rose, in pursuance of notice, to move for leave to bring in a bill "to amend and alter the Representation of the city of Edinburgh." He observed, that before he engaged in this cause, he had given the subject his most anxious attention, and had satisfied himself of the reality and magnitude of the evils, and of the facility with which a remedy might be applied to them. When he formerly presented a petition from Edinburgh in favour of an alteration in the representation, be had entered into a detail of all that related to the composition of that small body called the town council. The population of Edinburgh was above 100,000, and the electors of a representative for this population were only thirty-three, nineteen of whom were actually chosen by their predecessors, and would in their turn appoint their successors. The object in view had been met by general arguments and fears as to remote consequences, to reply to which he would now address himself. The main argument relied upon was this:— that under the pretence of seeking a fair and free representation for Edinburgh, the real purpose was, to obtain a substantial parliamentary reform; and that if the change were made with regard to Edinburgh, it ought also to be extended to Glasgow, Aberdeen, and other places. He fairly admitted that his view was, that reform in Scotland ought not to be 164 limited to the capital of Scotland only, and he was well aware that he should be opposed by all the high-mettled anti-reformers, who took fire at the smallest innovation. To reason with such persona would be hopeless: but he would appeal, with more expectation of success, to another class, who had been scared from conceding this moderate relief, by the daring assertion, that the slightest approach to reform was tantamount to revolution. He would tell this class with all sincerity, that he respected their prudent caution, and believed them well intentioned, and accessible to reason. He tendered to the House a proposition for legislating only in the single case of Edinburgh, because it was distinguished from all others in this respect; namely, that the town council of that city had the power of choosing a member of parliament, without being troubled with the assistance of any contributary boroughs. Such was not the case with other cities or towns of Scotland. If the effect of opening the representation of Scotland should be to prove that the election of a capable, independent, and honest member gave content to the people and softened asperities, under the hope that parliament would hereafter, in its wisdom, extend the principle to other places, then he should have the opportunity of saying that the experiment had answered, and that experience was in his favour, for accomplishing a gradual and progressive improvement in Scotch representation. If, on the other hand, it should turn out that the supposed amelioration led to riots and tumult, that it created unreasonable desires and unjustifiable demands those who now resisted all alteration would then also be armed with experience in their favour. One strong recommendation of the plan of reform which he should suggest was, that it would be slow and gradual. The numerous body of persons whom he should designate as reformers in Scotland, took a sound view of the subject: they had the good sense not to complain that Edinburgh was selected in the first instance, because they were aware, that if the House refused it to the capital, it would be vain for other parts of the country to entertain a hope of redress. They felt, also, that the course now taken was safe and prudent, since it afforded parliament an opportunity to pause, or even to recall an act it bad imprudently sanctioned. Another 165 argument required notice. It was not imputed to him that he was a republican, but that he had lent himself unwarily to others who maintained those principles. He most distinctly and unequivocally repelled the charge; and appealed to the contents of the petition, consisting merely of a narrative of facts and grievances. His object, and that of those who concurred with him, was not revolutionary, but perfectly constitutional; to assert the contrary was most unjust and injurious, and a vain attempt to create a prejudice against the proposition. Thus, some argued that the present system wrought well, and that under it the city of Edinburgh had advanced in prosperity and improvement. He admitted that the city of Edinburgh had advanced in prosperity, but certainly not by means of the town council. On the contrary, he contended, that its prosperity had advanced in spite of the town council. He could speak to this from his own experience; for, to his own knowledge, in almost all the measures for the improvement of the city—and there had been many within his experience before the House—the town council was found arrayed on one side, and the great body of the people on the other. On these occasions the town council had failed, and the people had succeeded. And why? Because parliament saw the nature and bearings of the case, and did justice between the parties; and because a certain noble lord, who, in these matters, was actuated by sound and liberal views, was thrown in the right and popular scale. By this means, the measures for the prosperity of the town had been carried in opposition to the town council.—But it might be said, that he had not stated any particular instances of abuse. He protested against the principle of his being obliged to do so. It was enough for him to shew, that the measure was calculated to do much good, and that it was perfectly safe. This was the case of a trust for the benefit of the public, and not a private property belonging to individuals, to be disposed of for their interests alone; and if parliament should be of opinion, that the trust could no longer remain usefully in their hands, they ought to be deprived of it. But if he were desirous to shew instances of abuses of trust on the part of the town council, he could easily do so. He could shew a list of honours and profits, held by the provosts and their 166 relations, which would appal those who called for instances of abuse, and effectually prevent their doing so again. He could shew, by a report before that House, how the magistrates had alienated lands belonging to the town for their own private political purposes, in a manner which no court of justice would have sanctioned, if the decision of such questions could be referred to courts of justice. He could shew instances in which, in the event of canvassing for the office of Provost, no vote was solicited, on the ground that one man was more fit for the trust than another. The argument always was, "vote for this man, for you may depend upon it that you have as fair a chance for the good things of this government under him, as under any other." But he had no object in making war against individuals, for his design was not to accuse individuals, but to destroy the system, and he hoped that parliament would concede the means of doing so. In the preamble of the act of 1469, by which this system was established, it was stated as the reason for the enactment, that broils and turmoils had arisen in the elections of magistrates for the burghs, because these elections were made by the common people of the burgh. Now, while the act provided what was considered as a sufficient remedy for this, its real intention was to favour the good of the people, and secure the fidelity of their trustees by rendering the elections annual instead of for life, as had before been the course. He did not mean to entangle himself with that point generally; but merely wished to show that the real good of the community had been the object in view, both at and before the passing of the act of 1469. But it was found that this system did not work well; and, from the passing of the act of 1469 till the Revolution, many laws had been passed to correct the gross abuse which this system had generated. A commission had been appointed a considerable time before the Revolution, and another at the period of the Revolution, to investigate the state of the burghs; both the commissions proceeding upon similar narratives of the prevalence of gross and flagrant abuses; and the convention parliament had passed an act or resolution, stating, that the only effectual remedy consisted in re-establishing the system of election. But, from the time of the Revolution till no very distant period, Scotland had been twice convulsed 167 by rebellions, and those were not times when any complaints of the grievances sustained from the Burgh system could be expected to be attended to. But when the storms were passed, from 1784 down to the present time, the evils of the system had been loudly and constantly complained of. The effects of that system were these—1st, it excluded the people from any control over, the conduct of those who managed their affairs; and, 2ndly, it produced a venal and corrupt magistracy, who attended not to the interests of those for whom they acted, but to their own—a