§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, that he rose now to move for certain papers connected with the subject which had engrossed so much of the attention of the other House, but which had not yet occupied the attention of their Lordships, at least not in any regular way. He had thought it his duty, early after the introduction of the subject in the other House, to give notice of his intention to move for certain papers, with the view of bringing under the notice of their Lordships the nature of the proposed measure. At the time he gave that notice, the House of Commons had been in debate upon the subject for three nights, and he thought that on the evening on which he gave the notice the House of Commons would have come to a decision upon it. In this he was deceived. The House of Commons went on debating for several days without coming to a division; and he had thought it right to defer his notice of motion until, by the decision of the House of Commons, he should be enabled to see how far it was likely that the measure would ever come up to their Lordships' House. The measure now stood under the circumstances which he had waited for. He confessed that he had objections to the discussion of such a measure upon the presentation of petitions. Many inconveniences resulted from that course; and, in his opinion, if a measure of such vast magnitude and importance was to be discussed at all, it was the duty of some Peer to bring it as fairly as it could be brought under the notice of their Lordships, with the clear understanding that it was his intention so to bring it before them. He had said thus much, because he had thought it his duty to apologize, in a certain degree, for having given notice of a motion for having withdrawn that notice without fixing it for any other day, and for having again revived that notice. There was another point, too, upon which he wished to touch before he came to the object of his motion, and that was a point of a personal nature,—the same point, indeed, which a noble friend of his had already that evening touched upon. His noble friend had said, that he was interested in some place not to be disfranchised, and complained that allusions had been made to that, as though the Bill had been so framed as to save his interest. Now he was quite sure 984 that the Government would acquit him of all disposition to impute such unworthy motives to them; and he did think that the best way of dealing with such accusations was, to put them by with the contempt they deserved. He had himself some connexion with one of the boroughs which was to be disfranchised. He had no wish nor reason to conceal that influence. It arose from the possession of property in land, and had continued in his family for nearly 100 years. Neither had he any wish to conceal the use which had been made of that influence by his family. It had always been used, with one exception only, he believed, to return members of the family to Parliament. Having stated this without reserve, he repeated, that he was not ashamed either of that influence, or of the way in which that influence had been exercised. The reason that he mentioned it was, that elsewhere, and particularly by the public Press, every one who possessed such influence was held up, if he differed from those who supported the Reform Bill, as a person who was not acting upon those principles which ought to influence the conduct of every man, but as being swayed by base and interested motives. Anyone who was personally acquainted with him would, he was assured, acquit him of being influenced by any considerations of personal interest; and as for those who had not a a personal knowledge of his character, he only asked them to look narrowly at the whole of his public life, and if they could point out one single instance in which he had acted as his interest, not his duty, prescribed, he was ready to submit to the condemnation of being unfit to have any share in legislating upon this, or indeed upon any other subject. His noble friend (Earl Cawdor) had said, that if this measure was right, he was perfectly ready to sacrifice any personal interest of his in favour of it. So, allow him to assure their Lordships, was he; but he must be convinced that it was right—he must be satisfied that it was for the good of the country: and when they were once shown that such was the character of the measure, then, in God's name, let all such influence be destroyed; or, if any of it was to be reserved, he would much rather that his did not form any part of the reservation. Personal interest ought not to be allowed to weigh for one single moment against a public good. The public good, however, 985 —the propriety of the measure,—must, he contended, be first made out. He stated these things because there were circumstances of his life which might induce some to think otherwise of him. One of the circumstances to which he alluded was the fact of his having a seat in that House. But if he were there among their Lordships, it was not in consequence of any parliamentary influence that he had ever possessed, but solely by the personal favour of the King. As a Member of the other House he had sat for the greatest county of England; and he believed his parliamentary influence had not had the slightest weight in procuring him the honour which had been conferred upon him. He begged pardon of their Lordships for detaining them with these matters; but he alluded to them because there was a disposition among many persons out of doors to hold up all who were situated as he was, as traitors to their country, and altogether unfit to vote upon the subject of Reform. To that, he for one would not subscribe. He was as fit to give a vote, and to exercise his judgment impartially, as any man who heard him. Having dealt with these points, he would pass on to the subject which he wished in making this Motion to bring under the attention of their Lordships. The circumstances under which they entered upon the discussion of this subject, ought to teach their Lordships, and the House of Commons, and the country, a great and important lesson; for in those circumstances was apparent the progress which Parliamentary Reform had made in consequence of what had passed within the walls of that and of the other House of Parliament. So far from denying what had been stated over and over again, in both Houses of Parliament, and also out of doors, namely, that there was a strong feeling among the people in favour of Reform—so far, he said, from denying this, he fully admitted it to be quite true. In fact, that feeling was more than strong—it was irresistible. It was impossible for any man, who was not absolutely blind, not to see that an administration which should be appointed upon the principle of withstanding all Reform, could no longer maintain its ground, but would be left night after night in constant minorities. There had been times of excitement in which the cry of Reform had been loudly raised; ever since he had entered public life, there had been a party which, for their own purposes, 986 had taken advantage of every opportunity of pressing that subject upon the public; but until a few years ago, it had never been taken up generally by the people—had never been brought forward and approved of at public meetings, where the opinions in favour of it were recorded in resolutions and petitions almost without opposition. The people, in fact, had taken upon themselves to reform the Parliament. He had always been ready to fight the battle of anti-reform while there was a party out of doors to back him; and let not those who had shrunk from the contest while there was a prospect of success, now come forward and complain that he and others, who had fought the battle while there was any use in fighting it, had now ceased to engage in so hopeless a contest. Above all, let not their Lordships wonder or complain at the progress which the question of Reform had made. At all times when the House of Commons had found a delinquent borough, they had endeavoured to punish it. They had passed bills, and sent them up to their Lordships; their Lordships refused to act upon the evidence taken below; and very rightly, for he admitted that it was at once the province and the duty of their Lordships to inquire for themselves; but then, what he complained of was this,—namely, that their Lordships insisted upon corruption being proved against a certain proportion of individuals, and upon evidence that the corruption had been practised for a considerable length of time. This was in every case very difficult, and in most cases absolutely impossible. He could not concur in the propriety of this course which their Lordships had persisted in following. He could not agree that the right of voting was a right of the same character with the right by which a man held his estate, but that it was a right mixed up with a trust; and, in this view, he could not see how it was necessary to prove general corruption in order to take away such a right. Now the first proceeding of this kind to which he wished to call the attention and the recollection of their Lordships was that in the case of the borough of Grampound; the first borough upon which, if he might be allowed the expression, sentence had been passed. The House of Commons disfranchised Grampound, transferred the franchise to Leeds, and sent the bill up to their Lordships. Previous to entering upon this statement, he should have remarked, that there had been growing up for some 987 time before in the manufacturing towns, and not only in the manufacturing, but in all the large towns, a feeling, and consequently a complaint, that they had no direct Representation in the House of Commons. The answer to this, undoubtedly, was, that although they had no direct Representatives in the House of Commons, yet that there were always found in that House persons who were ready to take care of their interests, to advance them, and to protect them. Up to a certain time that answer was thought satisfactory, but at length it was deemed one that ought not to content them, and the feeling, that large towns ought to be directly represented gained ground day by day. Under these circumstances it was, that the House of Commons sent up to their Lordships the Grampound Disfranchisement bill, which transferred the franchise of that borough to Leeds, one of the greatest manufacturing towns in the kingdom. Upon the bill coming up, their Lordships directed the usual inquiry, and found that they must disfranchise the borough. What course did their Lordships pursue then? Why their Lordships transferred the franchise, not to Leeds,—not to a large town,—but to the county of York. He would not then debate the circumstances and the reasons of that change in the destination of the franchise which had been resolved upon by the House of Commons, but he must say, that if the franchise had been given to Leeds, it would have been the beginning of a system which would have satisfied, in a great measure, that description of persons who were now among the most anxious for a more extensive Reform. The next case was that of Penryn. After a tedious and expensive inquiry, the House of Commons resolved upon disfranchising that borough, and transferring the franchise to Manchester. The bill was sent up to their Lordships, but, unfortunately, it was lost in that House for want of that particular species of evidence which their Lordships required. Next came that unfortunate case which he did in his conscience believe had done more to raise that feeling which now pervaded the country on the subject of Reform, than any circumstance, or measure, or occurrence whatsoever,—he meant the case of East Retford. It was proposed to disfranchise that borough, and to give the franchise to Birmingham; but a gentleman in the House of Commons, connected with the landed interest, and representing a county 988 in the neighbourhood of London, thought that the land was not sufficiently represented, and persuaded the House of Commons, under circumstances which he would not repeat, to change the direction of the transfer, and to throw it into a neighbouring hundred, and, in fact, to create another little county within the county of Nottingham; but in that case their Lordships had an opportunity of doing, in the "eleventh hour" what had so long been desired, and what it would have been so prudent, as their Lordships must now at least see, to have done. He attempted to persuade their Lordships, when the bill came up to that House, to give the franchise to Birmingham. Unfortunately he failed, and from that moment he believed the country had been convinced that all attempts to transfer franchises to large towns were made only to deceive them, and had looked with the utmost jealousy at the proceedings of the two Houses. Thus had arisen the feeling, that a general and efficient Reform was necessary. Again, let them look at the Session of Parliament in 1821. The noble Lord who had introduced the present measure, then moved for leave to bring in a bill to extend the elective franchise to three large towns—Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham; and he must say, that on that occasion a hint was given to the House of Commons, which it would have been well if the Legislature had taken. There were 140 for the Motion, and 188 against it. The majority against it was only forty-eight. When it was found that 140 Members of the House of Commons had voted in favour of such a Motion, that ought to have been taken as an indication of the feeling of the country; and if it had been so taken, the feeling would never have arisen to its present height. There was afterwards another proposition of the noble Lord's, which was, that a certain number of boroughs should be disfranchised,—but the division upon that was not so good. Any man, however, who saw this disposition in the House of Commons, ought to have been assured that the disposition out of doors proceeded to a much greater extent. This, too, had been apparent from the general elections, at which it was made a test, in all populous places, in a candidate, whether he would support Parliamentary Reform. He was sure, that a man who was prepared to say that he was against all Reform in Parliament would have found it very difficult to come forward 989 in any such place. The inquiry was met by saying, that they were not against a proper system of Reform, and by the observation—"Let us see the plan before you call upon us to decide:" but it was never answered to any large body of constituents, "No, I am opposed to all Reform in the state of the Representation." This, he contended, ought to have opened the eyes of the then existing Government, and should have made the Ministers take into their consideration the proper way of meeting the feelings of the people, without raising that excitement which now pervaded the country. He need not remind their Lordships of what occurred after the meeting of Parliament,—of the memorable declaration of the noble Duke (Wellington) behind him. They all recollected what passed then; none of them could forget that the noble Duke expressed himself adverse to all Reform. Need he remind their Lordships of the effect of that declaration? He need not; neither was it necessary for him to argue, what must have been obvious to them all,—namely, that from that moment it was clearly and avowedly impossible for the noble Duke to remain in office. Then they who had been anti-reformers all their lives,—they who had done all they could to stave off Reform,—saw a Government appointed on the very principle of Parliamentary Reform, saw his Majesty receiving the noble Earl opposite as his Minister, and allowing him to undertake the Government with a pledge of introducing Reform in Parliament. This was a situation in which he and the anti-reformers had never before been placed, for, under such circumstances, it became morally impossible to resist Reform any longer. He said that he must per force,—that he must, however reluctantly—become a Reformer. He believed that the House of Commons, under the existing system, to use the language of a Minister of the Crown, had been "the noblest assembly of free men in the world, and that they could not get men who would uphold the safety, the honour, and the dignity of the country with more virtue and talent than this abused assembly, which, up to this hour, had been the admiration of the world." They were now however, openly told, that there was, that there had been, no good in it, and that they must place the constituent body and the Representatives on a totally different footing. But what did it matter what he believed, when he could not persuade those 990 out of doors to think with him? If he could get, as he had formerly got, a party out of doors to back him, he would still fight the battle of anti-reform: but where was such a party to be found? He declared to God that he knew not where to look for it. Under these circumstances, then, all that there remained for him to do, was to endeavour that as little as possible more than was absolutely necessary should be done. He agreed that much must be done, but he denied that it was absolutely necessary to throw every thing away, and lay themselves open to the most extravagant demands. He would then call the attention of their Lordships to what had taken place on this subject in that House since the present Administration came into office. The noble Karl at the head of the Administration had told them, that in the early part of his life he had been a Reformer to a great extent, but that time had moderated his feelings, and all he now looked for was a moderate, but at the same time an efficient Reform. He should be sorry to misrepresent the noble Earl, but he had understood the noble Earl to say, that time had abated his notions of Reform to a great extent.
§ Earl Grey
begged to be allowed to set the noble Lord right. He had not stated that he had altered his views on this subject. What he had said was, that, looking to a moderate Reform, he also looked to an effectual Reform, and that he felt that nothing but a considerable Reform would satisfy the expectations of the people, and enable the Government to carry on the business of the State by means of the House of Commons. To this he had added, that in the Reform brought forward in the other House of Parliament, his Majesty's Ministers had kept in view the known principles of the Constitution, at the same time that they offered to Parliament an efficient measure.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
resumed—His statements of the noble Earl's expressions were not materially different from those which the noble Earl now used; and in every sentiment which the noble Earl had uttered, on the occasion he had already referred to, he fully acquiesced. The noble Earl would, perhaps, bear in mind that he had risen in his place at that time, and stated that he was ready to promise, that if the plan of Reform about to be introduced by his Majesty's Government was such as the noble Earl had stated, it should not meet 991 his opposition. He had also stated, that if the plan of Reform should not meet his approbation, he should not give it any thing like a factious opposition, and his noble friends opposite would do him the justice to say, that to that extent he had kept his word. The measure of Reform that had been brought forward, however effective it might be, was not, in his opinion, moderate, but put in danger all the institutions of the country, and therefore he now stood up to oppose it. He confessed there were other reasons which induced him to think that his Majesty's present Ministers would not have proposed a measure of the description which they had brought forward. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, a short time before his elevation to the office he now filled, was returned by acclamation for one of the greatest counties in the kingdom. It was the custom in that county for a candidate to state freely and publicly his sentiments on all great political questions, and the noble and learned Lord had gratified his constituents by specimens of his eloquence at various places, in which he had unfolded the plan of Reform which he should bring forward upon the sitting of Parliament, and that plan was nothing like that now proposed. It was a matter of great surprise, therefore, to him, when he recollected the plan unfolded by the noble and learned Lord, to find that noble and learned Lord now proposing, or, at all events, as one of his Majesty's Ministers consenting to a plan of Reform so different in its nature and degree from that he had expressed his intention of bringing forward. There was another cause which operated also in bringing his mind to a conviction that no such measure would have been proposed by his Majesty's Government as that brought forward in the other House. When he looked at the composition of the present Ministry, and at the bench opposite, he saw it was in a great part composed of men with whom he had acted for a considerable portion of his political life. Those men were the disciples of a great Statesman, compared with whom all those men seemed, in his day, as but pigmies. His voice had often been heard on this question, and his eloquence was of so commanding a character, that there was no one in the House of Commons who could touch with effect any subject he had handled. The right hon. person to whom he had alluded (Mr. Canning) had spent his whole life in opposition 992 to the principle laid down in the Bill now brought forward. Many of those who had brought forward that Bill, however, had looked up to Mr. Canning as one older in years, superior in ability, and in every way capable of being their guide. He was surprised to find those persons bringing down a Bill, therefore the object of which was to overthrow that Constitution which the great Statesman, to whom he had alluded had made such persevering efforts to sustain. He should not allude to the many bright pages in which what Mr. Canning had spoken and written on this subject might be found, as he trusted the eloquent observations of that statesman were known to most of their Lordships. There was one point in the present Bill to which Mr. Canning's numerous speeches had been particularly directed; he meant the existence of close boroughs. This was one of the points in the present system of Representation which Mr. Canning particularly defended; and recollecting that circumstance, and looking to the Bill now before the other House, he declared that he could not have believed it if he had not seen it,—though God knew that those who lived long in political life saw strange things—that any friends of Mr. Canning should have supported such a measure. He had seen wonderful changes in his time, but they had only convinced him more of the necessity there was that public men should see their way clearly, and endeavour to guide their politics by fixed rules and principles. The circumstances he had alluded to, undoubtedly gave him great confidence as to the nature of the measure to be proposed. He expected a great deal—he looked for a great deal to be done. He knew that no paltry measure would do; but when he was informed of the particulars of the plan to be brought forward, he was thunderstruck. He should not go so far as to say that the pledge to bring forward a moderate measure had been broken, neither would he say that the measure brought forward was revolutionary, as it seemed that there was a great objection to that word. If by the term revolutionary was meant a measure of anarchy, spoliation, and violence, he admitted that the proposed measure was nothing of that sort. It was a quiet change, but the change would not be the less complete because it might be effected quietly. Not to mince the matter, it was a radical change; and he said radical, because it did go to 993 tear up by the roots one great influence in the other House of Parliament. If the measure was carried into effect, the House of Commons would be an entirely popular elective assembly, without any great check. That, in his judgment, would be a change dangerous to the Monarchy. Another fault he found with this great change was, that it would not only be a dangerous change, but one that was totally unnecessary. He begged not to be mistaken. It was quite necessary that there should be an effective and proper measure of Reform, but not such a one as had been introduced. He would shortly state what was proposed. In the first place it was proposed that sixty boroughs should be disfranchised; that forty-seven boroughs should lose one Member; and that all the boroughs in the kingdom should be opened to householders rated at 10l. Not only that, but a Committee of the Privy Council were to have the power of annexing parishes and districts to any borough which had not above 300 voters. Every thing, therefore, tended to make the elections in those boroughs depend on the popular voice. This great change was defended on the ground that it was a return to old principles. He did not believe, however, that it was a return to old principles. He had endeavoured, by reference to the "History of England" since the days of Edward 3rd, to satisfy himself on that point. Many of the boroughs now returning Members exercised the privilege since the time of Edward 6th, and others since the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. He believed that, since the beginning of Parliaments in this country, small bodies had the right of returning Representatives. One of the great merits of the House of Commons, as at present constituted, was, that it represented various classes and descriptions of persons.. For some boroughs the qualification was high, in others very low; in a third description the franchise was confined to freemen, and so on. Thus every particular class was, in some degree, represented. It had been thus ever since the beginning of Parliaments; and, therefore, the proposed change did not stand upon any old principle. But it was further said, that those boroughs in former times were considerable places, and had a great population, and that, therefore, it was only returning to the old principle to take away the franchise from decayed bo- 994 roughs, and give it to large towns. The facts in this instance also he (Lord Wharncliffe) much doubted. He doubted whether the population of the boroughs was ever considerably greater or less than at this particular time. He could not find out, that the population of that borough, with which he was particularly connected had ever been greater than at present. He believed the right of returning Members in ancient times was given to boroughs upon quite different grounds from that of population. He believed that the privilege was granted by the Crown to particular places at the requisition of great noblemen and persons of influence. The franchise and the charters were accordingly given to many places having a very small population. Another ground urged in support of the measure was, that the people were insulted by the nomination boroughs, and that they could no longer see without disgust persons sitting in the House of Commons nominated by an individual, or representing only a small number of persons. On that point he might quote numberless passages from the speeches and writings of Mr. Canning and others, but he should not trespass on their Lordships' attention. He must be allowed, however, to read one extract from a living authority—the noble Lord who had introduced the Reform Bill into the other House of Parliament. That noble person (Lord J. Russell) had not only spoken on this subject, but he had written a book on it which he (Lord Wharncliffe) had read with great pleasure. In that work published in 1823. and entitled "An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution," his Lordship spoke thus at page 341:—"It is not to be denied that a body of 10,000 farmers or tradesmen will choose no man who is not known to them, either by his station in the country, or by a course of popular harangues. If, then, you make none but elections by large bodies, you either shut out the aristocracy of talent from your assembly, and constitute them into a body hostile to your institutions, or else you oblige them to become demagogues by profession."