Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [12th April], "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, while ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform, is of opinion that it is inexpedient to discuss a Bill for the reduction of the Franchise in England and Wales, until the House has before it the entire scheme contemplated by the Government, for the amendment of the Representation of the People,"—(Earl Grosvenor,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. LOWE
said: Sir, as we are now on the second reading of the Bill for reducing the electoral franchise, it is not inopportune to ask, what is the principle of the Bill. Our information on that subject at the present moment is very meagre. We have heard from my right hon. Friend 2078 the President of the Board of Trade that the principle of the Bill is to reduce the franchise; and we have learnt from the Solicitor General for Scotland, as I understood him, that the principle of the Bill is to fill up two blanks with figures—which the Government propose to fill up with "seven" and "fourteen" respectively; but which we may fill up with any numbers we think proper. These are the rather faded and colourless views which have been imparted to us on this important subject. I submit that they are no answer to the question at all; because the principle of a Bill does not mean the scope and tenour of a Bill. It does not mean what the Bill professes to do, but it means the grounds and reasons on which it is based; and on that subject, so far as I am aware, the Government are entirely silent. I can only imagine two grounds on which this Bill for lowering the elective franchise can be proposed to the Mouse. The first of these grounds is, that the franchise is a thing which ought to be given for its own sake; the second is, that it is a means for obtaining some ulterior object. Which of these two is the principle of this Bill? The first principle has, at any rate, the merit of extreme simplicity. Those who profess it are very little troubled either with proof or investigation. According to that theory, all they have to do is to find a person fitted to have the elective franchise—and they are not very particular or exacting in proof of fitness, nor very strict in the presumptions they apply to it—and having found that person, the giving of the franchise to him follows as a matter of immediate and cogent necessity. According to this view, this is not a question of politics at all, but of morality—of right and wrong. It is a "debt," to use the word of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and when you find a man presumably fit for the franchise, according to this view, you are as much bound to give it to him as you are to pay your ordinary debts. To deliberate or hesitate about it is an act of injustice, just as it is to deliberate or hesitate about paying your ordinary debts. All who are not admitted to the franchise become creditors of the State, and every hour we withhold it from them is wrong accumulated upon wrong—a denial of justice, a disgrace and opprobrium to those who withhold it. Now, that is one view that may be taken. It is very important to know whether that be the view on which this Bill is brought forward, because it is a view which, what 2079 ever other merits it has, entirely eludes anything like reason or argument. It either flies so high or sinks so low that it is impossible to deal with it by argument. Those who propound it may be great philosophers—they may be inspired apostles of a new Religion of Humanity; but so far as they lay down this doctrine they are not politicians, nor do they use arguments within the range of the science or art of politics. They may, on the other hand, be victims of the most puerile fallacy. They may have mistaken the means for the end, and inferred, because we all believe, from our long experience of it, that the elective franchise is a good thing for the purpose of obtaining the end of good government, therefore it is necessarily a good thing in itself. They have this great advantage, in common with all enthusiasts and all persons believing in immediate intuition, over those who are not so fortunate, that they emancipate themselves from the necessity of looking at consequences. They are free from those complicated, embarrassing, and troublesome considerations of the collateral and future effects of measures, which perplex ordinary mortals. They avert their minds altogether from these things, and fall back on the principle that the thing is right in itself, and they disembarrass it of all consequences. That is one view that may be taken of the principle of this Bill. The second is a much humbler, but a much sounder doctrine, and that is that the franchise, like every other political expedient, is a means to an end, the end being the preservation of order in the country, the keeping a just balance of classes, and the preventing any predominance or tyranny of one class over another. Now, Sir, this principle, we have been told, is not one of the principles of the British Constitution, and I will therefore, with the permission of the House, read a few words from the preamble of a statute passed in 1429, the eighth year of Henry VI., and the first statute, as far as I am aware, that contains any declaration with regard to the electoral franchise. The words are these—Whereas the elections of knights of shires have now of late been made by too great and excessive number of people, either of small substance or of no value, whereof every one of them pretended to have a voice equivalent as to making such elections with the most worthy knights and squires dwelling within the same county.And then follow words enacting that no man shall have a vote in the election of 2080 knights of the shire, unless he have a freehold amounting to 40s. per annum in value. Now, look at the principles which this preamble contains. In the first place, it recites that too great a number of persons have taken part in the elections, and it thus clearly contemplates the very evil with which we are so much threatened now in many directions—namely, the too great size of electoral districts, the augmentation of constituencies to a degree that makes them unmanageable. In the next place, it clearly implies that a class may be swamped by another class, poorer, less important, and less entitled to weight in the country, because it recites that most worthy knights and esquires are overbalanced by persons of small substance, who have voices equivalent to theirs; and in the next place it establishes the principle that there ought to be a certain fitness in a man before he is allowed to vote for Members of Parliament. Now those three principles are pretty well what is embodied in the doctrine that the franchise is a means to an end, and that doctrine, as I take it, is, that the franchise, though it ought not necessarily to be given to every one fit for it, should never be given to any one who is unfit. It implies in the second place that in giving votes you should have regard not merely to the fitness of the person, but to the influence which that person or class of persons will exercise over the general well-being of the State; and, in the third place, it seems to me clearly to imply that we ought to be careful so to deal with the franchise that no one class may swamp or overpower another or the other classes. I therefore think that that ancient authority very clearly lays down this second principle, which has at any rate this advantage, that though we may differ as to the quantity of the franchise, some wishing for more and some for less, we have a common ground for argument. If the principle of expediency is conceded, we may succeed in convincing each other of our errors, or may come to some sort of compromise, whereas with persons who hold the first principle there is no common ground whatever, and it is therefore of no use attempting to reason with them, because all reasoning must proceed on something admitted on both sides if conviction is to be obtained. A man who holds the theory I do about politics—namely, that everything is to be referred to the safety and good government of the country, has no common point of 2081 departure with the man who maintains, like the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of the Foreign Office, that it is better we should be governed by large representative bodies and governed badly, than governed by small representative bodies and governed well. And now, Sir, I ask, which of these two is the principle of this Bill? and in order to ascertain that, I should wish to ascertain what the Bill will do, and what will be the number of persons who will be enfranchised under it? If I know that, and if I know also the manner in which those numbers will be distributed, I have then data in my own mind from which I can argue to my own satisfaction as to what is the ground of this Bill, and what Tier Majesty's Government intend by it. But, Sir, I am met here by an immense difficulty, and a difficulty entirely created by the Government themselves, for it is impossible for me, as things stand at present, to guide the vote I am asked to give either by reference to the number of persons who will have the franchise, or by reference to the manner in which they will be distributed. The Government has that information in its hand, but it chooses, for reasons which I will consider presently, to withhold that information from the House, and to insist upon our coming to a conclusion without it.
Now, Sir, when this Bill was first brought in it was intended, I have no doubt—in fact, it was clearly apparent—to be merely a Bill for the extension of the franchise, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer very properly acted on a principle which I never heard of any Government deviating from before. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to assist our deliberations, laid before us the statistics of what would he done by the proposed change, and whether we agree to the principle or not, nothing could be more satisfactory. But then, when certain Members pressed them the Government began to slide. They slid first by saying, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer did, that they would lay a Bill for the re-distribution of seats on the table. Advancing a little further still they said they would not only lay a Bill on the table, but would proceed with it as soon as ever they could; and growing bolder the further they went, they gave us the usual formula, which now seems to apply to every act of the Government, that they were prepared to "stand or fall," by it. But now that we have got to this point the case is changed. Her Majesty's Government, when they 2082 made up their minds at any rate to bring in a Redistribution Bill and stand or fall by it, had really but one course to pursue in common fairness to the House and to themselves, and that was to withdraw the Franchise Bill and bring in a Bill combining both measures. To downright plain common sense there was no alternative, and had the matter been resolved on at once, I have no doubt it would have been done. But it was wrung from them little by little, and self-love, and pride, and a number of other motives which I shall not stop to enumerate, induced them, while they believed themselves forced to concede a great deal, to appear to concede as little as possible, and so they clung to this shred of withholding information from us, and upon that they have made it plain that they are going to put not only their Bill, but the Administration itself, in peril. Now, Sir, I confess that I have never read of or seen any conduct on the part of any Government so utterly irrational as this. It is quite clear that till we know how these seats are to be distributed we do not know the number of electors that this Bill will bring into existence; because, suppose the seats of the small boroughs—take any you like, and there is one which people would rather take than any other—take any you please, and take Burnley or any such place, and transfer the seat from one borough to the other, and it is not merely a transfer of an amount of political power, but you call into existence several thousands of £7 voters, who had no electoral existence before. So it is right we should know what number of persons we are going to enfranchise, it is right we should also know what the re-distribution is to be. But that is not all. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) said the other night, and said with truth, that you might have universal suffrage established by law, but, giving the re-distribution to a person adverse to that, he could contrive completely to neutralize it and could make matters worse—that is, as the hon. Member means, loss popular—than at present. Thus we are not only in ignorance of the number of people to be enfranchised, but utterly in ignorance of what is to be the effect of it. We do not know in the least what the effect will be, and yet the position of the Government is that we are to go on and read this measure a second time, while they, having this information in their possession, speaking to us, and arguing with us with all this knowledge in their hands, withhold it from us, and 2083 insist that we shall vote upon this measure without it. Now it is very common and very right for Governments, when there are matters which, on the ground of public policy, should not be made known, to call upon their supporters, and even on the Opposition in some cases, to give them so much confidence as to allow them to keep back information. But this is no matter of that kind. This is a matter, as far as I can understand, kept back through mere wantonness, a trial of power to see whether the Government can make the House of Commons pass under the yoke or not, to see whether they can exhibit us to the country as persons who are content to be treated with this degree of indignity, who before we have any opportunity of committing ourselves, of saying or doing anything which would lead the Government to suppose that we are unwilling to pass this measure, are subjected to the indignity of having the most important of its provisions concealed from us, and told to vote just as if we had them before us. Look at the language which Ministers employ in speaking of the House of Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking to an applauding audience at Liverpool, deliberately tells them that he knows the people with whom he has to deal; that is, of course, that we—I do not speak of myself or of those hon. Members who have been exposed to so much animadversion, but the House of Commons at large—are people better known than trusted. Look, too, at the manner in which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade speaks of us. He told us the other night that he wanted to bring the matter before us pure and simple, to get us into a corner and compel us to speak. Now, is that a respectful manner for a Minister of the Crown to speak of the House of Commons? If it was a question of a horse, and he wanted to try whether it was a roarer, I could understand his getting it into a corner of the stable and giving it a hard punch in the ribs to see whether it would grunt or not, but I really did think that the Commons of England were not exactly persons to be treated in this manner. But look at the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He said with much unction, "Some people say we have divided this Bill into two halves because we knew we could not carry the whole at once, but that we can carry it if we can cut it in two; well, that," he said, "is exactly why we did it." That is to say, the 2084 Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade want to force us, to compel us; and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with admirable candour, says he hopes he can take us in. He thinks we are not aware that two halves make a whole, and therefore that he can palm upon us one half and then another, the two being much larger than the whole; and he thinks we shall be willing to accept them from him, and shall not be able to see through the deceit, even when he has been so kind as elaborately to explain it. It has always been said, and more particularly by Hallam, that one of the great advantages of having the leading Members of the Government in this House is that they owe a double allegiance—one as the servants of the Crown, and another as Members of the House of Commons; so that while not wanting in their duty as servants of the Crown, they have always been anxious to maintain the dignity and privileges of this House. Hallam was a good historian, but he was no prophet. Had he had the happiness of witnessing the conduct of the present Government he would have found that, whatever their allegiance to the Crown, the main object of their action, upon which they are staking their very existence, is to humiliate and degrade the Members of this House in the eyes of their constituents. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of this House, has evidently no confidence in us. If we have no confidence in him we know well enough what must happen. But although he makes a parade of a feeling of disrespect for us, while he seeks to place us in the most humiliating position, we are asked to put the most implicit confidence in him. This is not a course that the dignity and position of this House will permit you to adopt, and I might paraphrase an old epigram and say to the right hon. Gentleman—Whatever the pain it may cost,It is time we should each say adieu;For your confidence in us is lost,And we've not got sufficient for two.The position held by the right hon. Gentleman is a most remarkable one, and but few men could get into such a position twice in their lives, yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had that unapproachable felicity. When he went as high Commissioner Extraordinary under the Government of Lord Derby to the Ionian Islands the right hon. Gentleman proposed to reform the Ionian Constitution, and one of 2085 the reforms was that the powers of the Lord High Commissioner should be defined by an Act of the Assembly. They were very sweeping and arbitrary. But he said there must be an exception to the rule, and that exception must be of all the powers that Her Majesty by Order in Council chose to exempt from the operation of the Act. You need not wonder that the Act did not pass. But let us look a little further. I have shown—and I do not propose to dwell upon that point, because it has been so admirably put by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley)—that we are asked to discuss this Bill while we are shut out from the information on the subject that we ought to have Look at the present position of the Government as shown by their own admission. They admit that before we go into Committee we ought to have the whole of the information we ask for before us. They admit that we have a right to know that the Government will proceed with the second measure immediately, and yet they say, although they know that the same process of debate can be repeated on going into Committee, as on the second reading, they will not give us the information we require until by reading the Bill a second time we have pledged ourselves to adopt the Bill, and until they have got us into a corner. It has not been attempted yet—it is a task well worthy of the subtle genius of the right hon. Gentleman—to define the relation of the information to this Bill, to show that it is information so estranged and remote from the principle of the Bill that it ought not to be laid before us on the second reading, yet that it is so intimately bound up and entwined with the principle of the Bill that it must be laid before us and well considered before we go into Committee. I cannot, of course, vouch for the truth of the rumour, because I think Government have gone quite far enough in the way of conceding things that are to be done after the second reading, while maintaining their singular policy with regard to what shall be done before the second reading, but I am told we are to have one more concession. If we will only consent to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer this victory over us by giving the Bill a second reading, while we are utterly in the dark, to please him, he will undertake that the two Bills shall advance pari passu, and that one shall, not be passed without the other. This may meet some of the objections brought against the Bill, but it 2086 will not meet any of the objections I have suggested. Would it show you that you are properly treated by the Government—would it show that you are doing your duty to the country and to your constituencies, in sanctioning by your vote a measure the grounds and results of which are studiously and purposely concealed from you? Would it show that you are acting in a manner worthy of the dignity of this great Assembly and of the relations between this great Assembly and the executive Government, upon which the whole working power of our Constitution depends? I refer to this because it is supposed that these things may be mentioned to us at the last moment, when it is too late to reply to them. But I beg that you will consider these questions before it is too late, and I am sure that you will see that the statements should they be made do not remove the real solid objections to the Bill. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn argued with great force that the question of this proposed Re-distribution Bill must come before a House of Commons elected either by the present or by the new constituency. In the first case, the House under such circumstances would really be legislating with a halter round its neck. The measure of its compliance with the demands of the Government would be, not what it might think right, but what it might believe that the Parliament succeeding it would do. It would cease to be a free agent, and would be placed in a situation which I think no House not smitten with a most inordinate love of life would wish to occupy. The other alternative is that the matter should be decided by a House elected by the new constituency. That will be a provisional constituency in which the Government themselves profess no confidence, as they tell you that as soon as it is created they are going, by the re-distribution of seats, to alter its numbers and electoral district. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) meets that argument of the noble Lord by saying that he is contented with the Bill as it stands. He thinks that a sufficient answer, and Member after; Member gets up and says the same thing. The question, however, is not whether the hon. Member is satisfied, but whether the Government is consistent. It is an argument against the Government that if they thought this constituency was not fit to be a permanent one for the legislation of this country, it was monstrous to take such 2087 measures as would possibly throw the decision of this case into the hands of the very constituencies they had themselves treated as provisional and transitory. The argument of the noble Lord is an argumentum ad homines as regards the Government, and is not addressed to the individual convictions of Members. I conclude that, on the clearest ground of self-respect, of what is due to the dignity and the honour of this House, and to the traditions of centuries intrusted to us, we ought never to allow—and I never will, as far as my vote goes—any Government to attempt anything of the kind. Besides the pleasure of the victory over the House of Commons there is another motive—they want to get something they could not get if they disclosed the Seats Bill. We are not told what that something is, but we are furnished with the most pregnant grounds for conjecture, because it must be something so important that the Government prefers to stake its existence upon it rather than reveal it to the House of Commons. Every Member who has the fortune to sit for a borough which is threatened by the Seats Bill has a right to put the worst construction upon this measure. Besides, if it were only a little matter that lay behind, surely you cannot imagine Government going with their eyes open to what looks very like assured perdition, rather than let us know the details of the Redistribution Bill.
Having been headed off by the Government in my attempt to satisfy myself as to the question of the franchise, I might throw the matter up in despair, but as I am anxious to pick up all the information I can I will state what I know upon the subject. The main fault in my reasoning will be that it is not applicable to the future state of things, because that state of things is studiously concealed from us. It appears that the effect of this Bill, according to the figures of the Government, will be to introduce 144,000 £7 electors into the different boroughs, and the result will be that the working classes will have a majority in ninety-five boroughs, almost a majority in ninety-three, and more than one-third of the representation in eighty-five. This is mere matter of calculation, and an application of the rule of three sum we are asked to do. But then you must add to these figures 60,000 compound householders and non-ratepayers. You must take into consideration that the gross estimated rental is lower than the actual 2088 rental, that in thirty boroughs the Assessment Act has never come into operation at all, and that they contain one-half of the borough population. There is always a tendency in a progressive state of society for the actual rental to rise above the gross estimated rental, and therefore very considerable allowance must be made for that. Then there are a great many persons of the lodger class. All these things put together satisfy me that the majority of the 334 boroughs in England and Wales will be in the hands of the working classes immediately on the passing of the Bill. The argument of Mr. Baxter—not the Member for Montrose, but a gentleman who has written a very excellent pamphlet upon the subject—shows a state of things well worthy of attention. He shows that taking the three decades since the passing of the Reform Bill the increase in the franchise was much more rapid in the first and least prosperous decade than in the other two. It increased 43 per cent in the first decade, 27 in the second, and 20 in the third. Is not this a proof that the £10 franchise eats up the £8 and £9, which are drawn into the higher rate, while the higher fattens upon the spoil of its immediate inferiors in the world? And the same process will go on. The £7 will eat up the £6 and the £5. The £7 franchise is 2s. 9d. a week, and 2s. 6d. a week will give £6 10s. You see, therefore, how easy it is to ascend. The difference is merely one of 3d. per week, and the margin is, consequently, very small. I am now only expressing my honest conviction on this matter. I cannot pretend to give it to the House upon complete evidence, because I have not the materials for demonstrating it to you. But that I have not those materials is not my own fault, but the fault of the Government, and, therefore, in considering this matter it ought to weigh most strongly against them.