very natural consequence of the possession of uncontrolled power; and, therefore, this power they ought no longer to possess. That was what he contended for. He had by no means overstated his case, nor was he unsupported in his views by many eminent authorities who were fully acquainted with the subject. He could produce the authority of an eminent author, a great philosopher, and a learned judge, who had stated "that the greatest evils resulted from this system, especially by the corruption and bribery which it generated at the elections of members to serve in parliament, which had a tendency to fill the House of Commons with profligate and unprincipled men." Such was the opinion of the great and justly celebrated lord Kaimes. The only other argument on the other side was, that any alteration in the system was contrary to the articles of Union; but those articles had not been considered as opposed to any alteration which might appear to be clearly advantageous. It was well known that, in 1747, the heritable jurisdictions had been abolished, although they had been reserved by the articles of Union. Yet these were much more in the nature of private property than the property of burghs. They might be sold, they might be mortgaged, like private property; and yet, although the object of the articles of Union was more strictly to prevent change in matters of private, than in matters of public polity, the heritable jurisdictions were abolished. Then the court of session had been remodelled; nay, a new method of trial had been introduced, which had been long established in this country, but was unknown before in Scotland. And these were alterations in the legal constitutions of Scotland, which appeared to be most strictly guarded against by the articles of Union. Perhaps, many worthy men might be afraid to stand 168 against a riotous mob of electors; but no man of courage and virtue need be afraid to stand before the householders of Edinburgh. Many of them were connected with the courts of justice; and of all their class, they were, upon the whole, the most independent; except, perhaps, men in a similar situation in London. Why should parliament be afraid to give them the right of election? Did not the example of England testify and prove, that where people of rank, wealth, talent, and virtue, offered themselves as candidates in popular elections, the people were generally disposed to prefer them to others? And why? Because their station enabled them to turn their trust with the greatest effect to the public good Why, then, should not this system be adopted in Scotland? If public trusts were more abused in Scotland than in England, it could only be owing to the want of sufficient power in the people to control those who were supposed to act for them. Then he intreated the House further to consider, that a person might very consistently be favourable to reform in Scotland, who might be opposed to it in England; since, in Scotland; there was not one popular election, from which the real sense of the country could be collected. In England there were many popular elections. There was not one instance of such an election in Scotland. Every Scottish member, if he was fairly to state his sentiments, could not but confess that he sat there as the representative, not of the interests of the people of Scotland, but of the interests of some private individuals, which might be decidedly opposed to the general interests of the public. Suppose a case, that on any occasion the member for Edinburgh (Mr. W. Dundas) and the town council were on one side, and the people of Edinburgh on the other, was there any doubt that the right hon. gentleman would prefer his own interest and that of the council to the interests of the people? The whole people of Scotland might be on the one side, and their trustees on the other. And, was it not extremely mortifying to the people of Scotland, that they should see the people of England and the people of Ireland in possession of these rights of popular election, and that they alone, of all his majesty's subjects, should be excluded from that privilege? A more unreasonable, a more unjustifiable system could not be conceived. It was a mere jobbing system, which excluded all idea 169 of a proper attention to the interests of the public. Could the people of Scotland be satisfied with such a state of things? Was it worth the while of parliament and the government to carry the people of Scotland along with them? If it was, he could assure them that nothing could be more satisfactory to the people of Scotland generally, than to concede thus far at least to their wishes. It was a specific project, not involving the question of reform in general. The question was, whether such a body as the respectable householders of the city of Edinburgh should have any thing like a share in the election of those who were to be intrusted with the management of their interests. He would conclude by moving, "That leave be given to amend and alter the Representation of the City of Edinburgh."
§ Mr. William Dundas
rose to oppose the proposition, the object of which was, he said, nothing less than to destroy the existing vested rights of the magistrates of Edinburgh. He was not surprised that the hon. and learned gentleman should have been chosen as the champion of such a proposition, since he had before so ably advocated the plan; and also because he was himself so splendid an instance of the power of popular and independent election. In what shape did this proposition come before the House; and with what views? The design which it openly manifested was, to beat down the charters, and extinguish the existing rights which had lasted for ages. The hon. and learned gentleman had contended, that the prosperity of Edinburgh had not arisen from the good conduct of the magistrates; but that that city had flourished in spite of their conduct. There he was at issue with him; and would contend that the prosperity of Edinburgh—he did not mean to confine himself merely to streets and squares, but the prosperity of Edinburgh as it consisted in the wealth and comfort and flourishing condition of the people— did arise from the good conduct of the magistrates and town council. Was there any charge against the magistrates? Not a word. No serious charges of corruption could be proved. A noble lord had, on a former occasion, moved for a committee to inquire into the state of the burghs, and when called upon to name his committee, the noble lord named almost all of them from his own side. A ship load of books and papers had been sent for; and what was the result? Was any corruption dis- 170 covered? Was any censure proposed? Not a word of censure or imputation on the conduct of the magistrates of Edinburgh! Would they, then, degrade those magistrates now by entertaining a proposition like this? What could others expect, if the magistrates of Edinburgh were treated as if they had been guilty of some crime? Parliament had certainly disfranchised some boroughs, upon proof of gross misconduct at elections; but here no such thing was alleged. Were the magistrates of Edinburgh, then, to be the first victims selected for punishment without any crime alleged against them? The hon. and learned mover had observed, that the articles of Union were not designed so strictly to prevent interference with the rights of burghs, as with the rights of those who had held the heritable jurisdictions. Such was not the opinion of lord Hardwicke, who had maintained, that the heritable jurisdictions were not guarded by the articles of Union with any thing like the same solicitude as the rights of burghs. He fully agreed with lord Hardwicke; and after these articles of Union, so solemnly ratified, was England now to violate them? Was the richer country to turn upon the poorer? The stronger upon the weaker? He could not believe that England would be guilty of such injustice.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