—"In that," continued Lord Wharncliffe, "I agree with his Lordship: that is exactly my view: but the noble Lord now comes down with a plan, which, according to his own shewing, must be dangerous. His Lordship added in reference to men of talents being either excluded from the House of 995 Commons or converted into demagogues, that "these are things both of them very dangerous and very pernicious to the State. It is useful, therefore, to have some elections by persons who, from their station in society, are acquainted with the characters of the men of talent of the day. This may be done either by forming some elective bodies of a few persons with high qualifications, or by giving to property a commanding influence in the return of a proportion of Members." At page 344 his Lordship continues,—"Enlightened Englishmen of every class find their way into the House of Commons. Those who have property in land are candidates for their respective counties:—those who have made their fortune by commerce or manufactures may easily establish an interest in cities with which they have some connexion; or in towns (there are many such) where without bribery, the inhabitants require a man of fortune to support their public institutions, and give them his custom in laying out his income. There remains the aristocracy of talent, who arrive at the House of Commons by means of close boroughs, where they are nominated by Peers or Commoners, who have the property of these boroughs in their hands. In this manner the greater part of our distinguished Statesmen have entered Parliament, and some of them, perhaps, would never have found admittance by any other way. The use of such Members to the House itself, and to the country, is incalculable. Their knowledge and talent give a weight to the deliberations, and inspire a respect for parliamentary discussion, which in these times it is difficult for any assembly to obtain. The speeches, too, of able and eloquent men produce an effect in the country, which is reflected back again on Parliament, and thus the speech of one Member for a close borough is often of more benefit to the cause of truth and justice than the votes of twenty silent Senators. Some danger as well as anxiety, it may be thought, arises from the power of nomination to a seat in a Representative body. Theoretically, it would be better if the Members sent by single persons were elected by a body of such constituents; but in practice it is not found that the borough proprietors combine together to sell their influence; on the contrary, they are firm to their several party connexions, and oftentimes they preserve to the House a great orator, whom the clamour of the day 996 or a fortuitous circumstance, has thrown out." Such was on one occasion the case with Mr. Fox. He had been told that the question had been put in this manner in another place—"Supposing a foreigner were to come into your country, and were to go into your populous and opulent manufacturing districts, and were to be informed that such places sent no Representatives to the House of Commons, and supposing him to go afterwards to some of your decayed boroughs, and to find that those places sent two Representatives to guard their interests, would not that foreigner consider it as a great anomaly?" Undoubtedly it was an anomaly; but supposing that he were to tell that same foreigner, "Here is an able man, who sat himself calmly down in his room, without any excitement, to write his thoughts and to give them to the world when written, on the British Constitution, and who told us that these close boroughs had done most great and excellent things for us, and yet who rose up in seven years afterwards in his place in Parliament, and told us that all he had said before was nonsense, that we ought to get rid of the boroughs, and that we ought to let talent get into Parliament as it could,"—would not that foreigner consider that circumstance also as a great anomaly? The noble Lord, as it appeared to him, had no excuse for the change, for he had told the public, in the extract which he had just read, not only why, but also how, the boroughs were of use to the country. He had no occasion to do more on the present occasion than say that he had learnt the lesson which he was now repeating from the noble Lord; but he would go further, and would say that he had heard all the great men of our times say precisely the same thing. Indeed he needed not go further than the other side of the House to illustrate the advantages which the country derived from these close boroughs. In the noble and learned Lord then on the Woolsack he saw a great and striking proof of their utility. He would ask that noble and learned Lord,—he would ask all the noble Lords opposite,—whether they were prepared to cut off from the Constitution at one blow those boroughs by which they had all first entered Parliament, and to which the country was indebted for the means of ascertaining their talents? He begged pardon, he ought not to have said all, for he believed that his noble friend (the Lord Privy Seal) 997 did, from his first entrance into public life represent a large and independent county. But his noble relative near him (Earl Grey) had, he believed, commenced his political career in a close borough. It was true, that he had afterwards represented the large county of Northumberland; but when, for some reasons into which it was immaterial then to enter, it became inconvenient to the noble Earl to represent that county, he did not disdain to take shelter in a small borough. The Lord President, if he recollected rightly, had begun his career as a Member for a small borough, and had afterwards been elected member for the University of Cambridge. He would next proceed to the noble Secretary for the Colonial Department, for it appeared that all the Ministers hung together upon this subject. His noble friend had been Member for a poor rotten borough. [Lord Goderich; No, no—for a Corporation.] Be it so; but then the Corporation was under the influence of a powerful individual. Then there was his noble friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He was aware that his noble friend had represented the county of Hertford; but as, for some reason or other, he could not continue to represent that county, his noble friend had not been ashamed to sit for a close borough. He next came to his noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. If ever there had been a man whose ability had shone forth prominently from a rotten borough, it was the ability of his noble and learned friend. Whilst the electors of England chose to be represented by talent and ability, there was no man whom he had ever seen in his life—and he spoke it with the utmost sincerity—who was more worthy of their choice. His noble and learned friend had, for a time, sat for a close borough—be was then a candidate for Liverpool, a very populous place—but there he failed. He had twice, he believed perhaps it might be thrice—[The Lord Chancellor: Three times.]—I contested a great county. [The Lord Chancellor: A small county.]—Well, it might be a small county - but he had failed, and upon every failure he had fallen back on his close borough. At last, when, by the possession of a seat for a close borough he had displayed his superior talents to his country, and the commanding influence which those superior talents gave him over the minds of men, he was returned as their Representative by one of the largest, 998 and most populous, and most intelligen districts in England. Now, after all this, he could not help thinking that Ministers had been ungrateful in a great degree to those unfortunate boroughs. He would not pursue this subject further; there could be no doubt that this description of constituency had afforded the country the means of employing and retaining in its service all the great talents which had appeared for many years. He doubted—nay he would venture to deny—that a similar amount of talent would be introduced into Parliament under this new Bill. What Lord John Russell had said was undoubtedly true, that if these close boroughs were abolished, young men of talents would be compelled to become demagogues in order to make themselves sufficiently known to the people. He would ask, could such a system be accompanied with good? Under the present system, there were also plenty of persons ready to excite the passions of the people; but he should be sorry to see the day come when a candidate must go about the country making inflammatory speeches, exciting the passions of the people as the only means of obtaining a seat in Parliament. Having said thus much on the principle of the Bill, before he adverted to the details, he would say, that though he was much surprised when this Bill was first introduced into Parliament, he was still more surprised when he saw that it was received with greater unanimity of approbation than any bill which he had ever known in the course of his experience. He confessed such to be the fact, and the more he grieved at it the more was he surprised that such should have been its effects; for he believed that never had there been a greater delusion offered to the people than this Bill would turn out to be. That the Bill was cleverly drawn he did not mean to deny—the great characteristic of it was, that it appeared to give all classes a little peculiar advantage, whilst it glossed over the great disadvantages which it would inflict upon them all collectively. It was with the most unfeigned astonishment that he saw the landed interest promoting it, under the notion that it would be of benefit to them. The bait held out to the landed interest was his—that twenty-seven counties, which at present only returned two, should in future return each four Members to Parliament, and that a wonderful emanation from the Privy Council should go 999 about the country and divide the counties into such districts as should seem best to their collective wisdom. If their Lordships would only look at these twenty-seven counties, they would see that there were many of them which contained large manufacturing districts, and his learned friend on the Woolsack and himself knew that in such counties members of the landed interest did not possess the same weight which they did possess in other counties of England. Now, a word as to the advantages to be derived from this new system of county Representation. They had been told that many of the voters for counties came from towns, and that such voters, when the right of Representation was given to the towns which they inhabited, would be excluded from voting for Representatives for the county. Now this Bill established no such exclusion. All that the Bill said was, that the voter should not vote for the county in right of that freehold which gave him a vote in his town or borough. But what did that amount to? Persons who lived in boroughs would not vote in right of the freehold houses which they possessed within it; but if they had freeholds at all, they would in all probability have a little land or a little garden, worth 40s. a-year out of the town; and that would give them a vote for the county. Nay more, if they had a warehouse, or even a stable, out of the town, it would give them a vote. Though householders of 10l. a-year would only be entitled to vote in the boroughs, it was a fallacy to state that householders under that amount would not be entitled to vote for the Comity Representation. Many of them would. Then came another alleged and fallacious advantage. The Bill gave a right of voting in counties to copyholders of 10l. a-year. He did not believe that there would be a large body of those voters, but if there were, they would not be of any benefit to the landed interest. In what did copyholds consist? Of houses generally,—of large farms seldom. In copyholds there was a strong tendency not to bring the copyholder and the Lord of the Manor together, but to keep them apart. To confer the privilege of voting on copyholders would not, therefore, be of any advantage to landlords. Then the suffrage was to be extended to leaseholders for terms of twenty-one years, and this was also described as an advantage to the landed interest. There might be in Northumber- 1000 land, and in Scotland, many such leases; but they were of rare occurrence in the more southern districts of England. He knew of none, save in the neighbourhood of large manufacturing towns, where individuals wishing to lay out their capital would not take the lease of buildings, or of ground, for manufacturing purposes, for a less period of years. He knew of no farms that were let in England for the same long-period. He did not, therefore, look on that provision of the Bill as one calculated to strengthen the interest of the landlord. He therefore wished to be informed how the landed interest was to derive any benefit from this Bill. Nominally, indeed, they got fifty-four additional Members; but of what description? His valued friend, the noble Duke at the head of the Post-office, had often told him, both in public and in private, that he (Lord Wharncliffe) had lost all feeling for the landed interest—that he was swayed by his connexion with the manufacturing interests, and that he had given a strong proof of it in the opinions which he had taken up with respect to wool. Undoubtedly there was a bias in the minds of Members returned for large manufacturing counties to lean to the manufacturing rather than to the agricultural interest, and when he looked at the counties which were to receive two Members in addition, he must say, that he looked upon that addition to be rather more for the advantage of the manufacturing and commercial than the landed interests. Besides, it ought not to be forgotten that in addition to such Members, many great towns would have to send Representatives to the House of Commons, elected by an enormously extended popular body of constituents. The proposition was, that all householders of 10l. and upwards should have votes. Now, how was the amount of voters thus added to the constituency to be ascertained? His Majesty's Ministers had referred to the returns of the tax collectors; but was the number of these voters to be found in the tax papers? Under the present system, it was the desire of every man to keep his house out of the tax paper. It was a difficult matter for the tax-gatherer to get an account of the real value of any house, as all kinds of attempts were now made to reduce their value. It would, however, be found, as soon as this Bill passed, that the number of houses rated at 10l. would far exceed the number of houses now rated at that amount in the 1001 tax-gatherer's books. The moment that it was ascertained that a house rent of 10l. a year gave the elective franchise, means would be found between the landlord and tenant to raise the rent to that amount. All their Lordships knew the mode in which rents were sometimes raised for the purpose of obtaining settlements. The barrister would have to go round the country pretty frequently, otherwise the amount of the constituent body would never be known. He contended that by this provision of the Bill the body of electors would be much larger than any person had at this moment an idea of. He had made an inquiry into the rent of houses in the neighbourhood of London, from which eight additional Members were to be sent to a reformed Parliament. In some of the parishes of London, and he believed that he might even add, that in many of the neighbouring villages, there were few houses at so low a rent as 10l. a year. He happened to have a gardener, to whom he paid 14s. a week. He asked this gardener how much he paid a year for house rent. The man replied, 12l. He then said to the gardener, "Perhaps your house is better than that of most of your neighbours?" The man replied, "No; I know of but very few houses in our parish which do not pay 10l. a year rent." If to the 10l. householders in the sixteen villages in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, the same class of householders in the extensive villages of Greenwich and Woolwich were added, it would be seen that the metropolis and its neighbourhood would have a constituency enormous beyond all calculation. There appeared to be a fondness on the part of the framers of this Bill for an enormously large constituency; for even in places where the constituency might have been reduced, they have proposed to save the elective franchise to the existing freemen for their lives. The borough of Liverpool, for example, contained, he believed, 6,000 freemen. A great number of these freemen must therefore be added to the number of householders in that place, which he was told amounted to 25,000; and this number of voters, according to the provisions of this Bill, were to be polled in two days. He had no hesitation in saying that this could not be done. The grounds, therefore, upon which this Bill was supported, failed, and no such advantage would be derived from it as its advocates expected. He would say one 1002 word as to the check which it would be on bribery, and as to its effects in diminishing the expense of contested elections. He knew something about that expense, and he was of opinion, that though this Bill might diminish the cost of elections in some respects, as in the expense of conveying voters to the poll, it would not diminish it at all in some other respects, which were not less material. In great counties, the expense was not so much in conducting voters to the poll, as in the canvassing and the agency. This latter head of expenditure would not be, he believed, at all diminished by the Bill. Undoubtedly, as the poll was to be taken in different places simultaneously, there would be in that respect a diminution of expense; but it would be worth while to consider how far that would be counteracted by the additional expense to which the candidate would be exposed in canvassing in all those different places. There would be an expense constantly going on for the reception and registration of votes. A barrister, it appeared, was to go round the country annually, registering votes, but if a conflict between the different interests of a county were expected, would it not be necessary for each candidate on the opposing interests to have an agent to go regularly round the county every year, with the registering barrister, in order to prevent any of his influence from being lost from want of registration on the part of his voters? He would not go further into the particulars of this Bill at present. If it should ever come up to their Lordships,—and he hoped that it never would,—he should be prepared to discuss it point by point. All he would say of it at present was, that upon the most careful examination which he had been able to give to its details, it did appear to him to be as complete a delusion as had ever been offered to the country; for instead of increasing the weight of the landed interest in Parliament, it would diminish it, and would therefore lessen and ultimately destroy the due power of the aristocracy. Nothing was so common—indeed it was so common as to have become an adage—nothing was so common, he observed, as the remark, that the landed interest and the manufacturing interest of the country were one and indivisible—that they must fall or thrive together; and that whatever was good for the one must of necessity be good for the other also. It did, however, happen, somehow or other, 1003 that whenever any thing arose which touched the separate advantages of those two great classes of society, the manufacturing were ready enough to range themselves against the agricultural classes. He believed that when once this Bill was passed, the landed interest would find, when it was too late, that an opening was made for the total repeal of the Corn-laws; and that the additional number of electors added to the close boroughs and to the large towns, would give the manufacturers a preponderance in the House of Commons which would be destructive of their interests. He believed that such an object had been avowed by many of the inhabitants of towns as one of the principal reasons which they had for pressing forward this Bill. He asked those who contended that this Bill was to be a permanent measure, and who affirmed that the demands of the people were to be completely satisfied by it, what course they were prepared to pursue upon the Corn-laws? Supposing that the people should ask for the total repeal of those laws, and that their petitions should be unsuccessful, as on that point he hoped they always would be, did they expect that the people would acquiesce in such a decision of Parliament against them? They would say, "This state of things cannot be permitted to endure—we will have"—for that was now the language of the people—"we will have the Corn-laws repealed, and to obtain that consummation, we must have the House of Commons rendered even still more popular in its constitution." If noble Lords would take the trouble of looking, as he had done, through the numbers likely to be returned from the different counties and boroughs under this new Bill, they would see, that whenever a vote was to be taken, on a question on which the agricultural and the manufacturing interests differed, the landed interest would lose that weight which now belonged, and as he believed properly belonged, to it. He had now, stated generally the faults which he had to find with the Bill, but if he had reason to find fault with the Bill itself, he had still greater reason to find fault with the mode in which it had been introduced to the consideration of Parliament. It had been brought forward by a member of his Majesty's Government, and with a most extraordinary use of his Majesty's name. He did not mean to say that his Majesty's name had been used improperly, but it had 1004 been used in a way which had given a hint to all the press of the country to fix on the