§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. LEATHAM
* Sir, the House will naturally expect that, in moving the second reading of this Bill, I should be prepared to defend and enforce the principle upon which it is based. And, Sir, although we have to deplore the recent loss of one of the staunchest, ablest, and most popular advocates whom the Ballot has ever had in this House, yet those who attempt to follow him in its advocacy, are able to enter upon this discussion in good heart. For however strong may have been our position on former occasions, that position has been materially strengthened by the evidence taken by the Committee on Elections, and in a minor degree by their Report, which has been presented to the House, and which is strongly in favour of the adoption of vote by Ballot. I said in a minor degree, because it is impossible that the Report of a Committee, chosen impartially from each side of the House—and from the advocates and opponents of the Ballot—a Committee nearly every vote in which was of a strictly party character, can be a very important document. What is important is the evidence upon which that Report is founded; and I hope that the House will not think that I am trespassing unduly upon their patience if I venture to make a somewhat ample reference to that evidence; for, Sir, I am prepared to contend that to that evidence, taken collectively, no logical reply exists. And first, as to the reality and magnitude of the evils against which this measure is framed. Unhappily, I need not dwell upon the existence and prevalence of corruption at either Parliamentary or municipal elections. This everyone admits. But when a writer, so eminent as Mr. Mill, speaks of intimidation almost as a thing of the past—when we find him founding his whole argument against the Ballot upon the assumption that—Thirty years ago it was still true that in the election of Members of Parliament the main evil to be guarded against was that which the Ballot would exclude—coercion by landlords, employers, and customers"—it is essential that we should ascertain the truth, for if Mr. Mill's conjecture be 11 the true one, much of the ground upon which we have been standing has been cut from under us; but, on the other hand, if it can be shown to be false, an equal collapse awaits the whole argument of Mr. Mill. Now, if the evidence taken by the Committee upstairs proves one thing, it proves this—that coercion by landlords, employers, and customers is as rampant as ever it was—that the whole electoral atmosphere is charged with it—and that, in many constituencies, the main element of political success is not the use of reason, or of eloquence, or even of money—but the use of pressure. Sir, the investigations of the Committee were carried over a very wide area, and wherever we tapped the electoral system, there we found the presence of intimidation. Indeed, we were unable to take one tithe of the evidence upon this head which was forthcoming. But this, at least, we achieved—so far as we did go, we endeavoured to make sure our steps. Most carefully was the evidence sifted, and, with very few exceptions, in no case of distinctly-charged intimidation was the charge disproved. On the contrary, the farther we went into it, the clearer did its truth become. Take, as an illustration, what is known as the Timpendean case. The Committee were informed that Mr. Scott, a tenant of the Marquess of Lothian, who pays his various landlords no less a sum than £5,000 a year in rent, was refused a renewal of his lease immediately after the last election, because he ventured to vote against the wishes of his landlord. As soon as this charge was made public, the estate agent was sent up—I suppose in order that he might refute the charge. He was examined, cross-examined, re-examined, and examined again, until at last he made so many awkward admissions that I presume the noble Marquess thought it necessary himself to descend into the strife, and to write a letter to the newspapers, in which he said—It is perfectly true that I had many reasons for not letting the farm of Timpendean to Mr. Scott; but I should consider myself acting unfairly if I did not say out at once that among them was the vote he gave at the election.Now, as was remarked by a member of the Committee, if a person were to say that he had many reasons for giving an elector £50 at an election, but that among them was a desire to obtain his vote, we 12 should know exactly what inference to draw. And I think, Sir, that we know exactly what inference to draw in this case. But the noble Marquess added a few words which are very interesting and valuable, because they give us a glimpse of what is the real landlord feeling throughout the country. "Nor do I see," says he, "why I should not make the admission;" in other words, "nor do I see anything which is otherwise than honourable in the course which I have taken." Now, let me take another illustration of the way in which charges of intimidation were proved on full investigation. It was stated that out of 154 voters employed at the railway works and station at Carlisle, 136 plumped for an eminent railway director, who was a candidate for the city of Carlisle at the last election, and since the political leaning of most of the men was known to be the other way, the inference was drawn that this unanimity on their part was due to the exercise of pressure. When this evidence became publicly known, an indignation meeting was got up among the men—I use the term advisedly—and flaming resolutions were published which denied all coercion. But, subsequently, a witness appeared before the Committee, from among the men themselves, whose evidence it was found impossible to shake—I could mention more than a score," said he, "who expressed themselves to me, and not only to me but to others, that in consequence of the influence that was brought to bear upon them they violated their principles, and voted against their conscience for the sake of their bread.Now, mark what pains were taken in order to efface the evidences of this pressure. This man himself was asked by the locomotive superintendent—who is the person empowered to discharge these men—to attend the indignation meeting. He declined, saying—"You know, as well as I do, sir, that things were not done fair." "Well, then," said the superintendent, "you will have to sign a paper." "That altogether depends," replied the man, "upon what the paper contains." "You will have to sign a paper that there was no undue influence used in these works." The man again declined, and was told—"That he would have to sign it, or make up his mind to be discharged." For, Sir, the peculiarity of this crime of intimidation is, that by another turn of the screw 13 you convert your victim into an accomplice after the fact—an accomplice with you in his own dishonour. This is why an Election Judge may make the tour of the country and return without finding any traces of intimidation. And there is at least one prevalent form of influence which cannot, by the very nature of things, be brought under the cognizance of the Judges—I mean that which results through habit, experience, and tradition from the mutual relation subsisting between landlord and tenant. This influence operates as powerfully at an election as though it were backed up by daily acts of oppression. As an example, I would refer to the evidence from Mid-Cheshire. We were told that nine-tenths of the tenant-farmers in Mid-Cheshire are Dissenters, and that almost all the land is in the hands of Conservatives. At the last General Election a great Dissenters' question was uppermost, and many of these men joyfully promised to vote for a particular candidate. When the election had taken place, it was found that 400 of these tenant-farmers who had pledged themselves to support that candidate had voted against him. Now, why was this? We caught a Cheshire landlord and made him tell us. He attributed it to "an idea that except they do just what the landlord pleases, the landlord will not please them in return." And no wonder, if this witness is to be accepted as a faithful exponent of the sentiments of his class. "I believe that it is an evil of having property," said he, "that a man considers that he not only owns this property, but that he owns the souls of his tenants, and," he added with remarkable candour, "I confess that to a certain extent I have that feeling." Now, we hear a great deal of the grand moral lesson taught by open voting. What is the grand moral lesson taught by open voting in Mid-Cheshire? I quote from the same witness. "They think it is rather safer to know nothing when they must vote as they are told." Now, let us pass from Cheshire to the neighbouring Principality. A witness came all the way from Wales to tell the Committee that whatever landlord intimidation there might be in other parts of the country—Wales, at least, was free from it. And in order to prove his point he described to the Committee the modus operandi at an election. The landlord, he told us, 14 gives a letter to the candidate whom he supports, expressing his wishes with regard, to the votes of his tenantry. Armed with this letter the electioneering agent goes round to the tenants collecting votes just as he might collect rents. And so everything jogged on very quietly until the last election, when a disturbing element broke in upon all this tranquillity and acquiescence. Unfortunately the Welsh are a religious people, and the question upon which the election turned touched their religion. For the first time it occurred to many of them that the franchise was something more than a more trust for the landlord. Conscience stood on one side, the landlord upon the other; and, strange and unnatural as it may seem, the vote was frequently given to conscience. And what followed? Sir, I will spare the House the narration of what followed. We have need of calmness in this debate, not passion. And do not let anyone argue that these cases are exceptions, and that intimidation is confined to a limited area or to a particular class. Turn to this blue book, and you will find that if it thrives in the rural districts, it positively flourishes in the country towns. The evidence from places like Windsor and Chippenham and Cambridge and Dumfries proves this. But perhaps some hon. Member may say that the great centres of population, at least, are free from it. Let him turn again to the Report. Is Bradford free, or Liverpool, or Stalybridge with its anti-Screw Association? or Blackburn with its Screw circular, or Ashton, where we were told that no less than 242 persons were discharged from their employment because they ventured to give a Conservative vote? This great blue book teems with proofs that wherever one man has power over another, that power, in times of public excitement, he exerts. It is not what happened thirty years ago which is the shame and the disaster, but what happens now—happens every day at a contested election, and the scandal of which I hope is so strong that it may soon penetrate into the seclusion in which philosophers contemplate, and from the closed doors of which they issue to instruct mankind! And, Sir, I have not said a word as yet about that desperate form of coercion, against which the Australian Ballot was chiefly designed, and which it has abso- 15 lutely crushed—intimidation by mobs. If we turn to the evidence we shall find that the last election, which was so fruitful in every other form of coercion, was especially fruitful in this. At Gravesend a mob—I regret to say calling themselves Liberals—took possession of the town at noon on the polling day, smashed the windows of all known Conservatives, and, if the evidence is to be believed, so intimidated voters that they turned the election. At Bristol hired mobs were hard at work on both sides. In Monmouthshire rioting and the destruction of property were carried to such an extent that in one district alone a sum of nearly £5,000 was claimed as damages from the hundred. At Limerick hired and armed mobs are a recognized feature at every contested election. At Sligo the mob was organized fifteen months before the event. In Monaghan county they went about armed with blunderbusses, rifles, and scythes upon poles. I need not remind the House what happened the other day at Waterford, especially as my hon. Friend, who came here out of great tribulation, may probably take part in this debate; but we may imagine to what a pass things have come at Waterford, when an elected representative cannot dine with his committee without ordering revolvers to be laid for twenty-four. And, Sir, the existence of this mob intimidation in Ireland is made the plea for a deliberate and organized interference with freedom of election almost equally deplorable, and which, if it did not stand proved by incontrovertible evidence, would scarcely be credited by the House. Tenant-farmers are collected by the estate agent, in some instances many days before the election, placed upon strings of cars, handed over to the military, escorted as prisoners, or believing themselves to be prisoners, by horse, foot, and artillery, and all the imposing paraphernalia of an army in occupation of an enemy's country, to the polling-place, kept therein forced custody and with locked doors until the day of poll, not even permitted to avail themselves of the ministrations of religion, and then finally polled in the presence of the landlord or the agent. I said as prisoners, and I said so advisedly. For when General M'Murdo, who commands the Infantry Brigade in Dublin, was asked whether officers in command of these escorts regarded these 16 voters as free men whom they were bound to protect, or in the light of prisoners, he replied—"Practically as prisoners." And when he was asked again, "Whether they understood that they were to take care that these men did not escape," he answered, without hesitation—"Certainly." Now, I am aware that witnesses were called to rebut, if possible, this remarkable evidence; but these rebutting witnesses made admissions which, coming from them, were more damaging than the original statements. Lord Strathnairn was called. "I never dreamt," said he, "of coercing them at all;" but when he was asked by the noble Chairman—But may it not be a fact that the majority of these voters go under escort very much against their inclination, in order to vote according to the wishes of the landlords?he replied—It is perfectly possible, and it very often happens, no doubt.Major Percy, a stipendiary, who was actively engaged in organizing these escorts, was the other rebutting witness; and when he was asked a similar question, he answered—From one or two cases which have come under my knowledge, I should rather be led to the impression that they have thought that they would not be allowed to leave.Now, if we wish to see how hollow is often the pretext for these escorts, we have only to look at Returns moved, for by my hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon, from which it appears that out of twenty-four escorts sent out in the county of Sligo, only fourteen can be shown to have brought in a single elector, so reluctant are these people to be protected. But what is the impression which this display of military force makes upon the population itself? Why, as an intelligent witness told us, that "Government intimidation was combining with landlord intimidation" for the coercion of the elector! And this in a country in which it is essential that Government should stand as well as possible with the peasantry. And how is this two-fold intimidation defeated? By a method peculiarly Irish. By what my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford termed "a sort of pre-arranged burglary and friendly abduction of the voter." He requests that a party of his friends may be sent in the dead of the night to break open his door, 17 smash his windows, and threaten him; sometimes he takes care to prescribe the precise form of violence which he desires should be offered to himself. "Let me be carried out and shaken well," asked one man, "but care should be taken not to hurt me"—the notion being that this show of violence and suffering will soften the heart of the landlord, and that he will forgive the man who appears before him whining and bandaged—the bandages covering no wounds except those of conscience—for declining to vote as he is required. Now, General M'Murdo tells us that this odious system of escorts can be done away with entirely, if we adopt the Ballot. But perhaps some one will say—"This will not be fair to the landlord; the Irish voter is merely a puppet, with two strings attached—one of which is in the hand of the landlord, the other in that of the priest; and if you cut the landlord's string by adopting the Ballot, you leave the priest's string intact, and the priest will have everything his own way." And so open voting is to be maintained in Ireland in order that the landlord may enjoy his due share of intimidation. But if landlord intimidation in Ireland be a good thing, why not repeal your foolish law against it? Why not lot everybody intimidate everybody else? Let it be an intimidation match, with fair play all round—the biggest tyrant to win, and thon come and join Mr. Mill in describing the franchise as a public-trust. Who is this man's public?—the abstraction of the philosopher, or the priest and landlord elbowing him on cither side? "Working under pressure," says Mr. Mill, "nothing has so steadying an influence!" A striking tableau this, representing the dignity of open voting! In the foreground the public trustee, whining, bandaged, in the presence of his landlord; in the background, the military armed, and about to drag him to the exercise of his free trust; overhead a lurid sky, charged with spiritual lightning! But is it quite so certain that under the Ballot the priest will have everything his own way? I was much struck by a remark which fell from Mr. Fitzgerald, a colonial witness, who was not called by the advocates of the Ballot, but by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt). "The only opponents to the Ballot now," said he, speaking of Aus- 18 tralia, "are the Roman Catholic party." When Mr. Verdon, the financial agent for the colony of Victoria, was asked why the Catholics opposed the Ballot, he replied—If the voter were prevented from voting in public, some portion of the control which the Roman Catholic Church conceives that it is proper to exercise over the electors through the priests would be lost.And Mr. Probyn, a witness who has made himself familiar with Italian politics, through a repeated residence in that country, stated—I once had the honour of meeting Count Cavour, and amongst the questions which I put to him was one concerning the voting, and he gave me the answer which all the politicians of Italy whom I have come across have always given to me, that nothing would induce them to alter the system of voting, and one of their chief reasons was that it nullified undue influence, and the undue influence of which they were most afraid was the clerical influence.Well, now, Sir, if I were not most anxious to economize the time of the House, I might dwell all the morning upon the revelations of this blue book, proving, as they do, the existence of every form of coercion, coercion which descends by almost insensible gradations from the most brutal violence down to an influence scarcely distinguishable from that which is natural and just. And, boar in mind, that there is hardly one instance, of all these, which was brought, or could be brought, within the grasp of the law. For, Sir, your penal law is almost helpless in the presence of coercion. Some of the reasons for this I have mentioned incidentally; but even were it possible so to present a case as to bring it under the notice of a Judge, what so difficult to prove? The Judges themselves call threatening language "tall talk." What witness so unreliable as a discharged servant? what tale so unworthy of credence as that of an evicted tenant? There are always plausible reasons for the discharge of servants and the eviction of tenants. Bribery you may possibly prove; but who can prove the significance of a gesture? Who can bring a frown into court? But I contend that your law is almost as helpless in the presence of bribery and treating. "For 200 years," said one of the Election Judges, "the Legislature has struggled to strike down the hand of the briber," and that hand is stretched out still. 19 Now, in all probability the Legislature never struggled more earnestly and with, a more complete sacrifice of self than when it passed the last great Act against corrupt practices. By that Act it was, on all hands, admitted that the limits of deterrent law were reached. Henceforth no seat, not even the purest, would be safe. Even the ancient privileges of this House were abandoned in our headlong pursuit of purity. We committed the administration of a law of unexampled severity to a tribunal of unquestioned sternness. And what happened? The moment that the election was over a great crop of petitions, complaining of bribery and treating, came up from the face of the whole country, as from the surface of a fruitful and well-watered field. There were seventy or eighty of them. About one-sixth of these petitions were successful. But will anyone tell me that this result represented the electoral crime of the last election? and that these thirteen or fourteen men, whose blood the Judges mingled with their pecuniary sacrifices were the only guilty Galileans? Will anyone tell me that corruption like that of Beverley or Bridgwater stands alone? Is it not the triumph and masterpiece of a great school of bribery, the ramifications of which extend over the whole country? And if this be so, what is the lesson taught by your new law and your new tribunal? Why, that bribery must be as rank as that of Beverley or Bridgwater, treating as profligate as that of Bradford or Bewdley, intimidation as gross as that of Blackburn or Westbury before, under this last and sternest development of law, it draws down upon the perpetrators of it the judicial rod. And, remember, that you will never have the same chance against the briber as you had then. Sailing is proverbially dangerous without charts. But can the most timorous mariner complain that there are no charts to sail by now? When I brought this question before the House last year I ventured to say that, after the Judges had completed their labours, they would have buoyed the channel of corruption for us from end to end; and when my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade reminded Mr. Baron Martin before the Committee that this observation had been made, the learned Judge, with a little warmth, advised the individual who 20 made it to peruse the collected judgments in order that he might see how erroneous it was. Well, Sir, I accepted the challenge, and, as a necessary consequence, I rise from the perusal of that instructive volume better qualified to bribe, treat, and intimidate, with impunity, than, in all probability, any other hon. Member of this House. Would my hon. Friends desire that I should communicate this valuable information to others? I can only do so in a fragmentary way this morning; but hon. Gentlemen should peruse this Book of Judges for themselves. They will find it a book of much compassionate consideration for human infirmity, of great charity for human motives, and at times, I think, of extraordinary ingenuity devoted to the explanation, from a pure and virtuous point of view, of the acts and practices of men. I never knew before how extremely difficult a thing it is to treat corruptly within the meaning of the statute; and I select this offence especially for illustration, because the attention of the Judges was chiefly turned to it, and because there is no offence which, since the constituencies were popularized, has become so formidable. It was essential, therefore, that the Judges should define, with accuracy, what treating really is; and I think, Sir, that they have given us a definition, of which the most generous, the most hospitable, not to say the most convivial, cannot complain. Now, in the first place, we may infer that treating is not corrupt treating if we take care to begin soon enough.Drunkenness," said Mr. Justice Willes, at Tamworth, "in the way of general drunkenness, with a view of influencing the election, according to my reading, and according to what I imagine, rather than have seen, of scenes of this description, would be drunkenness operating upon men at or near the time when you wanted them to come up to the poll to give you votes; and, therefore, to prove that this borough was generally made drunk in the first week in August in order that people might be induced to vote upon the 17th of November, requires drawing a much more far-fetched conclusion than to say that each man got a £5 note in the first week in August in order that he might vote on the 17th November.And immediately before, he said—Where general drunkenness is resorted to on the part of the Member, there is this distinction between it and bribery—You have people commonly brought up drunk to the poll, as, I think, was the case at Bewdley; you have drunkenness continued up to the time at which it is likely to influence the vote of the man who is so vulgar- 21 minded that he will sell himself for drink. If you make a man drunk to-day, the election being about to take place upon the 1st of March, it may, or may not, incline him in your favour; he may be your friend in his maudlin state; but when he comes to his senses the next morning, and feels a huskiness in his throat, and has got rid, more or less, of his vice of yesterday, if he were of my mind he would rather feel disposed to be indignant at the person who he discovered had been endeavouring to win his affections with drink; he would form a very mean opinion of the man who endeavoured to get him to vote upon the 1st of next month by making a hog of him on the 15th of this month."—[Shorthand Writer's Notes of the Judgments, p. 177.]Neither, Sir, is treating corrupt treating if you begin late enough. This was fully explained by Mr. Justice Blackburn, in the North Norfolk case.It appears," said the Judge, "that in a very considerable number of cases, after the election was over, in some cases a day or two afterwards, and in some cases two or three weeks after the election was over, some landed proprietor, some squire or large farmer, gave a dinner to his tenants and people around him, celebrating the victory their side had obtained; and he naturally enough might be expected not to invite those who had voted on the other side; with rare exceptions these people invited their own side. Now, I have already said, in pointing to the words of the statute, that it says it is necessary, in order to make it treating within the 4th section, that it should be given by the candidate, or that the candidate should by his agents be accessory to the treating; and though the statute in express terms says if given after the election it shall be just the same as before, yet nevertheless when given after the election it must be given by the candidates or somebody who still continues to be connected with the candidate. Now, the agency at the election, which was solely from the canvassing before the election, expires with the election: whether or no a person who had been requested to canvass would be an agent whose misconduct would avoid the election, would depend upon the evidence; but unless there is something to show continuing authority, that person could not, if he gave a feast ten days after the election, by that act upset the election. I have no doubt that most of these feasts, though not all of them, which were given after the election, were connected with the election. I have no doubt that the motive in the mind of the giver was connected with there having been an election. The intention was not to induce the electors to vote, because their votes had been already given; but no doubt these dinners, if you could come to the real motive of their being given, were given with the view to increase the influence of the squire who gave them; he gave the meat and drink with the intent of increasing his influence over his tenants and others who would be voters at any future election. No doubt that was the real motive with which these dinners were given; whether it be a right motive or a wrong one, whether it be a wise or a foolish thing to do, I have nothing to do with. All I have to do with is, that as yet no statute has struck at it."