§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, it is my duty to-night to draw the attention of the House to a theme than which nothing more important can be submitted to their consideration. Those which are often esteemed the greatest political questions—those questions, for example, of peace or war which now occupy and agitate the public mind, are in fact inferior. In either of those cases an erroneous policy may be retraced; and there are no disasters which cannot be successfully encountered by the energies of a free people; but the principles upon which the distribution of power depends in a community when once adopted can rarely be changed, and an error in that direction may permanently affect the fortunes of a State or the character of a people.
But, grave as is the duty, and difficult as is the task which have devolved upon Her Majesty's Government in undertaking to prepare a measure to amend the representation of the people in this House, these I admit—and cheerfully admit—are considerably mitigated by two circumstances—the absence of all passion on the subject, and the advantage of experience. Whatever may be the causes, on which I care not to dwell, I believe that on this subject and on this occasion I appeal to as impartial a tribunal as is compatible with our popular form of Government. I believe, there is a general wish among all men of light and leading in this country that the solution of this long-controverted question should be arrived at; and that if public men occupying the position which we now occupy, feel it their duty to come forward to offer that solution—one which I trust in our case will not be based upon any mean concession or any temporary compromise, but on principles consistent with the spirit of our constitution, which will bear the scrutiny of debate, and which I trust may obtain the sympathy of public opinion—I feel persuaded that in the present conjuncture of our political world such 967 an attempt will meet from this House a candid though a discriminating support. And equally, it may be observed, that the public mind of this country has for the last quarter of a century, and especially during its latter portion, been so habituated to the consideration of all questions connected with popular representation, the period itself has been so prolific of political phenomena for the contemplation and study, and I may add, the instruction of the people of this country, that we are in a much more favourable position, than the statesmen who in 1832 undertook the great office which then devolved upon them, because we address not only a Parliament, but a country which has upon this subject the advantage of previous knowledge; and all will agree that this greatly facilitates both discussion and decision. Although some of those who took a leading part in the transactions of 1832, happily for us, still sit in both Houses of Parliament, yet so long is the space of time that has elapsed since those occurrences I think it is not impossible to speak of them with something of the candour of history. I do not doubt that our future records will acknowledge that, during some of the most important political events of modern history, those events were treated with the energy and the resource becoming British statesmen. If we judge of the Act of 1832 by its consequences, in the measures of this house and in the character of its Members, it must be admitted that that policy was equal to the emergency it controlled and directed. I cannot, indeed, agree with those who attribute to the legislation of 1832 every measure of public benefit that has been passed by this House during the last twenty-five years. I know well that before the reform of this House took place the administration of this country was distinguished by its ability and precision. I believe, indeed, that, especially in the latter part of the administration of Lord Liverpool, this House was rather in advance of the opinion of the country at large. But I think that the reform of the House of Commons in 1832 greatly added to the energy and public spirit in which we had then become somewhat deficient. But, Sir, it must be remembered that the labours of the statesmen who took part in the transactions of 1832 were eminently experimental. In many respects they had to treat their subject empirically, and it is not to be wondered at if in the course of time it was found that some errors were 968 committed in that settlement; and if, as time rolled on, some, if not many deficiencies, were discovered. I beg the house to consider well those effects of time, and what has been the character of the twenty-five years that have elapsed since the Reform of 1832. They form no ordinary period. In a progressive country, and a progressive age, progress has been not only rapid, but, perhaps, precipitate. There is no instance in the history of Europe of such an increase of population as has taken place in this country during this period. There is no example in the history of Europe or of America, of a creation and accumulation of capital so vast as has occurred in this country in those twenty-five years. And I believe the general diffusion of intelligence has kept pace with that increase of population and wealth. In that period you have brought science to bear on social life in a manner no philosopher in his dreams could ever have anticipated. In that space of time you have, in a manner, annihilated both time and space. The influence of the discovery of printing is really only beginning to work on the multitude. It is, therefore, not surprising that in a measure passed twenty-five years ago, in a spirit necessarily experimental, however distinguished were its authors, and however remarkable their ability, some omissions have been found that ought to be supplied, and some defects that ought to be remedied. In such a state of things a question in England becomes what is called a public question. Thus Parliamentary Reform became a public question; a public question in due course of time becomes a Parliamentary question; and then, as it were, shedding its last skin, it becomes a Ministerial question. Reform has been for fifteen years a Parliamentary question; for ten years, it has been a Ministerial question. It is ten years since the Prime Minister of that day, who sat in this House, after resisting for some time a series of Motions, the object of which was to change the settlement of 1832, declared it to be the opinion of himself and his colleagues that some alteration ought be made in it. Public events prevented that Minister from immediately acting on that public declaration. But in 1852, I believe in this very month of February, that Prime Minister counselled Her Majesty to address Parliament from the Throne in these terms:—It appears to me that this is a fitting time for calmly considering whether it may not be advisable 969 to make such amendments in the Act of the late reign, relating to the representation of the Commons in Parliament as may be deemed calculated to carry into more complete effect the principles upon which that law is founded. I have the fullest confidence that in any such consideration you will firmly adhere to the acknowledged principles of the Constitution by which the prerogative of the Crown, the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people are equally secured.In consequence of that announcement from the Throne, a measure of Parliamentary Reform was brought forward by the Ministry of the day. It was not pressed in consequence of a change of Government which then took place. But two years afterwards another Minister being at the head of affairs,—a Minister who, in the general tenor of his politics afforded a contrast to the one who introduced the measure of 1852—a Minister born and bred in what is termed the Tory camp, as his predecessor was born and bred in the Whig camp—this Minister being called on to form a Government, having to consider the requirements of the country, as every individual with that responsibility is bound to consider them, felt it his duty to counsel Her Majesty, in February, 1854, to address to Parliament this language from the Throne:—Recent experience has shown that it is necessary to take more effectual precautions against the evils of bribery and corrupt practices at elections. It will also be your duty to consider whether more complete effect may not be given to the principles of the Act of the last reign, whereby reforms were made in the representation of the people in Parliament. In recommending this subject to your consideration, my desire is to remove every cause of just complaint, to increase general confidence in the Legislature, and to give additional stability to the settled institutions of the State.In consequence of that announcement, another measure was brought forward by the Ministry of Lord Aberdeen, which was considered stronger than the measure of 1852, proposed by Lord John Russell—for it is not against order thus historically to mention that distinguished name. But circumstances again changed, and prevented the Legislature from proceeding with that measure of Reform. The country became involved in a war with a first-rate power—a war that might be described as European. Before it terminated a change of Government again occurred. Another statesman, who may well be compared with the two distinguished men who preceded him—a statesman renowned, not only for his ability, but his great experience, and 970 whose political prejudices—if he has any (laughter and cheers)—well, then, I will say, whose superiority to prejudice—at any rate a statesman who has no morbid sympathy with advanced opinions. Then what did that noble Lord deem it to be his first civil duty to accomplish when he accepted the responsibility of office, and peace had been concluded? In the same solemn and impressive manner adopted by the noble Lord the Member for the City, and by the Earl of Aberdeen—the noble Lord, in 1857, on the termination of peace, counselled his Sovereign to address Parliament in these words:—Your attention will be called to the laws which regulate the representation of the people in Parliament, with a view to consider what Amendments may be safely and beneficially made therein.The House will therefore see that during three Ministries the subject of Parliamentary, Reform has been formally brought before the attention of the Legislature. And let me remind hon. Gentlemen, that although circumstances have prevented the Ministers who preceded us from either proceeding with the measures which they introduced, or with the measures which they proposed, this House has shown during that interval no disposition to wait, and no reluctance to deal with it. The consequence is, that you have had, up to the end of the last Session of Parliament, independent Members of this Assembly continuing that course which was pursued before any of those messages from the Throne were delivered to the Legislature—namely, that of carrying a Reform of Parliament by measures of detail, instead of taking a general view and bringing forward a comprehensive plan which should effect a fair adjustment of all the points in controversy. This, Sir, was the state of the question when, a change of Government again occurring, the Earl of Derby became responsible for the administration of this country. Let me now ask the House what, in their opinion, was our duty under these circumstances? That, from the peculiar position at which this question had arrived, it might have been practicable by evasion for a time to stave off a solution, I do not say is impossible; but that is a course which, speaking for my colleagues and myself, I may respectfully observe is not at all congenial with our tastes. Were you to allow this question, which the Sovereign had three times announced was one that ought to be 971 dealt with—which three Prime Ministers, among the most skilful and authoritative of our Statesmen, had declared it was their intention to deal with—to remain in abeyance? Was it to be left as a means of re-organizing an opposition? Is that the opinion of either side of this House? Is it the judgment of this House that that is a wholesome position for political questions of the highest quality to occupy? Was Parliamentary Reform—a subject which touches the interests of all classes and all individuals, and in the wise and proper settlement of which the very destiny of this country is concerned—to be suffered to remain as a desperate resource of faction; or was it a matter to be grappled with only at a moment of great popular excitement, and settled, not by the reason, but by the passion of the people? Were we to establish, as it were, a chronic irritation in the public mind upon this subject, which, of all others, should not form the staple of our party contests? Were the energies of this country—an ancient country of complicated civilization—were they at this time of day, boasting as we do of a throne that has endured for a thousand years, to be distracted and diverted from their proper objects—the increase of the wealth and welfare of the community, and wasted in a discussion of the principles of our constitution and of what should be the fundamental base of our political institutions? I cannot for a moment believe that this House would think that a posture of affairs which would be free from danger to the Empire, or which it would be honourable for any public man to sanction. Having, then, to consider the state of the country with reference to this question, and recalling all those details Which on this occasion I feel it incumbent on me to place before the House, the Government of the Earl of Derby, on their accession to power, had to inquire what it was their duty to fulfil. And, Sir, it was the opinion—the unanimous opinion of the Cabinet of the Earl of Derby—that this subject must be dealt with, and dealt with in an earnest and sincere spirit.
But I am told that, although it might be necessary that a solution should be effected, although three Prime Ministers who had made the attempt had withdrawn from the effort, yet it was not for the Earl of Derby—even if he deemed it for the interests of his country, and held it to be his paramount duty in the position 972 that he occupied—to undertake such a task. Sir, I dispute that statement. I say it is not a just statement, and cannot in discussion be at all maintained. What is there in the previous career of the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government which should preclude him from taking this course? The noble Lord the Member for the City of London has connected his name with the question of Parliamentary Reform to his enduring honour. I do not grudge the well-earned celebrity which he enjoys. But the noble Lord can remember the day when Earl Grey summoned himself and Mr. Stanley to his cabinet in 1832; and the noble Lord knows well that, had it not been for their ability and energy, probably the Reform Bill, and certainly in its present shape, would never have been passed into law. I think, therefore, it cannot for a moment be contended that there is anything in the position or antecedents of the head of the Government that should preclude him from dealing with this question. What is there in the position of hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House to render it an inconsistent act, on their part, to adopt the course which I shall recommend to-night? Why, when the noble Lord introduced his measure, and also when the measure of the Earl of Aberdeen was introduced into this House, I, acting with the complete sanction and at the personal request of many now sitting behind and around me on these benches, expressed our views upon the course pursued by the Government of that day, I stated then, on their behalf, that we should offer no opposition to any measure which might be brought in, the object of which was to effect a reconstruction of this House. I said that we were prepared to adhere to the Conservative compact which was wrung from the Conservative party in 1835 by taunts and reproaches as to their insincerity in professing to be bound by the Act of 1832. I said, that by that Conservative compact, which was made by those who then represented the Conservative party in this House, we were ready to stand; but that if those who themselves made the settlement questioned its propriety and proposed to amend it, we should offer no opposition, but would give to those proposed Amendments our candid consideration, making every effort on our part to improve the representation of the people. Therefore I cannot understand the justness of the taunts which 973 have been so freely used against our undertaking a task which, in my mind, no one who occupies these benches can avoid, or ought to shrink from. Sir, it is in pursuance of the pledge which we gave when we acceded to office that, on the part of the Government of the Earl of Derby, I am, with your permission, to-night to call your attention to the measures which we think it politic that this House should adopt.