King as being personally desirous to promote a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament. Now, he was of opinion, that that was a situation in which the King of these realms ought not to be placed. It had been said, that the very same thing had been done in the discussions which preceded the last Catholic bill. He was aware that this Reform Bill was brought in by the consent of the Cabinet. The very fact of its being so introduced into Parliament was enough to show that the King had officially given it his sanction. Now in the case of the Catholic bill a doubt had been very sedulously excited as to whether the King was not adverse to the measure, although he had officially sanctioned its introduction. The noble Duke then at the head of the Government was questioned explicitly on the point, and it was not till that question was put to him, that he answered, that the King had given his entire sanction to the bill. Here, however, of their own accord, it was stated by Ministers, that his Majesty had given his most decided approbation to the Bill; and shortly after that expression had been used in that House of Parliament, an expression was dropped in the other, that if the measure did not succeed there, Parliament would be dissolved. Now, if ever there was a subject which required calm and mature deliberation, it was this measure. It was not a reform, but a reconstruction of Parliament. No measure, since the Revolution of 1688, had equalled it in importance; and there was no want of the aid of the King's name, or of the King's interference, to promote this, as he thought, frightful change. The feelings of the people in all parts of the country were so strong upon it, that he believed that if the question were to be decided by ballot, there would be very few balls except on one side. For his own part, he quarrelled greatly with the extent to which this Reform was to be carried; for it appeared to him, that instead of being asked for by the people, the disfranchisement of the close boroughs was thrown down at their feet, uselessly and voluntarily, by the Ministers. He need scarcely refer their Lordships to the sensation which had pervaded the metropolis the day after this plan of Reform was propounded. Every man whom you met,—no matter whether he was Whig, or 1005 Tory, or Radical,—held up his hands in surprise on hearing that so much was conceded. If noble Lords would, in their love of novelty, take the pains of inquiring into the feelings of certain classes of the community, they would find that there was among them a desire of Reform, but not to the extent to which they proposed to carry it. Their plan of Reform was inconsiderate,—was rash; but now that they had proposed it, it had excited a torrent of popular feeling in its behalf, which it was almost impossible to stop. It was said, that in this state of excitement his Majesty's Government were determined to take the sense of the country, and to dissolve the Parliament; and why? Already had the House of Commons affirmed the extent of the proposed disfranchisement. ["No."] He thought that he could convince his noble friend who denied his statement, that the principle and extent of disfranchisement had been sanctioned, when, upon a division in the largest House of Commons that was ever known, there was a majority of one in favour of the Second reading of the Bill. That, however, would not prevent the House of Commons from being dissolved. Any one who knew any thing of the House of Commons, knew that many Members had voted for the second reading of the Bill, and were prepared to vote for the disfranchisement of the boroughs to a certain extent, who were not ready to vote for the subsequent details of the Bill, or carry it as it at present stood through a Committee. ["No."] He was stating what he believed to be the fact; and he hoped that their Lordships would give him credit for doing so upon all occasions, whether it made against his arguments or not. The chief hope of many of those who had voted, and as he thought foolishly voted, for the second reading of this measure was, that they should be able to modify it in the committee. In this hope he was afraid they would be disappointed, and therefore he thought, that they would have acted more wisely had they opposed it altogether. He had heard it said, that noble Lords on the other side of the House had introduced this Bill because they wanted to obtain a permanent resting-place against the future demands of the people. He had already stated one instance in which a cry was almost certain to be speedily raised against the landed interest, in which it would be said that its power was too great 1006 in the House of Commons, and in which, it would be insisted that its power ought to be diminished in order to obtain the repeal of the Corn-laws. Questions of a similar description would arise over and over again in the course of years, and therefore, strong, imprudent, and blameable, as this measure was, it would not even have the merit of effecting the consummation which its proposers professed to have most strongly at heart. The thing was quite impossible. There was no taking a final stand against the demands of the people on this Bill; for they would also state that they were not sufficiently represented. Besides, if this Bill were to pass, it would not be long before they would be compelled to give the colonial interests of the country some direct interest in the Representation of the House of Commons. They would not be satisfied with having no Members to represent them, even indirectly, in that assembly. There was another glaring defect in this Bill. He contended that, if ever it passed into a law, it would be quite impossible for the Government to go on. In times of excitement it would be quite impossible for all the members of the Government to be so popular as to be certain of obtaining seats in the House of Commons. Indeed it was the duty of Ministers to counteract popular opinion sometimes, and God forbid that a Government should exist in this country determined to be guided on all occasions by the popular voice. The present question was not a question like the Catohlic question, which was a pure and simple question of right and justice. The Catholics had certain rights, from which we had debarred them. We gave them their rights, and thus an end was put to that question. At present they were giving rights to some and taking them from others, and still leaving great masses of men without Representation, and without the rights they claimed. It was therefore absurd to talk to him of this Bill serving as a resting-place from which to oppose the future demands of the people. He must condemn, too, in strong terms the irresponsible system of Representation which this Bill was calculated to introduce. He had seen the time when the salvation of the country was effected by carrying questions contrary to the popular feeling. Look, for instance, at the decisions respecting Currency and Free 1007 Trade. He had had a considerable connexion with several large manufacturing towns, and he knew that a strong" feeling had existed in them against those decisions. He knew that the Parliament had been right, and the manufacturers wrong; but what must be done on such questions in future, when a Reformed Parliament was returned, elected by, and dependent on, a large popular constituency? If the popular feeling were resisted by the House of Commons, all the questions which this Bill was intended to close would open again, and they would soon have something to do in their attempts to reclose them. There were other persons in the State, who bore him out in that assertion. He alluded to those who, during the whole course of his parliamentary life, had been in the habit of attacking the institutions of the country, and who preferred to them a republic, or such a government as was now established in France—a monarchy based on republican institutions. Let their Lordships attend to the language used by persons of that description. On Sunday, the 6th of March, 1831, there appeared in the Examiner, a paper written with the greatest ability on the side which it espoused, the following remarks:—"Ministers have far exceeded our expectations. The plan of Reform, though short of Radical Reform, tends to the utter destruction of boroughmongery, and will prepare the way for a complete improvement. The ground, limited as it is, which it is proposed to clear and open to the popular influence, will suffice, as the spot desired by Archimedes, for the plant of the power that must ultimately govern the whole system. Without Reform, convulsion is inevitably Upon any Reform further improvement is inevitably consequent, and the settlement of the Government on the democratical basis certain. If we supposed that the plan before us could be permanent, we should declare it insufficient; but we have no such apprehension in an age of onward movement, and we hail it as a first step to a greater good, and as a first step to abandoning an odious vice. It does not give the people all they want, but it takes the arms from their enemies. Like Sinbad, we have first to dash from our shoulders the old man of the island, and afterwards to complete our deliverance." Could any thing, he would ask, be fairer or more explicit than such language? Was it possi- 1008 ble for any man to mistake its meaning? and, being forewarned, ought they not to be forearmed against it? But he was told, that when this Bill was passed, we should have so many with us that we need not fear those who might be against us. He wished sincerely, and from the bottom of his heart, that such hopes might be realized, but a great part of those hopes appeared to him to rest upon grounds which were in themselves untenable. But whether they were so or not, he wished their Lordships to remark one point, that the way in which the writer in the Examiner expected that this plan of Reform would work was this,—that in the first instance the people would work on the House of Commons; and that in the second, the House of Commons would operate on the other branches of the Legislature. That consideration brought him to reflect upon the situation in which that House might eventually be placed; and he asked their Lordships seriously, whether, when a popular House of Commons, backed by a powerful popular Press, should pass this Bill, they could think of resisting it? It might be their duty to resist? were they prepared to perform it? They were placed in that House to stand between the Commons and the Throne. He wished that they might be able to perform their duty effectually, but he was afraid that they would be made tools of, to advance the power of the people against the Crown. In what a situation were their Lordships placed by this Bill of Reform; If Parliament were to be dissolved in the present juncture of affairs, and if Members were to be returned to the House of Commons under the present excitement, the country would have a Convention Parliament,—a mere House of Delegates to vote as the people ordered; for there would be no return made to the House from a popular place in which the Member would not be pledged and bound down to vote for the Bill, and nothing but the Bill. Then when the Bill came to them from the other House, thus backed by the demands of the people, would their Lordships refuse it? He said, that it was not fair to place the House of Lords in such a predicament; and if he could make his voice heard from that place by the King upon the Throne, he would say, that if Parliament should now be dissolved by his Majesty's proclamation, it would place the House of Lords in a most dangerous situation. If they could be con- 1009 vinced that the disfranchisement of these boroughs was required by the interests and exigences of the State, in God's name let their Lordships, acting upon their convictions, make the Reform demanded of them calmly and deliberately; but do not let their Lordships be placed in a situation where they had no chance for calm deliberation, no alternative but open resistance or instant compliance with the wishes of the people. He called upon them to reflect, over and over again, that if Parliament should now be dissolved, they would have nothing but a House of Delegates in the next House of Commons, for they would get no man in his senses to stand the expense of a contested popular election who was certain to be sent to the right-about immediately afterwards; and sent to the right-about he must be within three months after his election, if this Bill passed. When the House of Commons should be nothing more than a House of Delegates to pass this Bill, the House of Lords might deliberate upon the Bill when it came before them, but it would scarcely be able to alter or reject it. For a Whig Ministry, and a liberal Ministry, to act as Ministers had acted upon this question, was, he confessed, a matter which had indeed surprised him. He had now gone through the different arguments which he had intended to employ against this Bill. He hoped that his noble friends would give him credit for the sincerity of his belief, when he stated, that he considered it to be a measure which if passed, would be fatal to the Crown, would prevent the due and proper action of the different branches of the State, and which tended, if not to destroy the Monarchy, to base it 0n a government of republican institutions. He had been born under a Monarchy, he had lived under Monarchy, and he wished to see that Monarchy last as a protection not only to his children, but to his children's children and their still more remote descendants and with these feelings he must say, that to such a Bill as this he never could bring his reason to consent. The noble Lord concluded by submitting the following Motion: "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, to request that his Majesty will be graciously pleased to order that there be laid before this House, accounts of the population (taken from the census o 1821) of each City, Borough, and Town in England and Wales, now returning Mem- 1010 bers to Parliament; of each not now returning Members; and of the population of each county in England Wales, and Scotland, and of each Royal Burgh in Scotland. Also, accounts of the number of houses in each city, borough and county in England and Wales, and of each county, royal burgh, and town in Scotland, now returning Members to Parliament, and of those not now returning Members to Parliament; distinguishing the number of houses assessed to the inhabited house duty from 10l. to 19l. inclusive; and from 20l. to 39l. inclusive, and at 40l. and upwards. Also, a statement of the population of each borough in England and Wales returning Members to Parliament, of which the population in 1821 did not exceed 2,000; the number of houses; the greatest number of electors polled within the last thirty years; and the number of houses in each borough rated to the inhabited house duty in the year 1830, at and above 10l. a-year Also, a similar statement with respect to all cities and boroughs exceeding 4,000 inhabitants: and also, a similar statement with respect to all cities and royal burghs in Scotland."
Lords Durham and Viscount Sidmouth
rose together, but the call of the House was in favour of the former noble Lord, who was proceeding to address their Lordships, when,
rose to order. The noble Lord observed, that he had been a Member of that House for twenty-nine years, and had never before known so gross a breach of privilege as that which had been committed by the noble Lord who had just sat down ["order, order".] He begged to observe, that he rose to order, and to say, that, in his opinion, the noble Lord who had just sat down had been out of order during the greater part of the time that he had been occupied in addressing their Lordships, by discussing the details of a Bill which was not yet before their Lordships, and which it was by no means certain would ever come before them.
§ Viscount Sidmouth
said, that it was on 1011 a point of order, and not to enter upon a discussion of the measure on which the noble Baron had just expatiated at such length that he had risen to address their Lordships. Had he yielded to his feelings,—and never were they more painfully excited than when listening to the noble Lord,—he should have at once risen to order, and called upon their Lordships to put an end to a discussion so irregular in itself, and so contrary to the usages of Parliament. He had heard the noble Lord's first notice of his Motion with uneasiness, and his subsequent declaration to not persist in it, with satisfaction; for he could not but be apprehensive of the inconveniences, to say the least, of a premature and most anomalous discussion of a Bill not yet on the Table of the House, and with the provisions of which they could not be acquainted. He trusted the House would not persist in sanctioning so irregular a discussion as that which the noble Baron had just most informally provoked, on a Bill of which all they could know was, that it had been read a. first and second time in the House of Commons, and had been ordered to be committed, and with the detailed provisions of which even that House could not be yet acquainted.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
.—I also must rise to order. If the noble Viscount thus goes on descanting on the informality of my speech and Motion, I must claim the right of replying to him.
had nothing more to say than to conjure their Lordships to at once check a discussion, not only opposed to the usage of Parliament, but which might lead to the most mischievous consequences.
§ Earl Grey
was bound to testify to the perfect fairness with which his noble friend (Wharncliffe) had brought forward his Motion. When his noble friend had given notice of his Motion, he had candidly stated that he would make it the occasion of expressing his views with respect to the general question of Parliamentary Reform, and not merely confine himself to moving for returns, which might throw light on that measure now in progress in the other House of Parliament. Still, however, it was a question for their Lordships to decide, how far that discussion should extend to the provisions of a Bill not yet before their Lordships, and which, for aught they knew, might never come before them. It was not for him to pronounce a decided opinion upon that ques- 1012 tion, and stop the noble Baron. All he would say was, that it appeared to him, that after having attentively listened to the elaborate statement of his noble friend, they could not with propriety stop at that stage of the discussion. While he stated this, he agreed perfectly with the noble Viscount (Sidmouth) opposite, as to the inconvenience of pronouncing a decided opinion on a Bill not yet before them, and which, as he had said, might not come before them at all, and he therefore hoped that subsequent discussion would be confined as much as possible to the general principles of Parliamentary Reform, without any inconvenient reference to details with which they could not yet be acquainted.
§ The Earl of Eldon
took great blame to himself for not having sooner, after his long experience of nearly thirty- years, in that House, risen to order. He had expected from the wording of the noble Lord's Motion, that it would be confined to procuring the means of throwing light on the great question which was then in the other House of Parliament, but not that it should have been merely an occasion for entering on the details of a Bill not yet before their Lordships. The noble Lord might, without violating the usages of Parliament, have given expression to his opinions on the principles of the general measure of Reform; but in pronouncing an opinion on the provisions of a Bill not yet, as he had said, before them, and which, for aught they knew, or were bound to know, might not come before them, he was acting directly contrary to the usages of Parliament. Indeed, he took shame to himself for not having sooner risen, and endeavoured to put an end to a discussion not only so opposed, as he had said, to every usage of that House, but which also might be productive of the most serious inconveniences. The noble Lord had not contented himself with expressing his view of the general measure of Reform, but had ventured to specify the grounds on which it had received the support of hon. Members individually in the other House of Parliament, than which discussion he need not say, nothing could be more irregular, or more opposed to the rules which regulated the proceedings in that House. He therefore must express a hope that a discussion so irregular would not be persisted in. He was anxious that so irregular a discussion should not receive the countenance of their Lordships, and parti- 1013 cularly concerning a measure the most revolutionary in its principle and details that had ever come under his notice.
The Lord Chancellor
felt it right to; caution their Lordships against too implicitly yielding to the suggestions of the noble and learned Earl. That noble and learned Lord had, with great candour and self-accusation, told them he took shame to himself for not having sooner risen to put an end to the irregular discussion in which, according to him, they were then engaged; but it was not till the noble and learned Lord, in common with their Lordships, had listened to every single argument that had been urged with great skill and ability by the noble Baron against the principle of the great measure of Reform now in progress in the other House of Parliament,—and to not only every argument and objection that might be urged against the provisions of that measure, but many objections which would not bear examination,—that the noble and learned Lord had made the discovery, that they had been all the while engaged in an informal and anomalous discussion, and that he called upon them not to sanction a continuance of the discussion. Was this fair to the Bill? Would it not go forth to the public, who awaited, with breathless expectation, the progress of the debates touching that Bill, that they had listened to all that could be said against the Bill, and would not hear what might be said by its advocates in its favour? After listening with deep attention to a speech of upwards of two hours' length, studded with objections and cavils against every the minutest provision of the Bill, and just as a noble Lord, one of its authors, had risen to reply to those objections, and to vindicate the policy on which Ministers had felt it to be their duty to bring it before Parliament,—after thus calmly and listeningly, and, he might add, favourably attending to all that might be urged on the one side,—all the while none of the approvers of the objections thus urged ever dreaming of any informality in the the the noble objector was pursuing,—never suspecting the remotest violation of the order of that House,—the noble and learned Earl just now, for the first time, discovers that they were quite disorderly, and that they could not too soon put an end to this contrary-to-order-and-usage discussion. Since a quarter to six o'clock it appeared they were acting thus disor- 1014 derly; and now a light broke in upon them, and the noble and learned Earl cries out, "Gods! how disorderly we have been all these two hours; let us be So no longer: let us amend, and not sanction the irregular discussion,—no, not two minutes longer." It would appear that they had, during these two hours of oblivion of the usages of parliament, for which the noble and learned Earl had so mournfully reproached himself, exhausted all their disorderliness, and that therefore they could not for the souls of them continue so for a short time longer. It had been said that every person in his life-time eats and consumes a quantity of noxious matter, which at one meal would be fatal—and so with the present disorderly proceedings. It seemed as if the noble and learned Earl, and those who supported him, had resolved thus:—"Let us eat all at once our whole stock of irregularity, and in God's name let us not hear a word which would imply that all had not been exhausted." But he trusted the House would not be thus led away by the noble and learned Earl; and that an opportunity would be afforded of hearing something on the other side of the question. In saying this, however, he agreed with his noble friend, and the noble Viscount (Sidmouth,) as to the inconveniences,, of a premature and out-of-place discussion on a Bill not yet before the House, and he hoped with them, that in the subsequent discussion they would refrain as much as possible from entering into the details of that Bill, and only by way of illustration of their views of its general principles. It was but due to the noble Baron who had at such length departed from the usages of parliament in his speech, to state that he had, on giving notice of his Motion, candidly and good-humouredly, though not very logically, stated that he would not wait till the Bill was formally before their Lordships, but should, on moving for the present returns, express his opinion on its principle and provisions.