said, that the state of the case was this: that thirty-three persons, out of a population of more than 100,000, returned the member to serve in parliament for the whole of that population. The right hon. member who spoke last contended, that it would be a great injustice to deprive these thirty-three persons of their vested right so to return the member of parliament for the city of Edinburgh. But the right hon. member seemed to have forgotten, that this was not a right for their own private benefit and advantage, but a trust confided to them for the benefit of the public. In other words, if they held a private right, it resolved itself into a public trust. It was not contrary to the articles of Union to inquire into, and modify the exercise of such a right. The very speech of lord Hardwicke to which the hon. gentleman had referred, showed the contrary. "The general provision of that treaty is, that the laws of Scotland shall continue in full force, as before the treaty, but alterable by the parliament of Great Britain; with this difference between the 171 laws which concern public policy and those which concern private right, that the former may be made the same throughout the whole united kingdom; but that no alteration be made in the latter, except for the evident utility of the subjects within Scotland."* Why, then, this proposition did refer to a matter of public policy, and the argument against it, founded on the articles of Union, was totally irrelevant. If this had been a project for radical reform—although he did not exactly know what meaning the hon. gentleman opposite might attach to the word radical—but if this had been a proposition for a sweeping and wide-spreading reform, without a due regard to caution and prudence, he would not give his support to the proposition. But the object here was to remedy certain defects in a certain particular place, where the remedy was loudly called for, and might be easily supplied. All were agreed, that where a special case of corruption and abuse was made out, then a borough might be even disfranchised. If any particular case of corruption or venality occurred, the House proceeded to reform it, not as a matter of punishment, but as a matter of law, and of "general utility to the realm." If punishment, and not law, were their object, it would be unjust to the last degree to visit the innocent and the guilty alike. Yet this was the practice. Whenever it was proved that corruption prevailed in any particular place, the right of the electors was so far diminished, that they were only left to the exercise of it in company with many others who were admitted to the same right. In a recent instance, the right had been taken away from the corporation altogether, and transferred to a distant quarter of the country. Take the representation of England generally, and it was a popular representation; but in Scotland there was no such thing as a popular election. Why, then, should they not seize the first opportunity which presented itself of giving at least one instance of an election in Scotland where the people might have the power to make a choice (and he did not think that any place could be selected for the experiment better than the city of Edinburgh), and thus have the means of knowing practically what was the opinion in Scot-and on the subject? But it was said, that popular elections were attended with dan-* See Parl. Hist. Vol. xiv. P. 12.172 ger. If so, then England, at the present moment, was in a most dangerous situation, for her representation was of that character. Still he could hardly think that they who maintained the former part of the argument could find proofs of the latter, and the impossibility of such proof showed the absurdity of the first position. In England there was representation of various kinds: from the interest of the aristocracy down to that of the lowest class of the people, all were represented; but in Scotland no one was represented. The first thing that struck a person in that country was, that there was no representation; and the next, that the thing called representation was all of one kind. In the counties a man had a right of voting, without an acre of land; merely by the possession of pieces of parchment. In the burghs, the system of popular election was not known. The little corporations elected whom they pleased, but the people had no share in it. There was not even one member elected by the voice of the people throughout the whole country. Now, he thought it would be impossible even to govern Scotland otherwise than as a province or colony, until she obtained something like a fair representation in the legislative assembly of the empire. The general welfare of the united kingdom required that the feelings of the Scotch people should be consulted, and their interests promoted, by the adoption of the principle on which the present motion was founded.
§ Sir George Clarke
rose to protest against the doctrine which he had heard laid down, that the question before the House did not involve that of general reform; seeing that when once the safeguards, which protected the ancient rights and privileges of boroughs, were broken down, it would be impossible to say where the work of innovation was to stop. As a principle, he begged to deny that the House ought to interfere with the rights and privileges of any corporation, except in cases where those rights had been abused by the great body of those by whom they were held. In England no interference with the rights of boroughs was ever attempted by parliament, except in such cases; and it required that the clearest proofs should be given of venality, before it removed the right of election. This was the principle adopted in the recent transfer of the right of electing two members from Grampound to the 173 county of York. He therefore called upon the House not to set an example, for the first time, of interfering with the ancient privileges of a city, against the electors of which no delinquency had been proved, or even charged. Why, he asked, should Edinburgh be the first to be thus interfered with? It had its peculiar mode of election. So had the cities and boroughs of England each their peculiar modes of; election. In some the right of voting was extended to all householders; in others, to freeholders and freemen only. He would admit that in Edinburgh the number of electors was small, but in some cities in England the electors were not more numerous. Why, then, begin with Edinburgh? Why, if an experiment was: to be tried, not begin with some city in England; and then, if it succeeded, let it be extended to other places which might require it; but he would protest against making an experiment on the privileges of a corporation, in which the first step must be a violation of the articles of union. He, however, would contend, that there was no necessity of making the experiment at all, and that if they once passed the sacred barrier, they would find it extremely difficult to know where to stop. It had been asked, whether any danger could be apprehended to the constitution from giving the right of election to the great body of the enlightened citizens of Edinburgh? He would answer, no. But if they departed from the present mode, he did not see why it might not be extended to all householders; and then he knew there were many among the reformers who would extend it to that mode of election which gave a vote to every man who had arrived at the age of twenty-one years. He thought that, looking to the effects of the system as it was at present, it would be much more safe not to interfere with it; for it would be impossible to do so, even in a slight degree, without letting in the whole question of general parliamentary reform. If he looked at the state of Scotland—at the rapid advances she had made in the arts and sciences—at the great improvements in the moral condition of the people—he saw no ground for changing a system under which such a state of things had grown up. As to the question before the House, it was the same on which a meeting had been held in Edinburgh, and a petition agreed to, about two years ago. That meeting was held in a large theatre. 174 It was attended by many very able orators, and the whole thing had an air of novelty about it, which excited considerable interest at the moment. On getting up the petition this year, however, the same interest was not excited; and, so certain were the promoters of the petition, that the same interest was not felt on the subject, that they called no public meeting. He was in Edinburgh at the time the petition was in the course of signature; and he could state, that the great majority of the inhabitants knew nothing about it. The first thing that was publicly known of it, was an advertisement from a gentleman active in promoting it, in which he called pathetically upon the inhabitants to sign it, and mentioned several shops where sheets lay for signature. In that advertisement the parties feelingly deplored the want of that zeal in the cause which it was said had existed on a former occasion. He mentioned these circumstances, that the House might not be led away with a belief, that the petition was the result of any general or zealous feeling on the subject to which it related. The hon. and learned gentleman by whom this question was brought forward, had stated, that the reform which he proposed, was not intended to apply to any part of the kingdom but Scotland. That very limited range would not, he was sure, satisfy many of the learned gentleman's friends. They would have a much more extended kind of reform; and if this bill were allowed to proceed, there was no doubt the House would soon hear of other bills brought in to disfranchise Bath, Portsmouth, Salisbury, and other places, where the number of voters was but small. He would not trouble the House with any further remarks on the question. It had been so ably discussed on a former occasion, that all he could now urge would be only a repetition of what had before been much better said by others. He would conclude by giving his decided opposition to the motion.