I now come to another subject, and that is the treatment of the House by the Government. Even before this House came into existence in its corporate capacity the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord at the head of the Government set to work to devise its destruction, and the Members of this House have been treated rather as condemned criminals than as friends in council. The right hon. Gentleman in his opening speech forbore to give the House any reasons for bringing in this Bill. The policy of its introduction was challenged pretty warmly in the debate 2089 which took place at the time, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer forbore to reply. It was perfectly open to him to adopt that course, and to reserve his statement for the second reading. But what was the next thing? My noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho)—to whom the Government owe their idea of collecting statistics—took the opportunity of asking, and not unreasonably, for some further information of the kind already furnished by the Government, It was natural enough that having already information about the boroughs, hon. Members should desire to have similar information about the counties. This consideration was pressed upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer by several hon. Gentlemen, and he said, "You shall have no more statistics. Throw figures to the dogs. I'll none of them. Here you are speaking, measuring, calculating, as if the working classes were an invading army. Are they not your fellow creatures? Are they not fathers of families? Are they not taxpayers? Are they not your flesh and blood? And do you capitulate, and do you palter with them? Here are statistics enough. Take that thine is and go thy way." I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very polite to my noble Friend, who, however, is well able to take care of himself, or very respectful to the House. The Government having furnished us this statistical information ought certainly to be willing to listen to our demands, because there is no possible reason why the machinery by which the component parts of constituencies above £10 were determined should not also be employed to discover those below that figure, This conduct throws light on the question of the principle of the Bill, and appears to me to evince a foregone conclusion on the part of the Government—a determination that the thing was to be done at any hazard, and a belief that the results were of no consequence whatever. Then, again, it was not to us that the Chancellor of the Exchequer imparted his first impressions upon this matter. He went to Liverpool, and to an audience of a very different character delivered those reasons for bringing in this Bill which ought to have been laid before the House on its first reading, in reply, or on the Motion for its second reading. My right hon. Friend should have laid his reasons first of all before this House instead of im- 2090 parting them to a select circle of friends assembled in that most inappropriately named Philharmonic Hall at Liverpool. And then the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of the Government between the first and second reading, and before the course which Parliament would adopt with reference to the Bill was known, set on foot a sort of Ministerial agitation. It is absurd to pretend that the influence of agitation was not resorted to, and it is not the fault of some of those who took part in that agitation that it did not develop into an influence of terrorism. Well, after these things were over, the Chancellor of the Exchequer came back to the House and favoured us with a languid rechauffe of the arguments he had already employed at Liverpool, and thus the baked meats of the Philharmonic Hall did coldly furnish forth the tables of the House of Commons. Well, Sir, I maintain that from first to last, from the introduction of this measure to the present moment, the treatment we have received can only be regarded as an attempt to degrade and lower the character of the House of Commons. No doubt there are some Gentlemen who do not view the matter in this light. They are probably accustomed to measures so much more drastic and more stringent that they regard as matters of small consequence those lesser indignities which, nevertheless, do touch gentlemen and men of honour. I admit the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not written a letter asking the people to come down to this House, to fill the streets, and to hoot the Members who are opposed to this Bill. I admit that he has not done a great many things of this kind, and therefore I would say with the hon. Member for Westminster—Habes pretiumnon pasces in cruce corvos,which I much prefer toCruoi non flgeris.Now let us turn to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am in an unfortunate position. I am perfectly unable to argue the case with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because when I try to argue with a man I seek for a common ground, and in the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I can find none. He argues in this way. Some people demand what fault is to be found in the existing state of things that it should be altered and destroyed. His reply is, "I am not 2091 bound to produce an indictment." He does not say that any fault is to be found; all he wishes to do is to make the House of Commons better, and to strengthen our institutions. But then he fails to show that the course he adopts will have that effect, nor has he, indeed, attempted at any time to prove anything of the kind. I drew out for him on a small scale, and according to the best of my humble abilities, an estimate of the House of Commons, of its good and its bad qualities, and I challenged him to show how his proposed measure would diminish the evil and increase the good. The right hon. Gentleman has taken no notice of that challenge, nor indeed has anybody attempted to meet it. He dare not, will not, put the matter upon this ground. I think the right hon. Gentleman deliberately averted his eyes from the results in this matter, and, like the hon. Member for Birmingham, has determined to regard the question as a matter of justice, with which expediency, the good of the State, and the destiny of future ages have nothing whatever to do. The right hon. Gentleman says, "I am not bound to produce an indictment. People who say that a fault should be found before a remedy is applied assume that the franchise is an evil, while I believe it is a good in itself." This brings me back to the first of the two principles to which I have alluded, and I do not think I am wrong in identifying the Chancellor of the Exchequer with it. You will find that the same train of argument pervades the whole of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman says that we ought to give the franchise to the 204,000 persons who will be affected by this Bill because they are our fellow Christians. But is that an argument for admitting them? Why, Sir, who are the people in this country who do not profess and call themselves Christians? It is an argument, if anything, for the admission of the whole of the male, and perhaps the female, population, but it is no argument whatever for admitting the 204,000 more than anybody else. So, in the same way, with the fathers of families, who are by no means peculiar to the British nation. Then, again, with regard to the taxpayers, or, as I should prefer to call them, consumers of taxable commodities, which is a very different thing. This class would include the whole of our criminals, paupers, idiots, lunatics, children, and, in fact, everybody 2092 else, and does not consist only of the 204,000 to whom this Bill refers. The argument from flesh and blood applies not only to the human race, but extends also to the animal kingdom, and if this principle were allowed we might have another "Beasts" Parliament, proposed after the pattern of the assembly commemorated in the old epic of Reynard the Fox. The right hon. Gentleman then maintains that it is a monstrous thing to exclude the working classes, because their income, amounts to £250,000,000. But who are the people who enjoy the income of £250,000,000? Are they the 204,000 who are to receive the franchise? If so, each of these men would have £1,200 a year, and such an income would effectually disqualify them from sharing in the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman, because they could then scarcely be regarded as belonging to the working classes. What he means is that these £250,000,000, constitute the income of the whole of the working classes; but he does not propose to admit the whole of the working classes. What I wish to show, therefore, is that this argument is good for nothing at all, or it is good for extending the franchise to the whole of the people of the country. My right hon. Friend's argument about the contributions to the revenue may be regarded in the same light. He says that the working classes contribute one-third or more of the revenue of this country; but who contribute it? Then, again, the revenue obtained from the working classes is chiefly derived from the duties on tea and sugar, and on stimulants—beer, spirits, and tobacco—and the revenue from the latter source alone has of late years increased to the enormous amount of £20,000,000. But these £20,000,000, are not contributed by the proposed 204,000 new voters. And so the thing comes round again. It may possibly be quite right that the class that only spends £1,260,000, in £10 houses while the duty on its expenditure on exciseable articles amounts to a large part of £20,000,000, should receive the franchise. But then, it is an argument for the admission of the whole class, and not of any particular portion. The House will, I think, see that I am not wasting their time in referring to these matters. I want to show that this measure is not founded upon any calculation of results, but upon broad sweeping principles, having their 2093 rise in the assumed rights of man and other figments of that kind, which, if admitted, do not prove that the present measure is a good one, but that what is needed is universal suffrage. And that is a point of view in which, being denied the information we ought to have, we are bound, in duty to ourselves and to our country, to regard it. We have been asked whether it is to be believed that the political limit of £10 is to exist for ever, and, I ask, whether the same thing cannot be said for the £7 figure as well as for the other? We had from the hon. Member for Birmingham on the first reading of this Bill a specimen of the ruinous logic by which these things are to be accomplished. He took his stand upon the fact of some right hon. Gentlemen opposite having been once in favour of an £8 franchise, and he said, "We want a £7 franchise, so that there is only a pound between us, and you won't fall out with me for a pound." So the Constitution is knocked down to the lowest bidder. I would not fall out with the hon. Member for Birmingham. I would give him a pound out of my own pocket if he wanted it; but his pound is no joke. The hon. Member for Birmingham's pound means 100,000 men, and 100,000 men of whom he may know a great deal, but of whom we—instructed in the matter only from what we learn by public documents—know nothing at all. Parenthetically, I may observe that I should be very much obliged to the hon. Member for Birmingham if he would make his soliloquies a little less dramatic. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asks, "Is it to be tolerated that in this country we are to have a narrow precinct called the Constitution, within which we have gathered some million, or 1,200,000 or 1,300,000, while outside of it we have some four-and-a-half millions?" But I want to know whether, after we have admitted within the precinct some 200,000 or 300,000 of these outsiders, the proportion of numbers upon which the right hon. Gentleman bases his argument is in any sensible degree diminished. If the argument is good for anything, it goes in not for the few hundred thousand only, but for the 4,500,000. There might have been some answer to this if the right hon. Gentleman had shown us in the speeches which he has delivered, either in the House or to the people at Liverpool, the least qualification for this principle, what limit he puts upon it, or why £7, or any other 2094 limit, should be thought of, or how he reconciles it, or how he thinks the thing will fit in with the state of our society. But he has done nothing of the kind. It is a principle the most dangerous, the most sweeping, the most democratic, that has ever been set forth by any Minister in this House. He has taken it without modification and without qualification—not to work upon our minds—for I trust there are very few educated gentlemen upon whom such views as those would make any impression whatever, but to work upon the minds of the people at large who have not had the advantage of the culture which we have enjoyed. Then there is another point. We have been, it seems, during the last few years doing something for the working classes—and here the right hon. Gentleman is exceedingly patronizing—we have done a good deal for their education, the clergy have done a great deal for their morals, and something has been done for them in sanitary matters—is it to be supposed that, after all this has been done, the franchise should not be extended to them? The right hon. Gentleman does not point to any tangible result from all this, to show that there is any reason in point of fitness for admitting to the franchise by lowering it. He merely asserts, "You have done all this for them; it must have produced a result;" he assumes that the result was good and sufficient, and he calls on you to lower the franchise accordingly. I say if he proved that the result was good and sufficient, which he does not pretend to do, it would not be an argument for lowering the franchise unless he could also show that the lowering of the franchise was on the whole likely to work for the good of society. He does not even satisfy his own condition; for he asks us to admit people of whom he knows nothing except that they contribute to the revenue, have a large aggregate income, and have had a good deal of money spent upon them by the Government in order to improve their condition; and then, speaking in a patronizing manner, he says, "We have done a good deal for them, so now, let us make them our masters." With affected ignorance, the right hon. Gentleman says, "If democracy be liberty, we have no occasion to be afraid; but if democracy be vice and ignorance, then this Government is not democratic." Who ever said it was? The question is not whether this Government is democratic, but whether the Government 2095 he asks us to make must not necessarily be democratic. Does not the right hon. Gentleman know what democracy is? Whatever we learnt at Oxford, we learnt that democracy was a form of Government in which the poor, being many, governed the whole country, including the rich, who were few, and for the benefit of the poor. The question is—Is not that the form of Government which the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to introduce? It is not, then, liberty or vice; it is the government of the rich by the poor. Why should not we call it by its right name at once? That is a very short, but for my purpose a sufficient, analysis of the argument of the Chancellor of the Exhequer at Liverpool, because I do not pretend in the least to answer it. I simply deny that justice has anything to do with the matter; it is purely a question of State policy. We are told that we are bound to forge our own fetters, while we shut our eyes to the consequences of what we do; but the essence of my theory is that you are bound to look most strictly to the results we may reasonably anticipate. From the sweeping nature of this Bill when carefully looked at, from the manner in which it has been forced upon the House, and from the arguments by which it has been supported by the right hon. Gentleman, I maintain that it is founded upon the principles I have mentioned, and I may state that not one person who has spoken on it in connection with the Government has taken a view of it different from his, or has endeavoured in the least to qualify the principle upon which it is based; and that is that the franchise is due to everyone whom you cannot show to be unfit. But that principle followed up leads straight to ruin; it asserts that the franchise is a thing we are bound to pay; and so clear is our obligation that we are desired to shut our eyes and disregard all expediency, and to leave the constituencies so created to take care of us and of themselves. We are told that we are under no more obligation to see what use they would make of the franchise than we are to inquire what use a creditor would make of a payment of money justly due to him. Anything more dangerous, more utterly subversive, I cannot conceive. We must also keep in sight the democratic influence of the re-distribution of seats, whatever it may be.
If the House will bear with me, I will call attention to another matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster has 2096 come out in a new character. I do not speak of the excellent speech which he has made, because, having known him for many years, I was quite sure that when he took the trouble to give us his best thoughts, instead of dealing in impromptus, those great abilities which are acknowledged to be his would be apparent. But my hon. Friend has taken a new stand. He has taken many positions with regard to this subject, as those who are acquainted with his works well know; but he has now come forward in the capacity of the advocate of my second principle, the doctrine of class representation. He demands the franchise for the working classes, because he says they are not sufficiently represented now, although they have a fourth of the votes in boroughs, He offers no argument in support of his assertions: I therefore pass it by, as I wish to deal with arguments and not assertions. My hon. Friend does say, however, that the working class have not so much influence as they might be supposed to have, because they are so distributed that they are usually outvoted; and thus they are in a position little better than if they had no votes at all. He regrets on their behalf that some law is not in force for giving to minorities representation. I believe that is a fair statement of my hon. Friend's argument. [Mr. J. STUART MILL was understood to assent.] Now, I think my hon. Friend ought, in passing, to have adverted to the argument which I have so frequently insisted upon in this House—namely, that if the working class have only 128,000 in the present constituencies, it is very much their own fault, because many more of them have the means if they choose to live in £10 houses. The law, therefore, is not to blame in this respect. He might have adverted to a case which I may mention as the type of many others. The Southwick glass manufactory at Sunderland is a large establishment where many workmen are employed, earning from £4 to £5 a week. It is complained that none of these persons had the franchise. But whose fault is that? These workmen are earning some £200, and some £250 a year, and yet they live in houses under £10 a year in value. Is it the fault of the law? Of course, I must not say whose fault it is. Every Gentleman is free to say anything that is complimentary of the working class in general and his own constituency in particular; but any Gentleman who says anything in the slightest degree not pleasing to them is 2097 thought to have grossly misconducted himself. But now, having adopted the theory of classes, we cannot, as my hon. Friend was inclined to do, take it up in order to make an argument in favour of the working class, and lay it down when it makes against them. His logical mind will tell him that he must follow the principle out to its legitimate conclusions, and so he is bound to show us that the extension of the franchise which he asks for the working class, though a wide extension, can be given without injury to the other classes. He must not take the theory up for the working classes alone, but for all classes, Now, he has not condescended to show us how the extension which he approves would influence the position of any other class except the working class, or rather the poor class, for I view this question not as one between working classes and those who employ them, but between those who have property and those who have not. Now, Sir, I would refer my hon. Friend and the House to the preface of the third edition of his work on Political Economy. It was published in 1852, so that my hon. Friend has had time to change his mind since, and he is entitled to do it. This is what he said. I am very glad that I did not—The only objection to which any great importance will be found to be attached, in the present edition, is the unprepared state of mankind in general, and of the labouring classes in particular; their extreme unfitness at present for any order of things which would make any considerable demand on either their intellect or their virtue.That was in 1852, but we have the opinion of my hon. Friend in 1861 In his work on Representative Government, he says—I regard it as wholly inadmissible that any person should participate in the suffrage without, being able to read, write, and, I will add, perform the common operations of arithmetic. Universal teaching must precede universal enfranchisement. No one but those in whom an àa priori theory has silenced common sense will maintain that power over others, over the whole community, should be given to people who have not acquired the commonest and most essential requisites for taking care of themselves.[Mr. J. STUART MILL: Hear, hear!] My hon. Friend himself cheers those remarks. I hope he will take some opportunity of telling us what is the process of investigation he entered on for the purpose of satisfying himself that the electors in £7 houses will be found prepared for the exercise of the franchise. I hope he will 2098 tell us what evidence he has to produce of their intellect and their virtue. I hope he will satisfy us, if he has satisfied himself, of their being able to read and write and to perform all the common operations of arithmetic, including, I suppose—though he did not state it in that passage—the rule of three. I hope he has satisfied himself that universal teaching has preceded universal enfranchisement. Of course, the word "universal" might be struck out and the sense would remain the same—namely, that instruction must precede enfranchisement. I hope he will show us how he has satisfied himself that those persons whom he proposes to enfranchise—to whom he would intrust the interests of others—are persons who have acquired the commonest and most essential requisites for taking care of themselves. If not, how can he reconcile his present position with any principle, but that à priori theory of which he speaks? I do not say my hon. Friend cannot do it. He can do most things, and perhaps he can do this; but I only say as things stand he has not done it, and that his own writings are against the principle which he now supports by his speech. My hon. Friend half took up the challenge which I threw out when I asked in what this Parliament—which has only just come into existence, and which was condemned before it was born—has been found wanting. He pointed out our old friend the cattle plague. I am not going to argue that question over again; but my hon. Friend said that if the working classes had been represented here they might have objected to persons being twice compensated for their cattle. Now, Sir, I cannot persuade my hon. Friend, hut I think if I had the working men here I could show them that the persons to whom the hon. Member for Westminster alludes will not be compensated twice. Suppose a farmer has 100 head of cattle, which are killed to prevent the spread of the disease. He is compensated at less than their value, and then it becomes necessary for agricultural purposes that he should go into the market and buy another 100 head of cattle. The loss which he sustains is not only the difference between the value of his former cattle and the compensation which he got for them, but also the amount by which the price of cattle has been enhanced by the disease, and enhanced in some degree by the slaughter. I cannot persuade my hon. Friend, because he is a philosopher, but I think I could persuade the working 2099 men whom he seeks to bring among us that so far from being paid twice over, the farmer in that case has never been paid once. You can put a case which will be the other way. If a man has a large herd of cattle and is compensated for a few of them, he may be paid over again by the enhanced prices of the remainder. You can put the case both ways; but what I complain of is the narrowness and illiberality of saying that this is a matter which cannot admit of two aspects—that those who differ from my hon. Friend must be wrong, and that if it were not for the faulty constitution of this House we should see and judge things in the same manner as he does.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
said: I wish to correct the last assertion of my right hon. Friend. I never imputed to hon. Gentlemen in this House, or to the landed interest, that they were wilfully wrong.
§ MR. LOWE
I may remark that I suppose no one in this House would have any objection to working men coming here if the constituencies wished to send them. They can do so now if they like, and, therefore, we need not take up time in arguing the point, because I am sure that whenever the constituencies may think proper to send working men here, we shall receive those representatives properly, and listen to them with respect. But my hon. Friend told us of the subjects which the working classes might wish to debate here. He referred to "the right of labour." That sounds very like the right "to" labour of which we heard in 1848. Are we to have the doctrines of Fourier and St. Simon discussed here? We are told that in so doing we shall educate the working man. I protest against this. We are here to legislate for this country, and if we look after the executive Government pretty sharply—if we take care of our finance—and if we watch the Foreign Office, we shall be doing better than we should do by converting this House into an academy or a gymnasium for the instruction even of the élite of the working classes. My hon. Friend said that if the working classes were here they would establish a school in every parish in a few years. Well, that is a subject on which I ought to know something; and I may say that the main object I had in view in the changes which I proposed on the part of the Government in the education system was to benefit the working classes. Under the old system the poor children were not properly taught. The upper children, the children of richer 2100 parents, were examined, and the money was paid; but the lower and poorer children were neglected. The upper children had generally had some education at home; but the poor children had received no education at home, and they were not done justice to in the schools. The object of the Revised Code was to insure that education should be given to the poor just as much as to the rich; so that the object was one mainly—indeed, entirely—for the working classes. But in that object I never received the slightest assistance in any way from the working classes. The opposition to it was very much from the Members for the large towns in which the working classes form a considerable portion of the constituencies; but the working classes themselves never interfered in the matter. They did not care about it. The schoolmasters interfered, and got Members of Parliament to oppose the Code; but the working classes never entered into the matter at all. How, therefore, my hon. Friend can think that working men will deal with this question, in which they have never shown any interest, and which is very intricate and difficult, I cannot understand. Again, my hon. Friend ought to be prepared to show how he means to resist the course of what he calls false democracy. If the working classes, in addition to being a majority in the boroughs, get a re-distribution of the seats in their favour, it will follow that their influence will be enormously increased. They will then urge the House of Commons to pass another Franchise Bill, and another Re-distribution Bill to follow it. Not satisfied with these, yet another Franchise Bill and another Redistribution of Seats will, perhaps, follow. It will be a ruinous game of see-saw. No one can tell where it will stop, and it will not be likely to stop until we get equal electoral districts and a qualification so low that it will keep out nobody.
There is another matter with which my hon. Friend has not dealt. I mean the point of combination among the working classes. To many persons there appears great danger that the machinery which at present exists for strikes and trade unions may be used for political purposes. And that this use of such machinery has not escaped the attention of thinking men, I will show you from a speech made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, in January, 1860. In that speech he said—Working men have associations; they can get up formidable strikes against capital—sometimes 2101 for things that are just, sometimes for things that are impossible. They have associations, trade societies, organizations, and I want to ask them why it is that all these various organizations throughout the country could not be made use of for the purpose of obtaining their political rights.Why is it that those various organizations have not been so made use of? The hon. Gentleman asked that question in 1860, and I admit that hitherto he has received no answer. Why? I will tell you why. The working classes, to use his own expression, are the lever. But they must have a fulcrum before they can act. They have not got it. Give them the majority of the voters in a number of boroughs, and it is supplied to them. It is not by passing resolutions and making speeches they coerce their masters. They watch their opportunity—they wait for the time when large orders are in, and they refuse to work. That is the fulcrum they work on. Give them the majority of voters—that will be their political fulcrum; and if the hon. Gentleman repeats his advice, no doubt they will use it with avidity. I want to call the attention of the House in a few words to the condition of the trade unions, because we are all anxious to discover, if we can, the future of that democracy which, I believe, this Bill will be the first means of establishing. I take one class—the operative stonemasons, a very influential association, numbering 80,000 members, and having a large capital. Last year, after a strike of nineteen weeks, this body of masons beat the masters. Let me call the attention of the House to a letter which they sent to the employers—We present you with the wishes of our trade union, requesting a reply on or before Saturday next:—Mr. Thomas and all non-society plasterers to be discharged; all non-society carpenters and improvers to be discharged; piecework to be abolished, &c.—On behalf of the United Building Trades. "JOHN BARY, Chairman.Mark what that is. See the power unions have of drawing men within their own circle. You say if they become political bodies, men who want to have nothing to do with politics will have nothing to do with them. Can they help themselves? They will be overborne, overawed, they are like men contending with a maelstrom into which, struggle as they may, eventually they will be sucked. This is a paragraph which I have taken from an Edinburgh paper— 2102The tailors' strike may now be considered at an end, the men having agreed to accept the London 'log,' with payment at the rate of 5½d. an hour, as offered by the masters. These terms the men seem to consider as highly satisfactory, entailing, as they will, an increase of from 15 to 25 per cent on their wages. We have been informed that the men have made it a condition with the masters that the 'black sheep,' or those who have continued working during the lockout, shall not obtain employment until they become members of the society, besides paying a fine of 10s. each.You will say these men do not want to join these societies—I dare say they do not; but what choice have they? The truth is—and of this I want to convince; the House—that these trades unions are far more unions against the best, the most skilful, the most industrious, and most capable of the labourers themselves, than they are against their masters. Listen to another rule which is taken from the printed book of the co-operative society of masons—Working overtime, tending to our general injury by keeping members out of employment, shall be abolished, excepting in case of accident or necessity,This is your future political organization. Again—It is also requested that lodges harassed by piecework or sub-contracting, do apply at a reasonable time for a grant to abolish it.That is to say, men are first to be driven into these unions, by pressure such as I have explained to the House, and then, once they are got within the limits, whatever their necessities, whatever the pressure of their families, they are not to be allowed to eke out their income by working overtime. To do so might enable a man, a poor man, to raise himself out of that sphere of life, and furnish him with some still better occupation. But although his good conduct may have invited the confidence and attracted the notice of his master, he is not to be allowed to take a sub-contract, to make a little money in that way. The object of all these proceedings is obvious. It is to enclose as many men as can be got into these societies, and then to apply to them the strictest democratic principle, and that is to make war against all seperiority, to keep down skill, industry, and capacity, and make them the slaves of clumsiness, idleness, and ignorance. One extract more, and I have done—In localities where that most obnoxious and destructive system generally known as 'chasing' 2103 is persisted in, lodges should use every effort to put it down. Not to take less time than that taken by an average mason in the execution of the first portion of each description of work is the practice that should be adopted among us as much as possible; and where it is plainly visible that any member or other individual is striving to overwork or 'chase' his fellow-workmen, thereby acting in a manner calculated to lead to the discharge of members, or a reduction of their wages, the party so acting shall be summoned before the lodge, and if the charge be satisfactorily proved, a fine shall be inflicted on the party implicated.That is to say, when a poor workman, naturally quicker and more skilful than those about him, and with a wish to distinguish himself, shows his capacity, so as to oblige his fellow-workmen to exert themselves more than goes to what they please to the call time taken by an average mason in the execution of his work, he is to be fined and put down. Add to this—what does not appear in any of the rules and regulations, but what we know well—the system of terrorism that lurks behind these trades unions, and makes the lives of the "knobsticks" and "black sheep" miserable till they are driven into them. And then look at this tremendous machinery; if you only arm it with the one thing it wants—the Parliamentary vote!