—My Lords, I can assure the noble Viscount (Sidmouth) that I should not have persisted, under ordinary circumstances, in claiming to be heard before him; but under the peculiar circumstances of the case, connected, as I am, with, the Administration which has originated the measure of Reform now before the other✶ Printed from the corrected speech published by Ridgway.1015 House of Parliament, I feel called upon to reply to my noble friend; otherwise, I would most readily have given way to a Member of your Lordships' House, of much less experience, and of less character than the noble Viscount. I am glad, however, that an opportunity has been afforded to my noble and learned friend (the Lord Chancellor) to show that the noble Viscount was much more out of order in adopting the line of conduct which he did than my noble friend, whose speech he declared to be so disorderly; for, I would; ask, what can be more irregular—what more contrary to justice—what more op posed to fairness and impartiality of debate—than, after hearing a long and able speech against a certain measure, to stand up and declare that, to listen to a reply in defence of that measure, would be disorderly, and contrary to all the usages and customs of Parliament? But my noble and learned friend on the Woolsaclchas so ably exposed the inconsistency—nay, the gross injustice of this attempt to induce your Lordships to stop at the present stage of the proceedings, and the general sense of the House has been so strongly marked on the occasion, that I need say no more on the subject. Now, with regard to the speech of my noble friend opposite, I certainly shall not attempt to answer in detail all the points on which he dwelt, as I have neither health nor inclination to do so now. I am delighted, however, that an opportunity has been afforded me of disabusing the mind of my noble friend, and of many of your Lordships, with respect to certain misrepresentations and misconceptions which have been so industriously propagated. Before I enter on the consideration of the principle and details of the Bill, against which my noble friend, with so much zeal and ability, has raised his voice, I feel myself bound to declare that I believe my noble friend to be actuated in his opposition by nothing approaching either to factious or party motives. I have known my noble friend too long, not to be well aware that he is only actuated by a sense of public duty for the promotion of what he conceives to be the public interest. The noble Lord and myself have long served together in parliament, and from the experience of him, which I have had an opportunity of acquiring during our intercourse, I am satisfied that whatever interest he may have in supporting the present system, as proprietor of the 1016 borough of Bossiney, it is impossible to attribute the conduct which the noble Lord may pursue to any motive of a personal nature. The noble lord has complained of the language used by the public Press, and of the violence and zeal with which the writers of it have advocated the great measure of Reform which Ministers have brought before the other House. My noble friend complains of the inflammatory nature of that language, but he was not aware that this is only a warning of the strength of public opinion, and of the consequent folly of an obstinate resistance to it? He must know, that the Press is but the echo of public opinion, deriving nearly all its strength from it, and that by means of it a Statesman can judge with tolerable accuracy of the force and current of the public mind. The public Press is a most useful guide of the strength and a direction of the voice of the people, on questions of great interest. When it is general in its advocacy of any great measure, it is so because the feelings of the public are deeply interested in its success; and so it is with the great measure of Reform, and the manner in which it has been treated by the Press. If a proof be wanting of the sentiments of the nation with respect to this measure, your Lordships may discover it in what my noble friend complains of—the general unanimity—for the exceptions are too few, and of too low a character, to be taken into account—the unanimity with which every journal distinguished for talent, extensive circulation, or character, has advocated, not merely the principle of a Reform of Parliament, but the particular plan brought forward by his Majesty's Ministers. Why docs this unanimity exist, I repeat, unless public opinion is directly in favour of it? Even my noble friend has admitted, that the irresistible force of public feeling has compelled him—the enemy of every species of Parliamentary Reform all his life—to admit that some measure of Reform is necessary, and can no longer be withheld. Here let me refer to the charges brought by my noble friend, against the advocates of this Bill, of having sanctioned an unfair use of the King's name. This has been made a ground of serious complaint, but I think that very little is necessary to show how extravagant such a charge is. If the name of the sovereign has been so introduced, it has not been by his Ministers—nor was it even necessary that we should 1017 The fact of the king's approbation of the measure was evident when we proposed it to Parliament, which we could not have done without his consent. If the name of the king was introduced at all by other advocates of the measure, it was only in consequence of the attempts made with such industry, by its opponents, to excite a belief that his Majesty was opposed to Reform. The introduction of the king's name at all was not our act, and I most distinctly deny, on the part of the Government, that we ever sanctioned or used that sacred name with a view to influence the conduct of any individual. The present Ministry accepted office on the condition of bringing forward a measure of Reform, of which they received his Majesty's sanction and support; the importance of which sanction my noble friend has fully recognised, by admitting, that, after his Majesty allowed my noble relation to form an Administration on the principle of Reform, the question could no longer be resisted. Now, let me remind your Lordships of the peculiar circumstances under which the present Administration accepted the seals of office. The late Government of the noble Duke opposite fell, not from a want of inclination to retain the reins of power—not from any factious opposition or party combination on the part of those who had been for years excluded from office—not in consequence of the division on the Civil List—but from a want of confidence in the public in its capability to manage the affairs of the country—a want of confidence loudly expressed at the general election, and increased by the emphatic declaration of the noble Duke against all Reform whatever. This declaration it was, more than any thing else, that led to the fall of the noble Duke's Government, by depriving it of the support of the public. I heard the noble Duke make that declaration—I heard him say, also, that he not only thought Parliamentary Reform unnecessary, but that if he had himself to frame a Constitution, he could not organize one more perfect than that now in existence; and never shall I forget the impression which it made on my mind, and on the mind of the nation at large. It was on account of this declaration of the noble Duke, I repeat, and not in consequence of any party hostility—it was not his defeat on the Civil List—it was not in consequence of any particular vote of this or 1018 the other House of Parliament, but because many, I believe all, of the colleagues of the noble Duke were anxious to resign their places, as they saw that the Government could not be safely carried on after the declaration of his opinion on the subject of Reform, that his Administration, was dissolved. Never was a Ministry less exposed to the attacks of the party out of power, than the late Ministry was—never did an Administration fall so completely from a want of confidence in itself, arising from the absence of public support. I am sure that neither the noble Duke, nor your Lordships, can forget the conduct of my noble relative near me, and his colleagues now in office, when the Catholic Relief Bill was brought forward. The advocacy of that great measure had excluded us from political power—the just object of every Englishman's ambition—their opposition to it had enabled our political adversaries to retain office for a long series of years. And yet, what did we do when the noble Duke, avowedly through intimidation and fear, brought forward the very measure for advocating which, on the sound principle of political justice, we were excluded from office? We not only suffered him to carry away all the credit of the measure at the very last moment, but we did so when we and he knew, that unless he succeeded in carrying it, his Administration was at an end. Nay more; had we been actuated by any motives of party or factious hostility to the Government, we might have taken a stand on the proposition to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders; for it is well known that many of us entertained strong feelings against the propriety of that measure—but consulting only the public interest and the welfare of the country, which we knew would be promoted by the success of that great question, of which we had been the early and zealous advocates—we did not oppose the Disfranchisement Bill, knowing that, if we did, the great Relief Bill would be defeated. This conduct shows how little the fall of the noble Duke's Government was influenced by party hostility, and how wholly it was owing to the effect of the withdrawal of public confidence, consequent upon his declaration against Parliamentary Reform. Now, my Lords, let me take the liberty of replying to the charge of precipitate rashness, urged by my noble friend, against my noble relation, for having brought forward this question 1019 so soon after his acceptance of office. I would ask him to recollect the state the country was in at that period. We found several districts seriously disturbed—the public mind in a ferment—no confidence in the civil power—a spirit of combination ripe among the workmen in the manufacturing towns, and the population of six of the most important counties in the south of England—namely, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, and Wiltshire, in a state of almost open insurrection and rebellion—a ready prey to incendiaries, and plunderers of every description. We found, moreover, the civil power without energy or direction—the magistrates in the disturbed districts afraid to act, and the king's peaceable subjects either besieged in their houses by night, or openly maltreated and plundered in the day. We found a still more dangerous state of things in the unwillingness of the middle classes to support the Government in the suppression of these disturbances—an unwillingness which we found carried to such a pitch on our accession to office, that I am confident even so experienced a military commander as the noble Duke himself would have found it no easy matter, by the mere aid of an armed soldiery, to pacify the disturbed districts, unaided, or at best but feebly and coldly supported, by that important body in every free State—the middle classes. This was the state of the country, not only in the disturbed districts in the south of England, but in the large towns in the manufacturing districts of the north. In this almost desperate situation did our predecessors leave the country, when they resigned their offices! What, then, did we do, and with what success? We first won back the confidence and support of the middle classes. This important body we found alienated from the civil power by the declaration of the noble Duke against Reform;—that alienation was removed by the open and uncompromising pledge of my noble relation in favour of Reform. Having thus produced this important effect on the public mind—having enlisted the confidence of the country in our intentions to administer, on right principles, the affairs of this great empire, and having firmly, yet mercifully, asserted the majesty of the law, public tranquillity was restored, and the way was prepared for that internal improvement and amelioration which is now so generally perceptible. Having then, on our accession 1020 to office, given a pledge in favour of Reform, the question was, as to the manner and period of our fulfilling it. I need not tell your Lordships that, if Ministers had contented themselves with barely redeeming their pledge by some small measure of Reform, just sufficient to fulfil the promise they had given, this would not have satisfied the just wishes and expectations of the public. Such a course would not have been fulfilling the spirit of the pledge given, nor would it have been what the people had a just right to expect. It would not have strengthened the Administration—but it would have weakened it, by sowing the seeds of future discontent and agitation, and would have further increased that want of confidence in the sincerity of statesmen which has so long prevailed, with the worst effects, in the public mind. Besides, I know that there is no policy more blindly mischievous than an obstinate resistance to the just claims of the people: your Lordships well know that no lesson of history has been more frequently taught than that the ill-timed refusal of such demands of a nation have no other effect than to raise them higher and higher, till you are compelled to yield, without thanks, what, if timely granted, would have been received with gratitude. Ministers knew and felt this, and therefore were determined that their measure of Reform should be one, from its broad basis, and from its adaptation to the just demands of the people, of permanent settlement. My noble friend, it is true, denies that the measure will be a permanent one; but his denial is only an assertion entirely unsupported by facts or reasoning. We on the other hand affirm, that by our plan an end will be put at once and for ever to the rotten-borough system, and the elective franchise bestowed on a large and important class which at present are denied it—in other words, we at one blow remove a great abuse and provide an efficient remedy—we enable all those who possess sufficient property to insure their independence to exercise the elective right; and, without yielding to extravagant demands, we satisfy the just claims of the people. There is no principle of our Constitution—there is no principle affecting the Representative system—that has not property for its basis, and I am warranted in saying, that the plan of Ministers is of this nature. It is, therefore, I contend, of a permanent character, and I know that it has been so 1021 considered by all classes of the community. I think that I may venture, without the fear of contradiction, to assert, that the measure has been hailed as wise and beneficial by the enlightened and respectable portion of the people—that the middle classes have been unanimous in its favour, and that the great body of the people regard it with satisfaction. If we consider the almost countless petitions that have been laid on the Table of this House in favour of it, from all parts of the country, and from all classes—if we look to the proceedings of the various public meetings in England and Scotland—if we refer to the emphatic declaration in its favour by the first commercial body in the world—I mean the Merchants and Bankers of the city of London—if we remember that the great organ, the public Press, has generally and ably supported it, and advocated its immediate adoption—in fact, in whatever way the opinion of the public on the subject is investigated, it will be found that the plan of Government has satisfied the just expectations of the country, and that we have honourably, consistently, and boldly redeemed the pledge we gave on coming into office. I now come to the Bill itself, which rather irregularly, I own, has been so unsparingly discussed and criticised by my noble friend—but I do not complain of this proceeding on his part—-on the contrary, I rejoice at every opportunity that is afforded his Majesty's Ministers of explaining and defending, here, the measure which is now pending in the other House. The first part of the Bill to which my noble friend objects, is that which cuts off the rotten boroughs; and he is pleased to call this a breach of the constitution of the House of Commons. Now, I cannot conceive that any measure, short of lopping off altogether these rotten boroughs, can produce those beneficial results which we anticipate from the present Bill. These boroughs are so monstrous an abuse—they are so wholly indefensible—that it is hardly necessary for me to detain your Lordships by entering into a detail of the hideous defects of the system, and the gross bribery and corruption to which it leads. We have had so many proofs daily before our eyes of these abuses—we have them in the printed records of the evidence given at our bar, in the cases of Penryn, Grampound, and East Retford, in which bribery and corruption were as notorious as the sun at noon- 1022 day—that it is almost a waste of time to do more than mention them. Have your Lordships forgotten the evidence to which I have just alluded? My noble friend, at any rate, has not; for he has complained that this House, by its strict adherence to the rules of evidence, in these cases, has prevented the adoption of a trifling and "bit-by-bit" Reform, and thus produced this universal demand for a more comprehensive measure. Then as to the notorious corruption of the rotten-borough system? Do you not know that persons of every description buy and sell seats in the other House of Parliament? That Jews as well as Christians deal in the right to nominate Members of the Legislature? Has the threat of a noble borough monger been forgotten, that he would put his own menial in Parliament—as a Representative, forsooth, of the people of England—a threat which was not fulfilled; not from want of power on the part of the proprietor, but from his individual discretion? I myself heard the fact of nomineeship—that libel on the Representation of a free people—distinctly avowed, not long since, in the other House of Parliament; and, in common with, I am sure, many who now hear me, I heard of sales of seats in the other House being a matter of daily occurrence;—that, for example, 1200l. a year was sometimes paid to a borough-dealing attorney for the Representation of some rotten borough, of which the person elected, perhaps, had never heard before, and which he would never visit. But the abuses of the rotten-borough system are notorious, and their continuance would be disgraceful. Even in the more open boroughs, need your Lordships be informed of what you have in evidence on your own Journals—extorted, it is true, by the most unjust and inquisitorial process, but yet there recorded—and, I fear, too well known by practice to some of your Lordships individually—the disgraceful bribery and corruption of which they are almost invariably the scene under the present system? These facts are matters of public notoriety, and no Reform can possibly satisfy the public mind that permits their continuance. How, then, I would ask, could Ministers, in justice to themselves and the country, shrink from boldly and impartially proposing to disfranchise at once, all those boroughs where such gross abuses exist. We hesitated not for one moment; and determined to 1023 propose the extinction of every borough which could not be purified by the practicable infusion of independent electors. My noble friend has urged some objections to the line which has been drawn in disfranchising those boroughs. I confess I do not think that we could have adopted any fairer course than that which we did. I will enter into a short explanation on this point, as the view his Majesty's Ministers took of the case has been misunderstood in this House as well as elsewhere. In fixing upon a population of 2,000 inhabitants in 1821, as the line within which all boroughs should be disfranchised, our object was, to. cut off all those rotten boroughs for which there could be no purifying remedy by way of extension of franchise. It was not because the boroughs, the population of which was under 2,000 in 1821, contained but few electors, that we proposed to extinguish them entirely; but because we could not possibly extend the franchise in them so as to do away with the evils of the system, without absorbing in them nearly the whole county Representation. It was because that line accurately described them—because it included them all—and if the line of 2,000 had not effected this, we should have proposed 3,000, or any other number which could have effectually accomplished this purpose. This was the reason that we fixed upon the population returns of 1821—not from any attachment to a particular number or theory—and in founding upon them our line of disfranchisement we were wholly influenced by a regard to the general good of the community at large, without consideration of personal detriment, or advantage to friends or enemies. And here I hope I may be permitted to say a few words in reference to myself, impure motives having been imputed to me, which it is but fair to allow me to refute, the rather as my situation in the Government requires such refutation to be explicit. It has been insinuated, that I used my official influence in favour of the county with which I had the honour of being connected, in procuring for it additional Members, to which it would not otherwise have been entitled. No language which I can summon to my aid can express my contempt for the baseness of this insinuation, nor can I find words to express my pity for the understandings which could suggest or harbour such an imputation. 1024 Need I disclaim being actuated by such low, paltry motives of self-aggrandizement? I feel that I need not; for I know that in considering this Bill, all merely personal or party feelings were absorbed in a desire to promote the general interest of the country. But how does the matter stand as regards the county of Durham? Simply that it contains 50,000 persons more than the number which has been fixed as the line above which the counties were to receive an additional Member. If, therefore, you refrain from granting to Durham additional Members, the exclusion, on the same ground, must extend to ten other counties, and the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire, which are now included in this Bill. It was proposed that Durham should have new Members, because it fell within the line of wealth and population which had been fixed upon as a just ground for an extended Representation. If, therefore, you exclude Durham, you must also exclude Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Suffolk, Cumberland, Northamptonshire, Sussex, Nottinghamshire, Hampshire, Worcestershire, and Leicestershire. With respect to the three towns in that county which will return Members under the Ministerial plan of Reform, all that I need say is, that their population is considerably above the line of population and property which has been, after due deliberation, fixed upon as the basis of extending the Representation to large towns. The population of Sunderland and the two Warmouths is 33,000;—of Shields, 10,000; and of Gateshead, 11,000; so that, if you do not allow these places to return Members, you will exclude many others. With two of these places I never had any further connexion than that which arose from my being Member for the county in which they are situated. With Sunderland I certainly have commercial relations, but not more than my noble friend who expressed his opposition to this plan of Reform a few evenings ago, and who has also property and influence in the neighbourhood. Indeed, I should be ashamed to stand up in this House, if such an unworthy motive could, for one moment, have actuated me. I have no parliamentary influence, and therefore exercise none. I have never sought the possession of such influence, contenting myself with having, in my own person, and at an immense cost, asserted the cause of independence in a contested election 1025 in my native county. I have no doubt that voters, not elevated to a certain rank of life, might easily have been induced to support my political views—but it never has been an object of desire with me, to establish a parliamentary influence. If, however, I had been accidentally possessed of it, let the extent be what it might, I should be glad to relinquish it, for the sake of the great and beneficial change which the Bill before the House is intended to accomplish. I shall say nothing more with respect to the insinuation which has been attempted, so unfairly and unjustly, to be cast upon me. Having explained to your Lordships the principle on which we proposed to disfranchise all boroughs, where the population was less than 2,000 in 1821, I now come to those in Schedule B. That class consists of those which may be retained, after purification, by the admission of 10l. householders. But, it was found that, even under the operation of the Bill, several of these boroughs would not possess more than from fifty to eighty electors; hence the necessity of the provision which adds to them the adjoining districts, so as to ensure a constituency of at least 300. We have thus drawn a distinct and most important line between the curable and the incurable boroughs: the incurable we lop off as rotten branches; the curable we protect against disease by an efficient constituency. They are both defined by the population returns of 1821; but I beg to assure your Lordships, that if, in the list of either, it is found that exceptions ought to be made, owing to any incorrectness in those returns, his Majesty's Ministers will deem it their duty to see them rectified. The next question is, as to the unrepresented towns on which it would be expedient to bestow the choice of Representatives. And here, again, Ministers take population and wealth as their guide for the measure of an efficient and independent Representation; and in doing so, we have adhered closely to the ancient principle of our Representative system. My noble friend says, in allusion to the time at which his own borough was erected, that then the amount of population was not attended to—and that it is not, therefore, the principle on which Representation was originally granted. This is undoubtedly true, as regards that particular period, because the object then was, to strengthen the King and the 1026 Aristocracy; but, had my noble friend gone a step further back in his inquiries, he would have seen that the primary object of Representation was, to give population, wealth, and intelligence, their due share of weight and influence in the decisions of the Legislature—an influence not allowed them under the present system. He would have found that originally (before, it became an object with Kings and nobles to obtain personal influence in Parliament) writs were always issued to populous and wealthy towns—and for the plainest and most obvious reason—supplies of money were wanted for the service of the State, and from those sources alone could they be derived. My noble friend has read an extract from a work by Lord John Russell, on this point. Will your Lordships allow me to cite an authority—greater he will admit—without supposing that I undervalue that to which he has alluded—I mean, Mr. Locke. "Things of this world (said Locke) are in so constant a flux, that nothing remains long in the same state. Thus people, riches, trade, power, change their stations, flourishing mighty cities come to ruin, and prove in time neglected desolate corners, whilst other