—[Shorthand Writer's Notes, p. 277.]22 Because, therefore, agency expires with the election this general feasting may go on with impunity, and we thus see how to corrupt a constituency with perfect security; for, of course, people will remember from one election to another what happened at the last, and will argue that if they moan to feast with the squire they must also vote with him. But you may go further than this. You may feast the electors to almost any extent if you take care to get their pledges first. Mr. Scott Chad appears to have been a prominent person at this election. The Judge admitted that he was an agent. He sent round invitations to electors before the election to dine with him at the "Crawfish" after the election. In his defence Mr. Scott Chad said he did not think that he was influencing the voters—he had them quite safe already. But, as the Judge very properly remarked—That would not negative the possibility that the providing of such meat and drink might be corrupt treating; because a man might think, I have got so many safe votes, but it would be a deal safer if I give them meat and drink in order to keep them in good humour.And yet the Judge decided that this was not corrupt treating, and so, as I maintain, laid down an enormous buoy at the edge of the channel. Precisely in the same way Mr. Justice Willes decided at Coventry that a great political supper was not treating—As an instance," he says, "may be taken, that supper, at which I should conclude that the meat was supplied by Mr. Kilbey (candidate's agent), and that the drink was paid for by contributions amongst those who were present—some giving more and some less, each, probably, according to his capacity" (not of drinking, mind, but of paying)—"and which turned out to be a supper some time before this election—having reference to it, no doubt—but only because it was a supper held in celebration of the efforts of the Tory party at the registration; it was a supper at which Tories supped, and it was a supper at which Tories paid. It was a banquet or entertainment, in pursuance of the old habit of the race from the earliest times of which we have any account, to meet and feast over any occasion upon which a labour in which they have been engaged has been brought to what they consider a successful end. Eating and drinking are to go on, notwithstanding an election coming, in the ordinary and usual course. When that eating and drinking takes the form of enticing people for the purpose of inducing them to change their minds, and to vote for the party to which they do not belong, then it becomes corrupt, and is forbidden by the statute. Until that arrives, the mere fact of eating and drinking, even with the connection which 23 this supper had with politics, is not sufficient to make out treating."—[Shorthand Writer's Notes, p. 53.]But I should like to know what means of enticing people to change their minds are likely to be more effective than this perpetual feasting? Every hon. Gentleman knows that there is in each constituency a floating population—a population which floats backwards and forwards in liquor. It is not the Conservative party, or the Radical party, which this population joins, but the noble feasting party. And this great feasting party, whatever it calls itself, has reason to toast the Judges upon all its convivial occasions, for they have given free scope to its energies. Take, in conclusion, the judgment at Salford, given by the learned Judge, who recommended me to read these judgments. The Judge lays down that you may treat the very voter whom you are bringing up to the poll in a hired conveyance against the law.The only other head of treating," he says, "which occurred to me, is that to which neither of the learned counsel have referred, and that is the treating of the men who were in the cabs; I am satisfied that that took place. There were men brought in those cabs who were voters, and the course which was pursued proves that that was known to be wrong; because instead of driving straightforwardly up to the poll, the evidence is that the cabs stopped at some distance from it, and that the voters then got out and walked the rest of the way. I cannot doubt that there were some persons who well knew that the bringing these voters was wrong, and that it was colourable, getting them out before they came to the poll for the purpose of pretending that they were not brought in the cabs. It is proved by a variety of evidence, which I have not the slightest doubt is true, hearing of the state of drunkenness which existed in this town, that those cabs pulled up at public-houses and voters got out and had beer; but, nevertheless, in my judgment it would be impossible, without further evidence, to hold that that was corrupt treating. You must take into consideration the character of the people and their habit of treating each other with beer, and that they do it out of a generous or a kindly feeling; it is a common and a usual thing, and I certainly am not prepared to hold that because a canvasser, in bringing a man up to vote upon the day of election, stopped at a public-house, and went in and had a glass of beer, that that was corrupt treating."—[Shorthand Writer's Notes, p. 141.]Well, Sir, after this decision we need not be surprised that another learned Judge, when asked some questions about treating, expressed himself thus—I must at once admit that I do not look upon treating as so hateful a thing as bribery. I 24 rather sympathize with the distinction. I think it is better to wipe up the liquor and say no more about it. If the giving of it within the time can be brought home to the candidate they can petition; but with respect to bribery, I might at once say that whenever it is found out it ought to be brought up against him."—[Minutes of Evidence, xx. p. 54.]Now, Sir, by these extracts I think I have proved that the channel is so well buoyed that there is little danger of grounding at any state of the tide. But I was prepared, if time had permitted, to have shown precisely the same thing with reference to bribery. Take care to get the man's pledge first, and you may give him any employment you please during an election. The Londonderry and Penryn cases prove this. But you may offer him employment without first getting his pledge, otherwise, as the Judge observed in the Hastings case, you pre-suppose that you must have exclusive dealing at elections. The Hastings case is also instructive on account of the decision—That there is no law yet which says that any lavish expenditure in a neighbourhood with a view of gaining influence in the neighbourhood and influencing an election is illegal at all."—[Shorthand Writer's Notes, p. 236.]And after these decisions the House will not be surprised to learn that a bribe given with the intention of bribing is no bribe, unless you can show also that the person receiving the bribe was aware of your intention—witness the case of the Retainers at Cashel (Shorthand Writer's Notes, p. 235). Well, Sir, I might cite the Ghildford and Lichfield cases in order to show how the little difficulty about travelling expenses may be got over, and the Cheltenham ease to show how voters' rates may be paid without bribery being committed; and I might cite the Westminster and Wigan cases—and how instructive is the whole Westminster case—in order to prove that almost any amount of bribery might be committed by associations calling themselves Working Men's Associations, and what not, to the funds of which candidates handsomely subscribe, without endangering the candidate's seat. But, Sir, I think that I have said enough to show that these decisions, taken in connection with the declaration of Mr. Justice Keogh, that—No matter how the clouds of suspicion might thicken round the head of the sitting Member, he was not at liberty to act upon suspicion;25 and the declaration of Mr. Justice Blackburn at Taunton, when he compared the decisions of an Election Judge upon the cardinal point of agency, to what Selden said of decisions in equity in his time—That equity necessarily is as uncertain as the length of the Chancellor's foot, because a Chancellor's conscience was as variable as his foot—I say that, coupling these decisions with these declarations, I have said enough to show that your whole system of penal enactment with regard to these offences is little better than a solemn farce. But, Sir, do not let it be imagined, from the tone of these remarks, that I censure the Judges for the manner in which they have administered the law. I do nothing of the kind. The essential and insuperable difficulty in administering the law with regard to these offences is this—If you construe the law literally you will commit all manner of injustice—if you construe it loosely you will admit all manner of evasion. Your 200 years conflict with corruption has made your adversary a perfect master of fence. You have taxed all your ingenuity to get at him; he has taxed all his to foil you. The science of defence has once more beaten the science of attack; the shield has shivered the projectiles. It is only when he is clumsy or reckless that you can reach the real briber; but you have made your law so strong that you can reach the innocent man any day. And it is a principle of our whole law that it is better for ten guilty men to escape than for one innocent man to suffer. Can we wonder, then, that a law should break down, which, from the very nature of things, must strike ten innocent men in order that it may reach one guilty one? And if it strikes at all, it strikes after the offence. But the merit of my measure is, that it will arrest the motive which leads to crime. When it is no longer worth while to commit bribery, bribery will not be committed: when intimidation is sure to defeat its own ends, there will be an end of intimidation. The latter proposition no one will dispute; but a few still cling to the belief that there will be bribery under the Ballot. Yet if the evidence proves one thing more clearly than another it proves this—that people will not go on paying for that which they can never know that they receive. But it has been suggested that bribery under the Ballot 26 will be contingent, and that the briber will say to the voter—"I will give you so much if I am returned." And conclusive was the reply which the town clerk of Windsor made to the suggestion—If such a promise were made," he was asked, "it would have to be made systematically, would it not, so as to be of any use?"—"Yes," he replied, "it must be an organized system of corruption." "Do you think you would find a person," he was asked again, "of a sufficiently responsible position, and known to the voters, upon whose promise the voters would rely, if he went round and made a systematic promise of that kind?"—"No," he replied, "there is the weakness of the whole proposition. If a man is to take a guarantee from anybody, he likes to know who the guarantor is. If a man is a man of respectability, and a man of character, and a man of wealth, he will not enter into such a transaction, and if he is not a man of that kind, the voter will not take his promise.But, Sir, we have something bettor than theory to appeal to, when we assert the efficacy of the Ballot. A vast experience of its operation is at our command. Witness after witness of the highest character from the Australian Colonies appeared before the Committee. In all that is important their testimony is unanimous, and the points which it establishes are these—That the Australian Ballot proposed by this Bill is a simple, easy, and expeditious mode of taking the poll; that while riot and disorder prevailed at Australian elections before its introduction, since its introduction they have been conducted with perfect order; that whereas intimidation, bribery, and treating prevailed to a greater or less extent, intimidation has absolutely ceased, and bribery and treating, where they existed, have been reduced to a minimum; that although in one colony an ingenious attempt, known as the Tasmanian dodge, was made to render bribery possible by breaking the secresy of the Ballot so as to enable the bribed man to prove his vote to the briber, this attempt was discovered, the authors of it punished, and simple precautions suggested, which must render all such attempts for the future abortive; that although the introduction of the Ballot was keenly contested in Australia, where it was opposed and advocated upon the same grounds as those upon which it is opposed and advocated here, yet that now it has been embraced by almost the entire population, and that the beneficial results of its adoption are so signal that 27 the proposition to return to open voting would be scouted on all sides. Sir, I hold in my hand references to the evidence which would establish the whole of these propositions beyond the power of cavil; but I think that I shall consult the wishes of the House by refraining from this tedious proof, and waiting to see whether any opponent of the Ballot will have the courage to dispute any one of them. But, Sir, perhaps it may be said, as was said in the Committee, that granting all this, yet the political circumstances of the colonial population differ so entirely from our own that it is impossible to argue from the success of the Ballot in that country its success in this. Sir, I maintain that in all which is essential to the analogy the populations correspond. If it could be shown that there are no political parties in Australia, no party organization, no questions which lay hold of the public mind, nothing to struggle for and nothing to resist, why perhaps it might be argued that their political condition was not analogous to ours; but when it can be shown that government in Australia is government by party—that politics run high there, that elections are warmly contested, that great questions divide the mind of the country precisely as they divide it here—indeed the very same questions—questions of education and religion, questions of free trade and protection, questions affecting the tenure of land—and when, in addition, it can be shown, as was shown by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, that "the colonists took out with them the British Constitution as it was when they left, with all its usages and customs," that, in fact, they were penetrated through and through by our traditions and inoculated with all our electoral vices, how can it be maintained, with any show of truth, that there exist in the political character and condition of the two populations radical differences which must deprive the argument based upon analogy of all its force? But, Sir, it is not only to the experience of men who speak our language, obey our laws, and inherit our passions that we may turn for illustrations of the triumphant efficacy of the Ballot. The desire of the strong to oppress and control the weak, the inclination to permit sordid considerations to outweigh all others, obtain in lesser or greater intensity throughout the whole family of man. Wherever 28 free government has been set up, it has had to contend against these ruling vices of mankind. And what has been its invariable defence against them? The experience of the whole of civilized Europe proves that without the Ballot there can be no freedom. And do not let me be told that we want no Continental freedom and no Continental institutions here. The Ballot is no mere product of Continental Liberalism. It is an old English institution. It was in operation in this country more than three centuries ago. Subsequently it was by the Ballot that the great trading companies—the refuge of liberty in their time—defied the despotism of the Stuarts; and it was by a Stuart, the most despotic of his dynasty, that the Ballot, as a great English institution, was suppressed. Nor need we be told that the political condition of the Continent does not recal our own. For if the same remedy be found efficacious against the same vices under most dissimilar circumstances and every possible condition of men, the presumption is overwhelming that this remedy will be found efficacious in the case of any particular nation in which it may be applied. What, then, is the experience of the Continent? If we turn to Greece, we find