It remains for us to consider—and I am sure the House will be glad to hear that this is the last branch of the subject which I shall have to treat—the results of the step that you are invited to take. I assume that this is really a very large and sweeping change in the democratic direction, giving, as I believe, the majority of votes in boroughs to the working classes. On that point we are compelled to differ, because the Government will not give us the materials necessary for making an accurate calculation. This change is to be followed by a further and very large change in the re-distribution of seats. It does not depend upon any Government, upon any Minister, perhaps upon any House of Commons to say where those changes will stop. One hon. Member speaks of this as a change that will last fifty years. He has put the matter as entirely out of his power as a man who, rolling a stone down the side of a mountain, fixes beforehand in his own mind the time it will take to reach the bottom. We have had this matter put before us from one very peculiar and invidious point of view. It seems to have been thought that the manner to discuss the probable result of a great democratic change in this country was, on the one side, 2104 to praise the working men, especially those among our own constituents, and, on the other, to remain silent, because nothing except praise, it is presumed, would be borne. I think that is not the way to approach this question. There is considerable risk that in this way the basis of our institutions may be complimented away. We are rich in experience on this subject. We have the experience of our own state and condition, which, compared with that of other countries, may be called a stationary state; we have the experience of our colonies all over the world, which may be described as in a transition state; and we have the experience of those two great democracies, France and America, where democracy may be said to have run its course and arrived at something like its ultimate limits. It is inexcusable in us if we do not apply our minds to the consideration of this subject, and draw from this rich field of observation conclusions more trustworthy and more reliable than those to be gained from our own isolated experience, particularly as this is so often contradictory. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Cardwell) began his speech the other night by telling us that if the working men had a fault in the world it was their too great reverence for authority, and then he went on to tell us that if we did not accede to their present moderate requests, it would be a question, not of how much we should give, but of how much they would take. That was the sum of the hon. Gentleman's remarks; he told us that the burden of proof would be effectually shifted, and he said, what we all understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say before he wrote his preface and made his two speeches to explain away his meaning. The working men entered the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary's speech like lambs, and they left it as lions, and so his estimate of them may be taken to answer itself. The question of peace or war has been a good deal touched upon in this debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Liverpool, was very much struck with the magnificent spectacle of the strength put forth by democracy in the recent war. I would rather he had commended it for something which it had done in peace. I never doubted that democracy was a terrible warlike power. It is not the educated and reflective who are influenced by ideas, but the half educated and the unreflective; and if you show to the ignorant and poor and half educated wrong, 2105 injustice, and wickedness anywhere, their generous instincts rise within them, and nothing is easier than to get up a cry for the redress of those grievances. We feel the injustice, too, but we look not merely at the injustice itself, we look before and after, we look at the collateral circumstances, at what must happen to trade, revenue, and our own position in the world, and we look also at what must happen to those very poor persons themselves before we commit ourselves to a decided course. Persons, also, who have something to lose, are less anxious to lose it than those who have little at stake often, even though these last may by the loss be reduced to absolute poverty. At the time of the Crimean war we actually got up an enthusiasm on behalf of that most abominable and decrepit despotism—the Turkish Empire. Nothing would have been more popular in England than a war on behalf of Hungary in 1849, or one lately on behalf of Poland, Wherever cruelty or injustice exists, the feelings of the humbler class of Englishmen—to their honour be it said—revolt against it, and not possessing the quality of circumspection their impulse is to go straight at the wrong and redress it, without regard to ulterior consequences. Therefore, to suggest that in making the institutions of the country more democratic we have any security from war, that we do not greatly increase the risk of war, seems to me supremely ridiculous. What is taking place in the Australian colonies? Victoria and New South Wales are both governed by universal suffrage, and it is as much as we can do to prevent their going to war with each other. Look at America. A section of the American democracy revolted and broke up the Union, the rest fought to preserve it; the war was fought out to the bitter end, and now that the war is concluded they are almost ready to go to war again to prevent the doing of that which they took up arms to accomplish. Look at free trade. If we have a precious jewel in the world it is our free trade policy. It has been everything to us. With what eyes do democracies look at it? Let us turn to history, and not enter into particular cases of particular working men. Take the facts. Canada has raised her duties enormously, and justified them upon protectionist principles. The Prime Minister of New South Wales at this moment is a strong protectionist. The Ministry in Victoria were free traders, but by the will of the people they have been 2106 converted, and have become protectionists. So vigorously has the question been fought that destruction is threatened to the second branch of the Legislature, though equal in power to the other, in defiance of the laws of the country, and all to carry out a policy of protection. Then we come to America. America out-protects protection—there never was anything like the zeal for protection in America. With a revenue that needs recruiting by every means in their power, they persist in sacrificing the most valuable resources; with a frontier that bids defiance to any effectual attempts to guard it, they persist in maintaining duties that provoke to wholesale smuggling rather than reduce them by a single penny. And as if anxious at once to illustrate the free trade and peace proclivities of democracy they terminate the treaty with Canada, which was a step in the direction of free trade, and then seek to enforce by violence the very rights which the treaty they have put an end to secured. I will add one word as to Communism. The hon. Member for Lambeth has certainly furnished us with a very good argument in favour of the proposition of having working men to represent themselves. He has drawn such a picture of them as they would scarcely have given of themselves. What does he say? He says, in the first place, that they are entirely unable to understand that wages depend on the laws of supply and demand; that, he says, is entirely out of their conception. Then he tells us that they have no conception of any difference between the remuneration of the labour of the strong and the weak; the strong are to work for the weak, and all are to be paid alike. Then, as far as Government is concerned, the working men—so far from having a horror of a paternal and interfering Government—want us to prevent their going to public-houses, and this in the name of universal liberty, equality, and fraternity Not only so, but they insist that the money of their fellow taxpayers ought to be spent in building houses for them to live in, because it is not for them, forsooth, to appropriate a sufficient proportion of their own incomes to pay the amount of rent required to accomplish this object on commercial principles.
I come now to the question of the representatives of the working classes. It is an old observation that every democracy is in some respect similar to a despotism. As courtiers and flatterers are worse than despots themselves, so those who flatter 2107 and fawn upon the people are generally very inferior to the people the objects of their flattery and adulation. We see in America, where the people have undisputed power, that they do not send honest, hardworking men to represent them in Congress, but traffickers in office, bankrupts, men who have lost their character and been driven from every respectable way of life, and who take up politics as a last resource. There is one subject of immense importance to a constitutional House—namely, the expenses of elections. The hon. Member for Westminster thinks this Bill will abridge the influence of wealth. Will it do so? Let us see. Those expenses are of two kinds—legitimate and illegitimate. The Bill now before the House will enormously increase the electoral districts, and in many it will double and in some treble the legitimate expense of elections. I am speaking among people who are thoroughly acquainted with this subject, and they know too well that the expenses of elections depend as much on the illegitimate as on the legitimate agencies employed. Can it be argued, then, that by admitting occupiers of houses between £10 and £7, you will diminish the illegitimate expenses of elections? Yes, it can, for it has been thus argued by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman—and I am happy to have his authority—says—mind, I do not—that the people in a great many of the boroughs are very corrupt. [Mr. MILNER GIBSON: I said, "some voters."] Well, some voters in some boroughs. I wish to be cautious. Some of these voters have political opinions, but their minds are so sluggish that they cannot be influenced without a certain lene tormentum or reminder in the shape of a £5 note; while others, who have no political opinions, are slow and procrastinating, being never able to make up their minds until about three o'clock on the day of the poll, when by some inscrutable influence they are urged on to a little activity. Others are judicial and cannot decide till they have been paid on both sides. It is said, here is a disease, cure it, dilute its poison by admitting a large number to the franchise. Well, that would be a very good argument if health was catching as well as disease. If I had half-a-dozen diseased cattle, and I turned one hundred sound cattle among them, I might infect the new ones, but I do not think that I should do much good to the sick ones. 2108 And now, let me say that I have never been answered as to the effect which the lowering of the franchise would have upon this House, and I suppose that I never shall be. One great mistake is made—it is almost a childish oversight—and that is to speak of this House as if it were merely a legislative body. The Members of this House have a position, a consideration, and a weight in this country such as no legislative body ever had in any country in the world. This is not because of any extraordinary skill in legislation; we have other functions. The House is the administrator of the public funds, but besides that it is a main part of the executive Government of the country. It can unmake the Executive and it can go a long way to make it. It is, therefore, well to consider that you are dealing with a Legislature entirely different from either the Assembly of France or the Congress of America. We all know that while our legislation has been more vigorous and better since the Reform Bill, the executive Government has shown weakness and languor. If you exaggerate, if you intensify the causes already at work, you will find it necessary to do what has been done elsewhere—to separate the functions of the executive Government from the House of Commons altogether, to break up that most salutary union which exists between them, and to have a Government which shall not depend for its existence upon a majority in this House. Now, that is a consideration the seriousness of which it is perfectly impossible to exaggerate. In the colonies they have got Democratic Assemblies. And what is the result? Why, responsible Government becomes a curse, instead of a blessing. In Australia there is no greater evil to the stability of society, to industry, to property, and to the well-being of the country, than the constant change which is taking place in the Government, and the uncertainty that it creates and the pitting of rival factions against each other. The same thing, I think, is wonderfully exemplified in Victoria, where you have a Government which is now under the influence of universal suffrage, and which is at war at once with the judicial authorities and the Upper Chamber, because neither will yield to its illegal exactions. The Supreme Court decides against the levy of taxes by resolutions of the Assembly, and the Government dissolves Parliament and appeals to universal suffrage against the decision of the Supreme Court. What does this tend 2109 to? It tends to anarchy, and from that anarchy these colonies must be relieved. They can, however, only be relieved by depriving them of that boon which in an unfortunate hour they received—that of responsible Government coupled with universal suffrage—and by placing their Government in some permanent hands, so that the Executive shall not be in a perpetual state of change. Look a little further, and see what happened in France, where there was a limited constituency in the time of Louis Philippe, and Parliamentary Government until the Revolution of 1848. Then came the Assembly elected by universal suffrage, and still with a responsible Government. But that responsible Government became weaker every day until the coup d'etat, and I doubt if there are many Gentlemen here who could tell mo the name of the nominal Premier under whom the liberties of France were overthrown. The great men who founded the Constitution of America foresaw this, and they took means to obviate the difficulty. They knew perfectly well in what the enormous advantage of our system of government consisted. They knew that democracy required checks, and they sought to check it by various means. They, in fact, checked democracy with democracy, and elected a President. They added, too, what we have not got—the principle of federalism, which resisted the downward tendency of democracy by a lateral pressure. To use a familiar illustration, they held a piece of coal up by a pair of tongs. That has been the course adopted in America. And now let us see what has come of it. They have fought out a Civil War, and gained a great victory. But we must remember that men's opinions were divided. One side wanted to prevent the South from regaining the power it possessed before the Civil War, and the other to re-construct the Union on the principle of State rights. In this country the question would be decided by a vote displacing or retaining the Government; and those who were displaced would carry into the wilderness their offences, as the scapegoat carried off the offences of the people of Israel. But, mark what happens in America. You cannot get rid of the President, who sits for four years; nor the Congress, which sits for two years. Therefore, you have an internecine duel, and those who ought to combine and coalesce for the good of the country are in factious opposition. The whole frame of the Constitu- 2110 tion is thus stretched till it cracks—to try, not who shall hold the supreme power, but which of the two rival institutions shall gain the victory over the other. You have seen Senators expelled in order to secure a majority of two-thirds, and things have arrived at such a pitch that no man need be surprised at seeing a second Civil War from the inability of the Constitution to solve the difficulty in which the first Civil War had placed the country. Let us apply this to our own country, We have in our Government an invaluable institution, and let us not rashly or foolishly put it in peril. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen have read the report of the debate which took place the other day in the French Chamber between M. Thiers and M. Rouher on the subject of the introduction into France of a responsible Government. Though my sympathies as an Englishman are with M. Thiers, I confess that in my opinion the argument of M. Rouher was unanswerable, for the question was whether responsible Government could co-exist with universal suffrage? If you were to have responsible Government back, said M. Rouher, you must also have back the pays legal, the old constituencies containing 200,000 voters, for, without that, he argued, M. Thiers was asking for a thing without being prepared to realize the only conditions under which it could exist.
Now, Sir, democracy has yet another tendency, which it is worth while to study at the present moment. It is singularly prone to the concentration of power. Under it individual men are small, and the Government is great. That must be the character of a Government which represents the majority, and which absolutely tramples down and equalizes everything except itself. And democracy has another strong peculiarity. It looks with the utmost hostility on all institutions not of immediate popular origin, which intervene between the people and the sovereign power which the people have set up. To use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it likes to have everything as representative as possible, and that which is not representative it likes to have swept away. Now, look what was done in France. Democracy has left nothing in that country between the people and the Emperor except a bureaucracy which the Emperor himself has created. In America it has done almost the same thing. You have there nothing to break the shock between the 2111 two great Powers of the State. The wise men who framed the Constitution tried to provide a remedy by dividing functions as much as possible. They assigned one function to the President, another to the Senate, a third to the Congress, and a fourth to the different States. But all their efforts have been in vain, and you see how two hostile camps have arisen, and the terrible duel which is now taking place between them. Now, apply that to England, which above all countries in the world is the country of intermediate institutions. There are between the people and the Throne a vast number of institutions which our ancestors have created. Their principle in creating them seems to have been this—that they looked a great deal to equality. If there were something to be done, they sought for some existing institution which was able to do it. If some change were required, they altered things as little as they could, and were content to go on in that manner. This is a country of privileges above all other countries, but the privileges have been given, not as in other countries—as in France before the Revolution, for instance—for the benefit of the privileged classes, but because our ancestors, in all moderation, believed this to be the best way to insure order, and good government and stability. It may be difficult to prove upon theory how all this should be, because ancient Governments, as Burke finely remarks, are seldom based on abstract principles, but rather are the materials from which abstract principles are drawn. I think we should act more wisely and more worthily to the country if we were to ascertain what lessons of wisdom may be drawn from the signal success of our own Government, instead of trying to borrow from the people of America notions which lead to such results as I have been endeavouring to depict. But, Sir, have we succeeded? I will quote, not my own words, but an unexceptionable witness. "It has been our privilege," says the speaker whom I quote—To see a process going forward in which the Throne has acquired broader and deeper foundations in the affections of the country; in which the law has commended itself more and more to the respect and attachment of the people; in which the various classes of the community have come into close communion the one with the other; in which the great masses of our labouring fellow-countrymen have come to be better supplied than they were in the time of their immediate forefathers, and in which upon the whole, a man desirous of the welfare of his kind, looking out on the broad surface of society, may thank his 2112 God, and say, 'Behold, how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'Well, those eloquent words were the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they were spoken on the 14th of September last, just two months before he began the concoction of the Bill, which has been so very successful in illustrating the manner in which brethren dwell together in unity. Now, let us suppose democracy to be established in a greater or less degree in this country. With what eyes would it look upon the institutions which I have alluded to? What would be the relation of this House with the House of Peers? I will call a witness. Eight years ago the hon. Member for Birmingham inverted his present process. He is now anxious to secure means; he was then proclaiming ends. He said then, "See what I will do for you if you will only give me Reform;" but now he says, "Give me Reform, and be assured that I will do nothing." But the Bill does not say that. The words he uttered eight years ago remain. They have never been retracted, and I have no reason to suppose that the hon. Gentleman wishes to retract, or is ashamed of any one of them. The hon. Gentleman said on one occasion—I am speaking from memory, but, though I am not sure about the words, I am about the meaning which the hon. Gentleman intended to convey—that, as far as the House of Peers was concerned, he did not believe that even the Peers themselves could suppose that they were a permanent institution in this country. What do you suppose would become of a House of Peers in America? What has become of the House of Peers in France? The name alone remains; but where is the power of that brilliant aristocracy which surrounded the throne of the Louis's and gave a glitter even to their vices? Then, what shall we say of the Church? I am speaking of it merely from a secular point of view, as a large and wealthy institution, not exactly of popular origin, nor looked upon with particular affection by persons who stand well with the masses. I call a witness again. What does the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham say? He speaks of "that portion of the public estate which is for a time permitted to remain in the hands of the Church of England." What would be the position of the Judges? Looking at the differences in this respect between the 2113 two countries, it will be seen that we have fenced round our Judges with every safeguard, and given them more and more power, until we have made them practically an irresponsible class in the country. We have been content to witness the melancholy sight of a person actually blind, and we still have a man of ninety years of age, sitting upon the judicial bench. We submit to this, not because we think it right in itself, but because we think it better to err to a small extent than to give rise to the slightest suspicion that the position of a Judge has been influenced in the least way by this House. Now, what state of things exists in America? In the great State of New York the Judges are appointed for six years only, and further west the term decreases, until in Mississippi two years is the maximum. And why? In order that they may be able to administer the law not in accordance with the law, but in accordance with the popular sentiment. That we should continue to have Judges I do not doubt, but do you think they would occupy such a position as they occupy now, and be so utterly independent of popular power?