Now, Sir, it appears to me that those who are called Parliamentary Reformers may be divided into two classes. The first are those whose object I will attempt to describe in a sentence. They are those who would adapt the settlement of 1832 to the England of 1859; and would act in the spirit and according to the genius of the existing constitution. Among these Reformers I may be permitted to class Her Majesty's Ministers. But, Sir, it would not be candid, and it would be impolitic not to acknowledge that there is another school of Reformers, having objects very different from those which I have named. The new school, if I may so describe them, would avowedly effect a Parliamentary Reform on principles different from those which have hitherto been acknowledged as forming the proper foundations for this House. The new school of Reformers are of opinion that the chief, if not the sole, object of representation is to realize the opinion of the numerical majority of the country. Their standard is population; and I admit that their views have been clearly and efficiently placed before the country. Now, Sir, there is no doubt population is, and must always be, one of the elements of our representative system. There is also such a thing as property; and that, too, must be considered. I am ready to admit that the new school have not on any occasion limited the elements of their representative system solely to population. They have, with a murmur, admitted that property has an equal claim to consideration; but, then, they have said that property and population go together. Well, Sir, population and property do go together—in statistics, but in nothing else. Population and property do not go together in politics and practice. I cannot agree with the principles of the new school, either if population or property is their sole, or if both together, constitute their double standard. I think the function of this House is something more than 974 merely to represent the population and property of the country. This House, in my opinion, ought to represent all the interests of the country. Now, those interests are sometimes antagonistic, often competing, always independent and jealous; yet they all demand a distinctive representation in this House; and how can that be effected, under such circumstances, by the simple representation of the voice of the majority, or even by the mere preponderance of property? If the function of this House is to represent all the interests of the country, you must of course have a representation scattered over the country; because interests are necessarily local. An illustration is always worth two arguments; permit me, therefore, so to explain my meaning—if it requires explanation. Let me take the two cases of the metropolis and that of the kingdom of Scotland to the representation of which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baxter) is so much afraid that I should not do justice. The population of the metropolis and that of the kingdom of Scotland are, at this time about equal. The wealth of the metropolis and the wealth of the kingdom of Scotland are very unequal. The wealth of the metropolis yields a yearly income of £44,000,000—upon which the assessment under the great schedules of the income tax is levied; while the amount upon which such assessment is levied under those schedules in Scotland is only £30,000,000. There is, therefore, the annual difference between £44,000,000 and £30,000,000; yet who would for a moment pretend that the various classes and interests of Scotland could be adequately represented by the same number of Members as represent the metropolis? So much for the population test. Let us now take the property test. Let us take one portion of that very metropolis to which I have this moment referred. This is an age of statistics. I do not place more value upon them than they deserve; but this is, I believe, at least an accurate memorandum. Let us look to the wealth of the City of London. The wealth of the City of London is more than equivalent to that of 25 English and Welsh Counties returning 40 Members, and of 140 Boroughs returning 232 Members. The City of London, the City proper, is richer than Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham put together. Or take another and even more pregnant formula. The City of London is richer than Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Hull, Wolverhampton, Bradford, 975 Brighton, Stoke-upon-Trent, Nottingham, Greenwich, Preston, East Retfurd, Sunderland, York, and Salford combined—towns which return among them no less than 31 Members. The City of London has not asked me to insert it in the Bill which I am asking leave to introduce for 31 Members. I have heard that there is another measure of Reform, in hands, probably, more able to deal with the subject than myself, and in hands which, perhaps, are much interested in ascertaining the claims of the City of London. Whether the noble Lord has made his arrangements according to the statistical return we shall probably know some day or other; but, as far as I am concerned, the citizens of London have acted with modesty and propriety. They seem to be satisfied with their representation, and to consider that, probably, no place requires a greater number of Members than the City of London at present possesses. Perhaps they have some suspicion that, if they had more Members, they would find some difficulty in obtaining men who were competent to discharge that office. So much for the population test, and so much for the property test, if you are to reconstruct this House on either of those principles; but the truth is, that men are sent to this House to represent the opinions of a place and not its power. We know very well what takes place at a Parliamentary election in this country. The man of princely fortune has, when he goes to the poll, no more votes than the humble dweller in a £10 house; because we know very well that his wealth, his station, and his character will give him the influence which will adequately represent his property; and the Constitution shrinks from a plurality of votes in such a case. The constitution also shrinks from the enjoyment of a plurality of votes by large towns by means of seats in this House. It wants the large towns and cities of England to be completely represented. It wishes to see the Members for Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham in their places, ready to express the views of those powerful and influential communities; and it recognizes them as the representatives of the opinions of those places, but not as the representatives of their power and influence. Because what happens to the rich man at a contested election will happen to these places. Why, Sir, the power of the city of London or that of the city of Manchester in this House is not to be measured 976 by the honourable and respectable individuals whom they send here to represent their opinions. I will be bound to say that there is a score—nay, that there are three score—Members in this House who are as much and more interested, perhaps, in the city of Manchester than those who are in this House its authoritative and authentic representatives; and when a question arises in which the interests of Manchester, Liverpool, or Birmingham are concerned, the influence of those places is shown by the votes of persons so interested in their welfare as well as by those of the respectable and respected individuals who are sent here to represent them. Look at the metropolis itself, not speaking merely of the City of London. Is the influence of the metropolis in this House to be measured by the sixteen hon. Members who represent it, and who represent it, I have no doubt, in a manner perfectly satisfactory to their constituents, or they would not be here? No! We all of us live in the metropolis; many of the Members of this House have property, a few of them very large property, in it; and, therefore, the indirect influence of the metropolis in this House is not to be measured merely by the number of Members which it returns to Parliament. So much for that principle of population, or that principle of property, which has been adopted by some, or that principle of population and property combined, which seems to be the more favourite form. It appears to me that the principle, as one upon which the representation of the people in this House ought to be founded, is fallacious and erroneous. There is one remarkable circumstance connected with the new school, who would build up our representation on the basis of a numerical majority, and who take population as their standard. It is this—that none of their principles apply except in cases where population is concentrated. The principle of population is, although I cannot say a favourite doctrine, because I do not think it is so, a very notorious doctrine at the present moment; but it is not novel, although introduced at a comparatively recent period into our politics. It was broached in the discussions which took place when the former Reform Bills were brought in by preceding Governments. It was the favourite argument of the late Mr. Hume. His argument for Parliamentary Reform—a subject which he frequently brought before the house—was generally this:— 977 He took some unfortunate borough in the west of England; he described it as a borough with a very small population and with very little business, and he said:—This borough returns two Members to Parliament, while the great city of Manchester, with its population of hundreds of thousands and with half the business of the world concentrated in its circle, only returns the same number. Can anything be more monstrous? Disfranchise the small borough, and give its Members to the city of Manchester.Such was the argument which for several years passed in this House unchallenged. Mr. Hume brought forward his Motion for Parliamentary Reform in 1852, when, by a somewhat curious coincidence, I was occupying the same seat which I now fill, and it fell to my lot to make a reply to him. I stated then what I had long felt, that although I entirely rejected the principle of population, still, admitting it for the sake of argument to be a right principle, we must arrive at conclusions exactly the reverse of those which Mr. Hume and the school which he founded were perpetually impressing upon the public mind. The principle, in my opinion, is false, and would produce results dangerous to the country, and fatal to the House of Commons. But if it be true—if it be our duty to reform the representation upon it—then I say you must I arrive at conclusions entirely different from those which the new school has adopted. If population is to be the standard, and you choose to disfranchise small boroughs and small constituencies, it is not to the great towns you can, according to your own principle, transfer their Members. Perhaps the House will allow me to refer to a note of some returns which I quoted in 1852, because they are perfectly germane to the argument which I am now offering to the House. When Mr. Hume used the illustrations, a sample of which I have just cited, I asked him to look to the case of North Cheshire, a county with a population of 249,000; with two great towns, Macclesfield and Stockport, together possessing a population of 93,000 and returning four Members to Parliament, while the residue of the county population, (156,000) returned only two Members. I asked him to look to the case of South Cheshire, a county with 206,000 inhabitants, with one town of 28,000 returning two Members to Parliament, but with the rest of the county population, (178,0000,) returning only the same number. I brought before him the remarkable case of South Derby- 978 shire. The population of that county was 166,000. It had only got one town, Derby itself, with 40,000 inhabitants, who returned two Members to Parliament, while the residue of the county population (126,000) had also only two Members. I called his attention to the case of North Durham with a population of 272,000. There are four great towns, Durham, Gateshead, South Shields, and Sunderland, with a conjoint population of 136,000, returning six Members to Parliament, while the county population of identically the same number, (136,000.) return only two Members. I referred him to the case of West Kent. That county has a population of 400,000. There are four great towns—Maidstone, Chatham, Rochester, and Greenwich,—with a joint population of 172,000, returning seven Members; while the remaining inhabitants 228,000 in number, return only two. I likewise cited the case of East Norfolk, with a population of 250,000. Two towns—Norwich and Yarmouth, with a population of 100,000, return four Members; but the county residue of 150,000, return only two. I asked hire to take the case of the East Riding, with a population of 220,000. Hull and another town return four Members; the residue of the county population, (126,000,) return only two. I told him to look at the West Riding, with its population of 1,300,000, reduced by nine considerable towns to 800,000. Those 800,000 return only two Members; whereas the nine considerable towns, representing a population of 500,000, return sixteen Members. Finally, I referred him to the case of South Lancashire, with a population of 1,500,000. Ten great towns in South Lancashire, with a joint population of 1,000,000, return fifteen Members to Parliament, but the county residue of 500,000 return only two. Why, Sir, it is notorious that, if you come to population in round numbers, 10,500,000 of the people of England return only 150 or 160 county Members, while the boroughs, representing 7,500,000, return more than 330 Members. Admitting, then, the principle of population, which is the principle of the new school, I say you must disfranchise your boroughs, and give their Members answer to this argument. It cannot have to die counties. Sir, I never heard an been misunderstood, because it was not offered in a corner, but in this House; and I repeat that, although seven years have elapsed since it was advanced, in 1852, 979 I never heard an answer given to it. I have watched the recent agitation, when I was told that a new English constitution was to be created on the principle of population, to see if that argument was answered. It has, indeed, been said that there are some, nay, that there are many boroughs through which the landed interest is represented in this House. That may or may not be a sufficient answer to the demand of the landed interest to be more represented in this House; but it is no answer to the inhabitants of the counties. What proves that my argument is sound, and enters into the public mind, and is accepted as authentic, is, that the noble Lord the Member for the City in 1854, acknowledged, with generous can dour, that it had influenced him in the arrangements which he had made, and a large proportion of the seats—certainly two-thirds—which formerly belonged to the small constituencies that he proposed to disfranchise he transferred to the county representation.
Let us now, see, Sir, what will be the consequence if the population principle is adopted. You would have a House, generally speaking, formed partly of great landowners and partly of manufacturers. I have no doubt that, whether we look to their property or to their character, there would be no country in the world which could rival in respectability such an assembly. But would it be a House of Commons—would it represent the country—would it represent the various interests of England? Why, Sir, after all, the suffrage and the seat respecting which there is so much controversy and contest are only means to an end. They are means by which you may create a representative assembly that is a mirror of the mind as well as the material interests of England. You want in this House every element that obtains the respect and engages the interest of the country. You must have lineage and great territorial property; you must have manufacturing enterprise of the highest character; you must have commercial weight; you must have professional ability in all its forms: but you want something more,—you want a body of men not too intimately connected either with agriculture, or with manufactures, or with commerce; not too much wedded to professional thought and professional habits; you want a body of men representing the vast variety of the English character; men who would arbitrate between the claims of 980 those great predominant interests; who would temper the acerbity of their controversies. You want a body of men to represent that immense portion of the community who cannot be ranked under any of those striking and powerful classes to which I have referred, but who are in their aggregate equally important and valuable, and perhaps as numerous. Hitherto you have been able to effect this object, you have effected it by the existing borough system, which has given you a number of constituencies of various dimensions distributed over the country. No one for a moment pretends that the borough system in England was originally framed to represent all the classes and interests of the country; but it has been kept and cherished because the people found that, although not directly intended for such a purpose, yet indirectly it has accomplished that object; and hence I lay it down as a principle which ought to be adopted, that if you subvert that system, you are bound to substitute for it machinery equally effective. That is all I contend for. I am not wedded to arrangements merely because they are arrangements; but what I hope this House will not sanction is, that we should remove a machinery which performs the office we desire, unless we are certain that we can substitute for it a machinery equally effective. Now, there is one remarkable feature in the agitation of the new school. It is, not that they offer for the system they would subvert a substitute; it is nut that they offer us a new machinery for the old machinery they would abrogate; but it is a remarkable circumstance that they offer no substitute whatever. They lay down their inexorable principle; they carry it to its logical consequences, and the logical consequences would be that to this House, in the present state of the population, no doubt you would have men returned by large constituencies who would, in most instances represent great wealth. I will make that concession;—but when this House is assembled, how will it perform the duties of a House of Commons. I will tell you what must be the natural consequence of such a state of things. The House will lose, as a matter of course, its hold on the Executive. The House will assemble; it will have men sent to it, no doubt, of character and wealth; the great majority of them matured and advanced in life; and, having met here, they will be 981 unable to carry on the Executive of the country. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] Why? asks an hon. Member. Because the experiment has been tried in every country, and the same result has occurred; because it is not in the power of one or two classes to give that variety of character and acquirement by which the administration of a country can be carried on. Well, then, if this House loses its hold over the Executive of the country, what happens? We fall back on a bureaucratic system, and we should find ourselves, after all our struggles, in the very same position which in 1640 we had to extricate ourselves from. Your Administration would be carried on by a Court Minister, perhaps a Court minion. It might not be in these times, but in some future time. The result of such a system would be to create an assembly where the Members of Parliament, though chosen by great constituencies, would be chosen from limited classes, and, perhaps, only from one class of the community. There is a new school of philosophers, who are of opinion that there is no such thing as progress—that nations move in a circle, and that after a certain cycle they arrive at exactly the same place, and stand in precisely the same circumstances which they quitted two or three centuries before. I have no time now to solve a problem of that depth. Questions so profound require the study and abstraction of the Opposition benches. But if the population principle be adopted I should give in my adhesion to the new school of philosophy; and I feel persuaded that the House of Commons, after all its reform and reconstruction, would find itself in the same comparatively ignominious position from which the spirit and energy of the old English gentry emancipated it more than two centuries ago. Therefore I need not inform the House that it is no part of my duty to recommend it to adopt that principle. We cannot acknowledge that population, or property, or even property and population joined together, should be the principle on which the legislative system shall be constructed. But before I refer to that part of the subject there appears to me to be one branch of the utmost interest, and which it is my duty rather to touch on before I advert to any other, and that is the state of the franchise. If there be One point more than another on which public feeling has been most shown, it has been in the desire to exercise the suf- 982 frage. That was the first claim that was made when the settlement of 1832 began to engage the critical spirit of the nation; and as tile prosperity of this country increased, and as its wealth, population, and intelligence increased; as new interests arose, and as new classes were, as it were called into social existence, that desire became stronger, and it is, I think, hardly necessary to admit that it was founded on a natural feeling, and one which we should by no means infer is entertained by those only who are disaffected with the institutions of the country. On the contrary, in most instances that desire arises, no doubt, from a desire to participate in privileges which are appreciated.
In considering this question, I would make, first of all, one general observation, as to the object which the Ministry have had in view in preparing their measure of Reform. We have never, in any of the arrangements which we shall propose to Parliament to adopt, considered for a moment whether they would increase or whether they would diminish the constituent body. Our sole object has been to confer the franchise on all of those to whom we thought that privilege might be safely entrusted, and who would exercise it for the general welfare of the country. I will, with the permission of the House, address myself first to the borough franchise. The Reform Act of 1832, acknowledging to a certain degree some of the old franchises of the boroughs, which exist but to a limited extent at present, established the franchise in boroughs on the occupation of a house of £10 annual value. There is a wish—I would once have said a very general wish—that instead of the household suffrage being founded on value, it should be founded by preference on rating. I am not at all surprised that more than one hon. Gentleman has received this observation with marks of assent and sympathy. I confess myself that I was always much biased in favour of that idea. It appears to me that if you could make—to use a common phrase—the rate-book the register, you would very much simplify the business of election; but, when you come to examine this matter in detail, in order to see how it will act, you will find that it is involved in difficulties—great, all acknowledge, and I am sorry to be obliged to confess, to my mind insurmountable. For the purpose of securing the advantage of having the rate-book the register, you must, of course, leave per-feet discretion to the overseer. The over- 983 seer has an interest in raising rates, people may say; or he may be a very hot political partisan. Are you prepared to leave to the overseer the absolute discretion of appointing those who are to exercise the suffrage? Some will say, We must have some check. But what is a check but an appeal? And if you appeal, you cannot do better than appeal to the revising barrister. If you have an appeal to some other parochial officer, you appeal to an inferior tribunal to that which you now enjoy; and, indeed, unless you permitted the overseer to be unchallenged you could not make the rate-book the register. But even beyond this, there are other difficulties which you will find most perplexing. Notwithstanding the Parochial Assessment Act, the rating of this country is most unequal; and it is only those whose business it has been to examine into this subject in its minute details, who can be aware of the preposterous consequences which would arise from adopting a rating instead of a value qualification. Take the present qualification of £10 value, which it is very generally and popularly supposed might be supplied by an £8 rating. Now, let us see what would be the consequence upon the present constituency of adopting an £8 rating instead of a £10 value? I will take the instance of Boston, represented by my hon. and learned Friend behind me (Mr. Adams). The borough of Boston consists of two parishes; the rating of one of them is upon one-half the value, and of the other upon two-thirds of the value. The practical consequence of having an £8 rating in Boston would be to disfranchise 400 of the electors of that borough, who may or may not be supporters of my hon. and learned Friend. Then taking the case of another borough—Dovor,—if you had in that borough a franchise based upon £8 rating, instead of £10 value, you would exactly double the constituency. I have taken these two instances from a great number of others, and the House will see that the idea of establishing a franchise based upon rating instead of upon value, is by no means the simple process it is by some persons supposed to be. The great objection to such a measure, which led us entirely to relinquish all idea of adopting it, is its tendency to disfranchise many of the constituencies.
I will now proceed to consider the franchise of boroughs based upon a value qualification. The £10 qualification has been severely assailed, and I think the objec- 984 tions to it may be ranged under two heads. First, it is said that there is no principle in a franchise founded on a £10 qualification; and secondly, it is said that a constituency based upon such a qualification must be extremely monotonous. It is said that there is such an identity of interest in a constituency so founded, when we ought to seek for variety of character, that that alone is an objection; and it has really become almost a phrase of contumely to speak of a constituency as "only ten-pounders." I will in the first place touch upon the objection that a £10 borough qualification is one founded upon no principle. Now, I demur to that objection. It appears to me that that qualification is founded on a principle. It is said, "Why should a man who lives in a £10 house be more fitted for the suffrage than a man who lives in a £9 house?" That appears to me to be no argument. It is a mere sophism and cavil. If it be an argument, it is an argument against all tests, and not in favour of a £9 qualification. But the £10 qualification was intended as a test; and the question is, Is it a test that is effective? It is a test easily accessible; it is a test which, if adopted, is universal in its application; and it is a test which affords a fair presumption that the holder possesses those qualities which entitle him to perform the acts of citizenship. It is, therefore, founded upon a principle; and the objection urged against it appears to me to be a sophism. The other objection to the £10 qualification is that it gives a monotonous character to a constituency; that from extending the suffrage only to men who live in £10 houses you have merely one sentiment and one class of ideas represented. That appears to me to be altogether a fallacy, resting upon the false assumption that every man who votes under a £10 qualification necessarily lives in a £10 house. But that is not the case. On the contrary, under that £10 qualification all orders of men exercise the suffrage—the most affluent and the most humble. A man who lives in a house worth £400 a year yet votes under the £10 qualification, and, instead of rendering a constituency monotonous, it secures within its range a great variety of interests, of feelings, and of opinions. But, Sir, I am ready to admit that there are many persons quite capable of exercising the suffrage who do not live in £10 houses, and whom I should wish to see possessing the suffrage. But should we obtain that 985 result by—I won't call it the vulgar expedient, because the epithet might be misinterpreted, though I should not use it in an offensive sense—but by the coarse and common expedient which is recommended of what is called "lowering the franchise in towns?" Now, I beg the House to consider for a moment what must be the effect of lowering the franchise in towns. Suppose that, instead of a £10 borough qualification, you had a £5 borough qualification? Well, the moment that you had a £5 borough qualification you would realize all those inconvenient results which are erroneously ascribed to the £10 qualification. You would then have a monotonous constituency. You would then have a constituency whose predominant opinions would be identical. You would then have a constituency who would return to Parliament Members holding the same ideas, the same opinions, the same sentiments and all that variety which represents the English character would be entirely lost. You would then have in your borough constituency a predominant class; and certainly the spirit and genius of our constitution are adverse to the predominance of any class in this House. It certainly would be most injudicious, not to say intolerable, when we are guarding ourselves against the predominance of a territorial aristocracy and the predominance of a manufacturing and commercial oligarchy, that we should reform Parliament by securing the predominance of a household democracy. I am convinced that that is not the mode in which you must improve and vary the elements of the present borough constituency. We think, Sir, that there are modes by which that object can be adequately and efficiently attained; and if the House will permit me, I will now proceed to describe them.