a venal, turbulent, and semi-civilized people, going about armed to the teeth, and with none of that self-restraint which is the slow growth of hereditary civilization; but taking an intense interest in politics. We find this venal people conducting its elections with purity, this turbulent people conducting them without turbulence—If the election which I witnessed," said Mr. Arthur Arnold, "had been conducted on the English system, I have no question of a doubt that there would have been bloodshed in every street.Passing over into Italy, we encounter a distinct population—indeed, as we travel from one end of the Peninsula to the other, we encounter several distinct populations—populations which differ as much as the nations of two continents—and yet, under the Ballot, their elections present one uniform spectacle of order, purity, and freedom, canvassing everywhere discouraged, intimidation absolutely unknown, the priest silenced, the revolutionist disarmed. Even in France we have no cause to be ashamed 29 of the working of the Ballot. Imperfect though the French Ballot maybe, it has been found complete enough to baffle one of the most powerful despotisms which the world has ever known. It is the Ballot which is raising the French nation out of the political degradation in which they have been plunged. Even in the rural districts it is now more than a match for the prefect and the priest.If you apply beforehand," said my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea, in the course of his valuable evidence, "to the authorities of a French village, they will tell you of any particular man, that he will vote for the Emperor—that is to say, for the Government candidate; and yet you find that in the rural districts, on the last occasion, the Opposition candidates polled nearly one-third of the constituencies.Well, Sir, this is the kind of evidence which the Committee took with regard to Continental elections under the Ballot. It is monotonous, and, therefore, I shall not trouble the House with more of it; but it is monotonous because, go where you will, there is only one tale to tell. For with all Australia and America and civilized Europe to go to, the opponents of the Ballot could not find a single witness who had anything comfortable to tell them. No; I am wrong. They found one witness who was quite ready to blaspheme the institutions of his great country. I remember that he entered the Committee-room with the air of a melancholy exile—this representative of social conditions which the hand of God has blotted out of his sight. For what community does the House suppose was selected by the opponents of the Ballot to express the type and model of American institutions? Why, the State of South Carolina under slavery. And this witness was called to prove that in a State in which he admitted there was no registration of voters, there was personation, and, under a Ballot so defective that bribed men were sent to the poll in charge of persons who watched them deposit the bribed ticket in the ballot box—there was bribery. Of course there was bribery; of course there was personation; of course there was intimidation; of course there was every known electoral crime, for it was the misfortune of this gentleman to represent before the Committee a state of society, one of the most depraved in the civilized world. And yet even this hostile witness had a kind word for the Ballot— 30The elections have been usually very orderly in South Carolina. I know of no disturbance.And when he was asked this question—Supposing that a voter wished to keep his vote secret, how could those who bribe him know whether he voted in accordance with his promise or not?" he replied—"They would not bribe him unless they were very certain how he was going to vote.And when, referring to cases of intimidation, I asked him—How employers knew how their men voted?" he answered—"By sending them to the poll under the charge of persons who see them deposit their vote. A ticket is placed in their hands, and they are watched until their vote is deposited in the box.What inference, then, can be drawn from such a Ballot as this, against the kind of Ballot proposed by this Bill? But I admit that there is bribery even in some of the Northern States of America, although it extends only over a limited area. There is bribery in New York, in Pennsylvania, and at Boston. Now, why is this? Because the American Ballot, although perhaps complete enough to meet any ordinary exigency, is not complete enough to ensure purity among a population saturated with the corrupt ideas which they bring with them from Europe. In the few American constituencies which are corrupt, the voting tickets are purposely made distinct in colour and device, in order that the briber may watch the bribed vote given. Thus the very instances in which the Ballot fails, afford the strongest possible illustration of the certainty with which a dose Ballot must hamper, cripple, and defeat the briber. But, Sir, in conclusion, it may be said that, great and manifest as are the advantages to be derived from the adoption of the Ballot, there are concomitant disadvantages which are greater still. For example, I may be told that the teaching of the Ballot is bad. Has the teaching of the Ballot in Australia been bad? "The effect of the Ballot," says my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, in his evidence, "has been that the notion of coercing people and bribing people has died out of the country absolutely." The Ballot, in fact, teaches, by removing the patron and the purchaser of votes, that the vote is no longer to be considered an article of merchandise or of favour. It teaches the voter to discard the slavish notion that he cannot be 31 trusted to vote honestly, unless the eye of the public, which is often a mean, domineering, malignant eye, is fixed upon him. How do you make a schoolboy a liar? By setting spies upon his conduct, and teaching him that there is no reliance to be placed upon his honour. How do you make a servant a rogue? By telling him that you dare not trust him. How do you make the voter a scoundrelly politician? By telling him, when he is about to vote, that he is to think, not simply of what is just or right, but of what so-and-so, or so-and-so may say of him. I wish to get rid of this low and shabby morality, which makes a man amenable, not to the higher and better part of himself, but to that false and variable criterion—the opinion of his fellow-men. By substituting this criterion for that of conscience, you rob human conduct of its noblest springs, and you strike at the very root of independent thought. You would do this, even if your motives were only of the highest and purest kind. But when experience proves that men avail themselves of the power which open voting gives them, not to check and blame the voter when he votes against his conscience, but to force his conscience, to bring every corrupt and sinister motive to bear upon the vote, thinking nothing of the conscience, and everything of the vote, surely to cling to open voting, in the name of purity and virtue, is about as black a piece of hypocrisy as the heart, which is deceitful above all things, can cherish or assume. Let us clear ourselves from the taint, or even the breath of such a suspicion as this; and by adopting to-day the principle of this measure, let us declare, that when we gave the electoral privilege to many thousands of our fellow-countrymen, we gave it, not in mistrust, but in confidence; not in mockery, but in candour.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Leatham.)
THE MARQUESS OF HABTINGTON
I think it will be for the convenience of the House that I should state at once the course which the Government propose to take upon this question. I cannot conceal the fact that the course taken by the hon. Member for Hudders-field (Mr. Leatham) has, in my opinion, 32 placed not only the Government, but the House, in a position of some difficulty. Hon. Members are aware that at the commencement of last Session a recommendation was made in the Speech from the Throne that a Committee should be appointed to consider the whole subject of our modes of conducting Parliamentary and municipal elections, with the view to provide, if possible, securities for their purity and freedom. That course recommended itself to the Government, because it appeared evident that during the progress of the last General Election a very great change had come over the public mind with regard to this question of the Ballot, and with regard to other questions also connected with the mode in which elections are conducted. The Ballot, which had hitherto been advocated by only a small portion of the more advanced Liberals on this side of the House, seemed after the election to have recommended itself to a large majority sitting on these Benches—and not only to them, but to a very considerable number of those who sit on the Benches opposite. Many hon. Members, who still entertained the dislike which they had always felt to a system of secresy as applied to voting, and who thought that a public duty ought to be publicly discharged, nevertheless felt after the last General Election that the present mode of conducting elections was accompanied by so many and such great abuses that they were willing, if no other remedy could be devised, and if the Ballot could be shown to supply a sufficient remedy, to abandon their cherished opinions and to agree to this mode of voting. There were, I may add, several other points connected with the mode of conducting elections which excited considerable attention. Election expenses were found, in spite of all that had been done to restrain them, at the last General Election, to be in excess of anything that had previously been known; scenes of riot and disorder frequently accompanied both the public nomination and the declaration of the poll; the rioting which occurred on the polling day very often, it would seem, having its origin in the disturbances by which the nomination was accompanied. The result was that a very general opinion was expressed by a large section of the public to the effect that it would be a great advantage if 33 the system of public nomination and the declaration of the poll were suppressed. The inquiries which have been made into the corrupt practices which have of late attended Parliamentary elections also show that in many instances these elections had been preceded by very great abuses and corruption at the municipal elections. In the opinion, indeed, of many hon. Members it was impossible adequately to deal with the subject of corruption at the former elections without putting some check on the abuses which prevailed at the latter. For these reasons the Government thought the proper course to pursue was to advise the House to institute an inquiry, not so much for the purpose of ascertaining facts, which were already very well known, as for the purpose of establishing them in a more tangible form and inviting competent witnesses to express their opinions as to the remedies which should be applied to the abuses to which I have adverted. A Committee was accordingly appointed in the early part of last Session, which spent the whole of the Session in receiving evidence on the various points to which the inquiry was directed. In my opinion, taking into account the magnitude of the subject, and the great variety of evidence which was laid before them, the time which that Committee occupied in the examination of witnesses cannot be regarded as unduly long. The Committee, as the House is aware, was reappointed at the commencement of the present Session solely for the purpose of considering its Report, and after several sittings that Report was agreed to only yesterday. If, I may add, the time which we occupied in examining witnesses was not unduly long, the same remark may, with at least equal justice, be applied to the time taken up in the preparation of the Report. A little further consideration of that Report would not, perhaps, have been misplaced; for, however desirable it might be that it should have been ready to be laid on the table of the House before the second reading of the Bill under our notice came on, it would, I cannot help thinking, have been more satisfactory to many hon. Members who are even ardent supporters of the Bill if some further time had been devoted to the preparation of that Report. I feel satisfied, that when hon. Members come to read the passages in the Report which 34 were moved and carried by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham)—when they find that, notwithstanding a paragraph which sets forth fully the various objections to the Ballot, those objections are in his Motion not commented upon, denied, or explained away, although he admitted there was the greatest force in those objections—[Mr. LEATHAM: Some force]—I feel satisfied, I say, that when hon. Members, even those who are advocates of the Ballot, become aware of those facts, they will be surprised that some more time was not occupied by the Committee in considering more fully those objections; and they will see, I fancy, some reason to doubt whether the cause which they have so much at heart may not have lost more by the inadequate time devoted to the preparation of the Report than it will gain by having the Motion for the second reading of this Bill made to-day. Under these circumstances, I am, it appears to me, justified in saying that the House and the Government are placed by this Motion in a position of some difficulty. It has become the duty of the Government, I may add, to consider what course they should adopt with reference to this Motion. They certainly do not feel that the introduction of this Bill has relieved them from the responsibility which they undertook when last Session they recommended the appointment of the Committee, and they will seize the very earliest opportunity to consider the recommendations of that Committee, not only in reference to this question of the Ballot, but to all the other subjects included in the Report. As, however, the hon. Member for Huddersfield has thought it necessary to persevere with the Motion for the second reading of his Bill at the earliest possible moment, the Government feel that they would be placing themselves in a false position with the House if they were to meet that Motion by a negative. We are not prepared to negative the principle of the Ballot. On the contrary, I have no hesitation in saying—though I have not, of course, had an opportunity of consulting all my Colleagues on the matter since the Report was agreed to—that personally I entirely and cordially concur in that paragraph in the Report which recommends the adoption of the Ballot. It would, therefore, place the Government in a false position, and 35 be contrary to their opinions, if we were to refuse to support the second reading of this Bill. But in doing so we can give the hon. Member our support only on the condition that he will consent to postpone the further progress of the measure, so as to enable the Government to consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee, and, if necessary, to prepare and introduce a measure on the subject themselves. I may observe that some of the questions referred to in the Report, with regard to which there does not appear to have been any difference of opinion in the Committee, have already been under the consideration of the Government. It will, I think, be satisfactory to the House to learn that previous to the lamented illness of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, he and I, in conjunction with the Law Officers of the Crown, had been in consultation on the subject of some of the recommendations of the Committee. If, therefore, the state of Public Business should show that there was any probability that a complete measure on this subject could be carried in the course of the present Session, I do not see any reason whatsoever why the Government should not deal, not only with the question of the Ballot, but with all the other subjects referred to in the Report. Therefore seeing, as I have said, the Government do not feel the least alarmed at the responsibility of the recommendations they made last Session, we reserve to ourselves perfect freedom in the matter; and the hon. Member for Huddersfield must not suppose that he will receive the support of the Government at any subsequent stage of his Bill should they decide on introducing a measure on the subject themselves. It is, then, only upon the conditions I have stated that we can give the second reading our support.