And now let us come to ourselves. Our position, as I have remarked already, is much more honourable than that of the members of any other Legislative Assembly in the world. Do you think democracy would look with a favourable eye upon that? Would it not judge by analogy that such a state of things ought in some degree to be altered, and that we should be made to approach nearer to the level of our constituents? Now, we have a privileged class of electors who hold houses above £10. That class is a humble one, but it has discharged its duty up to the present time in a manner which almost defies criticism. But now, without any reason, but merely on account of an abstract principle of right, we have an attempt made to sweep that class away and swamp it in the class below it. Without enlarging upon this topic, I must say it is manifest to me that if the House of Commons is democratized it will not rest under such modified circumstances until it has swept away those institutions which at present stand between the people and the Throne, and has supplied the place of them, as far as it can, by institutions deriving their origin directly from the people, being, as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said, as representative as possible, and not having the quasi-independence 2114 which the present privileged institutions and corporations possess. You will then have face to face, with no longer anything to break the shock between them, the Monarch of the time and a great Democratic Assembly. Now, history has taught us little if we are to suppose that these two powers would go on harmoniously, and that things would continue to work as they do now. The event no one can predict. We saw what a duel there was in France in 1851, when the President and the Assembly were each grasping at the sword and endeavouring to exterminate the other. The Emperor conquered, and Cæsarianism followed. Had the Emperor failed, France would have had the very worst possible form of Government—namely, a Convention, a deliberative Assembly attempting through its committees to exercise Executive power, and endeavouring to do that which ought to be done through responsible Ministers; and such a Government would only last for a time, to be destroyed by some Cromwell or Napoleon, or to dissolve by its own vices and weakness. Look, again, on the state of things in America, where the President wields the Executive power, and where an opposition to him is raised in Congress. And then see how Congress works. It works through committees, and every officer in the Government has a corresponding committee in Congress to thwart and to overrule him. But I need follow that question no further. Probably many Gentlemen may even think that I have endeavoured to look too far into futurity. At all events, I do not base my case on mere vague conjecture. I base it upon history and experience. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has told us that England is a country totally different from America or Australia, and that no argument could be drawn from either of the two latter applicable to the position in which we stand. Well, Sir, there is, of course, no doubt that England is a country entirely different from America or Australia, but the difference is in their favour as regards the working of a democracy. They possess boundless tracts of land. In America land acts as a sedative to political passion; in England it operates as an irritant. Here land is held up by democratic leaders to their followers as a thing to be desired and secured, as the spoils in fact of political warfare; in America it is comparatively speaking of no value, it is easily obtained, and much inflammable matter is 2115 in consequence removed which would, under other circumstances, prove dangerous to the system. Everybody knows that if America was altogether governed by the great towns the result would be most disastrous, and that it is the cultivators of the land who moderate their influence, and prevent them from rushing on to their destruction. Upon this point I should like to quote the words of Lord Macaulay, one of the most able of the advocates of the principle of the Reform Bill of 1832, from which he never went back a hair's breadth. He, in replying to an American gentleman who sent him a Life of Jefferson, says, speaking of this country—In bad years there is plenty of grumbling here, and sometimes a little rioting; but it matters little, for here the sufferers are not the rulers. The supreme power is in the hands of a class, numerous indeed, but select—of an educated class—of a class which is and knows itself to be deeply interested in the security of property and the maintenance of order.Then he writes as follows—It is quite plain that your Government will never be able to restrain a distressed and discontented majority, for with you the majority is the Government, and has the rich, who are always a minority, absolutely at its mercy. The day will come when in the State of New York a multitude of people, not one of whom has had more than half a breakfast, or expects to have more than half a dinner, will choose a Legislature.He adds—Is it possible to doubt what sort of Legislature will be chosen? On one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for vested rights, strict observance of public faith. On the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalists and usurers, and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink champagne and to ride in a carriage, while thousands of honest folks are in want of necessaries. Which of the two candidates is likely to be preferred by the working man who hears his children crying for more bread? I seriously apprehend that you will, in some such season of adversity as I have described, do things which will prevent prosperity from returning. Either some Cæsar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the 20th century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth; with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country and by your own institutions.Now, observe the argument of Lord Macaulay. It is this, "You have a democracy in America, but you have there, also, plenty of elbow-room and abundant means of subsistence for its whole popula- 2116 tion; but when this state of things come to an end, then the institutions of the country may be tried, and a crash may follow." In England we have not a democracy, but we have a state of society in which, in the event of pressure, distress and misery must to a great extent prevail. Now, if we add here, with our hands, democracy to population, as the course of time may in America add population to democracy, we shall have done all in our power to bring about exactly the state of things which Lord Macaulay describes, and we may expect that something like the same consequences will be the result.
Sir, it appears to me we have more and more reason every day we live to regret the loss of Lord Palmerston. The remaining Members of his Government would seem, by way of a mortuary contribution, to have buried in his grave all their prudence, statesmanship, and moderation. He was scarcely withdrawn, from the scene before they set to work to contravene and contradict his policy. That policy, acted upon by a statesman who perfectly understood the wants of the English people, had been crowned with unexampled success, and they, I suppose, must have thought that the best way to secure a continuance of that success was to aim at doing that which he above all other things disapproved. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have performed a great feat: they have taken the great mass of their supporters, who are, I believe, men of moderate views and moderate opinions, and laid them at the feet of the hon. Member for Birmingham. They have thus brought them into contact with men and with principles from which but six short months ago they would have recoiled. That is what has happened to a portion of those who sit upon these Benches. As to the rest of us, we are left like sheep in the wilderness, and after the success of this extraordinary combination—to use no harsher word—we who remain precisely what we have been are charged with inconsistency, while the bonds of political allegiance are being strained until they are ready to crack for the purpose of keeping the Liberal party together. We are told that we are hound by every tie which ought to bind mankind to act in accordance with the policy of Earl Russell; but I, for one, Sir, dispute the justice of that proposition. I have never served under that noble Lord. I have served under two 2117 Prime Ministers for a period—I am sorry to say—of little less than ten years. The one was Lord Aberdeen, the other Lord Palmerston. Earl Russell joined the Government of each of those Ministers; both Governments he abandoned, both he assisted to destroy. I owe the noble Lord no allegiance. I am not afraid of the people of this country. They have displayed a good sense which is remarkable, indeed, when contrasted with the harangues which have been addressed to them. But if I am not afraid of the people, neither do I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon in fearing those by whom they are led. Demagogues are the commonplace of history. They are to be found wherever popular commotion has prevailed, and they all bear to one another a strong family likeness. Their names float lightly on the stream of time; they are in some way handed down to us, but then they are as little regarded as is the foam which rides on the crest of the stormy wave and bespatters the rock which it cannot shake. Such men, Sir, I do not fear, but I have, I confess, some misgivings when I see a number of Gentlemen of rank, of character, of property, and intelligence carried away, without being convinced or even over-persuaded, in the support of a policy which many of them in their inmost hearts detest and abhor. Monarchies exist by loyalty, aristocracies by honour, popular assemblies by political virtue and patriotism, and it is in the loss of those things, and not in comets and eclipses, that we are to look for the portents that herald the fall of States.
I have said that I am utterly unable to reason with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for want of a common principle to start from, but there is happily one common ground left to us, and that is the second book of the Æneid of Virgil. My right hon. Friend, like the moth which has singed its wings in the candle, has returned again to the poor old Trojan horse, and I shall, with the permission of the House, give them one more excerpt from the history of that noble beast, first promising that I shall then turn him out to grass, at all events for the remainder of the Session. The passage which I am about to quote is one which is, I think, worthy the attention of the House, because it contains a description not only of the invading army of which we have heard so much, but also a slight sketch of its general— 2118Arduus armatos mediis in mœnibus adstansFundit equus, victorque Sinon incendia miscetInsultans: portis alii bipatentibus adsunt,Millia quot magnis nunquam venêere Mycenis.In other words—The fatal horse pours forth the human tide,Insulting Sinon flings his firebrands wide,The gates are burst; the ancient rampart falls,And swarming millions climb its crumbling walls.I have now, Sir, traced as well as I can what I believe will be the natural results of a measure which, it seems to my poor imagination, is calculated, if it should pass into law, to destroy one after another those institutions which have secured for England an amount of happiness and prosperity which no country has ever reached, or is ever likely to attain. Surely the heroic work of so many centuries, the matchless achievements of so many wise heads and strong hands, deserve a nobler consummation than to be sacrificed at the shrine of revolutionary passion or the maudlin enthusiasm of humanity? But if we do fall, we shall fall deservedly. Uncoerced by any external force, not borne down by any internal calamity, but in the full plethora of our wealth and the surfeit of our too exuberant prosperity, with our own rash and inconsiderate hands, we are about to pluck down on our own heads the venerable temple of our liberty and our glory. History may tell of other acts as signally disastrous, but of none more wanton, none more disgraceful.
§ MR. HODGKINSON
said, that if the Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for Chester were judged of simply by its natural meaning, it might be presumed to proceed from a section of the advanced Liberal party, disappointed to find that the Government Bill only embraced one branch of the subject; but judging from the arguments by which it was supported, the conclusion seemed irresistible that it had been cunningly framed for the purpose of catching the votes of the waverers, and likewise of that class of Reformers who obtained seats in Parliament on the faith of their pledges with respect to this question, but yet who were so lukewarm in their allegiance that they were perfectly prepared to "break the word of promise to the hope" if any means could be devised by which they could "keep it to the ear." He could, nevertheless, tell this latter class of persons that, however much they might compound with their consciences and delude themselves, they 2119 were greatly mistaken if they thought they could delude others. What did the supporters of the Amendment really require? A Bill had been brought forward for the purpose of extending the franchise so fair and so moderate that it was well known that, if left to sink or float on its own merits, it would float. But hon. Members opposite did not like the Bill, as they would not like any Bill of a similar nature. They did not dare to meet it by a direct negative—they hesitated to meet their enemy face to face, and therefore they sought to accomplish by stratagem what they could not accomplish by force, and they therefore endeavoured to tie a millstone about the Bill in the shape of another branch of the question, with respect to which there existed great difference of opinion in that House. He had always doubted the prudence and sincerity of previous attempts at legislation where the Bills were made to embrace too many subjects, and therefore he hailed this measure with satisfaction because it dealt simply with the franchise. It was perfectly true that there was a successful precedent in the Reform Bill of 1832 for mixing up the two subjects of the franchise and the re-distribution of seats; but there was no analogy between the circumstances of that time and of the present day. In the former period the great grievance consisted in rotten boroughs or nomination boroughs, and it was impossible to disfranchise a large number of boroughs and allot the seats to other places without settling the question of the franchise, because at that time there existed no uniform franchise in the boroughs. It was well known that the question of re-distribution was one always attended with the greatest difficulty. They had had some experience to that effect in 1861, when the late Government attempted, in a very small way, to re-distribute the four seats which the disfranchisement of Sudbury and St. Albans placed at the disposal of Parliament. What happened then would happen again in a larger degree if a larger re-distribution were to take place. A considerable amount of time was wasted, and nine divisions took place in reference to the re-distribution of four seats. On the present occasion, however, we should have to settle, not only the relative claims of the three parts of the United Kingdom, but also the question between the counties and the boroughs, and the pretensions of the metropolis. He had always failed to discover any affinity between the two branches of the question— 2120 the franchise and the re-distribution of seats; and he did not see how the question of the qualification to be possessed by individual electors was necessarily mixed up with the question of the particular constituencies which should return Members. The best test of the Bill was to ask its results—was it possible or probable that the re-distribution of seats when it took place would render the proposed reduction of the franchise impolitic or improper? He had put this question frequently to himself and others, and it had not yet been satisfactorily answered. The arguments against the present Bill were identical with those used against the measures of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) and of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), and were based on a distrust of that class of the population who lived in houses of a less rental than £10. Those arguments rested on the assumption that the amount of rent which a man paid constituted his qualification to vote, whereas that was not the real qualification itself, but the test of another qualification. A rental qualification was fixed on for the purpose of obtaining a constituency which might be supposed to possess the benefits of education, and the intelligence which accompanied education. The object of the fixed rental qualification, and the object of the educational franchise of the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay) were in fact the same. This Bill adopted a more rough-and-ready mode of arriving at the same end. The object of both was the same—to get a constituency composed of the educated portions of the community. In 1832 the amount fixed for the rental qualification was £10, it was believed that those who paid a £10 rental possessed the benefits of education. Since that period thirty-four years had elapsed, and there never had been a like period in the history of the world in which education had made so much progress; and there could be no doubt they would get a better educated constituency at £7 rental under this Bill than was had in the £10 votes of 1832. With reference to the electoral statistics, of which so much had been said, he wished to make a short explanation, more immediately affecting the borough he had the honour to represent (Newark). The statistics were described as exceedingly illusory and unsatisfactory because they had been sent back twice or three times for correction. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) said the other night 2121 that the Returns of the working men contained the name of a county magistrate:—now the fact was that the list contained the names of three borough magistrates. At present Newark had 711 electors. The first Return of the constituency to the Statistical Department of the Poor Law Board, made on the 16th of January, comprised 711 voters, of whom 648 were represented as belonging to the working classes. This was considered so palpably absurd that the Return was sent back on the 22nd of January, and on the 30th of that month it was received in a corrected form. Of the 711 voters, 356 then appeared as belonging to the working classes. That Return was again sent back, with a request that trades and occupations should be attached to the names; and by means of this process, the 356 had been reduced to 279, Still, the use of such general designations as "tailor," "butcher," "miller," "joiner," left it altogether uncertain whether the persons so described were masters or only journeymen; and in fact all those so designated were left as belonging to the working classes. In one instance he knew of a voter who was left on the revised list as belonging to the working classes who paid a rent of over £100 a year. Some of his constituents had taken great trouble in going carefully through the register, when they found that in Newark, instead of 30 per cent only 68 out of 632, or less than 10 per cent, belonged to the working classes—indeed, excluding the old scot and lot voters, the proportion was only 3 per cent. He imputed no blame to the Government or to the Poor Law Board for these inaccuracies; for he believed they had done all they could to obtain correct Returns. But in all probability the case he had mentioned was not a solitary one. To hear some hon. Gentlemen talk of the danger of admitting the working classes to a voice in the representation one would imagine that we owed the greatness and renown of the country to a £50 county and a £10 borough franchise. Now the fact was that up to 1832 the borough franchise was much more extensive than it would be under this Bill. The borough he represented before the Reform Bill had 1,700 electors, and the number on the register had now dwindled down to 711. At that time any person who paid rates—it might be for a garden or a pigstye—had a vote; but did they necessarily elect very democratic representatives? When the Reform Bill was introduced their representatives 2122 were Michael Thomas Sadleir and Mr. Serjeant Wilde, afterwards Lord Chancellor Truro, and he was not sure whether it was just before the passing of the Reform Bill, or just after it, at all events when the constituency was 1,700 in number, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was returned. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: The number was 1,600.] At all events, he knew that it was when the constituency was numerous. Eight years afterwards the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), a member of the Cabinet of Lord Derby, was also returned for Newark. Well, this did not show the danger of admitting the working people to the franchise. In fact, this assumed fear was a perfect bugbear. Only once had there been any charge of bribery, and then, instead of petitioning that House, the parties were prosecuted at the assizes, and, being convicted, were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment—a mode of dealing with offenders which might be adopted with excellent effect in some very recent instances.
said, it appeared to be the tactics of the other side of the House to represent the Conservatives as enemies of the working classes, and to invent sounding phrases disparaging to the working classes, and to impute them to the Conservatives. He (Mr. Yorke) utterly repudiated such imputations. It was said they altogether objected to the enfranchisement of the working classes. Now, although they objected to their admission on conditions which were inexpedient, it did not follow that they were opposed to their admission on proper and sufficient grounds. It seemed to be thought by some that Parliament had not done its duty towards the working classes, because it had not fed, housed, and educated them; but he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) that, whatever could be fairly expected of the Legislature had been done; and as to what had been said by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), and by the hon. Member for Lambeth and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as to the necessity that the wants and interests of the working classes should be directly represented in that House, he thought the eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman had given them a sufficient answer. Nor did he think that any modification of the franchise would be followed by any perceptible alteration in that respect. There was no 2123 crying national grievance which it required a Reform Bill to remedy. Cases of individual grievance always obtained a ready hearing, and, if well founded, adequate redress. The House appeared to him to be tolerant to a degree in regard to the statement of any individual grievance, and to be not unwilling, where sufficient grounds were made out, to grant proper redress. There was, therefore, no general demand for any measure like that before the House. Notwithstanding that Ministers high in office had gone down among their constituents, and in language of an inflammatory character endeavoured to rouse a strong feeling on that subject, no sooner did they return to their proper employment on the Benches of that House, than all the excitement died away; and at that moment there was scarcely a vestige of the strong feeling to which hon. Gentlemen opposite were so fond of alluding a short time since. The excuse offered for bringing in that Bill was that they were pledged to it. He was not careful to enter into the question of those pledges, because he had not the honour of belonging to any of the Parliaments which were said to have so pledged themselves. But he differed altogether from the doctrine put forward on that point. It appeared to him that a man's pledges perished with the Parliament in which he had pledged himself; and if he went before his constituency again and solicited their suffrages on other grounds, it was for them to say whether they would give him their renewed confidence. Were pledges to be held valid when made under a mistake? Surely, if they pledged themselves to carry out opinions which they saw on a future occasion to be erroneous, it would be better to incur the charge of inconsistency than to act contrary to their maturer convictions. Another excuse put forward for the hasty introduction of this Bill was that the theoretical anomalies of the Constitution were so great as to cry out for redress. If that were so, was there any prospect of those theoretical anomalies being reduced as they went lower in the scale? Would they not be confronted by equal anomalies, whether they chose £8, £7, or £5 as the limit of the franchise? Moreover, this Bill did not deal with the greatest anomaly that could be alleged against the present system—namely, the inequality in the size and importance of the various constituencies, and the very defective representation of the counties as compared with the representation of boroughs. 2124 He held in his hand a statement based on Parliamentary documents, which showed that the population of the counties of England and Wales (exclusive of cities and boroughs) was 11,427,755, and that the number of inhabited houses was 2,290,061. The population of the Parliamentary cities and boroughs in England and Wales in 1861 was 8,638,469, and the number of houses was 1,449,444. The gross annual value of property assessed to the income tax, under Schedule A, was, in counties, £66,208,505, and in Parliamentary cities and boroughs £47,850,033. The number of voters in the counties was 519,348, and in cities and boroughs 467,563; the number of Members returned for counties 160, and for boroughs 338. The obvious result of that was, that if they wanted to deal with the greatest theoretical anomaly in the representation they would find it in the very small representation of the counties as compared with the boroughs. What was the anomaly of the working classes being only 26 per cent of the borough constituencies, in comparison with the gigantic anomaly he had just mentioned? Surely, if they were about to correct such anomalies they should begin with the greater and then go on to the less. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the franchise Bill, he talked about the supplemental Bills that were to follow. It seemed that the very last measure he proposed to lay on the table was one to remedy the evil of corruption in boroughs and at elections generally. With all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, that appeared to him (Mr. Yorke) to be the most pressing matter of all; and the revelations lately made before the Election Committees bore out that opinion. It was not the very small boroughs as a rule—though he admitted there were unsavoury exceptions—which figured most largely in the petition list, but the boroughs intermediate between them and those which were so vast as almost to preclude the possibility of extensive corruption. A short time ago the borough he had the honour to represent (Tewkesbury) had been calumniated in The Times, but it now appeared that there was scarcely a vestige of truth in the statement. Having made the writings of the hon. Member for Westminster his study, he had expected that they (the Opposition) would have had the benefit of that hon. Gentleman's support on that occasion, because they might collect from his works that he had as great a horror as the most 2125 orthodox Conservative of anything like democratic measures. They knew that that hon. Member was liberal, and even eccentric on some points—as, for example, upon female suffrage; but when a general lowering of the electoral franchise was proposed, it might have been anticipated that he would have stepped forward to advocate with his powerful voice some of those safeguards, such as an educational test and the representation of the minority, which they read of in his works. In his book on Representative Government, the hon. Member for Westminster said—All trust in Constitutions is grounded on the assurance they may afford, not that the depositories of power will not, but that they cannot mis-employ it. Democracy is not the ideally best form of Government, unless this weak side of it can be strengthened, unless it can be so organized that no class, not even the most numerous, shall be able to reduce all but itself to political insignificance, and direct the course of legislation and administration by its exclusive class interest.The Chancellor of the Exchequer differed from that, because he had told them, speaking individually, that he would not hesitate to trust the working classes with a preponderance of power.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was understood to dissent, and to explain that he had said he should have no fear if that class were in a majority in the boroughs.
said, that such a majority seemed to be much the same thing as a preponderance; but he had no desire to misquote the right hon. Gentleman. But in the passage to which he had just referred, the hon. Member for Westminster continued—The problem is to find the means of preventing this abuse without sacrificing the characteristic advantages of popular Government,In the same work, the hon. Member said—Legislative attempts to raise wages, limitation of competition in the labour-market, taxes or restrictions on machinery, and on improvements of all kinds tending to dispense with any of the existing labour, even, perhaps, protection of the home produce against foreign industry, are very natural (I do not venture to say whether probable) results of a feeling of class interest in a governing majority of manual labourers.He thought the House would agree that these would be not only "very natural" but exceedingly probable results. But the lowering of the franchise was to be the panacea for all existing evils—poverty, ignorance, and crime were to disappear before it. That rather reminded him of what was said in America when anybody 2126 expressed surprise at seeing a railway being made in a vast prairie where there was neither population nor merchandise to be conveyed along it. "Oh!" it was replied, "don't be afraid; a railway will always create a traffic." The error was of an analogous character when it was said that the lowering of the franchise would create the fitness for its exercise. In searching further into the hon. Member for West-minster's works, he found another passage which it was surprising that the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) had not quoted that evening, because it was exceedingly appropriate as a retort in respect to certain words for which that right hon. Gentleman had been rather severely censured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, In his book on Parliamentary Reform the hon. Member for Westminster said—There are few points in which the English as a people are entitled to the moral pre-eminence with which they are accustomed to compliment themselves at the expense of other nations; but of these points perhaps the one of greatest importance is that the higher classes do not lie, and the lower classes, though mostly habitual liars, are ashamed of lying.David said, in his haste, "All men are liars;" but the hon. Member said the same thing in his leisure and in the retirement of his closet. If this was what fell from a friend of the working classes, what might not be expected from their enemies? If the right hon. Member for Calne chastised the working classes with whips, the hon. Member for Westminster, their own devoted advocate, chastised them with scorpions. He trusted the House would not commit itself to the vista of legislation which that Bill opened up before them. The programme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would probably not be got through without three dissolutions—one on the Re-distribution Bill, another on the Boundaries Bill, and a third, perhaps, on some of the other measures. The position of the Government had been compared by some to that of the Northumberland, and perhaps they had taken courage by the ultimate success of the attempt to launch that great vessel; but he did not believe the tide of public approbation would ever rise high enough to float the Bill, or that all the leverage of the hon. Member for Birmingham, or the hydraulic pressure of the hon. Member for Lewes, would ever be able to move it down the ways. He believed rather that it would remain immovable, a monument to future times of the rashness and incapacity of its authors.