We propose to introduce into these borough constituencies new franchises. In the first place we shall introduce, as qualifying for the suffrage a class of property which hitherto has not formed an element out of which voters have been created—I mean personal property. We shall propose to allow persons who have funded property, property in Bank Stock, or in East India Stock and Bonds, to the amount of £10 per annum, to exercise the suffrage. I know the objection which may be urged by some persons against the introduction of this qualification. They will point out the obstacles to a genuine exercise of the suffrage, if that element is introduced. The 986 House will pardon me on this occasion, when I have to travel over a vast field, and when I must confine myself to the chief features of the measure I am recommending to their notice, if I abstain from now entering into that question. Enough for me now to say, that the Bill which I have here, and which, with the permission of the House, I shall introduce, provides, in our opinion, a satisfactory and secure machinery by which this and all other similar franchises to which I am about to advert may be exercised. Now, Sir, there is another franchise which we shall also recommend the House to adopt; and that is one which depends upon the possession of a certain sum in the savings banks. A man who has had £60 for one year in a savings bank will, under this Bill, if it become law, be an elector for the borough in which he resides. Again, a man who has a pension for public service, but who has ceased to be employed in that service, whether it be Her Majesty's naval, military, or civil service to the amount of £20 a year, will under this Bill, if it become law, be entitled to a vote wherever he may reside. Then, again, Sir, the occupant of a portion of a house, the aggregate rent of which amounts to £20 a year—which would be 8s. a week,—will also be entitled to a vote. The House has heard much of late years of what is called an educational franchise. I am bound to say that no plan for the creation of all educational franchise—in a precise sense of that word—which in their opinion would work satisfactorily, has been brought under the consideration of the Government. It has, indeed, been proposed that the basis of such a franchise should be sought for among the members of the various learned societies. But, as it has been aptly observed, it does not follow that the members of learned societies should be learned. In these days we frequently see name followed by an amount of alphabetical combination which is almost appalling; yet, though we associate the highest learning, great antiquarian and scientific acquirements, with those persons it sometimes turns out that they only possess a respectable character and pay ten guineas a year. An educational franchise according to that high empyrean of imagination which some have attempted to reach, has baffled all our practical efforts. But it will be our duty to recommend to the House that the privilege of a vote irrespective of the more formal qualification arising from property, should be con- 987 ferred upon those classes whose education has involved some considerable investment of capital, many of them, no doubt, exercising the franchise under the previous qualifications which I have described. We have thought it advisable that the suffrage should be conferred upon graduates of all Universities; upon the ministers of religion—whether clergymen and deacons of the Church, or ministers of other denominations,—under regulations which the House will find in the Bill; upon the members of the legal profession in all its branches, whether barristers, members of the Inns of Court, solicitors, or proctors; and upon all members of the medical body who are registered under the late Medical Act. To these we have added such schoolmasters as possess a certificate from the Council. Sir, there are some other franchises which it is our intention to give to the borough constituencies; but before I touch upon them it will be convenient that I should call the attention of the House to the subject of the county franchise. Previous to the Reform Act of 1832, the general franchise of England may be described popularly—though technically, perhaps, such a description is not quite correct—as a franchise which in the counties arose from property, and in the boroughs from occupation. When the measure passed in 1832 was first introduced, that distinction was recognized by the statesmen who had the preparation and conduct of the Bill. I have no doubt they deeply considered that question at the time; nor can it be denied that, if the constituencies had remained as they proposed them, the principle thus established would have been a distinct and a clear one. Whether, however, the distinction could have been long maintained, I may, with great humility, be permitted to doubt. Looking at the expansion of the country, at its vast increase in wealth and population, and not only in wealth and population, but in those distinctive interests which seek representation in this House—remembering the 10,500,000, inhabitants of counties to whom I have already alluded,—I venture humbly to doubt whether that distinction could have been long kept up. That its maintenance was convenient to the statesmen of 1832, who had immense difficulties to contend with, I can easily conceive; but whatever was their intention, they were disappointed in the plan which they had prepared, and circumstances occurred in this House which changed the character of the franchise and 988 destroyed that distinction between property and occupation which the Ministry of Lord Grey had sought to establish. Now, the individual responsible for that change was the noble Duke who was my predecessor in the seat which I now unworthily fill; and as his conduct in this respect has often been challenged, and as there are many who now deplore the course which he then took, perhaps the House will for a moment permit me, who am well aware of the motives which influenced him, to state the reasons which induced Lord Chandos to move successfully in this House the celebrated clause that bears his name. When the Reform Bill was introduced in 1831, it was generally avowed that the object of that measure was to give a legitimate position in the Legislature to the middle classes of England. That was the object avowed by the Ministry, and its propriety was generally acknowledged by the country. Now, when the principle that the middle classes should be represented in this House was laid down, Lord Chandos, who was then the Member for the county of Buckingham, being a man who lived much among his neighbours, and who was familiar with the character and the interests of rural society, naturally felt what he considered great absurdity that the most important portion of the middle classes—the most important even at this day, because they are the greatest employers of labour,—I mean the farmers of England—should not possess the suffrage; and it was with that view that Lord Chandos moved the clause. The sympathy of the House was so great in its favour (a sympathy not confined to party—Mr. Hume was a supporter of the Chandos clause) that the noble Lord who then led this House—Lord Althorp—felt it his duty to yield to it. But that happened then which sometimes does happen when great measures are brought forward by a Ministry and an important Amendment is introduced successfully by an eager Opposition. Those who have had the preparation of great and important measures,—and I see present many upon whom that task has devolved,—know the great difficulty, the long anxiety, the constant hesitation which are involved in such a task, and know how hard it is to adapt one part to another, and to obtain that general harmony which will meet public wants, and which will give you a chance of carrying your measure successfully through. But when a leader of Opposition carries an Amendment, which he believes to be 989 necessary, he thinks only of the proposal which he is making to the House, and if the Ministry are obliged to adopt it, it very often does not fit in with their previous design; it does not display the harmony and unison which would perhaps have been the case had they themselves devised it with a due regard for the other details of the measure. I have no doubt that had the Government thought fit in 1831–2 to introduce the principle of occupation in the county franchise, they might have rendered it so homogeneous with their general scheme that it would have worked with perfect facility,—that we should long ere this have been quite accustomed to its operation; and then those distinctions and difficulties which have since arisen might never have been heard of. But there is no doubt that from the moment, or shortly after, this £50 occupation clause was put into operation, feelings of dissatisfaction and suspicion were excited in the minds of the community. Occupiers in the county of less than £50—say of £40 or £20,—who, if the principle had not been admitted, would probably never have thought themselves injured, naturally looked with great soreness on the man who had voted in a borough because he had an occupation of £10. That feeling of dissatisfaction was unfortunately followed by those industrial controversies, respecting the origin or end of which it is unnecessary to say anything, but which were prolonged, and which undoubtedly occasioned great bitterness among all classes. The feeling of dissatisfaction became a feeling of distrust. It was said that commercial changes were prevented in this country chiefly by this £50 tenancy clause. The men who acted under that clause—and, take them altogether, I do not believe that a more valuable class to whom to intrust the franchise could be found—were described in this House as men void of all patriotism and public spirit, exercising the suffrage without the slightest effort of intelligence, merely at the beck of their landlords. Nothing can be more exaggerated or even groundless than the opinions which have been expressed in this House on the effect of the Chandos clause, and on the influence which it has had on popular election. In the first place, voters under the Chandos clause at no time ever exceeded one-fifth of the constituent body of counties. Therefore, had they all voted the same way, they never could have exercised that influence upon public events which has been 990 ascribed to them. But the proprietary of the soil does not rest alone with Tories and Conservatives. There are Whig landlords, and very considerable Whig landlords. The proprietary of the soil is distributed among proprietors of all opinions; and the consequence is, that if you look at the elections, you will find that those who voted under this Chandos clause were much divided—often equally divided. It is not true, therefore, that those who vote under this qualification have exercised any very great influence upon the legislation of this country, or that they are a class who have acted always without intent or meaning. But there is no doubt that dissatisfaction, followed by distrust and misrepresentation, did raise in the country an idea that the county representation was an exclusive representation; that it was animated only by one object; that it had a selfish interest always before it, and that it had not that sympathy with the community which we desire in that body to whom the privilege of election is intrusted. An effort was made by means of the 40s. freehold, which was retained in counties, to counteract the exaggerated influence of the £50 tenancy voters. A manufacture of votes—from the facts before me I am entitled so to call it—was carried on in the boroughs, by which it was supposed that the injurious influence of the tenants living upon the land, dwelling in the counties, might be counteracted. For the last fifteen years—for the last ten years at a very great rate—this has been going on, until it has really arrived at this point, that the number of county voters who do not dwell in the counties now exceeds the number of those who vote under the £50 clause. It was proclaimed with great triumph that when a gentleman stood for a county, his neighbours who dwelt in the county might vote for him, but some large town in the district would pour out its legions by railway, and on the nomination of some club in the metropolis would elect the representative for the county. The dwellers in the county found themselves not represented in many instances by those who lived among them. A sort of civil war was raised in this manner; and if hon. Gentlemen look into the statistics on this point, they will see that what I may call an unnatural state of things was brought about; because there is no doubt that a man should vote for the place where he resides, or for the locality in which he is really and substantially interested. A man 991 who votes for a place where he resides, or in which he has an interest, votes with a greater sense of responsibility than a more stranger. Where, then, when we are considering the condition of the constituency of the country; when we are endeavouring to reconstruct it on a broad basis, which will admit within its pale all those who are trustworthy,—shall we look for means by which we may terminate these heart-burnings, and restore the constituencies of England to what I will venture to call their natural elements? No doubt it is a labour of great difficulty. Are we to attempt to do it by restrictions?—by artificial arrangements? It might be possible to pass a law which would remove these strangers from the sphere of their political power. But, whether possible or not, who would be rash enough to propose it? How could we terminate these misunderstandings, how restore that good feeling,—that which Lord Clarendon called the "good-nature of the English people,"—if we took a course which would give occasion to a perpetual agitation for the removal of the restrictions which we had succeeded in establishing? Her Majesty's Government have given to this subject the most anxious consideration. I may say, that if labour, if thought, could assist us to arrive at a proper solution; neither labour nor thought has been spared. Is there any principle on which we can restore the county constituency to its natural state, and bring about that general and constant sympathy between the two portions of the constituent body which ought to exist? Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that some such solution does exist. We think there is a principle, the justness of which will be at once acknowledged, the logical consequences of which will be at once remedial, and which, if applied with due discretion, will effect all those objects which we anxiously desire with respect to the county constituency. We find that principle in recognizing the identity of suffrage between county and town. I will proceed to show the House what, in our opinion, would be the practical consequences of recognizing that identity. If the suffrages of the town are transferred to the county, and the suffrages of the county transferred to the town, all those voters who, dwelling in a town, exercise their suffrage in the county in virtue of a county suffrage, will record their votes in the town, and the freeholder, resident in a town—subject to provisions in the Bill which would prevent 992 this constitutional instrument being turned to an improper use,—will have a right to vote for the borough in which he resides. This, as well as the franchise founded on savings-banks, will open another avenue to the mechanic, whose virtue, prudence, intelligence, and frugality entitle him to enter into the privileged pale of the constituent body of the country. If this principle be adopted, a man will vote for the place where he resides, and with which he is substantially connected. Therefore the first measure would embody this logical consequence—that it would transfer the freeholders of the town from the county to the town. But if this principle be adopted, there are other measures which, in our opinion, it would be the duty of Parliament in this respect to adopt. Since the year 1832 there has been a peculiar increase in the population of this country irrespective of the ratio of increase, with which we are acquainted. The creation of railways in particular districts has stimulated that increase; and this has come to pass in England, that in a great many of the boroughs there is a population resoling, who, for all social and municipal purposes, are part and parcel of the community, but who for Parliamentary purposes are pariahs. A man votes for a municipality; he pays his parochial rates and taxes; he is called upon to contribute to all purposes of charity and philanthropy in the borough; but, because he lives in a part of the borough which exceeds the boundary that was formed in 1832, he is not, though he lives in a £10 house, permitted to vote for Members of Parliament. Now, all this extramural population in fact and in spirit consists of persons who ought to be electors in the boroughs in which they reside; and we therefore propose that Boundary Commissioners should visit all the boroughs of England, and re-arrange them according to the altered circumstances of the time. I know that the title of Boundary Commissioners may cause some alarm in this country. I know there are traditions of party arrangements effected by that machinery which, whether true or not, left an unpopular recollection in the House of Commons. I believe that in the present state of public feeling on this subject, so moderate as it is, and in the present balanced state of parties, no partial or improper conduct of that character, if it ever did take place, could be repeated. But it is quite unnecessary for me to dwell upon this point, because Her Majesty's Ministers are so cir- 993 cumstanced that they can, in that respect, make a proposition to the House which will at once divest it of all suspicion. Since the Reform of 1832, machinery has arisen in this country perfectly competent to effect that which we believe to be so necessary—I mean the Enclosure Commissioners. There is a body of men totally independent of all party; and we purpose to delegate to them the fulfilment of this office. They will appoint Deputy Commissioners, who will visit the boroughs. The Deputy Commissioners will make their reports to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State will embody them in a Bill, and that Bill will be subjected to the criticism of this House. After that, no one can for a moment suspect that there will be any opportunity of making arrangements favourable to any party.
The House has a right to ask me whether Her Majesty's Government have formed any estimate of what may be the consequence of the change which we propose in the number of the county constituencies. That is, no doubt, a point upon which one must speak with some degree of hesitation; but there are some materials in existence which are furnished by the papers before the House, and there are others which are at our command. This morning there was put into my hand a pamphlet—probably a proof—published to day. It is by a gentleman who ranks, I believe, as the most eminent statistical authority in the country, who is well known to Gentlemen in this House, and who has often been examined before our Committees—Mr. Newmarch. Mr. Newmarch estimates that the gross increase that would be occasioned in the county voters by a £10 county franchise would be 103,000. I have no time to ascertain what are the data on which Mr. Newmarch makes his calculation, but I should be disingenuous if I did not acknowledge to the House that the estimate formed by Her Majesty's Ministers is much more considerable. I should suppose the addition to the county constituency would be not less than 200,000, one-half of which would be furnished by what statisticians call the north-western and the south-eastern groups of counties—that is to say, Cheshire, Lancashire, and the West Riding on the one hand; and Kent, Sussex, and part of Surrey, on the other. With reference to those gentlemen who have on various occasions expressed their opinion that a £20 occupation franchise is one which they 994 should prefer to see adopted, I would observe that the number between a £20 and a £10 franchise would, I think, be described by the figures 100,000. But, with reference to the change of the county constituency from £50 to £20, I would venture to observe that, having given to this subject very considerable pains, so far as I can form an opinion, there is nothing which would make me trust the loyalty and respectability of one who lived in a £20 house in a county, in preference to one who lived in a £10 house. I am also bound to say that the estimate of 200,000 voters has been made irrespective of what the effects of the labours of the Boundary Commissioners may be. I have heard many arguments against this proposition, but only to one of them would I attach much weight, and to that not for its strength, but for the phrase which is used to clothe it. I allude to the objection that the identity which this proposition would introduce between the county and the town constituencies, may lead to what are called "electoral districts." Now, if the only protection of the English people from electoral districts is a difference of £10 in an occupation franchise between the county and the town, then I am afraid that electoral districts cannot be resisted. But, believing, as I do, that there is nothing more unpopular in this country than electoral districts, and that they are alien to all the customs, manners, and associations of the people, I have no fear whatever that that scheme will be adopted until Englishmen have lost all pride in their country and all fondness for the localities in which they have lived. Why, Sir, electoral districts can never be established until you recognize the voice of a numerical majority as the right principle of representation in this House. They can be formed upon no other principle; and the measures which it is my duty to introduce on the part of the Government to the House to-night have no other object but to assert these contrary but, as we believe, right principles upon which the representation in this House has always been based.
I have now, very imperfectly, and omitting many points, placed before the House a general view of what we propose to do with the constituent body of the country. Our object is to reconstruct that body, with no mere view of increasing its numerical amount, but solely with the object of improving it, by the addition of various 995 classes and individuals to whom the privilege of the franchise may be trusted with safety to the State and benefit to the community. If the measure we recommend be adopted, you will have a great homogeneous constituency, with much variety of character—for variety in the franchise is perfectly consistent with identity of the suffrage;—you will have a great homogeneous body, between the different sections of which there will no longer exist feelings of dissatisfaction and distrust. The elector will elect a man of the community in which he lives, and he will exercise the right under the high sense of duty that influences Englishmen in performing it. I have always thought the ideal of the constituent body in England should be this—It should be numerous enough to be independent, and select enough to be responsible; and that is the constituency Her Majesty's Ministers believe will be formed by the measure I propose to the House to-night.
