Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
This House is of opinion, that it is neither just nor politic to interfere, in the manner proposed in this Bill, with the Freehold Franchise as hitherto exercised in the Counties in England and Wales; and that no re-adjustment of the Franchise will satisfy this House or the Country, which does not provide for a greater extension of the Suffrage in Cities and Boroughs than is contemplated in the present Measure,
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that he was desirous of addressing to the House 693 a few observations upon the measure submitted to their judgment by Her Majesty's Government, and also upon the course which they were invited to pursue by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. They had heard three speeches in support of the Bill from three Members of the Government, and, although admitting the great ability and eloquence of those speeches, he had been somewhat disappointed at finding them deficient in one important particular. They contained no information as to what advantage would be conferred upon the country, and what improvement would be produced in the existing constituencies of England and Wales by the adoption of the Government measure. In the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Stanley) he found a great deal of close reasoning in a somewhat narrow field, but in no part of it did the noble Lord tell the House what would be the probable result of a general election with reference to the advantages to be produced, supposing that the project of law which had been submitted to the House were adopted. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton) went at great length and with much eloquence and ability into the Government project; but the latter part of his speech would have led a stranger to suppose that some question was before the House similar to that formerly introduced by the Duke of Richmond—a measure for universal suffrage, equal electoral districts, and annual Parliaments. The right hon. Baronet displayed to the House a sort of phantom of democracy; poverty and numbers were to rule education and property; but this seemed to him to be something like an artful diversion, calculated to excite their alarms, and to withdraw their attention from the question before the House,—namely, what was the character of the measure submitted to their notice, and what would be the effect of the changes proposed to be made in the constituencies of England and Wales. He had confined his meditations upon this subject within a very limited area, and in the observations he was about to make he should restrict himself to the only subject before them—the Bill of the Government, of course accompanied by the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for the City. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies told them that two preliminary considerations ought to be present to their 694 minds before they entered into the merits of this measure of Reform. The first consideration, if he understood him rightly, was, that they must remember that it was a measure brought forward by a Conservative Government, and it could not be expected that such a Government would bring forward a measure of Reform wholly at variance with the principles of the Conservative party. He told them that there was a sentiment of party honour which should induce them to examine a measure of Reform coming from a Conservative Ministry in an indulgent spirit. Well, he admitted that there was force in that appeal as far as it related to the circumstances in which the Government was placed, but as a Member of Parliament he must, in regard to so grave a matter as Parliamentary Reform, consider as paramount to all others the question what would be the effect upon the country of the measure which the House was asked to pass. He approached a measure brought forward by the present Ministers without any prejudice whatever. He had seen them inclined to adapt themselves, as far as possible, to the circumstances and requirements of the day; nor did he know that county Members were always to be assumed incapable of supporting any but an anti-Reform Administration, because he remembered that the chief strength, or certainly a very considerable portion of the strength, for carrying the Reform Bill of 1832 was obtained from the county Members who were, after the dissolution, returned to support it. Therefore he, for one, did not at all hold the opinion that county Members were necessarily opposed to the principle of a free and fair representation of the people, and he would not turn away from the dispassionate consideration of this measure merely because it was brought forward by a Conservative Administration. Another point that had been dwelt on was that of time. The right hon. Baronet told the House that they should lose no opportunity of doing something in the cause of Reform; that the Government now furnished them with an opportunity of doing something; and that by passing the present measure, even though it were imperfect, they would gain in time what they would lose in quality. For his own part, however, he did not feel so excessively eager for Reform as to be disposed, for the sake of time, to pass any measure that in his conscience he believed to be injurious or imperfect. A great deal was said about settling the Reform question. What did 695 that expression mean? Did it mean setting the Reform question without reform—getting rid of it upon any terms? That was not such a settlement as would go beyond the walls of that House, because he thought the country, when the word "settlement" was used, understood by it the passing of a rational, well-considered, and sound measure of Parliamentary Reform, which should extend political rights to a greatly increased number of all classes of the community. That was, he felt persuaded, what the country desired and expected, and he did not believe in the existence of the apathy about which we heard so much. There had been for years past a settled conviction that Parliamentary Reform was approaching, that public questions were discussed in these days with greater quiet and a more complete reliance upon simple reason and moral suasion than in former times. That circumstance might induce many to believe that in the tranquillity of the public mind they saw apathy, but the petitions that had crowded the table of that House so soon as the Ministers of the Crown had entertained the question of Parliamentary Reform, as well as the spontaneous meetings which had taken place over the length and breadth of the land, were a convincing proof that no such thing as apathy existed; but, on the contrary, that there was an earnest desire among the intelligent portion of the community to see the question of Parliamentary Reform placed upon a firm and secure basis. Having disposed of these two matters—the question of the Reform Bill being that of a Conservative Administration, and the necessity of settling the question somehow or another during the present Session, he would now proceed to consider what it was the Government proposed to do. He did not call the present Bill a Reform Bill. It was a measure for operating in a peculiar and novel manner upon the county and borough constituencies, making little or no change with respect to an extension of the franchise to those classes which were now excluded from its exercise, but transferring voters from one electoral area to another. It made little addition to the whole number of the electoral body of the united kingdom, though, no doubt it dealt to a considerable extent with the actual ingredients of the constituencies, both in counties and boroughs. He wanted the Government to tell the House clearly and plainly what good was to come to the country from the peculiar operation which 696 they wished to perform upon the county and borough constituencies. He might put the question in another way, and that would lead him to consider the propriety of the Resolution which the noble Lord the Member for the City had submitted, as an Amendment upon the second reading of the Bill. The Government proposed to extend the £10 occupation franchise to counties, but upon two conditions—first, that there should be a withdrawal—for the future at any rate—of a portion of the freehold electors from counties; and, secondly, that there should be no reduction in the occupation franchise in boroughs. Such were the terms upon which Ministers were prepared to adopt the proposal of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King). The noble Lord the Member for the City was favourable to the extension of the £10 occupation franchise to counties, only he would make a large portion of the occupation consist in houses, and the question he raised by his Amendment was whether the conditions proposed by the Government were such as would meet the approval of the House. If they were, then he said let the Bill go to a second reading, if such be the pleasure of the House; but if they were not, then there could be no use in proceeding further with the Ministerial project, because it all hinged upon the conditions annexed to it. Now, for his own part he did not pretend to be well acquainted with Parliamentary forms and proceedings, but he had read the able work of Mr. May, who sat at their table, and had paid some attention to the subject, and he admitted that he had come to the conclusion with respect to Resolutions moved upon the second reading of Bills, that such a mode of proceeding was frequently very objectionable. But there were special cases in which that mode of proceeding was not only proper and Parliamentary, but the only effective way of proceeding, and he was of opinion that the present occasion was one in which the moving of a Resolution as an Amendment upon the second reading with the view of placing on record the special objections to the measure was strictly proper and Parliamentary. But to come to the merits of the question. The Government proposed these two conditions, the non-reduction of the borough franchise and the withdrawal of a portion of the freehold votes from counties as the terms upon which they would give a £10 occupation franchise in counties. But why was it proposed to withdraw any freehold voters from 697 counties? The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) said it was by way of counterpoise. But if it be an advantage to add £10 occupiers as voters to county constituencies, why try to counteract the influence of that new class by any counterpoise, especially by the withdrawal of the freehold voters? We should lose to a great extent the benefit of the change which we were recommended to make, because, in one breath, the Government said they were going to add a valuable class of voters to counties, and in the next they proposed to counteract the influence of the new electors by withdrawing another class of independent voters from the same electoral areas. He did not understand that mode of dealing with Parliamentary Reform. We ought not to withdraw from counties one of the independent voters whom we had got there now. He held the opinion which was entertained by Mr. Fox, that our object should be to be able to bring into activity at an election the greatest possible number of independent voters. It was well known that the present Prime Minister some years ago stated in public, that if you told him the politics of the principal landed proprietors in any county he would tell you the politics of the county Member. That statement was too sweeping, for there were counties in which independent voters exercised a very great power in the return of Members to Parliament; but if it be true to any extent to say that a few great landed proprietors could, as it were, make counties mere nomination seats, why such a proposition as the present, that with the pretence of adding to the number of independent electors in counties withdrew a valuable class of independent voters, and so counteracted and neutralized the benefit which it pretended to confer? Now, he must say that the Government had not dealt very handsomely with his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, (Mr. Locke King.) They bad adopted two of his proposals. Property qualification had been abolished, and now it was proposed to give a £10 occupation franchise to counties. But what were they going to do with East Surrey? They proposed in the present Bill to perform what he thought the Member for Sandwich (Lord Clarence Paget), would call a surgical operation of a very curious kind on the division of East Surrey. They were going to erect Croydon into an independent constituency, with new boundaries to be laid 698 down by a Commission, and a considerable area round Croydon might be thus taken in. Croydon was to be erected into an independent constituency, and all the 40s. freeholders and £50 tenants at will there, who now voted for his hon. Friend in East Surrey, would, under the provisions of the Bill, vote for Croydon, and also all the 40s. freeholders within the limits of Southwark and Lambeth would be taken from the county. Now, unless some good public reason were shown for this very peculiar operation to be performed on the division of East Surrey, he did not think that the Ministers were behaving very handsomely to the hon. Member for East Surrey. He thought that what was proposed to be done with respect to the counties would be injurious to the county constituencies on the whole, and therefore, as the matter now stood, he could not be a party to any such arrangement. With respect to the boroughs, he was one of those, who believed—it might be an old-fashioned notion—that the maintenance of the distinctive character of the borough communities was a very important element in the English constitution. He knew that as an abstract argument a great deal might be said in favour of what were called mere electoral districts; but he feared that if the distinctive character of the boroughs which were allowed to exist were to be gradually broken down by merging them in the counties, a very valuable portion of the representative system would be lost. In his opinion a community residing together, acting together, and having local self-government, were thereby accustomed to turn their attention to public affairs, and communities of that sort were calculated to return a valuable class of men to that House, and so good a class of men would not be obtained from mere electoral districts as by the maintenance of the distinctive character of county and borough constituencies, though he did not say that boroughs might not be too small. Now, under the now Bill, the borough constituencies would be composed of precisely the same ingredients as the county constituencies, and he did not like the idea, though he admitted the close reasoning and able argument of the noble Lord the Secretary for India, of the creation of a set of nonresident voters for boroughs. The House was told that there was a clause in the Bill resembling the old Splitting Act, which would prevent the creation of faggot votes, but he was a Member of a Committee of that 699 House in 1846, he believed, and that Committee had occasion to go into the whole question of the creation of fictitious votes. Legal men of great experience told the Committee that it was quite impossible to prevent the creation of these fictitious votes by any law which might be passed, and that the old Splitting Act had been a delusion and was easily evaded. One solicitor said that he would defy the Legislature to pass a law which dexterous conveyancers would not be able to evade by the creation of faggot votes. Therefore it was an alarming proposition to give the means to persons at a distance, living perhaps in London—perhaps the Carlton or Reform Clubs, or other great political associations—it was an alarming proposition, he repeated, to give to those wealthy and powerful bodies the means of creating non-resident voters for boroughs, and of thereby altogether counteracting at elections the voice of the borough communities. Was that House to be a party to such measures as these, and for the sake of settling Reform? This measure would not settle Reform, but would produce universal dissatisfaction; and he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), when he said, in one of his able speeches on Reform, that "there was no Bill so revolutionary as a bad Bill." Therefore, it behoved the House to hesitate before consenting to the present proposition. Let him ask what was the meaning of the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies in claiming for himself and his friends the merit of being the especial guardians of the middle classes? They were now, then, the friends of the middle classes, and no longer "the farmers' friends," as they used to be. If the cry now was to be "the friends of the middle classes," he conceived that nothing could be devised more dangerous than that a party in the State should base itself on the exclusion of the great mass of the working people from political power by arrogating to themselves to be the especial friends of the middle classes. For one he disliked the doctrine of being a friend to any particular class. He wished to see a free, fair, and full representation of the people, and he felt that unless the House was prepared to reduce the borough franchise, there could not be admitted within the electoral pale any considerable portion of the working classes of this country. If it be not right in the opinion of the Government to admit the working classes to any 700 considerable share of political power, let that be openly declared, but let them not be mocked with this delusion of a franchise, founded on the possession of £60 in a savings' bank. Rather tell them that they were unfit, and that the time had not come for their admission. But if this were not the opinion of the Government, he maintained that there was no other mode that he knew of at present for admitting any considerable numbers of the industrial classes of this country to the exercise of electoral power, but by the reduction of the franchise in boroughs and cities. With these opinions how ought a Member to vote? The Bill was called a Reform Bill, and it was said that it might be amended in Committee, but it was not said that when material and essential Amendments were introduced, the Government would adopt them. When the ship was filled with the valuable cargo which his right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) would put in it, then the captain and crew would abandon it. What, then, was the use of trusting to Amendments in Committee? If the matter stood in a different position he should be the last man to argue in favour of any extreme course, and say that because a Bill did not contain everything that he approved, therefore it must be rejected on the second reading. But this was a totally different case. The Reform Bill must be viewed as a whole—as a well-considered scheme brought in by the Government; and the House could not deal with a question of that kind, affecting the highest interests of the nation, as it would with a turnpike Bill, in which Amendments on every clause might be introduced. Besides, the right hon. Member for Stroud would, after all, kill and destroy the Bill by slow torture. Would it not be better, then, to save the time of the House by disposing of the essential preliminary conditions by a division on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London? He said that such a course was fairest to the Government and the House. Hon. Members were not proceeding under any misconception; they knew now what they had before them, and what they were about to do. But if they went into Committee, as they were recommended to do, without any understanding as to what was to be adopted by the Government, and carried through Parliament, when the Bill came out of Committee they would be taking the most un- 701 Parliamentary and puerile course he had ever heard suggested with respect to the treatment of any great public measure. Invitations had been copiously poured out that other schemes of Reform should be suggested, in order that new issues might he raised to withdraw the attention of the House from the subject before it. He had confined his observations simply to the Bill and the Amendment. he would not travel from the question, and shadow forth schemes of Reform which, in his opinion, might be desirable, nor would he allude to the schemes of Reform which other hon. Members thought should be adopted. Parliamentary Reform was essentially a question that must be dealt with by the Ministers of the Crown. Parliamentary Reform must be carried—if it ever was carried—by a Government that had the confidence of Parliament; and his desire was, that they might live to see the day when, after the adoption of a good measure of Parliamentary Reform, they might have Governments that enjoyed the confidence of the House of Commons, and Houses of Commons that enjoyed the confidence of the country.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he thought the House must feel considerable gratification that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had at last expressed his opinions upon Parliamentary Reform, for during the last ten years that right hon. Gentleman had studiously maintained perfect silence in that House on the question of Reform; and even when an opportunity was lately afforded him of disburdening his mind before his own constituents, he with great discretion referred his audience to his hon. Friend (Mr. Bright) who sat near him. It must, however, be satisfactory to the House to have heard on this subject, not merely the personal opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but the views of what was called the Manchester School, which had been placed before them for the first time in the course of this debate. The House had now at all events the whole issue before them and were acquainted with the views of every party. The right hon. Gentleman had criticized many features in this Bill, to which he had given the name of "conditions;" but they were features which the noble Lord had put forward by his Amendment as the principles of the measure. He thought the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to be aware what the real question before the House was, or what was the only issue that could be 702 raised upon that question. He thought that the House would admit that in discussing the reform of the electoral system, so far as the extension of the suffrage was concerned, in England or in any free country, there could only be these two principles at issue—first, the principle of extending the electoral franchise with some qualification of fitness, which for want of any safer test always rested ultimately on the basis of property; and, secondly, the antagonistic principle of the extension of the electoral franchise without limit, and as a matter of equal right to all citizens, that is, on the basis of numbers. He was astonished that the noble Member for the City of London had been so far able to mystify the House as to lead it to suppose that any other principle could be at issue. If there were in this question of Reform any struggle of principles it must be ultimately that struggle between property and numbers which was inherent in every free community. There was nothing new in the struggle or unintelligible: it was the old struggle between the centuries and tribes of ancient Rome, the inevitable, perhaps insolvable problem how to reconcile the claims of the many and the much. The Reform Bill now before the House was based upon the first of the two principles he had mentioned, namely, that of a limiting qualification, and he was not surprised that it should be opposed by the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (.Mr. M. Gibson) who complained that no provision was made in the measure for the extension of the suffrage to all classes. The Government had not pretended to do so. That was not the principle which they held. That was the principle adopted by the right hon. Member; but he (Mr. Adderley) would like to know which of these principles was adopted by the noble Member for the City of London. That noble Lord must adopt the one or the other; he must advocate the extension of the electoral franchise with a limit of qualification on the basis of property, or as a matter of right on the basis of numbers. If the noble Lord adopted the principle of numbers, which was maintained by those sitting around him, let him not deceive himself or others as to the result which they contemplated. He must be prepared to go to the extreme length of it. He might halt for a time at any intermediate point, such as rating suffrage, but he must accept the same conclusion with those whose views he was 703 adopting—namely, that of universal suffrage, and the corresponding substitute for independence—the Ballot. If, however, the noble Lord still stood by the old principle of the extension of the franchise qualified on the basis of property, he was opposing the Government on a false issue, because they held the same principle, and he was deceiving the hon. Gentlemen around him, with whom he appeared for the time to agree in principle, who must know, unless they were stone blind, after having been so frequently deceived, that the noble Lord would disappoint them in the end. He had carefully listened to what had fallen from the noble Lord, and he had refreshed his memory by referring to what he had said before, but still he was at a loss to understand which principle the noble Lord adopted. At one moment the noble Lord induced the hon. Gentlemen behind him to believe that he was in full agreement with them, but no sooner did they flatter themselves that this was the case than he intimated that in his opinion the lower classes were not to be trusted with the franchise. Were they to arrive at the principle of his present Motion from his speech? The noble Lord had told them, "I defended reform when I was young; I will defend it now that I am old." Was the meaning of that sentiment to be gathered from an emphasis upon the word "I?" Did the noble Lord mean, "I defended Reform when I was young, and I, and no one else, shall defend it now I am old?" When a Reform Bill, which it was admitted might be made a good one, was produced by a party notoriously most cautious of change, and when there was a golden opportunity for attaining at least some step in the way of Reform, the noble Lord turned his back upon the measure, merely because it proceeded not from himself or from his own party, but from men whom he arbitrarily condemned as unfit reformers. Judging from the noble Lord's conduct he should rather have said, "I defended reform when I was young; I will defeat it now I am old." No sooner was this Bill introduced than the noble Lord expressed his dislike to it, and asked Her Majesty's Government, "What have you to do with Reform?" In fact, the noble Lord treated Reform as if it were a monopoly in his hands and in those of his friends. He confounded measures with principles, and talked of a Reform Party, or no Reform party, with the same in appreciation of principle as the 704 French papers show in talking of a War Party or a Peace Party. As far as he understood the noble Lord's opposition to the Bill, it was based upon points simply of detail and of degree, which were represented by him for the occasion as principles, while the right hon. Gentleman conversely concealed his opposition to principles by discussing the question as if it were merely one of degree. Take, for instance, the second point in the Resolution, the non-extension of the borough franchise. The noble Lord, as he understood, proposed a £6, or £8, while the Bill contained a £10 rental franchise; and the only point at issue, therefore, was the difference between these two amounts. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) on the other hand, spoke of a rating suffrage, proposing this, however, not as a final measure, but as a present step towards universal suffrage. Thus, both the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman each took a false issue, the one treating a difference between £8 and £10 as the essence of the Bill, the other concealing a really essential difference under the appearance of detail; and by a species of transverse reasoning found, as it were, a neutral ground for the purpose of upsetting the Government. If the noble Lord insisted in practically treating the second reading as a committal of the Bill he would mantain the £10 franchise as sufficiently low and preferable to £8. Supposing all the other franchises comprised in the Bill to be conceded, as well as the £10 occupation franchise, he would ask what man of industry and intelligence throughout the country need be excluded? In point of fact the Bill would amount to universal suffrage under the mildest possible check of industry and intelligence. What man in whom these qualities were united, and who really desired a vote, would not be able to obtain one? He (Mr. Adderley) only wished there were more who desired the possession of a vote. The existence of such a desire on the part of all working men was assumed; but was it really the working men who wished for the suffrage, or hon. Members opposite who desired to have both them and their votes in their own power. In point of fact, there were throughout the country a great number of persons who might register, but never did; and a great number who were registered, but never exercised the franchise. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright), when lately addressing his constituents, and turning into ridicule the 705 savings' bank franchise, drew a highly coloured picture of the working man, denying himself many innocent enjoyments in order to lay by sufficent money to qualify him for the franchise, and had spoken as though the last drop of gall in the poor man's cup of bitterness when by pressure or sickness he was forced to withdraw his deposit, would be the loss of his vote. Why any intelligent artisan would laugh at such a statement. If you gave to men who really wished to have a vote an opportunity of acquiring one by the exercise of some little self-denial and providence, you would do much more good to them and the country at largo than by offering it indiscriminately to every man in the country. With regard to the skilled artisans of Birmingham, he believed that he knew a great deal more about them than the hon. Member who represented them did, or perhaps ever would do. No persons were more fit to enjoy the franchise; among them were to be found some of the most independent voters in the kingdom. They allowed themselves to be at the beck of no master, for they knew themselves to be more necessary to their employers than their employers were to them. They discussed political affairs together, and were capable of forming an independent opinion respecting them. They had their debating clubs, and not long ago the question discussed at one of them, and discussed at great length, was, whether the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) really represented them in this House, the result being that in the final vote the hon. Gentleman had a majority of one in his favour. He (Mr. Adderley) did not] wish to prevent any such men from possessing votes. Nobody did. The question was at what point of social position real independent individual action begins; and whether men who had not a position of independence, and who would be simply the tools of demagogues, should be entrusted with votes, which from their numerical advantage would act to the practical disfranchisement of these very men who had shown themselves ready to discuss political questions and intelligent enough to understand them. He would put this dilemma to the hon. Member. If he regarded the franchise as equally the right of all—if he looked at this as a numerical question simply—why had he always argued for an extension of the franchise on the ground of the spread of education and intelligence? But if the spread of education and intelligence furnished a fair ground for 706 the extension of the franchise, the greater the intelligence and the higher the standard of education the greater the fitness for the suffrage, and the larger should be the share in its exercise. What, then, became of the hon. Member's argument, founded on numbers and on equality of right? He defied him to escape from the dilemma. The hon. Gentleman was even more unfortunate, for he started with an educational plea for the franchise; but his proposition worked out so as to confer electoral power exactly in an inverse ratio to the standard of education, so that the lowest class in point of education would by its numbers have an ascendancy over every other class. With regard to the other feature of the Amendment of the noble Lord—the alleged interference with the freehold franchise in boroughs, it was simply a provision to facilitate the extension of the franchise designed by the Bill by completing the abrogation of the distinction between the town and county franchise which was first begun to be abrogated by the noble Lord's Act of 1832; and, having done so, then to make votes and qualifications conterminous. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) more justly called these points conditions of the Bill—the noble Lord called them its principles, and his objection was, that in the proposed process, the Bill incidentally disfranchised, to a certain extent, or rather transferred, some 45,000 freeholders, and that in doing so it violated their prescriptive right. The term was rather a significant one, for "right to vote" was the favourite phrase on the Opposition side, and "prescription" on the Ministerial side of the House, and the noble Lord, by his studied ambiguity, thus invited sympathy from both sides. The noble Lord had quoted "Blackstone" in support of his views, and said he found that that high authority stated that the 40s. freeholders had enjoyed for centuries the right of voting for counties. The noble Lord, however, had put the very converse of the proposition laid down in "Blackstone" upon the subject, which was, not that the 40s. freeholders had a prescriptive right to vote for counties, but that 40s. was the limit below which a freehold, which was then the only qualification, gave no title to a vote. It was a limit, not a rule. The distinction between the nature of Town and County franchise had been broken through by the Chandos clause, and it seemed to the Government that the present was not an unfavourable opportunity to 707 make use of that new state of things to establish a counterpoise—if the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken would have it so termed—to the otherwise immense urban influence which would by the Bill be introduced into the counties. If hon. Members would only look to the unrepresented towns in England, all of which this Bill proposed to enfranchise into the county registers, they would perceive how considerable the urban influence, to which he alluded, would be under the operation of the Government proposal, and they therefore deemed it expedient to make such an adjustment as that which the right hon. Gentleman opposite condemned. And when the right hon. Gentleman said that the extension of the franchise in counties was counterbalanced by the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, he should like to ask what were the comparative numbers in both cases? The right hon. Gentleman would, he thought, have done well to procure some more accurate statistical information before he spoke so positively as to what would be the effect of the Government proposal. The £10 occupiers would double many county constituencies, while the transferred Borough Freeholders would not reduce them by a quarter. The right hon. Gentleman contended that the Government proposal would, if carried out, not give a single additional voter; but his calculation upon the point was very different indeed from that of the right hon. Gentleman, for he believed it would add no less than 400,000 voters, or nearly 50 per cent to the present constituencies of England. [" No, no!"] The right hon. Gentleman, however, seemed to be of the opposite opinion, for he had contended that the enfranchisements and disfranchisements of the Bill made an exact counterpoise.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
I did not say it would create an exact counterpoise. I simply referred to the opinion expressed by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil), and proceeded to show that a counterpoise would be effect- ed to some extent.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
Those words, "to some extent," were, he could not help thinking, somewhat vague. But the argument of the right hon. Gentleman meant that the operation of one of the proposals to which he was referring would be to neutralize the other, or it meant nothing. In his (Mr. Adderley's) own county the now £10 occupation votes which would be 708 created under the Bill would, he believed, be about 7,000 or 8,000, while the number of urban electors who might, if they chose, keep to their own towns, would not amount to more than 2,500. Therefore, to say that the one proposal completely neutralized the other was, he not could help thinking, to say the least of it, a very loose way of speaking. He (Mr. Adderley) agreed with the noble Lord that it was desirable to have a mixture in county registers of a certain amount of urban influence. But the noble Lord surely did not wish for an overwhelming admission. The noble Lord would not wish two-thirds of the county votes to be urban and one-third rural? Besides which, though it had been often said, that there were many towns under the domination of landlords, it was forgotten that there were many counties which were quite as largely urban. But the noble Lord the Member for London further objected to the Bill because it appeared to repeal in some measure the Act of 1832, inasmuch as it would place considerable power in the hands of the landlords by means of trickery of every sort to swamp the constituencies in boroughs. [Lord J. RUSSELL: In small boroughs.] Well, the noble Lord was very particular about boroughs, but he seemed totally to disregard the position in which counties might be placed. It had never, of course, occurred to the noble Lord that the same description of trickery as that of which he spoke might be practised in counties by the system of fagot votes, that similar means might be used to swamp Rutland which would operate injuriously in Manchester. The game was one which two can play at, but be knew from experience—not, he was happy to say, from any experience of his own—that there was scarcely a single instance in which the intention of the speculator in such a game was not frustrated. Though two could play, neither could win, for there was no hold on the stakes which in the process, became the independent property of the holders. The noble Lord, too, must bear in mind that there was another mode of playing those tricks to which he had alluded. Would not a £6 franchise, as proposed by the noble Lord, offer the same means for trickery which he appeared so much to fear? he (Mr. Adderley) knew Birmingham pretty well, and he could not help thinking that a good many votes might be fabricated there at a £6 rental. He would go further and state that his experience as a 709 Member of Election Committees led him to form the opinion that even with a £10 franchise much could be effected by great Propietors towards swamping a borough. He should now pass from the arguments of the noble Lord to those of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. Gibson) who seemed to think that uniformity of suffrage would inevitably lead to equal electoral districts. The inequality in distribution of equal franchises which would otherwise exist, the right hon. Gentleman contended, would be intolerable. Equal votes must be equally divided. But would not the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for London to fix the borough franchise at £6, while that in the counties remained at £10, be equally open to the objection which the right hon. Gentleman had urged upon that point? Did the right hon. Gentleman desire to get rid of one inequality by proposing another? In his opinion, the inequality which the noble Lord would introduce would be far more intolerable than that of which the right hon. Gentleman complained. He would take, for instance, the town of Birmingham, about one-half of which was contained within the limits of the borough. What would be the effect of the noble Lord's proposal in that case? Why, that one-half the inhabitants of the town would have votes at a £6 rental, while the other half, exactly similarly situated, would be on the county register limited to the higher franchise of a £10 rental. The question, then, lay between two descriptions of inequality, of which he contended the one proposed by the Government was the most tolerable. If all in equality must be got rid of, then would it be impossible to stop short of the zero, which was the point to which the Manchester school were tending. The noble Lord maintained that the operation of the Bill would be to do a great injustice, by enabling the landlords to influence elections in boroughs; but he should like to know if no injustice existed under the present system. He would take his own case. He was a considerable landowner in Birmingham, and had the highest respect for his representative, whom he saw opposite; but he had not the slightest influence either for or against his return, while at the same time there was within the town no less than one-third of the county constituency of Warwickshire. Was this the just principle with which the noble Lord was afraid the Bill might interfere? Having made these remarks, he did not I 710 wish to trespass longer upon the attention of the House, but he could not sit down without making an appeal to the great Whig party, and asking those who had taken the lead in connection with the question of Reform, whether they were prepared, instead of going into Committee on the Bill, and endeavouring to settle that question at a most auspicious moment, to submit it to the dangers of a hopeless agitation, which would be the inevitable result of the success of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for London. he spoke of agitation, for he felt assured that if the Bill of the Government were thrown out a violent agitation would be got up throughout the country; not so much because there was any strong feeling upon the subject as because political agitators—as was the case in 1831 and 1832—would, for their own purposes, seek to raise a storm in the public mind. A dangerous agitation might be excited whenever the country might be suffering under distress from other causes. If those who agreed with the supporters of the Bill, on the principle that property ought to be the basis of the electoral system, handed over the question to those who avowed the opposite principle, and who advocated an universal franchise without limitation, based simply on numbers—he warned the House of the consequences. They knew what had occurred in other countries that had arrived at universal suffrage. When the citizenship of Rome was opened to all, the commonwealth was dissolved. The opinions of the hon. Member fur Birmingham (Mr. Bright), in favour of assimilating the institutions of England to those of America, were disputed by no less an authority than the American President himself, no mean authority against a foreigner, on the example of his own country. Mr. Buchanan believed that England would have cause to repent such an assimilation. But universal suffrage would not even work in England as well as in America. Old associations, settled institutions, habits of attachment and prescription gave no such tabula rasa for experiments here. Universal suffrage, by bringing every class to the level of the lowest and most numerous, would not arrive, at least in England, at liberty; but, by opening a path to vulgar wealth or strong ambition, would would serve to break down the power of the middle classes, and destroy by direct process of degradation what he would call 711 the beneficent power of what is now a national and popular Assembly.
Sir, one great advantage I think that has been derived from this prolonged discussion—we are beginning at last to understand the real point at issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) has very much elucidated that point, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down would have done much better if, instead of discussing points that are not raised in this debate—if, instead of arguing the question of a £6 or £10 franchise, he had explained to the House what really was the policy of the Government he rose to defend. I, in common with the rest of the House, have listened with admiration to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I must say, that eloquent as that speech was throughout—and argumentative as it was in part—it seems to me that there is a very clear and obvious answer to it, and so far from having any injurious effect on those against whom it was directed, it recoils upon those on whose behalf it was made. The right hon. Baronet has expatiated upon the infinite advantages that would be conferred by this Bill, and said we had now an opportunity of settling this question; but if Her Majesty's Government desired to confer those great benefits and advantages upon the people, what right had they to fetter their Bill with conditions which rendered it perfectly impossible that the House could accept it? What right had Her Majesty's Government to traffic and barter with the people of this country and say, except you will take what we offer, the people of England shall not have that which we are prepared to give them? Recollect how detestable their offerings are; how repugnant to the feelings of Gentlemen on both sides of the House—how loathsome to the people of the nation who have covered the table with petitions against the Bill, which render the passing of it entirely impossible. I do not wish to misrepresent the Government; but I ask, was it right to make conditions of this kind, or traffic upon the advantages they offered? Was there any plea of necessity in favour of those conditions? This subject of Reform has been before the country for years, and the ingenuity of clever men had been exercised to discover all the grievances that could be found in reference to the existing state of things. We have 712 heard of bribery and intimidation, close counties, and nomination boroughs, but, strange to say, not one petition has ever been presented to the House complaining of the undue action of the borough influence on the counties. Not one newspaper article ever seen by me, has brought forward this matter as an evil, which it was necessary to change. Not one of the theoretical writers on reform has said.—Here is a grievance that it is necessary to redress; and yet the Government, without the smallest possible pressure upon them—without any demand from the country—chose to put this proposition in the front of the battle, and to say,—without this no measure of reform shall be passed. When I recollect that the Government has parted with two of their colleagues on this question, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that this was the principle of his Bill, and that the noble Lord the Secretary for India has declared that this was the point on which the Government would not recede, I am perfectly justified in saying that these are conditions precedent, and that whether we go into Committee or not, no reform can be got from the Government for the country, unless we choose to accept of those terms. I, in common with many others, am desirous that this great question of reform should be settled in this Session of Parliament; I fully admit that it is the business of the Government to take the lead, and propose a Bill; but when they say we shall have no reform, unless accompanied with conditions which we cannot possibly accept, the Government deliberately fails in performing the pledge it has given. If they will lay upon the table clauses withdrawing these obnoxious principles, I am willing not to press them in any hostile spirit, but will accept the terms thus offered. It must be done, however, openly on their part, because it is idle to juggle with the House as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done. The Government have declared their principle and put it into words, and we cannot assent to the second reading until there is a clear recession on their part from the principles they have avowed. We have, from the first, received this measure in the fairest spirit, therefore the cry of faction is most unfounded and unjust. There is, however, something worse than this. The Solicitor General was last evening put up to do that, which from my personal knowledge of him, I believe to be alien to his character and habits, and quite op- 713 posed to his feelings. I allude to the coarse personality with which he assailed the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. He chose to call this Resolution a "dodge," insinuating thereby that it was an unfair movement on the part of the noble Lord. For ray own part, I am quite satisfied that the course pursued by the noble Lord was the most honourable, the most manly, and the most suitable to the occasion that could have been devised. The Resolution differs from the ordinary course of proceeding in this, that it states the reasons why we dissent from the Bill; and so far from being calculated to catch votes, it repels the votes of those who object to the Bill, but who do not concur in the terms of the Resolution. I can assure the House, that when I came here on the night of the introduction of the Bill, it was with the determination to give it, as far as I conscientiously could, my cordial support, and to yield minor points of difference rather than retard the settlement of this great question. It was in this spirit that I spoke shortly after the Chancellor of the Exchequer sat down, and though I did not then fully comprehend, what I cannot help now calling the enormity of the scheme, yet I called the attention of the House to those particular objections to which the Resolution is directed; and which, unless expunged from the Bill, must prove fatal to it. When the Bill had been delivered, and I had carefully perused it, I was so struck with the magnitude of the evils proposed, that in directing the attention of the House to them, I trespassed on our regulations, and was called to order for deviating from the question that was then before the House. The principle of the Bill is uniformity of suffrage, or in other words, the establishment of electoral districts, varying from one another in area, wealth, and population, but perfectly similar as to the mode in which the owners and occupiers of property within them are to exercise the suffrage. The Bill, in short, provides for unequal, as contradistinguished from equal, electoral districts. The proposal for equal electoral districts has been some time before the country, and has not met with much favour, for the argument against it;—namely, that such a change would interfere with vested rights, be alien to our usages and habits, and would obliterate ancient landmarks—has hitherto been deemed conclusive. But should this Bill pass, and thus uniformity of suffrage be everywhere established and these bound- 714 ary Commissioners mix up town and country, then this argument would hereafter be totally taken away from us. Moreover, the practical evils incident to this uniformity of suffrage in the boroughs, or smaller electoral districts would, as I will show to the House, be so great that we should soon be compelled to adopt this unpopular principle of equal electoral districts. Sir, I confess I am surprised that a Minister of the Crown should, in this the nineteenth century, have seriously proposed to the House a new principle in the theory of our representation. I am not disposed, cither from habit or education, from the circumstances in which I am here placed, or from the constituency I represent, to cling too closely to the past: but when I look back to the Parliamentary history of this country, and read how the seeds of liberty were planted amongst us, I find that the freeholders of counties in former times, whether their property was within or without represented boroughs, elected the knights of the shire; whilst the inhabitants of the towns returned to Parliament their free burgesses, and that these two bodies combined together to resist the encroachments of arbitrary power, and to settle deep the foundations of the constitution of this country. This distinction between county and borough Members lives to the present time: it has grown with our growth, and become entwined with our habits and usages. To this day no absentee owner of lands within a borough votes for the borough the suffrage is vested, and rightly vested, in the occupiers and inhabitants. On the other hand, the county Member represents the whole land in the county, whether within or without the limits of any Parliamentary borough. The only exception—and I admit it is an exception—to the perfect maintenance of this principle is the famous Chandos clause which was carried by the county gentlemen against the promoters of reform. Now, I wish the House and the country to consider whether it is wise to abolish this distinction for ever. Certain clauses have been laid upon the table on which I do not intend to dwell; as they do not profess to do more than to mitigate the injustice and to smooth the way to the ultimate change, and it is the ultimate change itself against which I am prepared to contend. By these clauses the borough freeholders are treated as the pot-wallopers were treated by the Reform Bill—that is to say, existing rights are saved, but their descendants are cut oft from all 715 influence in the county. I am not, as I said, going to dwell either upon the injustice to the individuals affected, or upon the novelty in the constitution of giving a man an option where he will vote. I am willing to admit that if a case were made out of a great public good resulting from the change, we might make a sacrifice of private rights in the same manner as was clone by the Reform Bill; but so far from any good being likely to arise from this alteration, I contend that the influence of the borough freeholders in the county is beneficial and ought to be perpetuated. The effect of this influence is, that the sympathies of the county Members are extended, and they are made much more efficient members than they would be if this influence were destroyed. If it had been shown that purely commercial and manufacturing men were usurping the representation of the counties and neglecting the interests of the rural portion of the constituency, some case would be made out for the change; but we know as a matter of fact that no usurpation does take place, and that the gentlemen who represent the counties have the closest and warmest sympathy with the agricultural interest. I will take an instance for the purpose of proving how well the influence of the borough freeholders works upon county Members. There is my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), he enjoys, and deserves to enjoy, the confidence of the commercial part of his constituency as of the agricultural. He takes part in our debates on shipping, and sits upon Committees on that and kindred subjects. He represents, therefore, the whole land of the county, that which is applied to commercial and manufacturing purposes as well as the exclusively rural districts, and the result is that he is a better Member, in all senses of the term more useful, even to his agricultural constituents, than if his energies and sympathies had been restricted and confined to their limited wants and necessities. I say, therefore, that the disfranchisement of the borough freeholders, so far from being a thing desirable in itself—so far from being an object for which we should sacrifice the rights of individuals—it is on the contrary an evil to be deprecated, and a change for the worse in our constitution. I now come to the other portion of the scheme, namely, the provisions in this Bill enabling the nonresident owners of lands within the limits of the boroughs to vote for them. Now, 716 in order to understand the enormity of this proposal we must recollect three things—first, that this Bill retains the smallest boroughs in the country; secondly, that it provides for absentees voting at a distance by means of polling-papers; and thirdly, that it enables persons without occupation or interest in a borough to acquire a vote for it by purchasing a small interest in land. When we consider that in the town of Banbury—where an hon. Friend of mine was elected the other day—that he won his election by one vote —and that the hon. Gentleman who now represents Harwich had only a preponderance of some three or four of the frail and notorious electors of Harwich—we can form some estimate of the importance of a vote in places like these. If this Bill became law, any gentleman of moderate wealth might make himself an elector of half the small boroughs in the kingdom, and at a general election might sit quietly in his library in London and without the slightest trouble to himself exercise the political influence he had purchased. But this is not half the evil. A clever electioneering agent might be instructed to buy up property in all these different small boroughs, and thus qualify the club of gentlemen who employed him to give votes all over the kingdom. Far be it for me to say that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House would alone avail themselves of practices of this kind. I have no doubt that the same thing would be done on one side as on the other. I will not undertake to say whether, in the long run, the Carlton or the Reform Club would win in the race; but this I will undertake to say, that the inhabitants themselves of Banbury and such other small towns would have no more to do with the representation of their own town than the owls that haunted the ruins of Gatton or the sheep that fed on the plains where old Sarum once stood. I think I have now pointed out some of the evils of this Bill. What, on the other hand, docs it give us? Even if the savings' bank franchise and the other advantages expatiated on by the hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies were ten times as great as they are, they would weigh but as a feather in the scale in favour of the Bill. I regret, Sir, that this measure has been brought forward. I consider the consideration of it by the country as most injurious. The Bill tends to excite feelings of discord between town and county. The idea has been suggested in every 717 borough in the country that the great Conservative party in England, when they were called upon to produce a Reform Bill, thought not of the admitted grievances and well-founded complaints of the people, but availed themselves of the opportunity to obtain party advantages for themselves. For my own part, I regard the interests of the landowner, the manufacturer, and the merchant, as identical. Their interest is the welfare and prosperity of the country; and that prosperity is best promoted by harmony and good feeling among all classes. I hoped that upon the repeal of the Corn Laws all jealousies and suspicions amongst us would have been sot at rest: but this Bill has sown the seeds of discord again, and you may depend upon it that the true interests of the Conservative party is, that at the very earliest moment possible this Bill should be withdrawn—this discussion terminated—and all proceedings connected with it buried in oblivion.