§ MR. LEEMAN
said, as one of those to whom pertained the promises made to new Members the other evening, he asked the indulgence of the House while he stated the reasons which would induce him to give his support to the second reading of the Bill. In return for that indulgence, and in consideration for other new Members who were also desirous to address the House, he would promise to observe the utmost possible brevity. He had listened with close attention to all the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, and the only conclusion to which he could arrive was that the object of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord (Earl Grosvenor) was clearly to shunt the question of Reform off the main line altogether, and to land it in a siding somewhere between Chester and King's Lynn. He had listened with pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne that night; but he was old enough to remember the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, and he was struck with the similarity of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman with those which were then put forward by Lord Eldon and other noble Lords who foresaw in a franchise of £10 the destruction of the Monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Church, and all the other evils which the vivid imagination of the right hon. Gentleman had conjured up against the present Bill. Let them consider the class of persons who would be practically enfranchised by the measure. Hon. Gentlemen need not alarm themselves that it would have the effect of enfranchising the class of persons whom they saw at the corners of the streets of the Seven Dials; nor the stalwart navvies with red handkerchiefs and nailed boots who made our railways; nor the miners of Cornwall, Stafford, and Durham; nor the hordes of Irish labourers who were to be found on the quays of Liverpool and Glasgow, and in all the great seaports and towns; nor, in a word, any of that class which, in common Parliamentary language, was designated as the dangerous class. On the contrary, it would admit the best of the skilled workmen—men who had distinguished themselves by great ingenuity, by great skill, by the most unshaken loyalty to the Throne, by the greatest self-command under circumstances of deprivation and distress, but who, in point of fact, had not existed at the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832. He asked the House to consider for a moment the extraordinary 2128 changes which had come over our artizan population within the last thirty-three years. In the year 1832 there were substantially no railways in the country; but it was well-known that their extension—and they now traversed the length and breadth of the land—had created industries which gave employment to thousands of the most skilled and intelligent handicraftsmen. At that period the Liverpool and Manchester Railway had only just been opened, but the lines which now intersected the country had called into existence an immense variety of manufactures which would not otherwise have come into being, and these manufactures again had created a new class of artificers and handicraftsmen. To a certain extent the development and general application of steam power had created a like state of things in several of the agricultural districts, in that class of machinery for which they were indebted to the men employed by the large agricultural implement makers strewn over the kingdom. It was impossible to walk through the long lanes of splendid machinery in the Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862 without feeling proud, not only of the genius and capital, but also of the industry and skilled labour which had contributed so largely towards its production. It was the class of men who were engaged in those industries, and not the supposed dangerous classes whom he had particularized, who would practically be admitted to the franchise under the Bill. Let them look at the aggregate results which were achieved through the labour of these men. In 1832 our exports were not more than £50,000,000 or £60,000,000,nowtheywere£180,000,000. That great increase in trade re-acted not only on the commercial classes but also on the agricultural. He was sure that hon. Gentlemen would admit that there was not a county in England which had not largely partaken in that increase of wealth, and he put it to hon. Members whether the men who had contributed to such a result were not worthy of their confidence and gratitude. It was said that there was a danger in the admission of such a class because of their numbers. He had listened in vain for a justification of such an apprehension, and he denied that our past experience of the working classes furnished any reason for it. If hon. Members looked to the various character of the trades in which those classes were employed, it would be seen that their interests were not essentially nor practically identical, and that 2129 no real combination amongst them was possible which would operate to any extent upon the representation of the House. The large employers of labour had no fear of the working classes, as they had been told in that House by the hon. Baronet the Member for the West Riding, who had truly stated that not less than 50,000 workmen were employed by hon. Members on that side the House. He had himself been brought extensively into contact with large classes of artificers in the counties of York and Durham, and most cordially endorsed that view. He had seen those men in their prosperity and in their adversity, and he felt it to be his duty to stand up in that House on their behalf, and to express his conviction that nothing in the past history of the country justified the alarm that the admission of the working classes in the degree contemplated by this measure would in any way imperil the institutions of the country. He believed it would strengthen them. The interests of the working classes were the interests of the country, and no one practically acquainted with them could for a moment suppose that any such combination among them was possible as would make them dangerous to the rest of the community. They were not enemies to the Throne, as alleged by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, for he believed that in no class was there a deeper feeling of loyalty. Remarks had been made in that House in disparagement of the petitions which had been presented in favour of the Bill. He could only say that the petition from the West Riding was agreed upon at a most numerous meeting, convened by a requisition to the Lord Lieutenant, which put the genuineness of the petition altogether beyond doubt. As to the feeling in the city of York, he could state that a very large and enthusiastic meeting had been held in favour of the Government Bill, convened by requisition to and presided over by the Lord Mayor, at which the resolutions were unanimous, and his hon. Colleague was requested to support the prayer of the petition. A petition has also been signed by 3,000 tradesmen and principal inhabitants of the city. It was said that the working men were apathetic on this subject, but he had also presented not less than fifteen petitions, signed by 2,500 artizans, comprising almost every handicraft trade in the city. For these reasons, and thanking the House for the kindness with which they had listened to him, he should follow the Government 2130 into the lobby and tender to them, not the grudging, hesitating, and sulky allegiance indicated by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), but a cheerful, a hearty, and, he would add, a I consistent support.
§ VISCOUNT ROYSTON
said, he should state his opinion frankly on this question of Reform, although by doing so he might expose himself to the taunts of hon. Members on the Ministerial side. He would, in the first place, enter his protest against the cry too often raised against Gentlemen who sat on his side of the House, and belonged to the great Conservative party, that they were adverse to popular freedom. Speaking for the first time, and as a young man, no one could charge him with any dislike or fear of the working classes. Considering how much those in high station tried to serve the working classes, he thought it was an unfair—an ignoble—cry to raise that the gentry of England were in any sense adverse to the working classes. In his opinion the great object of Reform in this country was, or ought to be, to make the House of Commons a more perfect representation of the English people. The question was, would the present Bill have that effect? Some hon. Members thought that a reduction of the franchise to £7 in boroughs and £14 in counties would bring about that object—others thought not. It was a point upon which difference of opinion might well exist. He did not say that those who opposed the Bill would oppose all measures of Parliamentary Reform; but it was a curious fact that every measure of Reform brought in during the last fourteen years had either died out or been thrown out by the wish of the great majority of the House. It would not be un-instructive to inquire whether this question of Reform had not been usually raised up for certain objects—such as keeping Government in office, or retaining them in office, or for some party or personal use or consideration. He believed that on the present occasion the sole object of raising the question was for the purpose of propping up the Ministerial Bench, and keeping in office those who, feeling the loss they had sustained in the death of the great and excellent statesman lately at the head of the Government, were obliged to bring this question before the country, so as to excite popular feeling on their behalf. With a majority of more than sixty in their favour at the beginning of the Session they brought forward a measure of Reform, 2131 which, if Reform were necessary, was no doubt a moderate measure; and yet, at the present protracted stage of the debate, they were shivering in their shoes as to what would happen to-morrow. How was it that the Government were, by the desertion of their party, placed in this ignominious position? Because the House of Commons did not wish for any change in the popular representation of the country which would effect the constitutional character of the House. He was not adverse to Reform. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh, but it was clear that they looked at the question of Reform in the most narrow-minded manner. There were different senses in which Reform might be used. Men might reform their conduct, and he had no objection to this. The conduct of political parties might need reformation, and he could not oppose it; but the Reform of the principles on which the Government had been founded since 1832 with such glorious results was a different matter. It had been urged in favour of this Bill that the condition of the country had immensely improved since 1832. This country must improve and would improve; he had no fear of it; for the feelings of the country were intent on it. But this was a different matter; the Bill proposed to break down the first principles of the Constitution, and he saw no reason for this. It was a degradation of the franchise to bring it down to £7, when working men were raising themselves to the standard of £10. Lord Macaulay had been already quoted that evening by the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), and therefore he trusted he might be excused for again quoting so excellent an authority. In his speeeh upon the Reform Bill of 1832, Lord Macaulay said—I bring, I say, no accusation against the working classes. I would withhold from them nothing which it might be for their good to possess. I see with pleasure that by the provisions of the Reform Bill the most industrious and respectable of our labourers will be admitted to a share in the Government of the State. If I would refuse to the working people that larger share of power which some of them have demanded, I would refuse it because I am convinced that by giving it I should only increase their distress. I admit that the end of Government is their happiness—but that they may be governed for their happiness, they must not be governed according to the doctrines which they have learnt from their illiterate, incapable, low-minded flatterers.Those were the words of one of the most liberal-minded statesmen that the country had produced in modern times. Who were 2132 the flatterers of the people at the present time? Who was it that went about the country making yearly three or four addresses for the purpose of raising up, as it were, the dormant spirit of the working classes? The hon. Member for Birmingham had made it his yearly amusement to make one or two great speeches, which certainly when they appeared made The Times and the other newspapers more interesting than usual. He had carefully studied the speeches of the hon. Gentleman, whom he regarded with great respect, as he believed in his sincerity: still he did not regard himself as bound to be over-ruled by the high-flown language and the advanced Liberal sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman appeard to have a mania for Reform, and doubtless every night the ghost of Reform haunted his bedside. It was no wonder, therefore, that he excited the people when he addressed them on the subject. The hon. Gentleman could not even let their dress alone. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman to alter the style of their attire when dining with the Speaker put him in mind of the lines—Oh ye gods and little fishes,What's a man without his breeches?He might say of the hon. Gentleman in the words of Cassius—He doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus,And we petty men walk under his huge legs,And peep about and find ourselves dishonourable graves.Turning to the figures laid upon the table of the House by the Government, he found that out of the 488,000 existing electors, 128,000 belonged to the working classes; that in 8 boroughs returning 14 Members the working classes had an undoubted majority; in 20 boroughs returning 35 Members they had 45 percent of the representation; in 30 boroughs returning 68 Members they had between 30 and 40 per cent; in 83 boroughs returning 139 Members they had from 15 to 30 per cent; and that in 50 boroughs returning 78 Members they had less than 15 per cent. According to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present measure would raise the number of the working-class electors to 330,000 against 362,000 of the middle and higher classes; the present annual increase of the £10 voters was about 10,000, and with the £7 qualification the yearly increase might be taken at double that number. So that taking the rate of 2133 increase in the £7 householders at 20,000 per annum the small majority of 32,000 possessed by the middle and upper classes would soon be swept away, and the working class would have the majority of votes in the constituency. Yet the right hon. Gentleman who had introduced the Bill had told them that to place the working classes in a clear majority in the representation had never been the intention of any Bill brought into the House, and that he did not believe Parliament would adopt such a principle. The question for the House to decide was whether they were prepared for the governing power of the country to be thrown into the hands of the democracy. Although he had no fear of the horrors which it had been predicted would follow such a result, yet he certainly could not see, if they once reduced the franchise, where they were to stop. For his own part, he would rather give his vote to extend the franchise to every householder in the kingdom who paid taxes, because there would be some finality in that principle, than support this Bill, which laid down no basis for a final settlement. He sincerely trusted that if the result of the division were adverse to the present Government, whatever party came in would not regard it as necessary to again bring forward this question of Reform, With the greatest respect and deference to the Gentlemen who sat on the front Opposition Benches, he must say that the most suicidal act of the Conservative party had been the endeavour to bring in a Reform Bill. He hoped that they had now learnt wisdom by experience, and would not again fall into a similar error. And upon that point he could not help quoting a rather remarkable passage from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), which was a warning to Lord John Russell when he sat in that House in 1859. The right hon. Gentleman, on the Motion for the second reading of the Reform Bill of Lord Derby, said—If the Ministry have to go out upon Reform, we (the Opposition) should have to construct our new Government upon that question. We should have to propose a larger measure of Reform; but can we carry it? Nothing, as I said before, can justify a Minister proposing a large measure of Reform except the certainty that he has the strength to carry it. Has the noble Lord that certainty? Popular support failed him in 1854. Has he more assurance of that popular support in 1859?"—[3 Hansard, cliii. 467.]He might ask, had the noble Lord more 2134 assurances of that support in 1866? The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—And, be it remembered, he will have before him a more compact and formidable Opposition, the contest will be embittered by the contemptuous rejection of this Bill, and the Opposition, if it chose to use Parliamentary Reform as an instrument of embarrassment, may allege that you have furnished them both with a precedent and provocation."—[3 Hansard, cliii. 467.]Well, that time had come. The noble Lord and his party refused to accept the measure, which, however ill-advised it might have been, would, at all events, have settled the question for a considerable time to come. The Government, with a majority of sixty, was trembling on its very base to know whether they would have a majority of five on the division tomorrow. Now, that was an absurd state of things. What was the natural conclusion that the country would come to? It was that this question was a farce, that it was got up solely for the benefit of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who wanted a bait to induce people to send them to the House of Commons, and who, when they got there, felt that the subject of Reform ought to be shut out, as it had been for the last thirty years. He thanked hon. Gentlemen for the kindness with which they had heard him.
§ MR. ALLEN
said, he was desirous of saying a few words upon the measure before the House, because he believed that he had a better claim to the title of a working man's representative than any other hon. Member, for the working men formed a principal portion of the constituency of the borough he had the honour to represent (Newcastle-under-Lyne). He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) that the House of Commons was at present admirably constituted—he would go further, and say it was the first representative assembly in the world. But what was the reason it could claim that high distinction? It was because it was in the main the correct representative of the feelings and opinions of the nation. He held it necessary, if it was to maintain that high position, that it should reform itself, and become more fully than it was now the reflex of the opinions of the people. The great principle to be arrived at in this question of Reform was to adapt the House of Commons more fully to the present times. He also felt that it was a question no longer to be trifled with; and he therefore could not agree with the Amendment, which he considered 2135 was nothing but a plausible attempt to shelve it. The Bill was objected to because it was partial and fragmentary; but although the question would undoubtedly not be settled by its passing, the first step towards that settlement would have been made. He highly approved the wisdom which had characterized the course pursued by the Government, because many Members who would be compelled to oppose a Bill for the re-distribution of seats, from the fact of their own boroughs being included, would be able to vote for an extension of the franchise, while others who objected to the extension of the franchise might still support a measure for the re-distribution of seats. No one was more opposed to universal suffrage than he was, but he denied that the present Bill was a step in that direction. There were many men who were still unfit to exercise electoral privileges; but, though that was undoubtedly the case, they ought from time to time to admit the more industrious and intelligent of the working population. Unless they did this they would sooner or later give rise to a combination which might lead to that universal suffrage of which they were so afraid. The Bill naturally divided itself into two parts—one affecting the county franchise, the other the franchise of boroughs. The county franchise had hardly been alluded to at all—probably because hon. Members on both sides of the House were agreed in the opinion that £50 was too high for the county franchise; and the discussion on that branch of the subject, being simply one of amount, seemed to be postponed for the Committee. The opposition to the reduction of the franchise appeared, therefore, to be confined to the boroughs. Those who opposed this reduction, however, seemed to overlook the fact that the £7 franchise did not really put the constituency lower than the Act of 1832, as far as the intelligence and education of the people were concerned. The occupier of a £7 house represented a man who earned at least 25s. per week wages, and therefore the class of skilled artizans. All, then, that was proposed was to admit a few of the best of the working men, and thereby to place our representative system on a broader basis and a surer foundation.
§ MR. DAVENPORT BROMLEY
said, he should have been happy to give a silent vote on this occasion, but the constituency which he had the honour to represent (North Warwickshire) was far too much interested in the question to 2136 allow him to do so. First, he would say he disagreed entirely with many on his own (the Opposition) side of the House, and with some on the Ministerial side who considered that there was no necessity for Reform. The question had been too long tossed about as the foot-ball of party, and Parliament might be said to be now fully pledged to Reform. The time had arrived when the lease granted in 1832 had to be renewed. Concurring with much that had been said by the hon. Member for Westminster, who deplored the poverty and pauperism of this wealthy country, and should be glad to see amongst them direct representatives of the working men if they could give the House any hint how this deplorable state of things could be remedied, he believed that no country would be properly governed which contained more than a million of paupers. In dealing with a measure of this sort, the first consideration should be that of justice. If it were just and fair that a large borough should overshadow and obliterate the county constituency around it, he, as a county Member, and his hon. Colleague, would retire to that insignificance for which nature, perhaps, designed them. But was that just? He was aware that the time for statistics had gone by, but he must quote just three lines to prove what he was stating. The borough of Birmingham had considerable influence in North Warwickshire; but this Bill, if it passed into law, would add to its power in the county by adding 5,000 leaseholders: the consequence would be that if all the other electors in the county were to unite they would hardly be able to defeat this one portion of their body; the Birminghams would completely overwhelm the rural constituency, and the county would be put under the thumb of the borough. He could adduce other statistics, but he dared not do so at that stage of the debate. He must here allude to an hon. Gentleman who had been frequently alluded to already in the course of this debate—he meant the hon. Member for Birmingham. He was sorry to be obliged to follow an example so general, but as the county Member, and considering the influence of the hon. Member in the county, he thought he might be allowed to do so. He did not agree with the hon. Member for South-wark in referring to the hon. Gentleman as "Snug, the joiner;" he did not think that was a very reverend phrase, and it was not a happy one, for the hon. Gen- 2137 tleman had been anything but successful in his capacity as a joiner. He wished to ask the attention of the House while he referred to a speech made by the hon. Member at his election for Birmingham in July last. It was a speech he made to an admiring audience in the Town Hall—an audience, by the way, which was far larger than the one that met to consider the Reform Bill; for the people of Birmingham came to hear their Member, they do not care to hear about Reform. He then said, "as you are spared the trouble of a contested election here, you will have more leisure, and I am sure you will not have less enthusiasm, to give your assistance to the county; and I hope you will secure at least one of the seats from that party who always send two men to say 'No' whenever Mr. Davenport Scholefield and I say 'Aye,'" The people of Birmingham, he had no doubt, took his advice, which contributed greatly to the animation, at least, of his (Mr. Davenport Bromley's) election. But this Bill would do more—it would reverse the election, for it would add 5,000 electors in the borough to the county voters. Now, he had many good friends in Birmingham, but still he had no wish to see them swamp the county electors. The hon. Member's standard of right and wrong appeared to be agreement or disagreement with himself. That might be; but if the question were propounded whether the hon. Gentleman's recent letter to the people of Birmingham were a wise, temperate, and statesmanlike production, it was very probable that the hon. Member himself would say "Aye," but he (Mr. Davenport Bromley) would most unhesitatingly say "No," although he might, perhaps, be called a conspirator or something of the kind for saying so. The fact was, the Government considered they must produce this Bill, and that everybody must agree with them, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was backed up by the hon. Member for Birmingham, who seconded him effectively in the House and in the country. The hon. Member had been very severe on the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), and had quoted words which the right hon. Gentleman had used with terrific emphasis in the most menacious manner, and in a sense in which the right hon. Gentleman never intended to use them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had used words at Liverpool quite as strong in regard to those who disagreed with the course of the Government—"they were weak, cowardly, selfish." These were words easily 2138 remembered, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself said of words used by the right hon. Member for Calne. How were they weak, cowardly, and selfish? He supposed they were weak as regarded the noble Member for Chester, selfish as regarded the right hon. Member for Calne, cowardly as regarded the right hon. Member for Stroud. He could not, however, conceive words more misapplied. The Bill was called an honest Bill. He never believed it to be honest, and thought it was quite the reverse. What would they think of a dramatic author who in the introduction of a new piece offended the boxes, failed to appreciate the sound good common sense of the pit, and appealed solely to the gallery? Yet, this was what the Bill did. Though he respected this "longing after immortality" on the part of the Government, he did not see why they should always be administering a political dram, a tonic, a restorative, a "pick-me-up" to the worn-out frame of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, He, for one, would certainly vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester, because though the Chancellor of the Exchequer might go bill-posting through the country, and the hon. Member for Birmingham might call upon Baal after his manner, he thought the Bill was unsatisfactory and dishonest, and that Parliament would stultify itself if it passed such a measure.