Having laid before the House the character of the elective body it becomes me to state how we propose it shall be registered, and how it may vote. The House is aware that under the present system there is a difference in the method of registration in counties and boroughs. In counties, an elector makes his own claim to be placed on the list; in boroughs, the list is made out by a public officer. It is well known that great difficulty attends the county registration; nothing proves it more than the fact that, notwithstanding the increase in the population and wealth of the country, the county registration is a decaying one. This must always be the case if you surround it with every obstacle. We propose to amend that system entirely; we propose, in fact, that there shall be a self-acting registry. The overseer in every parish will make out a list of owners as well as occupiers. I believe there will be no difficulty whatever in doing it, and clauses will be found in the Bill to ensure its accomplishment. If any one is omitted from the list, whether owner or occupier, he may make his claim, and in a supplementary list his name will be inserted and sent to the clerk of the peace, and the revising barrister. That is the great change we propose with regard to registration. There are other regulations of considerable importance, but I have still other points to allude to; and though the House has treated me with much indulgence, I feel I must not dwell on this head.
996 Now, being registered, how is the elector to vote? We wish to put an end to those scandals that have of late years been discussed in the House, and the bitter feelings and controversies raised by the question, Are the travelling expenses of electors to be paid by the candidates? Is there no mode of terminating for ever what may be a scandal, and is always a controversy? When we are re-constructing the constituent body of the country, and completing its representation in this House, is it not the fitting occasion to make an effort, not merely to improve the registration, but to insure the registered vote being given in the simplest and safest manner we can devise? We propose, in the first place, that the number of polling places throughout the country shall be greatly increased. We propose that in every parish containing 200 electors there shall be a polling place. If a parish does not contain 200 electors, then it will form one of a group reaching that number, which will have a polling place. Every man who votes will vote at the place where he resides, wherever his qualification may be. To effect that object, there will not only be a qualification register, but a residence register. It may be said these additional polling places will be a great expense to candidates; but the Bill provides that candidates shall not bear the expense of them. If left to the candidate, the expense would be very heavy; if left to the county, it will be very little. Where there is a petty Sessions, there is generally a Police Station, or a room that may be hired; and there are provisions in the Bill which will satisfy hon. Gentlemen that this can be effected in a reasonably cheap manner. If a man chooses to vote as he always has voted, he may go to the polling place of his district and do so; but we propose also to allow the elector to vote, though he may not choose to go to the poll, that he may vote by what are called voting papers. This is not an experiment, or a thing adopted for the first time,—there is nothing empirical about it. For many years the people of this country have been familiar with it: in the election of Poor Law Guardians, the votes are taken by voting papers; the Metropolis Act, recently passed by the House, provides that the elections under it may be taken by voting papers. What is the result of giving this supplementary power to a constituency? Why, it renders the expression of public opinion more complete than under the existing system. Of the constituent body under the 997 Poor Law Act, 90 per cent. records its votes; but, in the great electoral body of England called on to elect the representatives of the British people, and form this famous House of Parliament, that affects the opinions of the world, how is that high privilege treated? Not more than 50 or 60 per cent. of that constituency records its votes in the performance of that solemn duty. But it may be said, voting by papers may lead to personation; as if there was no personation now! In the history of man there never was any improvement proposed which the interests and passions of some would not distort; we believe the electors can vote by polling papers without personation, and in an honest and satisfactory manner. Sir, I shall always go myself to the hustings; but if a man wishes to vote for his Member by a voting paper, instead of going to the hustings, I see no objection to his being allowed to do so. All he will have to do is to write to the public officer and ask for a voting paper, the form of which will be found in the schedule of this Bill. A voting paper will be sent to him by the public officer in a registered letter; and, therefore, you will have evidence of its transmission. He will sign this paper in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom must be a householder, and then return it to the public officer, also in a registered letter. Thus we shall have evidence of its transmission both ways; and the paper will be opened before the proper authorities, and the man's vote will be duly rerecorded. I believe a vote given by this instrumentality may be honestly and properly given, and that there will be no more deception or personation practised under this machinery than under the open system which at present prevails. But lest there should be any personation, we provide against it by making it a misdemeanour under this Bill.
I have now placed before the House—much more briefly than I ought, perhaps, to have done, but they will pardon me if, in consequence of the largeness of the theme, I may omit some of the details which will be found in the Bill,—I have now placed before you the leading features of what we propose to do with the registration of the constituent body, and the method in which their votes shall be taken. I have next to touch upon a certainly not less important portion of my subject. In attempting to deal with the question popularly designated Parliamentary Reform, Her Majesty's Government have endeavoured, 998 as far as their intelligence could guide them, to offer a proposition to the House which, consistently with their conception of the principles upon which the English constitution is founded, should secure for this country a complete representation. One of our first considerations was, of course, the electoral body, upon which I have treated at such length. But a complete representation does not depend merely upon the electoral body, however varied you may make its elements, however homogeneous its character. It also depends upon whether, in your system, the different interests of the country are adequately represented. Now, discarding for ever that principle of population upon which it has been my duty to make some remarks; accepting it as a truth that the function of this House is to represent not the views of a numerical majority—not merely the gross influence of a predominant property, but the varied interests of the country, we have felt that on this occasion it was incumbent on us diligently and even curiously to investigate the whole of England, and see whether there were interests not represented in this House whose views we should wish to be heard here; and whether the general representation of the country could be matured and completed. In undertaking this office, it must not be supposed that we have been animated by a feeling that we would only do that which the hard necessity of the case required. Had we been so influenced, it is possible we might have brought forward a measure that would have served the purpose of the moment, and yet left seeds behind us which might have germinated in future troubles, controversies, and anxieties. We have been sincerely desirous to adapt the scheme of 1832 to the England of 1859, and to induce the House to come to a general settlement, whether as regards the exercise of the franchise or the direct representation in this House of the various interests of the community which should take this question for a long period out of the agitating thoughts of men. We have sought to offer to the country, in the hope that it will meet with its calm and serious approval, what we believe to be a just and—I will not say a final, but—conclusive settlement. Finality, Sir, is not the language of politics. But it is our duty to propose an arrangement which, as far as the circumstances of the age in which we live can influence our opinion, will be a conclusive settlement. And we have laid 999 it down as our task to consider, without any respect to persons, what we honestly think are the interests of the country that are not represented, but which we should at this moment counsel the House to add to their numbers.
I venture to divide this branch of the subject into the cases where there is a want of representation, and those where a representation exists, but not an adequate one. We find both of these circumstances characteristic of the West Riding of Yorkshire and South Lancashire. There, there are distinct interests which are not represented in this House, and some also which are very inadequately represented. I mean by the term "inadequately represented," to say that there are several distinct interests, while the present Members are returned to this House by the predominant interest; the other interests, which are considerable enough to challenge and claim our consideration, being virtually unrepresented. We propose, therefore, to add to the representation of the West Riding of Yorkshire four Members. Here I will not speak of population or property, because we are not about to offer a proposition to the House formed merely upon population or property. In the West Riding we find a great territory seventy miles in length, which is purely agricultural. We find another great division studded with towns, none of them important enough, or having distinctive interests powerful enough to be represented, yet in their aggregate constituting a wonderful hive of industry and energy; and there is still another portion of the West Riding where there are blended and varied interests. We propose, therefore, to add four Members to the West Riding of Yorkshire, and to divide it, not according to a mathematical arrangement as to population, but according to its separate interests. This principle of division will be in accordance with the local demarcations of wapentakes. If property be the test, the property here is identical; for, however varied is the number of their population, the property of the wapentakes is as follows:—We propose that there should be a West Yorkshire, with a population of 472,000. That is the division in which you will find Keighley, Dewsbury, and a score of towns which you cannot summon here, but which, if you adopt these principles for your constituent body, would be voting for county Members; and therefore they ought to vote with the distinct interest with which they are con- 1000 nected. We propose that there shall be a North-West Yorkshire, with a population of 129,000, and a South Yorkshire, with one of 225,000. We propose these divisions, instead of an endless division and sub-division without names, which is little in harmony with our habits, and because these are the names which are used in the locality. With regard to the property of these divisions, varying as they do in interest and population, its amount is almost identical in each. In one of them the annual assessment to the county rate is £963,000, in another £809,000, and in the third £808,000. We propose to add two Members to South Lancashire—that is to say, we propose to distribute the county of Lancashire into three divisions. One will be the hundred of West Derby, and one the hundred of Salford. These divisions are the same as those proposed by the noble Lord the Member for London, except that one of the hundreds of North Lancashire was inserted in West Derby in his Bill, and it now remains with North Lancashire. This will be an addition of six to the number of county Members. There is another county to which we propose to add two Members—that is, the county of Middlesex—which we propose to divide. By dividing Middlesex, the claims of Kensington, and Chelsea, and Hammersmith, and other suburban districts, the claims of which have been urged in this House, will be provided for. They will form part of South Middlesex, while the distinctive interests of the other portion of the county, the northern division, will also be represented in this House. These are all the additions that we propose to make to the representation of the counties—eight Members.
It is now, Sir, my duty to call the attention of the House to those places which, because they possess distinct interests, which are not duly represented in this House, ought, in our opinion, to be represented here. The first place which, in our opinion, ought to be represented in the House of Commons is the town of Hartlepool and its immediate district. There is no place in England more distinguished by the energy of its inhabitants, its rapid progress, and the character of its industry. In North Durham there are four great towns which are represented, and there are two county Members; in South Durham there are two county Members and no town which is represented. I will not dwell on the population of Hartlepool; I 1001 will not rest the granting of a Member on that basis, though the population is very considerable—upwards of 30,000; but I rest it upon the rapid development of its considerable industry, and the very fact that at this moment its importation of foreign goods is larger than that even of Newcastle. We, therefore, propose that there should be a Member for Hartlepool. For the same reason that it is a place where the shipping and mercantile interest of the country are conspicuous, we are of opinion that Birkenhead ought to be represented. There is a part of Staffordshire which we think deserves and requires the consideration of this House. It is that district which is called "The Black Country," where an immense distinctive industry has arisen since the passing of the Reform Act; and we therefore propose that West Bromwich and Wednesbury shall return a Member to this House. I said that we had allotted only two additional Members to South Lancashire, because we thought that there were two towns in that county whose interests require to be represented in this House, and therefore we recommend that Members should be allotted to Burnley and Stalybridge. That will be five additional borough Members. Turning now to the South of England, we find a place in Surrey, which ought to be represented—namely, Croydon; and in the county of Kent we propose that a Member should be allotted to Gravesend—a very ancient town, with a distinctive character, and in every sense of the word, I think, entitled to a representative. Now, Sir, I will not say we have studied the map of England—we have done more than that; at this moment I declare that, if you are to complete the representative of England according to the principle which influences Her Majesty's Ministers—the principle that this House is to represent not the numerical majority, but the interests of the country—I do not see any other Member required to complete that representation; and I believe that if we have erred, we have erred rather by anticipating the destiny of what I believe, will in time be great and thriving communities.
Well, Sir, how are these fifteen Members to be supplied? That is the question. They are to be supplied in the spirit of the English constitution. Adopting a policy which has been recognized on previous occasions, and which for two centuries has been adopted by the Sovereigns and Parliaments of England—assuming in 1002 which I hope I am correct, that it is the opinion of this House that its Members ought not to be increased, we must find the means of representing these new interests as means have been found before under similar circumstances and in the same constitutional spirit. It is sometimes said that there are constituencies in this country so small that it is an indefensible anamely to permit them to exist. [Hear, hear!" and a laugh!] I entirely disagree with the Gentleman who cheered me. I do not think that better arguments can be urged in favour of a constituency of 1,000 than one of 500; and I should be very much surprised if the hon. Gentleman, ingenious as he may be, could urge them. There are, it is true, some constituencies which certainly cannot be defended if the numerical majority is to govern England; but there are some very small constituencies which may perform a very important part in the representation of the principles upon which the English constitution is founded, which are still upheld in this House and still revered in this country. I will take an instance. In all those rattling schemes of disfranchisement with which we were favoured during the autumn, when every Gentleman thought that he could sit down at his table and reconstruct the venerable fabric of the English constitution—if there was one point more than another on which those Utopian meddlers agreed—if there was one enemy which they were all resolved to hunt to death—it was the borough of Arundel. There every vice of the system seemed to be congregated—a small population, a small constituency, absolute nomination. Well, now, Sir, that is very well for autumnal agitation; but let us see how it practically works in this ancient and famous community in which it is our pride and privilege to live. There are 900,000 Roman Catholics in England, scattered and dispersed in every town and county,—of course a minority. What means have they of being represented in this House, especially in the present, as I deem it, unfortunate state of feeling in England with regard to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects? There is one English Roman Catholic Member of Parliament, a man who bears a name that will ever be honoured by England and Englishmen: and practically, and in the spirit of the English constitution, the 900,000 Roman Catholics of England, men, many of them, of ancient lineage and vast possessions, whose feelings all must respect, even if they do not agree 1003 with them in every particular, find a representative in the borough of Arundel. That is the practical working of our constitution. You talk of the small numbers of the constituency of Arundel,—900,000 Roman Catholics! Why, it is more than the West Riding of Yorkshire; it is double the Tower Hamlets. Therefore, Sir, we are not to say, because a constituency small, that is the source from which we must inevitably draw the constitutional means of completing the representation of England. The House will do me the justice of observing that by the measure which, on the part of the Government, I have placed before them to-night, whatever arrangements may be made with existing boroughs to find means of effecting the representation of interests not represented without increasing the numbers of this House, no man will be disfranchised. By adopting this principle of identity of suffrage, even if a man loses the Member who has represented his borough, he still may go to the poll or send his voting paper; and, under all circumstances, that is a compensation which was never offered in previous schemes of Parliamentary Reform. We do not feel it our duty to recommend to Parliament that any borough represented by a single Member, like Arundel, should lose that Member. We want, in order to complete the representation of the country fifteen seats in this House. To procure those seats we must fix upon some rule that must necessarily be arbitrary. The only condition that the House has a right to make, and which all should be glad to concede, is that that rule should be impartially applied. In the last Census, if you throw your eye over its Parliamentary results, you will find that there are fifteen boroughs represented by two Members each, and the population of which is under 6000. Only fifteen boroughs? It will be an admirable opportunity for a display of patriotism—an opportunity seldom offered by the circumstances and occasions of society—to the Members of those places. I have no personal feeling on this subject. I do most sincerely and ardently hope that when there is a new Parliament we may all meet again; but if these fifteen boroughs now represented by two Members each, though with a population under 6000, would consent, without our using force to compel them to make this concession, we should complete the representation of the country according to the principles that I believe to be those upon which 1004 our representation ought to rest. Therefore, Sir, in the Bill, which soon will be in the hands of Members, there are provisions that the fifteen boroughs in question shall in the next Parliament be represented by only one Member each. [Cries of "Name, name!"] The House, I am sure, will consider my feelings. I shall take care that every Gentleman, I hope to-morrow morning, will receive the schedule containing the name of these boroughs; but I see no necessity, while I think it would be invidious, to mention them now. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Name!"] I regret to be compelled to introduce personal details into this statement; but as the House insists upon it, I suppose I must read the names of the boroughs which, at present represented by two Members, are in future to return only one each. They are—Honiton, Thetford, Totness, Harwich, Evesham, Wells, Richmond, Marlborough, Leominster, Lymington, Ludlow, Andover, Knaresborough, Tewkesbury, and Maldon.
I have now, Sir, touched upon those topics which it was my duty to lay before the House this evening. I have omitted many things that I ought to have said, and I have no doubt I may have said some things that I ought to have omitted. Such errors are inevitable in treating so large and so various a theme, but I am sure the House will remember that there will be many opportunities for me to enter into necessary explanations, and will treat an occasion like the present with generous forbearance. Sir, having described as clearly as I could the principal provisions of our Bill to the House, I shall say no more. I believe that this is a measure wise, prudent, and adequate to the occasion. I earnestly hope the House may adopt it. I believe, Sir, it is a Conservative measure, using that epithet in no limited or partial sense, but in the highest and holiest interpretation of which it is capable. I can say sincerely that those who framed this measure are men who reverence the past, are proud of the present, but are confident of the future. Such as it is, I now submit it for the consideration of the House of Commons, convinced that they will deal with it as becomes the representatives of a wise and understanding people.
The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Laws relating to the Repre- 1005 sentation of the People in England and Wales, and to facilitate the Registration and Voting of Electors.