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Although I also was a Member of this Committee I shall not enter into the question of the inadequacy of time which has been devoted to the preparation of the Report, as suggested by the noble Marquess. There is no doubt that a pressure was brought to bear upon the Committee in order to induce them to bring the consideration of their Report to a close in reference to the Motion for the second reading of this Bill to-day. I simply wish it to be 36 clearly understood that in assenting to the adoption of the course proposed by the Government we on this side of the House must not be understood as giving in our adhesion to the principle contained in the Bill under discussion. The Government ask for time for consideration. We do not object to their having that time, or to the adjournment of the debate, until either they bring in their measure dealing with the whole question or the hon. Member for Huddersfield is set free from the conditions which the noble Marquess wishes to impose on him, when the discussion can be taken on the Motion for going into Committee on his Bill. We do not desire to interfere with the discretion of the Government as to the course they think it right to pursue; but then we reserve to ourselves every right we should have had in opposition to the second reading.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, the noble Marquess had made frequent allusions to the Report of this Select Committee, and had stated that the course of the Government would be guided to a great extent by its recommendations. The Report, therefore, was a document of the greatest importance; but no Member of the House, excepting those who served on the Committee, had yet seen it; therefore at present the House was groping entirely in the dark. He hoped, therefore, he might be allowed to offer a few remarks upon the general question. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leathain) had asked, in that courageous style which belonged to him, whether anyone would be bold enough to challenge the propositions which he had advanced in the course of his speech. Now he (Mr. Liddoll) would venture to be so presumptuous, because he entertained a profound conviction that the policy of secret voting which the hon. Member invited the House to adopt would lead to nothing less than a social revolution. To him it appeared that to take secret voting as the basis of our Parliamentary system was a mode of proceeding detrimental and antagonistic to the whole principle of representative government. What was the basis on which our representation rested? Knowledge—knowledge of the feelings and opinions, it might be even of the prejudices, of those who were represented. Were those feeling's and opinions to be concealed? If so, how could the representative act in accord- 37 ance with them? Moreover, it had often been said, before, and said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that a vote was a trust, the exercise of which ought to be protected by law, and one of the great faults found with Parliament was, that it had not long ago extended that protection to the voters in the exercise of their trust. But how, he should like to know, could that trust be properly discharged, unless the public were able to become acquainted with the way in which it was exercised? A trust was essentially a thing which ought to be openly performed. The franchise was also spoken of as a right; but if it was a right, why not trust to the ordinary protection which the exercise of every right was entitled to receive from the laws of the land? The hon. Member for Huddersfield referred in a very amusing way to a floating body at elections, who were not exactly on one side or the other, but who bided their time that they might be led by a golden chain; and it was true that such corruption but too generally prevailed. But did the House think that secret voting would cure this corruption? He believed that we should only be adding hypocrisy to corruption, and as corruption worked in the dark hypocrisy would only enable it to work with greater success. If the voter was enabled to discharge his duty in secret, why should not his representative in Parliament, in like manner, be enabled to exercise his functions in secret? He hoped it would never come to that; but that appeared to be the logical conclusion to which secret voting would lead. Then they were told, as another argument in favour of the Ballot, that candidates would no longer pay for the votes which they were not sure they would receive. But he would remind the House that much the same argument was used for an increase in the number of voters. It was said that if the numbers of the constituencies were greatly increased it would not be worth the while of candidates to bribe them. Yet no one knew bettor than the hon. Gentleman himself how much the large constituencies had been bribed, and what was the effect of increasing the constituencies. He could see no reason for believing that, because votes were to be given in secret, people would not be found to use corrupt means to obtain seats in Parliament. So long as there was a class wealthy enough and deter- 38 mined enough to make their way into the House by means of their money, means would be found by which they could effect their purpose. Then the hon. Gentleman referred to the example of France. Now, it was only necessary to refer to the opinions of the Constitutional party in that countiy—which all rejoiced to see had again attained its proper position in that country, and which they hoped it would never lose—let them ask the Constitutional party in Prance what had been the main support of despotism there for the last twenty years, and they would answer, the principle of secret voting. For himself, he objected to the Ballot as a secret mode of administering a public trust. It was a system of secresy and cowardice, which, if it were agreed to in the case of the voting, would permeate and pervade the whole political system. He believed that would be the result; and it was because he dreaded that result, because he looked upon it as a reversal of the constitutional policy of this country, that at this first stage in the process he would offer it all the opposition in his power.
§ MR. OSBORNE
It so happens, Sir, that the last time I had the honour of appearing in this Assembly I seconded a clause proposed to be inserted in the Reform Bill of the late Government, to the effect that the Ballot should be introduced into the new constituencies. This was in 1867. That Amendment was moved by the untiring and able advocate of the Ballot, the late Mr. Berkeley; and if anything could have soothed him in his declining health, it would have been the knowledge that the cause he had advocated so long and so ably has fallen into the hands, and that his mantle has descended upon the shoulders, of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, who, I think, for the way in which he has brought the question before the House, whether as one of logic or of fact, deserves the thanks of this Assembly. I can well understand the argument which has been so succinctly put forward by the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Liddell). His election experience has been cast in a happy land; he has known nothing of the ups and downs of the popular voice. I can well understand his coming to this House and taking what he calls a logical position. I, unfortunately, have had some experience of General Elections in more lively lati- 39 tudes; and I must say, with my experience of the last General Election in a midland borough of England, and with my more recent experience of an election at a seaport town in Ireland, in spite of logic, and in spite of all these stock arguments which I have heard so constantly repeated on this Ballot question, unless you introduce secret voting the whole system is a farce. What is the theory of freedom of election? The theory is that a man should give his vote freely and without fear. That state of things may exist in South Northumberland and some other jocund places; but what is the case in the large towns of this country, and in Ireland generally? Why, Sir, the practice is at direct issue with the theory. If a man votes freely, he is treated indifferently; but large numbers vote at the peril of injury to limb or destruction of property. I am not surprised—I have been accustomed to hear the argument for so many years that I am not surprised to hear it said that secret voting is contrary to the Constitution. I want to know the authority for this assertion. How is secret voting contrary to the Constitution? As far as I have been able to look into the history of the Constitution, the first of the Acts about voting at elections was passed in the reign of Edward I. That first enactment says that no man shall be brought to vote by force of arms or menace. The next Act—7 HenryIV.—uses the language that is now used, and says that the elector shall vote "freely and indifferently." Does the elector vote freely and indifferently at the present time? I ask my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland whether he is not aware—not, of course, in his own polling district—but in the neighbouring counties and boroughs electors vote neither freely nor indifferently, and that they frequently vote at peril to life or limb. It is all very well to talk, as the hon. Gentleman has talked, of the franchise being a "trust;" I thought that fallacy had been long exploded. I want to know how it is a trust? A trust can be enforced; what precautions does the law take for this trust being enforced? Why, the "trust" can only be enforced by intimidation and compulsion on the part of non-electors; and yet the hon. Member calls it a trust. We have heard about voting being a "trust," a "right," and a "privilege;" we all know very well 40 that in many instances a vote is looked upon not as any of these, but as a perquisite? I am not going to take the bribery view of this question; I have my doubts whether the Ballot would; stop corruption; still I would try every chance, and that among the rest, even though I doubted whether it would have immediate effect. To stop corruption we must look to the diffusion of a higher moral tone and to the beneficial effect of an Education Bill such as we have been discussing. I do not look upon this Bill as an important means of stopping corruption. We have to deal with things as they are; we have an enormous uneducated population, who have got these trusts, rights, privileges, or perquisites; and we have got an enormous body behind them, who say—"Unless men vote as we like, we will not permit them to have security." Well, it is said we want information, and the Postmaster General says—"Don't hurry us too much, and in a little time we will bring in a Bill." That has been the language often used by all Governments. They say—"Hurry! no man's cattle." But I say nothing will? be done without we hurry them. So far from placing them in a difficult position, I think the hon. Member for Huddersfield ought to be commended for spurring them on—I hope he will spur them on—I hope he will not be put off with excuses till the end of the Session, but that he will urge this Bill forward. I do not need to read the evidence taken by the Committee upstairs; it is but a réchauffé of old evidence. There have been many Committees of this House sitting on the subject. Why should I go further back than to the Committee by which M. de Tocqueville was examined. And what was his evidence? The most powerful evidence that could be given—that of a statesman and a scholar, and a man who had great knowledge of many countries. He looked upon the Ballot as a Protectionist and as a Conservative measure—a protection against the tyranny of the majority—which it is. In these times I dread as much the tyranny of the majority as I deprecate the tyranny of the rich minority. M. de Tocqueville said that the only protection against the tyranny of a purely democratic form of government—to which we are advancing every day—was the security of the Ballot. It is very well for the hon. Member for South 41 Northumberland to talk of giving your vote in ease and confidence. It appears that there are now numbers of Conservative working-men—a new class of voters that has cropped up lately—how do you mean to protect them at an election? They are a minority, I believe—they need the protection of the Ballot— but do you suppose these excellent Conservative working-men will thank you for telling them the logic is against them? They may have logical minds, but they have breakable heads. It is no great satisfaction to them to go and vote for a candidate and then have their heads broken by a tyrannous majority of their fellow-workmen. I say, then, secret voting is essentially a protection against a tyrannical majority, and it is essentially a protection for working-men against the tyranny of their fellow-workmen. You must remember that corruption is a wide-spread disease among all classes, and that intimidation is not confined to the rich and powerful. Every man likes to be powerful, and to control his own society. I flatter no class, but I dread tyranny as much from the mob as I do from the wealthy; and I would give protection to both by the system of secret voting. An