said, he should have been content to give a silent vote on the present occasion, but that the constituency which he had the honour to represent (Chatham) was injuriously affected by its 10th clause; and if he did not succeed in securing the rejection of that clause in Committee, if the Bill even reached that stage, the Motion for the third reading of the Bill would have his most strenuous and determined opposition. The noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) had been careful to announce that his Amendment did not proceed from Tory hands, but would the noble Lord say that he did not count on Tory support? On the contrary, it seemed to him that the Amendment had been concocted with a view to gain the support of the greatest number of persons professing the most diverse opinions possible, and to combine them in one common opposition to the Bill; and the result had shown that those who wished for an extreme measure and those who wished for no measure at all, were all alike willing to support him. The Motion suited those 2139 who, like the noble Lord, objected to a reduction of the franchise, but did not object to the Government; and it was eminently satisfactory to those who, like the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Oxfordshire and Cambridge University, though not objecting to a reduction of the franchise, desired very much to get rid of the Government. It suited a third section, led by the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), who praised the good old times of George III., and who were opposed both to the Government and their Bill. It suited those who wished for a more comprehensive measure, and it pleased the Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), who never spoke but he raised the spectre of democracy in the House. Perhaps it would be profitable to the House, under the circumstances, to hear something which fell from the right hon. Member for Calne on former occasions. It was natural that the views of youth should be changed in mature years; but the opinions he adverted to were the views of a Gentleman who boasted that he had given a Constitution to a country. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking on a former occasion, had described property as resting on antiquated charters and musty parchments; and, speaking of Lord Derby and the right hon. Member for Bucks, said—It is one of my gravest charges that they have deceived their friends, falsified their pledges, and libelled the people of England.That he commended to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman who had libelled the people of England during the present debate? On another occasion, at a dinner given by his constituents at Kidderminster, the right hon. Gentleman said—I will go even further, and say not only is it the duty of the Government to refrain from a perverse opposition to public opinion, but that they are unable to read the signs of the times and unfit to be intrusted with the Government of the country if they cannot perceive that by the permission of Divine Providence the evident tendency of this country is towards democracy.Those were statements made by the right hon. Gentleman six weeks before he resumed his seat on the Treasury Bench. [An hon. MEMBER: When?] An hon. Gentleman asked "When?" He replied, at a banquet which was given to the right hon. Gentleman by his enthusiastic supporters, the Democrats of Kidderminster, because of the ability with which he advocated their views when seeking a seat in Parliament. He was reminded by an hon. 2140 Gentleman that it was an after-dinner speech. He could only say that he preferred it to some of his speeches before dinner. But whatever the different opinions of hon. Gentlemen, the motive of most seemed to be a pretty strong determination to keep the working classes from enjoying the franchise of the country. ["No, no!"] If it were not so, why all those arguments as to checks and balances of power? What did it all mean but an apprehension that if the working men acquired that to which they had a just right—namely, a fair share in the election of Members of the House of Commons—they would elect men bent on carrying measures prejudicial to the true interests of the country? The Bill introduced by Lord Derby's Government was rejected because it did not provide for an extension of the borough franchise; and the Government which succeeded them, having led the opposition to that Bill, were bound to bring in a measure for the accomplishment of that object. The Government, in like manner, had a right to ask the House to confirm the principle of reduction of the franchise, and to say that, if hon. Members were not satisfied with the distribution scheme, afterwards to be produced, it was for the House to decline to go into Committee on the Franchise Bill. That seemed to him to be a most rational proceeding, and, indeed, almost the only one open to the Government, considering the pledges given by its Members. One other argument he felt bound to advert to. The probable action of the working classes was one of the important points involved in the consideration of this question. He would not give any opinion as to the virtues or vices of those classes; and he believed they had already heard more than enough upon both sides of that matter. But he should observe that they were not altogether without experience of the mode in which the working classes were likely to exercise the franchise. In the borough of Stafford, which he had formerly had the honour to represent, these classes were not only predominant, but all-powerful; and yet since the days of Sheridan they had—he did not of course presume to include himself—returned to that House many men of ability and eminence. Then, again, the city of Westminster, in which household suffrage had in past times existed, and which had not less than 25,000 electors, had been represented by some of the most distinguished statesmen this country 2141 had ever produced. The working classes, as it appeared from the statistics lately published, constituted about 26 per cent of the borough constituencies, and yet no one could say that they had done anything which would contribute to destroy the character of that House. The fact was, that in that House truth and argument might force their way, but no mere political spouter had a chance of obtaining any power in that Assembly, and that was no arena for the declamation of the demagogue, or the rant of the Republican. Why, then, should not the working classes have their special representatives in that House as well as the army, the navy, the bar, land, commerce, and manufactures? But they had heard from the Member for Westminster, the Member for Brighton, and the Member for Southwark, that even they did not consider themselves to be representatives of the working class. The right hon. and gallant General the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), who made an animated speech the other evening, told them that if the late Mr. Hume were to revisit that House the first question he would ask would no doubt be what was the amount of their Army and their Navy Estimates. But he (Mr. Otway) could not help thinking that he would ask other questions. The first thing that would strike that shrewd friend of the people was the great increase which had of late years taken place in the wealth of the country under the financial and commercial legislation proposed by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer; and that on looking round that House he would at once be tempted to address himself to hon. Gentlemen opposite and to say, "What, are you still in opposition? Have you not yet succeeded in bringing yourselves into harmony with the great body of your fellow-countrymen? Are you still endeavouring to ensure your return to office by the adoption of a policy which if it should bring you back to these Benches would inevitably prevent you from remaining there?" He believed it was for the interest of the Conservative party that the question of Reform should as soon as possible be settled. The heart of the country was set upon its settlement. He had no particular affection for the present Government. Though he respected them as men of great ability and great honesty, he did not much differ in opinion from a gentleman who had said to him a few days ago that he had no particular fault to find 2142 with the Government, but thought they were in that position in which a gentleman sometimes found himself as a guest at a country house—they had overstayed their time. He hoped, however, that the Government would not be put out on this Bill, because he thought they had taken the only course open to them in placing a Reform Bill before the House; he should, therefore, give the Bill his cordial support, not that he considered it a perfect measure, for he had already alluded to what he regarded as one great blot in it. He had no doubt, however, that in Committee he should be able to show the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the mischievous clause to which he referred ought to be taken out. A noble Lord opposite (Viscount Royston), who spoke with considerable ability, stated, somewhat to his (Mr. Otway's) surprise, that every moderate Conservative was in favour of household suffrage. He agreed, however, with the noble Lord that that was the franchise to which we should ultimately come. He did not say that we were ripe for it yet, but it was the ancient franchise of the country, and if it were accompanied with a good residential qualification it was the best one we could adopt. He should vote for the original Motion, and against the Amendment, because he believed that the Bill was an honest and a sincere measure, and the very smallest instalment of freedom that could be offered to a patient but expectant people.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, he thought that those Members sitting on the Ministerial side of the House who, like himself, did; not intend to support the Government on the second reading of this Bill, owed it to their constituents, and after what had taken place in the course of the debate owed it to themselves, that they should state the reasons which induced them to adopt that line of conduct. The Government had introduced a Franchise Bill, and the noble Lord the Member for Chester had proposed an Amendment to the effect that it was not expedient to deal with that question by instalments. Under those circumstances it appeared to him that the point they had to consider was, not the amount of Reform they should sanction, but the manner in which they were asked to deal with the subject. The Government had announced that if the House agreed to the Amendment they would treat such an expression of opinion as a Vote of Want of Confidence in the present Administration. He was sorry that they had come to that conclusion, 2143 because it necessarily involved one of two evils—either a breach in the ranks of the Liberal party, or, what he should still more regret, a sacrifice of independence and an abandonment of honest convictions on the part of many Members of that party. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department and other speakers from the Treasury Bench had told the House that the Amendment was aimed against all Reform; and they said that in proof of this one had only to look to the turn which the debate had taken. He must say he thought that that was rather due to the supporters of the Bill, for in the course of the debate very copious and very good reasons had been given for Reform; but those reasons went to show the necessity for the Amendment. The expediency of granting Reform was acknowledged in the Amendment; and he, for one, should enter his humble protest against the manner in which the Government proposed to attain their object. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had threatened the House with a dissolution. ["No, no!" from the Treasury Bench.] Well, what was the meaning of the passage about cutting away the bridges and burning the boats? He had understood that—and he ventured to think it had been so understood by the public—as a threat of a dissolution. ["No!" from the Treasury Bench.] He was glad to hear it was not so—he was glad to have been the humble instrument of clearing up the mystery; but he protested against the assumption that all those who supported the Amendment must of necessity be opposed to Reform. If this Bill had only been accompanied by a re-distribution of seats, though he might not approve all its provisions, he would have been ready to go into Committee; but he could not undertake to hand over to the Government the power which they wished to take into their hands. He knew he might be told that in offering opposition to the Bill he was opposing it on mere matter of detail. He contended, however, that this matter now in dispute was not one of detail, but of principle. They had been told on high authority that the advice of the hon. Member for Birmingham was that the Government should in the first instance proceed with a Franchise Bill, and, having got it, should in a new Parliament deal with the re-distribution of seats. ["No, no!"] Well, that was generally understood to be the purport of the language used at the meeting held at Lord Russell's offi- 2144 cial residence; but if the Government said they did not adopt that course on that advice, he was perfectly willing to believe them; but it was certain they had brought in a Franchise Bill without dealing with the question of re-distribution. He could not regard as immaterial the period at which a re-distribution of seats would take place, bearing in mind that 400,000 electors were previously to be added to one end of the scale. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department told the House that the Cabinet, in shaping their policy, naturally looked to the pledges given by Liberal Members at the hustings upon this subject of Reform. The right hon. Gentleman apparently had omitted to refer to his own address; and, indeed, he seemed rather to have studied the addresses of hon. Members below the gangway than of those sitting either upon the Treasury Bench or immediately behind it. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in the course of his able and conciliatory speech—for which, no doubt, his Colleagues were much indebted to him—said he would offer a word of remark—Upon an argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), that a Member who makes pledges on the hustings to his constituents, if, on coming to Parliament, he finds the promises he has given prejudicial to the public good, ought not to feel bound by those pledges.That appeared to him a most mischievous and demoralizing doctrine. [Mr. LOWE: It is his duty to resign.] He (Mr. R. W. Duff) willingly accepted the correction of the right hon. Gentleman, and would therefore say it was the duty of many Members of that House to resign at once. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: "Hear, hear!"] That argument was now endorsed, it seemed, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary went on to say—That a person was returned as representing a certain set of principles, and if he deserted those principles it must have a mischievous and demoralizing effect upon the country, and must lower the confidence and trust the constituencies ought to have in their representatives in Parliament.To what conclusion did these doctrines of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary lead? Last year, when the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) was before the House, he voted against the £6 franchise, and justified that vote to his constituents, telling them that he was opposed 2145 to all piecemeal legislation. But was not this piecemeal legislation? If, therefore, he were now to accept the doctrine of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs two courses only were open to him—either to resign his seat or vote against the Government. He need not say that he intended to adopt the latter alternative. He could not forget that he took his seat in that House as a supporter of Lord Palmerston, whose last expression of opinion on the Reform Question had been delivered on the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) on the 13th of April, 1864. Many other Members being anxious to speak, he would not trouble the House with quotations, but would shortly state that the policy then enunciated was very different from that adopted by Her Majesty's present Government. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, if Gentlemen wished him to read the passage he would do so. Lord Palmerston said on that occasion—It appears to mo that the object we ought all to have in view is to form a legislative machine in which all interests in the country shall be fairly represented. The two leading interests of this country are, on the one hand, the trading and the commercial interests, and on the other the agricultural interest; and any alteration of our system which tends to introduce too largely the trading and commercial, or the town, element into the agricultural, or country element, would, I think, injuriously disturb the balance which it is essential for the interests of the country that we should maintain. … It is plain to every man, I think, who attends at all to the indications of public opinion in this House and in the country, that there does not exist at the present moment in this House or out of it the same interest in such changes as existed some time since. The fact is that organic changes have been looked to not as a mere end so much as a means to an end. They were looked to as a means of effecting great alterations and improvements in our internal system, our commercial system, our laws, procedure, and other matters. Many of those improvements have been made. Commerce has been freed from its shackles, the industry of the country has been encouraged by liberty, and many of those alterations and improvements which were to be the result of organic changes have been accomplished by the Legislature as it stands; and therefore there is a less ardent desire for change than existed before those improvements were made."—[3 Hansard, clxxiv. 953]The present Government, with an unbecoming haste, set to work entirely to change the line of policy which the majority of the House had been returned to support; acknowledging that they had not time sufficient to prepare a complete measure, they appeared to have gone on the 2146 principle that a bad Reform Bill was better than no Reform Bill at all. The line which they had adopted was altogether unparalleled. Their original programme of getting Members whose constituencies were to be disfranchised to pass an enfranchising Bill was a policy which might not, perhaps, have commanded his support, but was at least intelligible. But since then the Government, while they had conceded too much to enable them to rely on the support of those Members whose seats might be jeopardized, conceded too little to satisfy the just and reasonable demands of their legitimate supporters. For five years he had given a consistent support to Lord Palmerston's Government, and if he now took a course opposed to that which the majority of those with whom he was then associated sought to carry out, he did so because he preferred his own honest convictions to the guidance of a leader who in general he was proud to support, but who on this particular question of Reform had forfeited every claim to his confidence.
§ MR. JAMES
said, that considering the constituency he represented (Manchester), and the course he had adopted with regard to this Bill, he could not refrain from justifying himself in the eyes of the House and of his constituents. He had, on a previous occasion, made observations unfavourable to the course which it had pleased Her Majesty's Ministers to adopt with respect to the Reform measure, and he had clone so because it seemed to him that the course adopted was not likely to promote the interests of the country or to settle this question. Not that; he was unfavourable to Reform—much the other way. Manchester was, perhaps, as warmly interested in the passing of the Reform Bill as any other constituency in the country; and with the fact before him that a petition signed, or alleged to have been signed, by upwards of 70,000 persons in that city, in favour of this measure had been presented to the House, it might seem strange that he, the representative of a populous constituency, should have expressed such opinions. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) in referring the other night to the opinion of Manchester ought to have appealed to his hon. Colleague in the representation of that city, from whom he would doubtless receive a more positive answer than he was in a position to give, 2147 His hon. Colleague was present at a meeting, largely attended by the constituency of Manchester, who expressed strong approbation of this measure, and were desirous that it should be passed into a law as soon as possible. From that meeting he himself had been absent, and his reasons were not kept to himself, but publicly avowed, and those reasons were that he did not approve the mode in which the Government were bringing forward the Bill. Whether or not those sentiments conveyed the feeling of the constituency at the present moment it was not for him to say; but he would state facts from which the House might draw their own conclusions. In July last there were three candidates before that great constituency, all of them entertaining extreme opinions on the question of Reform. A fourth candidate went down two days only before the nomination. He expressed opinions different from those of the other candidates with regard to the question of Reform; and in reply to questions put to him, that candidate stated that it seemed to him that all parties were agreed that Reform should take place; that in his judgment the suffrage should be extended to intelligence, to education, and to position, and that it should be extended as widely as possible so as to be consistent with a due balance with respect to all portions of the community, but that no power should be given to one part of the community which would outbalance the rest. The candidate was interrogated as to a £6 Franchise Bill; and his answer was that a £6 Franchise Bill, unless accompanied with other measures, would not be a satisfactory measure. Upon these questions the constituency of Manchester returned that candidate to Parliament by a majority of upwards of 1,100 over gentlemen whose extreme opinions did not meet with the approbation of the community. He (Mr. James) had the honour to be that person who was returned to the House of Commons for Manchester. Much had been said about pledges given to the constituencies; but that which he gave to the constituency was that he would support Reform, that he would support an extension of the franchise; but that in his judgment there ought to be measures taken to prevent that extension of the franchise giving undue power to any one class of the community. Much had also been said about class interest. Class legislation ought to be avoided in that House; but 2148 it was a very different thing to regard classes and to regard communities of interests, and no one who was acquainted with the progress of this Constitution and country could fail to have seen that, although classes might not be regarded, interests were very much regarded. It was fair that agriculture, commerce, and manufactures should have their different representatives; and he thought it was likewise due to the labouring classes that they should be represented; but no class of the community ought to claim more than its fair share in the representation. A transfer of power from the present possessors of it with the influence which they now exercise, would be revolution; but to give the labouring classes their fair share in the representation would not be revolution, but a just measure of Reform. To his mind the present Bill could not be satisfactory for the simple reason that, taken by itself, it could not be ascertained to what extent the admission of the artizan class would control the representation. He looked upon the extension of the franchise as a means to an end—which was not that certain classes might enjoy the right of voting, but that they might have an opportunity of being heard in the House of Commons by those whom they might think proper to return as their legitimate representatives; and unless he could tell to what degree the extension of the suffrage might be carried, it was utterly impossible that he could fulfil the pledges which he gave to the constituents who returned him, and who by that very act showed that they did not claim to have an undue share in the representation. The hon. Member for Birmingham said he could devise such a scheme as would render the most complete extension of the suffrage a mere sham by a re-distribution of the seats; and there could be no doubt about it. If, then, he could do it, he might, if he had the power, devise such a scheme as would render this acquisition of power by the working classes mischievous and dangerous to the country. It was for that reason that he objected to the measure which Government had brought forward, and because full information had not been given as to the extent of the change which would be made by it. Some years ago, in a speech made at Bradford, which attracted attention throughout the country, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham brought forward what he called his scheme of Reform; and in his speech he insisted that 2149 no measure of Reform could be accepted which did not, in the first instance, direct its attention to the distribution of seats. The hon. Gentleman proposed, in the first instance, to deprive a number of constituencies of the power which they now possessed of sending Members to Parliament. Of the 125 seats which he said would thus be at the disposal of the House, he proposed to give 107 to the populous manufacturing and commercial towns principally situate in the North of England, and the remaining eighteen to the counties. Two of these eighteen were to be given to the West Riding of Yorkshire and two to Lancashire. Now these counties were as much town, commercial and manufacturing constituencies as the places to which he had previously referred. Now, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed such a scheme on the present occasion, it would have been deemed mischievous, because its effect would be to give the power—although it might not, except under very extraordinary circumstances, be exercised—to one interest to control the rest of the interests of the country. There were two prominent principles to be observed in managing this matter of the re-distribution of seats. There was what might be characterized as the agricultural constituency proper; and there was likewise the town constituency proper. There was also another class which partook neither altogether of the character of the one or the other, forming a sort of middle term between the agricultural and the town constituencies; and it might be deserving of consideration hereafter whether it would not be wise to retain those constituencies, not in their present corrupt state, but by combining a number together, so as to retain this element in the Constitution. When the Bill for the extension of the franchise was brought forward it was not stated that it was to be accompanied by any other measure; and if that had been the case he should certainly have opposed it. But since then the Government had intimated that they intended to bring forward a measure by which their scheme of Reform would be clearly indicated. In the first position of affairs an Amendment had been moved, in the terms of which he (Mr. James) fully concurred; but now he must look further. He believed that the noble Earl who moved the Amendment had done so with perfect sincerity and without any sinister object in view; but no one could have listened to the debate without per- 2150 ceiving that the Amendment, if carried, would have a very different effect from the expectations of many of those who originally supported it. If the effect would simply be to induce Her Majesty's Government to bow to the decision of the House, and bring forward the whole measure in deference to those who sat behind them, he would vote for it; but if the effect would be to delay the settlement of the question, and increase the excitement throughout the country, if it were to be left to agitators to go into the country and stir up among the people great dissensions, differences, and unpleasantness, then he could not give his adhesion to the Amendment. He look upon this Bill being read a second time in no other light than he had looked upon the Resolution brought forward by Earl Russell on the Bill introduced by the Government of Lord Derby—namely, simply as an assertion on the part of the House that in any Reform measure it was necessary that there should be an extension of the suffrage. Looking at it in that point of view only he should give to the Government his most cordial support. In doing that he conceived he should best fulfil the pledges he had given to his constituents. [Cheers and Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might think differently; but every one was at liberty to entertain his own opinions, and as he respected the opinions of others he expected the like respect to be given to his own. He had pledged himself to his constituents to vote for an extension of the suffrage, and to lake care, as far as was in his power, that that extension should not be mischievous. Having mentioned that, he had now to state that he should vote for the second reading of the Bill; but he likewise stipulated for the right of opposing this measure at any future stage, if the Bills which were to be laid upon the table did not give him satisfaction. He should give them a fair and honest consideration, for he only sought to promote the interests of the community, and to protect one class, or a variety of classes from the dominance of the rest. Her Majesty's Government had already made considerable concessions in undertaking to introduce, on the passing of the second reading of this Bill, another for the re-distribution of seats, and he sincerely trusted that either by proceeding with both Bills pari passu, or by inserting clauses in the present Bill to effect the object of both, they would enable the country to have a full measure of Reform.