§ Question proposed,
§ MR. BAXTER
said that, as he intended to conclude with a Motion, he hoped the House would permit him, in a few sentences, to state the grounds on which he ventured to submit it. He rose to oppose the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for two distinct and separate reasons. In the first place, he did so in the interests of Scotland, which were not fairly dealt with in the scheme of the Government. He had indeed originally intended to have proposed his Resolution on going into Committee, and he still thought that would have been a fit time for the Scotch and Irish Members to have interposed; but the statement they had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman afforded them ample reasons for protesting against the piecemeal legislation proposed by the Government. It had been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the only reason why he did not propose to disfranchise more boroughs, that, in looking over England and Wales, he could find only fifteen places which were not already sufficiently represented. Had the right hon. Gentleman, instead of confining his survey to England and Wales, looked abroad upon the United Kingdom, he would have had no difficulty in discovering many towns and counties too that were not sufficiently represented in that House. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), had in this respect, at least, satisfied the just requirements of Scotland, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have taken a leaf out of his book. The great benefit of the Bill proposed to the country by the hon. Member for Birmingham was that it dealt at once with the whole of the United Kingdom, and all the Irish and Scotch Members should lift up their testimony against any measure which was less extensive. He claimed for Scotland nineteen additional Members. Was it fair that not one of the counties of Scotland returned two Members, and that only two of the Scotch constituencies returned two Members? The right hon. Gentleman had dwelt on the peculiarities of South Lancashire. Why, Lanarkshire was in a similar position—a large part of it was commercial, and the claims of that part ought not at the present time to be overlooked. The same was the case with the counties of Fife, Forfar, and many others, and if 1006 the right hon. Gentleman had acted with fairness in this matter he would have treated the United Kingdom as a whole, and have considered the claims of the Scotch counties. The right hon. Gentleman had not said one word about Scotland that night, and the House still remained entirely in the dark as to the mode in which he proposed to deal with the representation of that portion of the Empire. He had stated, however, distinctly that he had no intention of adding to the number of Members in that House, and as there were no constituencies in Scotland which could be disfranchised, he inferred that the representation of Scotland was to remain just as it was. He stood there to protest against that injustice; and he would warn the Government that the Members for Scotland would give the most strenuous opposition to any measure which did not deal fairly with that country. Even if Scotland were dealt with on the basis of the Act of Union, it would be treated very differently from this. He had no desire now to see the Government going back to any such musty documents; he wished them to deal with the kingdom as a whole, and he appealed to English Members whether it were right or fair, that in a Reform Bill no mention should be made either of Scotland or of Ireland? The hon. Member for Birmingham had looked more distinctly into the facts of the case, and by his schedules had proposed to give seventeen additional representatives to Scotland. The second ground on which he should oppose the Bill was, because it would disappoint the reasonable expectations of the people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman said at the outset that they ought to aim at a conclusive settlement of this Reform question. In his (Mr. Baxter's) opinion this Bill would prove no settlement at all, but the commencement of a great national agitation for which neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the majority of the Members of that House were prepared. As regarded the extension of the franchise, the plan before the House was very complicated, and he was satisfied that the more it was considered by that house collectively the less likely would it be to meet with acceptance. The working classes of this country had made great progress in intelligence, and in other important respects, since 1832, and had on many occasions displayed an amount of right feeling, moderation, and common sense which was 1007 highly creditable to them; and he was convinced that a £5 franchise in boroughs would have brought into the electoral roll a large class of persons who would have shown themselves quite as independent and quite as intelligent as those above them in social station. A Bill by which it was proposed to disfranchise only fifteen places, and to enfranchise only the same number, was not likely to prove generally acceptable. It might suit very well the present atmosphere of the House of Commons, it might smooth some of the difficulties that stood in the right hon. Gentleman's way, but he felt convinced that such a mild scheme, instead of putting an end to the agitation which prevailed in the country, would keep alive and fan the flame which had burst forth. For these reasons he would beg to move as an Amendment:—That it is expedient to consider the laws relating to the representation of the people in England and Wales, and Scotland and Ireland, not separately, but in one measure.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is expedient to consider the Laws relating to the Representation of the People in England and Wales, and Scotland and Ireland, not separately, but in one measure," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he did not rise to take any part in the discussion of the measure; nor did he suppose that his hon. Friend wished to divide the House, but that he had only taken the opportunity of recording his opinion upon the question. He wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to one point to which he had not referred in his address. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposed to make any arrangement in respect to four seats which had been disfranchised some time ago—namely, Sudbury and St. Albans—whether he intended to assign those four vacant seats to any unrepresented places, or whether he proposed to diminish the actual representation by that number?
observed, that it would be unseemly on such an occasion as the first introduction of a Bill of this nature, to express any opinion as to the details of 1008 the measure before an opportunity had been afforded of considering them; and before any expression of opinion could have been received from those whose rights and interests were most deeply affected. At the same time there were certain portions of this Bill which seemed to him so clearly and decidedly objectionable that he had no hesitation in saying at once that he should offer to them his determined opposition. He was, however, willing to admit that, considering the position in which Her Majesty's Government were placed—considering the principles to which on former occasions they had given their adhesion, and considering the party by whom they were supported, he thought the Bill displayed liberal tendencies. He had hoped the Government would have avoided any proposals which might have the effect of causing jealousy and discord between different classes of the community, but there were sonic provisions in the measure which he thought would tend to excite feelings of this kind between the inhabitants of towns and counties. The two main objects of the Bill were the extension of the franchise and the transfer of seats. The number of seats proposed to be transferred was very small, and would not materially affect the existing constitution of the House. So far as the proposal for a transfer of seats went the principle seemed to be fair and unobjectionable, but in consenting to the introduction of the Bill he of course reserved to himself the fullest right, if it should appear desirable, of endeavouring to extend the principle of the disfranchisement of boroughs and the transfer of seats to more populous places beyond the limit proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. They came now to a much more important point—namely, the extension of the franchise. There was one portion of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill which he regretted to see, and to which he should give his decided opposition. He alluded to that portion by which he disfranchised certain persons who now voted for counties in respect of property within boroughs. Was there any real substantial ground for such disfranchisement? Was there any reason for saying that the franchise enjoyed by that particular class of voters had been prejudicial to the community. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, drawing largely upon his imagination, had talked of the heart-burnings and animosities engendered in counties from the exercise of the franchise by persons not 1009 resident within those counties, but he (Mr. Headlam) could undertake to say that this picture was a perfect fiction. It must be remembered that the county representatives were the most exclusive body in the community. There was a sort of tacit understanding that the county representatives should be selected from some dozen or twenty families resident within the county. They were the sons of noblemen or the heads of influential county families. With the exception of South Durham, and one or two other districts, the county Members belonged exclusively to this small class, and he saw no reason for endeavouring to render that class still more restricted and exclusive by destroying the only commercial element, and disfranchising persons who had hitherto exercised the county franchise in respect of freeholds within the limits of boroughs. He thought, also, that it was equally objectionable to confer the right of voting in boroughs upon 40s. freeholders. The effect of such a measure would be immediately apparent in the small nomination boroughs. There was no description of vote so easily fabricated as that of 40s. freeholders. Moreover, the 40s. freeholder was not necessarily a resident within the borough, did not pay rates or contribute to its burdens. If the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman were adopted there would be in every small borough in the country an attempt to create votes of this kind in absentees, and thus wrest the representation from the real inhabitants and vest it in the hands of some club or clique. He also objected to the plan proposed for extending the boundaries of boroughs through the agency of Commissioners. Indeed he could not understand the reasons for such a step. There was no complaint at present, or if there were any evil in any particular place that might be redressed; but a general power of the kind proposed might be made the means of that greatest abuse. If the villa of every person who transacted business in Newcastle were to be included within the limits of the boroughs they might be extended to twenty miles round. He was, however, desirous that the Bill should be introduced, and that it should receive full and fair consideration. He was desirous of offering no factious opposition, but would do all in his power to render it a complete and satisfactory measure.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he had two or three questions to put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The first was, if he would 1010 inform the House by what number he calculated the county voters would be diminished if, according to his proposal, those freeholders who had now a vote for a county in respect of property situated within a Parliamentary borough were taken out of the list of county voters. The second was, whether a freeholder holding a 40s. franchise within a Parliamentary borough, but not resident within the borough, would have the same right of voting for the borough as if he were resident. There was also a third point on which he wished to receive some information from the right hon. Gentleman—namely, how he proposed to deal with the case of a person who held two properties within a Parliamentary borough, one of which at present entitled him to a vote for that borough, and the second of which enabled him to vote for the county?
§ VISCOUNT DUNCAN
said, he was desirous of ascertaining from the Lord Advocate when the Government intended to introduce a Bill for the purpose of amending the representation of Scotland. If the learned Lord would cast his eyes north of the Tweed he would find a large number of counties among which the four seats which it appeared remained unappropriated might very properly be distributed.
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, he was very much of the opinion of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Baxter), but he thought that his hon. Friend only complicated matters by bringing forward his Motion at that time. Looking at what he presumed must still be taken as the basis of representation, namely, property and population, he found from the returns that in each of these Scotland bore the proportion of about one-tenth to the United Kingdom. The property of the entire kingdom was valued at £127,994,000; that of Scotland at £12,582,000. The population of the entire kingdom was 27,641,000; that of Scotland 2,862,000. Therefore, either by property or population, Scotland was entitled to one-tenth of the seats in the House of Commons, or 65 Members out of the 654. No doubt the number of Scotch Members in that House was so small that they must trust to the good feeling and fair play of the English Members, but he thought he should carry with him many Members of the House when he said that he thought Scotland ought to have allotted to her the four vacant seats. So, too, he thought that some of the Members who would be taken from some boroughs ought 1011 to be given to the Scotch constituencies. He would put this fact to the hon. Gentlemen representing England, that the three border counties in England had each two Members, while many Scotch counties possessing much larger populations had but one. Notwithstanding, however, that these were his views, he must press his hon. Friend opposite to withdraw his Motion, because he believed that it would only impede the business in hand, and bring on the subject at some future and more opportune time.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he did not rise to express upon that occasion an opinion in opposition to the scheme of the Government. It was far too elaborate and complicated to be dealt with at a moment's notice. He must, however, observe that he deeply regretted the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have thought proper to exclude Scotland from the operation of his Bill, inasmuch as he could not help regarding it as unwise and impolitic to take a course which might tend to destroy that general community of feeling and interest between one portion of the kingdom and another which it was so desirable to promote. The right hon. Gentleman had not done well in making Scotland an alien.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he also would press upon his hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter) the expediency of withdrawing his Motion, because he did not think that by it any useful end would be gained. He trusted, however, that the House would hear from the Lord Advocate the views of the Government on this subject.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he thought it would have been impossible to mix up, as had been suggested, the representative system of the country in a general scheme. He was prepared to express his entire approval of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman in all but one particular; in that he thought a great door to fraud would be opened. He referred to the extension of the franchise to lodgers. He thought that it would be so easy for any one nominally to parcel out rooms to different Members of his family that such a scheme would in practice prove impossible to be carried out.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he trusted the hon. Member for Montrose would withdraw his Motion. He went entirely along with his hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter); but he thought that his Motion, instead of having any beneficial effect, would only tend to the stoppage of all Reform whatever. This was a result at which his hon. Friend, he 1012 was sure, had no wish to arrive. He would take the liberty of putting a question to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In so doing he must say that he regretted that the Government did not contemplate what his right hon. Friend called lowering the franchise in the boroughs. That might seem a course and rough expedient, but he could not help thinking that it would answer better than the complicated arrangements adopted in the Bill. His regret was the greater because the particular class, who would not be reached by the £10 franchise, had—he would not say been parties to any compact on the subject—but had had hopes held out to them by the very fact of their being included in the Reform Bills which had at other times been before the House, which this Bill would not justify. He believed that the Bill which had been introduced by the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) had proposed to reduce the franchise to £5. This brought him to his question, whether his right hon. Friend had made any calculation of the number of voters who would be admitted to the franchise by the various means adopted in the Bill. He did not doubt but that the ingenuity of the framers of the Bill had provided against several curious results which might arise under the rules which it proposed to introduce. He would mention one such result. Suppose a man had saved £60 and invested it in a savings-bank—the Bill gave him a vote. Now, if that man married, it would be in his (Mr. Clay's) view, an additional reason for his having a vote. But on marrying he would probably draw out some of his £60 to buy furniture, and then, under the operation of the Bill, his vote would be gone. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman had made an omission in not providing as well for the expenses of polling places in borough elections as in county elections. Probably the right hon. Gentleman thought the expenses in the latter case were too small to need being provided for. He would, however, mention, that in one instance, in the case of an uncontested borough election, he himself paid no less a sum than £400 for expenses.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that in consequence of the appeal made to him by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, he begged to withdraw his Motion.
MR. C. BRUCE
said, he begged to remind hon. Members that if additional Mem- 1013 bers were given to Scotland, it would only be carrying out what had been intended to grant to that country.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, he must, as a Member for Scotland, protest against the cavalier manner in which Scotland had been dealt with. The Scotch Members did not ask for anything impracticable, but what they asked was, that they should have some notion whether or not they were to have any Reform at all. It was difficult to draw any conclusion as to that from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was much surprised that the learned Lord Advocate had not condescended to rise in his place and state what were the intentions of the Government on this subject. Up to the present moment Scotland had been dealt with in insolent silence.
§ MR. STEUART
said, he wished to know whether the value of land occupied I was to be estimated in the case of a £10 voter for a county as well as the value of the occupier's house? He would also observe that, taking population into account, the counties in Scotland were more inadequately represented than the boroughs. He wished to bring under the notice of the Lord Advocate the right of the Scotch universities to return a Member.