Sir R. Fergusson
said, that he also was disposed to be very brief in his remarks on the question before the House. Indeed, lengthened observations were unnecessary on this occasion. The question was short and simple; and in the few words which he had to say on it, he would address himself rather to the English members, than to those who represented Scotland. The simple question was, what was the nature of the constitution of that 175 House? Was it not that they who sat as members should represent the people? If any one held a different opinion, let him avow it. But if the constitution of the House was, as he described it, it must follow, that those who were returned by Scotland were not fit to sit there as members, for there was not one man among them sent there by the people. Some were sent by small corporations, others by the holders of pieces of parchment, who did not possess a single acre of land; but in no case was there an election by the people. Was this, he would ask, a state of things which ought to be allowed to continue? Indeed, so much had this miserable state of non-representation been felt in the Scotch burghs, that on a former occasion they all, with one exception, petitioned that House against it. Under these circumstances, he would give his cordial support to the motion.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, that he rose with some difficulty on this occasion, from a feeling that his interposition in the debate might be considered an interference with the more peculiar duties of the Scotch members. When this subject was before the House on a former occasion, he had not taken any part in the debate, not because he felt at all indifferent to the petition of so enlightened and respectable a portion of the people, but from an apprehension, that, as the case of the citizens of Edinburgh was peculiar, and brought on as a separate question, and not connected with the principle of general parliamentary reform, there might be an unwillingness on their part for his advocacy; that they might say "non tali auxilio" to any proffer of his weak support. Nor did he think that he should have arisen even on the present occasion, but for the direct personal appeal made to Englishmen by his hon. and gallant friend who spoke last, The zeal and earnestness with which the first mention of this motion was opposed by the right hon. member for Edinburgh afforded a decided argument in its favour, The right hon. member had given proof of what a zealous member ought to be who had an interest to defend, and what perhaps the people of Edinburgh might expect on their behalf had they the power to choose a representative. The system of representation, as it was called, which his hon. and learned friend's motion had introduced to the notice of the House, was one of the most scandalous and unblushing exclusions of the right of the 176 people—one of the most barefaced and corrupt perversions of the public duties of corporations to private ends—that the ingenuity of man could devise, and he thought that great praise was due to his hon. and learned friend for having exposed it to the view of the House and the country. He would own that there was one circumstance which made him approach this subject with less zeal than he should otherwise be disposed to do. It was, that it was not connected with the general question of reform in parliament, for it was his earnest wish that all the people of this country should be cordially united in their pursuit of that great good. The case which his hon. and learned friend had made out was completely unanswerable in every part. The corruption which it described was perfect in its kind. It was one entire chrysolite, "totus teres atque rotundus," without flaw or blemish—without one single alloy of good; and such was the vice of this system of corruption, that it was in vain to point out to its supporters, that the granting of this tardy grace to the city of Edinburgh might for a time shut the door on the general question of reform; it was in vain to point out to them, that a small concession of this sort might be a good set-off for a time against the demand for more extensive reforms; it was in vain to tell them any of these things. Their vigilance was not to be relaxed; their repugnance to any, even the smallest kind of reform, was not to be overcome. The hundred eyes of Argus might be closed one after the other by the pipe of Hermes, but nothing could close the eye of corruption in that House, nothing could silence "the still small voice of conscience" in its supporters;—that conscience which made them so feelingly alive, so sensibly alarmed, at even the slightest movement by which the reign of unmixed corruption might be disturbed. Talk to those gentlemen of one evil, and they meet you by mentioning the existence of twenty others. Thus one sort of corruption was made the defence for another, or an excuse at least for its continuance. His hon. and learned friend pointed out the atrocious system of representation in Edinburgh, and he was immediately told in answer, that that of Bath was equally corrupt. He would admit it was so, but was that a reason why the corruption of Edinburgh should be allowed to endure? He would admit that it would be a most desirable improvement, that the respect- 177 able inhabitants of both cities should be allowed to choose those who were to represent them, and that a few apothecaries should be deprived of the privilege of sending mock representatives in the one case, and a dozen electors from sending a sham one in the other. But, the principle to which he alluded was not confined to one sort of evil. Let any instance of corruption be complained of, and up started gentlemen in their places and pointed out twenty cases still more corrupt, and then contended, that, unless these were removed, the particular corruption first complained of should be allowed to continue. From the very temperate manner in which this subject had been introduced to the House, he did hope that it would have the support of some portion at least of his majesty's ministers. They, or a portion of them, had of late adopted some very liberal measures, for which he admitted they were entitled to the thanks of the country—in conjunction, however, with those who had been well described on a former evening by his hon. colleague as "his majesty's Opposition;" and, as one good turn deserved another, he hoped that the active exertions of the latter in support of those liberal measures would be admitted. And, as he had mentioned the opposition, he must say, in passing, that, long as he had had a seat in that House, it had never fallen to his lot to sit with so honourable an opposition as that which now filled the benches on his side. But to return. He did hope, that they who were the supporters of the administration — or rather, the corks on which it was enabled to swim—would give their sanction to a measure which must prove at once so agreeable and so beneficial to the public. He had used the word "administration;" but he thought it was a misapplication of the word to use it as describing that which was not one, but rather two halves of an administration— somehow knit together as one body, but having separate views on almost all leading questions of political importance— chained together like two slaves at the same oar. What Mezentius was it that made this unnatural junction of the living and the dead, "complexu misero?" Or perhaps he might better liken them to the double monster, mentioned in The Tempest—two monsters in one — one body, but two heads and two voices; so little of union was there in their general principles. Bui though thus divided, there were those 178 among them who were entitled to the highest praise and admiration.