unfrequented places grow into populous countries, filled with wealth and inhabitants. But things not always changing equally, and private, interest often keeping up customs and privileges, when the reasons of them have ceased, it often comes to pass, that in Governments, where part of the Legislature consists of Representatives chosen by the people, that in tract of time this Representation becomes very unequal and disproportionate to the reasons it was first established upon." After commenting on the absurdity of places without inhabitants returning Members to Parliament, the same great authority proceeds thus:—"Salus populi suprema lex is certainly so just and fundamental a rule, that he who sincerely follows it cannot dangerously err. If, therefore, the Executive, who has the power of convoking the Legislature, observing rather the true proportion than fashion of Representation, regulates not by old custom, but true reason, the number of Members in all places that have a right to be distinctly represented, which no part of the people, however incorporated, can pretend to, but in proportion to the assistance which it affords to the public, it cannot be judged to have set up a new Legislative, but to 1027 have restored the old and true one, and to have rectified the disorders which succession of time had insensibly as well as insensibly introduced." Upon this principle, and upon no other, have Ministers proceeded; and they have, therefore, enfranchised the largest and most populous towns of Great Britain. I now come to that part of the question which has so much alarmed my noble friend—namely, the class of voters who are to be allowed by this Bill. Your Lordships will take into consideration that the 10l. householders are possessed of sufficient independence and property to ensure a permanent interest in the prosperity of the country; that they are free from undue influence on the one hand, and factious excitement on the other; and that, therefore, we could not have selected a better class of people in whom to vest this important privilege. The noble Lord, it appears, has at present in his employment a labourer, who happens to be a householder to that amount; but what inference are we to draw from such a fact? Why, that the noble Lord is a good master, and that his labourer is well-conducted and industrious; and it appears to me matter of congratulation to the noble Lord, that he has the opportunity now offered to him, by which he may confer such an invaluable privilege on so respectable a person. But why should not this individual have a right to vote, if in other respects eligible? I really cannot admit, that the fact of being a labourer, can be a just reason for excluding him from the exercise of the elective franchise. The right of householders to vote at elections has been repeatedly asserted to be the ancient right of the' people of England. It has been recognised by a Resolution of the House of Commons, which declared, that "where no custom by charter of incorporation existed, there the right of franchise was in the householders;" and, therefore, we do not go further, by adopting this measure, than we are justified in doing, either by this Resolution, or upon constitutional principles. Anciently, all possessors of any property, however small, had the right of voting—all freemen—from the earliest ages until the time of Henry 6th, when those rights were most arbitrarily narrowed. We, therefore, do not propose to give the right of voting to any class of persons whose claims have not been already recognised by the Legislature itself. Conse- 1028 quently, I repeat, that in giving the franchise to these classes, we have not introduced any thing new or unknown to our Constitution. My noble friend founds one of his arguments upon the incorrectness, which he states to exist, in the Tax-office returns upon which this measure proceeds; but, until I am shewn to the contrary, I must hold that the returns, made by the proper officers of the Crown, are as likely to be correct as any assertion of the noble Lord's can be; and, certainly, if we are to judge by the noble Lord's own statement in regard to the voters of Liverpool, his calculations are founded in error. Now, let us see what proportion the amount of the population in England and Wales bears to the numbers of the enfranchised electors. In 1821 it was more than 12,000,000; it now must be more than 14,000,000. According to the Tax-office returns, it appears that the number of persons in England and Wales, now rated at 10l. and upwards, is only 378,786, it cannot, therefore, be said that the suffrage is too extensively diffused. Of these 378,786, 116,030 are rated between l0l. and 15l.; so that one-third only of these house holders in England and Wales are of the lowest description of voters. In Scotland there are 380,000 houses; but the number of persons to be entitled to vote is only 36,700, of whom 17,900 are of the minor or lower class, rated at from 10l. to 15l. Now, I do think, unless we presume that the most gross and palpable mistakes have been made in the returns to which I have alluded, that we are not liable to the charge brought against us by my noble friend, of creating an enormous constituency; but that, on the contrary, we have called forth a body of electors which will include all the respectability and intelligence of the most independent classes of society. And how has the noble Lord attempted to show the extent to which this Bill will confer the rig-lit of exercising the elective franchise? My Lords, he refers us to the case of Liverpool; and states, that the number of persons there who will enjoy the privilege of the elective franchise under the operation of the proposed measure, will be 25,000; but does the noble Lord know, that the number of houses in Liverpool is only 19,000? Has the noble Lord forgotten, too, that the non-resident voters are to be disfranchised? [Lord Wharncliffe: No 5 I admit that.] If the noble Lord gives up that points I say his calcula- 1029 tions are then proved to be completely erroneous. I now come to what I confidently hope will be the advantages arising from the adoption of this measure. If it be true, as the noble Lord and others have stated, that there is a spirit of discontent abroad, among the lower classes, hostile to the institutions of the country, and tending to the destruction of the monarchy; if there be this spirit abroad (which I deny), I should like to know in what class will the supporters of the Constitution find greater friends hence forward, or more stedfast allies, than among the middle classes? And what measure can be wiser than that which goes to secure the affections, and consult the interests of those classes? How important must it be to attach them to our cause! The lower orders of the people have ever been set in motion by their superiors; and in almost all cases they have chosen their leaders from men moving in another sphere. From the multitude, therefore, we take the body from whence they derived their leaders, and the direction of their movements. To property and good order we attach numbers; and the issue of a conflict, if any should ever occur, cannot be doubtful. But I cannot make these observations without stating, that I do not believe such a spirit exists as that which we have been told of. I believe, on the contrary, my Lords, that the lower orders are attached most sincerely to the monarchy, and to the maintenance of the three estates, King, Lords, and Commons, as the sources of their welfare and security—and that, of all the nations in the world, the lower orders of England would be least disposed to change for a theoretical republic, or a pure despotism. To give security to the three estates is the object of our Bill. We leave the Peers in possession of all their privileges; the Crown in the enjoyment of all its prerogatives; but give to the people at large that share in the Government, of which, by the lapse of time and the progress of corruption, they have long been deprived. The principle of the Bill being the extension, not contraction, of the elective franchise, we have felt it right, disfranchising only the rotten boroughs, to preserve all existing rights, although, in many instances, the exercise of those rights has been grossly abused! but we certainly have not thought it consistent, in these cases, to extend this great privilege beyond the present possessors. 1030 True it is, my Lords, the opponents of the Bill, sympathizing for the first time with them, have endeavoured to excite alarm and jealousy on the part of the pot-wallopers and burgesses—but those bodies disclaim all community of feeling with the anti-reformers, and petition generally in favour of the measure. Driven from this strong hold, the Opposition have now changed their ground, and profess similar alarm for the privileges of the apprentices; How that body might act under such circumstances, it is not for me to say; but judging from the manner in which others have performed their part, I have no doubt that they likewise will emulate such an example, and that they will not interfere to deprive the country of the benefit of a measure in which they will participate themselves, and by which they will be gainers. I regret very deeply that I have to weary your Lordships by going into these details; but I have felt it necessary to take some notice of the remarks advanced by the noble Lord (Lord Wharncliffe) upon the details of the measure, and to state such observations as have occurred to me upon them. I shall not pursue them at present any further, contenting myself with simply observing, that in this Bill we have also amply provided for the diminution of expense at elections—which will be effected by the enforcement of residence—the registration of votes—and taking the poll in counties in districts. Before I leave this part of the subject, I would state with regard to the observation, made rather sarcastically by the noble Lord, as to the power which it. is proposed to give to the Privy Council; the reasons why we have made this provision in the Bill. We felt it necessary that power should be given to alter the limits of boroughs, in order to ensure a numerous and independent constituency, and to make the necessary divisions in counties, for the purposes of lessening the expenses of county elections; and we felt that, in order to effect this, we could not go to a body more responsible, better known, or more confided in by the country, than the members of the Privy Council; among whom are individuals unconnected with the Administration—men eminent for talent and character, whose decisions could not possibly be impugned as that of interested parties, and who were, therefore, liable to no misconstruction of motives, or imputations similar to those 1031 which have been already directed against myself and others of my colleagues, on the discussion of this question. It was upon these grounds that we considered the Privy Council the best and most impartial power to apply to, entertaining, however, no wish to give any undue influence to that particular body. My Lords, I now come to almost the last subject upon which I have to make any observations, and it is one of the gravest importance. The noble Lord (Lord Wharncliffe) has said, that though he will not charge us with being revolutionists, yet that we are guilty of introducing a great change in the existing Constitution, and that we shall subvert our present happy form of Government; in short, my Lords, though he disclaims the word "revolutionary," still that is the term which the noble Lord, by his arguments and insinuations, does really apply to us. If, however, he has been sparing of the term, he is unlike others, both in and out of this House; we have been assailed by them, and that in no measured terms, with reproaches of the most bitter and vituperative description. We have been told, that we are destroying the Constitution, and perniciously changing all the relations which have heretofore subsisted between each branch of it. I am not to be scared by a nickname, or discountenanced by a word. Undoubtedly any change effected in the government of a State may be deemed a revolution. The glorious events of 1688 bear that name—yet they are hallowed in the breast of every true Englishman. I have often heard that memorable Revolution termed a glorious event by the same persons who now use the word for the purpose of denunciation and opprobrium. This Revolution of 1688 was upheld by none more warmly than by the noble Lords opposite during the discussion of the Roman Catholic Relief bill: it was then never mentioned but in terms of approbation and reverence—because it suited their political purposes—and yet the noble Lord and others now use the word "Revolution," in order to frighten us from the adoption of the proposed measure. Revolution, it seems, is, at the present day, no longer glorious, but horrible; and it is now no longer associated with the recollections of 1688, but with those of the Revolution which occurred in France forty years ago; all its horrors are dressed up in the most vivid colours, for the purpose of 1032 scaring weak, timid, and short-sighted alarmists, and the effects produced by the operation of different causes made applicable to a state of things now utterly and entirely dissimilar. My Lords, I ask how is that Revolution to be assimilated to the present period in England? The people then massacred their superiors, it is true; but for one cause? Not in consequence of their just claims having been granted, but because they were wrongfully denied, and pertinaciously withheld. The populace were hurried into criminal enormities, not in the exultation of success, but in the recklessness of despair. It is this very state of things we wish to avoid, this very crisis we would avert, by granting to the people those claims which they have a right to make, and by refusing which, we must inevitably leave the power in the hands of those who would plunge us into all the evils of a civil war. Such a deplorable consummation it is our object to prevent; and the measure which has been proposed, so far from leading to anarchy or revolutionary excesses, will conciliate the disaffected, if such there be, while it strengthens and consolidates the fabric of the Constitution.—But my noble friend tells us, that this Bill will destroy the Constitution—that I most peremptorily deny. It involves no departure whatever from the principles on which the Constitution was established in 1688. It is an enforcement of them, not in violation of, but complete conformity with, them. In fact, it is the final settlement of that great work, which in this respect was avowedly left defective. It may be known to your Lordships, that it was a matter of grave charge against the authors of the Revolution of 1688, that they did not do that which we are now going to do by this Bill. It is stated by Lord Bolingbroke, that the authors of the Revolution ought not only to have made the Act of Settlement, but that they ought also to have secured the independence of Parliament. In his Dissertation on Parties, after alluding to the conduct of the authors of the Revolution, he says, "They ought to have been more attentive to take the glorious opportunity that was furnished them by a new settlement of the Crown and of the Constitution, to secure the independency of Parliaments for the future. Machiavel observes, and makes it a title of one of his discourses, 'That a free Govern- 1033 ment, in order to maintain itself free, hath need every day of some new provision in favour of liberty.'" After affirming the truth of this assertion, and illustrating; it by reference to Roman history, Lord Bolingbroke uses these remarkable words:—"If a spirit like this had prevailed among us at the time we speak of, something like this would have been done, and surely something like it ought to have been done. For the Revolution was in many instances, and it ought to have been so in all, one of those renovations of the Constitution which we have often mentioned. If it had been such with respect to the electing of Members to serve in Parliament, these elections might have been drawn back to the ancient principle on which they had been established, and the rule of property, which was followed anciently, and was perverted by innumerable changes, which length of time produced, might have been restored, by which the communities to whom the right of electing was trusted, as well as the qualifications of the electors and elected, might have been settled in proportion to the then state of things. Such a remedy might have wrought a radical cure of the evil which threatens our Constitution, whereas it is much to be apprehended, even from experience, that all others are merely palliative." But, my Lords, I should like to know from whom the charge against us proceeds, of making innovations upon this Constitution of 1688? Why, it has been mainly advanced by the promoters of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill! If this measure be an alteration of the Constitution,—what was the Roman Catholic Relief Bill?, Certainly that relief was most wisely afforded. But is it for those to object so loudly to the introduction of change, who have so materially altered the Constitution by the admission of Roman Catholics to privileges which they had not before enjoyed since the Revolution so often referred to? The policy adopted in reference to that portion of our fellow-countrymen was wise and judicious undeniably, but still, was it not a change in the Constitution? It was urged then, with a good deal of clamour, and not a little of pertinacity, that emancipation would alter the three estates of the realm, would violate the Coronation Oath, would annihilate the Church, and destroy the liberties of the people. And yet, my Lords, those very persons who then stoutly resisted this clamour, are now struck with 1034 horror and amazement at any proposal which goes to affect the inviolability of that Constitution which they themselves had fundamentally altered only two years ago. But, my Lords, let me not be misunderstood; I think those changes were of the greatest importance to the welfare of the country, and events have proved that the change effected by the Catholic Relief Bill has been essentially beneficial. It has admitted within our walls noblemen who have long been deprived of their rights, it has opened the doors of the other House of Parliament to as loyal, as honest, and as respectable men as are to be found in the country, and it has erased that foul blot of religious and political intolerance which had so long disgraced our Constitution. My Lords, I believe that I have now, to the best of my ability, gone through all the arguments of the noble Lord opposite. I do not offer any opposition to the Motion. On the contrary, I assure the noble Lord that it is the wish of his Majesty's Ministers to produce every information that can facilitate the most strict examination into all the various points which bear on the question, convinced, as we are, that the more the subject is probed, the more the measure will be found entitled to the approbation of the country. I must declare, on the part of his Majesty's Government, that, so far from being-influenced by a wish to change the institutions of the country, we are anxious to protect and strengthen them. We propose to enable your Lordships to exercise your high privileges, consistently with the legitimate rights of the people, and the real interests of the State. We do not permit even the smallest jewel to be extracted from the Crown, but we add to its grace and lustre. We secure to the Monarch the undisturbed enjoyment of all his dignities and prerogatives, sustained and cherished by the love of an affectionate people, and on them we propose to confer the noblest gift which can be presented to freemen, the power of choosing Representatives, in whom is vested the maintenance of their properties, rights, and liberties.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
explained. The noble Lord had mistaken a part of his statement. His argument had merely been, that although Ministers professed to give the franchise to the middle classes, they really intended to bestow it upon the lower. He had never said that the lower classes were 1035 hostile to monarchy, but he had asserted that there were persons in this country—not amongst the lower classes, but ranking far their superiors—who, from his first entrance into political life, had evinced an anxiety to bring the Constitution nearer and nearer to a Republic.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that it was not his purpose to take up the time of their Lordships; but as he had been alluded to by the noble Lord, and as a charge of inconsistency had been elsewhere urged against him, he wished to make a very few observations. Taking the present question merely on its own merits, it must be considered one of overwhelming interest, and he had therefore little supposed that the opinions of so humble an individual as himself would have attracted notice on so important an occasion. It had, however, been thought fit to appeal to his protest against the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, and an attempt had been made to draw a parallel between that disfranchisement and the proposed disfranchisement of the boroughs, for the purpose of fastening upon him a charge of inconsistency in supporting the Reform Bill. He would not now flinch a title from his former statements, or pare down any one of his expressions with a view to his exculpation. At the period referred to, a great measure had been brought forward, disfranchising 180,000 freeholders, without any accusation of corruption having ever been brought against them. It might have been pretended that they were habitually under the stern control of their landlords, to whom they had been obliged to render an unconstitutional obedience; but this had ceased to exist in l828, for in the course of that year they had exhibited a fearless defiance of those who had hitherto held them in political subserviency,—they had duly elected an agitator, to the prejudice of a Cabinet Minister, who was the other candidate in Clare; nor was that the only county in which they had set at nought the authority of their landlords. Thus no sooner had they roused themselves to a constitutional exercise of their rights than these unfortunate freeholders had been attacked with a bill of pains and penaltes. He had certainly, in the protest which he signed—and the passages had been quoted elsewhere—said he was a dissentient, "because to seize upon and to confiscate the indubitable rights, privileges, and franchises of unoffending citizens,—unaccused, un- 1036 heard, untried—by whole descriptions, by hundreds and thousands together, was an utter subversion of that immutable law of true justice which was at once the vital principle and the most beautiful of the British Constitution." But what analogy was there between the case of sixty rotten boroughs and that of 180,000 unoffending citizens, condemned, unaccused, and unheard? Were the patrons of boroughs and the nominees of patrons unoffending, or were they unheard, and was their cause unadvocated? He would not for a moment admit the special pleading and sophistry by which this question had been attempted to be disguised. Would the disfranchisement of Midhurst, or Ware-ham, or Old Sarum, affect any one individual, save only the patrons and their nominees; and had not these been accused by the united voices of the whole country? On one side there was a Ministry which had floated into office on the tide of public opinion, and was there not on the other a Ministry which had laid down office in defending the system so universally complained of? Nay, was there not at this moment a late Secretary of State in the other House fighting as if for life and death for his share in the borough of Tamworth? It was not likely indeed that either the right hon. Gentleman or any one else on either side, would forget Westbury. Then how ably had the interests of the no table Borough bridge been defended by the facetious drollery and legal astuteness of the ex-Attorney-general, its celebrated Representative. The protest against the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, which had been signed by a noble friend of his and himself, had been read in part by those who flouted him with inconsistency, but he had reason to complain that the concluding clause had been omitted, for they had therein expressly stated, that they were "willing to correct every proved abuse." Now, could it be maintained that the borough system was not a proved abuse? The entire charge was empty, and could not be substantiated, as far as he and his noble friend were concerned. They had been also reproached with subverting settled institutions, but he looked upon this Bill as a reformation and timely restoration of the Constitution, which all concurred in thinking required repair, although there was a difference of opinion as to the extent to which it ought to be applied. The noble Lord, it appeared, accused them of 1037 revolutionary projects, yet as well might a similar charge be urged against the gallant officer opposite, who led the British troops to victory, because he maintained the discipline of the army, and introduced new regulations in various departments, or supplied new men of superior energies according as his troops became debilitated or decayed. The principle was precisely the same. It was proposed to draught off Gatton and Old Sarum, and substitute for them the youthful energies of Manchester, and the full-grown manhood of Birmingham. Could the noble Lord suppose that they were weakening the defence of the Constitution by sweeping away the ruins of Ald-borough and Corfe Castle, and intrenching themselves behind the strong bulwarks of Leeds and Sheffield? or did the noble Lord suppose that treason was lurking in the proposition for investing the West Riding of Yorkshire with the elective franchise? He would not detain their Lordships any longer. He would only say, he hoped their Lordships would not refuse their sanction to a Bill which was the offspring of long deliberation—the result of the reflection of an unanimous Cabinet—and which would soon come before them. He trusted that they would not refuse their sanction to a measure which must have the effect of uniting the hearts of all his Majesty's subjects, which would increase their respect for, and their confidence in, Parliament, and their affection for their Sovereign. Their Lordships, he was sure, would not refuse their sanction to a measure which satisfied the just expectations of reasonable people, which would give permanent security to property, and perpetual stability to the throne.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, he should not, on that occasion, trouble the House with any remarks, as, should the Bill unhappily come up to that House, every noble Lord would have an opportunity of expressing at length his opinion upon the question. He would observe, however, that the noble Duke had not very clearly made out his denial of inconsistency, for he had formerly been a staunch Church and State man, and a subscriber to the Eldon testimonial. No one could say of him that he had been a Tory, and was now a Whig. No one could say of him that he had been a pro-Catholic, and was now an anti-Catholic, or that he had arrogated to himself the merit of being one of the strongest supporters of the Church and 1038 State. He did not know that the noble Duke had proved the inconsistency of any body else, but he had certainly not proved his own consistency—for now he consorted with Whig colleagues, whom he had always heretofore opposed.