§ SIR JOHN OGILVY
said, he thought it a very objectionable proceeding on the part of the Government to have made no reference to Scotland or Ireland. It would be in the recollection of the House that on a very recent occasion he addressed a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject. The answer then received was so unsatisfactory that an Irish Member asked a similar question a few days after. The answer then given was, as he understood, that the right hon. Gentleman would make a general statement—by which he understood a statement applicable not only to England, but also to Scotland and Ireland. Had it not been for this, he (Sir J. Ogilvy) would have made a Motion similar to that which had been made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter). He did not intend to oppose the withdrawal of that Motion, but he must say that as regarded Scotland the matter stood in anything but a satisfactory position.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he had refrained from answering the appeals which had been made to him, not with any idea of showing disrespect to the House, but simply in order that he might have an 1014 opportunity of replying at once to all the questions which were addressed to him. He did not think the House would expect him to enter at present into any discussion of the Reform Bill for Scotland; but he could assure the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) that it was the intention of the Government to introduce such a measure, and that it would be based on the general principles which had been announced as applicable to England. Everybody knew that the laws and institutions of Scotland differed in a certain degree from those of England, and therefore there must be a difference in details; but the leading features of the two Bills would be the same. With reference to this subject, he hoped Scotch Members would not assume, from anything which had passed this evening, that there was to be no increase of representation for Scotland. He could only say, on behalf of the Government, that they would endeavour to do justice to Scotland; but if Scotland was not fairly treated, he certainly knew no country more capable of asserting her claims to justice.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, that as a representative of one of the larger metropolitan constituencies—bodies of men who had not been treated with the greatest deference by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he must express an opinion that the constituencies of the metropolis would not consider themselves fairly dealt with when they found that there was no extension of the franchise in the boroughs throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman had dealt with this question of the Reform of the representation of the people merely as appertaining to the county representation. Not only did this Bill not extend the suffrage in boroughs, but it did extend the £10 franchise to counties; and it had also introduced a principle most pernicious in the representation of boroughs, inasmuch as it interfered with the representation of those persons who were occupiers in boroughs. He was satisfied that, in the metropolitan boroughs, this would have a very great effect; but much more so in the small boroughs, and would place boroughs which were now independent under the influence of the aristocracy and entirely alter the character of the constituencies.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was willing to acknowledge that Scotland had some claim to a more extensive representation, but at the same time, as a county Member, he must urge that, whether according 1015 to the test of property, of households, or of population, the counties of England had a claim to 130 seats more than they at present possessed. He never expected that such claims would be paid in full; but he remembered that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London considered that claim in the Bill which he introduced on the part of the Earl of Aberdeen's Government, and that he awarded to the counties forty-six seats. He (Mr. Newdegate) could not, then, hear the claims of Scotland urged, while so large and just a demand on the part of those who had ever shown themselves the consistent friends of Conservative order, the population of the counties of England, remained unconsidered.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, that while agreeing in two principles laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that all interests should be represented, and that the defects of the Reform Act of 1832 should, as far as possible, be remedied, he must enter his protest against this Bill as not carrying out either of them. It did not provide for the emancipation of the working classes, which was one great deficiency of the Reform Act of 1832. That Act was an immense improvement, but it was a step almost exclusively in favour of the middle classes. It admitted the great train of shopkeepers to the franchise, but excluded, to a considerable extent, those who depended upon their labour, who were quite as intelligent—often more intelligent and more independent than the lower portion of the middle classes. In 1832 there was an understood compact with the working classes that if they refrained from disturbing the passing of the Reform Act by any agitation on their own behalf, the middle classes, in return, would assist them in their emancipation. The working classes were a distinct interest; but this Bill made no step towards conferring on them that to which they were entitled. There was no reason why Parliament should be afraid to trust the working classes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had very justly observed, that a man who lived in a £10 house in a county was just as likely to be a loyal subject and to exercise the franchise properly as a man who lived in a £20 or a £50 house, and so in a town a £5 householder or a £2 householder was just as likely to be a trustworthy voter as a £10 householder. It was a great mistake to suppose that the lower class of voters would be likely to combine against the interests of 1016 the class just above them. The £10 householders in counties were just as likely to swamp the £50 householders in counties as the £5 householders to swamp the £10 householders in boroughs. Society was not divided like those geological formations where the strata lay regularly one above another; but rather like those where the strata were thrown about and fused together. The divisions of society were much more perpendicular than horizontal. There were Whigs and Tories in the lower classes just as there were in other classes, and there was no possibility of their combining together to attack the property of those above them. As the borough which he represented was a great hive of industry, he must enter his protest against any measure of Reform which did nut include the working classes.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I am quite ready to admit that the Government in undertaking to propose a Bill on the subject of the representation of the people undertook a task of great difficulty. I am quite willing to admit, also, that it is very difficult for those who hear it plan proposed for the first time to judge of its details until they have had some little delay to consider them. But there are two points of the right hon. Gentleman's statement upon which I have long thought, upon which I require no time to make up my mind, and upon which the right hon. Gentleman's statement has, I own, filled me with very great apprehensions. The first of these points is what he stated with regard to freeholders in boroughs who have now the right of voting for counties. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman, these freeholders are no longer to vote for the county, but are to be deprived of that right, or are to be given, instead, that which they may or may not value—namely, the privilege of voting for the borough in which they may reside. Now, Sir, as it appears to me, this is a very great and perilous innovation. This provides for the extinction of a right of voting belonging to a number of from 90,000 to 100,000 persons who have enjoyed that right during a period of 400 years. It is proposed, without any consent of theirs, without any inquiry, to deprive them of that right of voting by a summary Act of Parliament. But, Sir, further than that, so far from considering this as one of the defects of the present representation which required a remedy, it has always appeared to me a very great advantage. That there should be a mixture of the 1017 towns and counties; that there should be, not only the landed gentry, with their tenants and the workpeople dependent on them who may have small freeholds, voting for counties, but that there should be persons engaged in trade in towns who should come to the poll and assist the great body of freeholders in choosing persons to represent the whole community, has always appeared to me one of the benefits of the present system of representation. This is not an opinion formed yesterday or to-day, because at the time of the Reform Act, when certain Peers were willing to subscribe to the Reform Act on certain conditions, and one of those conditions was that freeholders who lived in towns should henceforth be confined to towns, I declared plainly to Earl Grey that if the Bill come back to the House of Commons with that Amendment I would propose the rejection of that Amendment, and would risk the whole fate of the Reform Bill on that sole Amendment. With regard to many of these persons the Act will be one of entire disfranchisement, because, as the law stands at present, if a man lives in a £10 house as occupier he has a right to vote for the town already, and if he has, besides, a property of 40s. freehold in the town, he has a right to vote also for the county. In all those cases you would deprive him of the right of voting for the county, and give him no compensation whatever. Now, I cannot but think that when this proposition goes forth to the country, with regard to a great portion of those 90,000 or 100,000 freeholders there will be great alarm produced. For my own part, when I have thought over the defects of the Reform Act, and the present state of the representation, which a wise Legislature would propose to amend, it has never occurred to me that this was other than one of the present advantages and benefits, instead of a defect to be remedied. That is one part of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman which I say gives me great apprehension; and, supposing the right hon. Gentleman should succeed in stifling the discontent of these persons, supposing he should succeed in severing the towns from the counties in the way he proposes, supposing he attaches the counties more to the land and divides the towns from them, what effect will be produced but ill-blood between towns and counties—a greater discontent in the towns with regard to the proceedings of those who are owners of land, and a greater division of 1018 opinion among those who are occupied in agriculture and those who are engaged in trade? There is another part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, which is not a proposition but an omission, which appears to me to be of a very serious character. Ever since the time when I departed from that proposition of finality which Earl Grey and Lord Althorp always insisted upon, I have done so upon this ground, which appeared to me to be the only ground for disturbing the settlement of so vast and complicated a subject—namely, that there was a great body of persons, and those persons belonging to the working classes of country, who were very competent to exercise the franchise. With regard to all those persons the right hon. Gentleman does little or nothing. He has arrived only so far as I arrived in the year 1837, namely, that persons who had money in savings' banks should be allowed a franchise. Really, if contentment is to be given, if it is intended that a Bill of this kind shall give satisfaction to the country, I should say that there is a great portion of the community fully satisfied with the law as it stands, but there is another portion of the community not satisfied, and that is the great body of the working men. They take more and more interest in political concerns, they are becoming more and more qualified to judge of political questions, they have by all your changes—by your reduction of duties—by enabling them to get food cheaper—by enabling them to get their news and disquisitions cheaper—become more fit to exercise the political franchise; and, feeling politically fit, are dissatisfied that they should any longer be excluded from that privilege. Besides, the right hon. Gentleman stated, and stated very truly, that it is something that at different periods Bills have been brought in by the Government to confer a rating franchise. By one Bill it was proposed to confer the franchise on those who paid rates to the amount of £5, and by another on those who paid £6 in rates. Those Bills have naturally raised expectations. That they contained exact definitions of the franchise I by no means wish to contend, but I do think that if a Bill of this kind is to give any satisfaction to the country, the great body of the working people, comprising some hundreds of thousands, ought to be admitted to the franchise, and that the constitution will be the stronger by their admission. I think you deprive yourselves of that additional 1019 strength while you continue their exclusion. Well, these two points in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman give me great dissatisfaction. With regard to any other question in the Bill—the amount of the seats that are disposed of, and of the seats taken away—with regard to the increase in the number of polling places, and the mode of voting by polling papers—I wish to give no opinion whatsoever; but this I should say upon the whole question, that unless you are prepared to give more general satisfaction to the country; unless you mean to make a more effectual change, it would be better to make no change at all. I can well understand that the country could bear very well going on for a time discussing these matters without any change in the present mode of voting; but what I do not understand is that Parliament should offer to the country, or rather that there should be inflicted—I can use no other word but inflicted—by Parliament upon the country, a Bill changing the representation with all the qualities of invasion about it—with a great deal of change and a great deal of disfranchisement—but including not the slightest provision in favour of the honest and hardworking man. Unless you give satisfaction, not to everybody, because somebody must be disappointed, but unless you give satisfaction to those who have a right to be satisfied, depend upon it your Bill will only be the signal of a fresh agitation. It will produce a great deal more of discontent than of contentment. I shall consider the Bill when it comes in. I shall see whether its provisions agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. As the matter at present stands, it does not appear to me to be an improvement upon the state of the representation; but, above all, it does not appear to me to be a Conservative measure. I can well understand a Conservative Minister saying, "This question of representation has been settled, and we do not propose to change it until something shall be produced which shall appear to us to improve the present state of things;" but that a Conservative Ministry should produce a great measure of disfranchisement, extending to 90,000 or 100,000 people, and by refusing to admit the working classes to the franchise, so produce a fresh appetite for agitation passes my comprehension.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Change, Sir, is of itself an evil. Change in legislation is only justifiable when the change is to a 1020 better state of things. Now, my charge against the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is that it is a change which leads to a worse state of things. The right hon. Gentleman started upon a strict principle, which—he will, I hope, forgive me for saying so—I cannot possibly understand. He said that he was about to base the representation of the people not upon population, not upon wealth, but upon their interests. Now, I want to know what is the meaning of their interests. He says he is going to give certain towns a certain number of Members, and also to disfranchise a certain number of towns; and upon what principle does he begin? Why, he disfranchises fifteen boroughs that have not 6,000 inhabitants, thereby making population his ground of disfranchisement. Now, my notion of representation is this,—that the representative body is a body of watchmen upon the Government. Government has certain powers, and those powers would be applied to mischief unless the representative body watched over this Government? But how shall we prevent the representative body themselves from doing wrong? Why, by making them amenable to the whole people, or those who represent the whole people. And how can you have any body representing the whole people who have not all the passions, all the interests, all the feelings of the people whom they represent? Well, then, the constituent body is this body, and you say you will give the franchise to a certain class, but you will give it to nobody else. Why was the Reform Bill of 1832 brought in by the noble Lord in 1831? It was brought in because the power of Government in this country was held by one class—namely, by the landed gentry. The right hon. Gentleman himself said the object of that Bill was to give power to the middle classes. And so it did give power to them. Recollect the conduct of the working classes on that occasion. What did they say? They said, "The Bill brought in by the noble Lord will not give us power, but we have such confidence in you, our fellow countrymen of the middle classes, that we will aid you to beat down the opposition of the landed aristocracy, and enable you to gain the franchise for yourselves." Without the working classes on that occasion there would have been no Reform Bill. They behaved in a way that I shall never forget. They behaved in a way that the middle classes of England ought never to forget. 1021 And now, Sir, I appeal in the name of the working classes of this country to the middle classes of England, and I say to them,—In 1832 you gained your power by the aid of the working-men, and I call upon you as earnest, as honest, as generous men now, not to neglect the interests of those by whom you were aided on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill will not give one iota of power to the working classes of this country. It is a Bill of disfranchisement, and not of enfranchisement. It disfranchises freeholders in towns, but gives no power to anybody in boroughs. Why, what will it do? I will suppose the case of the town which I have the honour to represent. I have no doubt that in that town there are many thousands of county voters. Every man of them will be disfranchised as a county voter, without being compensated by a vote for the town. Therefore your Bill confers nothing upon him, but takes away from him his county franchise. And what will that do? Why, it will enhance the power of the landed gentry in this House. And that is the object of this Bill. Now, I tell the right hon. Gentleman I, and many on this side of the House, with the full consent of our constituents, have given the Government a complete and unvarying support, but sure I am that twenty-four hours will not pass over my head before I receive statements from my constituents that, with their consent, this support shall not be continued. And why so? We have given the right hon. Gentleman and his friends our support, because we thought that they would see their own position and the position of the country, that they would apply the power which we maintained fur them to the good government of this country. But in place of that generous and liberal mode in which I thought the Government would act, they are now bringing in a Bill for the purpose of enhancing the power of the Gentlemen behind them. The right hon. Gentleman has thought only of his friends behind him; he has not thought of those whom I dare say he does not call his friends, but by whom he and his friends have been supported and kept in place. [Cries of "Oh! oh!"] I am speaking out. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that by the generous support he has received from this side of the House he has been maintained in his present position. Sir, I say that, looking at the Bill as explained by the right hon. Gentleman—and I can only judge of it by his ex- 1022 planation—I say emphatically that every stage of it must be opposed, steadfastly opposed, by every friend of the people in this House.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, in the common affairs of life we generally find that when men undertake to do that for which they are not fitted either by nature or by inch-nation, they do not generally succeed very well. The right hon. Gentleman, I dare say, could have made a much better Bill for the Reform of the representation, but he happens on this occasion, unfortunately, to represent a party which has always persistently opposed any extension of political power to the people. I have regretted very much that he and his friends have consented to open this question, and to make a pretence of settling it. I think there was some show of reason when they charged a late eminent statesman with doing wrong in undertaking matters which his opponents ought to have undertaken; but in his case he always admitted that he was thoroughly convinced of the new principles he had adopted. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends have never yet expressed to us clearly anything by which we could gather that they have undergone anything like real conversion. I do not think it is possible, with the unacquaintance of hon. Gentlemen opposite, with the opinions prevailing in the towns and cities of the country on this question—I did not think it possible that they could either bring in or support a measure such as the country expects from that Government which shall undertake the Reform of the representation. Now, who has asked for this Bill? I never heard any hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House remonstrate with any one of his leaders, because they were not anxious and zealous on the question of Reform. I never heard any of their supporters in the country, at public meetings, arguing in favour of any change in the representative system. I have never seen in their newspapers any leading articles in favour of Parliamentary Reform. In point of fact, so far as hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned, I presume, if they had not thought that the exigencies of party required it, they would have preferred there should have been no attempt at a Reform Bill at all. Well, that was precisely the position which they ought to have taken up, if they thought it was one which was good for the country, or good for that portion of the people which they represent. But there is, on 1023 the contrary, a very large class—I will not say a class, but a very large portion of the people who do ask, and have asked constantly and incessantly for the last twenty-five years—that there shall be an Amendment of the Reform Act passed in 1832. What has been the special grievance of which they complain? What is it that the majority of those who have made this request to Parliament have laid before us? Why, they have stated unanimously, that so far as regards the largest portion of the population of the United Kingdom, the Reform Act was so framed, and purposely so framed, as to exclude them from the enjoyment of the franchise. They have said that those persons—a great portion of the population of this country, who live upon weekly wages—do not live in houses of the value of £10, and that, therefore, to fix the franchise at £10 was to draw a line which of necessity excluded them, and made them—if I may quote a word which the right hon. Gentleman has used to-night "pariahs." The Reform Bill placed the great bulk of the working classes in that position. I am not complaining of that Bill in the least, but I should have the utmost contempt—no, I will not say contempt—but I should be utterly hopeless of the working classes of this country if I thought they could remain content under a general exclusion like that. Well, then, in obedience to the will of the great body of the unenfranchised people, whom some of us on this side of the House represent in some degree, and have for some years past, upon this question—in obedience to this call you propose a Bill; and your newspapers have told us—for they latterly have become Reformers—how liberal this Bill was to be, and how "the bread was to be taken out of the mouth"—that was one of their phrases—of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. Well, the Bill comes in, and when it goes to-morrow morning throughout the United Kingdom, every one of those men—working, toiling, serving, paying taxes, and fulfilling all the duties of citizens—will see that as he was left an outcast by the Bill of 1832, so he must remain an outcast still by the Bill of 1859. What are the modes by which the right hon. Gentleman propoposes to add to the franchise, for I believe he does not even pretend that they are means by which the working classes are to be admitted? There is personal property; but first of all there is every man who is a lodger and pays a rent of 8s. a week; 1024 that cannot refer to the working classes. Then every graduate of an University, and very few of those gentlemen, in England certainly, can be considered as of the working class—then there are ministers of religion. These are all persons who, I believe, now have votes, and therefore any pretence of including them into the Bill is merely a pretence, and nothing better. Then come the gentlemen of the law, and the gentlemen who practise medicine; that is, for the right hon. Gentleman is very careful lest he should admit anybody who ought not to have a vote, those who are registered under the late Act. Why, there might be poison in a vote, such is the rigidness with which unregistered men are to be excluded. Well, then, schoolmasters who have certificates, I suppose from the Committee of Privy Council—but why are you to have exclusions of this nature? Are there no schoolmasters throughout the kingdom to whom you will extend votes but those to whom a right hon. Member of this House has given certificates of competency? Why, I should be ashamed to come before this House and my countrymen to offer a franchise of this trifling, and, I will even say, of this insulting character. Then there is personal property; if a man has personal property to the value of £10, invested in the Funds, in Bank Stock or India Stock, or other things which I suppose we shall know to-morrow morning, then he, as well as anybody who happens to have £60 in the savings bank, is to be a voter. To be original, the right hon. Gentleman has departed from the sum which the noble Lord gave in one of his Bills, and which was £50. Even in this little matter there must be an abstinence from that, I will say, insufficient liberality which marked the Bill of the noble Lord. Now, only just look at the savings' bank qualification. Let the House imagine some young man who has saved £60, of whom, I hope, there are some thousands in the country, and put