interesting correspondence was published the other day between the Secretary of the Ballot Society and the Sardinian Minister, as to the effect of secret voting in Sardinia; and the Sardinian Minister's reply was that it had the effect of controlling the tyranny of the priests and of the rich aristocracy, and that there would have been no independent element at all in the Italian Parliament if it had not been for the Ballot. The hon. Gentleman goes upon the old tack, and says—and we have often heard the assertion when a man has been run very hard in argument—that the Ballot is un-English. [Mr. LIDDELL: I never used the phrase.] Oh, no; he did not—but he spoke of cowardice. Now, à propos of cowardice, I had sent me this morning a description of an election, and it was not in Ireland. It alludes to a right hon. Gentleman whom I do not see in his place; but who, in 1857, appeared in this House, not exactly in sackcloth and ashes, but with his head bound up and most fearfully cut. Here is the description—Mr. Lowe and others, with their faces bleeding and their clothes torn, rushed into the gatehouse, and with great difficulty the gate was shut. 42 There were exclamations of 'Take his life.' … Mr. Lowe, prostrate on the ground, bleeding, was taken into the house, and, with great difficulty, he was saved. The rural police, as usual, followed in the track of the rioters.This is Kidderminster, and not Ireland; this is virtuous England, where the logic of facts remains supreme; and here, in 1857, you have a Gentleman rescued alive with the greatest difficulty; not by the rural police, for nobody ever was rescued by the police—I have found that. What would have been the effect of secret voting there? It so happened oil that occasion Mr. Lowe's opponent used language exactly similar to that which the hon. Member for South Northumberland has used to-day. He told the non-electors the vote was a trust, and they must look after the electors; and, of course, they did look after the electors, and they not only broke Mr. Lowe's head, but they broke the head of every elector they could who had voted for him. This was in the year 1857; we have been waiting all the time since; and we are told now that the Government find themselves placed in a difficult position by this Motion. As far as I can, I shall place them in a more difficult position. Is it not notorious that there was no business in the courts of the revising barristers because of the apathy of the voters themselves? The shopkeeper knows—and this is the mildest part of it—that there is exclusive dealing, and his idea is he would rather not have a vote. The consequence is, our revising barristers have little business; the men who are put upon the register are put there by the paid agents of the registration societies, and the voter seldom appears himself. And so this free and independent elector—this noble animal whom you pat on the back—is afraid, and shuffles out of his duty, because, if he records his vote openly, his trade or his person may suffer. The franchise a trust! If it is, it is one of those damnosa hæreditas everyone would wish to got rid of. I have seen something of all this in England myself. I have a little acquaintance with the town of Nottingham; I left it because it was a little too lively for me; but I am not prepared to say I have benefited by the change. I have shown you what occurred in England—"the land of the free." Now look at Ireland. If ever there was a country where open voting 43 and freedom of election is not only difficult, but impossible, it is Ireland. Look what happens in Ireland. When an election is about to take place the telegraph is set to work, an enormous police force is gathered, a large military force is brought up, there is military occupation of the town or county. In spite of all this, the voters vote at the peril of their lives. When your committee accompany you to the hustings they are armed to the teeth. Every man knows there are elections in Ireland; but neither the hon. Member for South Northumberland, nor the Member for happy Radnor (the Marquess of Hartington), nor the ton. Member for Huddersfield knows what freedom of election is in Ireland. I do not want to amplify and give you my experiences—which certainly have not been of the most agreeable kind; but I can tell you this—you cannot get people to vote in Ireland—so great is the intimidation they will not go to the poll. Look at the recent election at Tipperary, represented by a distinguished Queen's Counsel, whom I have not heard yet, and whom I do not see here. I had great difficulty in seeing him on the day of election. He was in the same boat with me—two popular Members obliged to fly for their lives. I wish the hon. Member was here. I want to hear from him his experiences; but look at what happened to him. Tipperary contains 10,000 electors; and how many voted do you suppose? Under 4,000. And why did the 6,000 stop away from the poll? Because they were afraid to come, for they knew it would be at the peril of their lives. Would they have been so if you had had the Ballot? You expect these men to make a sacrifice which no man has a right to call upon another to make. In Ireland you compel these men to have votes. You have what is called a self-acting registration; so they are compelled to have votes; and most of them look upon a vote as one of the greatest of curses. You have no right to compel these men to have votes unless you give them protection; without that, the thing becomes something more serious than a farce. Go to an Irish town after an election, and it looks as if it had been besieged by an army; windows are broken; heads are broken; men you never hear of are maimed for life; and there are some who are never heard of afterwards. The place is more like a battle- 44 field than the scene of a constitutional election. Talk of logic and cowardice; I do not profess to be braver than other men—perhaps I am not so brave as the hon. Member for South Northumberland—He jests at scars who never felt a wound;but this I can say—it does require considerable nerve to address your constituency out of a window after sunset. I can tell you this—if you wish to supersede the revolver, you must have the ballot box. You have a state of things now, especially in Ireland, such as existed only in the Middle Ages. Your freedom of election is a farce. There is no freedom, and every man who can buy arms goes to the poll armed. A mob stands by; it is heated afresh by every vote that is given as if the vote fed a flame, and each man knows that he votes at the risk of his life. I have seen houses broken into, men who were pledged to vote one way taken out of their beds and obliged to vote the other way; and, after the election, when all was known, the houses have been externally demolished, as the inmates would have been if the houses could have been entered. Yet I am told it is cowardice to object to open voting. I say, rather than vote under such circumstances, I would prefer not to vote at all. You are expecting all these Irish farmers in the counties, who live in thatched houses which it is easy to set a light to, to come forward like free and independent electors and go to the polling-booth to vote, with the chance of returning on a shutter. If you wish to supersede vote by bullet, you must have vote by Ballot. I have my doubts of the Government bringing in a Bill; the noble Lord has got too much to do to send the telegrams right. I hope, if there be a Bill, it will not only deal with the Ballot, but that it will do away with that servile necessity—the duty of canvassing. I hope, too, we shall do away with that exasperating formality called the nomination. I hope we shall do away with that incentive to riot—the declaration of the poll. This I am sure of, if you wish to preserve freedom of election, in Ireland especially, and in many large towns in England, there ought to be no difficulty and no delay in the Government introducing a Bill to deal with these questions.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he rose to protect the freedom of the House. There could be no freedom if the House allowed its forms, which were the safeguards of its freedom, to be interfered with. And one of those forms was that, they should have full information on a subject before they proceeded to decide upon it. Now, in what position was the House that day? He came down to the House believing that the Bill would not be discussed because the Report of the Committee on Parliamentary and Municipal Elections had not been distributed to Members. He learned accidentally, that the subject was under discussion, and, hurrying to the Vote Office, obtained as a great favour a proof of the Report, which extended over five pages. He asked whether it would be becoming on the part of the House, after having appointed a Select Committee which sat during the whole of last Session, and had been re-appointed during the present Session—after leaving it to the discretion of that Committee whether they would have further evidence or not—after having authorized that Committee to report upon the principle of the Bill, which was now nominally raised on the second reading—that principle being whether it was expedient that the present system of open voting should be continued, or whether some secret mode of voting should be adopted—after all this had been done, and before the Report of the Committee could be placed in the hands of hon. Members—to sanction this attempt to obtain a decision of the House upon the subject. The evidence to which reference had been made was before the House, but the proceedings, to which reference had also been made, were not before hon. Members. They know nothing as to what had been proposed or rejected by the Committee. He had consulted with hon. Members with whom he had acted in former times, and they agreed with him that it would be contrary to all precedent, and that it would not be fair to hon. Members or creditable to the House to proceed to affirm the principle of a Bill when they were in ignorance of the information of which they had proclaimed the want. The usages of the House had also been recently contravened in respect of another Bill as to which an understanding was come to that there should be no division on the second reading. This 46 was unfair to the constituencies. Large bodies of men could only form opinions on simple issues. And if they were not informed on the broad principles of a measure they could form no opinion on details. They had therefore a right to claim information on the conduct of their representatives with respect to the broad issues of legislation which they could understand. He had endeavoured to show the importance which attached to divisions, for he was afraid the House was becoming careless on the subject. This was the most marked instance which he had seen of an attempt to take the House at a disadvantage, and that, too, by the Chairman of the Committee—
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then, by a member of the Committee, who had moved the second reading of the Bill before the Report of that Committee was in the hands of hon. Members. Having consulted some hon. Gentlemen who were well acquainted with the business and the forms of the House, he felt it his duty to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. R. TORRENS
said, that whatever might be said about the Report of the Committee, the evidence, which alone was relied on by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, was in the hands of hon. Members, who had had a full opportunity of examining its details. Considering that the subject had been discussed for so many years, both in and out of the House, it was astonishing that the hon. Member opposite should plead ignorance of the subject, or that any further information could be required. In addition to all this, the subject had been, abundantly illustrated of late by the Reports of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the existence of corrupt practices in several constituencies. He would join the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) in asking the hon. Member for Huddersfield, while he acceded to the proposition of the Government, to take care that he did not disappoint public expectation by allowing the matter to be put off until it was too late in the Session to deal with it. The necessity for the Ballot had been rendered more urgent by the Reform Bill, which extended the suffrage and enfranchised men who were perhaps more amenable to 47 corruption and intimidation than those who had previously possessed it. The Reform Bill should be crowned by the Ballot, and that measure, which the Government had omitted from their programme, was of much greater importance than many measures they had taken in hand. In another country he had resisted the introduction of the Ballot; but after witnessing its operation he had to surrender his prejudices, because he found that it did not produce any of the mischievous consequences predicted from it, and because it cured the evils which it was intended to cure. He hoped, also, that the measure to be introduced by the Government would contain a provision putting an end to the present mode of nominating candidates, and hustings speeches, which gave occasion for riot, drunkenness, and disorder, and would also abolish the "show of hands," which was simply a farce, and altogether inconsistent with the principle of the Ballot.