—He had, on a former evening, listened with unmixed pleasure to the most excellent speech of one right hon. gentleman. He had heard him eloquently describe abstract principles of philosophy, and ably defend their application to measures of political government. The right hon. gentleman had now an opportunity of bringing some of those principles into action. He might apply some of his reasonings to the case of the city of Edinburgh, and give a proof that he was not to be scared by the fear of innovation, from the application of some of his philosophical principles, where it might be made with general benefit to the state. He asked the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs to show to the House and the country that he was inclined practically to advance those principles of enlightened and liberal policy which he had so ably and so eloquently advocated on other occasions. He called upon that right hon. gentleman to take the present opportunity of doing so, and he confessed that he could not see how he could refuse that call. It was due to his own character and consistency of conduct to adopt the line of conduct which he had pointed out; and he sincerely hoped that the right hon. Secretary would not disappoint his expectations. Should the right hon. Secretary, however, adopt another course, he defied even all the eloquence of which he was possessed to make any impression tending to shake the strong case which was now before the House. He defied all the powers of his mind, and all the ingenuity of which he was master, to affect that case; and he called upon the right hon. gentleman, in defence of his own principles, and in justice to his own character, to support the present motion. If the citizens of Edinburgh should be made eligible, by being admitted to the privileges of freemen, he sincerely hoped that the recognition of their claims would have the most salutary effect, and that it would lead to consequences of a still more beneficial nature. He hoped that the principle would be extended to other places; and he owned that the recognition of the rights of the citizens of Edinburgh would give him the most heartfelt satisfaction. If, however, the measure should be defeated, he would console himself under the impression, that the refusal of the present motion would show to each part of the united kingdom what might be expected 179 from the justice of his majesty's ministers. He sincerely hoped that the rejection of the present motion would spread through the country, and call for a general and complete reform,—a measure which gentlemen on the opposite side of the House had such just grounds to fear. He hoped, however, that justice would be done on the present occasion, and that both sides of the House would agree as to its expediency. It would afford him great consolation to think that they would become a united band on the great question of reform. He hoped to see that question one day carried. It was one which must eventually succeed; for the reasons which called for its adoption, it would be impossible to resist for any length of time. According to the great lord Chatham, "a reform in the representation of the country would be the means of infusing new health and vigour to a worn-out and decrepit constitution." He could have wished that the present motion had been connected with the question of general reform; but as that was not the case, he hoped the introduction of this bill would be the first step to that great measure. If, however, the present motion was refused, the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, might give up all hopes of ever having that object accomplished.
Mr. Keith Douglas
was of opinion that no case had been made out to interfere with the chartered rights of the city of Edinburgh. The question before the House must be met, not as affecting the city of Edinburgh alone, but as involving, according to the admission of the hon. baronet who had just sat down, the whole principle of parliamentary reform in its widest sense.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, that the only argument that had been offered against this motion was, that it was contrary to the provisions of the Union; but this, in fact, was no argument at all, and could not be relied upon as a principle by which the opinion of the House should be governed. Had nothing occurred since the Union of Scotland to call for the present bill? Had not the Union with Ireland materially altered the question? The noble lord proceeded to combat the arguments which had been advanced against the motion, and called upon the House to consider that it affected, in the most material manner, the rights and immunities of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, ninety-nine in a hundred of whom were 180 vitally interested in the question before the House. He contended that the shutting out from the right of returning representatives to parliament of so large a proportion of the inhabitants of the capital of Scotland, a city so highly distinguished by talent, science, and intelligence, was a monstrous injustice. The present system of election was contemptible, and ought to be abolished, not only in Edinburgh, but throughout Scotland generally. The noble lord concluded by complaining of some collusion which had taken place between the lord-advocate and a Scottish member, with regard to a bill which had been brought in on this subject upon a former occasion.
after having most positively disclaimed the collusion which had been imputed to him by the noble lord, said he wished this to be treated as a British, and not merely as a Scottish subject. If a reform in the representation was to be attempted, he thought it would be but fair that the trial should extend to the whole empire; and not be confined merely to one of the weaker parts of it; for, unless it was for the purpose of effecting some such general reform, he could not discover on what principle the charter of a borough was to be taken from it, merely because it was imagined that its elective franchise might be placed in better hands. Where the elective franchise had been interfered with in England, it had always been on account of some corruption, or very improper conduct, in the parties who had the exercise of it; but against the borough of Edinburgh no misconduct had been, no misconduct could be, alleged. Its proceedings had been closely examined into, and had passed through a most severe ordeal; and on that occasion the conduct of this borough had been found perfectly fair and unexceptionable. The persons who exercised the elective franchise in it had done much for Edinburgh; they had acted most beneficially and liberally towards it. The question of general parliamentary reform would shortly be before the House, when the case of this borough might be discussed along with the rest; for there was nothing, either in its constitution or its conduct, which rendered it necessary that this borough should be singled out, and sacrificed as a special victim to reform. Indeed, he believed electors in this borough were less exceptionable than the electors of any other 181 borough in Scotland; and it should be recollected, that although their number only consisted of thirty-three, still these thirty-three were chosen by a very numerous body. Neither were they all of the same political principles; six or seven of them, and amongst whom was the convener of the guild of trade, agreed in their political opinions with the hon. gentlemen who sat on the same side of the House with the noble lord. He was convinced that the giving votes to all those who occupied tenements of the value of 5l. a year, and which were, in fact, generally occupied by gentlemen's servants, would, instead of improving the representation, have a directly contrary tendency; and he was persuaded, that if it were expected that the present motion would be likely to be attended with any other effect than the affording a subject for declamation, all the respectable part of the inhabitants of Edinburgh would have come forward to petition the House against it.