it into the savings' bank. Suppose anything happens—that his parents fall into sickness, or what is still more likely, and would be a happier thing, that he should think of entering into the marriage state. He withdraws his £60, and he furnishes a house of £6 or £7, or £8 a year rental; he settles down with additional ties in the country, and there is additional reason to believe in his love of order and obedience to the laws. But the very fact of his taking that course cuts 1025 away his franchise, and he is put into that class of outcast to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I say, all these fancy franchises are absurd; they seem to me to be proposed and intended to make it appear that you are giving something, when they really spring from the fear you have lest you should give something. The noble Lord has referred to another point in this Bill, which, if there were no other objection, must be absolutely fatal to it, and that is the question of the transfer with regard to the freehold votes in boroughs. We understand that very well, and I suppose the hon. Gentlemen opposite understand it. It is a compensation to the hon. Gentlemen opposite for consenting to the £10 franchise. Never was anything more valueless or puerile offered us by way of compensation. The noble Lord has said that he believed it would interfere with the Parliamentary franchise of about 100,000 electors. Of the whole number of county electors, I believe nearly 100,000 are electors by right of freehold property in the various boroughs of the kingdom. Now I, or some friends of mine, have taken the trouble, in anticipation of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, to make a dissection of the registry of two boroughs, and the House will permit me to quote the figures. I have had the registers of the borough of Manchester and Salford dissected, to ascertain how this would work. In Manchester there are of freehold qualifications for South Lancashire, situated within the limits of the borough, 2,918. Of the persons owning these qualifications there are living within the limits of the borough, 1,493. Of those living outside the borough there are 1,425. Of the whole number, there are 1,195 who are already electors of Manchester by virtue of their £10 household or other occupation. These will cease to be voters for the county, but will have no additional vote for Manchester or any other borough, and therefore, so far as the county representation goes, they are absolutely disfranchised to that extent. There are 298 residents in the borough who are not now electors for the borough, and who, under the right hon. Gentleman's plan, I presume, being disfranchised for the county, will become electors for the borough of Manchester. There remain, then, 1,425 of whom no clear account can be given. They are resident outside the borough, and may live, indeed, in all parts of England, or, so far as I know, of the world. In all probability, they may be found 1026 in every county of England. Now, I do not know whether it is intended that these non-resident freeholders of the borough are to vote for the borough or not. If they are, he re-establishes that most evil system of a large non-resident constituency, which will make it additionally necessary that the Act passed last Session should be repealed by which candidates are allowed to pay the travelling expenses of electors. In Salford I find the figures are less, but give a very similar result. It therefore follows that if there be 100,000 freeholders in boroughs from whom the right hon. Gentleman is about to cut off the vote for the county, there are about 40,000 of them who, if they are not made non-resident voters throughout the whole country, will be disfranchised altogether. Of course, the 40,000 persons who now vote for counties by reason of their property in boroughs, and have at the same time votes for boroughs, will suffer absolute disfranchisement in the matter of election for counties. I am certain the House of Commons will never attempt to pass any such clause as that. I do not think it would be possible to contrive anything more likely to create dissatisfaction throughout the country, and shake its confidence in, I will not say the generosity, but the common sense and justice of Parliament. Now, the object of all this is to make the counties even more exclusive than they are at present. There is nothing you seem so much afraid of as having a good, and, especially, a free constituency in counties. I daresay the House is not well aware of the remarkable fact that in a very large portion of the counties of England for many years past the constituencies have not only not been extended, but have positively diminished. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the tables of Mr. Newmarch. I also have referred to Mr. Newmarch's tables, and they show that in eleven counties—the names of which I need not read, for the House knows them well enough—the constituency has decreased between the year 1832 and the year 1857 to the extent of 2,000 votes. The very fact shows how necessary it is to have an extension of the county franchise. Whilst the whole franchise in counties has only increased to the extent of 36,000, more than 17,000 of that number have been added to the constituencies in Lancashire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Throughout all the rest of England and Wales, such is the manner in which 1027 land is tied up, such is the difficulty of purchasing freeholds, and to such an extent have farms been increased in size, that the constituencies of almost all the counties are stationary, and, as I have already said, in some of them there has been an actual diminution. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to add, according to Mr. Newmarch's tables, 103,000; according to his own statement, 200,000; but according to my calculation, 150,000. That is what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do, as a compensation however to the hon. Gentlemen behind him; and whose opinions, if he follows them, will be his ruin, the right hon. Gentleman insists on transferring 100,000 votes on a franchise that has existed for 400 years from counties to boroughs. Now, the middle classes are also asking for a Reform Bill; but they want a much fairer distribution of the electoral power. But the right hon. Gentleman, with an audacity that is positively interesting, tells them that their case is amply considered; because, owing to the fanaticism which has existed in the country—and I hope the argument will be found conclusive by the hon. Members for North Warwickshire—a certain single Roman Catholic is returned for Arundel. Did the right hon. Gentleman know to whom he was speaking when he specified Arundel, and justified the retention of that miserable pocket borough, while he trifled with such cities as Liverpool and Manchester, and never even mentioned Glasgow? The right hon. Gentleman may rely upon it that all this will be quite understood by those who read the newspapers to-morrow morning. It would have been much better for him if he had stood on the ancient practice of his party, who have resisted changes of this nature, or have modified those which others have introduced, instead of bringing forward a measure like this, which will create nothing but anger and disgust throughout the great body of the people of this country. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) says this measure is not Conservative. No measure affecting the representation of the people can be Conservative which merely disturbs and does nothing to settle. Now, I am not so anxious about Reform as not to admit that it matters little whether a Reform Bill passes this year or next year, or any year within five years. Countries are not bound up to the legislation of one Session or one day. But when a Member of Government having the confidence of the 1028 Crown, speaking from that bench, undertakes to meddle with a great question of this nature, he is a thousand times less Conservative than those who have been, as he says, discussing new schemes of representation throughout the country. If the right hon. Gentleman alludes to my Bill, I beg to tell him that it is a very old scheme. It is a scheme which, sixty years ago, was propounded by several able and leading men in this country. It was defended by able and leading men about the time of the Reform Bill, and there has been no time, from the year 1790 up to 1859, when the main principles of the propositions which I have submitted to the country have not been upheld and maintained by leading statesmen, sometimes in both Houses of Parliament, and always by the leading and patriotic minds throughout the country. I have no objection whatever to the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman going to the population of the United Kingdom alongside of my scheme. Population is to have nothing to do with the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. Wealth is to have nothing to do with it. Now, if we take away from consideration the population and wealth of the country, of what use are Reform Bills, or Parliaments, or Chancellors of the Exchequer, or Ministers at all? The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman is a mass of subterfuges. He talked of "interests," but he never explained what was an interest. Interests! Surely they consist of the great wants and great wishes of the people. The right hon. Gentleman has taken a plan, and a most successful one—and I thank him for it—he has taken a plan which no doubt will enable him to find out what is the opinion of the people with regard to this great question. I am not anxious for violent political discussions or angry contests, either out of doors or in the House of Commons. I hoped that the experience of the years 1831 and 1832 would have led any Government that undertook the settlement of this question to have dealt with it upon some broad and comprehensive principle. I hoped, when he rose to-night—for I did not believe the descriptive sketch which I saw in a certain newspaper—bribed, I suppose, into the support of this miserable scheme by the communication of early information—was a fair description of the measure of the Government—I hoped he would have taken the bread out of my mouth, and have brought forward a Bill which, if not so good as mine, would still have been so 1029 broad, complete, and worthy of public approbation that I could have given it my honest and hearty support, and should not, have been forced, as I now fear I shall be, to ask the House on an early day to allow me to introduce a Bill which, whatever hon. Gentlemen may think, I believe the, more they examine, the more they consider it, the more they will fill it based upon the principles of the Reform Bill and of the constitution, and that it will have an infinitely more Conservative tendency, looking forward to the next fifty years, than the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, which disturbs every thing, will irritate vast masses of the people, and will settle nothing.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that it was a most unfortunate thing that Her Majesty's Government had engaged in a question of this nature. (Lord JOHN RUSSELL: Hear, hear!) The noble Lord said "Hear!" but he was one of their chief instigators. On a former occasion the noble Lord stated that the present Government was not accustomed to play his tune; yet he urged them to begin. He (Mr. Drummond) thought it rather hard on the House that they should be forced to listen to a concert by professed non-performers, who were hardly competent to lead a decent melody. But why did not the noble LordTake the good the Gods provide him;Lovely Thais sits beside him:[Mr. Bright had been, on that previous evening, sitting next to Lord John Russell.] The hon. Gentleman was quite ready, "to light him to his prey, and like another Helen, fire another Troy." He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the Bill did not go to the point. The noble Lord spoke of 40s. freeholders, who held a franchise which had existed for 400 years. There might be some such freeholders as he described, but in many parts of the country they were in the hands of men who worked—generally for small farmers. The 40s. freehold of the reign of Henry VI. was now worth £50; and, if the Reform Bill of 1832 had done anything in a really Conservative spirit, it would have raised the 40s. freehold to £50. He did not understand what the present Reform Bill was to do. He could not understand what was its object, or the manner in which that unknown object was to be attained. He perfectly understood the object of the last Bill. The last Bill was an act of ven- 1030 geance by the Whigs on the party that had kept them so long and so deservedly out of power. To attain this end, they deceived their master, they undermined the throne, they coerced the House of Lords, and threatened that if they could not carry their Bill by any other means they would head an insurrection and carry it by bludgeon and brickbat. They succeeded, and there was some merit in success. All that he understood, but he confessed he did not understand why they were to have this new Reform Bill from the Government. He quite understood the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bright). He was perfectly honest and fair in what he was doing; he knew what he was at, and what he aimed at; but, he repeated, he could not understand this Bill, or how to meet it. It was said everybody wanted Reform; but then came the question what was meant by Reform. In reality Reform meant to take taxation off yourself and put it on somebody else. That was, no doubt, the meaning of the Bill of the hon. Gentleman opposite, though he would not enter into a discussion on that measure till he introduced it. The ultraliberals, the gentlemen who were further advanced than other people in the way of progress—how far down he did not know—thought fit to meet together in Committee room No. 17, and took it into their heads that there should be Reform; then they agreed to ask the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bright) to bring forward a Bill, as, indeed, he was the only man who had honesty to state his object and ability enough to carry out such a measure. But everybody knew well enough what it all meant. It mattered little what was the extension of the franchise that might be proposed. After the first Reform Bill was announced, he (Mr. Drummond) said there was no principle in £10 any more than in £9 or £8, for the truth was, that, once begun, they could not stop short of universal suffrage. How would they stop short? It did not at all follow that such a plan was revolutionary. That which was really revolutionary was to put political power into the hands of men who had no property themselves, but who would take upon them to dispose of the property of those who had. The settlement of this point was the great problem to be solved, but it was not solved by the hon. Gentleman opposite, nor was it solved by the Bill which had been brought before them that night. If they preserved political power 1031 in the hands of those who had property, then they might extend the franchise as far as they pleased.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I am not going to enter into the merits of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has just brought under our consideration, because I think it better to defer the expression of any opinion on the details of the measure until we shall have it before us in its printed form, when we shall be enabled to obtain a full knowledge of many points which the right hen. Gentleman, even in the long statement that he was good enough to make, did not perhaps quite sufficiently explain. I, therefore, wish to guard myself against any inference being drawn one way or another from my abstaining, for the present, from going into those details into which the right hon. Gentleman entered. I would suggest to him, that when he makes his reply it would be convenient that it should state to the House when it is his intention to move the second reading of the Bill. I presume that he will think it right to give sufficient time between the introduction of the measure and its second reading to enable the House and the country fully to consider the details of the scheme which he has proposed on the part of the Government.
§ MR. F. CROSSLEY
said, he had travelled 200 miles that day on purpose to be in time to hear the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and after giving the most careful attention to the whole of it, he must say that he had been greatly disappointed with the result. They had had many very high sounding words, which ended with very little in them, and, to use a very homely Yorkshire expression, "They had had a great deal more cloth than dinner." He (Mr. Crossley) was in hopes that, as the Conservatives had, for the most part, been excluded from power since the Reform Bill of 1832, and as the vexed question of the corn laws had been settled, the present Government would have come out as Reformers. They certainly were badly off for a leader on the Opposition side of the House. They had a noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) above the gangway who had been Prime Minister, but who was a very second-rate political Reformer; and they had another noble Lord (Lord John Russell) below the h gangway, who had also been Prime Minister, but who was a bad ecclesiastical Reformer. Both these noble Lords had, on the subject of church rates, 1032 joined the Conservative party, and opposed the abolition of this impost, so that really the Liberal independent Members, of whom he (Mr. F. Crossley) professed to be one, were very anxious to give such a support to the present Government as would keep them in power until, at any rate, they (the Opposition) were prepared with a leader, One up to the mark, and one who would guide the Liberal party to success. But on looking at the Bill on church rates introduced by the Ministry, and also at the Bill they were now discussing, he did not see that they could support the present Government, however favourably they might be disposed towards them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that he was against the predominance of any class; but the fact was, that at present they had the predominance of every class but one, and that the most numerous of all, the working class; for it was impossible to deny that, whatever might be the opinion of that House, it was class legislation they had there and nothing else. He (Mr. F. Crossley) did not wish to be misunderstood. He was not finding fault with what they had done; on the contrary, working men felt much indebted to them for the many good things they had done in legislation since 1832. But that did not alter the plain fact, that working men had neither part nor lot in the election of Members of Parliament, and no better proof of this could be given than by stating that the works which he had the honour to be connected with were situated within a Parliamentary borough, and in addition to women and children, and youths under twenty-one years of age, there were employed at these works no less than 1,300 men as artizans, and not one out of that large number had a vote for the borough. And yet they were in the possession of as good wages as any other body of working men similarly situated. Now, was it likely that a Bill could give satisfaction which did not do something to remedy such a crying evil as that? Yet the Bill introduced that night would not touch the evil, but leave things just as they were. He (Mr. F. Crossley) would not trouble the House by going into details on the Bill that night. There would be other opportunities for doing so. But he strongly objected to the voting papers. He thought they would prove a failure. Candidates were sometimes put up at the last moment, and the papers might have been filled up without the necessary information, and thus lead to confusion. He 1033 believed there was no remedy for the intimidation and corrupt practices at elections but the ballot. Seeing, then, how far the measure came short of what it ought to be, he should recommend the Government to withdraw the Bill as one totally unfitted to meet the requirements of the case.
MR. EDWIN JAMES
Sir, I will reserve until a future opportunity any observations which I may feel it my duty to make on the details of this measure; but I must now venture humbly to urge on the House my impression that this Bill will not prove satisfactory to the liberal feelings of the country. Coming, as I do, fresh from a large constituency, I believe I am justified in saying that there are a large number of individuals throughout the country who are calmly but anxiously expecting to be admitted to the privilege of the franchise, and whose intelligence and good conduct entitle them to a participation in that right. I cannot help thinking that the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has introduced to-night with so much intelligence and adroitness is addressed rather to the present electoral body and to the hon. Members of this House than to those classes who are waiting for a comprehensive measure of Reform, which shall extend the franchise to large masses to whom it is now denied. I cannot help thinking that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, in that coy way, wished to defer until another day the information with regard to the political doom of some of the constituencies, has addressed himself to the sympathies of this House and not to the great body of the people out of doors. I think it is a dream on the part of the Government if they imagine that this Bill will prove satisfactory; and I must be allowed to express my firm conviction that it is not such a Bill as the public are entitled to, nor such a Bill as will meet with the approbation of the country at large.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had stated that the Bill brought forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be accepted as a boon by those Members who sat behind the right hon. Gentleman. Now he (Mr. Bentinck) was not going to follow the example of the hon. Member for Birmingham by taking that very early opportunity of canvassing the details of a scheme which he had as yet not had time to master. But when 1034 the hon. Member for Birmingham said that Reform was not in accordance with the nature of those who sat on the Ministerial side of the House, he should state that, as far as he was concerned, if the question was put to him, "Reform or no Reform"? he should have no hesitation in declaring that he was for Reform; and for the reason, that he could not understand how any man could get up in that House and say he was opposed to all Reform, unless he was an avowed supporter of the Act of 1832. Now, he had always looked upon that Bill as one of the most one-sided, unjust, and iniquitous measures that had ever disgraced the British Legislature. It was carried by public excitement for party purposes, and the whole of its arrangements were a compound of anomalies and injustice, which reflected discredit on all those who proposed and on all those who accepted it. After having made that admission he could not say that he was at present opposed to all Reform. He was not prepared to give an opinion with reference to the measure which had just been submitted to their notice; but he wished to say a few words on a scheme which had been for some time circulated through the country, and which there had been since opportunity of considering. It had been proposed by a most distinguished Member of that House; and it appeared to him that it was at present a fair subject of discussion. He was sure that the hon. Member for Birmingham and every other hon. Member would acquit him of any intention to say anything which could fairly be deemed personally offensive; he believed he never had used, and he trusted he never would use any such language. He admired the brilliant talents and the great energy of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and he only regretted that they were not devoted to what he should consider a better cause. But the hon. Gentleman had of late addressed many large assemblies, and he (Mr. Bentinck) was bound to tell him that, after carefully examining the speeches delivered upon those occasions, the only conclusion at which he could arrive was, that the opinions of the hon. Gentleman were those of a Leveller and a Communist. The hon. Member, instead of addressing the reason, only appealed to the worst passion of his audiences. He said that an hereditary House of legislation was incompatible with free institutions. [Mr. BRIGHT: No, I did not.] Then the hon. Gentleman must have 1035 been very much misrepresented. [Mr. BRIGHT: No doubt of it.] The hon. Gentleman was so reported in The Times newspaper, and it would be strange if his language were there completely misrepresented. It appeared that the hon. Gentleman had ascribed the poverty which prevailed among the people of this country in a great measure to the existence of large properties centred in a few individuals. Now he (Mr. Bentinck) asked whether that was a conciliatory or a peaceable doctrine to preach to a multitude? The hon. Gentleman had taken more than one occasion to remind his audiences how the last Reform Bill had been carried. They had that evening received a graphic statement upon that subject from the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey; and he (Mr. Bentinck) supposed it was in some similar mode that the hon. Member for Birmingham proposed to carry his scheme. He had himself, in the course of a private conversation, asked a Member of that House, whose name he could not of course divulge, how he thought it would be possible to make the £10 householders sacrifice their power as electors in favour of the owners of houses of the value of only £5, and the answer he had received was, "We shall bring numbers to bear on them, and they cannot resist." That was the way in which the hon. Member for Birmingham and his friends seemed prepared to carry out their views. The hon. Member had taken every opportunity of praising the institutions of the United States. He (Mr. Bright) had given everybody to understand that the prosperity and welfare of the lower classes of the United States were due to their political institutions. He would not have said that if he had studied the true hearings of the subject a little more deeply. There was no country in Europe in which the average of poverty and distress was greater than in the United States, and there were few in which it was so great; and the hon. Member, when advocating the system of the ballot, had forgotten to mention that nothing in any other country had ever approached to the amount of both bribery and intimidation which was practised at elections in the United States. But the hon. Member had in his recent speeches put forth one most extraordinary argument, for he told his audience that the landed interest was represented in what he called the small agricultural boroughs. He (Mr. Bentinck) defied the hon. Gentleman to point out the boroughs to which he had alluded as being 1036 the representatives of the agricultural interest. On the contrary, as it appeared to him, there had always existed a most unfortunate antagonism between those small towns and the surrounding county, for the towns always had their own separate interests, objects, and views, and when, therefore, the hon. Gentleman represented the small towns in counties as representatives of the agricultural interest, he only showed how little he had studied the question.