The Marquis of Clanricarde
expressed his conviction that they should have a considerable majority in favour of the Bill when it came under discussion, and was happy to find that so little had been said against it. He trusted, therefore, to see that House succumb, as it ought to do, to public opinion. Their Lordships were aware what a long period had elapsed since the noble Lord opposite had first given notice of this Motion, that the House had been expressly summoned on the question, and yet only one solitary Peer had been found to speak in opposition to Parliamentary Reform. The noble Lord had travelled too much out of his way to seek for quotations from the former speeches of the noble Paymaster of the Forces, in order to make his past political professions appear irreconcilcable with his present opinions. What had the personal opinions of any individual to do with the actual merits of the question itself? Thus much he would only say on the present occasion; the rejection of the Reform Bill would, undoubtedly, be the most dangerous proceeding which that House had ever sanctioned; but, as he had already stated, he looked forward to a very different result. Every one who heard him was apprised of the fact, that whatever was uttered within those walls went forth to the world, whether contrary to privilege or not, and they must also be aware that they were thus put in possession of an extensive influence on the public mind; but it was for their Lordships to take care that that influence should be salutary, and not such as to make them fearful of their responsibility. He did not think it necessary to enlogise the details of the Bill, or state his reasons for supporting it He should be prepared, when their Lordships came to vote upon the measure, to justify his conduct, and show, that in following what he considered the line of his duty, he had swerved from no principle he had ever adopted. He meant certainly to support, and he hoped their Lordships would also support, a measure which had been received by the unanimous acclamations of the people, and was sanctioned by the House of Commons and the King's Government.
said, that the question had been argued by so many noble Lords upon the side of the House upon which he had the honour to sit, and they had spoken so strongly and so effectually upon the subject, that it might appear that he rose to add to the triumph they had obtained, if he addressed the House at any length at such an inconvenient period of the discussion. Under such circumstances, he should not detain their Lordships long, nor should he have taken the liberty of offering himself to the notice of the House, if he had not felt apprehensive that he might not have the opportunity of expressing his sentiments when the question came regularly before their Lordships, and he might therefore labour under the imputation of shrinking from the. duty of declaring his opinions, and of supporting the measure. He certainly could not say, that he had approached the consideration of this momentous question without a very considerable degree of alarm, but he must avow that he now felt a very great relief from that alarm, for he found that what was originally stated to be an inroad upon the Constitution, and a principle pregnant with every danger,—what was declared to be a measure which ought to be met resolutely in the very first outset, as calculated to introduce a new system subversive of all constitutional practices—was now no longer so formidably denounced, and all such grounds of opposition were entirely abandoned. It was at first stated that the measure was calculated to introduce a new system; but, after a short time that enunciation was given up. At first it was stated that there was no necessity for any Reform, and it was now four months since that opinion was announced. It had been persevered in to nearly the end of a seven days' discussion, and had never been formally relinquished. At the close of that period, with a tardy candour, or he might call it a reasonable prudence, it was admitted that all Reform was not revolutionary. The principle, then, of Reform was no longer knocking at the outer door and refused admittance—it had been admitted within doors, and its demands, it was allowed, were not altogether unreasonable. Those who did not agree in those demands did not deny them altogether—they only wished to avoid prompt payment, and asked to pay by instalments. He was at a loss to understand how noble Lords and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen 1040 meant to meet the question under these circumstances. He had not heard of one person who did not agree that Reform was just and proper, only they quarrelled with the degree and extent of the Reform proposed. They abstained, nevertheless, from stating how far they were willing to go. The noble Lord who had introduced the question to their Lordships' notice, with great ability, and, he would add, with great fairness, had employed a tone in discussing the subject, and made admissions which were not calculated to obtain for him the support of those noble Lords who sat around him, and he had not found a seconder. That noble Lord had stated, that the claims of the people was irresistible, and that some degree of Reform was absolutely necessary. The noble Lord had referred to the opinion of Mr. Canning, but he did not think the supposition of what the opinions of dead men might be, were they now alive, ought to guide the opinions of living men. How could he or any man say, that if Mr. Canning were now alive, his opinion would not be changed like the opinion of the noble Lord? and how could he say that Mr. Canning would not now think some Reform necessary. The noble Lord, who was warmly attached to Mr. Canning, was as much opposed to Reform at one time as Mr. Canning. They ought, therefore, to consider the nature of the question before them, and not endeavour to guess at the opinions of those who were not alive to speak for themselves. What then did he find? Why, that the persons who were lately at the head of the Government of this country, of whom he wished to speak with great respect, particularly of the noble Duke who was then at the head of that Government—he found that these Gentlemen—and he did not say it as exciting feelings of degradation—he found these Gentlemen obliged to resign the Government, and obliged to resign it because they could not resist the pressure of Reform. To that pressure the present Government had acceded; and now their opponents pressed on them because they had taken up the principle of Reform. Under these circumstances, what was to become of the country? Did the persons who, under such circumstances, resisted the plan of Reform, look at the consequences? What medium party was to succeed? Did those who resisted Reform—the Reform proposed by his Ma- 1041 jesty's Ministers, and who acknowledged the necessity of some Reform—come forward with any plan or principle of their own? Why did they not introduce a Bill into the other House, or even into that House, if it could be done consistently with the principles of the Constitution and the laws and usages of Parliament? Those who were of opinion that the present plan went too far, should bring in a bill of their own, and should let the two lie side by side, and thus the public would be able to form some judgment of the comparative merit of the two measures. Was this fair and honourable course adopted? Was it expected that his noble friends, and the distinguished persons who originated this plan of Reform, could stoop and degrade themselves so low as to belie their principles, and abandon the measure? His noble friends had been accused of endeavouring to excite in the people of the country discontent with the Government, and at all our institutions. But he would ask all those who had made use of such language, were the grievances of the country any secret, or were the sources of those grievances so concealed that a veil could be drawn over them to hide them from the public odium? He would maintain, that his noble friends had not excited the people of England; but, on the contrary, by bringing forward this great and satisfactory measure, they had done much to quiet the people, by meeting the general sentiments, and by removing the permanent and just sources of discontent. If his noble friends should abandon their plan, they would cover themselves with irretrievable disgrace, and they would bequeath a most bitter legacy to those who came after them, by teaching the people that no confidence whatever was to be placed in any set of public men. There would then be no means left of governing the country, and it would be plunged in all the horrors of anarchy. He therefore felt himself much relieved from the embarrassment of making a choice. He was compelled to embrace the plan of Reform. His noble friends had come into power on account of the evils which oppressed the country, and the danger arising from the conviction of those evils upon the public mind. They had found the people excited. The storm was growing, the surges were lashing, the vessel was heavy laden and labouring in the troubled waters, and the helm bad been abandoned by those who 1042 had been placed at it, and whose duty it was, to have steered with skill and science. His friend it was, who had seized upon the helm, and who with mature experience had said, "I will undertake what they won't undertake; I will meet the danger, and with a firm hand I will point out to you the haven to which your course ought to be steered." Every honest man in the country was bound to assist in this great effort, upon the success of which depended the safety of the State. His noble friend was calling upon them not to proceed through unexplored latitudes, and upon devious courses, but to steer cautiously, but boldly, to the only port that was capable of affording protection and safety. He (Lord Plunkett) was not inclined to trouble their Lordships at any great length at that hour of the night, and under the circumstances of the question, but he must address a few more observations to their Lordships before he sat down. The Reform Bill had been termed a revolutionary measure. The term revolutionary was the most ridiculous, the most dishonourable, and the most offensive, that it had ever been his unfortunate lot to hear in any public assembly. It was true that this charge had been abandoned in all the mortification of defeated artifice, and in all the shame of detected folly; but still it was said, that if the measure was not actually revolutionary, it was what was almost as dangerous—it was a great and an extensive change. Did any noble Lord who heard him, and who was in the least acquainted with the history of his country, believe that great political changes were either unusual, unconstitutional, or bad? Did they not owe, and was not every stage of society indebted for, all they possessed to some great change from what had been precedent? He had not been an inattentive observer of the progress of society, and the nature, of his studies had pretty well acquainted him with the history of this country; and the page of history showed nothing more clearly than that from the beginning of its political existence there had been a continued course of changes, when the circumstances of the country required changes to be adopted. He found the people of England at all times clinging to one great principle; the polar star which guided them at all times—at least through a period of 1,000 years, during which the Constitution had been preserved—was the 1043 principle, that it was the people's birthright that the freedom of their persons and the enjoyment of their property was not to be injured or affected but by their own consent. They had at all times given effect to that great principle. That was the basis of their free Government, and that principle all the rules and regulations, which were the offspring of times and circumstances, were intended to carry into effect. They never had the folly to say that this great principle should bend to rules and regulations, but they always adapted their rules and regulations to this principle. Nothing could be more revolutionary in relation to this great principle than to adopt some stick-fast Resolution, which would prevent this principle from being at all times acted on Looking at facts, did not our history abound with great changes? Was not the Reformation, which altered all the property of the Church, a great change—a salutary change indeed, but a great change? Was not the Act of Henry 6th, by which the great body of the freeholders was excluded from the privilege of voting, and the franchise conferred on those who held a freehold of 40s., a great change? What did their Lordships say to the Union with Scotland, which altered the whole Parliamentary Constitution of the country? or what did they say to the Union with Ireland? Were not these great and extensive changes? He could enumerate many more changes, but he would content himself with adverting to that last and great change which admitted the Catholics into the bosom of the State. These were all great and rapid changes. What would their Lordships say to the King's power and prerogative to issue writs for new places? That was a permanent machinery for perpetual change. That power had been, perhaps, unduly exercised, and there had resulted a great abuse; and were they not to exercise the prerogative of Parliament, and get rid of that abuse? Persons who did not see these things must explore history, not with the eyes of statesmen or of philosophers, but merely with the curiosity of antiquaries. They did not look at the great lesson which history afforded, but they stereotyped it, or, like antiquaries with coins, they did not care for the legend inscribed on them—they valued them for the rust. Great and most important changes had taken place in England since the Revolution of 1688. The 1044 rapid and astonishing influx of wealth had absolutely changed the whole state of the middle classes of society. Those middle classes now consisted of persons well acquainted with every useful branch of art and science; they were fully capable of forming enlightened views and sound principles upon all political and moral questions, and upon all points connected with the State. This class of persons had been raised in England into astonishing power, and they now came forward and demanded a reform with an irresistible pressure. Parliament had to choose between two alternatives. Would they oppose their present institutions, enfeebled as they were by abuses, and tottering with corruption, so often and so ably pointed out and exposed, to stand the shock of these great rushes of public opinion, or would they receive these people, the middle classes, into the pale of the Constitution, and by giving them their due share in the Representation, claim them as friends and allies, instead of opposing them as aliens and enemies? The spread of intelligence among the lower orders, and even amongst the middling classes, was considered by many to be dangerous to the State. Widely different were his opinions upon the subject: but he would only say, that whether it were or were not dangerous, certain it was that there were no means of stopping it. He did not consider the diffusion of knowledge to be dangerous to society, but the most fatal proofs existed of the inconvenience and dangers arising from a population in a state of ignorance. The spread of imperfect light might be attended with danger; but it was a danger to be removed only by a diffusion of more perfect information. Purify the institutions of the country, and no safety-lamps would be required. It had been said, in terms of exultation, that the Constitution of England was an admirable Constitution—that it worked well—that it produced the most perfect moral and intellectual state of a population, and it was the glory and happiness of the country, and the envy of all foreign nations. He would avow, with the greatest satisfaction, that he did not believe, with all its defects, that there could be found, in the page of either ancient or modern history, a single Constitution that had worked so well even for the good of the people. He would acknowledge with pride and satisfaction, that the Constitution of England was the envy of all less favoured nations. 1045 All this was perfectly true. He believed that every civilized nation admired in the English Constitution the Bill of Rights, the institution of the Jury, the Habeas Corpus Act, the independence of the Judges, and the impartial administration of the laws by Judges who were independent of the influence of the Crown, and lastly, the theory of our Representative Legislature. Having acknowledged all this, he would now only beg leave to ask, who among these foreign admirers of the British Constitution ever fell in love with the corporation of Old Sarum, or was enamoured of the free representation of Gatton? Who would say that the British Constitution had ever been admired, out of England at least, because there existed the practice of trafficking in boroughs, and the privilege of buying and selling the rights of the people? These were not the subjects of admiration with any body,—they were plague-spots to be purified, or vices to be held in execration. If the Constitution worked well, it was not from the variety of its abuses, or the number of its deformities, but in spite of them. Remove these, and they would restore it to its proper form and vigour. How did the Constitution work well? Although the system of borough corruption was acknowledged to be a gross abuse, a hideous deformity and vice, still was it repeated, that many distinguished persons who possessed boroughs were people of virtue, and who disdained to use their privileges, or to prostitute their possessions to bad purposes. Many persons in whom these borough properties were vested did not act upon the same views, and therefore some sat upon one side of the House, and some upon the other. These things happened very frequently, but was the British Constitution to be for ever dependent upon such accidents? Let them, as soon as they could, take away accidents and introduce a system of securities. The physical system of the human body presented a beautiful economy of nature, and worked well; and if any accident occurred, such as an injury to a blood-vessel, nature accommodated herself to the change, and some substitute of organ or of function was produced. But when nature resumed her power, she dispelled all substitutes. The well-working of the political Constitution of England was the growth of happy accidents and lucky chances; but these would be dispelled when sound and enlarged princi- 1046 ples were resumed. His only object in getting up in his seat that night was, to explain himself upon this great measure of Reform, and he apologized for having detained their Lordships so long.