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson), whom he was sorry not then to see in his place. The right hon. Gentleman was one of the first members of that political party with which he was connected to address the House during this debate. He (Mr. Bentinck) was in great hopes that they should have elicited from the right hon. Gentleman some information as to what were the views and intentions of those with whom he was politically associated, and as to the course they would take in the event of the Resolution of the noble Lord being successful in rejecting the Bill before the House. But though the right hon. Gentleman spoke with his usual eloquence, though he spoke most ably for a period of about half an hour, yet as far as he (Mr. Bentinck) could understand him, the right hon. Gentleman had told them nothing. From only one observation in the right hon. Gentleman's speech had he been able to extract anything as to the real character of the policy and the views of his political party. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the numerous spontaneous meetings that had taken place throughout the country in favour of Reform, and which he said were attended by all the educated and intelligent classes of the population. Now he (Mr. Bentinck), could recollect what had really taken place at. most of those meetings. Whatever might have been the original objects of those meetings they resulted in the adop- 718 tion of resolutions by large majorities in favour of annual Parliaments, universal suffrage, and vote by ballot ["No, no."] hon. Gentlemen might express their dissent from that statement, and he (Mr. Bentinck), might certainly be in error in one or two cases; but he again said that it appeared from the published accounts, a large majority of the so meetings, which the right hon. Gentleman said were attended by highly educated and intelligent men, had almost unanimously advocated the principles of universal suffrage, annual Parliaments, and vote by ballot. He felt, therefore, that he was perfectly justified in assuming that these were the views of his right hon. Friend and of the political party with which he acted, and that they were determined to give full effect to them whenever the time came that they might assume the direction of public affairs. He (Mr. Bentinck) thought it fitting at the commencement of the Session to give his opinion upon the Government measure of Reform. He thought the issue raised by the noble Lord's Resolution was one of a totally different character to the question raised by the Motion for the second reading of the Bill. The issue it proposed was one of mere detail, which was quite irrelevant. He did not see how it was possible to discuss two different questions at the same time. His own feelings, however, on the question of Reform were the same as they had ever been; he had always thought the measure of 1832 was one framed in a spirit of party, and not in a spirit of justice, and he had consequently always objected to that measure and the anomalies and wrongs it had established in our system of representation. Without going more generally into the details of the Government Bill now proposed, he might say that, although he objected to many of them, he saw nothing that justified him in opposing the second reading, after which he should do his best, in common with everybody else so disposed, to amend the Bill in Committee wherever he thought amendment necessary. His chief objection to the Bill was that it did not grapple sufficiently with the existing state of things as to county representation. It was admitted on all sides, as it seemed to him, that the rural districts were not adequately represented in Parliament, and his objection to the present Bill was that it did not extend a full measure of justice to them; but again he would say he thought the time had not yet come for dealing with that 719 question, because the noble Lord had interposed himself between that discussion and the House, calling upon them to discuss not the details of the Government Bill, but whether they agreed with him in his political views, and were willing that he and his party should be transferred from that side of the House to the other. He was much struck with the speech of the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman); it was a manly and straightforward speech, and contained an element that few of the addresses to that House possessed, for it seemed to be a bonâ fide statement of what the right hon. Member really thought upon the subject. He fully concurred in the sentiment mainly characterising that speech—namely, that it was a principal object, both with that House and the country, that no impediment should be thrown in the way of the question of Reform, because no man could say in what temper of the people or under what state of things they might thereafter be called upon to deal with that question. The right hon. Member for Stroud had also pointed out what would be the position of affairs supposing the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) succeeded in carrying his Resolution and in ejecting the present Government from office. The right hon. Gentleman might be taken as a high authority on that point; and when he told them that nothing but confusion, discord, and great inconvenience to the public service could possibly arise from a successful termination to the noble Lord's Motion, he thought it was impossible a stronger argument could be brought against that Motion. It was not often that he had the good fortune to agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), but he felt bound to say that he concurred most cordially with every word that had fallen from him on a recent occasion, when he had made an appeal to the House as to the expediency of making this question a battle-field of party faction when the affairs of Europe bore the aspect they had then assumed, and when the political affairs of this country might prevent her acting with that power as a mediator which under more favourable circumstances she might be able to exercise. Nor were his fears as to the deplorable consequences of a change of Government lessened by the fact mentioned in The Times of that morning, that the Austrian cavalry had passed the Ticino, and thus made an actual aggression upon the Sardinian territory. How soon, then, might not a material change take place in 720 all European affairs, and render the utmost harmony at home necessary to our welfare. The speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield showed that he was disposed to take a national view of the question, while the noble Lord the Member for the City of London proved that in forcing on an Amendment of this kind before the House he bad nothing in view but his own party objects. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) had put a most important point before the House. The question, he had said, was not whether they should admit the working classes to the tranchise, but whether they were willing to transfer the whole of the elective power into the hands of the working classes. Such was the increased intelligence of the working classes, that they themselves were perfectly convinced of the impossibility of that being done, and this accounted for the small number of petitions that had been presented in connection with the great question of Reform. he believed that upon no public question so important as that of Reform, which had ever occupied the attention of that House, had so few petitions been presented. The working classes saw the absurdity of the proposals made, as it was said, in their favour. They felt that the whole of the agitation now going on was not a national attempt to alter the representation, but merely a political attempt to transfer power from one side to the other. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had argued that freeholders ought to be kept in the counties because they added to the Liberal element. That was doubtless a very good argument for himself, but how it would be viewed by those who did not think it was absolutely necessary that the Liberal element should be increased, remained an open question. The argument, however, was evidence of the noble Lord's readiness to make the question of Reform a struggle for party predominance. But he had also gone on to say that the people of this country, if disappointed in their wish to obtain a larger share in the representation, would become irritable, and that the mass would not rely upon reason or moral force alone in the agitation that would ensue. There perhaps could not be a greater authority on such a subject than the noble Lord; for if he had not been very much belied, no man in 1832 did more to attempt to overcome reason by force, and the reluctance of Parliament by intimidation. The course, therefore, that he would take, should he fail in persuading the 721 House to take his view of the question of Reform, was now known. Then the noble Lord asked what course the Government would take if his own Amendment were carried? Again the same spirit by which he was actuated throughout his speech thus manifested itself—it was a struggle for party predominance. The noble Lord had also enumerated the numerous beneficial measures which had resulted from the passing of the last Reform Bill as an argument in favour of further Reform. He would not discuss with the noble Lord the beneficial character of those measures. It was sufficient to remark that the noble Lord had been himself opposed to the majority of those measures which he now called beneficial. The noble Lord wound up his eloquent speech by saying that he had been the friend of reform when young, and that he would not desert it now he was old. That was a noble sentiment eloquently expressed. But his Lordship, though he had certainly given a very good description of the earliest and latest stages of his political career, had entirely omitted any description of the intermediate period. If any distinguished historian were to devote his time to writing a history of the middle ages of the noble Lord, it would be found that so long as he was in office he was a determined opponent to Reform. During that period he took the word "finality" for his motto, and held that no further Reform was required. But when his power began to wane, when he found himself in circumstances of political difficulty, it occurred to him that some alteration was required. In fact, the question of Reform was a perfect barometer by which those outside the House could tell exactly the noble Lord's political position. In dealing with the question now he had only exerted himself to place as much impediment in the way as possible, but without giving any answer as to what steps he would take and the measures he would bring forward if he wore to change places with the present Government. It was to be hoped that some friend of the noble Lord would come forward and explain these matters. The House had been told by the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. foster) that the noble Lord rowed in the same boat with the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and that was explained to mean that they would be found voting in the same lobby. He (Mr. Bentinck) had had more experience of boats than lobbies, and he could not help think- 722 ing that the noble Lord would find it a dangerous experiment, for the boat rowed by the hon. Member for Birmingham was of a very different construction to that which the noble Lord had been in the habit of using; in nautical parlance that difference existed in the gunwale, which was much. lower, and the result would most likely be that the noble Lord would "catch a crab" the inevitable consequence of which would be that he would sprawl backwards into the bottom of the boat; and judging from the crew, he feared that when once they got him in that position they would keep him there, and not allow him to get up again. [Laughter.] This was a serious question. [ Laughter.] It was, indeed; and the House really ought to know more about this boat. Was the noble Lord to be coxswain? Who was to steer the boat?—the noble Lord or the hon. Member for Birmingham? In what direction was it to be steered? And if down stream (as was to be anticipated) at what pace? The House had a right to be informed with regard to this new combination or coalition. [Cries of"No, no!"] Hon. Members opposite cried "No, no." Was it, or was it not, a fact? The House had the authority of the hon. Member for Walsall for believing that it was—and the statement of that hon. Gentleman had not been denied by either the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) or the hon. Member (Mr. Bright). It must, therefore, be taken as assented to, and, being so, the question was who was to be the leader? All the House knew was that it had been publicly asserted that the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Birmingham were politically associated. [Lord JOHN" RUSSELL: No, no!] Up to that moment the House had not heard the slightest contradiction given to the statement of the fact that a coalition existed; and he was the last man in the world to impugn the veracity of the hon. Member for Walsall. He hoped some Friend of the noble Lord would tell the House, as he was precluded by the forms of the House from speaking again upon the question, and was, therefore, unable to do so, what difference existed between his own opinions and those of the hon. Member for Birmingham; because until he explained his views on the question of Reform, he had no right to impede the progress of a Bill introduced for the purpose by others. He merely played the part of an obstructor, not of a statesman. He believed that every man who voted for the noble Lord's Resolution, 723 wanting that information, would show that he was determined to oppose the progress of Reform at all hazards. He did not mean to reproach hon. Members opposite with the existence of a great variety of opinions among them. Were he to do so, possibly they might retaliate; but under the circumstances, it was a fair question to ask what would be the result of the noble Lord's Amendment being carried with such a difference of opinion existing among them, as that exhibited and increased by the admission he had induced the noble Lord to make that evening for the first time? It would be impossible that the question of Reform, if the noble Lord's party and the Government changed places, could be satisfactorily dealt with, and carried through the House in a business like manner. If they went on bandying this question from one side to the other they would lower the House in the estimation of the country, shake the present constitution to pieces, and find themselves floundering in all the political degradation of republican America, until at last they were driven—as a last refuge—to the despotic institutions of France. He could not see that the course suggested by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London would have any other result but the creation of confusion and discord from time to time until the House at last lost the confidence of the people, and representative institutions were no longer respected. He regarded the noble Lord's Resolution as an obstacle in the way of an attempt to make a fair settlement of the question, and he called upon the hon. Members of that House not to allow themselves to be made the puppets of party faction; and the tools of personal ambition.
§ MR. W. H. DENISON
said, in reference to this matter the House had to satisfy the just expectations of non-electors as well as electors, and, having asked himself whether the Bill was likely to do this he had arrived at the conclusion that it would not. As regarded the counties it appeared that the object of this Bill was to enfranchise voters in one direction, and to disfranchise them in another; as regarded boroughs to do nothing at all. He thought, therefore, that if it were passed it would have no effect in stopping agitation. It would not prove a permanent and lasting measure of Reform, and indeed it appeared to him that it had not many friends in the House. Those who had spoken in support of it from the Ministerial 724 side of the House, had rather offered an apology for thanks spoken in praise of its provisions. The enemies of the Bill were active, and its friends were lukewarm, and the want of petitions and meetings in its favour showed that the country was not favourable to it. It had been said that they might amend the Bill in Committee which amounted to this—that they might strike out its principle and insert another, or that they might bring in a new Bill in Committee which the Government might accept on the third reading. If that was what they were to do, the simplest course would have been for the Government to bring forward a Bill containing a preamble with blank clauses, for that would at least have saved them the trouble of framing this Bill. He should vote for the Amendment. Agreeing in the principle of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord he should give it his support.
MR. LOCKE KING
said, he feared that he should be looked upon as a very ungrateful person by Her Majesty's Government, when he said that he could not support the second reading; but he thought he could not fairly be charged with ingratitude when it was remembered that almost every hon. Member on their own side of the House, had either spoken against the Bill or found fault with its details. He quite admitted that, after the great concessions which had been made by the Government to the principle for which he had contended for some years—that of extending the county franchise to £10 occupiers—they might almost have expected him to vote in favour of the Bill. They had, however, so spoilt and mutilated the measure he had proposed, having deprived it of its very life and spirit, that he found it impossible to do so. His Bill was of a very simple nature, and merely proposed to extend the franchise to a very deserving and intelligent class of persons in counties, who did not now possess it. His measure did not propose to disfranchise a single person, nor did it profess to be in any respect a Reform Bill. The measure of the Government was a Reform Bill, and one of its most objectionable features was, that it proposed to disfranchise, without their consent, a class of persons who now possessed the franchise in counties. If, indeed, they took the amended clauses of the Bill, it proposed that these persona should not be disfranchised if they were at the trouble of re-registering their votes; but even then it provided that their suc- 725 cessors, heirs, and assigns, and all future purchasers of freeholds in boroughs should be disqualified from voting for counties. In the course of the debate some reference had been made to the measure which be had for several years past submitted to the House, and the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert), in his eloquent speech the other night, had given what he was pleased to call a history of that Bill, from which he drew a certain inference; but as the right hon. Gentleman's history was not quite a correct one, he (Mr. Locke King) would state what the facts really were. The House would, he was sure, draw a different inference from his narrative of the facts. He first introduced the County Franchise Bill in 1850, not in 1851, find he did so in consequence of a speech made by the noble Member for the City of London, on a Motion which was brought forward annually by the late Mr. Hume, for the extension of the franchise. In opposing Mr. Hume's Motion the noble Lord said he would not oppose all measures of Reform; but that the Government would be ready to consider any reasonable proposition which was submitted to the House. It was then late in the Session; but he (Mr. Locke King) took the first opportunity of proposing the measure for enlarging the county franchise, which, if it had any fault, was too moderate. That Motion was made on the 9th of July, 1850, and was rejected, principally on the ground of the late period of the Session, by 159 votes to 100. On the 20th of February, 1851, he again brought forward his Motion, when the ayes were 100 and the noes 52. That had been described—but, he thought, improperly—as a "snatch" division, for he believed that a great number of hon. Members purposely stayed away from the House in order that the Motion might be carried. In the following year the Government of the Earl of Derby was in power; and on the 27th of April he brought forward his Motion, which was supported by many hon. Gentlemen who had previously voted against it. On that occasion the ayes were 149 and the noes 202. He repeated his Motion in 1853, but withdrew it in consequence of a promise made by the noble Member for the City. The noble Lord fulfilled that promise in 1854, his Bill embracing the principle for which he (Mr. Locke King) had contended. He did not renew his Motion in 1855 and 1856, on account of the war, but he again brought it forward on 726 the 19th of February, 1857, when the ayes were 179 and the noes 192. Last year he obtained leave to bring in the Bill without a division; but on the 10th of June a division took place on the second reading, when the ayes were 226 and the noes 168. His right hon. Friend the Member for South Wilts said he alluded to these circumstances because he wished to ascertain why it was that the Government had assented to the adoption of a £10 franchise. He (Mr. Locke King) thought that in deference to the will of the House, considering that the "ayes" in favour of his Motion had never been below 100, and that they had gradually increased to 149, 179, and 226, it was quite impossible for the Government to do otherwise than incorporate his proposition in their Reform Bill. The principle he had advocated had made rapid progress in public favour, although he had never resorted to out-of-door agitation to obtain its adoption, and had not even alluded to it on the hustings at his own election. The right hon. Gentleman had complained that the title of his Bill had been changed. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman why that change had taken place. The right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) proposed that part of the occupation should consist of a dwelling-house, and a change in the title was therefore necessary, but the principle of the Bill—that of a £10 franchise—remained the same. The sum was put in italics because that was the usual course, unless it was included in the title of the Bill. It had been said that he had not pressed this Bill last year, because, being a keen observer, he knew the general feeling was against the measure. No such thing. It could not be said, after such a division as had taken place, that the feeling of the House was against his Bill, but notice was given of so many Amendments on going into Committee, that he felt it would have been impossible to press the measure last year. There were Amendments by Mr. Stewart, Mr. Bentinck, Mr. Drummond, Mr. Knight, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Pugh, Mr. Leslie, and Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest. To one of the Amendments which stood in the name of Mr. Bentinck he should not have objected. It was,—"That it be an instruction to the Committee to make provisions for the disfranchisement of small boroughs." He was extremely sorry that he could not give his support to the Bill. He felt grateful to hon. Gentlemen opposite for undertaking 727 the thankless task of forming a Government when they were in a minority, and on that side there was a powerful majority, happily for them, disunited, but ready to eject them from power whenever they could agree upon any question. His noble Friend (Lord John Russell) had said that it was the duty of the Government to propose a Reform Bill. He differed from him. He did not think it the duty of a provisional Government to propose any Bill of the kind, still less of a Tory Government, for the Liberal Members felt that they were touching the question with very unhallowed hands. They felt a natural jealousy of a Tory Government meddling with it in any way. They felt that it was their province, and regarded with suspicion anything which proceeded from their opponents. He must say, that these suspicions were not ill-founded, and that this Bill, which purported to be a Reform Bill, was admirably framed for keeping the present Government in office almost in perpetuity. He could hardly expect much to be done by hon. Gentlemen placed in their circumstances; but he did expect that any Government which thought it right to propose a Reform Bill in 1859 would have deemed it necessary at all events to adopt some of the principles which were in the Bill of 1832, He did expect that such indefensible absurdities as Calne and Arundel would be consigned to the same tomb as Gatton and Sarum, and that boroughs, the names of which would hardly be known if they did not send Members to Parliament, would not be preserved. In all the elements of further reform the Bill was wholly wanting. If it passed it would settle nothing. There would be the same grounds for agitation, and there would be annual Motions for further measures of reform. In 1832 the noble Lord the Member for the City of London said, that Schedule A and the £10 borough franchise were the pillars of the Reform Bill. He believed that an extension of the franchise in boroughs and counties must be the pillars of a Reform Bill now. Hon. Gentlemen opposite could not forget their antecedents. They knew that the small boroughs had been of vast use to them, and they could not be expected to enfranchise large towns, when it was remembered that the same party objected to transfer the Members for East Retford to the then unrepresented towns of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, or Sheffield. He was extremely grateful to the Government for the great concession they made 728 in extending the franchise in counties, but "startled at the sound themselves had made," in the same breath they proposed a wholesale disfranchisement of county electors who happened to have freeholds in boroughs. By that fell swoop it was proposed to disfranchise the most liberal and the most intelligent of county electors, and it seemed to be dictated by a lurking feeling of revenge because it was owing to those freeholders that Free Trade was passed. Men felt so strongly on that question that they purchased freeholds solely for the purpose of influencing county elections, and, as he was brought in by the independent freeholders of East Surrey to rescue that division from the Protectionists, it would be most ungrateful in him to assent to their disfranchisement. Such a shuffling of the cards was not the right way to deal with the question. The right way was to ascertain where political capacity really existed, and to disfranchise small boroughs where it did not exist. Four points must be attended to in any future Reform Bill; first, the disfranchisement of small boroughs; second, the enfranchisement of large and wealthy towns; third, the extension of the franchise in counties; and fourth, the extension of the franchise in boroughs, so as to include a substantial portion of the working classes. The Reform Bill was wholly wanting in those elements, and therefore unworthy of consideration.
§ MR. DUTTON
said, he should vote against the Amendment of the noble Lord, not because he objected to the principles of the Resolution, for in those principles he entirely agreed, but because he believed the proper time to consider them was when the Bill was in Committee. It was, in fact, only in Committee that this great question of Reform, by whomsoever introduced, could be properly dealt with. He thought it was neither just nor politic to interfere with the borough freeholders, who for so many centuries had enjoyed the privileges which it was proposed to take from them. He could speak, as well as the noble Lord, of the great antiquity of borough freeholds. The noble Lord traced them to William the Conqueror. In his own part of the country he knew an instance of a freeholder who could go back to nearly the same date—to William Rufus—and he believed that he lived now in the same locality as his family did in those days. He wished the Government had taken the advice of his two right hon. Friends who had seceded from the Cabinet, and who 729 had seceded, as he thought, under circumstances which reflected great credit upon the integrity of their political character, and, as experience had already proved, upon their judgment also. An objection had been raised to the savings' banks clause, but it was simply the negative objection that the clause would be inoperative and would not work. It was said that the amount was too high, but, as far as he could learn, there was no objection on the part of the Government to lower it to £40, or even £30, if such were the will of the House. But even without any reduction, a large class of operatives—namely, artisans who were in the receipt of wages of 6s. or 7s. a day, were very well able to qualify for a vote under the £60 clause. The amount was too small to be invested in foreign railways and debentures, and they were thus often tempted to lend their money at a high rate of interest to small tradesmen in difficulties, and with the usual condition of a high rate of interest—small security for their capital. The savings bank offered to these operatives the best investment they could have, and the effect of the clause would, he thought, be beneficial in inculcating habits of prudence and forethought. He should vote against the Amendment of the noble Lord, although with great pain. When the Bill got into Committee, if it ever reached that stage, he should ask the House to adopt the Amendments which he thought the Bill required.