§ Mr. H. Drummond
rose for the purpose of confirming the assertion of the lord-advocate, disclaiming the collusion which had been imputed with regard to the bill which had been brought in on this subject on a former occasion.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, he conceived that the disclaimer of the lord-advocate and the hon. member had left the matter pretty near as it was before.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, he would not allude to the concluding part of the noble lord's speech, further than to observe Union, that he did not think the noble lord had given full attention to the positive assertions of the lord-advocate and the hon. member who followed him. They had both of them most decidedly disclaimed that there was any collusion between them; and in a matter of this kind, which rested entirely within the breasts of two individuals, to what other tribunal could an appeal be made but to their honour? In proceeding to the question before them, he answered the call which had been made upon him, certainly with very great politeness, by the hon. baronet and the noble lord; but he was quite at a loss to discover the grounds on which it was expected that he should give his vote in favour of the present motion,—whether he looked upon it as a question relating to a reform in this borough in particular, or to parliamentary reform in general. He had been complimented by the hon. baronet for a sentiment which he might, in common 182 with many other honourable members, have expressed in discussing general topics; namely, that he would not resist innovation merely because it was a change; but this could never pledge him to approve of what he felt persuaded would be a change for the worse. He had been accused, and with justice, of a pertinacity in his opposition to parliamentary reform. He had hitherto invariably opposed, and he still continued to oppose, that measure, because he considered that it was neither necessary nor expedient. His resistance to it depended neither upon time nor circumstances, nor upon any transient considerations. He saw nothing in the representative system which required redress; and even if he could have discovered any thing which called for amendment, he saw no means of effecting such amendment without introducing into the system far greater evils. He did not, however, view the motion now before the House merely as an opponent to parliamentary reform; for if he himself were an advocate for that measure, his opposition to the present motion would have been considerably increased on that very account. If it was intended as an introduction to parliamentary reform, it was a very impolitic way of bringing that measure forward, and certainly would have a tendency to create an unfair prejudice against it. The noble lord had expressed a hope that he would not oppose this motion on the articles of the and he was ready to admit that the articles of the Union ought not to be set up, so as to prevent any general alteration in the constitution by which all the parts of the united empire were bound together; but then such meditated alteration ought to be general, and to comprehend the whole monarchy; for he conceived the articles of the Union might be well set up against any mere partial change, and especially against one which was only intended to affect the weaker vessel. The articles of the Union had just been put into his hand, which provided, that no persons should be electors of representatives, or representatives themselves, excepting such as were then capable to elect, or be elected. He would admit, with the noble lord, that if he were merely talking of Scotland, and the Scotch representatives, that there was in Scotland no popular elective franchise, and that parliament would not be what it ought to be, if there were not in it a large infusion of 183 popular spirit; that a parliament constituted at all like the parliament of Scotland would be unfit for this great empire. Such various clashing interests as existed in the united kingdom required that its representatives should be chosen by very different classes of persons. If it had fallen to his lot to have cast anew the representative system of Scotland, he did not mean to say that he should have framed it precisely as it was at present; in theory he might wish that more of the popular spirit were blended in the Scottish representation, as well as in the English. He did not call upon the House to agree with him in his views of this question, but he thought it must be admitted that he had stated it fairly. He should have been glad to have found a larger infusion of the popular spirit in the representative system of Scotland, though he did not miss it; as there was a sufficiency of it in the parliament of the united kingdom. Then, with regard to the state of Scotland; had that country been exposed to any evils or disadvantages from which its more wealthy neighbour had escaped? If England had flourished, had not Scotland flourished also? Indeed the advances in wealth and knowledge in Scotland since the Union had been, beyond all comparison, greater and more rapid than what they had been in England during the same period. The hon. and learned gentleman had stated, that one reason for his bringing forward the present motion was, the disparagement brought upon the system of Scotch representation, and the shrinking awkward feeling under which the Scotch members laboured, as to the way in which they were considered in that House. Now, for his own part, he must say, that he could perceive no symptom of any such feeling. With respect to the representation of Scotland as it now existed, he must be permitted to remark, that at least Scotland made good her ground. Notwithstanding all that the House had heard of the manifold grievances of Scotland, it was not pretended that it had made much impression upon the empire at large, or that it had inflicted any practical mischief upon the particular country which was alleged to be the sufferer by it. He had not heard of one Englishman who had successfully entrenched himself in the boroughs of that country. He begged pardon—he understood that on one occasion, Mr. Fox, banished from Westmin- 184 ster, had fled for refuge to the electors of Kirkwall [a laugh]. He had not heard of any southern invader who had made a permanent lodgment in the northern parts of the island. He knew, however, that Scotland, having filled up her own representation with her own children, was accustomed to send others of them to fill up the representation of the vacant boroughs of England.— Nay, the very motion which the House was then discussing came from a gentleman of Scotland, who had snugly nestled himself into an English borough, and who, having so nestled himself, came forward with true filial piety to reform the abuses of his mother country [a laugh]. For his own part, if he (Mr. Canning) were an advocate for parliamentary reform, he could amend the motion of the hon. and learned member for Calne in a manner to which that hon. and learned member could not possibly object. He would not move such an amendment, because he was not an advocate for that measure; but if he were an advocate for it, he would move to insert in the original motion the words, "the borough of Calne" instead of the words, "the city of Edinburgh" [cries of "move, move," from the opposition benches]. He had before stated that he would not move such an amendment, and he would now add, that he would not second it, even if the hon. and learned member should be inclined to move it. Nay more, he would add, that if he was an advocate for parliamentary reform, he would object to the partial mode now proposed for effecting it; and, speaking for himself, he would say, that it did appear to him, that the hon. and learned gentleman, who had selected Edinburgh as the subject for his experiment in representation, would have acted more naturally, and even more logically, if he had taken the borough of Calne, with which he was much more closely and intimately acquainted. He had listened with great attention to all that had been alleged against the corporation of Edinburgh; and he found that it simply reduced itself to this—that it only contained three-and-thirty electors. Now, he believed that the borough of Calne contained a smaller number of electors—not smaller in proportion to its population when compared with that of Edinburgh, but still very small in proportion to the number of its inhabitants. That was no argument with him; but there were gentlemen with whom it was an argument. To such gentlemen 185 he would venture to give this piece of advice, that they should look at home before they ventured to go abroad with their schemes of reform. To the House, however, he would say, that if it was to select boroughs for disfranchisement, not upon any given fixed principle, as for misconduct or the like, but on account of the paucity of the number of electors in them, there would be no knowing where it ought to stop. If the paucity of the electors should be taken as a symptom of the corruption of the borough, no reason could be shown why gentlemen should not rise in a spirit of revenge, one after another, to make their attacks, night after night, upon peculiar boroughs. He could certainly point out several gentlemen, on both sides of the House, who, if paucity of numbers were to be taken as a disqualification of their constituents, could not stand a minute in comparison with the representation for Edinburgh. He maintained, that paucity of numbers was not in itself conclusive against any borough; and contended, that parliament, however it might have listened to schemes of parliamentary reform, depending upon the disfranchisement of some boroughs for the benefit of the whole country, had never, except in the present instance, entertained a motion for the disfranchisement of a particular borough, because its electors were few, unless they were at the same time guilty of gross corruption. This was his objection to the present motion, as it stood unconnected with the great question of parliamentary reform.