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Having been a member of this Committee, and having regularly attended its sittings, both last Session while it was hearing evidence, and during the present Session while it was deliberating upon its Report, I am anxious to say a few words before the debate closes. My noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington), who has addressed the House in a double capacity, as Chairman of the Committee, as well as a Member of the Government, rather complained of the course taken by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) in the Committee yesterday and in the House to-day. Now, as to the desire of the hon. Member that the Committee should get leave yesterday to sit beyond the usual hour that its Report might be laid on the table of the House last night, I do not think he is any more responsible for the course taken by the Committee than myself or any other Member. He undoubtedly expressed an earnest desire that the Report should be agreed to yesterday, in order that it might be referred to in the debate to-day; and though I should have preferred that the Committee should have had more time—not for the adoption of our recommendation respecting the Ballot, for that was come to after full consideration—but for stating our reasons, and for meeting some of the ob- 48 jections to the Ballot more fully than we have done, we desired to accede to the wishes of the hon. Member, and there seemed a general agreement in the Committee that we should conclude our labours yesterday. But my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) also objected to the course taken by the hon. Member in now proposing the second reading of this Bill, and I entirely concur in that opinion. I think the hon. Member for Huddersfield would have acted much more wisely and fairly by the House if he had postponed the second reading of the Bill until the Report of the Committee—which technically, no doubt, is in the possession of the House—was actually in the hands of Members, and they had had a full opportunity of considering the Report, which contains a fair summary of the evidence taken by the Committee, and the reasons for the recommendations made in it. I think it would have been better to postpone the discussion until the Report was fully in possession of the House and of the Government. When this debate began to-day I believe that no Member of the Government, excepting the Chairman of the Committee, had had an opportunity of reading this Report. That is a fact of some importance; and we must remember that last year this Committee was moved for by the Government on the express understanding that their opinion would be reserved until they had had an opportunity of considering the recommendations of the Committee. Under these circumstances, it is rather hard to call upon the Government to-day to express a decided opinion as to the course they will take with regard to this Bill, though they have not yet had an opportunity of reading the Report. I should be disposed, therefore, to support the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire were it not for the statement made by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington), and acquiesced in by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy), on the part of those with whom he acts, that no opposition should be offered to the second reading provided that the hon. Member for Huddersfield agreed to the suggestion that the Bill should then stand over for a sufficient time to enable the Government to weigh, the recommendations of the Committee, and determine whether they would 49 bring in a Bill not limited to the Ballot alone, but including several other subjects which were embraced in the Report of the Committee. If the hon. Gentleman agrees to that suggestion, and a full opportunity is given both to the House and to the Government to consider the Report, I shall not feel disposed to offer any opposition to that course. But if the hon. Member refuses to do that, and presses his Bill, irrespective of the understanding which existed last Session, I think nothing can be fairer than the course proposed by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Newde-gate) for the adjournment of the debate. If, however, I am to vote on the principle of the Bill, which embodies the chief recommendation of the Committee, I cannot record my vote against it. Perhaps the House will allow me to add a few words respecting that principle. I said last year that I should go into the Committee with a desire to pay the utmost attention to the evidence, divesting myself of previous prejudices against what is called the system of secret voting. I have repeatedly said that I attached loss importance to the Ballot than many other Members, being of opinion that both its advantages and its dangers were greatly exaggerated. But when we came to weigh the evidence which the Committee received, it was impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that most ample proof had been offered—if, indeed, such proof were necessary in addition to the evidence before in our possession—that there exists a great deal of bribery, corruption, and treating both in our municipal and Parliamentary elections, and that there exists also a j great deal of intimidation. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne), whom we are all glad to see again among us and in full vigour, notwithstanding all the dangers he has undergone, that that intimidation is not confined to any particular class nor to any particular party. There is intimidation by mobs as well as intimidation by landlords; and in one form or other intimidation, no doubt, does exist to a great extent both in county and in borough elections in this country; while in Ireland the greatest degree of violence characterizes many of the elections. Much disorder is also occasioned at elections arising from the publication of the poll from hour to hour 50 and the consequent excitement. Admitting these evils—and no one denies them, though there may be a difference of opinion as to the extent to which they provail—we had then to look for a remedy; and here I found no one remedy suggested which to my mind afforded the slightest probability of a check to those evils short of the Ballot. In saying this, I am far from implying my belief that the Ballot will be an effectual cure for those evils. It will tend to mitigate them no doubt, and has some advantages of its own; and it was with that view that I concurred in the general resolution of the Committee. My opinion is this—I do not want to talk about cowardice or un-English conduct—but I think that whether you adopt the Ballot or not, the great majority of electors, by acting on committees, by appearing at public meetings, and in other ways, will declare their opinions openly. These are men who do not require the Ballot. But there is another class of more dependent men whose interests; conflict with their political opinions, and to those men no doubt the Ballot will afford a protection which I do nut think that any other system will afford. The evidence given to the Committee as to the working of the Ballot in Australia shows that it has effectually prevented there the scenes of riot and disorder which disgrace many of our own elections. It will have a tendency to check bribery by the uncertainty which it will produce as to the fulfilment of the bargain, and will especially check what has been called afternoon bribery—a practice by which a body of corrupt electors hold back till the last hour of the poll, and sell their votes at rates proportioned to the state of the poll and the closeness of the contest. As the state of the poll will not be known if the votes are taken by Ballot this practice will be cheeked; though, on the other hand, if the change is made we may, perhaps, find, especially in small constituencies, that the door is opened to wholesale bribery. Seeing, however, that no other remedy was suggested for the evils that undoubtedly exist, and that the Ballot has certain advantages counterbalancing the objections which are fairly stated in the Report of the Committee, I concurred in the general recommendation with which the Committee conclude their Report, and, therefore, I certainly could not vote 51 against the Bill. I hope, however, that the hon. Member for Huddersfield will relieve the House from the necessity of coming to a vote by accepting the terms offered to him by my noble Friend, and acquiesced in by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy).
SIR STAFFORD NOETHCOTE
said, he had no intention to detain the House by any discussion upon the principle or merits of the Bill, but would confine himself to the question immediately before the House—whether the debate should be now adjourned. He understood that the noble Marquess opposite and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gr. Hardy) had expressed an opinion that, considering that the Committee had so recently reported, and that the Government might wish to introduce a measure, the House should not pledge itself by a vote upon this Bill until time had been given to the Government to introduce their own measure. In that opinion he entirely concurred. It was only courteous to the Government to give them an opportunity of stating their views; and it was also important that the House should be able to examine the Report of the Committee before deciding on the principle of the Bill. It was obvious that the question of the Ballot must not be taken singly, but in connection with other changes which might be proposed in our electoral system. There seemed to be an agreement that it would be convenient to take the second reading pro formâ, with a view to its postponement, no pledge meanwhile being given, one way or the other, until the Government should be able to introduce their measure. But the position was changed by the Motion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate), who objected, and, in his opinion, with great force, to take the second reading of the Bill under the present circumstances. If, therefore, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire continued to be of opinion that the House ought not to take that course, it would be difficult for him to abstain from voting with the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, that as no Member of the Committee had spoken on that side of the House, he wished to make a few remarks in reply to the hon. Member for Huddersfield as to the proceedings of the Committee. He desired, in the first place, to take exception to the statement which had been quoted 52 from the evidence of Mr. George Latham, who said that seven-eighths or nine-tenths of the farmers in Cheshire were Dissenters. The witness, no doubt, made that statement fully believing it to be true; but he was a strong partizan, and a statement more remote from the truth could not really be made. Again, with regard to North Wales, of which he knew something, there was really no extensive terrorism practised there. He was aware that individual cases occurred there, as elsewhere, in which authority was unduly urged; but he would remind the House that up to the last General Election seven out of the twelve Members for North Wales were Liberals, and that fact, and the fact that since then the number was increased to ten, told in favour of the independence of the electors in North Wales. That showed that there was not much terrorism in the district. A great mass of evidence was given before the Committee last year; but the bulk of that evidence only went in support of what were already notorious facts. Little, however, was given that was new or valuable except that supplied by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), who had made the question of the Ballot a particular study, and visited a great many foreign countries to see how it operated. The information he gave the Committee would be found very instructive both by opponents and supporters of the Ballot. One result of his evidence was that neither in France nor America the Ballot was secret, and the advocates of the Ballot, who used always to appeal triumphantly to its existence in America, were now forced to take their stand upon the entirely different system of Ballot at work in our Australian Colonies. In France great pressure was brought to bear upon the electors in the rural districts in order to induce them to support the Imperial candidate, and the way in which a man voted was generally known to the authorities. As to the Ballot in the Australian Colonies, we should take into consideration the results which had followed from its adoption, and he would ask the House whether they were prepared to say that the present form of government and of Parliamentary institutions in Australia was such an improvement upon our system that we ought to adopt the Ballot in similar results. Of 53 its operation in Australia the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. R. Torrens) had spoken from personal knowledge. But the hon. Member began there by consistently opposing it, and he believed the first result of the Ballot was to relegate the hon. Member to private life.
§ MR. R. TORRENS
denied this statement. He had retired in order to prepare a measure connected with the transfer of land.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, that at any rate the hon. Gentleman's retirement synchronized with the establishment of the system to which he had been opposed. It was generally admitted that four great evils existed under the present electoral system in England—bribery, treating, intimidation, and undue influence. These were, no doubt, serious evils; but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford said he was not at all sure that the Ballot would diminish bribery; and though the hon. Member for Huddersfield said it was improbable that candidates would bribe men whose votes could not be known, we must remember that while the Ballot would diminish the probability of a vote becoming known, it would also diminish the probability that bribery would be detected. The Ballot, indeed, would probably enlarge the area of bribery, because more persons would bribe when it became less likely that they would be found out. The Committee did not think that the Ballot would have much effect upon treating, though it would have some effect in preventing undue influence. You would always have personal canvassing in this country in some form or other. You might prevent the "servile necessity" on the part of candidates and their agents of going round and entering promises in their books; but you would not prevent other persons interested, in a candidate from canvassing on his behalf. As long as that existed there must be undue pressure, which would be brought to bear upon persons on whose word or on whose honesty the canvassers thought they could rely, so that the only effect of the Ballot in this respect would be to protect persons whose honesty was distrusted. The real point at issue was whether a vote was a right or a privilege; and so long as the franchise was confined to a limited class and manhood suffrage did not exist, he 54 thought it must be viewed as a privilege. The Ballot was not a party question, for while in the counties it might have a Liberal influence, in the boroughs it would have a Conservative influence. But the House must look at it as a broad question of public duty. If the Ballot merely provided the means of enabling men to tell a lie with impunity he should vote against it; and, although in some countries secret voting might be necessary to secure free election, the time had not yet arrived for recognizing the arguments in favour of the Ballot, as far as this country was concerned, as overpowering those which told against it.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that the proposal made by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. G. Hardy) was a fair subject for consideration by the hon. Member for Huddersfield; but if he assented to it, allowing the Government a reasonable time to consider the Report and prepare their measures, they on their part ought to promise that if they were unwilling to bring in a Bill of their own they would give ample opportunities for the consideration of the Bill before the House. He hoped that the Motion for adjournment would be withdrawn, and that the hon. Member for Huddersfield would be able to meet the views of the Government.