§ Mr. W. J. FOX
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down agreed with the Amendment, and yet announced his determination to vote against it. He dissented from the principle of the Bill, which was uniformity of suffrage, yet he declared be should vote for the second reading. How the hon. Member reconciled these views and intentions it was the hon. Member's business to solve. The hon. Member said be would put his Amendments into the Bill after the second reading. But these Amendments went to the very heart and principle of the Bill. The Opposition offered the Government the opportunity of remoulding the Bill, but they declared that if it were not done they would reject it. He had listened very anxiously throughout this debate to learn what were the great accusations against the working classes, and these accusations certainly ought to have been brought into greater prominence. They had heard strong laudations of the middle classes. They 730 were told that they really governed the country, and they were praised for having obtained the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the other great and excellent measures passed since the Reform Act. He had nothing to say against these praises, since he had been in sympathy with the middle classes in supporting these measures, but they came very oddly from the very party by which all these measures had been opposed. For a quarter of a century the middle classes had struggled for certain principles, and now, hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had fought tooth and nail against them, were smitten with the deepest admiration of the middle classes. He wished to remind these hon. Gentlemen that the middle classes had at this moment many objects still at heart. They were opposed to church rates, yet hon. Gentlemen opposite resisted the abolition of church rates. The middle classes were friendly to the Ballot. The middle classes were solicitous that the working classes should be admitted to the franchise, while hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to their admission. What then became of these magnificent laudations of the middle classes as the ruling power of the country? There was another thing. The great objection, so far as he could discover, to the admission of the working classes was, that they were so numerous that they would swamp the classes above them, and hon. Members opposite declared that the worst thing that could happen to this country was, that it should be governed by one great class. Well, but who were the middle classes? Surely they were more numerous than the classes above them. If the argument was worth anything, that the legislation of the country ought not to be in the hands of a single class, it applied as strongly to the present Government by the middle class as to the Government by the working class, which was more numerous still, and resembled the middle class in being alike diversified in opinions and views. It appeared to him that the disapprobation of the Bill deepened as the debate proceeded. It had always been the hope of this country that a new Reform Bill would provide for the emancipation of the working class. It was the great object to be accomplished. The working class and the middle class carried the Reform Bill of 1832 by their union and energy, with the distinct understanding that as the working classes then with great magnanimity forewent their own admission, and yet assisted in the agita- 731 tion, they were in their turn to be helped by the middle class. For this they had waited year after year, and now a bribe was held out to the middle classes, who were praised, exalted, petted and rewarded, in order to reconcile them to a measure that excluded the working classes, and thus sought to make the middle classes false and treacherous to their own implied contract. He, for one, did not wish to enfranchise the working classes by driblets. Parliament did not so act in that glorious measure—the emancipation of the negroes. They did not say we will first emancipate those negroes who have cleared so many acres of land; then, after some few years we will emancipate those who are five feet seven inches high; and then we will emancipate some other class equally arbitrarily chosen. No, they emancipated them at once; they declared that henceforward they were free men, and thus the measure was of a magnitude and nobleness equivalent to the occasion. The effect upon Europe and the world was consequently much more propitious to the cause of truth, justice, liberty and freedom than any gradual emancipation. The effect of the emancipation of the working classes would be analagous, for they were, in fact, a slave class. They had nothing to do with the laws but to obey them. They paid taxes, but they had no share in the power that voted them. Hon. Members, perhaps, could hardly conceive the feelings of those classes on this subject. He knew how they felt, for it was not till he was forty years old that he himself had a vote, and he knew the sense of wrong and even of bitterness engendered by the exclusion. Hon. Gentlemen talked of the qualifications that a voter ought to possess. According to them he must be acquainted with home politics, with foreign politics, with political history, with this, that, and the other, with so much in short that if as many qualifications were required of a Member of that House it would be a marvel if a great portion of them got through their examination. Candidates upon the hustings were of two classes. The first were men who had made politics a life-long study, who by their speeches, writings, and deeds belonged to the country, and who might properly be entrusted with its destiny. The second class were men of high local standing, such as merchants, manufacturers, and great landowners, who were properly and fairly looked up to in their localities, and who were returned as fitting representa- 732 tives of the several interests with which they were connected. Now, the working classes were judges of both these classes, although they did not belong either to one or the other. Now that newspapers were so common and public men lived in houses of glass, men of national reputation were as well known to the inhabitants of any particular district as people who had passed all their days among them. Both in this case and in the case of local men, the working classes might be fairly intrusted with the work, not of legislating, but of selecting persons who were fitted to govern the country. It was said that they were not great political economists; but who was? Accurate knowledge on this point was not so common that the working classes need be reflected upon for wanting it. Then they were described as having very much impeded the operations of the Anti-Corn Law League; but as far back as 1815 when the Corn Laws took the shape under which they had recently existed, the working men had protested against them, and in this way had shown that they were better political economists than even the great merchants of Manchester. Again, in 1832, it was they who generally anticipated that the reformed Parliament would abolish the Corn Laws. True, they held aloof from the League, but they had reasons for doing so, one of which was because the master manufacturers had opposed the Ten Hours Bill, and another was because they thought Free Trade ought to be preceded by Parliamentary Reform. But they only kept aloof for a time, and, if the working classes made a mistake for a few years, he asked did not the landowners and others make a, still greater mistake, and cling to protection still more closely? Then it was said that if the working classes had possessed power in this House at the time the Ten Hours Bill passed, the limitation of adult labour would have been included in the provisions of that measure. He did not believe it. When agitation on this subject was warmest he could not recollect a single instance in which the factory operatives petitioned for the limitation of their own hours of labour. They never went beyond the protection of women and children, who certainly stood in need of protection. Another argument brought forward was that the working classes in a particular locality did not like hoot-making machines, and had struck in consequence. Well, certainly it was a mistake on their part to resist the introduction of now ma- 733 chinery; but when one remembered how fiercely the proctors had opposed an improvement in the law which affected their interests, and how loudly they had called for compensation in consequence, hon. Gentlemen would perhaps have more consideration for the operatives who fell into a mistake of this sort. But, in point of fact, machine-breaking, rick burning, and all such violence had passed away like a cloud, and mechanics' institutions had spread abroad a much better spirit. The next argument advanced was that though the working classes might be wise, and honest, and loyal, still, whatever their qualifications were, it was to be feared that all power would pass into their hands. Now, he took that to be one of the greatest chimeras possible. Working men were divided among themselves, like every other class, and they would no more act in opposition to those above them in the social scale than the middle classes had done. They would follow various sets of leaders; they would have in view various objects; and surely the history of the last twenty-five years showed that a class might be intrusted with the influence which the franchise conferred without making war upon other classes, or seeking to destroy existing institutions. In listening to the able and eloquent speech in which the Bill had been introduced, and the very eloquent speech delivered by the Colonial Secretary in its support, he could not help calling to mind that nearly thirty years ago he had had the honour of being introduced to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Baronet. They met then with a unity of feeling, being among those who went furthest in a conviction of the necessity of altering the old exclusive Tory system which prevailed before 1832. A great change had since come over both right hon. Gentlemen, He did not twit them on that score; he made no accusation; he freely conceded that they might both have had clear and strong reasons for their change of opinion. He did not say of them what Goldsmith said of Burke: —Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.He did not wish to insinuate any change of that kind, but he would say to these right hon. Gentlemen, "Stand as fairly acquitted as you may of the change in yourselves, but make allowance for the unchanged working classes." During all 734 the time that had since elapsed what had they seen in them to give rise to feelings of condemnation rather than of sympathy, of exclusion rather than of comprehension? What crime could they lay to their charge? What was their behaviour when all Europe was convulsed? What had they been in times of war and times of peace, in times of prosperity and in times of privation? Had they not borne all like true and honest men, who well deserved the praises that had been heaped upon the middle classes? They had borne with patience and with hope deferred the refusal of their political rights. They had been put off with promise after promise by Government after Government. They still cherished the unextinguishable conviction in their minds that they deserved the franchise—the unextinguishable hope that they might one day obtain it. He trusted that they would not only be included soon within the pale of the constitution, but that they would be received with a joyous and a hearty welcome.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down deserved great credit for having removed the debate from the arena of party conflict and for making a clear way towards discussing the question whether this measure was really a judicious Bill for amending the representation of the people. Of the hon. Member's speech he must say, however, that wise and sound as were his premisses, his conclusions limped lazily after them. He had himself as much respect for the working classes as the hon. Member, but it did not follow from this that he was as willing to vest them with political power. But before they could come to the consideration of the Bill, there was a bar interposed in the Amendment of the noble Lord, and the various other Resolutions which prevented their arriving at the real issue. Speaking as he did from that side of the House he could still, for his own part, condemn such Resolutions with a clean breast and a clear conscience. The two parties had indeed changed their seats last year in consequence of their vote on the abstract Resolution of the hon. Member for Ashton, which prevented them from coming to the consideration of the second reading of the Conspiracy Bill. But he himself had voted with the 99 against the introduction of that measure, and so his vote upon that Resolution was one against the second reading itself, and not one in favour of the proposition of the Member 735 for Ashton. This system of introducing abstract resolutions was one which, though it might be useful in serving a purpose for the time was simply playing pitch-and-toss with the dignity of legislation. He remembered when he was a young man at the University there was a debating society called the Union, at which abstract questions used to be discussed—such as whether Milton or Shakespear were the greater poet? whether the condemnation of Aristides was justifiable? whether the execution of Lord William Russell was defensible? and so on—the debates were both amusing and exciting, and much interest was often felt on the division upon the resolutions moved; for second readings were unknown in that society. No doubt this plan was useful to train men of tender years for public discussion; but it was rather hard that in the great council of the nation they should be carried back to the system of their youth in settling large and important questions by an abstract resolution. As to the Motion itself of the noble Lord, it must be observed that while it laid down an extension of the borough franchise beyond that which now was provided for in the Bill before the House, as well as the retention of the rights of the borough freeholders as indispensable in any satisfactory Reform Bill, it was careful not to state in which direction that extension was to take place. Nothing was mentioned in the Resolutions as to going lower than the £10 limit in respect of occupiers. Accordingly, assuming on the one hand that the Government gave up the transfer of the borough freeholders, and on the other that it lowered the proposed savings' bank franchise from £60 to £40 or £30, and enlarged the numbers of dissenting ministers enfranchisable for each chapel from two to three, then in the letter, if not in the spirit, the Resolution of the noble Lord would have been complied with, and so it might be accepted, and yet the Bill be read the second time—not that he proposed to accept the Resolution—far from it. It was, indeed, nothing more than the spider's web to catch the support of stray votes; but the web was too thin, and the meshes were too weak—although, to be sure, no man was more competent to hit the defects of a Reform Bill than the noble Lord who had himself introduced two—one in 1852, and the other in 1854, neither of which had even attained the dignity of a second reading. But to come to the question itself under 736 discussion. The equalization of the franchise might or might not be the principle of the Bill; but he held it was allowable to discuss the measure without any particular relation to the clause in which that was embodied. For his own part, he laid it down that the two questions to be solved were whether the Bill would propose a franchise for their counties, such as would enable them to be thoroughly represented, and whether it would also thoroughly and sufficiently represent all classes in the boroughs. These were independent of each other. The equalization or identity of the franchise, he maintained, was an impossible achievement, since they could not have the same class of voters in the counties as in the boroughs. There might be the same nominal £10 qualification in each case. But the £10 householders in a borough, living in a street, in a house one out of a row, was not the same man in his position, his tastes, or his interests as the tenant at a £10 rental in a rural district. He dismissed accordingly this question of identity. As to the £10 franchise for counties, he contended that the Government had merely taken that up as a foregone conclusion Of that House more than once affirmed on the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey. The proposal which had been insidiously called the disfranchisement of the borough freeholders did not deserve the vituperation with which it had been assailed. It seemed to him to be a very reasonable proposal; and he believed that Her Majesty's Government deserved credit for the courage they had displayed in submitting to the consideration of the House that which was sure to array against itself so much of vested interest. All the members of what used to be called "the Manchester School," and who, he presumed, might now be designated "the Birmingham party," had left out of consideration how strongly the town element would be infused into the counties by the enfranchisement of the £10 householders of the smaller towns, composed, as they would be to a great extent, of the middle and trading classes, possessing town feelings and identified with town interests. For example, in the county in which he lived the shopkeepers of Tunbridge and Tunbridge Wells, or Ramsgate and Margate, would become county voters. For his part he could see nothing unfair in preserving as a compensation to the county constituencies their rural character, as far as it could be done by 737 transferring the votes of the borough freeholders to the boroughs themselves. They had heard a great deal of what he might call the sentimental argument as to there being freeholders the descendants of persons who were freeholders and had votes in the time of William Rufus, or even William the Conqueror. This point had been pressed by his Hon, and learned Friend the Member for Newcastle. But, he asked, where they were to be found? Not, certainly, in the middle of our cities and boroughs; they did not enjoy a retreat in the Tower Hamlets; they were to be met with, and then only here and there, in the solitudes of the New Forest or in the wilds of Yorkshire. Besides, many of the boroughs, for which those ancestral freeholders would have votes had only been enfranchised since the Reform Bill of 1832, so that the whole of that mysterious veneration for this ancient franchise fell to the ground, particularly when it seemed to have been enjoyed some 200 years before there was any Parliament to vote for. These sentimental arguments applied to many voters who had only been enfranchised since the Reform Bill of 1832, and they had been used by his hon. and learned Friend with a power of Toryism—he could call it nothing else—which astonished him (Mr. Beresford Hope), coming from that quarter, and with reasons which, if they were worth anything, would go to show that the pot-wallopers, the holders by bur-gage tenure, and all that fantastic machinery of former days, ought to be restored. But his learned Friend, who he was sure was incapable of misrepresenting, went on to say that now, for the first time, we were to have a class of voters for boroughs living at a distance. Had he then forgotten that one of the main evils which the Reform Bill of 1832 corrected was the enormous preponderance of non-resident freemen, who made the contests so difficult and so expensive, and that one of the most salutary features of that measure was reducing the franchise of freemen within its present moderate and reasonable limits? Now what, he would ask, was the real grievance which the Bill would inflict upon those freeholders who, under its operation, would be transferred from the counties to the boroughs? For his own part, he could not see what great injury could be done to a man by taking away from him a vote for a county, in which he might form only one of a constituency of 10,000 electors, and giving him a vote for a borough in which 738 he would be one of 1,000, thus increasing tenfold his influence in sending a Member to Parliament. Thus much, then, for the justice of the measure so far as it affected the borough freeholders. It was clear, therefore, that this outcry about the disfranchisement of freeholders in boroughs was a sham and a delusion, and a more got-up grievance he (Mr. Beresford Hope) had never heard. It was merely a grievance upon paper. It was never even one of the questions brought before those very innocent, harmless, and most amusing meetings which had been held of late in the cause of Reform. He had found himself in the middle of one of those meetings the other day in Hyde Park, which was one of the most absurd caricatures of popular excitement he ever saw. A man was speaking, some few were listening, others were laughing and larking, and paying not the slightest attention to the orator. He himself stood about as far from that personage as he did at the present moment from the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, and a respectable working man stood close beside him. He (Mr. Beresford Hope) asked this man, who seemed to have his ears a little more open than the rest, who was talking, and he answered, "I don't know, it is only some democrat." Presently the democrat sat down, whereupon some seven men cheered, and the cheers were then taken up by a number of small boys up an elm-tree, one of whom he (Mr. Beresford Hope) heard afterwards ingenuously assert that he knew nothing whatever of the sentiments which he had so intelligently applauded. He took this meeting as an example, knowing how much it had been spoken of in The Morning Advertiser, and he concluded that those which had been held elsewhere were hardly more formidable. He should next advert to that point in connection with the question of Reform upon which the hon. Member for Oldham had laid so much stress—the enfranchisement of the working classes. The hon. Member had put his own case from his point of view with great fairness and clearness. He spoke of the emancipation of the working classes. He said that the working classes ought not to be emancipated by driblets. He referred to the Slave Emancipation Act of 1835. He spoke of the working class as a slave class. At the same time he spoke of their political knowledge; and he had urged as an argument in favour of extending the franchise to those classes their ge- 739 neral morality and intelligence. Now, he (Mr. Beresford Hope) was ready to acknowledge their possession of those qualities; but he contended that the State would be exposed to the utmost peril if they were invested with a preponderating power. He (Mr. Beresford Hope) admitted that the working class was an enlightened class, but he denied that they were a slave class, and neither could he admit that their progress in intellectual culture gave them an indefeasible right to the franchise. If we conceded such a principle as that of an indefeasible right to the suffrage, we could never stop until we arrived at universal suffrage, not merely manhood suffrage, but universal suffrage, in the full sense of the term, including the concession of votes to women, a consummation not so thoroughly improbable, in days like these, when we saw a Rev. Antoinette Brown mount the pulpit, and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell lecturing on medicine in London. And when the country got such universal suffrage, what then? The majority only would be represented, and what would then become of the minority? The minority would still have its indefeasible rights; and in short, all representative government would at last be at an end, and nothing but the absolute force of collective humanity would be able to meet the logical consequences of principles so broadly laid down. The knowledge of the working man deals with impressions—with pictures formed upon the mind—with information that comes at first hand, rather than with ideas based on reflection; it is essentially a hero-worship—a few political men of whom he has particularly heard or read, are, in his mind, the foundation of a system. That the working classes would exercise the franchise with the intention of subverting order and pulling down established institutions, he did not say; but with their dwarfed and political views they would be the tools, the instruments, and the ladders by which dangerous and designing men would rise into power. While upon that point, he might be permitted to draw the attention of hon. Members to a word of significant meaning which was to be found in what he might term the most disastrous page of the political dictionary—he alluded to the word "Socialism." It was a term which in the minds of many was synonymous with barricades, bloodshed, and thrones overturned. In its true sense, however, it meant nothing more than a foolish theory in political economy. It 740 meant an insufficient appreciation of the connection which existed between capital and interest—an insufficient knowledge of those natural laws which controlled production. It pre-supposed that the co-operation of men would stand in the place of the capital, the knowledge, and the enlarged power of an employer; and so the Socialist doctrines were often honestly held by industrious men, in the absence of knowledge of how far their industry was fed by their employer's capital. The working class must be gradually educated out of these views, which, in the meantime, must not be allowed to assume a dangerous force. Ten or fifteen years ago any idea of Socialist doctrines prevailing in this country might have been deemed imaginary; but in the year 1848 they had overwhelmed Europe. The great monarchy—now an empire—nearest to ourselves had been flooded with them; they had made their appearance in parts of Germany, and were even lifting up their heads in this country. But then it was said, on the other hand—Look at the United States. Where do you find socialism there in spite of their universal suffrage? He replied that there they did not find socialism at present, because, happily, that land was, as yet, too broad for its inhabitants. There were to be found millions upon millions of acres of virgin soil, where the workman might shoulder his axe and seek his own fortunes by proceeding to the Far West. In those parts, however, of America where population had already, to a great extent, filled up the territory, as in New York, socialist views were already assuming a dangerous proportion in the public eye. It was in an old country, where the population was dense and the struggle for subsistence was great that the spread of socialistic views was most to be apprehended. Still he should wish to see the working classes possessed of more political power than at present. But he would give the franchise, not as a right, but as a reward. ["Oh, oh!" from the Opposition], Yes, he repeated, as a reward. He hoped the whole of the Members of that House regarded their seats there as rewards for honest and conscientious discharge of duty; and why should not the working man regard his vote in the same honourable light as a Member of Parliament regarded his seat in the Legislature? He, for one, denied that a £10 franchise did not let in the artisan. He himself represented a manufacturing town of more than 20,000 inha- 741 bitants. In his own experience, therefore, he had been able to see what a £10 constituency was composed of, and to deny that the £10 franchise did let in the working as well as the middle classes was an utter perversion of the truth. It let in the foreman; it let in the man who had saved money; the frugal, the industrious, and the clever; and if the proposed savings' bank suffrage were given, another class of artisans would be thereby admitted. This savings' bank franchise—he did not say that the amount might not be a question for the Committee—would admit another class of artisans, namely, the single men, or those whose families were so small as to render it inexpedient to have houses. These would be the best of their class—the clever and the prudent. The superior artisan on all occasions gave more than his own vote. He was always the leader of some little knot—some six or eight—whom he met when he went to take refreshment at the public-house—they had not yet got the Maine Law in this country—where he read the papers, which could he procured for a small sum, and where he discussed the political and other subjects every day. When such a man gave his vote, he represented not alone himself, but those also to whom he might be considered the leader. Such a man could easily attain the franchise, if he worked through the day, and read his paper in the evening, and better still, if he frequented the Mechanics' Institutes. [An hon. MEMBER: Work all day?] Why, if he read all day, although he might be able in the end to argue as well as the hon. Member for Oldham himself, he would never get the suffrage by that means. When he voted, his vote would be, in fact, tendered by him as the representative of his own circle. If only for the sake of a quiet life he would be almost sure not to fly directly in the teeth of those with whom he was continually consorting, and thus, through him, these persons would indirectly contribute their votes. With regard to other schemes of franchise, such as those competitive examinations, which some persons had proposed, working, he supposed, a rule of three, or double rule of three sum in arithmetic, any such expedient would reduce us to a system of dogmatic the arising which might do very well in continental nations, but from which our constitution had hitherto been happily free. But there was one feature of the measure before the House in which he was not quite 742 prepared to concur. He alluded to the use of voting papers, his objections to which, however, were not based upon the same grounds as those of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The evils which he saw in the voting papers did not arise from their use, but their possible abuse. In itself the principle was a correct one, that where a constituency existed it should be polled to the very last man; but what he feared was that the collection of voting papers, unless some more stringent regulations were adopted than those contained in the Bill, would be made an engine of electioneering corruption and electioneering bullying; that the poor voter might be compelled to produce his voting-paper and sign it in the presence of the canvassing attorney for one or other candidate, with his clerk as the second witness; and that other evils might result from the system of which it was impossible at this moment to see the end. These objections, however, might be possibly remedied, and he saw no particular reason why the poll should be added up before the lapse of one or two days from its close; and why, in the second place, the system of voting-papers should not be limited to the concession to the non-resident voter, of voting by paper at the polling place nearest to his place of residence for his distant qualification, which vote duly received and certified by the returning officer there would be by him transmitted to the officials of the locality in respect of which it was tendered. Upon another point he thought the Government had exhibited very commendable courage; he alluded to the non-disfranchisement of the small boroughs. It was easy enough to gain popularity by proposing the disfranchisement of the small boroughs, and he thought, therefore, they had done well in standing out for the preservation of a few seat3, which at the worst did no harm, and at the best had been the means of returning many eminent statesmen to this House who might not otherwise have been able to take part in the great councils of the nation. It might be asked why Calne, Midhurst, Wilton, and other boroughs should return Members to this House. Good! hut, as they did return Members to the House, and had done so for a very long period, why should the right be taken away from them now? Those boroughs had returned Members sometimes to one side of the House and sometimes to the other; and but for one of them (Wilton) the House would for some time have been deprived of 743 the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts; and, but for another, Midhurst, of the talents of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. If they admitted a system of representation by a minority, which formed a part of the Reform Bill of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in 1854, then they might do away with the small boroughs; but until they did that they must fall back upon the only second-best expedient in their power—namely, the small boroughs which now happened to be in possession of the franchise. Under all these circumstances, then, seeing that the opposition to the Bill, instead of taking the manly course of an "aye" or "no" upon the second reading, rested upon an abstract principle contained in a dogmatic Resolution; that the Bill itself did not attempt high theoretic principles; that it merely went practically to work, whether sufficiently or insufficiently, to correct certain existing and acknowledged faults, and that it was a compromise—a compromise in the true sense of the term—namely, a recognition of the fact that there were two sides to the question, which by mutual concession might be settled in peace and harmony; and that, as he thought, it fairly attempted to effect an improvement in the representation of the people—he should certainly vote against the abstract Resolution of the noble Lord, and in favour of the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