—The hon. and learned member for Calne had applied to a particular instance a principle of reform, which, when applied generally, he believed to be perfectly sound. He admitted that to reform at the expense of a few, for a great national good, was a sound and a fair principle; but he asserted, that it had no application in the present instance. From such a reform he admitted that no borough had a right to claim exemption; but he contended, that it was new to bring an attack upon a particular borough, without having any abuse in that borough to allege as a foundation for it. If the House should proceed upon this occasion to disfranchise Edinburgh, merely because its electing population bore but a small proportion to the great mass of its inhabitants, it would be taking a step which would be altogether without a precedent; it would be doing that which it had never hitherto even meditated to do; and it 186 would let into the great question of parliamentary reform,—for a great question it undoubtedly was,—a mode of treating it which would lead to endless individual quarrels, without promoting any general advantage. He hoped that the great question of parliamentary reform would be kept separate from the present question, in order that it might be regularly discussed upon the motion which the noble lord opposite (lord John Russell) had given notice that he should bring forward in the course of the present session. He hoped that it would be kept separate, not only this session, but for many sessions to come; and that after the noble lord had himself retired from the scene, it would remain a theme for declamation, and for annual, or, he should be better satisfied, for triennial display, for parliamentary orators who were yet unborn. He hoped that the general question would long remain in the hands of the noble lord and of those who thought with him; but to the present question, which did individual injustice, and promoted no general good,— which went to deprive an elective body of its franchise, not on account of their misconduct, but on account of the paucity of their numbers,—to that question, fraught as it was with mischief and imprudence, he must be permitted, now and for ever, to give his most strenuous and decided opposition.
commenced his speech with calling the attention of the House to the extraordinary doctrine which had just been laid down by the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The right hon. gentleman had told them, that though a popular representation was good for the whole of the united kingdom, it was still good for a part of it, that some portion of its representation should not be conducted upon popular principles, and that part of the kingdom he subsequently admitted to be Scotland. Now, he asked the House whether, by this species of defence, the right hon. gentleman had not given them a character of Scotch representation which no Scotchman would be glad to recognize. Surely the right hon. gentleman had that evening held up to the public view those shameful parts of the British constitution, which, according to the opinion of Mr. Burke, ought rather to be slurred over than confessed. The right hon. gentleman had likewise taunted the members on his side of the House, with not bring- 187 ing forward the case of the borough of Calne. Now, there were many gentlemen near him who would vote as readily for an alteration in the mode of electing the member for Calne, as they would for an alteration in the mode of electing the members for Edinburgh. It was unfair, however, to say that there was any thing parallel in the cases of Calne and Edinburgh. Was Calne a large town like Edinburgh, where thirty-three inhabitants returned a member to parliament to represent the remainder of its 130,000 inhabitants? The reformers had frequently been called on to abstain from general invective, and to point out a specific case of abuse. They had now answered that call, and had pointed out a gross case of abuse in the present instance. Could there, indeed, be a grosser abuse than that thirty-three electors should return a man who had no feeling in common with those who were styled his constituents, and who formed the most enlightened community in the British empire They might call such a system by what name they pleased; but sure he was, that they could never correctly call it representation. "But," said the right hon. gentleman, "the system, such as it is, works well." He denied it. That system could not work well, which placed the member for Edinburgh in direct variance with the great majority of those who were misnamed his constituents, and of which loud and repeated complaints came from all parts of Scotland. The learned lord-advocate was even bolder in his assertions than the right hon. gentleman; for he said, that the system not only worked well, but gave full content to all the enlightened inhabitants of Edinburgh. Now, he must be permitted to dispute this position. If it were true, how was it that the respectable inhabitants of Edinburgh solicitously seized every opportunity of disclaiming every act of the gentleman who was styled their representative? Let the House consider in how short a space of time all the talent of Edinburgh could be marshalled in array against any measure which emanated—he would not say from the administration, but—from the false system of Scotch representation which it protected. Did the learned lord mean to say that the Jeffries, the Cranstouns, and the Murrays, who were every thing when representing the feeling of Edinburgh, but would be nothing without 188 it, were in favour of the present mode of electing its representative? The gentleman who now filled the situation of member for Edinburgh, represented not the city of Edinburgh, but three-and-thirty individuals, who had got peculiar interests to be furthered in this country— who made no appeal to the people or parliament of England—but who addressed themselves invariably to the Treasury, well knowing that so long as they kept up a good understanding with it, their cause would be treated with more attention than any of the public interests of the country.—His honourable colleague had called upon the right hon. Secretary to act on this occasion in conformity with the declaration which he had made on a former night; namely, that he was not hostile to innovation, provided that innovation was productive of improvement. He was sorry that the right hon. Secretary, on whose talents he passed a high eulogium, had not answered to that call. He declared solemnly, that he thought one of the greatest evils that had recently befallen the country to be this—that the right hon. gentleman was so decided an opponent to the cause of reform. He believed that, had not the right hon. gentleman laid down in early life, sentiments upon this subject, from which human frailty, or he ought perhaps to say the love of consistency, prevented him from now departing—he believed, he repeated, that with the power which the right hon. gentleman now possessed, he meant not the power of the Crown or of parliament, but the power which the opinion of the people naturally gave in a country governed like England by liberal institutions—the friends of reform might have been able to look up to some individual to rescue them from the Egyptian bondage in which we were now placed [hear]. He said Egyptian bondage—for such it was, to be restrained in all their aspirations after freedom by a representative system which did not represent them. He had little doubt but that a time would come, when the right hon. gentleman would be sorry that he had not made common cause with the people. In conclusion, he recapitulated his former arguments, contending that if any gentleman was at all favourable to reform in parliament, he had now an opportunity of showing it, by voting in favour of the present motion.