§ MR. RICH
rose to order and said, that the question was whether a certain Bill should be introduced or not; but the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bentinck) instead of giving the House his opinion on the merits of that Bill, was simply criticising a series of speeches made by the hon. Member for Birmingham in the autumn, and that too, when the hon. Member for Birmingham, having addressed the House, would have no opportunity of replying.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the Bill was for the purpose of altering the Representation of the People in England. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) was certainly rather extensive in his observations and seemed rather to be anticipating the introduction of some other measure. At the same time he did not think that the hon. Member was out of order.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that he had no wish to persevere if it were not the wish of the House, and he would only refer to one more remark which had been made by the hon. Member for Birmingham. He had told them amongst other startling assertions that the House of Lords represented exclusively the landed interest; so far from that being the case, every man acquainted with the theory of the Constitution, and with the privileges of the two Houses of Parliament, was well aware that the House of Lords had no power to originate any measure of taxation, and therefore, that in the most important of all the questions involved in representation, they did not even represent themselves; and he (Mr. Bentinck) had always been of opinion that the Resolution of this House, which denied to Peers the right of voting at the elections, was alike an unjust and tyrannical attempt. He could not see why a Peer, because he was a Peer, was to be deprived of his rights as a citizen. In point of fact, this question of Reform had, in the hands of the hon. Member for Birmingham, degenerated into a mere money 1037 question, his object appearing to obtain as large a representation of the money-ocracy and the cottonocracy as he could at the expense of the rural districts. He would increase the influence of large towns, but totally destroy that of counties. If the hon. Member for Birmingham would pay a visit to the district of which he had the honour to be one of the representatives, he was sure that the hon. Member would be received with all courtesy, but he would learn there some useful lessons. He would find there hundreds of men, both owners and occupiers of land, as well able as himself to discuss the leading topics of the day, and possessing this advantage over the hon. Member,—that they better understood the Constitution and the true interests of their country, and that they were the enemies of all class legislation. The hon. Member would signally fail in all the rural districts in his attempts to create a disunion of classes. He would find there the unalterable convictions of all that the interests of the landowner, of the occupier, and of the labouring man, were one and inseparable. He would find there the conviction that the effect of such a legislation as had been suggested by the hon. Member would be to throw the whole burden of the taxation of the country upon the rural districts, and would find every man a determined opponent of his schemes of spoliation.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, he rose to express a hope that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke in reply, he would state whether that large portion of the empire represented by 105 Members in that House was to be totally ignored; in other words, whether they were to have a Reform Bill in reference to Ireland.
§ MR. ROUPELL
said, he had hoped, when anticipating the Reform Bill of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he should have had an opportunity of tendering the right hon. Gentleman his support; but now that he knew what that scheme was, he was equally happy in promising him his opposition. The mountain had been in labour, and had brought forth a mouse. Great expectations had been raised, but the only concession made in the scheme to popular opinion was, that which had been extorted last year by a majority of Members on the Opposition side of the House on the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King). He (Mr. Roupell) objected to all complicated franchises. He objected also to the disfranchisement of the 40s. free- 1038 holders, who had always been the exponents of liberal opinions in the counties. He hoped, in dealing with this question of Reform, the independent Members would remember the promises they had made at the hustings, and that they might have soon to present themselves again before their constituents.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he must protest against the assertion that the Conservative or country party was likely to derive any benefit whatever from the Bill proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the same time he would not say that the measure was not one which ought to receive the support of hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. It was a Bill which, while it would largely augment the number of voters, would disturb as little as any measure could possibly do that fair balance of interests which had been for so many years maintained in that House.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, in replying on a Motion for the introduction of a Bill, the duties of a Member are generally confined to answering inquiries made in the course of the debate; and I will, in the first place, notice those that have been made during the discussion this evening. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnorshire (Sir George Lewis) who followed me, inquired what the intentions of the Government are with respect to the seats obtained by the disfranchisement of Sudbury and St. Albans. The intention of the Government with respect to those seats is, that they should still remain in reserve, and probably, in the course of our discussions on the Bill now before the House, there may be opportunities of deliberating on the best mode of apportioning them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson) asked me whether the Government could give any estimate of the reduction of the constituency by transferring the borough freeholders from the county. Sir, there are two Returns, I believe, on the table of the House already on that subject; the amount of those voters has been accurately stated by another hon. Member of the House in the course of the debate; and I believe the last Return is 105,000. The same hon. Gentleman asked me whether the 40s. freeholder will vote for the borough in which he resides. He will vote for the borough in which he resides if his 40s. qualification is within that borough.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Then he will have the advantage of polling by means of a voting paper. Again, I am asked whether it is intended that an elector who is an occupier of a £10 house, and who is also a 40s. freeholder in the borough where the £10 house is, is to have only one vote. Sir, it is intended that he should have only one vote, and I think one vote ought to satisfy his ambition in electing the representative of the town in which he lives. An hon. Gentleman inquired of me whether I could give him any calculation of the number of voters that will be added to the constituency by the different schemes which I have introduced to-night. It will be impossible to give any estimate that can be depended upon. The increase, no doubt, will be very considerable, exceeding half a million, I have no hesitation in saying; but the suffrage will really depend so much on the energy of individuals—so many, I think, will be invited by these avenues being thrown open to them for advancing to the possession of the suffrage—that it is totally impossible to give that dry statistical estimate of the number which you could have if it depended merely upon property, occupation, or rating, and which could be ascertained from returns. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay) asked whether the cost of polling-places for boroughs as well as that of those for counties was to be defrayed by the locality. It will be found that by this Bill such is not to be the case wherever, as we contemplate will frequently occur, a public room suitable for the purpose can be obtained without any expense. We do not propose that the candidate should be freed from that expenditure which is a legitimate one; but I think that if the hon. Member paid £400 for polling-places at the last election for Hull his accounts ought to have been scrutinized with more severity by the election officer. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Steuart), inquired whether by a £10 qualification in counties is meant only a qualification which arises from the possession of a house. The Bill means a qualification of £10 which arises from the occupation of lands and tenements. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. John Locke), denounced the Bill on account of the innovation of restricting, for the first time, the votes of borough freeholders to the locality 1040 in which their qualification arises; and this was the point at which the discussion, leaving the course, usual on such occasions as the present, when hon. Members generally restrict themselves to inquiries, took a new turn. The moment it passed the gangway, inquiries ceased, and the debate afforded opinions upon the measure. I do not the least complain of that, but I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will not object to my discriminating the character of the debate. Below the gangway, opinions are given upon the measure; above the gangway, there are merely modest inquiries as to its intent. The hon. Gentleman who complained that he had to-day travelled 200 miles to hear my speech and was extremely disappointed with it (Mr. F. Crossley), said that he and his friends wish to maintain myself and my friends in power until they are prepared to take our places. But he added that of all the grievances under which they are suffering at present, the deficiency which they most experience is a want of leaders. Now, Sir, I think that after the discussion of to-night, that want can hardly be felt. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell), the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), and the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), have announced themselves as the leaders of the movement; and, represented by men of that character, authority and experience, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman who travelled 200 miles to-day can regret the great effort which he has made. The noble Lord the Member for London has not hesitated a moment in expressing his opinion upon this Bill. He has two objections, which at once decide his course upon the subject. The noble Lord had the advantage of being acquainted with the provisions of this Bill, before they were detailed by me in the House to-night. He must have become acquainted with them through that corrupt agency to which the hon. Member for Birmingham alluded. All I can say with respect to that transaction is, that I witnessed the publication of that information with dismay; and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord would have acquitted me, of all Members of Her Majesty's Government, of any combination of that kind; for anything more suicidal than to consent to that revelation before making the statement which I have had to make, and which by the indulgence of the House, and almost to my own astonishment, I have succeeded in 1041 making, I cannot conceive. Well, Sir, the noble Lord rests his opposition to this measure on two grand principles. First of all, he cannot consent to any measure which disfranchises in counties the ancient freeholds which have existed for 300 or 400 years. I have had to look into this subject, and I am sorry to say that the great majority of the freeholds which I have considered are not of that ancient duration. They are of much more modern days, and have been created in a much simpler and more manufacturing style than the territorial traditions of the noble Lord seem to contemplate. "But," says the noble Lord, "I will never consent to it; I will never be party to a Bill which disfranchises the hardworking man." What did the noble Lord do in his last Reform Bill? What was the first feature in his last Bill? Why, a proposition to disfranchise all the freemen in England. So much for this principle of the noble Lord. A great and perilous innovation to restrict the borough freeholders to vote in the locality in which their qualification exists! Why, if I mistake not, it was part of the first Reform Bill. It was advocated by Lord Althorp, then the leader of the House of Commons; and in the very interesting and able speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Knightley) last year, in the course of the debate upon the Motion of the Member for Surrey (Mr. Locke King), the attention of the House was recalled to these very circumstances. Lord Althorp when he brought forward the Reform Bill was in favour of providing that the freeholders who resided in boroughs should vote where their qualification was found. The noble Lord says that he is for mixing the county and the town. He knows nothing more to be deprecated than that we should prevent the people of the towns going to vote in the counties. I also am in favour of that blending of interests. I know nothing more advantageous than that people should go from the towns and vote for the counties, but let them vote for qualifications in the counties. But, Sir, what happened in 1832? Why, it was the carrying of the Chandos clause alone that made Lord Althorp say that he would no longer insist upon the borough freeholders being restricted to their towns. It was in consequence of votes being given to £50 tenants. at-will that that resolution was arrived at; and yet this is a great 1042 and perilous innovation! It is an innovation which has been discussed in this House often and often; that was projected by the political colleagues of the noble Lord, and which has, as I believe, been accepted by the good sense of the country for a considerable period. It is clear that the moment you consider the county franchise in the spirit in which, on the part of the Government, I have attempted to consider it to day—the moment you put an end to that exclusive character which has been complained of in this debate, you must give the counties, not to any particular order or exclusive class, but to the inhabitants of the counties, and those who have a substantial local interest in them; and I feel persuaded that the justness of this arrangement, the logical sequence as it is of recognizing the identity of the suffrage, will not meet with that fate which has been predicted for it by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, but will be accepted by the good sense of the country. Another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox), has complained that nothing is done in the Bill fur the working classes, and the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has confirmed that complaint, and enforced it with all his vigour of expression. What we have done for the working classes may not sound so large as some of the plans which are commonly advocated for their advancement. There is nothing more easy than to make a speech and say that you are in favour of the working classes, and that you think they ought to have this power and that privilege; but then you (the Opposition) never pass any measures to do anything for the working classes. The working classes will, I think, be sensible of the advantage which they will derive from this measure, which I hope and believe will pass. Here are two avenues to the constituent power opened to all working men who possess those qualities which would entitle them to exercise that power—the savings bank suffrage and the 40s. freehold. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) tells me that we know nothing for the working classes, and arrogates to himself the peculiar privilege of being acquainted with their wants, wishes, and requirements. He says that I can know nothing about the working classes, and that I only talk to my friends behind me, and that they know nothing about the working classes. My friends know much more than the hon. Gentleman thinks, and 1043 I can assure him that I do converse with others than my friends, and that I have as good means as he has of learning what are the feelings of the working classes. I will tell the hon. Gentleman the things that have been represented to me, on what I believe to be the very best authority, and from members of the working classes most distinguished by their personal and moral qualities and intelligence. There were two things which they impressed upon me. Not knowing of the 40s. franchise, they said that that which they valued most of all was the savings' bank suffrage, and that in which they had the least confidence was the propositions of the hon. Member for Birmingham. They told me that they could not trust the hon. Member for Birmingham; they were not satisfied that under his plan the working men would exercise that privilege. But they said,—We clearly understand what a savings' bank suffrage means. We may invent more, we may devise other schemes, but this is a great boon, and one that will be much appreciated by the working classes.I believe, Sir, that is the case. Now, it is not necessary for me to trespass upon the House at any length. An hon. Gentleman (Mr. P. O'Brien) has asked me to-night what I intend to do about Ireland. Well, I thought Ireland had had a Reform Bill very recently; that it had a boon which England had not enjoyed nor Scotland. I understood that it had worked to the satisfaction of Irish Members, and I am sure that Irish Members have on several occasions expressed themselves satisfied with it; but the Government have no prejudices upon this subject, they are prepared to consider the case of Ireland, and, in fact, have considered it, and I can assure the hon. Member, in due season, after some other Bills have progressed, when this Bill has been read a second time, and the Scotch Bill has been launched, we shall have much satisfaction in submitting an Irish Bill. But the most remarkable circumstance in this discussion has been the complaint of Scotch Members, and of one in particular (Mr. Craufurd) that the Government have treated the Scottish people in a cavalier manner. Now, I took the greatest pains this evening to guard the interests and vindicate the position of Scotland. I showed the hon. Gentleman opposite that if any new principle of Reform were adopted, Scotland 1044 might probably be disfranchised to an alarming extent. I showed him that if he continued to support his friends among whom he generally sits, probably Scotland would not be represented by more Members than the Metropolitan districts, and that the surplus representations would be given to the constituents of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Roupell) who has just addressed us. It is not fair or just to allege that the Government have treated Scotland in a cavalier manner. There is one point yet remaining to which I must advert, and that is to fix the period when I shall ask the House to read this Bill a second time. Upon that subject I am in the hands of the House. I ought to observe that the Government desires to consult the feelings of the House. Had I followed my own inclinations, guided only by general considerations of public business, I should have asked the House to allow me to move the second reading on this day fortnight. If the House will consent to that day, I will fix it for that time, but I am bound to say that representations have been made to me by hon. Members upon the other side which it would not be fair for me, after what has occurred, to treat with silence, that I should name this day three weeks, but I leave that point to the House to decide. The Government are prepared to fix this day fortnight. It must be either that or this day three weeks, for the Government measure of finance must be considered. [Cries of "Three weeks."] It is, then, the understanding that I shall move the second reading of this Bill upon this day three weeks. I trust, Sir, that when that Motion is made it will be successful.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill to amend the Laws relating to the Representation of the People in England and Wales, and to facilitate the Registration and Voting of Electors, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Lord STANLEY, and General PEEL.
§ Bill presented and read 1o to be read a second time on Monday, 21st March.