§ A noble Lord reminded their Lordships, that any discussion upon the subject at that period might justly be viewed with jealousy by the other House.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he owed no little apology to their Lordships for troubling them with any further discussion of this subject under the existing circumstances at this late hour of the night; but he still more owed an apology to his noble and learned friend who preceded him, when he rose to say anything after him, before there was even the shadow of reply to his clear, energetic, argumentative, and unanswerable speech. Although he agreed with the noble Viscount (Sidmouth) who was a great authority on these subjects, and with some of those noble Lords who had spoken after him, that it was not necessary on the present occasion to go minutely into the details of the measure, yet he could in no way admit that it was unbecoming or improper in him to take this opportunity of stating his sentiments on the Bill generally, and on its particular parts. The noble Lord who opened the debate felt himself compelled to admit, in the course of his argument, that the measure was supported by the petitions of all classes of the community, which came pouring in upon their Lordships in boundless variety, and in countless numbers, almost all of them expressing the most ardent desire that their Lordships should strenuously support the measure, and speed it to the foot of the Throne. No discussions had taken place on the presenting of these petitions without a protest against debating the subject in that irregular and incidental manner; but still the discussions went on, and the protests were renewed. The opponents of the measure discussed and protested, and repeated that it was irregular to enter upon a debate of this grand question merely on the presentation of petitions. "Wait (it was said), until an opportunity is given for a regular debate upon the Bill,—wait till the moment comes for which we pant,—stay the wishful course of your proceedings, the advent of which we gladly hail, and then we will be no longer restrained by the fastidious feelings which now check our genius, and, de- 1047 press our ardour for debate, but we shall rush down into the arena, and meet you with gladness." Such had been the language of the opponents of the Bill, but now it appeared that another and a very different movement had been made by these great tacticians. At first they had contented themselves with merely throwing out a few skirmishers; then his noble friend gave his notice of a motion, and then his notice was withdrawn. More petitions were presented, more conversations took place, more parties were indulged in, more complaints of irregularity ensued, and more reluctance at the discussion was expressed. Then, again, noble Dukes, noble Earls, and noble Barons entered into piecemeal conversations; then again it was repeated, wait till a proper day, and keep the feast till the feast-day comes. A few skirmishers were then again thrown out, and when it was asked, why do you change your tactics all of a sudden, and thus get out of the jaws of the lion, it was answered, "We will give a notice of a motion, and have a debate at once." The present, therefore, was an occasion of their own seeking, and the enemies of the measure had brought forward this question for the view and purpose of having a premature and incidental discussion. Then the cry was, "Don't be carried away by an incidental discussion." He would ask, what had been done during the whole Session but to engage in incidental and premature discussions? First, there was the incidental discussion upon the timber trade, the cotton trade was afterwards incidentally brought under their Lordships' notice, and then the subject of taxes was to be incidentally discussed. He should make the hair of the noble Viscount stand an end, when he informed him that a tax had been debated in that House, before the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed it to the House of Commons. It might be irregular and peculiar to the present Session, and to the present Opposition, and to the times in which they lived, but he could not apply the epithet "unprecedented" to the course taken by the opponent of the Bill that night. His noble friend had given notice of a motion for the production of papers, and the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury bench had declared that he had no objection to their being produced. Upon this his noble friend said, that the object of his motion was to 1048 afford an opportunity to discuss the whole question of Parliamentary Reform, which he was as anxious to attack as the other side was to defend. At last came the day,—the important day,—big with the fate of the noble Lord's important speech, made to be unanswerable by his Majesty's Ministers. After all this promise and preparation, he saw the noble and learned Lord, who it was presumed was to overthrow all the constitutional principles of the Bill, and his friends, moving off en echellon, although they had just before been intrenched behind the Commander-in-chief. The noble Lord declined the combat, and moved off, aided by the light squadrons from the cross-benches, until he had nearly emptied the House. Ministers thus found themselves in an awkward situation—such a situation as it was not very usual for Ministers to be placed in. They were actually looking out for antagonists. Their eyes wandered over the House in all quarters to search for opponents, and every here and there they saw only a bush, which led them to think that if the bush were well beaten, game might be sprung. The bushes were well beaten, and still no game took wing. Ministers were reduced to the necessity of fighting the air. In that state of things, their Lordships would not expect him to go into a liberal and extensive discussion upon the principles of the Bill, or to touch upon its details. Where they had been attacked they had been successfully defended. It was the constant, and the great, and the triumphant, and the taunting argument in the mouths of the anti-reformers in former years—''We follow a plain, straight-forward, and direct course—our way is uniform and unqualified; but as for you, the advocates of Reform, there is no grappling with you; what one man amongst you will maintain, another gives up—what one clings to, another runs away from; what one defends, another attacks; and what one describes as the very foundation and corner-stone of the measure, another of you will tell us would be the ruin and total destruction of the Constitution. There are as many plans amongst us as there are advocates for Reform; and you are all violent in the praise of your own theories, and in the condemnation of those put forward by your fellow-reformers." That was the line of argument used by the late Mr. Canning, and used by him with his wonted felicity, against the measure of 1049 Reform. He never lost sight of an opportunity of applying that principle to the measure, whenever it was brought forward in any shape in Parliament, and in his unqualified and consistent opposition to Reform he made great use of that argument, which was derived from the diversity of opinions amongst reformers themselves. No one at the time felt more the force of that argument than he did; but now the tables were turned, and that argument as to contrariety of sentiment, and diversity of opinion, could be effectually turned against the anti-reformers themselves. Concerning the present measure of Reform, he agreed with all his colleagues cordially and completely and almost the whole population of the country had adopted it as their chosen child, which they would patronise with fostering care and fond affection. They looked at it as a whole measure, and as a whole measure they would have it. He agreed with them in calling for the proposed measure of Reform, and for no other. All the reformers were now agreed upon that point, -they had buried in oblivion their minor differences,—they had given up their disagreements and dissensions,—they had rallied round this measure as a centre of union, and no longer could it be tauntingly objected to them, that one class of them approved of one measure of Reform, and another class of a different one,—they were all unanimous for the Bill, the whole Bill, and the Bill only. But while all was thus simple and plain on the side of Reform, how did matters stand in the enemy's camp? In their arguments not merely against Reform generally, but against this specific measure, would there be found that agreement,—that uniformity, and that consistency, which were so much vaunted of in the days of Mr. Canning? Let their Lordships but just attend for a moment, and they would see that the reformers had now changed places with their opponents, and that the charge of diversity and disunion could now be fairly thrown in the teeth of the anti-reformers. He would just refer, in illustration and in proof, to the speech of his noble friend who had brought forward this Motion that night. In the course of argument which his noble friend had adopted, and in the fair and candid speech which he had made, he (the Lord Chancellor) could not desire to discover a more absolute contrast to the 1050 doctrines maintained by those with whom he was leagued. His noble friend had admitted, in the course of his address to their Lordships, that whatever might have been his former opinions on this subject, and whatever might be his own feelings or wishes on the question, he could no longer deny the necessity of Reform. He admitted that the people of this country had expressed themselves plainly and loudly, and with unprecedented unanimity, in favour of this great question. He allowed, that the voice of the people had been raised in a peaceable, but he acknowledged, in an irresistible manner for Parliamentary Reform. Therefore, his noble friend, making all those admissions, was obliged to acknowledge that Reform must be granted; and to a certain degree his noble friend must still further admit, that not only must Reform be granted, but that to yield to that unanimious wish, to obey that irresistible voice, and to satisfy the people, the Reform which was to be granted must be not of a nominal, but of an effectual description. At all events, his noble friend had admitted the necessity of some measure of Reform; but what said the noble Duke (Wellington) on that subject? If ever he (the Lord Chancellor) had heard a declaration which had more than another mortified him, it was the declaration which had been made by that noble Duke; if he ever had been more grieved by one thing than another in the course of his life, it was by the line of conduct which had been taken on that subject by one who had rendered great services to the country at the head of her armies—who had rendered equally great services at the head of the King's councils,—services which he (the Lord Chancellor) should be ever forward to acknowledge, and which, with his latest breath, he should be most anxious to proclaim,—if ever, he repeated, he had been mortified and chilled by disappointment, it was by the declaration which that noble Duke had made at the commencement of the present Session, on the subject of Reform. He had expected, indeed he had fondly hoped, that that noble Duke would have yielded to what he must have seen was the general desire of the country, and that with the spirit of an enlightened statesman, and the boldness of a great captain, he would not have hesitated in adopting those measures, and pursuing that course, which could alone satisfy the just expect- 1051 ations of the people of this empire. But that fatal declaration which the noble Duke had made against all Reform, at the commencement of the present Session, had dissipated all those hopes; and now, after several others had changed their opinions and had yielded to that tide which they saw it was vain to resist, he had heard that noble Duke again, during the last three or four days, with a manly consistency, declare that his opinion remained unchanged. While that noble Duke saw those who had heretofore stood with him fairly backsliding from the cause,—becoming the victims of expediency,—and all, one by one, dropping from his Side,—to hear that noble Duke, under such circumstances, in manly; strong, and honest terms, tell their Lordships that his opinion remained unchanged on the subject, while the voice of the public had been raised against it,—to hear him say, that, so far from exciting his astonishment,—he might add, his admiration,—was exactly what he had expected from that noble person. He was ready to award its just meed of praise to the noble Duke's consistency, but he felt that the noble Duke might be perfectly consistent and still be in the wrong. He felt that that noble Duke might be perfectly consistent himself, and yet had he not been able to preserve the consistency of every one else connected with him. He would warn him that he had mates on board who did not pull the vessel as he did up against the stream; that, stationed at either end, they worked in opposite directions; that while there were those with him who were against all Reform, and for having things as they were, and 'who agreed with the noble Duke himself, that the Constitution was a most perfect one, and that if it were left to them to create it over again, they could not call into existence a single new perfection in it, nor hope to add a star to that galaxy of rotten boroughs which excited their admiration, and demanded their respect,—that while there were those who thus went with the noble Duke, there were also those on his side, and arrayed with him against the present measure of Reform, who, unlike him, were ready to admit the absolute necessity of some species of Reform. His noble friend who had brought forward this Motion, though leagued with the noble Duke against the present measure of Reform, differed much mores on the general ques- 1052 tion of Reform from that noble Duke than he did from his Majesty's Ministers: he only differed from them in degree, they going to an extent, to which he could not follow; in fact, there were but few points of variance between them, for they agreed in principle, and differed only in details. He could now, therefore, he thought, Successfully retort upon the enemies of Reform, that charge which, in former times they had levelled at the heads of the advocates of Reform. He could tell them that no two of them seemed to agree in their mode of opposing, or objecting to this measure. In bringing forward a measure to settle such an important question as that of Reform, it was nothing wonderful that those who proposed the plan should find difficulties in determining the course which should be adopted, but that those who had only a mere negative to support, and to deny what the others asked for, and to rebut what the others proposed,—that they should differ so much amongst themselves, he looked upon as a singular feature in the discussion of this great question, and one of the strongest and most incontrovertible proofs that the pressure of argument and of public opinion was on that side of the question which was espoused by his noble colleagues, and supported zealously by himself. He had no desire to detain their Lordships by alluding to the details of this measure, as a more fitting opportunity would arise from the discussion of them; but he could not avoid observing upon the concession, as he would call if, which had been made by his noble friend who had opened this Debate. There was no avowal, there was no admission, which he had ever heard made upon any great popular question which came up to the acknowledgment which had been made by his noble friend, as to the unanimous acceptance of this great measure by all classes, all ranks, and all descriptions of persons in this country. Men of every sect, party, and class, who might hitherto have entertained a difference of Opinion on the question of Reform, had, with a miraculous unanimity, abandoned all their differences, and had cordially united in favour of the present plan of Reform. But that was not the most extraordinary fact connected with the present measure. They who would be injured by it—they whose franchise would be virtually taken from them, with but a few miserable and paltry ex- 1053 ceptions—the majority of that class who would be virtually disfranchised by this measure—joined the country, and yielding; to the torrent of opinion which had become quite irresistible, in favour of it, professed themselves ready to sacrifice their privileges for the good of the country. But here he was reminded of a question which he had heard put from the cross-benches,—that quarter eminent for sagacity, and which, though it might have escaped their Lordships, unacquainted as they were with the subtleties of the law, had not passed unobserved by him (the Lord Chancellor). He had heard it said from the cross-benches that they should be furnished with the dates of the petitions, as well as with the prayers which they contained. He knew to what that question led; he was well aware what a structure would be erected upon the recent date of the petitions, and upon the absence of all complaint for 300 or 400 years. He had no hesitation in asserting, that the people had complained over and over again, and that they had a just right to complain. It was not true, it was most unfounded, and most false, to charge the people with coming forward at a late period to complain of evils which had existed for years. He would refer them to the Parliamentary History in proof of the truth of what he asserted. They would find that the Table of that House had been crowded with petitions praying for Reform in 1791: in 1817 their Table was also loaded with petitions calling for Reform, and now again, almost without the slightest concert, and certainly without preconceived arrangement, petitions flocked in upon them in thousands, and, as his noble friend had admitted, irresistibly overpowered all objections to the granting of a large measure of Reform. "But thus (continued the noble and learned Lord) it ever is with injustice—it always moves quicker than the complaints of its effects, or the desires for redress. 'Injustice,' I remember the poet tells us—'Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfined,Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o'er mankind,While prayers to heal her wrongs move slow behind.'But though prayers be slow, they are not less sure to follow, and if injustice tramples o'er mankind, and sweeps the wide earth, and if prayers lag behind, as sure as that it is in the power of Heaven to grant redress, so sure does injustice always lead 1054 to complaint—and so sure does the denial of right engender the sense of wrong; and were the Government even insensible to the signs of the times, and to all the other examples which have been furnished to it by other States it would in my opinion be perfect madness on the part of the government to resist the unanimous appeal of a suffering people. I give you not counsel, my Lords, to yield to menace or to bend to fear. I only give you that counsel which I have before addressed to the other House of Parliament,—I but give you that counsel which has been often given to you before by those noble persons who have been most forward in promoting the success of this great and healing measure of Reform. They honestly and manfully performed their duty in those times, at the risk of the animadversions which it might draw down upon them. They laughed at the ridiculous charge of yielding to fear, and if they did fear a discontented people, I tell you plainly, my Lords, that I share in that fear with them. I own that I fear the discontent of an unanimous people, and that I should tremble at the thought of going on further without endeavouring to appease that discontent, feeling as I do that they ask only for their right, and that right, if withheld, and that wrong if unredressed, might rouse their slumbering strength even to day and might lead to that confusion and those, convulsions which your Lordships justly dread. That appears to me, my Lords, a reason which fairly calls upon us to yield to the just demands of the people." The noble and learned Lord proceeded to observe, that this measure had been called a revolutionary measure, and a great and uncalled-for change. His noble friend (Lord Wharncliffe) had said, that it was an unprecedented thing to do that which he argued this measure went to do—namely to alter the frame of the Constitution of the country. He would willingly meet and engage his noble friend on that ground. Without going into the details of the measure, he would maintain that the very principle of the Bill was the principle of the Constitution,—that it had been uniformly acted upon, and that it had been acted upon in a stronger manner than it was acted on in this instance. He would meet his noble friend upon the very threshold of the Bill,—the disfranchisement of sixty boroughs, and the in part disfranchisement of forty-seven more. That 1055 was the part upon which the great attack had been made, as if it were the weakest and most vulnerable part of the Bill. As to the objection about giving an increased influence to the landed interest, though some of the opponents of the Bill might not object to it on those grounds, they hated the Bill on account of the disfranchisement of the boroughs, and that disfranchisement was represented as an unprecedented change in the Constitution of the country. Mr. Canning was a consistent and ingenious, a statesman-like and successful, because consistent, enemy of all Reform. He objected to all kinds of change, and when his attention was drawn to the unrepresented state of Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and such places, he would admit the fact, but then he would say that Liverpool, York, and Pontefract were represented, and that unrepresented Manchester was safe in the representation of Liverpool. Then when he was asked what he could say to Scotland, where there was not even that virtual Representation which he could point out in England,—where unrepresented Glasgow could not be said to be safe in unrepresented Edinburgh,—where from the banks of the Tweed to John O'Groat's house there was not even the semblance of a popular election, and where things had come to such a pass that, as had been said by Mr. Fox, the forty-five Representatives for Scotland might be chosen by men living in Lombard Street, in the City of London, Mr. Canning admitted the argument, but then he contended that any change in such a state of things would be only a portion of a Parliamentary Reform—that it would be an alteration in that parliamentary Constitution which had been given to us as data for political men,—that that constitution they had no right to alter in any respect, and that they might as well think of touching the Crown on the head of the Monarch as the constitution of Parliament. Now that, at least, was a consistent argument. In some years after, when Mr. Canning supported the disfranchisement of a borough which had been proved delinquent he had asked that right honorable Gentleman on what grounds he then justified such a measure, when he recollected the arguments which he had formerly urged against any thing of the kind. Mr. Canning justified the measure on the necessity of the case, and he argued that those people had committed 1056 an offence for which they should be punished; that by transferring the franchise from Crampound to Yorkshire no change was made in the constitution of Parliament, no change was made in its numbers; that it was a mere substitution of York for Grampound to meet a particular case and could not be used as a precedent for further changes except such another case should arise. That was the only answer that Mr. Canning could give to that question. but surely that proved that Mr. Canning himself was not totally and completely averse from all and every species of Reform. But they were told that the disfranchisement of the boroughs mentioned in the Bill was a revolutionary measure; as if there had been an eternally fixed order and custom under the constitution of this country for the maintenance of a certain number of boroughs—as if the number of those boroughs should remain perpetually the same, and as if they formed according to the assertion of their advocates a portion of the ancient and immutable Constitution of this country. Now, there never was a charge brought against any measure which was more completely founded upon an utter ignorance of the history of the Constitution of this country. Well and truly had his learned and eloquent friend (the Lord Chancellor of Ireland) said, that such persons had read history to little or no purpose; that they pored with the delight of an antiquary over the rust of the coin which they collected in their search, but they neither read the legend which was inscribed on it nor regarded the intrinsic value of the metal. Did such persons mean to assert that Gatton and Old Sarum, and all the other boroughs, had been time out of mind a part and parcel of the Constitution of the country, and that many of them had not been, even in recent times, altered and abrogated? He did not know whether he was about to give information to their Lordships of that with which they were not previously acquainted, but, judging from what had taken place elsewhere he was certain that he communicated information to some Members of the House of Commons, when he stated, that to the Crown of this country, up to the period of the Union with Scotland, never was denied the unquestioned and undisputed right of sending writs to any borough it pleased, and of ceasing to send them to any borough it might choose not to send them to. If they looked into the 1057 history of the country they would find that such was the case. It appeared from a statement made by Mr. Pitt, that before the period of the Revolution seventy boroughs were disfranchised, and thirty-six were then enfranchised. They only now proposed to do that which the Crown had