in reply, commented 189 upon several of the observations which had fallen from the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The right hon. gentleman had said, that though he (Mr. A.) was a Scotchman, he had not been able to find a resting-place for himself in Scot- land, but had been obliged to nestle himself in a borough in England. Now, he would tell the right hon. Secretary that, if he had been one of the unshrinking Scotchmen to whom the right hon. Secretary had alluded, he should have found no difficulty in getting a seat in Scotland; bat because he was not an unshrinking Scotchman he had been compelled to nettle himself in an English borough, Was it, then, to be a taunt against him, that having a seat for an English borough in the parliament of the empire, he was anxious to lend himself as an humble instrument to the redress of what was an undisputed and an unanswered grievance in Scotland? He was surprised at hearing an English minister declare that it was fit that there should be an infusion of the spirit of the people of England and of Ireland in the British parliament, but that with respect to Scotland no such infusion was wanted. Now, he contended that such infusion was more wanted with regard to Scotland than to any other part of the United Kingdom. Could there be a stronger proof of it than the extraordinary fact, that the petition of the inhabitants of Edinburgh on this subject had been urged on the two occasions when it was presented, not by their own representative, not by a member for their own country, but by an humble and almost unknown member for an English borough? If any thing were wanted to aggravate the feelings which already actuated the people of Scotland in respect to their representative system, it was the declaration, that the British parliament might receive an infusion of the spirit of the people of England and of Ireland, but must not receive an infusion of the spirit of the people of Scotland. Were there no occasions in which it might be absolutely necessary for parliament to have among them, individuals who could give them correct and sound information as to the feelings which actuated their countrymen in Scotland? He found several fresh arguments for his motion in the speech which had been made that evening by the right hon. Secretary. The present was the first time in which he had heard an objection made to an innovation 190 because it was gradual—because it was definite in its nature—because it was not in support of any general theory—because it was founded on the petitions of the people of Edinburgh, who applied for redress for a particular grievance. If no other advantage was to be derived from this discussion, this advantage was at least derivable from it— that the people of Scotland could no longer entertain a doubt as to the manner in which they were to be treated. The right hon. gentleman, the chief of the anti-reformers, had plainly told them the course intended to be adopted in their regard. When measures of general reform were brought forward, the great change which they would effect was made a ground of rejecting them; and now, when a partial measure was proposed, when reform was proposed on a small, safe, and gradual plan, it was rejected, because it was not a general measure. The plain meaning of which was, that there was to be no redress of grievances, no favourable entertainment of any measure tending either to general or partial reform. The people of Scotland, however, now knew what they were to expect—they were apprized of their fate—they were made sensible of the disposition and intention formed towards them; and they knew, too, that there was power to back that intention. Whether, with this knowledge, and under these circumstances, they would persevere in their present course of petitioning for reform, or whether they would unite their exertions with those of the reformers of this country, in procuring a measure of general reform, it was not for him to decide; but these two things he could confidently assure the right hon. gentleman; first, that the speech which he had pronounced that night would not induce one man in Scotland to surrender his opinion and conviction, as to the necessity of reform; and secondly, that that speech would have the effect of not only continuing those who were anxious for reform in their present sentiments, but would be the cause of gaining thousands to their side who were not reformers before; whilst it would confirm irrevocably in their opinion those who had already enrolled themselves in that numerous and respectable body.
The House divided: For the motion 97. Against it 122. Majority against the motion 25.
|List of the Minority.|
|Althorp, visc.||Maberly, J.|
|Baring, sir T.||Maberly, W. L.|
|Barnard, visc.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Martin, J.|
|Bernal, R.||Maule, hon. W. R.|
|Birch, J.||Milbank, M.|
|Blake, sir F.||Monck, J. B.|
|Brougham, H.||Moore, P.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Newport, sir J.|
|Byng, G.||Ord, W.|
|Butterworth, J.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Palmer, C.|
|Calcraft, J.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Calvert, C.||Parnell, sir H.|
|Calvert, N.||Pelham, J. C.|
|Carter, J.||Philips, G. sen.|
|Caulfield, hon. H.||Philips, G. H.|
|Cavendish, C. C.||Rice, T. S.|
|Clifton, visc.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Colborne, N. R.||Roberts, A. W.|
|Corbett, P.||Robarts, G. J.|
|Cradock, S.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Creevey, T.||Rumbold, C. S.|
|Crompton, S.||Russell, lord J.|
|Denison, W. J.||Russell, lord W.|
|Denman, T.||Scarlett, J.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Scott, J.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Sebright, sir J.|
|Ebrington, visc.||Smith, J.|
|Ellice, E.||Smith, W.|
|Evans, W.||Stanley, hon. E. G.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Sykes, D.|
|Fitzgerald, rt. hon. M.||Tavistock, marq-|
|Fitzroy, lord C.||Tennyson, C.|
|Gaskell, B.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Glenorchy, visc.||Townshend, lord C.|
|Grant, J. P.||Wall, C. R.|
|Grattan, J.||Warre, J. A.|
|Gordon, R.||Webbe, E.|
|Guise, sir B. W.||Western, C. C.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Honywood, W. P.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Hume, J.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Hurst, R.||Williams, J.|
|James, W.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Jervoise, G. P.||Wrottesley, sir J.|
|Labouchere, H.||Wyvill, M.|
|Lethbridge, sir T.||Abercromby, hon. J.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Hobhouse, J. C.|