vote, he felt compelled to address a few observations to the House, which, he could assure it, would occupy but a very short time. Nor should he have trespassed on its attention at all, but for the observations which had fallen from his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, who had been pleased to proscribe every one who had the misfortune to differ with him in opinion upon the merits of his bill. The hon. baronet had at least said, that, for the future, he should consider it unsafe to act with those who possessed "this beautiful virtue" in such a degree, and so inflexibly that it would not accommodate itself to circumstances. Now, he acknowledged that he was of this proscribed number; and, however painful it might be to be thus opposed to his hon. friend, with whom he had been so long accustomed to act, yet, if, as the consequence of his declaration, he was to separate from the hon. baronet that night and for ever, he must protest that he could not conscientiously support this bill [cries of " Question"]. He trusted the House would allow him to state in a very few words—and even under the penalty of that ban under which the hon. baronet had placed him—what his own views were upon this question. From any thing that be had heard that night, he did not believe that the 40s. freeholders were really that description of persons they had been represented to be. He believed them to be much better than they were made out. Though by this bill they themselves were not to be disfranchised, yet their children would; and he, for 247 one, following that principle which had ever guided his public conduct, never could consent to any measure having for its object a limitation of the elective franchise of the people. He had no confidence, no trust, in the quarter from which this measure came [hear]. He begged he might not be misunderstood: he was not alluding to his hon. friend, the member for Staffordshire, than whom he knew of no one whom he would be more ready to follow, or implicitly to confide in; but be distrusted the parties who, he feared, might have influenced, and who now most strongly supported the measure—"Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes." The evidence which had been taken before the Irish committee was not sufficient to induce him to come to a favourable vote; and, however grieved he might be to find himself opposed to the hon, baronet, he felt it to be his duty, as an independent member of an English parliament, and as the representative of a large body of English electors, solemnly to declare, that he could not support this bill, or tolerate its principle.
§ Mr. Littleton ,
after what had just fallen from the hon. member for Durham, was only anxious to declare, that his hon. friend was quite mistaken in supposing that he had acted in this matter otherwise than as a volunteer; no individual having advised with him on the subject, or influenced him in determining to introduce this measure, although he had availed himself of the best information he could consult in its preparation. In every respect it was his own measure; he alone was responsible for it.
The question being put, That the word "now," stand part of the question, the House divided: Ayes 233; Noes 185; Majority for the second reading 48. The bill was then read a second time.