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had added a new terror to the task, already sufficiently formidable, of those who ventured to address the House on the subject of Reform. Speaking at the Liberal banquet at Liverpool the right hon. Gentleman had described those hon. Members who, sitting on that side the House, had taken part in the discussion on the first reading, as either most ungovernable, or as being the most exuberant spirits from Ireland. He hoped the Irish Members would appreciate the compliment, and recognize the superior self-respect which was given by a Scotch extraction. He merely mentioned it in order that he might establish some claim to the attention of the House. Next to the portentous length of the speeches in this debate, nothing had struck, him so much as the unanimity with which all hon. Gentlemen desired in the vexed and weary question of Parliamentary Reform a comprehensive and equitable settlement as between the various interests and classes of the country. He trusted, therefore, it was not too much to hope that the majority of the House would be equally agreed in rejecting a measure which unsettled everything, which was fragmentary in its form, and which he should endeavour to prove would be most inequitable in its effects. As long as the boroughs of England and Wales returned a clear majority of the House of Commons, the chief interest of Reform must centre in the borough franchise. He might, perhaps, be permitted to offer the tribute of his humble admiration to the ingenuity which could devise a fresh act of injustice to the counties. With a larger population, with more numerous constituencies and a greater rental, they returned to this House less than half the number of the borough Members. It was now proposed to subject still further the rural to the urban interests, and then, in the scramble for the re-distribution of seats, to leave the counties dependent upon the charity of the towns. In this matter the counties seemed to be experiencing the proverbial treatment of the man who "has no friends." This Bill had been recommended by Her Majesty's Government and supported by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) on the ground of its being a measure of working man enfranchisement. Now, he begged to call attention to the area of its operations. In the first place, Her Majesty's Government deliberately excluded from the scope of the 2152 measure, regarded as one of working class enfranchisement, the population of the counties, amounting to 11,500,000. That of course was a resolution to which it might be perfectly competent for them to arrive; but he contended that it was not competent for them to make up in the boroughs what they had advisedly foregone in the counties, or to accomplish what they argue as an act of justice to the working class throughout the country by an act of injustice to the other classes resident in the boroughs. If they thought that a Dorsetshire labourer should be enfranchised, by all means let them lay upon the table a Bill that had that object; but if they would forego that enfranchisement it was not competent for them, by any method of reasoning with which he was familiar, to go to the boroughs and attempt there to restore the balance and redress the inequalities. He would show the House how the franchise was extended already in the boroughs. He did not remember that the hon. Member for Birmingham in his loftiest flight of enfranchisement ever suggested a wider extension than a household suffrage for boroughs, and he found that the total number of male occupiers borne upon the borough rate books was 1,350,000. Would it be credited, after all that has been said and written on the subject, that nearly one-half of the male occupiers, amounting to 640,000 persons, lived in houses ranging above £10, and, with freemen and voters of that class resident in houses of less than £10 rental, quite one-half of the male occupiers of boroughs were, as the phrase went, "within the pale of the Constitution?" How many illusions disappeared before the simple statement of the simple fact!" What became of the "invading army" of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The insinuation, no doubt, was an adroit one, but the army which occupied was at least as numerous as the unemancipated millions of the hon. Member for Birmingham. He (Mr. Schreiber) thought the hon. Member would do well to remember in his speeches that exclusion from the franchise was not the only thing by which the intelligence of the working classes might be insulted. The most cursory inspection of the blue book would show that the general system of averages did not fairly exhibit the electoral statistics of the boroughs. For instance, when they saw that 26 per cent of the electors were working men it did not follow that there was 26 per cent of work- 2153 ing men in the constituency of every borough:—but, on the other hand, he did not think any one could have looked at the Government Returns without observing in how many boroughs one-third and upwards of the constituencies were composed of working men. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) stated with much ability on the second night of this debate that in some constituencies the claims of labour were already equitably recognized. Now of the three classes of society the working class was one; and whatever might he their income—whether they put it with the Chancellor of the Exchequer at £250,000,000 a year, or with Mr. Baxter at £150,000,000—no one pretended that they contributed more than one-third to the revenue of the country—he (Mr. Schreiber) believed they paid less—and the hon. Member for Westminster did not attempt to show that their position was worse than that of either the upper or the middle classes, with each of whom the right of voting meant the right of being outvoted, unless it were argued that the upper and middle classes always combined against the working men, whereas the fact was invariably otherwise. Or did he mean to say that in the constituencies the majority of the electors live in closer sympathy and contact with the upper than the working-class? In his own constituency of 2,800 electors (Cheltenham) the proportion of residents of independent means was perhaps larger than in any other borough, and there the political system balanced exactly at £20, the electors who lived below the amount being as numerous as those who lived above. In addition to that there was in that constituency a neutral class who were natural allies of the working men, whose existence they must take into account if they wished to estimate the real proportion of the representation. In the city of Bath, with a population somewhat analogous, he found, out of 2,960 electors, more than 1,700 living in houses of less than £10 a year. What the effect of a £7 rental would be there, ho was not aware; but in Cheltenham it would reduce the centre of gravity from £20 to £15, and the occupiers living in houses between £15 and £7, and paying an aggregate rental of £23,000 a year, while the electors, who paid an aggregate rental of £230,000 a year, would only be in the proportion of one in ten. He should view that as a very serious disturbance of the present equilibrium. Next in order to 2154 the boroughs in which the working classes are one-third and upwards of the constituency, and in which the quantity of any reduction of the franchise had yet to be established, came the small boroughs of the Totnes type, in which no reduction of the franchise could be a measure of working man enfranchisement. The hon. Member for Westminster gave them to understand that he wished to curtail the influence of money in the selection of Members for this House; but he (Mr. Schreiber) knew of no method so certain to increase it as the reduction of franchise in the manner proposed. In a borough so small a manageable number of electors of the poorer class would be created, who would be exposed to I temptations which it was hardly in human nature to withstand. In these boroughs, then, neither as a measure of working-class enfranchisement, nor as leading to purity of election, could any reduction of the franchise be adopted. He would say nothing of the obvious absurdity of enfranchising men to-day whom the re-distribution of seats might deprive of political life to-morrow. There only remained for consideration that class of boroughs, chiefly manufacturing boroughs, in which he admitted that the number of working men upon the register was disproportionately small; but in those boroughs with very few exceptions, the equity of the case would be met by a reduction of the franchise to an £8 rental, and that to his mind conclusively disposed of the proposal of the Government. In one class of boroughs, those in which the working classes had already a third of the representation, he hoped he had shown that this measure was unnecessary; in a second class, that it would be delusive; and in a third class, that it would be excessive. His strongest objection to the Bill, however, was founded upon the dangerous addition to be made to the taxing power of those who did not pay direct taxation. The property and income tax were already limited to a small minority of the existing constituencies; that number would become comparatively smaller, and he believed six months would not elapse after this Bill became law, before the cry would be raised in the constituencies of "Down with the Customs; down with the Excise; and up with the Income Tax!" If direct taxation, with its inevitable exemptions, was already bad enough, when levied by the votes of those who did not pay it themselves, it would become simply intolerable, and would infallibly give birth to exasperation 2155 and class bitterness to be followed by convulsions to which we hitherto have happily been strangers. It was quite clear that in introducing such a measure Her Majesty's Government seem to have forgotten that—Just experience tells in every soilThat those who think must govern those who toil;And all that Freedom's highest aims can reachIs but to lay proportioned load on each.An hon. Member, who should be nameless, had charged the great party who sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House, with unlimited stupidity. That hon. Gentleman would find that in this matter of the re-distribution of seats they would not be so fatuous as to draw a cheque on the bank for the hon. Member to fill in; nor could this House forget the pledge which made it due to its own honour to reject this Bill. They owed it to themselves to show to foreign nations that they suffered no man to play the Bismarck to an English House of Commons, and they owed it to their fellow-countrymen to let them see that, whether against the adroit insinuations of a Minister or the rude menaces of a demagogue, this House still stood firm the guardian of the Constitution and of the liberties of the people.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I hope that I need not apologize to the House for intruding myself upon them in the present discussion. I have only once previously spoken upon questions of popular representation, but I may, I think be excused if I do so in the present instance; because not only the county from which I come, and where I represent a borough (Ponte-fract), containing a considerable number of the working classes, has expressed itself more strongly, I believe, than any other county on the subject, but also because I spent several years of my life in one of the most flourishing of our colonies—I mean Victoria—which has been alluded to both this evening and in previous debates. I trust that, as one who took some share in the Government of that colony, and who had a part in the preparation of the Constitutional Act under which her Government is now regulated, I may be allowed to set the House right with respect to some erroneous statements which have never yet received an answer. I shall have to speak of the Australian colonies generally, but I wish to allude specially to the colony of Victoria, of which I have the 2156 greatest personal knowledge. My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), in alluding to that colony, said that he himself, to whom the colonies owe so much in the shape of responsible Government, would wish that responsible Government could be taken away, relegating these free communities back to that former state of things of which he himself was one of the most indefatigable denouncers. In the debate last year he also said, "Look at Australia. There universal suffrage was conceded suddenly, and the working classes immediately availing themselves of it became masters of the situation. Nobody else has a shadow of power." Since then he has told the House that "at last the system turned out so badly that in Australia they had been driven to appoint the Executive for a number of years certain." [Mr. LOWE: No, no!] If my right hon. Friend repudiates the last statement which I am reading from the published report of his speech, I shall of course dwell upon it no further; but as to none but working men having a shadow of power, I must call his attention to the real facts. The two colonies to which he referred have had at their head very able men during the last ten years. The Prime Minister of New South Wales is Mr. Charles Cowper. [Mr. LOWE: No, no!] I may correct myself by saying that the Government of that colony has within the last month or two undergone a change; but at its head, for by far the greater portion of the last ten years, has been Mr. Charles Cowper. Again, the virtual head of the Government of Victoria is the Minister of Justice, Mr. Archibald Michie. When my right hon. Friend was a public man in Australia, Mr. Michie and Mr. Charles Cowper were his intimate political allies. I will now turn to the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) who, in calling the attention of the House last year to the condition of the Australian colonies, said—So determined are they In Victoria to maintain a protective system that they would not allow a Bill to pass intended to remedy the inequality of the sexes;which meant that they were such determined Protectionists as even to protect servant girls against cheaper labour. The answer to that statement, however, is that this Democratic Legislature has passed a law under which a fixed proportion of the land revenue is annually appropriated to the purposes of immigration. My 2157 hon. Friend also read the following letter:—You know what sort of men Haines, Sladen, Farie, Sturt, Stawell, Macknight, and others of the same stamp are. Well, under vote by ballot and universal suffrage there is not one of these, except Haines (and some men always get in), that would have a ghost of a chance with the lowest ruffian, and he appealed to the hon. Member for Salisbury whether that was a correct representation of the facts. [Mr. MARSH: Hear, hear!]Well, Sir, I happen to know both the writer and the receiver of the letter, and I am sure my hon. Friend quoted it in good faith, but what are the facts. My lamented friend Mr. Haines was long a Member of the Legislative Assembly under the present suffrage, and died a Member of the Council. Mr. Sladen also was a Colleague of mine and a Member of the Assembly, and is now a Member of the Council. The two gentlemen next named had been holding, before and since the establishment of responsible government, offices disqualifying them from becoming Members of the Legislature. Sir William Stawell, the fifth named, is the present Chief Justice of the colony, and when a Colleague of mine in 1856 was returned at the head of the poll, under household suffrage, by the constituency of Melbourne, then the most democratic in Victoria. Indeed, I have no doubt that if he ceased to be Chief Justice he would be returned again now. The last-named gentleman is a country farmer, whom I have never heard of as ambitious of public life. When this sort of statement is made in this House, and extracts from newspapers or anonymous letters are produced as proofs of the state of the colonies, I think the House should pause before giving credence to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Marsh) said last year in reference to Australia—In Australia it is sought to have the rules of I trade enforced by law. Recent intelligence stated that a deputation from the iron trade had urged upon the Government the desirability of adopting the eight hours' movement among those engaged in that trade at Melbourne. …. Looking, on the other hand, to Australia, where he had many very dear friends, with a beautiful country and an unrivalled climate, what did he find to be the case? Corruption of the grossest kind prevailed in the political system. At one time certain persons in the colony wished to carry a particular point, they accordingly raised a large sum and wont round to those Members of the Assembly who they heard were determined to I vote against the project, and to some of them they gave £10, while the greatest patriot of all found his patriotism oozing out of his fingers' 2158 ends on being offered a sum of £750. Again, a scene in the House was thus described:—'While all Melbourne was absorbed in a cricket match a furious debate was taking place in the House on the Motion of Mr. Barton, that a sum of money should be placed on the Estimates for the payment of Members.' 'All disguise,' the narrative went on to state, 'as to the motives of the Mover and his friends was cast off. It was explicitly declared that the popular Members could not live without appropriating the public money.'I have made inquiries as to these allegations, and I find that in Victoria no such thing can happen as an attempt to enforce the rules of trade by law, or systematically to bribe Members. It is true that a proposal was made that Members should be paid as in Canada; but, unfortunately for those popular Members who are described as unable to live without public money, it was not successful. I do not pretend for a moment to say that all the legislation of the colony and parts of its constitution are such as I should have chosen. I used to belong to a political party which has not always had its way since, and some parts of our successors' policy have been very different from ours; but I most distinctly state that the finance of the colony stands as high as that of any country in the world; that the colony has never borrowed one shilling of money except for reproductive public works; and that the only operation applied to the debt is the same as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is anxious to apply to the debt of this country—namely, the operation of paying it off as rapidly as possible. I have heard it stated that the interests of religion are neglected; but the fact is that an ample and liberal provision is made by that democratic colony for public worship. Then it is said that education is neglected. Why, the votes for public education in the colony would shame this House. The right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) who has done so much for education, will remember the opposition his educational proposals met with in Australia, and no doubt he will be glad to know that, under the Constitution of which he spoke to-night, his views have been carried out to the utmost, and that a thorough and complete system of common schools supported by payments for results is in force in Victoria. Then it must be borne in mind that these colonies do not cost this country one shilling for their defence; and, as the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) will be glad to hear, they have established a most admirable Volunteer force, far 2159 larger in proportion to population than that at home. But I have heard to-night that these democratic colonies commit one great atrocity—they have abandoned the great palladium of free trade, which has been the glory and salvation of this country. Well, it is a bold thing to talk in this House of free trade being the glory of the country, when it is remembered that a little more than twenty years ago there was a great majority in the Parliament of this country in favour of protection, and that when my right hon. Friend was in Australia one of the horrors of democratic institutions here was that they would bring about free trade. But there is, in fact, by no means a uniform opinion on the part of the working men in these colonies in favour of protection. No doubt at the last election in Victoria a protectionist majority was returned, and I am told that about 51,000 electors voted—28,000 in favour of protection, and 23,000 in favour of free trade candidates. But democratic Melbourne returned six Members, and its principal suburb, St. Kilda, two, and six of these eight Members are free traders. To a large extent the Protectionist Members were returned by agricultural constituencies. It is true that a certain portion of the working classes have imbibed Protectionist doctrines; but it is also true that the great majority, or almost the whole of the agricultural classes, have adhered to protection, and it is to this combination with the farming interest that the protectionist success is due. I therefore do not think that there is much force in the attack on that democratic colony on the ground of its being in favour of protection. I trust I have not wearied the House I by saying these few words on behalf of a colony which I believe to be firmly attached to the British Crown, and which had always been foremost to give assistance to the mother country, when assistance such as they could give was required. Let it be remembered that these democratic colonies contributed more to the Patriotic and Mutiny Funds than Scotland and Ireland and all the rest of the world together.
Having said this much in reference to the colonies, I will proceed to say a few words on the arguments against the Bill before the House. Two questions have been much mixed up in the course of the debate—they are, indeed, perfectly distinct questions, yet they have been so intermingled that it is extremely difficult to separate them. The first question is, whether the Bill is in itself a good one, and such as 2160 ought to be accepted? and the second is, whether, in the words of the Amendment, something more ought not to be done at the same time? So that the supporters of this Bill are in this difficulty, that hon. Members can vote for the Amendment either on the ground that they do not like the Bill, or, because liking it they also approve of the Amendment. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment directed his observations almost entirely to the faults of the Bill, the noble Lord who followed him almost entirely to the virtues of the Amendment. My right hon. Friend addressed himself to the fitness of the present and future electors; and the hon. and learned Member for Belfast made it a question of the figures of the Returns which he analyzed for a whole hour. According to one, electoral qualification is a mere means to an end; according to another, it is all a question of fitness to be determined by some complicated method such as is proposed by the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay). Some speakers have spoken as if it was all a question of mere consistency; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) has defied any one to say that he had ever changed any of his opinions during the last thirty years. That, certainly, is rather a bold challenge, and I dare say some one will take it up. But, after all, what is it worth? What is the value of this great doctrine of consistency? In my humble view the science of politics would be at the lowest ebb if we were to reduce everything to this formula—what were any man's opinions when he was a lad of twenty? What did I think thirty years ago, and if I can prove I never varied from that then, forsooth, I am a great statesman. That is not the way in which Englishmen treat a great question. Instead of that being the rule, the reverse is the rule. We endeavour to learn by experience. Those who learn day by day, and have the courage to say so, are the greatest statesmen. Why does the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire lead 300 Gentlemen on the other side of the House? Because he has had the wisdom to allow his opinions to be moulded by experience. Why does my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer lead 300 Gentlemen on this side of the House? Because he has had the courage to follow his convictions. And why does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud lead his party of only two? Because he never has had the courage to change his mind, and his great- 2161 est boast is that he still entertains the opinions he held thirty years ago. But we have had another episode on consistency. The right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), it is said, has always been consistent; and the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) has produced himself as a sort of witness to character. On the subject of the right hon. Gentleman's consistency, the noble Lord has told us a very curious story. He said that in 1854, when Lord Aberdeen's Reform Bill was before the House, his right hon. Friend and himself used to walk home from their offices and discuss the £6 borough franchise, and they arrived at this strange conclusion—that, holding office under Lord Aberdeen, they would vote in favour of the second reading, but that, if the Bill went into Committee, they would throw up their offices and vote against the clause. This is a most curious way of proving consistency; because two Gentlemen had determined, without notice to their Colleagues, to leave office and break up the Government if the Bill they supported on the second reading got into Committee, their conduct is to be held up to the admiration of that House. But I must ask my noble Friend why they are not both prepared to go through the same operation at the present moment? Why not vote for the second reading of this Bill, and when the Bill goes into Committee, if they have not offices to throw up, they might at all events vote against the £7 franchise? But if they were consistent in 1854 and in 1865, when they voted against the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds, they seem to forget what they have done in the interim. In 1859 the noble Lord voted for the second reading of Lord Derby's Bill; but the right hon. Gentleman, though not in office, voted against the second reading, and in favour of a Resolution declaring that it was necessary to reduce the borough franchise. After that I think my noble Friend ought not to have come into court to give the right hon. Gentleman a character for consistency. On this great question of consistency, while I would be very tolerant of change, I think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who change their opinions ought to do so subject to two conditions; in the first place, they ought to be very frank and candid about them, not maintaining that they have always been consistent; and, secondly, they ought to be more tender and considerate to the feelings of those 2162 who do not happen to find it necessary, with the results of their experience, to change their opinions. Take, for instance, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe). He was so anxious to prove his consistency that he endeavoured to convince the House a few nights since that he had only advocated a £10 suffrage in Australia. I will, however, quote a great speech of his at Sydney—After the citizens of Sydney had done him the honour to elect him as their representative, he had stated that he should always be ready to seek for an extension of the franchise …. He could not bring his mind to the belief that universal suffrage would be beneficial …. They (the meeting) did not ask for universal suffrage, and in all that they did ask he most cordially agreed, for he thought their demands very moderate. They did not even go so far as what was asked by their fellow-countrymen at home. A great and growing feeling in favour of household suffrage was spreading in Great Britain, and was warmly advocated in Parliament by Hume and Cobden, and by many other Members of great weight and influence …. When he was elected he told them that he wished to see the working class powerful …. If he thought that the franchise could enable the working classes to saddle any of their burdens on the necks of the people at large he would oppose it …. He should say nothing about the effect of universal suffrage in France, although he could not agree that universal suffrage had altogether failed in France. The disasters which had befallen France had not arisen from universal suffrage …. He wished to give all classes power to make each dependent on the other, so that they might work together for the common good.I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think that in quoting these sayings of his I am doing him any injustice. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted several speeches of statesmen in this country of many years ago. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman in this respect does justice to himself or to those from whom he now differs. Having in times past held very strong opinions, he now speaks of similar opinions held by the hon. Member for Birmingham—I will not say with a sneer, that would be un-Parliamentary—I the right hon. Gentleman never speaks with a sneer—but with derision. What were his opinions on the subject of our army? I am about to refer to a speech in which he made a most determined and unflinching attack on Lord Grey, to whose opinions he now appears to attach so much weight, and on Lord Russell's first Government; the speech in which he advised his fellow-citizens to look to America. He said, "Allusion to America on this question has been deprecated." [Mr. LOWE: When was that?] On the 18th June, 1849— 2163… He could respect the feeling which induced such a remark, but he could not agree with it. He would not ask them to be rash, but he must remind them that they were in the beginning of a great struggle, and, in order that they should go through that struggle successfuly, he would have the example of America constantly in their minds. The injustice that was forced on the Americans was not half so great as that forced on this colony, and he, therefore, felt it his duty to tell them, if they would succeed at all, they must assure the Colonial Office continually that they had the example of America before them.And then, going to the question of military affairs, he said—The parade of military protection was kept up, because it provided berths for the sons and dependents of great men at home.I do not blame my right hon. Friend for changing his mind [Mr. Lowe: I have not changed my mind at all.] If so, my right hon. Friend still thinks that military parade is kept up to provide berths for the sons of great men. But in any case, having himself made use of such language he ought not to speak as he does of the opinions held by the hon. Member for Birmingham. My right hon. Friend has spoken to-night of the importance and high character of this House; and I myself agree in every word that he has used on that point. My right hon. Friend has also spoken almost with contempt of the character and conduct of legislative bodies elsewhere; and he has described, not quite correctly, the Legislature of America, while he has expressed a wish to see responsible Government swept away in our colonies. Well, what was the language held formerly by my right hon. Friend with respect to the British House of Commons? He said this of it—It was the vis inertiœ—the blind, ignorant, besotted, stupidity of the large majorities of the English Parliament that had rendered the superior intelligence of a portion of no avail. What was it but this besotted stupidity, this adherence, for the sake of adherence, to the solemn wisdom of our ancestors, that had retarded the progress of measures of enlightenment and humanity, which the higher intelligence of England had long ago decided on? Long after the minds of the British people were made up, this benighted majority resisted all improvement, and years—ten, twenty years—elapsed before the Corn Law Repeal Bill could be passed in the British Parliament, although out of doors public opinion was almost unanimously decisive about it.It was the Reformed Parliament, which is now described as such a paragon of virtue, and whose great merit it is that it 2164 repealed the Corn Laws, that my right hon. Friend characterized as "blind, ignorant, besotted, and stupid." After quoting these former opinions of my right hon. Friend, I am entitled to say that he ought now to speak a little more tenderly of others who may also have changed theirs, or who have here or there used language no more violent than his own. I listened to my right hon. Friend's speech this evening with very great interest, as an intellectual effort; because, although long, it seemed to me to be a speech of great power, and one in which was concentrated during two hours everything that had been said at any time against the progress of constitutional principles. But let any one quietly analyze that very elaborate speech, which must, no doubt, have taken my right hon. Friend many anxious hours for its preparation, ["Oh!"] I hope I am not saying anything disrespectful of that speech, which I honestly admire, and which I followed with sincere attention, never interrupting it for a moment. But let me just remind the House of one or two of the principles which my right hon. Friend enunciated. One of them was—and I took the words down—that "the franchise should be so arranged as never to be given to any one not fit for it." But my right hon. Friend has altogether omitted to explain how it would be possible to frame such a franchise as would exclude everybody who might be unfit to exercise it? My right hon. Friend himself admitted that a very large portion of the existing constituency—namely, the occupiers between £10 and £20, whom he knew so well and called by such hard names—includes a mass of people who are unfit to exercise the franchise; and therefore if the suffrage is to be "so arranged as never to be given to any one not fit for it" we must not stop at £10, but must go higher, and revise the Reform Act of 1832, with a view to eliminate those unfit persons. It would be only fair to give my right hon. Friend, who, not being in office, has plenty of time on his hands, an opportunity of elaborating an amended Reform Bill, embodying his own avowed principles; and if he ever succeeds in submitting to us such a perfectly Utopian plan, the House will no doubt be ready to vote for it. Without entering further into my right hon. Friend's argument tonight, all I would say is that the broaching of so visionary a theory as this should suffice to convince practical men that my 2165 right hon. Friend's reasoning rests upon a radically unsound basis.