Sir, if I do not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Beresford Hope) through his ingenious and elaborate speculations on this debate, it is from no disrespect to him, but his speech was so much a private and confidential communication to the Treasury Bench, that really it was very difficult for any Gentleman on this side of the House to hear what he said; but what I did hear was quite sufficient to assure me that he is not the Reformer he represented himself to be when I canvassed the borough of Dungarvon in his favour, six years ago. But to proceed to this question of Reform; I think it is in a most anomalous position. We are told by Her Majesty's Government that no one in the country cares about Reform; yet by an extraordinary coincidence, everybody is anxious to carry a Reform Bill. Now, I am not about to scan the motives or examine the antecedents of the right hon. Gentleman. I think Her Majesty's Government have 744 fully redeemed the pledge they gave last year, that they would bring in a Reform Bill. But it would have been as well, before they touched this difficult subject if they had resolved to deal with it in a more liberal spirit; that would have given some assurance of effecting a permanent settlement; because, unless the question is settled on a permanent basis, it would have been better never to have brought in a Reform Bill at all. However, Her Majesty's Government have done their duty, and it remains for the House to decide how far the measure is an improvement on the Act of 1832, and how far it offers a prospect of a permanent settlement of the question. Now why was any Reform Bill brought in? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has boldly acknowledged the merits of the Act of 1832; he called it the greatest measure that had been passed for 500 years. I believe the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly sincere when, in his able and statesmanlike speech, he called it a great measure. Then why are we now called on to interfere with that Act? It certainly possessed great merits; it gave a large share of power to the middle classes, that had not before been admitted to all the benefits of the constitution; but it had also great defects—it excluded the mass of the working classes from any share in the representation of the country. I take it therefore that if we are now asked for Reform, it is to redress the great grievances left by the Act of 1832. But does this Bill propose to do that? If there were any doubts on this point they must have been dispelled by the splendid declamation of the Secretary for the Colonies. He told us that he had a great respect for the working men, whether in fustian jackets or in smock frocks, that they were very "good fellows" rather than not, but he declined to admit them to any greater share of political power. In beautiful and eloquent language he inscribed "Resistance" and "No surrender" on the banners he has lately hoisted in the Conservative camp. And when the right hon. Gentleman twitted my right hon. Friend below me on the differences that exist on this side of the House with regard to the Ballot, and following the noble Lord the Secretary for India spoke of the present Resolution as being the same sort of Motion as the Appropriation Clause of 1835, I think it ill became him, who himself voted for that Appropriation Clause, and who has both spoken and voted in 745 favour of the Ballot. I acknowledge the great ability of the right hon. Gentleman; but when he talks of the modification that has taken place in his opinions, I regret that while he rivals Burke in the splendour of his sentiments and eloquence of his periods, he goes far beyond that distinguished statesman in the facility with which he has deserted the principles of his early Parliamentary life. The "literary Whig" has become the "conservative philosopher," and as Colonial Secretary is employed in denouncing the working classes he once so highly extolled. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to mislead the House by raising a false issue in this discussion. What did he do? He brought forward an old story of the French Revolution and the fall of the French monarchy. Why, I ask that right hon. Gentleman, who has written and read history to such purpose, what was the cause of the fall of the French monarchy? Was it not by carrying into action those very principles which he has so eloquently expressed? Was it not by the principle of no surrender to the people and no legislation on the subject of Parliamentary Reform that the French Monarchy fell? At least such is my reading of history. Should the right hon. Gentleman ever indite a history of France, I hope he will write it on principles very different from those which he advocated on Tuesday night. But the right hon. Gentleman went further. The right hon. Gentleman, carrying out this parallel of France, forgot that on a subsequent occasion it was mainly this principle of uniformity of suffrage that brought about the great revolution in France. What was the suffrage as it existed in France? Why, every man who paid direct taxes to the amount of £12 had a vote. I believe I am correctly representing the French suffrage as it was at that day. And what was the consequence? There was a broad line of demarcation between the rich and the poor. One hundred thousand voters was the whole amount of voters that the Colonial Secretary of France of that day thought could be safely permitted. And what occurred? That "ugly rush" which has been so well alluded to by the late President of the Board of Trade. The French monarchy and the French constitution fell. I need not say how. The French Minister of that day, like the English Colonial Secretary of this day, called on the middle classes to stand by their own order. They attempted to raise a war of classes. 746 And what was the conduct of the middle classes? Why they did not stand by their own order, and the Minister who called upon them to stand by their own order met a fate which I hope will never befall the right hon. Gentleman. Well, so much for this principle of identity of suffrage, which I hold to be not only dangerous but revolutionary in its tendency. I think the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. B. Hope) said something about democracy, and that was the only part of his speech that I caught. If he had read and studied that principle in the Bill I think he would have taken greater objections to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench than have been taken by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman, the at present conservative philosopher, talks of the "deplorable rubbish" that has been spoken on this question; but he has forgotten what was spoken by the Earl of Derby in 1854, and I observe that throughout the debate this is a subject which has been carefully avoided by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. The noble Lord laid down distinctly in 1854 that the true and only principle on which a Reform Bill should be brought in was the keeping up of the distinction between the suffrages in counties and boroughs. He called this the "main balance of the constitution." The noble Lord, for what reason I cannot tell, has altered his opinions on this point. But what is to become of the main balance of the constitution? My main objection to the Bill is the same as that which induced the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite to leave the Government; and, if I were to give some advice to the Treasury Bench, I would say, Get rid of this mischievous principle, take back those two good and excellent men, who will give strength and stability to your Government. Let them prepare and bring in a Reform Bill, and I take upon myself to say that their Reform Bill would receive greater support than this Reform Bill of the Government has received. Now, so much for the principle of this Bill. Let us now see how the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, who has so great a respect for working men, whether wearing fustian jackets in the town or smock frocks in the field, proposes to benefit them by this Bill. Why, Sir, it so happens in this Bill that the working classes are never recognized except when they are to be disfranchised. The working classes are never noticed in 747 this Bill except when reference is made to the dockyard labourers. The right hon. Gentleman who has so much respect for the cultivated intelligence of these mechanics, and who has, I grant, made great exertions to establish the penny press for the purpose of elevating them in the social scale, nevertheless advocates the disfranchisement of the whole body of the cultivated mechanics employed in the dockyards. That might have been very well in 1852, when the Committee that sat upon the dockyards discovered so much that was wrong in the way of intimidation and coercion. But a very different state of things has since arisen. In 1856 was published and sent a circular to the dockyards, by which the patronage was taken out of the hands of the Admiralty and given to the superintendents of the yards. And that was done mainly that the cultivated intelligence of these mechanics should have a fair chance, and that they should vote without being liable to pressure from the Admiralty of the day. But what does the right hon. Gentleman do now? Has he revoked that order? I should like to hear something from the First Lord of the Admiralty on that point. Has that order been revoked, and is the patronage now in the hands of the Admiralty? If not, how do you reconcile it with your proposition to disqualify these men, who are eminently superior and cultivated in their class? Well, this is the only part of the Bill in which labourers of the mechanic class are at all alluded to. I perfectly agree with what the hon. Member for Birmingham has said about these fancy franchises, though to say so I suppose will be according to some hon. Gentlemen on the other side to acknowledge myself a revolutionist. I agree with the hon. Member that they are not the thing for the people of England. This is merely the political millinery of Downing Street. What you want is a broad and simple test. Variety of suffrage if you like, but let the test be broad and simple. I am for a property test. I grant it is an imperfect test, but still it is a test, because, as has been well said by one of "those writers of deplorable rubbish" alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, the inheritance of property implies a guarantee of education, and the acquirement of property implies intelligence. Therefore, I say, let us have none of these fancy franchises now introduced for the first time. I will now shortly allude to the 748 details of this Bill. I take, for instance, this lodging-house franchise, which has been put forth as so great a been to those gentlemen in smock frocks and fustain jackets for whom the right hon. Gentleman has so much respect. What are the facts with regard to this class? I find on inquiry that the rent paid by these cultivated intelligent mechanics is about a tenth of the wages earned by them. You propose to give the franchise to men who rent lodgings at 8s. a week, that is to say £20 a year. That proposal will admit to the franchise not mechanics, but a class of men who earn £200 a year and upwards. This will not admit the working men of the country. In fact, it is a cunningly devised scheme to keep them out. The lodging-house franchise is only a delusion. How long is the claimant of this vote to be a resident? This franchise would he completely at the mercy of a scolding landlady or a smoky chimney. Take your savings bank franchise, a better qualification than the other I admit, but it is somewhat questionable whether it will bring in the working men. The deposit of £60 in the savings banks will merely give a vote to a body of small capitalists, but not to the working classes. I won't go into the ease of these pensioners of the Government or of the schoolmasters who are to receive certificates from the Government. I won't go into the case of the doctors and the lawyers who have got the franchise already. But I ask when these things are proposed to be given is there any one of these fancy franchises by which the working man will have the advantage of a vote? I challenge the Treasury Bench to prove that the working classes will get any advantage. In fact, we have been assured in a very ingenious manner by the noble Lord the President of the India Board that Mr. Holyoake says the working classes do not want the franchise. Does the House know who Mr. Holyoake is. I believe that when the noble Lord quoted Mr. Holyoake the House imagined that he was quoting the worthy son of a respectable Northamptonshire Baronet. Mr. Holyoake is a very clever political lecturer of free-thinking opinions. I see the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner)—and I do not wonder at at it—shaking his head very gravely. I do not wonder at it when he finds the President of the India Board, the future Prime Minister of this country, quoting an infidel lecturer as an authority for the guidance of Parliament with respect to the opinion 749 of the working classes on this subject. [Great laughter, in which Mr. Spooner joined.] Mr. Holyoake is no authority in this House. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) on the other hand said that nothing but custom and tradition could be urged for continuing the franchise to the 40s. freeholders. When I come to the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders what do I see? A variety of the most amusing opinions. The hon. Member for Maidstone said they had only been enfranchised since 1832. But why should they be disfranchised? No accusation had been brought against them, except their independence. That is the only reason why they are obnoxious to the Government. Because they are independent a political Procrustes is to dismember them in the boroughs and stretch them a little in the counties. All this is done, they say, for the sake of uniformity, by which everything is to be reduced to a dead level. But if the Bill were open to no other objection than this, I hope the House of Commons has sufficient spirit and reverence for custom and tradition to resist this effort to disfranchise this creditable and independent body of men. Turn to the mode in which this Bill professes to deal with the small boroughs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech gave us his beau ideal of what a borough should be. He said, if I recollect rightly, that a borough should have a constituency large enough to be independent and select enough to be responsible. I agree with him. I don't object to small boroughs because they are small, but because, in proportion to their smallness, they are under the control of some patron. And when the right hon. Gentleman gave us the instance of Arundel, and told us that he virtually represented 900,000 Roman Catholics, I say nothing in my whole political experience ever astonished me so much as that statement. Now, that is the real case of Arundel; for it has never yet been fully put before the House? Before the Reform Act of 1832 Arundel returned two Members to Parliament. Since that time the constituency of that borough—I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but really this has been forced upon me—its constituency has dwindled from 400 to about 198. And how did Lord Surrey—who sat in this House for Arundel, and to whom I suppose the right hon. Gentleman referred—represent the interests of these 900,000 Roman Catholics? In 1851 that unfortunate measure, the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill was brought in. I re- 750 member it well. I have always regretted it, and I voted against it. So did the noble Lord the then Member for Arundel, and how did he fare in consequence? What became of this representative of your 900,000 Roman Catholics? Why, the noble Lord was obliged to quit his seat; he got a hint to leave Arundel from the proprietor of the borough, and was obliged to take refuge in the city of Limerick. Because he had voted on behalf of the 900,000 English Roman Catholics as Member for Arundel he was compelled to flee to the Irish city of Limerick, and continue to represent them there. Could the House have a better illustration of the rottenness of the whole system than this very case of Arundel, the right hon. Gentleman's beau ideal of boroughs? Now, I want to know what are the reasons assigned why we should vote against the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London? Some of those reasons are very strange, especially those that have been put forward on this side of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) who we all know is a very dyspeptic politician, gave some very peculiar reasons. I say "very peculiar," but not original, because I believe every Member of this House had read them the week before in the celebrated letter to "My dear Elcho." The right hon. Gentleman seems quite content to open his mouth and shut his eyes and see what the Government will send him. He says to them, "Give all you can, and let me dream the rest!" And with a refinement of cruelty that it would be impossible to exceed he adds, "the Ministry is sick unto death. I once voted against Sir Robert Peel, and I am very sorry for it. They are sick unto death. Do not put an end to their sufferings; but come with me into Committee, and we will torture them out of existence." And then, Sir, he throws out some dark and mysterious hints about the drawing of this Resolution which I am told have made some five or six Members of this House very unhappy. He asks, "Whose image and superscription does it bear?" I know he must have been alluding here to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. M. Gibson) "the author of all evil." I shall effectually set at rest the question which has been often put to me, "To whom do the right hon. Gentleman's insinuations point?" I much regret that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) was not consulted in the framing of this Resolution; but how 751 he, after the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies—I was going to say the speech of his right hon. Colleague—how he, an ardent Reformer, with his constituency at Stroud, including so many working men, can propose to treat this measure like a common turnpike Bill, and vote against the Resolution of the noble Lord, I confess passes my comprehension. We have also had very curious reasons alleged by the other side. The right hon. Member for Belfast (Sir H. Cairns) made a very ingenious speech, but I must say that that right hon. Gentleman—[An hon. MEMBER, in correction: "Hon. and learned Gentleman"]—well, I have no doubt, though it is wrong to ascribe motives, that he is looking forward to being a right hon. Gentleman,—what did he say? Unmindful of the deep obligations he is under to the hon. Member for Birmingham, he severely criticized him, and charged him with being in "the same boat" with the noble Lord the Member for the city. But did the hon. Member for Belfast forget that had it not been for the aid of the hon. Member for Birmingham on a particular occasion he would not have been pulling the stroke oar in the Ministerial boat now? No doubt, the hon. Member for Belfast feels very uncomfortable at the bad steering. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL: No.] Well, he does not feel uncomfortable; he is perfectly resigned to his fate. He appeared so the other night. When a man ascribes motives he is not very comfortable himself. But I ask that hon. and learned Gentleman how dared he impute motives to the noble Lord? How dared he say that the noble Lord in moving this Amendment is actuated by personal motives—by motives of political aggrandizement and private advantage? What would that hon. and learned Member say if it were whispered that he was actuated by motives of "political aggrandizement and private advantage"—that in supporting the Government he had visions of the woolsack flitting before him? He comes into this House as a professional man, and is perfectly entitled to look to such advancement. I make it no matter of reproach to him. But he is not entitled lightly to attribute motives of private advantage to any hon. Member of this House. How does the hon. Gentleman get out of his hustings pledges at Belfast? I remember well that at his election he told his constituents there were two questions to be considered, one of expediency and one of principle. This 752 very question of Reform he described as one of expediency, and if every man had a crotchet no Government could go on. Then, turning to the subject of the exclusion of the Jews, that, he said, was a question of principle, which ought never to be abandoned. But he has abandoned it. Well, he is only imitating his predecessors in office. I never wish to ascribe motives. The hon. and learned Gentleman quoted from a speech made by the noble Lord the Member for the city some years ago as to the hon. Member for Manchester being of a narrow mind. Let me give him an extract from as great an authority on the Treasury bench in respect to the leader of his own Ministry. At any rate, it is as apt a quotation as the one adduced by the hon. Member. Here is the opinion given of the head of the present Government by an authority whom I will presently disclose. It is a very odd thing, but it refers to the famous appropriation clause, about which we have heard so much. This high authority, glowing with that declamatory eloquence of which he is so perfect a master, and assuming that impassioned strain which always captivates the House, says:—Will no experience warn? You resist the principle of a small reform; beware how your own procrastination irritates the public mind to that point when even a large reform can do little more than save you from revolution.You will remark that he always deals largely in revolution. Then comes his opinion. Speaking of Lord Stanley he says:—He did not look very favourably upon the suggestions of one whose very abilities had only served to render more conspicuous the great disproportion between his unrivalled power as a debater and his ill-luck, no less unrivalled, in his capacity as a legislator.This was the language held by the present Colonial Secretary in 1838. When, therefore, the hon. and learned Member for Belfast twits the noble Lord for speaking so disparagingly of the hon. Member for Birmingham, I recommend him to look at home and read up the debates. I have said that I would not ascribe motives, nor will I. I, for one, give the greatest credit to the right hon. Gentleman the leader of this House. I believe he is a man of great talents, and has a noble ambition. I think the democracy of this country have much to thank him for. He has had great difficulties to contend with, having an omnibus full of country gentlemen to pull up hill. He has pulled them up, and if they are 753 consistent as a party they ought to thank him for it. He has pulled them up to the emancipation of the Jews, and I give him credit for it, which was so much against the principles of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, though it did not hinder him from retaining his seat on that bench. I honour the right hon. Gentleman's great intelligence, his undoubted abilities, and his excellent motives; I only regret that he has consented to separate himself from the two right hon. Gentlemen on the third bench behind him, and that he has initiated a Bill which I believe to be an act of spoliation and injustice, which is change without progress, and innovation without improvement. Feeling this, I cannot hesitate for one moment in voting heartily for the Resolution of my noble Friend.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, the longer I listen to this debate, the more convinced am I—in common, I think, with almost the whole of the House—that we are placed in a position of considerable difficulty and embarrassment, from which the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—lively as was its wit, powerful as were its arguments in many parts—is not likely to extricate us. On the one hand we have a Reform Bill announced by the Government, which, unfortunately, from the principles that are more or less involved in it, will not, and I think cannot, without material alteration, be acceptable either to this House or to the country. On the other hand, I feel, in common, I believe, with most of those who have spoken in this debate, and in common with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that it is desirable to endeavour, if possible, to come to a settlement, instead of continuing the agitation on this subject, instead of hanging it up for another year, or, I may say, of turning it adrift once more with nothing to direct and guide its course. Placed in this difficulty, and looking at this debate, I feel I own more than ordinary anxiety, first, to settle the question if we can; and secondly, to settle in such a manner as not to involve the recognition of principles, fatal to the constitution, and which will not be of a fixed and permanent character. The embarrassment in which we are placed has materially increased since the debate began, for every one who has spoken has addressed one set of sentiments to the House, and announced his intention of voting against them. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Sturt) in a speech which I am sure must make 754 the House regret that he has so seldom addressed it before, and which I hope will encourage him to address it more frequently hereafter, states his objections to this Bill in language so clear and so forcible that the only wonder is the conclusion at which he had arrived—was after all to vote in favour of it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman)—whom certainly the hon. Member for Dovor (Mr. B. Osborne) has this evening paid off—in a speech which, I think I may characterize as more ingenious than judicious, told the House that he was so much against the Bill that he could not agree to the first eighteen lines of the first clause; and yet, not agreeing to those eighteen lines, which more or less involved the whole principle of the Bill, he will vote for the second reading without an assurance that any alteration in this clause will be conceded. That being so, I wish to submit to the House the views which I take of the measure itself, as well as of the Amendments proposed to be appended to it, and then, if I can, fairly to draw a conclusion as to what on the whole will be the best mode of bringing this question to a satisfactory settlement. Now, Sir, as to the measure itself, I will make in limine this observation. It has always struck me that when you are discussing as it were the first principles of Government, when you are considering material alterations in the constitution of the State, your first duty is to see what practical grievances are to be found in that constitution, or what practical deficiencies require to be supplied. Having done that—for I wish to bring this matter to a practical test, and to set aside as much as I can all mere theoretical and speculative arguments—we should then endeavour to remedy those grievances and supply those deficiencies in such a manner as to recognize in the changes we make all the prescriptive rights and usages of the nation—to make them harmonize as far as we can with our existing constitution—to elevate, as my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary said in his able speech the other night, not to depress the character of this House, and to bring the question, if not to a complete settlement, at least to a settlement which will be generally acceptable. That was the manner in which the noble Lord opposite and his friends proceeded in 1832. They inquired into these grievances; they applied practical remedies to them, and they ad- 755 hered in the main to the acknowledged principles of the constitution. Then you had many more practical inconveniences than you have at present, and those grievances—I am not now speaking of the theoretical, but the practical grievances—were more or less disposed of by that memorable measure. You had towns, like Birmingham, which had no Members they could justly call their own to represent them. You had small boroughs which had either fallen into decay or had been so insignificant for many years that you could hardly assign to them anything more than a merely nominal existence. Even in many towns which were represented you had the constituencies confined within such narrow limits—they were more or less circumscribed by close corporations—that they required expansion, in order to give to the independent inhabitants some voice in the choice of their Members. In addition to all this, you had elections lasting for fourteen days, spreading through counties and boroughs turmoil, extravagance, confusion, and violence, and you wanted lists and registers of voters in order to prevent the delay, the uncertainty, and expense of scrutinies. All these grievances you remedied, not by introducing any novelties, not by deviating from any settled principle, but simply and solely by looking to the nature and character of those grievances, and by applying to them a practical remedy. On the present occasion we are placed in a somewhat different position. Without denying that there is much in the measure now introduced which does apply itself to the only practical inconveniences and evils which I believe exist, and which I will presently point out,—without denying that there is much which is good in the Bill, and much which is capable of being turned to excellent account, still I must say that in one or two parts it will be found, I think, too ingenious; in one or two parts it contains provisions which are not wise; and in one or two parts, if not amended, it involves principles which, I firmly believe, will lead to the entire alteration and the ultimate subversion of the mixed form of Government under which we live. Now, Sir, as I have said I wish to deal with the question in a practical manner. What, then, are the evils which now exist in your system? I think they may be classed under three heads—two of which have been adverted to by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The first is that the right of voting is certainly not now ex- 756 tended to all those persons who by their intelligence, position, and independence are entitled to it. That I believe to be the main practical grievance at present, and that, therefore, is the point to which we ought principally to attend. The second inconvenience, now be it remembered of smaller importance than before the Reform Act, is, that there are still some places either not represented, or not adequately represented, which by reason of their importance, whether agricultural, manufacturing, or commercial, ought to have Members of their own. The third inconvenience is a most serious one—namely, that you do not give to the electors the greatest facility for exercising their franchise as freely and as easily as circumstances will admit. Sir, I wish to state the question broadly and fairly, and to shirk no difficulties, and if the House will permit me I will deal with these evils in. an inverse order. I take, then, first the case of the facilities to be afforded to every elector for recording his vote. In making a proposition on this part of the subject, I cannot expect to meet the wishes of those whom I see opposite to me below the gangway, because they will answer me in one short sentence—I suppose I might say in one short word—and that word of course is "ballot." Well, Sir, I am not afraid of the ballot. I am not afraid of the ballot because it would endanger that party to which I belong. I am not alarmed at it because, as the argument always is on the other side, there is any desire on the part of those who resist the ballot to intimidate and corrupt electors. I object to the ballot for these reasons, which I think have never been answered. The first is, that if under a system of secret voting corruption does take place, if fraud and personation accompany an election, you have no means whatever of detecting that corruption, or that fraudulent personation. I object to it in the second place and mainly, because I am convinced that in all your institutions, if you wish to have honesty and purity of conduct, you must bring every one to the open bar of public opinion, and make him responsible for all his acts whatever they may be. Well then, Sir, as I cannot consent to this remedy of the ballot, I give great credit to the Government for the manner in which they have endeavoured to deal with this part of the question. I know I am now not taking the popular course, because I see that some of you are about to object to voting papers. 757 Being unpopular I am the more anxious to support the Government in what I knew to be an honest proposition, and what I believe to be a good one. The principle of these voting papers is plain, and if you can guard it from being employed for a fraudulent purpose it is a most beneficial one; it is simply this, that instead of carrying the electors to the poll you shall carry the poll to the electors. Now, what would follow from the adoption of this principle? In the first place it will diminish enormously the expense of elections. In the second place it would avoid the recurrence of all those angry discussions and difficulties about payments for refreshments, and for the travelling expenses of voters. In the third place, it would remove, to a great extent, all those acts of intimidation and violence which often prevent the better class of electors from going to the poll. In the next place it would enable many persons in business—bankers, manufacturers, traders, and artisans.—to declare their votes and wishes at an election without any trouble and without any fear. If I am right in this belief the consequence will be that you will raise the character of electors, and with the increase of their numbers you will get a calmer judgment and deliberation in the exercise of the franchise than that which you can ever hope to obtain by resigning the election to the noisy uncertainty of popular hopes, or popular caprice. But there are objections to this plan, and those objections are principally two, You say that it will facilitate personation and fraud, and that it will increase bribery. Now, I hope my right hon. Friends on the Treasury bench will pardon me for pointing out a defect in their scheme which, unless remedied, may certainly expose it to those objections. The voting paper is to be sent for by the elector, filled in by him in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom is to be a householder, and then returned to the returning officer. Why is only one of the witnesses to be a householder, and why is that householder to be a person taken from any part of the country, and who may therefore easily give a fictitious address? If you wish for security against personation and fraud, there is only one way in which you can obtain it. You must require both the witnesses to be householders resident in the place where the declaration is made; and, in my opinion, that declaration ought only to be allowed in the presence of some public officer. If 758 you do that, you will then have a security against personation and fraud, you will appeal to the open sense of shame which will operate upon the mind of every elector, and should fraud be practised, you will supply yourselves with evidence which will at once enable you to detect its commission. Upon this part of the case I should like to quote a passage from the great historian of Rome, which I think will show the propriety of the suggestion to which I have adverted. Speaking of the change of the public vote into secret voting, he says:—So long as they took the voices aloud, the conduct of each citizen was exposed to the eyes and the ears of his friends and his countrymen; and the aspect of a grave magistrate was a living lesson to the multitude. The new method of secret voting abolished the influence of fear and shame, of honour and of interest, and the abuse of freedom accelerated the progress of anarchy and of despotism.That passage is from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and it is worth remembering in any discussion, either on voting papers or on the Ballot. What, therefore. I wish you to do is, to have these declarations made before a public officer, and if you do that, I believe that you will have as complete a security against personation and fraud as can be devised. But, then, I am told that the adoption of this system will increase bribery. Why and when docs bribery take place? It takes place during the last two hours of the election, when the contest is drawing to a close. Nobody will bribe unless he thinks he shall obtain something by it, but so long as these papers remain behind he will never know that the contest is a close one. Consequently, under such a system he will have no temptation to commit bribery, because he will never feel certain that he will gain anything by it. Upon that part of the question, with such suggestions as I have made, I am happy to give my cordial support to the proposition of the Government. I now proceed to the second part of the subject, which was more or less adverted to by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I mean the question of giving to those places which are either unrepresented or not adequately represented, Members to represent them. The proposition of the Government is to withdraw one Member from fifteen boroughs, and to transfer those Members to certain towns and to have divisions of certain counties. Here again, I think you have got a practical inconvenience which, saving the presence of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is well 759 and easily remedied. If you take the map of England in your hand, you have but a few places which can come under the category of being unrepresented. There are a few large towns, like Birkenhead, Burnley, and Staley bridge, which have no Members, and a few counties which are so large that they may fairly claim to be divided, on the same principle on which you have divided counties before. When you have supplied those wants, I believe you will have done all that is practically required. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes! I say practically, and I think I can prove it. Then, how are you to do this? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down complains grievously of this part of the Bill. He evidently objects to small boroughs, and wishes to have a total disfranchisement of them—[Mr. B. OSBORNE: No! Nomination boroughs.] Nomination boroughs! Will the hon. Gentleman give me leave to ask how he will define a nomination borough? [Mr. B. OSBOBNE: Midhurst.] I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me an illustration which, fortunately, I can easily answer, because I am better acquainted with Midhurst than any other borough in the kingdom. Midhurst has been a borough almost ever since you have had Parliaments. It was a small nomination borough returning Members to Parliament with qualifications arising, I believe, from two old buildings. The owner of the borough was a Whig; all the property round the borough was owned by Whigs, and therefore Midhurst was not disfranchised in 1832. But it was extended, and it has now an area almost as large as some small counties. [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear, hear!] The great ally of the hon. Member for Bimingham—Mr. Cobden—lives in the borough, and he can tell whether I am right or wrong in what I am going to say. Under whose nomination is Midhurst? I know your answer, but the Peer who you think has the nomination of the borough has not fifty tenants in it; I do not believe he has as many as forty. Midhurst is an agricultural borough, with proprietors, no doubt, around it of Conservative principles. One of them lives in the immediate neighbourhood, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Osborne) that there is as much independence among a large class of voters in Midhurst as there is in the town of Dovor itself. Will you have no gratitude to a borough that I venture to say, when you force me to the sub-feet, has returned some Members who have perhaps given a greater character to the 760 House of Commons than any statesman you could name? The noble Lord the Member for the city knows that when Mr. Fox was nineteen years of age he owed to the nomination borough of Midhurst his scat in this House. The Whig party is indebted for the fame of that great man to his early seat in this House, which he obtained through Midhurst, and I hope the Whigs, at all events, will never show such a want of generosity as to disfranchise the borough which, by that one election, has added as much to the character of the House of Commons as many of the greatest towns in England. I feel I ought to apologize to the House for this digression; but I shall now resume my argument with the hon. Member for Dovor. He wishes to do away with nomination boroughs; but I say, according to the principles upon which he has been arguing the other parts of the case, he ought not to attempt anything of the kind. Why do I say so? Because the greatness of England depends, in my opinion, and, according to the argument of the hon. Gentleman, in his opinion too, upon prescriptive rights. Do away with the prescription of the boroughs which you call nomination, confound them with other districts, break up all your old landmarks, and what will happen? I do not see the right hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) in his place, but I read the speech which he delivered in the autumn—and an able speech it was, one of the most able I ever read—in which he eloquently impressed upon his constituents this great truth—that, whatever you do, above all things you ought not to break off your connection and your ties with the past. What are those ties? They are the ties which give continuity to the life and existence of a nation—the ties of association, of tradition, of national customs, the force of habit, an improving experience, and the principle of growth. Such are the ties which make a nation, and if you break them off by doing away with respective rights in the case of boroughs, any more than in the ease of freeholders in counties, whose rights you are going to preserve, from that moment you jeopardize the security and stability of the Government. Let not my argument be misunderstood. I would not continue a borough, if, as the hon. Member says, it is a mere nomination borough, deriving its existence, as some of the old boroughs did, from a green mound or a stone wall. Prove such a case, and 761 then disfranchise; or, prove a case where corruption exists, and then disfranchise; but, if you cannot do so—if you cannot show that there is corruption, or simple nomination—then, I say—adopting the splendid argument of the Secretary for the Colonies, backed as it was by the able reasoning of the right hon. Member for South Wilts—if you wish to elevate and to keep elevated the character of this House, you must do so by having a variety of Members representing a variety of interests, and by still looking to your small boroughs as well as to your large towns for men of moderation, of thought, of cultivated minds, for men who will not make a mere trade of politics, for men who will readily devote themselves to the public business of the country, for men to whom this House may look, as it often has done in past times, for advice and assistance when Governments fail and Oppositions are at fault. Such men you have hitherto obtained from the varied constituencies—some large, some small—which you now possess; and therefore, I repeat, I cordially approve the measure of the Government in this respect, believing that it is founded upon sound principles. Ministers deserve the thanks of the country for not having given way to a mere theoretical cry, by means of which they might have obtained little more popularity, but the consequences of which would have been most injurious to the character of the House of Commons. Now, Sir, I approach what I fear is a far more difficult part of the subject, and one on which I shall have to speak partly with pleasure and partly with pain. The greatest practical inconvenience which we have to dread is that of not giving to those persons, who may be entitled to have a vote, the power and the means of acquiring the franchise. Upon this point I do not know that I differ materially from the general sentiment of the hon. Member for Dovor; but I cannot find from him, or from any one else, a specific description of what hon. Gentlemen on the other side want. What I want is to confer the franchise, wherever a man is independent enough to exercise it. If the gradual improvement of your laws and their cautious adaptation to the wants of society be—as I believe them to be—the highest object of political institutions; and if it be your duty—as I believe it is—to make the franchise co-extensive with fitness to exercise it, never was there a time better suited than the present, (and therefore I am unwilling to postpone this question on that 762 account as well as on others,)—never was there a time I say better suited than the present, when there is a complete lull throughout the country, for determining exactly in what direction your franchise shall go, and what are the limits within which it shall be circumscribed. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on introducing the Bill, laid down an aphorism to which I cordially assent, when he stated that there are two classes of Reformers whoso views ought to be pretty narrowly examined with reference to this subject. One—I think the hon. Member for Dovor belongs to it—would wish to extend the franchise so as to realize as much as possible the opinion and decision of a numerical majority; the other—to which the Government belong—would endeavour to adapt the principles of the measure of 1832 to the England of 1859, according to the genius and spirit of the constitution. How, then, are we to arrive at a just conclusion as to the extent to which the franchise ought to be granted, and what are the principles by means of which we may secure that those shall have it, and those only, who can exercise it wisely? I suppose we must exclude, in the first place, all idea of personal representation. No-body can now contend for that. Unless you do away with all the restrictions which are rightly imposed on sex, on age, on poverty, and on crime, personal representation is a thing impossible. What do you say to actual representation? That you cannot have, because, unless you adopt the scheme which was propounded in 1854, but which, I think, was not well received either in this House or the country, and give Members to minorities, it is clear that a great part of the population—the whole of the electors in fact whose candidates are rejected—can never have representatives of their own at all. Manhood suffrage, if I am not mistaken, oven the hon. Member for Birmingham gives up. The hon. Gentleman never actually said so, but he recently made a speech of great power at Rochdale, in which he showed, and I think conclusively, that you cannot have manhood suffrage: and that you cannot have, strictly speaking, household suffrage if you desire that your electors should be always independent. The hon. Gentleman also showed, conclusively in my opinion, that in regard to those living in small tenements, some by scores, some by hundreds, and some by thousands, they were so little independent of those around 763 them that they could hardly be said to have a free will of their own. If that be so, to whom should you extend the suffrage? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) said to-night that he believed, quoting the words of Mr. Fox, that the best plan of representation was that which brought into activity the greatest number of electors who were independent. The right hon. Gentleman forgot to add the termination of that sentence, which I think I recollect. It runs something to this effect:—that the most objectionable representation would be that which would exclude those electors who have not a free and determinate choice. That is to say, that when a man's condition and position in life are such that he has not a free and determinate choice, then it was Mr. Fox's opinion that he ought not to have the franchise. My right hon. Friends on the Treasury bench have endeavoured to meet this question by a scheme which in some respects entitles them to the gratitude of the country. They have looked at the question with no narrow eye. By the provision in respect to those who prove their industry and their wish to obtain independence by their savings, economy, and prudence, my right hon. Friends have shown, in that part of their scheme, a great desire to give the franchise to some portion of the working classes. The hon. Member for Dovor forgot that part of the case in his argument, when he said, "How are you attempting to give to the classes called working classes—to artisans, for instance—the franchise by allowing a vote to a lodger who pays 8s. a week?" My answer is that the savings' bank franchise is the working class franchise; and the hon. Gentleman ought not in fairness to have put the matter on the ground he did, because he must have known the object of giving the franchise to lodgers was to give it to a different class of persons from those who are called the working classes. The intention of that provision is to give the franchise to the better kind of artisans, to persons who very often are highly educated but have small capitals—to sculptors, to painters, to people following a professional career, many of whom have passed through the Universities, but have no houses of their own. To such as these, who would not have the franchise otherwise, the right of voting will be conferred by the clause relating to lodgers; and with that part of the scheme I therefore think you have no right to find fault. In former times the 764 franchise was confined to real estate; but now, when personal property has become as important as real property, and presupposes as much independence, why should not the franchise be given to that, if you can only secure it from being made use of to manufacture votes? Thus far, therefore, I go along with the Government to a great extent; but now I fear I must diverge from them, and that in a manner that renders it totally impossible for me to give my consent to the Bill, unless I can obtain from them some declaration which will give this House a guarantee and assurance that all questions which involve the main principle of the Bill will be fairly opened in Committee, and such modifications as the House desires considered and accepted. This part of the subject has been to a certain extent alluded to by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London in his Amendment, and in his speech introducing the Amendment; but the whole of it has not been alluded to, and I crave the indulgence of the House, while I point out what seems to me to be a strange inadvertence in the measure as proposed. With respect to the old franchises which this Bill proposes to extend, there is literally not one which is not altered, and, I believe, not one which is not altered for the worst. If I am informed rightly—for I was not present at the moment—these alterations were not adverted to by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he introduced the Bill. I believe it to be an inadvertence, because I am sure my right hon. Friend would have mentioned the alterations if his attention had been called to them. The old franchises in the counties are these:—Freehold of 40s. yearly value, leasehold for a period of years, freehold for life, copyhold of £10 value, and an occupation value £50 a year. In boroughs the franchise is an occupation value of £10 provided there is a house or building as part of the qualification. Now the Bill deals with all these franchises. The 40s. freeholds I leave in the hands of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who has adverted to that part of the subject. It is, as you know, greatly altered. The leaseholds for years, the copyholds for lives, the freeholds for lives, as settled by the Reform Act, all had this security attached to them to prevent them from being mere fagot votes, namely, that the value mentioned in the Act must be a value over and above all rents and charges. In 765 the present Bill the word "rents" is entirely left out. In other words, the owners of the copyholds and freeholds for lives and leaseholds for years need not have one shilling's worth of value in them, and yet be enabled to vote. The occupation value in counties is reduced from £50 to £10, that is to say, to the same level as the occupation franchise for boroughs. The occupation franchise for boroughs was carefully connected in the Reform Act with houses and buildings, but these words are now omitted. I cannot conceive why in the present Bill the words ''houses and buildings" are left out—[An hon. MEMBER: To create fagot votes]—except for this reason: I imagine that the draughtsman of the Bill must have attached" to the word "tenement" the meaning-conveyed by the various terms used in the Reform Act. The word "tenement" no doubt, in its ordinary signification, means a building, and I think that the draughtsman was led away by thinking that the insertion of the word "tenement" necessarily required that part of the qualification should be a building. The word "or" has however crept in so that the words used in the present Bill are not "lands and tenements," but "lands or tenements" and consequently land without any building would confer the franchise. Moreover these words, taken as they stand, would introduce, a new kind of suffrage, because the word "tenement" covers a great many other things besides houses and buildings, which it was the object of the Reform Act to make part of the qualification in order to secure a resident constituency. You will find this material when you consider the question of identity of franchise, and I now come to that point. The only persons who have defended the identity of the franchise in this House are the noble Lord the Secretary for India and the Solicitor General. I need not say that if there are two men in the House more capable than others of putting this new principle in the must advantageous light and carrying the House along with them, they are my noble Friend, with his close reasoning and his careful mode of treating all these great questions, and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, whose knowledge of law, acuteness, and abilities are almost unrivalled. I assume, therefore, that my two Friends have said all that can be said in favour of this identity of franchise. What, then, have they put it on? Merely on this and this only. They say that there may 766 be a street half in a borough and half in a county; and there can be no reason—and abstractedly that is true—why a £10 house on one side of the street should have a vote, and a £10 house on the other side should have none, and they argue that since one has a vote and the other has not it must give rise to a feeling of dissatisfaction in the persons deprived of it. That, in a few words, is the sum total of the argument of my noble Friend. I shall first of all take leave to doubt whether that is the cause of any dissatisfaction in the country with reference to the absence of or exclusion from the franchise. I do not believe, as far as I am able to gather information, that any great discontent arises from that cause, because the people have by habit and custom been taught that the county franchise is different from the borough franchise, and that no harm is done to any one by reason of that difference. But I ask my noble Friend who has used this ingenious argument—and I appeal to him more earnestly than I should to almost any Member of this House, because I am sure that he has a career of usefulness and distinction before him which will leave its impress on the history of his country,—I ask him to consider whether the sharp, hard, broad line of demarcation between the general freedom which you give one class of the community by this measure, and the condemnatory sentence of absolute nullity and incapacity which you pass on the other, will not breed a discontent twenty times greater than that to which my noble Friend has referred. You may depend upon it that it is this hard line being drawn between two persons in the same borough and the same county, living contiguously to each other, with no prescriptive rights to justify the distinction, which constitutes the foulest and blackest blot in any proposition for identity of suffrage. There is only one way to get over it, and that is by making suffrage universal. But are my noble Friend and my learned Friend prepared for this? Are they prepared to say, that in order to remove the discontent which then will really exist they must make the franchise universal and thus hand over the representation of the country to the poorest and most ignorant classes of the community. I am sure they are not; and this alone convinces me that identity of franchise is a great mistake. The discontent which will be occasioned is not the only reason against this plan. The second reason has been as- 767 signed by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London; and, give me leave to say, it has been unanswered. The reason is that it will enable you to manufacture votes,—nay, more, if you preserve the franchise as drawn in this Bill, to manufacture them in such a manner and to such an extent as to put it in the power of wealthy and political associations to override the feeling of the constituencies. If you grant 40s. freeholds in boroughs, with no house occupation—all in lands or tenements—they will have nothing to do but to calculate how much money will make a certain number of votes; how many votes they have already, and, adding the new votes to these, no borough in the kingdom will be safe. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) gave us, certainly, a rather amusing history of what is taking place in the borough which he represents. It turns out that there are parties there who raise a shed, add a little land, make the occupation £10 a year, and thus create several votes. If in that way votes are created in the borough of Halifax, there will be the same means for creating as many votes as they please in the counties, and does any one mean to tell me that will not be altering the constitution of the country, which has hitherto said "the representation in the counties is based mainly on property and tenure, and the representation in boroughs on occupation and residence?" It is clear that the manufacture of votes must go on, and consequently the alteration of the law in this respect must be highly disadvantageous, Those are not the only objections. A stronger remains—and perhaps it is stronger than any other—namely, that you will alter in the main the very character and nature of the county and borough franchise. The fact is plain. All your new franchises and all your old franchises, as proposed by this Bill, will only require a twelve months' residence. Now can anybody tell me that a number of occupiers with fluctuating conditions, changing to one place one year and another place another year, will give the permanent character to the constituencies of counties which those constituencies now possess? Will any one tell me that there is not in this respect a broad and a wise distinction between the constituencies of counties and the constituencies of boroughs? Is not the nature of the population in the one more permanent than in the other? Is not the one more connected with trade, 768 the other with land? And ought not, therefore, these different constituencies still to rest on that distinction which mainly constitutes the essential difference between an urban and a rural population? Sir, I cannot help thinking that by getting rid of what you call anomalies and irregularities, while you may obtain a building constructed of more even proportions, and possibly also more pleasing to the eye, you will get rid at the same time of that variety and diversity which hitherto has constituted both the charm and strength of our representative form of Government. It is by means of this diversity that were secured those varied interests, varied talents, and varied views which bring together the different classes of hon. Members whom I see around me. We obtain the busy industry of towns; we obtain the more stationary, but not less valuable, character of the county constituency. There is a passage in the writings of Edmund Burke which seems to me not inapplicable to this part of the question. I think, if I recollect the passage, he says,—"No system of representation will be a good system unless you impart into it ability as well as property." But then, he says,—"At the same time, as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is inert, and timid, and sluggish, it never can be safe from the invasions of ability unless it be out of all proportion predominant in the representation." These, no doubt, are abstract reasons which, until you put your rules in practice and see the results of your alterations and their relative bearings you cannot fully appreciate. But we are not altogether without experience, for when all was levelled, as it was in France, you then did see that the interests of property were forced to give way, and though the time may not be yet, yet the time will come if you once abandon these old distinctions, on winch you should set the greatest value, when property will not have that predominant influence which it ought to have in this and in every other country. In addition to these reasons, I have two other objections to identity of franchise, and with the expression of these I will conclude my observations on this part of the subject. They are both objections which I feel very strongly. One of them has already been alluded to in the course of the debate, but the other has not yet been mentioned. The objection which has not yet been mentioned is, that if you do away with the distinction between 769 counties and boroughs, and reduce the occupation franchise down to £10, you are introducing into the constituencies large masses of people who do not contribute to your direct taxation. Remember that when the Reform Act was passed the payment of assessed taxes in the shape of the window tax was a condition of the franchise before it could be claimed even a borough. The £10 occupiers did away with that tax by their pressure on the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax put as a substitute a house tax of £20. Now if you bring the franchise down to £10, and keep direct taxation up to £20, the direct influence of those enlarged constituencies will assuredly be employed in instructing their Members, not only to keep, but to put a direct taxation on those who are above them. I am confident that when you come to argue the income tax again you will find that this difficulty will stand in your way, and the finance Ministers in this House will never be able so to distribute the taxation of the country as to make it fall equally on all. The last objection to identity of franchise which I have to urge has been already adverted to—namely, the objection that it will lead to electoral districts. My learned Friend the Solicitor General pooh-poohs this idea, and the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council argued the question as if it were impossible that such a consequence should flow from a proposition of that kind. But why not? What do you mean by identity of franchise? You ought to mean, if you mean anything, equality of power. The mere fact that the franchise is the same nominal franchise is not identity. One elector out of 300 or 400 is a very different person in point of power from one elector out of 5,000 or 10,000. The one has a potential influence, easily appreciated; whereas the influence of the other is very small, taken as a unit with so many more. But is that the only consequence. If you admit the principle contained in this Bill, by reducing the franchise in counties to a £10 occupation value, and the House chooses hereafter to reduce the borough franchise to a £6 occupation value, I want to know how you can keep up the county franchise at a higher figure? Must you not make both £6? Again, I would ask my Irish and my Scotch friends, if you admit this principle as regards England, how will you prevent its application to Ireland or Scotland? And if you apply it, for example, to Ireland, how will you 770 prevent a Government from saying that a £12 rating in counties and an £8 rating in towns shall no longer exist, but both must rest on a £10 occupation value? I believe that no answer can be given to this; but of this I am sure, that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies will not be satisfactory. He told you that democracy was like the grave, that it absorbed everything, and gave back nothing. But, if in deference to the democratic principle, you make this experiment, do you think you can ever retrace your steps, supposing it fails? My right hon. Friend pointed to France. He gave us a picture which the House will not soon forget, of all the misfortunes that befell that country, and he intended us to draw the inference that those misfortunes arose from the fact that the working classes were admitted to the representation. But is that so? The hon. Member for Dovor has adverted to this subject. He has told you, and told you truly, that the qualification in France was 300 francs, or £12 a year, while in England it is to be a £10 occupation value. In both there was one uniform standard. Now, if the consequences of that qualification in France were such as my right hon. Friend depicts, I will only say God forbid that my right hon. Friend or any of his children should ever have to paint such a picture of England by introducing here a uniform standard, similar in its identity, though lower in amount than that which was introduced then. For all these reasons I am strongly, decidedly, and unhesitatingly opposed to identity of franchise. But then it may be said, "What will you do with the franchises? Will you leave them as they are?" I answer again, that I would endeavour to admit as many voters as would exercise the franchise with independence. I would endeavour to keep up the old distinction between counties and boroughs. And I would, further, endeavour to do this by finding any resting-places on which I could permanently settle. Now I believe there are two such resting-places, and only two. If you were to reduce the £50 occupation in counties down to £20, you would reduce it to an amount where direct taxation commences in the shape of a house tax, and so taxation and representation would go together. There would be, also, perhaps, an additional advantage, in that land of resting-place, although it might be a small one, that this is the qualification provided by the Legislature as a qualification for jurors. I 771 believe that you might find another resting-place in boroughs by going to a £6 rating, which would be equivalent to an £8 value, because that is the point where the landlord by law is permitted to compound for the tenant's rates at a lower rate than that which is paid by others. There is the line therefore where dependence ends and independence begins. I have now briefly stated the two resting-places that might be found, and though it lowers the franchise in boroughs to that amount, I will only entreat my right hon. Friends on the Treasury bench not to answer this by mere declamation about giving the franchise to that democratic power which is unentitled to the suffrage. I ask them whether a difference between an £8 and a £10 occupation value, giving as it would satisfaction to thousands in these representative towns, can be deemed a dangerous concession by means of which those thousands could impare the constitution. They all contribute to the local taxation of their respective towns: and thus again representation and taxation to a certain extent would go together. For these reasons, I shall find it difficult to vote for the second reading of this Bill, if I hear that the identity of the suffrage is essential in the opinion of the Government to the adoption of it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies said that all the questions which he enumerated, and they were six, were questions for Committee, but he carefully avoided expressing an opinion on identity of suffrage, which is that point with reference to which we require information. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General was still more liberal as to what the House might do in Committee, but on that one point he is still silent. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made an announcement tonight which I did not hear, but which would seem to imply that all these questions are to be left open for consideration. If that declaration has been made in this House, I should be too happy to support the Government to the utmost of my power in passing the Bill with such Amendments as I have indicated. They have nothing to do but to repeat such a declaration, and then they will have an opportunity of settling this question satisfactorily and thoroughly. If not, then I must say I cannot blame the noble Lord for moving an Amendment, not to the second reading of the Bill, (for after that Amendment the Bill may be read a second time) but for moving such 772 an Amendment as would constitute a declaration made by the House, that this question of the identity of the franchise is not to be considered as vital to the measure. I know it is said that the noble Lord has taken an irregular course. That the noble Lord has taken an unusual course, I admit; but irregular it certainly is not. There are many cases in which it has been done before, and it is quite legitimate to do so again, when all parties are anxious to pass a Reform Bill, and only desire to come to an understanding as to the particular form that it ought ultimately to assume. I know it is said that if you adopt the Amendment of the noble Lord the Government may resign—that Parliament may be dissolved—that the Bill may be thrown out. Sir, I should regret as much as any person if any one of these consequences should be found to follow. I do not believe that they would; nay, more, I believe that both this House and the country will expect that none of these consequences should ensue. As for resignation, I think that my right hon. Friends upon the Treasury bench achieved their position honourably. They have filled it ably, and I trust they will long continue to hold it with advantage to the country and with credit to themselves. So much for the resignation of the Government. As for the dissolution, bold indeed will be that man who would recommend a dissolution in the present complicated state of European affairs, particularly at a moment when my noble Friend the Earl of Malmesbury, by his prudence, by his firmness, and by his sagacity, has placed this country in the position of being the mediator and arbiter of peace. That position is the one which this country ought still to occupy. But the strength of it depends, mainly depends, I have no hesitation in saying, upon my noble Friend's still receiving, as he has received, all the weight and authority of Parliament to back and support him. The other alternative is, that this Bill shall be withdrawn. Well, Sir, as I have said before, it will be a dangerous experiment to throw this question again afloat, to take this or that course as chance or mischief may direct. Depend upon it, you ought to settle this question now. Depend upon it that you ought to settle, and what is more that you can settle it upon the principles of justice and wisdom, and according to the genius and spirit of the constitution. You can settle it by adhering to prescriptive rights and usages, by maintain- 773 ing the distinction between the borough and county constituencies, by upholding the interests of property as well as the power and influence of numbers, and by thus giving to the varied interests of this great community that variety of representation which it is so advisable to maintain. You can settle it, I am quite confident, if you only act in the manner fully, fairly—I had almost said—finally. You who sit upon the Treasury bench have everything in your power. Let me impress upon you that great will be your triumph and noble your success if you accomplish the settlement which I so strongly urge, but tremendous will be your responsibility if you throw away the opportunity which the voice of Parliament and the wishes of the country have placed in your hands.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, in the observations I am anxious to address to the House I shall endeavour to confine myself strictly to the question. I shall not attempt any answer to some of these, perhaps well intended but rather evil and malicious assaults that have been made upon me during the course of this debate. I shall not attempt any explanation in answer to what was said by the hon. and learned Solicitor General on Tuesday, when he spoke of an alliance between the noble Lord the Member for the City of London and myself. That which is purely imaginary is not, I think it will be admitted, easy to explain; and the House, I believe, will give me credit when I say, that if I am found acting with the noble Lord it is because I believe the course that he is taking is advantageous to the country; and I hope that if I have hereafter occasion to differ from him they will give me credit also, and will presume that I differ from him only because my convictions induce me to take a course different from that of the noble Lord. There are two questions before us—the Bill of the Government and the Resolution of the noble Lord; and, in addition to this, the great and comprehensive question of Parliamentary Reform, which has been more or less discussed by every hon. Member who has addressed the House. With regard to the Bill itself there is a singular unanimity of feeling. With the exception of Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, who may be considered in the light of professional witnesses, I believe no hon. Member has spoken who has not expressed a strong repugnance to some of the main points or principles of the Bill. A remarkable speech was delivered by a right hon. Gentleman 774 on this side of the House. He denounced the Bill as much as though he had been the greatest opponent to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he was triumphantly cheered during almost the whole of his speech. [An hon. MEMBER: By the other side.] Of course, by the other side. Seeing that he dexterously turned the measure inside out, it was rather extraordinary that his speech was so popular with hon. Gentlemen opposite. Considering some of the observations he made, the right hon. Gentleman certainly suggested a course the most extraordinary. He denounced this Bill, not as treason to the Crown, but as treason to the people, and he proposed to inflict something like that barbarous punishment which I believe our law yet gives power to inflict on those who are guilty of that kind of crime; and yet, after having resolved, if the House would go with it, to take out the heart of the measure, or even to disembowel it, he then contented himself with the Motion that the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench would accept and insist on carrying the Bill. he appeared to forget that the Government had parted with two of their eminent colleagues on the very points that he was discussing. He seemed to forget that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted the proposition he made he laid himself open to this unfortunate suspicion, that if he would not consent to it at the suggestion of two of his late distinguished colleagues he would consent to it rather than have the vote of this House against the Government with the consequences that are likely to follow. That is the difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman is placed, and I certainly am astonished that a man so acute as the right hon. Gentleman, after having spoken in glowing language, in elegant language, rarely heard in the House, of the priceless honour of our public men, that he could suggest that the Government should take such a course. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman into the details of the Bill, but shall confine myself to the two principles which, after all, are at this stage of the Bill only before us, and brought before us specifically in consequence of the Resolution proposed as an Amendment by the noble Lord. And I would ask the House—because I think there is some disposition to evade the question—what is it that the. people, not here, but elsewhere, from whom hon. Gentlemen are likely to hear a good deal before it is settled—what is it that they understand by the measure of Parlia- 775 mentary Reform? Not the mean shuffle—not the hustling up or the huddling up of this question—not that it should be a mere matter to talk about, or leave no impression on the Legislature in time to come—but they understand that it should mean two things—first, the extension of the franchise to a considerable class not now enfranchised; and, at the same time, that it should give to the country larger, and freer, and more independent constituencies. Now, I want to ask how this Bill meets these demands, because, if it does not meet these requirements it is no Reform Bill, and the Government have no right to propose it in answer to the demands of the people, and the House of Commons will fail in their duty if they give any countenance to this measure and pass it into a law. In the counties, at this moment, and I speak of the counties first, there are at present, confining myself to England and Wales, to which alone this Bill refers, 500,000 electors, or, speaking in round numbers, 400,000 are freeholders and 100,000 are occupying tenants of above the value of £50. Now, is there any doubt on this point, that if any Member of the House were to put his finger on the description of elector in the county who is most independent he would say the freeholder, or, if upon that which is least independent, he would say, of necessity, the £50 occupier. Without saying anything against tenant farmers or the owners of farms themselves, this, I think, is a description which the House will admit is fair. Well, then, the proposition of this Bill now is first of all to get rid from the county of one-fourth, or 25 per cent, of the whole, or, 100,000 freeholders of the independent class. lam not now speaking of disfranchising them, but of getting rid of them in the counties and putting them into another class of electors. But every one will see at a glance that if 100,000 of the most independent class of electors be taken from the county list, the less independent class must necessarily be made more powerful. This Bill proposes another thing which, to my mind, is of a most insidious character. It proposes to alter the boundaries of boroughs in a very remarkable fashion. Its promoters seem to imagine that it is necessary for some object of theirs to include within the boundaries of boroughs every particular individual of whom by any pretence they can lay hold, and to separate him from the county, if they have a suspicion that he is infected with the prevalent 776 opinions of the towns. By this means they would, of course, diminish still more, after the passing of this Bill, whatever there may be left of the independent element in the county constituencies. But, now observe the cunning—[Cries of "No, no!"] Will right hon. Gentlemen forgive me the expression? Perhaps it was a mistake, like the disfranchisement of the 50,000 men. Observe the mistake, then, in this proposition, which is to be referred to our intelligent and impartial friend, Mr. Darby, the head of the Inclosure Commission. ["No, no!"] I understood that Mr. Darby, the head of the Inclosure Commission, was to appoint a Commission for this object. ["No!"] Well, then, the question is to be referred to him or to somebody else. I will admit, if you like, that the Commission would be as good a referee as I or any one else could wish it to be; my argument will still be the same. The Commission is not directed to examine all boroughs. It is merely intended, as I understand it, to shut up all the suburbs of your cities and towns, and all immediately contiguous villages within that sort of ring-fence, the borough boundary. But this Commission is not charged to go into another description of boundaries, and to shut up the country parishes within the boundaries of the counties. Surely, if it is a fair thing to go to any large town and say that all its streets and villages should be shut up within the borough, and none of these ten-pounders that have been franchised under this Bill shall have votes for the county, it would be a fair thing to go to those agricultural boroughs which have been spoken of during this debate, and say, "Now, my good fellows, we are going to make a clear, distinct, and perpetual enmity between you and the boroughs—between town and county—everybody near a town is to be shut into a town, and you must be shut out of the borough and into a county." That would be obviously fair if there be fairness in the proposition of the Government. But I will tell the House what would be the result of it in one or two cases. There are at this moment in the kingdom within the limits of boroughs farms, the rentals of which exceed £2,500,000 a year. These are called boroughs. We will take the borough represented by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir John Pakington). He will speak during this debate, and can, therefore, correct me if I am wrong. In the borough of Droitwich there is an assess- 777 ment of the income tax under schedule A on land and buildings to the amount of £56,000 a year. Of that £56,000, £39,000 is an assessment of land and farms. There are four town parishes, and twelve rural parishes. The town parishes contain 160 electors; the rural parishes 232 electors. In point of fact, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman docs not represent a town at all. No, the large majority of his constituents are farmers and persons as much connected with rural affairs as if they were in the centre of any county in the kingdom, or miles away from any great town or city. Now, I say, therefore, if this line is to be drawn, it must be drawn in all cases. Again, take the borough of Petersfield, which is also represented by an hon. Baronet on the Treasury bench. The case of Petersfield is still more glaring than that of Droitwich. In that town there are £31,000 assessed on land and buildings in the borough, but of that £24,000, or more than four-fifths, is in respect of lands and buildings in agricultural parishes. I am not complaining of these parishes being added to these towns, but I say that the Government has no right to propose, and I am sure Parliament will not consent to pass, a Bill and appoint a Commission, the only object of which will be to shut as many as possible into the borough in the one case, not to interfere in the other, and thus to diminish that which hon. Gentlemen have spoken of as so important, the great variety of suffrage and interest which it is desirable every Member in this House should represent. I do not understand the noble Lord the Secretary for India. He said with regard to that measure of disfranchisement so much complained of, that it was a mistake, and he was very sorry that that clause which his right hon. Colleague has since laid upon the table of this House was not introduced into the Bill. The Secretary for the Colonies, when he was charged with the faulty character of that clause which extends the £10 franchise in the counties, made rather a staggering admission, namely, that that was also in the nature of a mistake, and that, if wrong, we could go into that in Committee. But I feel that all these mistakes—everything that has been done in this way—has one direction, and one only. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us of the painful anxiety with which this Bill was brought forth by the Government. But I cannot understand how, during all that anxious 778 deliberation which he has described, they should not discover that they were going to disfranchise 50,000 of the best electors in the kingdom. Now, what is the grand object of the Bill? It is evidently to make the representation of the counties, if possible, more exclusively territorial than it is at present. Now, I ask the House for one moment to consider whether this is a desirable object to attempt. If you ask Lord Lyndhurst, who has long been a leading statesman acting with hon. Gentlemen opposite; if you question the Earl of Aberdeen—Sir Robert Peel is not here and you cannot interrogate him—but if you inquired of the right hon. Member for Carlisle, aye, and if you demanded of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for he could add his impressive testimony, what has been the chief difficulty encountered by the Cabinet sitting opposite, what would be their unanimous reply? Has not that difficulty been for many many years (longer than I have been a politician) that they were supported by 150 or more hon. Gentlemen, representatives of counties, who were elected very much in the way that the Earl of Derby has described, and to which my right hon. Friend sitting near me has alluded, and that, being supported by that party, they have found it utterly impossible, without doing that which was very unpleasant to their supporters, or without ruining themselves, which was equally unpleasant, to propose or carry any kind of measure that was made necessary by the opinion and the demands of the country? Let hon. Gentlemen opposite believe me when I say that I am not individually finding fault with them in this matter. I think it is a great misfortune to them, as it is both to this House and the country. But I again ask, from 1842 to 1846, what was the difficulty which the Government of Sir Robert Peel constantly found in its way? I dare say the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) could give us a graphic, most interesting, and instructive picture of those four years. What became of that Government in 1846? There was a disruption which has caused years of anarchy in this House. But let us go back only to the experience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1852 he lost his place. His Government was broken up by a majority of nineteen votes only, after a general election; when he was, therefore, on the very verge of that fixity of tenure for which gentlemen in office generally hope. Why did that Go- 779 veminent break up? Because it was necessary, to satisfy the demands and expectations of that same party sitting behind them, to propose a measure with regard to the malt tax, for which on the whole the country certainly made no demand, and to which this House was not willing to consent. I was then very sorry for the Earl of Derby. I never, except once, gave a vote which I regretted more to have to record than on that occasion; but it was impossible to agree with the Government, and they could not alter their proposition, because they had 150 gentlemen behind them who, representing one special interest, thought it necessary that this measure should be proposed. Now when we are discussing this measure of Reform, the right hon. Gentleman is in the same position. Does any man in this House believe that this is the sort of Bill which the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks would be the best Bill for the country? Does any one suppose that a man of his intelligence—a man who understood this question when he was twenty-five years younger as well as any one of us understand it now—does any one suppose that he believes—I will not say the "deplorable rubbish"—but I will say the grievous and fatal mistakes which are to be found in the clauses of this Bill are beneficial to the country? No; this transference of the county voters to the boroughs; this taking in all the suburbs; this refusal to grant an extension of the franchise to the boroughs—not one of these things comes from his own heart and his own convictions. He knows I am telling him nothing that is new to him. He knows that this Bill in its present shape is a Bill framed to satisfy the prejudices, scruples, convictions, and fears of the 150 county gentlemen who sit behind him, I should think it was a great misfortune to have by my side 150 gentlemen who represented either iron works, ships, or cotton and woollen factories from Lancashire and Yorkshire only. I believe it is essential almost to a good Member of this House, so far as external circumstances are concerned, that he should have among his constituents a variety of what I presume the Chancellor of the Exchequer would call interests—persons of various classes, with various occupations and various opinions. I think they keep him better to his duty. They modify his opinions. They make him a more valuable Member of the House than he is likely to be if he repre- 780 sents, as an hon. Gentleman opposite told you, a special interest, banded together as they always are for the advance of that interest in a manner not known to any other interest in the country. On that ground, therefore, I greatly object to the course pursued by the Government with respect to this measure in endeavouring to make the