§ MR. LEATHAM
said, he should certainly divide the House against the Motion for adjournment, and should consider that the division was taken upon the main principle of the Bill. ["No, no!"] That would be the opinion in the country; for people in the country did not draw the fine distinctions which were drawn in that House. As to the suggestion of the noble Marquess, he was anxious, as far as possible, to meet the views of the Government, and allow them time for considering the Report of the Committee; and he was willing, therefore, to take the second reading proformâ, and hold over the Bill for Committee on an early day after Easter, upon the understanding that the Government would then give facilities for bringing on the Bill. If they did not give him these facilities he should be obliged to press forward the Bill upon an earlier day than that which he had named.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
protested against the observation of the hon. Gentleman, that the division on the 55 question of the adjournment of the debate would be accepted as a division on the main question. He regretted extremely that the noble Marquess, on the part of the Government, had yielded to the supporters of this Bill. It was altogether contrary to all practice that, after the Government had appointed a Committee on any subject, and had announced their intention of bringing in a Bill in reference to the matter, a member of that Committee should introduce a measure in reference to it before the Government had had an opportunity of bringing in their own Bill. For his part, he protested against its being supposed that he gave any vote on the present occasion except on the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat mistaken what had occurred; for the course he had suggested had met the concurrence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University. The offer he made to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, as he was not empowered, in the absence of his Colleagues, to offer the hon. Member a day, was that he should wait until he saw whether the Government intended to deal with the question or not. If the Government brought in a Bill, then the hon. Member could not expect facilities to be given him for a rival Bill; and in the event of the Government not dealing with the subject—though he did not expect that that would be the case—then it might be possible for the hon. Member himself to name a day after Easter, when he might make progress with his measure. He understood that the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford had distinctly reserved on his own part and on the part of his friends the power of objecting to the principle of the Bill on the Motion for going into Committee upon it; but the Government did not desire to claim any such freedom of reservation, for, in assenting to the second reading of this Bill, they did assent to its principle.
§ COLONEL SYKES
pointed out that the Ballot existed already in London, under the sanction of an Act of Parliament. The delegates from the Board of Works to the common Board of the City were elected by Ballot under the Act which established the Board of Works.
§ MR. HERMON
protested against the observation made by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, as to the division which was about to be taken being a division on the main question. He should only give his vote on the question which was immediately before the House, and that was simply the question of adjournment.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Newdegate.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 226: Majority 110.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he had been a Member of the House for many years, and he had never known such a course to be pursued by a Government as that they had just witnessed. For himself, he must confess that he thought it was the duty of the Government, commanding such a majority as they did, to support the Committee which they themselves had been mainly instrumental in appointing. Instead of doing that, however, they came down to the House with what he must call a shifty policy—a policy that was neither open nor straightforward, and which was calculated to take the House by surprise. He maintained that hon. Members ought to have had an opportunity of considering the terms of the Committee's Report before being compelled to affirm the principle of a Bill, the principle of which many of them disliked. It was quite right that the question should be discussed openly and fairly in the House; but what they were asked to do would not fulfil that object. They had come down that day expecting that there would be no division upon the Bill; but they now found that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, backed up by the Government, was pressing them to a division against the constitutional forms of the House. He, for one, begged most emphatically to protest against such a procedure; and in order to give effect to his protest, and allow hon. Gentlemen an opportunity of considering what the Report of the Committee was, he would move the adjournment of the House.
§ MR. FLOYER
seconded the Motion. He did not profess to be very conversant with the forms of the House, but having been a Member for many years, he 57 knew sufficient of them to know that it was a new and strange procedure to read a Bill a second time pro formâ. It was a very common thing for such a thing to be done when the Committee stage was reached, because very material alterations were sometimes proposed by the authors of measures; and it was found more convenient to have those embodied before proceeding in detail to the consideration of the clauses. But the case was very different in the present instance. The House was asked to agree to the second reading of a Bill, the principle of which was everything. Once that principle was affirmed the details were of no practical importance. He held that they were there neither to affirm nor deny the principle of the Bill. The Report of the Committee, though laid before the House, was not yet in the hands of Members, and until they had an opportunity of considering it, it was unreasonable to call upon them to take action one way or the other. He would ask, was it, or was it not, desirable that they should see the Report of the Committee? If it was not desirable, why was the Committee appointed at all? But if it wore desirable, then such a step as the Government were now taking was unjustifiable. It was a most lame and impotent conclusion to the labours of the Committee to ask the House to affirm the principle of a Bill based upon a Report which they had not seen. He protested against such a novel course of proceeding. The freedom of their debates as a representative Assembly depended in a large measure upon the forms of the House. There were a large number of new Members who as yet had no experience in the forms of the House, and these forms were of the highest importance in securing the minority against the tyranny of the majority; and he therefore protested against the affirmation of a principle by the adoption of a course which was neither more nor loss than a subterfuge.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Colonel Barttelot.)
§ MR. CANDLISH
denied that there was any subterfuge whatever in the proceeding that was adopted. What those on the Government side of the House intended by reading the Bill pro formâ 58 was to affirm the principle of the Ballot. Government had given its adherence to that principle, and those who sat behind them were quite right in supporting the Government in that affirmation.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had entirely misrepresented the position of the Opposition. They neither declared whether the Government was right or wrong—whether the Ballot was or was not desirable. All they maintained was, that as a Committee had been appointed on the subject last year—a Committee comprising some of the most eminent men on both sides of the House, which Committee had drawn up a Report that was not yet in the hands of Members—it was not respectful either to that Committee or to the House to affirm the principle it had recommended until hon. Gentlemen had an opportunity of perusing the Report. If such a course were to be systematically adopted, and the deliberate conclusions of the Committee were to be forestalled by the votes of a dominant majority, Committees would be brought into contempt, and nobody would act upon them. He appealed to the Government not to use their majority in support of so unconstitutional and dangerous a proceeding. They were asked to say Aye or No upon the adoption of a grave constitutional change—the substitution of secret for open voting: a Committee of the House had been appointed to consider and report upon that very subject: the Report was just laid upon the table, but was not yet in the hands of Members—yet they were asked to vote upon this very subject. He, for one, most earnestly protested against such a proceeding, and he thought they were perfectly justified, under such circumstances, in using the forms of the House to protect them from the tyranny of the majority.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, that if he had voted in the last division he should have voted with the majority, because he did not think it was the duty of private Members to wait until the Government had made up their minds on the subject. As for the Report of the Select Committee, he must say his belief was, that the object of the appointment of that Committee was to give a number of Members, Whigs and others, a decent excuse for "ratting" on the question of the Ballot. They would turn round to 59 their constituents and say that they had altered their opinions because of the Report of the Committee. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, however, was not in that predicament. He had always been a consistent advocate of the Ballot, and he was now quite right in pressing forward his Bill. The House knew very well that the present Motion was coming on to-day, and, therefore, he should vote against the adjournment; but on the main question he should vote against the Ballot.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that it having been announced that the Report of the Select Committee would be in the hands of Members before this question was debated, many hon. Gentlemen had been confident that the hon. Member for Huddersfield would not proceed with his Bill that day. With regard to the forms of the House, hon. Members would come to the conclusion, if they considered the matter well, that those forms were founded in good sense, and had for their object to preserve inviolate the functions of the representatives, and to prevent the House from being at any time surprised into the adoption of the principle of a Bill by reading it a second time pro formâ.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 220: Majority 110.
§ Original Question again proposed.
LORD CLAUD JOHN HAMILTON
said, he must complain of the manner in which the House had been treated with reference to a measure of such great importance, and which if carried, would for good or for evil, greatly affect the future of the people of this country. It was usual when a measure of so much importance was to be discussed that the Prime Minister should show that he regarded it as worthy of his consideration. It was also not unimportant that the Leader of the Opposition should be present. He looked to the Treasury Bench when this Bill was attempted to be brought forward for a second reading, and where was the Prime Minister? Where was the Home Secretary? To whom were the chief functions of the Government delegated? To the Postmaster General. Where now was the Postmaster General? Where was he in the last division? To whom had the authority of the Government now been 60 delegated? To the First Commissioner of Works; who in his turn had been succeeded by the Vice President of the Council. He thought that such treatment on the part of the Government was derogatory to the dignity of the House. The hon. Member for Huddorsfield (Mr. Leatham), in introducing the Bill, stated, in answer to an appeal from the Government as to the course he meant to pursue, that he should have no objection to acquiesce in the proposal of his noble Friend, and if the House would allow the Bill to be read a first time he would postpone the second reading for a month, till the Report of the Committee had been presented. Presented—to whom? Why, surely to the Members of the House. The Report of the Committee had been laid on the Table, and the majority of those on his side entered the House without knowing even that. It was a miserable subterfuge now for the hon. Member for Huddersfield to move the second reading of this Bill, on the plea that the Report of the Committee had been laid on the Table. There were some ambitious men in the world, and there were also ambitious families. One member of the family of the hon. Gentleman had taken to himself the credit of passing the Reform Bill, and another member of it desired to have the credit of passing the Ballot. He envied the ambition of the hon. Gentleman, and, in order that they might have the honour of defeating it, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. LEATHAM
rose simply to second the Motion of the noble Lord. He was anxious that the "ambitious men" of whom the noble Lord spoke, and who, no doubt, wished to distinguish themselves in the debate, should have the opportunity of speaking on the question. He proposed that the debate be adjourned till Tuesday, the 3rd of May.
§ MR. AYRTON
begged, in reply to the noble Lord (Lord Claud John Hamilton), to say that it was not usual for the First Minister of the Crown to attend in his place on Wednesday, unless there was some very grave question to be discussed, which rendered it necessary that he should be present. Hon. Gentlemen who were in the House from the commencement of this debate were aware that the discussion had chiefly arisen on the question of adjournment.
§ Debate adjourned till Tuesday 3rd May.