I now come to the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), whose argument has been described as unanswerable. I think, however, that it can be answered in a few words by an authority which the noble Lord will accept—by the noble Lord himself on a former occasion. The noble Lord said, the Bill of the Government seemed to be founded upon a distrust of the House of Commons. And, speaking of the Government, he added—They think that if two measures were brought forward at the same time, one of two things would happen—that the scheme for the re-distribution of seats, through not being sufficiently comprehensive, would disappoint and disgust some of the warmest supporters of the Government, and make them indifferent to the fate of the whole Bill; or, that if the scheme for disfranchisement were a large one, the Members of those constituencies affected by it would be inclined to vote against both divisions of the Bill, and thus the whole measure might be defeated.He said, further—For my part, I only wonder that a device so transparent should have been deemed to be worth the trouble of adopting. It seems to me to be, after all, very artless art.What does this amount to, but that the Government has brought forward a Bill which is not a complete Bill—that they have something else behind—that they think they can pass that incomplete Bill, and by that means get to the something else that is behind? Now, there was a measure brought forward in 1859 by Lord Derby's Government which was supposed to have been elaborated by, and to owe a great deal of its character to, one Member who usually sits on the front Bench opposite; and it may be as well to read to the House how that Member, whose authority will not be disputed, described the nature of the measure of 1859. After speaking of the large number of boroughs which it had been proposed at different times and by different Governments to affect in some way, either by taking away some of their Members or by grouping them together, he said—I am not going to enter upon the argument whether these small boroughs (fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty), whatever incidental advantages they may possess, ought or ought not to form a permanent part of our political system. I admit that it appears to me difficult, if not impossible, to defend them on grounds of principle as part of our Constitution. But I look at the matter in a 2166 practical point of view, and I ask if a larger measure of disfranchisement had been contemplated in the present Bill, what would have been the result? There would have been arrayed naturally against this Bill the representatives of those fifty or sixty small boroughs, who, combining with other opponents, would undoubtedly have insured its rejection. I believe that the practical difficulty arising from that opposition would have been fatal to the success of the Bill, and as the object of the Government"—I beg particular attention to this—was not to make the best Bill that could be framed, but the best that had a chance of passing this House, I contend that that fact is in itself a sufficient vindication of the course we have followed.The Member who used those words went on to explain the character of that plan of a uniform franchise in comities and boroughs which led to the secession of two right hon. Gentlemen opposite from Lord Derby's Cabinet, and he illustrated that at some length, concluding as follows:—But there is another point of view from which the question of identical suffrage in counties and boroughs may be considered. By adopting it as a principle the disfranchisement of small and decayed boroughs—ultimately inevitable as new towns arise to be represented—becomes at once less important and less difficult. Under a system of uniform suffrage the only result of disfranchisement is to transfer the votes of the boroughs disfranchised into the county. Both the demand for enfranchisement would be greatly diminished and the fear of disfranchisement greatly decreased, and thus a partial solution would be offered of a question which has given, and may again give, rise to a great deal of agitation.That is to say, a Member of Lord Derby's Government, who had so much to do with that Bill, characterized it as having this effect—that there would be a nominal disfranchisement of small boroughs, whereas the disfranchisement ought to have extended to fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty, but that still the plan of an identical suffrage with a nominal re-distribution of fifteen seats, would render the future disfranchisement of these fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty places less difficult. And who was the authority that spoke thus? Why, the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn himself. But the noble Lord the other night also stated that the course now taken by the Government is opposed to the analogy of financial matters—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer never divides his financial measures into distinct parts. The noble Lord was there quite in error. In some other countries, indeed, when the Finance Minister introduces his Budget, 2167 he puts it before the Legislature as a whole. He places all the revenue he expects to receive on the one side and all the probable expenditure on the other, and he brings down the Budget to the Chamber and defends it entirely as one proposal. But that is not the English practice. Here the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of the Treasury each bring down their different Budgets of expenditure, quite independently of the Budget of receipts, and these are gone through without any question being raised as to what will be the probable receipt from the malt tax, the spirit duty, or any other source of income. After the expenditure has been settled, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down to the House with the Budget of Revenue, and asks us to provide the means which he thinks necessary. So far, then, from the analogy of finance being opposed to the course taken by the Government in regard to the present Bill, it is distinctly in accordance with it. There is, indeed, one principle which I undertake to say is an English principle, as opposed to a foreign principle. All the Constitutions of foreign countries have been conferred in the shape of complete codes, and it seems to be the principle of their legislation to think about everything when they make a single alteration; but the English principle is just the reverse. If there is one principle dearer to English legislation than another it is simply this—that it is best to do one thing at a time. On the question of time, let me remind the House how long it took to carry the great Reform Bill. I have referred to the debates in the years 1831 and 1832, and I find that to pass the three Bills occupied 111 nights; and that in addition to those 111 nights eighty more were partly taken up in subsidiary discussions on the subject—in other words, 191 discussions took place upon the Reform Bill in this House and the House of Lords before it became law. The present measure has been said to-night to be of equal importance; but is any Member prepared to say that, before the Bill can pass, this House and the House of Lords are to be occupied 191 nights upon it? There was another argument used by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Bulwer Lytton) which I will touch upon. The right hon. Baronet, speaking of his own county, said, that in it the tenant farmers could carry an election, though they did not appear by the books 2168 to be much more than a third of the constituency, and that a class that had a third of a constituency had an election in its power. Now, this argument is altogether opposed to experience. How many tenant farmers, I would ask, sit in this House? And I will ask further, if in any case the interests of the tenant farmers and of the landowners were opposed, how many votes of county Members would be given on behalf of the former? I will undertake to say that if the tenant farmers and the owners of land should find themselves in opposition on any great public question, the support of tenant farmers would come from the borough Members, especially from those on this side of the House, and that the county Members on the other side would, with very few exceptions indeed, be found in the lobby of those who supported the views of the owners of land. I think it is an undoubted axiom that no class can have predominance in this House unless it is able to return Members of its own class; and this is the practical answer to those who argue that the giving a third of the borough constituencies to the labouring class will give them a predominant power in that House.
I think, also, that we have had a great deal too much of prophecy as to the inevitable results of this or that legislation, There are two ways of dealing with a great public question: you may argue from fact, and you may argue by prophecy. The argument from fact is somewhat dull at the moment, and it has this disadvantage—that it is easy to refute it if wrong; but it has also the advantage that it remains. The argument from prophecy, on the other hand, has the advantage of being amusing, for we are all very much amused at hearing of the terrible things that are coming; and it has the second advantage, that it is impossible to refute it, though perhaps it has the disadvantage that it is not remembered much afterwards. Now, I will remind the House of the prophecies that were indulged in as to the result of the constitutional changes of 1832, and I may be allowed to call the opponents of the Reform Act of 1832 the Greater Prophets, while I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite will not be offended if I call them the Sons of the Prophets, or the Lesser Prophets, for they have given abundance of prophecies to justify that title. I will read two or three of the prophecies on the Reform Bill of 1832. Lord Ashburton, then 2169 Mr. Baring, made these remarks on that measure—He objected to the Bill because of its democratic tendency; for if once it were carried into effect, they would have a King by name with less influence than a President of the United States; and a House of Lords so intimidated as that they would lose the whole of that wholesome influence to which their rank, their wealth, and inheritance so justly entitled them. When the Peerage once lost its influence, then would a democracy decidedly prevail.Sir James Scarlett said—If the Bill were allowed to become law then the present form of Government could not long exist, it must necessarily pass, and that by hasty strides, into a republic, and the transit would be accompanied with the most calamitous consequences to the country. Year after year you would have some new inroad—first on the Church, then property, then the funds. How could you get law officers? A man of such a mind could not stoop to the artifices of the hustings. How could he engage in an unpopular prosecution?Lord Wynford gave the following opinion:—If this Bill passed into law, it would destroy the landed interest entirely, and with the landed interest it would destroy also the interest of the Church.And Mr. Praed said—The House of Commons to be elected by the new measure would possess prerogatives without power and privileges, without daring So exercise them. Sovereignty would be an empty name; good order and Government, and an organized state of society unmeaning sounds.I will not quote any more of these individual expressions of opinions used in debate, but will read the solemn Protest, which was signed by seventy-four Peers, against the second reading—for these were not mere words, but writing which remained. This was what they said of the Reform Bill—A preponderating influence in the election of the House of Commons is conferred upon the lowest class of inhabitants in towns … The metropolis is virtually consigned to universal suffrage …. The Government cannot fail to become a mere democracy—or if the name and form of a monarchy be preserved, all that could give independence to the Sovereign, or protection to the subject, will be really excluded.Is it possible to read again such language as this without a smile? I, on the other hand, will say that in spite of all the prophecies which have been uttered with regard to the present Bill, I believe that it is the only real measure which can be expected to pass the House of Commons, or at any rate the only real measure which, if it passes the House, we can expect to be cheerfully accepted by those for whose benefit it is intended. I am aware 2170 that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire has suggested that this more democratic representation should be given to a certain number of large constituencies, and that the others should be left with their present suffrages, and that this is supposed to have been Sir James Mackintosh's opinion, but that position has been entirely disposed of by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, to whose speech in the debate on Lord Derby's Bill in 1859 I would refer the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire. Let me also remind the House that the intelligence of the country is not where it was. When the Reform Act was passed newspapers were only read by thousands or tens of thousands where millions read them now, and after having deliberately taken off the taxes on the press in order that knowledge might be more generally diffused throughout the country, you cannot avoid following that up by an extension of electoral privileges. I will go further, and say that after having been for thirty years expending annually on the education of the people a sum which now amounts to between a million and a million and a half, you will have been throwing that money away if, when education reaches the point it has, you turn round and say, "We have educated the people, we have given them every opportunity of improvement, and now we deny them the smallest increase of political power." The late Sir Robert Peel clearly foresaw the necessity of some such course as this Bill proposes, for in the debate on the Reform Bill in 1831 he used these very strong expressions—Its great defect, in my opinion, is this—that it severs all connection between the lower classes of the community and the direct representation in this House. I think it a fatal objection that every link between the representative and the constituent body should be separated as far as regards the lower classes. What will be the effect of cutting off altogether the communication between this House and all that class of society which is above pauperism and below the arbitrary and impassable line of £10 rental? Even if you were establishing a perfectly new system of representation, and were unfettered by the recollections of the past, and by existing modes of society, would it be wise to exclude altogether the sympathy of this class? To subject a great, powerful, jealous, and intelligent mass of your population to the injury, aye, and to the stigma of exclusion.Let me remind the House, in conclusion, of what will happen when this debate comes to an end. We are not acting merely for the moment, and in giving our votes we do not 2171 take "after me the deluge" as our motto. I will suppose for a moment that the combination which has taken place against the Bill proves successful, and that the second reading is negatived. You, Mr. Speaker, will then put as a substantive Motion the Amendment, the terms of which are to the effect—"that this House is ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform." Now what do these words mean? If they mean anything they mean that the House is ready to pass a comprehensive Reform Bill. But how can my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) vote for such a Resolution when he has been denying the expediency of any extension of the suffrage, and when the very borough for which he sits is one of the greatest difficulties in dealing with a re-distribution of seats? How, again, can the right hon. and gallant General the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), after praising the good old times of George III., declare by his vote that the House is ready to pass a comprehensive measure? And how can those hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have cheered every sentiment hostile to Reform, vote with any consistency not against the Bill, but in favour of a comprehensive measure? Four Cabinets, consisting of the statesmen who represented every political party in the country, have failed in an attempt to pass a Reform Bill, and now, when for the first time there is a chance of such a Bill passing through Parliament—now, when for the first time the Government have pledged their existence on carrying such a Bill—is it to be defeated by a combination which will fall to pieces in the very moment of its victory? Such a result would be a great misfortune to this House and to the country. The desire of the country is that the question shall be settled. What the country is prepared to accept now as a settlement of the question is a ranch more moderate measure than what may be acceptable at a future time. If cheerfully given now it will be as cheerfully accepted. But if the Bill is to be upset by a combination which must fall to pieces at the moment of victory, the country may require at a future time a measure of a very different character to that now before the House. In such a case time is invaluable. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford North-cote) concluded his speech with a motto. He said, of the Reform Bill, Sat cito si sat bene—a good old motto of Lord Eldon— 2172 which I will cap with another, and I hope the House will take it to heart—Bis dat qui cito dat.
in rising to move the adjournment of the debate, said, he must protest against the elaborate misconstruction [Cries of "Order!"] of the meaning of the Amendment of the noble Earl ["Order!"] by the Secretary to the Treasury. ["Order!"] He would not have such an interpretation go forth uncontradicted for an hour. Having made that protest, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
protested against this important debate being adjourned at twelve o'clock. On Monday night the debate was adjourned at half past eleven; on that occasion an hon. Member protested against the sort of Herodian principle of the "Massacre of the Innocents" which was adhered to. The debate was to close tomorrow, and at every opportunity the side of the House on which he sat rose almost to a man; and therefore he could not see how the great majority of those anxious to speak upon the subject could attain their object if the debate was to close at so early an hour. On the occasion of the Repeal of the Corn Laws they sat until three or four o'clock in the morning, and he did not see that the Members of the present House of Commons were more degenerate than those who sat there twenty or thirty years ago. He, therefore, hoped that the debate would not be adjourned at so early an hour.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he did not see how, under the present arrangement, he should have an opportunity of addressing the House, as he desired to do. He would take that opportunity of preventing an erroneous impression which his Colleague had unfortunately created with respect to the conduct of both. The hon. Member had said that such would be the effect of this Bill upon the constituencies they represented that if it passed they would retire. It was perfectly true that the leasehold clause would create 5,000 new electors in the county, and the reduction of the franchise would add 3,500 to a constituency of 6,700. No doubt that was a large addition; but having so long represented North Warwickshire, and having polled a majority in Birmingham, he was not prepared to endorse the observation of his Colleague. He should certainly present himself for re-election.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, that there was one consideration which ho thought ought not to be lost sight of, and that was the health of the Speaker. Many hon. Gentlemen were anxious to speak on this debate, but many of them must be contented to forego the temptation. The country must not be kept in suspense for an unlimited time in order that hon. Members might indulge their private feelings. He saw himself a whole "covey" of hon. Members get up during the evening, both below and above the gangway, each one endeavouring to catch the Speaker's eye. Well, those hon. Members must content themselves with waiting for another opportunity of addressing the House in a future stage of the Bill. He trusted that in any case the House would not be prevented from coming to a conclusion on the following night.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was not any part of the duty of Government to take upon themselves to say whether or not the debate should be adjourned at that hour. That was a matter for the House to judge of. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had apparently expressed the general feeling of the House in the remarks he had made, which came from him with greater propriety than they would have done from any Member of the Government. He agreed in the fullest manner with the hon. Members who had just spoken that it was a great hardship—but an unavoidable hardship—that so many Gentlemen who were desirous to address the House should not have an opportunity of doing so in the course of this protracted debate. As far as the Government were concerned he begged the House to notice that the Secretary to the Treasury, instead of speaking immediately after the right hon. Member for Calne, did not rise until a late hour, so that the greater portion of that evening had been at the disposal of hon. Members. Of course, it could scarcely be expected that the Government would permit the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to pass unanswered. Under any other circumstances the Government would have op- 2174 posed no obstacle to the debate being continued; but it was evidently the desire of the House that it should then be adjourned. The noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne) in moving the adjournment of the debate, took the opportunity of protesting against what he called the misrepresentation of the meaning of the Amendment by the Secretary to the Treasury. By so doing he believed that the noble Lord had lost his title to speak again in the debate. ["Hear, hear!" "No, no!"] It was not in the power of an hon. Member to make two speeches by tacking on at the end of the first a Motion for the adjournment of the debate. However, he trusted that the rule would not be enforced against the noble Lord; although it was not a fair proceeding on his part to make such a charge in making the ordinary and formal Motion for adjournment. The offence of his right hon. Friend consisted in simply placing his own construction upon a document of a few lines, which was in the hands and in the memory of every Member of the House.
§ MR. GRANT
rose to protest against the way in which the debate had been conducted. There were 180 new Members in the present House of Commons, only four or five of whom had addressed the House. It seemed to be understood that the debate was to close to-morrow night, and he supposed that none but official speakers would address the House to-morrow. Some hon. Members had addressed the House for two or three hours at a stretch, and this was not treating fairly those independent Members who had an equal right to express their sentiments.
§ MR. WATKIN
suggested that the Motion of adjournment should be to twelve o'clock on Friday, and that if the health of the Speaker would not allow him to take the chair at that time, his place might be filled by the Deputy Speaker.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Reference having been made to myself, I may be permitted to say that I am extremely obliged to the House for its consideration; but my health is now so much restored that I am perfectly ready to go on with the debate if that should be the wish of the House.
§ MR. SANDFORD
would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the rules of debate were not laid down by him, but by the right hon. Gentleman in the chair. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought proper to say that his noble Friend (Viscount Cranbourne) had no right to speak again, because he had 2175 already spoken in moving the adjournment. Well, if that applied to his noble Friend, it equally applied to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If his noble Friend had spoken on the adjournment, so, on the same principle, had the right hon. Gentleman. He thought that his noble Friend had a perfect right to say what he had to say, subject, of course, to the approval of the Chair. He believed that his noble Friend was quite in order in making his observations upon the separate Question of the adjournment. [Cries of "Question!"] The hon. Member for London was always ready to cry "Question!" [Mr. CRAWFORD: I did not say one single word. I did not open my lips.] All he (Mr. Sandford) had to say was that if the noble Lord was out of order, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was equally out of order. If one was wrong so was the other.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the hon. Gentleman was quite in error. If the question of adjournment had been put from the Chair the noble Lord was entitled to speak upon that Question, and to speak again in the debate. But if an hon. Member rose to move the adjournment of the debate, and prefaced that Motion by a speech upon the Main Question, then his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right in saying that he had no right to speak again. If his hon. Friend the Secretary for the Treasury, for example, had moved the adjournment of the debate when he sat down, would it be contended that it would be competent to him to resume the debate at five o'clock to-morrow? The noble Lord had objected to certain statements made by his hon. Friend, and had concluded by moving the adjournment. It must therefore be regarded that the noble Lord has made his speech, and has no right to begin the debate to-morrow evening.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
would not undertake to lay down any rule, but would simply appeal to the Speaker to say whether his noble Friend was out of order or not. There was, however, no practical question at issue, for as far as he understood, the Government had no serious intention of precluding his noble Friend from speaking to-morrow evening. He presumed that the House would not feel inclined to adopt the 2176 proposal to meet to-morrow at noon, and notwithstanding Mr. Speaker had gallantly declared that he was well enough to go on, he humbly submitted that the best thing they could do was to agree to the adjournment and allow the right hon. Gentleman to "go home."
§ On Motion of Viscount CRANBOURNE, Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.