counties more exclusively territorial. They injure our representation; they put a clog, which Governments, on that side of the House, at least, are not able to overcome, on anything like that enlightened and advanced legislation which I believe not only the country requires, but which it will most certainly have. Having shown you how they have done their best to damage the county constituencies I must say one word on those charming portions of our constitution which I believe the noble Lord is rather fond of, and of which the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) has spoken in such affectionate terms—namely, the small boroughs. They are the jewels in our representative system. Putting the case in the fewest number of words you would say that they take in men who cannot get in anywhere else. In one a boy was put in at nineteen, and this is considered a great argument for perpetuating the system—he grew up to be a celebrated man. Does any one suppose that the borough of Midhurst was responsible for that? The argument of the right hon. Gentleman is akin to his late colleague's argument on the subject of Arundel, and I believe it will be received with the same derision. I am sorry to say that, but I speak with allowance for the fact that he was himself introduced to Parliament through the borough of Midhurst. These boroughs may be said to be in some degree a refuge for the political destitute; and all that I have heard in their favour has been simply this, that the persons who found shelter in them are what are called deserving objects. The election of Harwich has been alluded to. It took place not long since, and I recollect the statement that was made at the time. It was said that Mr. Bagshaw had discharged a drunken gardener. There were two free-traders who had carried out their principles further than the law sanctioned, and were imprisoned for smuggling. The respected priest of the parish, who had not been out of his room for two years was brought down by the aid of cordials, stimulants, and a sedan chair to the poll. These three accidents—which might not 781 occur again for ten thousand years—effected the return in the borough of Harwich, and no doubt the state of parties in this House. I recollect another borough, that of Carlow, in Ireland. There are 200 electors in that borough, and at the election there were two troops of Dragoons, two companies of infantry, and 150 police, all of whom were engaged in keeping the peace in a town with 200 electors. Notwithstanding the picture I have drawn of these small boroughs, do not understand me to say that there are not some remains of freedom and virtuous election in some of them; but the right hon. Gentleman, not content with corrupting, maltreating, and defacing the county representation, lays sacrilegious hands on those very boroughs of which everybody, except myself, has been speaking in such high terms. There has been an election at Banbury. The borough of Banbury is not one which I propose to disfranchise; it is one of singular independence of action in political affairs. I believe that the hon. Gentleman who did not succeed at that election, but who is now Member for Midhurst, will bear me out in what I say. Now, just imagine what the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will lead to in the case of Banbury. Imagine, if you can, the people of that borough making speeches, canvassing, explaining their political views, and resolving upon the proper fulfilment of their political duties. Well, all this is taking place, but at the critical moment you may see a man—for aught I know he may be the concoctor of this Bill, for it appears to me to be not so much the Bill of a Statesman as of some party electioneering agent—you may see, I repeat, a man of this description, emerging after dark from the Carlton Club, proceeding to a pillar letterbox which stands quite near it upon the opposite side of the street, and dropping into it—unless, indeed, he should find it necessary to go as far as Charing Cross for the purpose of registering them—some ten or twenty letters about nine or ten o'clock in the evening, while the unfortunate people of Banbury are labouring under the delusion that they are carrying on a great constitutional contest. Unhappy men, they little know that the restless locomotive engine has been set to work; that it is bringing down through county after county; and that they will awake the next morning only to find out that, through the instrumentality of a leathern 782 bag, which has just been deposited at the post-office, somebody is returned as their representative who has not the slightest sympathy with their interests. But this is no new thing. If any hon. Gentleman will turn to the Municipal Corporation Commissioners Report of 1854, he will find the Report of Mr. Austin as to Carmarthen, in Wales, that the electors consisted of freeholders of the value of £4 and occupiers of £10. He will find it stated that when this inquiry was made there were 546 burgesses in Carmarthen, of whom there were resident within the borough 178; outside the borough, but still within the county of Carmarthen, 257; in the county of Pembroke, 108; in the county of Glamorgan, 31; in the county of Cardigan, 25; in Brecon, 12; and outside the limits of South Wales, 35. The resident electors were 178, and the non-electors 468. Mr. Austin then gives the list of voters at a contest which took place for the election of a sheriff, when 131 votes were recorded in favour of the corporation candidates, against them, 51; thus giving a majority in their favour of 80, of which majority, 75 were non resident electors. The Commissioner then goes on to say,In effect, therefore, the constant majority is a majority of non-residents who—with rare exceptions, are supporters of the corporation party.Now, let me ask if this system prevailed in the case of a £4, is it not likely to do so in the case of a £2 freehold? It must also be observed that in the former instance the votes could not he recorded by letter. The voter had to appear in person at the place of election; but if this system of voting papers be adopted in addition to non-residence I know no limit whatever to the amount of corruption which it may occasion. You cannot, therefore, in my opinion, too strongly express your sense of the entire extinction of freedom which it is calculated to produce in all the small boroughs of a county. Now, there is also another point which a large portion of our fellow countrymen regard as of the utmost importance, and to which I may be permitted briefly to refer. I allude to the borough franchise. I have endeavoured to show that the effect of the Bill, as it now stands, will be to render counties more exclusive, and to hand over the small boroughs to rottenness and complete dependence; for the only independence they could possess must rest upon the opinions and the wishes of non-resident electors, Now, I am not going to dis- 783 cuss this question at all different from that which has hitherto marked the tone of this debate; but I would ask the House whence comes it that we are here to-night discussing the question of reform at all? There are plenty of other things for us to do. Why, then, is this question thrust upon us by Minister after Minister? Some persons say that the noble Lord the Member for London is entirely in fault. Hon. Gentlemen may say whatever they like, but such an assertion as that goes but a very little way indeed. The noble Lord has no particular desire, any more than I have, to disturb this great question. Its settlement, however, has become a necessity, and will continue to be a necessity to the existence of every Government until it is set at rest in a manner that will be satisfactory to the country. [Cheers.] Do hon. Gentlemen by their cheers mean to show us that they do not want Reform? The Government have not touched this question simply in obedience to the commands of their followers, although they have brought in this Bill in accordance with their prejudices and fears. The farmers do not ask you for Reform, although there are, no doubt, some respects in which they desire it. The farm labourer does not press it upon your attention. No, the demand for Reform comes from all your towns and cities; nor is the cry heard from the mouths of the unenfranchised alone; but, in point of fact, from the great majority of the electors themselves. It is not an uncommon thing to hear it asserted—as several hon. Members have asserted in this House—that the electors of this country do not care for Reform; that the middle classes possess the power and do not want to lose it. ["Hear, hear!"from the Ministerial side of the House!] Those hon. Gentlemen who cry ["Hear, hear,"] do not know quite so much as I do about the sentiments of people residing in towns. When the electoral power was in the hands of a few corrupt corporations the case may have been otherwise, for they turned their electoral privileges into a means of annual profit, and did not like to share them with their fellow-townsmen. But I never heard it made a charge against the electors in boroughs, at the present day, that they were anxious to retain the franchise for fear of admitting others of their fellow-countrymen to be sharers, or rivals, or participators with them in the advantages which it comprises. Now the Government, it seems, do not think it necessary to make 784 any change in the borough franchise. We all know that the line which was drawn in 1832 was drawn in direct and almost absolute exclusion of all that class of persons who live by wages. Has it been a source of satisfaction to them? Have there not, upon the contrary, been constant protests against it? Have we not seen and heard—when there was great depression in trade and a great scarcity of food, which now happily is not the case—more constant protests aggravated into something like incipient insurrection? That such has been the case is not to be denied. Well, and what is it that you now do? Twenty-seven years after the passing of the great Reform Bill, and after a whole generation has passed away, you propose to continue, it may be for twenty-seven years longer, that exclusion against which the great body of the unenfranchised population of the country have been lifting up their voices ever since 1832. Now, what is it that Her Majesty's Ministers say to us in introducing this measure? What will this House in effect say, if it passes it into a law in its present shape? You proclaim, in a voice which will reach the furthest corner of the land, that will enter not only into the ear but into the heart of the inhabitants of every home of the class of which I am speaking in England—that we have something or another in our Legislature which they cannot comprehend and must not intermeddle with. You will in effect say to thorn, "We do not trust you, you are as ignorant, as dangerous, as little to be relied upon now as you were twenty-seven years ago." And what will be the result? They will come to the conclusion that upon the same principle upon which you now act you will act for the next twenty-seven years, using precisely the same arguments and pursuing the same course. And now let me pause for one moment to ask what sort of a generation that has been which is just passing, or has passed away? My answer is, such a one as was never known before. You have had under its auspices a longer period of peace than you ever previously enjoyed. The humbler classes have had a larger proportion of the comforts and necessaries of life than at a preceding period. They have improved at a rate of which your grandfathers scarcely dared to dream. You have a free press, such as has not been in existence since the days of Queen Anne—though there may be something still to be done, in order that it may become completely unfettered—a subject to 785 which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be good enough to turn his attention when he gets out of the little difficulty in which he is now placed. You have not only the ordinary number of public journals, but you have 300 newspapers published at the price of 1d., circulating all over the country. Well, all this has been accomplished, yet you propose to exclude the members of that class to whom you are indebted for much of your prosperity—with the exception of the trifling numbers whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his small mercy, proposes to admit under the savings' bank clause to the exercise of the franchise. I saw a statement the other day, to the effect that the operation of such a clause applied to Scotland would be to give Edinburgh about 300, and all Scotland not more than 900 additional voters. The borough electors are 50,000, and this extraordinary extension of the franchise will admit 2½ per cent increase, and that is all the small dole which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his friends offer to the great body of the working classes of this country. Scotland is a frugal country; its people are industrious and saving to a degree which is hardly comprehended here, and yet this been will only enfranchise some 1,200 persons there. I am prepared to assert that this is not a Bill of Reform at all. It is, in point of fact, that which, in electioneering phrase, is considered a complete case of personation. It is not the genius of liberty that comes before us in the shape of a Bill, but it is something which the people of this country had hoped they had seen and heard of for the last time in our history. I think if it were to pass it would be held by the whole population of the country to be nothing better than a complete delusion, disappointing every class, and tending to create discontent, which this House would have great difficulty hereafter in allaying. Now, there is one point which has been dwelt upon by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and others, in which I do not feel the same extraordinary interest which some Members appear to feel, and that is as to the uniformity of franchise. I do not say that it is necessary, I do not say that there is any advantage in it, but I do not see the great disadvantages which have been ascribed to it. It has been represented to me as a very democratic proceeding. I am not myself very democratic, therefore I can assure the House the scheme has not on that account any charms 786 for me. I think it would have been just as well not to have had this uniformity; but I do not sec any harm there is in it. There is only one reason why we should complain of it, and that is that it would not be so easy to give a move to the whole franchise hereafter as if the county franchise were different from that of the boroughs. But I can assure hon. Members that if they tie the two together, there is no power in this House to keep the borough franchise at £10, and unless they give up the idea of uniformity the county franchise must come down with the boroughs. However, that is a matter for hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider, and no doubt it has been considered by Her Majesty's Government. But if I have no alarm about that, there is one thing that I have some alarm about, and that is the manner in which some Members of the House seem disposed to treat this question. I refer particularly to my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Horsman), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts (Mr. Sidney Herbert), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), who has not spoken in this debate, but who wrote a letter to his constituents upon the subject, The right hon. Gentleman is an extraordinary instance of what I may call hallucination. he represents the greatest number of working men to be found in any constituency—out of a population of 40,000 there are 6,000 electors, which is a far larger number than I thought of proposing to the House. My right hon. Friend says there is no constituency that he knows which equals his in independence, in intelligence, in virtue. Well, Sir, I can't admit all that. I know something of Coventry—my father was born there, but I never heard, nor ever observed that the people of that town were upon the whole very superior. I believe they are in no degree inferior to the same classes in other manufacturing towns. My right hon. Friend says he is in favour of household suffrage, but as the people of this country are not ready for that he will do nothing,—he will have household suffrage or nothing; which, after all, is very much like what was called the Charter. I am alarmed that the right hon. Gentleman, like the hon. Members for Wilts and Devonport, should, in the face of a hundred meetings held spontaneously within the last month, delude himself with the idea that nobody, beyond the 650 gentlemen in this House, cares anything about this ques- 787 tion, and that we may comfortably get rid of it in some way here, by digging a hole in the floor of the House and burying it, as nobody cares about it. That proposition has been submitted to the House by various hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole) has the same notion. He thinks it must be settled this Session—that it can be—that it is necessary it should he settled. Why? For this reason—that you know that the form in which you propose to settle it will not be satisfactory to the people. You know well—I think the right hon. Gentleman has confessed it, as some have—that during the autumn you may have meetings—during the winter you may have agitation. Well, what would this country have been without meetings, without agitation? We boast that we have abolished our ancient and barbarous mode of making extensive revolutions and changes in our political system; but if you have done with war and bloodshed for these purposes, do not imagine that those changes which become necessary from time to time can be carried out and accomplished without the healthy operation in some cases perhaps approaching to a rude but still a refreshing and strengthening agitation. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to wish to forget some things had happened fifteen years ago. Then their organization was complete. They had farmers' meetings everywhere. And, not content with farmers' meetings, they had an office in Old Bond Street and a publication committee, and they had every description of instrument for an irritating and exasperating agitation which they could possibly devise. I do not imagine for a moment that this question can be settled in the present temper of the House satisfactorily to the people. Are you quite sure that there is nothing in what is going on out of doors? I met a right hon. Gentleman the other day near the House, and he said to me as a great secret, "You know, of course, that nobody does care about reform?" Well, he did not get me to agree with him upon that point. I happen to have been to some of the largest populations of the country, and I have seen meetings exceeding in number and exceeding in influence, I believe, almost every meeting that was held by the Anti-Corn Law League during the agitation of the repeal of the Corn Laws. The populations you are about to disappoint and defy, what have they done? They have conquered 788 everything they have grappled with hitherto. I do not speak of distant realms conquered under your banners, but of arts and manufactures and all that tends to wealth and civilization. Do you think that this population will not also conquer a much larger share of their political rights than you are determined to allot to them. There was a speech made from the bench opposite by the hon. Member for Dorset (Mr. Sturt). I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last; it is matter of regret that he does not speak more frequently. But I allude to that speech for the sake of referring to one expression in it, where the hon. Gentleman said, I am not afraid of the people of this country, and he gave a just, and powerful, and eloquent rebuke to an hon. Member who unthinkingly cheered in an ironical manner the observation he made. I tell the House frankly that they do not well understand the bulk of the population of this country, particularly in the manufacturing towns. I have seen some great mistakes made on this point. In 1848 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), who was then Home Secretary, was thrown into a panic on the 10th of April, or rather some days before, for before the day came, the thing came to be laughed at. What did the right hon. Gentleman do? I do not speak of his fortifying the Bank, but I am told he was in dreadful terror about the British Museum. I have been told that he garrisoned the British Museum not with Minie rifles or Armstrong guns, but with 100, or, if I have not been misinformed, with 200 tons of paving stones and boulders, which were placed on the roof of the British Museum. And not only was it garrisoned, but, as was quite proper, the commissariat was attended to also. The Museum was provisioned for three days; and besides that, care was taken to cut the steps away that led to the rooms where the most precious medals are kept, and as there did not happen to be an assault upon the British Museum the garrison consumed the three days' provisions before sundown. But to come to a still later period. Take the Great Exhibition of 1851. There was then alive a man who will ever stand prominent in the history of this country—the Duke of Wellington—and he was terrified—he who had never felt alarm in his life before, was alarmed at his own countrymen; and he insisted on drawing a large body of troops nearer to London to be ready in case of an emergency. Why, if half 789 a dozen foreigners had attempted to get up an insurrection they would have been quietly put into the reservoirs in Trafalgar Square in the course of five minutes by the people themselves; and yet it was thought necessary that 20,000 troops, if I mistake not, should be drawn round London to be ready in case of a disturbance. I well recollect that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) gave an account of what a foreigner said to him of the deportment of the masses of the people on that occasion. The noble Lord knows well the character of the people, and he told the foreigner that all this order was the result of some sense on the part of the people that they had a Government which, on the whole, did not intend to oppress them, that the people were good tempered in themselves, they were intelligent and orderly, and that a policeman was an authority of high dignity among them, whom they at once obeyed. These words do much credit to the noble Lord's good taste, and they are perfectly true as regards the people of this country. Why, I ask, do not hon. Gentlemen opposite agree with the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, and not fear the people? Why is it that you have a dread of the people which the corresponding class in the manufacturing districts—the employers and the owners of property—never entertain? Hon. Gentlemen know that I have lately attended a meeting at Bradford. At that meeting two men moved resolutions, namely, Mr. Titus Salt, of Bradford, and Mr. John Crossley, the brother of the hon. Member for Halifax, than whom I believe there are not in the kingdom two manufacturers more eminent and more prosperous, or who enjoy more of the confidence of the people among whom they live. These two Gentlemen cordially agreed in every proposal which I brought forward for an extension of the suffrage. I come next to Rochdale, the town in which I live. A meeting was held there, and it was attended by gentlemen almost equally eminent, and almost equally large employers; and they took precisely the same course. Then let us pass to Bury, to Blackburn, or to Bolton. At that latter place there was a remarkable meeting, and I had a conversation with four gentlemen there on the subject of the policy which I was disposed to pursue. One of these gentlemen said he thought the suffrage which I was disposed to propose was not sufficiently extensive. Now, these four gentlemen employed probably 790 6,000 or 7,000 persons; and I will undertake to say that amongst them they own property to the value of not less than £1,000,000 sterling. I ask the hon. Gentlemen opposite, then, why it is that these men have not the some fears with regard to the population that you have? Surely they must know what they are about. They must know that if any danger should come to the country it would touch them first? Your landed estates are more permanent than our manufactures; and any convulsion in the country, any violent action of the democracy, would of course be infinitely more perilous to us than it could possibly be to you. And yet all those persons in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and I believe a large portion of the employers of labour in those counties are in favour of a very large extension of the suffrage, and believe that it would conduce to their own advantage and the safety of their own property if such a concession were made by the House. Without votes, we know that the working classes who think about this question feel that they are distrusted, that they are aliens, that they are marked as inferiors, that they are, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, in some sort pariahs. In that position, if opportunity offers, it is not to be wondered at if great discontent, and sometimes even turbulence, should arise; but if you give votes to these men, you will find that they have much self-respect, and much elevation of mind, and that there will be a great and wide strengthening of their virtue. If the House will permit me I should like to read an extract from a letter which has been addressed to me by a working man, who is employed, I believe, as a stonemason, relative to the question whether a working man can be trusted with the franchise. He writes me a letter, of which this is an extract; and I am sure the House will think that it contains words that are deserving of remark. He says:—But some say that we, as working men, have no stake and no interest hi the country. I hardly know what is meant by these assertions; but if to make sacrifices for the good of our country be any proof of an interest, I believe the working classes can clearly show greater sacrifices, and fairly claim to have greater stake and interests both in the country and in good government. I had three uncles who all lost their lives fighting for their country; I had three brothers, two of whom served under Lord Wellington throughout the Peninsular campaign; and my third and youngest brother lost his life in the Indian war, and now lies buried at Kurnaul. I had two nephews, one of whom died of the cholera at 791 Varna, and the other, after serving throughout the Crimean war, was raised from the ranks, and is now a lieutenant. No doubt but very many working men could tell of even greater sacrifices and similar tales of their families, except the last. To these statements I would only add, that if the working classes have no stake and no interest in their country, they must be wonderful lovers of their country for nothing.There is one other point to which I will refer, and that is a point which was raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General towards the conclusion of his speech. He referred to the state of Europe, and entreated the House, under present circumstances, to beware what they were doing with regard to this question. Now, I have arrived at an entirely different conclusion from the hon. and learned Gentleman upon that point. In the year 1830 the state of Europe was one of a very remarkable character. The state of France was then extremely unsettled, and it exercised a great influence upon the course taken during the next two years by this House and by the country upon the question of Reform. In the year 1848 the state of Europe was again unsatisfactory. I call upon Members of this House to bear witness whether they did not at that time hear from people of every part congratulations of the most decided character upon the fact that two years before the Corn Laws had been abolished, and that one great subject of discontent had been removed from the minds of the people. Let me assure the House then that resistance is not always Conservative. What right have you to assume to be more Conservative in intention than I am? I have a business which is more liable to injury from any disturbance of the public peace than your property. I have a numerous family who depend upon me, and all whose worldly hopes, unless they should become exiles, are bound up with the fortunes of this country. I profess to be in intention as Conservative as you are. I believe that in reality I am infinitely more Conservative, if you will cast your eyes twenty or thirty years forward. Was not free trade Conservative? and yet you resisted it to the last. Why, we recollect a time when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer used to come down to this House—I am not a scholar, or else I should give him a Latin quotation to describe his case—when he used to come down to this House, and tell us with dishevelled hair, of the cruelties that were practised on what he called the ruined and 792 betrayed agriculturists. I recollect that he said upon one occasion that he would rest the whole question on the condition of the operatives two or three years after the repeal of the Corn Laws. Well, everybody knows that since that period the condition of the operatives has been constantly improving, and improving at a rate which certainly has not been witnessed since the time of the great French war. Is economy in finance a Conservative principle? Is peace Conservative? I have devoted in this House and out of it whatever energies and whatever capacity I possess for the purpose of advancing those objects. I have endeavoured to stand by the rules of political economy, and in politics by the higher rules of a real and true morality. And now, in advocating a measure of Reform more extensive than many hon. Members of this House would be prepared to grant, I appear, as I feel persuaded, in the same Conservative character. I believe that a real and substantial measure of Reform, which the people of this country would accept as such—I am not speaking now of any particular proposal which I may have made, but which is not at present before the House—I believe in my conscience that such a measure would elevate and strengthen the character of your population. I believe that, in the language of that beautiful prayer which is read here every day, it would tend to "knit together the hearts of all persons and estates within this realm." I believe that it would add authority to the decisions of Parliament; and I feel satisfied that it would confer a lustre, which time itself could never dim, on the benignant reign in which we have the happiness to live.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at One o'clock.