often done previously to the Union with Scotland. Could that Bill, therefore, which disfranchised a certain number of boroughs be justly described as a Bill which went to pull down the Constitution, when they found that, up to the beginning of the seventeenth century exactly the same power had been exercised by the Crown? His noble friend who had brought the subject under their Lordships' notice had taunted some others of his noble friends because they were the disciples of Mr. Canning and yet supported this Bill; and he had described all the speakers at present in Parliament as mere puny orators compared with Mr. Canning. The noble Lord had either never before heard the Lord Chancellor of Ireland speak, or he must have forgotten his masterly eloquence, or he would not have made that assertion, and his taunt against the noble Lords who had been the friends of Mr. Canning was quite undeserved. From all that he had ever seen of Mr. Canning he was convinced that if Mr. Canning still lived he would now be with the reformers and opposed to those who resisted this great and healing measure. But they had heard much of the great men who had advocated the present system. Mr. Canning was but the disciple of a still greater man—Mr. Pitt; and after all they had heard about Reform being dangerous, revolutionary, and so forth, it was a curious circumstance that Mr. Pitt was for a long period a strenuous reformer. Out of office he approved of Reform; and while in office he voted for it. He propounded too a measure of Reform himself; on that he divided the House; and if he ceased to advocate Reform at the period of the French Revolution, he had never concealed his decided mortification and disappointment that his plans had failed. His memorable saying should not be forgotten; "that without Reform no honest man could be the Minister of this country; and that if by hazard you should get an honest man Minister, he could not honestly serve you." What was one portion of Mr. Pitt's Reform? To add 100 Members to the other House of Parliament. The Bill brought into the 1058 other House by the Ministers only proposed to make the House in numbers more like what it was before 1801. A multiplicity of changes had, from time to time, been made in the Representation of the country, and in the constitution of Parliament. He would not go back to the time of Henry 6th, when the qualification for an elector was raised to 40s., equivalent to 40l. of our money; but he would refer them, for instance, to what had occurred on the Union with Scotland and on the Union with Ireland. He would refer to 1778, 1782, and 1793, when they repealed a great portion of the Catholic disabilities, and actually admitted five-sixths of the population to the right of voting who never possessed it before. That was, in fact, more a Parliamentary Revolution than a Parliamentary Reform. He would refer them also to the period when they reduced the Representatives of Ireland from 300 to 100, and added those 100 Members to the English House of Commons. These all were measures which much better deserved the epithets of revolutionary, and so forth, than the measure upon which they had been so abundantly lavished. He was sure that if a more moderate Reform, such as had been recommended by his noble friend that evening, but which would never satisfy the people, had been brought forward by Government, it would have met with quite as much opposition as the present one in Parliament. Suppose that half the rotten boroughs had been disfranchised or that all of them had been mutilated of half their Members, should they not have had from his noble friend, and from all the opponents of the measure elsewhere, the same reprehension of disfranchisement? Should they not have been told that they were going too far? Would it not have been said to them by his- noble friend, "Why do you stop there?" had you not better lop off all; for, if you had, you could not have committed a greater violation of the principle of the Constitution? ["hear, hear," from Lord Wharncliffe] He perceived that his noble friend appreciated the force of his reasoning. ["No, no." from Lord Wharncliffe] Yes, his noble friend did, only his noble friend was surprised to find that the argument should have struck them in the same way. His noble friend, and those who held the same language with his noble friend, would have said to them, "why do you stop here: the argument which will 1059 justify the taking away one borough, will justify the taking away another: if so, why should you be both rapacious and inconsistent too? Why this half measure? Do you think the people will like it? Oh, no; you may gratify your foolish partialities; you may retain your cherished Gat-ton, your beloved Boroughbridge, and your favourite Sarum; but do you think the people will like you as well for this as if you had put them all in your cauldron together? You are doing all you can to protect your plan from the assaults of enemies within doors, but you are not doing that which the people will expect from you?" He must confess, that if his noble friend had had an opportunity of saying this, he should have felt it difficult to answer it. Well, but those who opposed the measure talked about some Reform, and yet kept carefully out of view even the outline of any plan which they would be inclined to accede to. Now he put it to them whether they were not in this dilemma:—they admitted that there was in the country a very strong feeling in favour of Reform,—aye, of rather an extensive system of Reform;—for that, indeed, was the only ground upon which anti-reformers now proclaimed themselves willing to listen to Reform at all. Did they suppose that any plan short of disfranchisement would justify the people? If not, this was one of the horns of the dilemma, upon which their admission of the strong feeling in favour of Reform had fixed them. Now mark the other horn the goring horn of this dilemma, as it appeared to him, and he felt for those who were threatened by it. They must begin the work of disfranchisement, and how? Would they disfranchise all the boroughs on one side,—all the boroughs of their foes? No,—-for that would be such an apparent job, that it would not be tolerated for a moment. Every body would cry shame upon it. Well, then, they must take some from one side and some from another: spoliating, as they now called it when others did it, first a friend and then a foe,—thus converting former friends into foes; but not making any friends among their former foes, and they might be compelled to sacrifice, unless pity for a recent purchase withheld their hand, even Gatton itself. But no matter in what way they disfranchised; disfranchise they must, and then, what would become of their principle, of the arguments that were founded 1060 on spoliation—the invasion of property,—and the violation of the spirit of the Constitution? One word at parting with this dilemma. Let him tell those noble and honourable proprietors of boroughs who now talked about moderate reform, and who were sincere, for he spoke not of those who assumed the garb of moderate reformers for the mere purpose of catching votes against this bill, that if that moderate Reform of which they spoke were to be carried, he should very much marvel if they would have Gatton or Boroughbridge, or any such places long spared to them. These, then,—the reasonableness of the measure, the consistency of it in principle, and the defensibleness of it in argument,—constituted the main ground of his approval of the measure. The second ground of his approval, though indefensible in argument,—though difficult to reconcile in principle, and though more difficult to maintain in debate,—was, that there were many boroughs infinitely worse and more intolerable than the boroughs which were called close boroughs. If there were any security that the close boroughs would remain in such hands as had hitherto held them, and as did still hold them, he should think the longer existence far less exceptionable, than the existence of such boroughs as Barnstaple, and—but he would not go into them, for a late report of a Committee of the House of Commons prevented him from thinking of any of them but the last to which their attention had been called—he meant the overgrown, foul, and corrupt borough of Liverpool, where corruption had stalked the streets by daylight, and where the iniquity of the place had waxed so great, that the fame I of it had spread from one quarter of the empire to the other;—where, instead of imitating the practice which a remnant of shame or a sense of danger had given rise to in smaller boroughs, of a private room and a hole in the wall, men were seen huckstering their votes in the open streets at noon-tide, and tallies that sold for 20l. a-piece at first fetched double and treble afterwards. Then there was the out-voter—the scourge of the place in which he exercised his right of franchise—who inoculated all whom he approached with the vices he had learned in the capital or in some other large city, and who, however pure the resident body might have been before they saw him, was sure to bring with him venom enough to make it 1061 one festering mass of corruption before he left it. The election for Liverpool was decided almost by the non-residents, and he who could ensure the votes of eight or nine hundred non-residents, might be pretty sure of the result. Putting a stop to the system which arose from out-voters was, in his opinion, one of the best parts of the plan. Well, then, he said that he thought there were some other boroughs much worse than the close boroughs, and he knew that in saying this he laid himself open to be told—"Ah! but you support the retention of some of those boroughs." He thought, however, that he had already answered that argument. He could not tell exactly where to draw the line, but he knew that the public eye was fixed upon such boroughs as these, so that if delinquencies continued in them it could not escape detection, and, consequently, punishment; while, as contentment and conciliation to a certain extent were necessary to the success of the measure, he was prepared to accede to this part of the Bill. But when their Lordships were told of the probable evils of the measure, it was right to remind them of existing evils, and ask them, whether any thing so bad as some results of the present system could possibly be expected, under any change? As a sample, what did their Lordships think of a man who, to get rid of his debts, bought a seat in Parliament for three months? What did they think of a man who by so purchasing a seat, got out of prison, and being out of prison went abroad; and, when abroad vacated his seat, so that another Member might come in, while the gentleman who had gone abroad never found his way back again? He need not tell them that this had happened. But what did they think of this next case which he was about to narrate to them? "A man" continued the noble and learned Lord, "bought a borough, say for 40,000l. or 50,000l.—I say bought a borough, because that is the phrase,—but your Lordships know, that what is really bought is the power of deciding upon peace and war, upon all affairs of commerce, upon Parliamentary Reform, upon the amount of taxation,—in a word, upon all the great and vital questions, on the just decision of which the prosperity, perhaps the very existence of the empire depends. This, my Lords, is the meaning of buying a borough. Well, 1062 but in the case of which I am speaking, all the money was not to be paid down at once—perhaps it was not convenient; and so it being agreed that the prompt should be at six months, there was to be discount, of course; and what do your Lordships suppose the discount was? Money, perhaps. Oh no, my Lords; the simple men out of doors, and particularly those on the Stock Exchange, would have answered, simpletons as they are, money; but in this case the discount was not money, but a man. Yes, it was said to the purchaser, 'You shall have a term; you shall go out for a time, and another shall go in; and so the affair shall go on, and the discount be taken until the time for the prompt comes." Now this I am credibly informed is a fact, and your Lordships think it a very laughable matter. But why is it so? It is laughable only on account of the gross and flagrant incongruity of it; and the incongruity consists in a man having been the representative of five per cent, on 40,000l. or 50,000l. for a few months, instead of being, what he ought to have been, a Representative of the people. The character of the Legislature, his Lordship continued, could not be unimpaired if such a case occurred but once. If the system admitted of the possibility of such an occurrence, that alone was a sufficient reason for the reformation of it. But the grand principle on which this measure of Reform was built was not the lopping-off excrescences, nor the converting of close boroughs into open boroughs, nor the removal of non-resident voters, nor the diminishing of the expense of elections by taking the poll in districts, and by other particulars into which he would not then enter. Great and important as these consequences of the Bill were, they were not the main, the most valuable features of it; but the great and broad principle of the Bill,—that in which the beauty of it chiefly consisted was, the letting in of large quantities of his Majesty's subjects who had been hitherto altogether unrepresented. Large towns, densely peopled, marts of commerce, emporia of manufactures, the abodes of honest and industrious men, who, in time of peace contributed to advance the prosperity of their country by the sweat of their brow, and who, in war defended their country by the sinews of their arms, and by the blood in their veins; but who, because they had not been formerly congregated into masses in certain small districts, had not hitherto been thought worthy 1063 of being represented in the legislative council of the nation. By the Bill, too, copyholders were let in—leaseholders were let in; and though it had been said, that as leaseholders only of twenty-one years were to be admitted, that alteration would not make much difference, yet he must be allowed to dissent altogether from that position. He thought it would make a vast difference. At the same time let him observe,—but in saying this he begged it to be understood that he spoke merely as an individual,—he should not care if the leaseholder of the smallest term were let in; for, while he let in the towns, it was his anxious desire that the election for counties should be independent. His noble friend had alluded to his canvass in the county of York; but he begged to remind his noble friend that he had never thought of canvassing the squires though he had taken great care to canvass the towns. Indeed the squires were at first violently opposed to him,—as most of his best friends always had been,—and among the squires of Yorkshire he had the honour of boasting many friends. The squires actually held a meeting for the purpose of preventing his standing,—but he was bound to add, that when they found they could not do that, the meeting ended in an invitation to him to offer himself as a candidate. However, he had not placed any dependence upon the squires; all his reliance was upon the towns, for they were sure to carry the election. This his noble friend knew as well or better than he did; and he put it to their Lordships and to his noble friend whether that was a state of county representation which ought to be satisfactory to the country? Now this Bill restored the state of Representation to what it ought to be, although his noble friend insisted that it was not so good a measure as one which he could have proposed, but which his noble friend had not proposed. Last of all, then, such was the state which this country had reached, and the world at large had arrived at such a state, that it was no longer just, no longer expedient, no, nor no longer even safe, that the great mass of the honest and industrious people of this great kingdom should continue longer unrepresented. The spread of knowledge among them, the intelligence, the industry, the weight which attached to them, rendered it neither honest nor safe in their Lordships, nor expedient for the country, if they valued the 1064 welfare and security of the State, that the only point on which they should continue to overlook the people should be the right of the people to be represented in Parliament. They were not slow in calling upon the people for manifestations of their loyalty,—they were not slow in calling upon the people to contribute millions of taxes,—they never forgot to enlist the people in their ranks when they drained the people of their blood in warfare, as they drained them of their money in peace; but the only point on which they never appealed to the people, the only point in which the people had been grossly ill-treated by them, was, that no Representation had been given to the people to that extent to which their worth, their services, and their character gave them a right. If the kingdoms had not been united, the Crown must have issued writs to the large towns, and he believed that the Crown must also have discontinued the issue of writs to the boroughs. All, therefore, which they could be called upon to do, was to effect that regularly and, which, but for the Unions, must have been done, irregularly, by a well considered act of the Legislature. But for the Unions, that which they would be called upon to do by Act of Parliament, he was sure would have been done by the Crown. Of that he had no more doubt than he had of the ultimate success of this great, this important, this healing measure of Reform.
§ The Duke of Wellington
must say, in the outset, that up to the present moment he had heard nothing like an answer to the able address of his noble friend (Lord Wharncliffe) near him; and he had not, therefore, wished to address their Lordships until he heard the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. That noble and learned Lord had only done him justice in supposing that his opinions had undergone no change since the declaration he had made to their Lordships at the opening of the Session. In his opinion, the state of the Representation ought not to be changed. In his opinion they could, on principle, no more deprive one of these boroughs of their franchise, without delinquency being proved, than they could deprive him of his seat in that House, or of his title, or the noble Lord on the Woolsack of his estate. The right in both cases was the same, and he contended that that argument had been held over and over again in that House, and would be held 1065 again, if the case of Liverpool should ever be brought forward. That House had always required proof of delinquency before it would consent to any act of disfranchisement. He admitted that there were circumstances of necessity, which would get rid of this strict letter of the law, as they would get rid of the strict letter of the law in other cases; but he contended, that no circumstances of necessity, upon this subject, had, till this moment, been made out. Even the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Lord had done nothing to establish it. At the close of his speech, indeed, the noble and learned Lord had talked of the people who laboured by the sweat of their brow, and who shed their blood in our armies; but these were not the persons to whom this Bill gave the elective franchise—it was given to altogether another class of persons. On all this, the noble and learned Lord went upon the principle of expediency, as well as he did. But the noble and learned Lord, and his noble friend near him, had both left out of consideration, that it was the creation of a legislative assembly they were to look to, and not what the voters were to be—that they were to consider what a House of Commons ought to be, and not what the constituents ought to be. This, he contended, it was the duty of the Government to consider in framing a measure of this kind. But he had not yet done with the matter of principle. The noble and learned Lord had admitted that he would have preferred to keep some of the rotten boroughs in the place of other boroughs, but what then became of the noble and learned Lord's principle? The principle was at once given up here. Well, but he had said that they were' to look more to the formation of a House of Commons, than to the formation of an elective body upon the principle of population. Now he thought that the present House of Commons was as complete a one as could be formed. He contended that the House of Commons, particularly since the peace, had shown itself to be the most efficient legislative body in the world, without any exception. It had rendered more services than any other House of Commons in this country during the same length of time. He contended that it had continued to render those services till the close of last Session; that it was prepared to continue them still in this Session; and that it was only interrupted by the intro- 1066 duction of the discussion of this subject of Reform. He would refer to the opinion of the noble Marquis (Lansdown) opposite, whom he always heard with great delight, whose opinions he believed did not much differ from his own, and who had said, that if he had to form a House of Commons, he would form one like the present, giving a large preponderance to property, and the most to landed property. The noble Earl (Grey) opposite, too, had, in a speech which he made in 1817, admitted that the House of Commons was always ready to attend to the interests of the people. This speech of the noble Earl was made upon his presenting a petition to that House upon this very subject of Reform. He must say, then, that the opinion which he gave at the commencement of this Session was not at variance with those opinions of the noble Earl and the noble Marquis. He would add, too, that he retained that opinion now, and he believed he should entertain it till the last hour of his life—especially as it was an opinion which was borne out by almost all the eminent men who had spoken upon the subject. Well, then,—but it was said that it became necessary for the Government to propose some plan of Reform in the representative system. Now, he must say here, that some observations which had fallen from the noble Lord, the Privy Seal, and from the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, were not quite correct as to facts; and upon those observations he felt himself called upon to make some remarks. It was quite true, that when the late Government brought forward the Catholic question, they were supported by many noble Lords who were generally in opposition to the Government. He had the misfortune on that occasion to lose the support and regard of a great number of friends, both there and in the other House of Parliament. That was a misfortune which he should never cease to lament; yet he had the consolation of knowing, that what he then did was no more than his public duty required of him. Believing, as he did, that civil war must be the consequence of continuing to refuse the settlement of that question, he thought that he should have been wanting in his duty, both as a man and as a minister, if he had hesitated to give up his former views with regard to that measure. Certainly the part he had taken on that occasion had lost him the confidence of many 1067 of his former friends, and the noble Lords who supported him in that measure were not willing to lend him the same support on the other measures which he thought necessary for the good of the country. Nevertheless, he thought he was bound to remain in the position he then occupied, as long as he enjoyed the confidence of his Sovereign, and the support of the House of Commons. He might, he believed, have continued in that position, but the late revolution in France had occurred at a critical period. Like former revolutions, such as those in Spain and Naples, it certainly did create a very great sensation in this country, and a strong desire was excited by speeches in various places, and by the spirit developed at the elections for Parliamentary Reform,—a desire more strong on the part of the people than had been displayed for many years with respect to any political object. But he did not then, nor did he now, think that desire irresistible,—to be sure it would be irresistible if Parliament thought proper to make the alterations demanded in our representative system,—but if it should decide otherwise, he believed the country would in this, as in other instances, submit to the decision of Parliament. He admitted that there had been a growing wish for Parliamentary Reform in the country, but he thought that if the question were fairly discussed in Parliament, and if, after a fair hearing of the case, Parliament should decide against it, the country would submit without a murmur. The fashion resulting from the example of the French and Belgian revolutions had now subsided—people saw the consequences of revolution to be distress and ruin; and his belief was, if Parliament in its wisdom decided that Reform was not to be carried, that the country would submit to the decision. With respect to the question of the Civil List, he had heard it stated that there was no combination of parties against the Government of the day; he would not positively assert anything which he did not know to be fact; but he always understood that there had been something of a combination. It was extraordinary that all the gentlemen who usually attached themselves to certain parties should accidentally combine to vote against Government. However this might be, he was defeated on the question of the Civil List: in short, the Government was placed in a minority. Upon that, finding that 1068 he had the misfortune no longer to enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons, he thought proper to resign the situation which he held in his Majesty's service. At that period the question of Parliamentary Reform had no more to do, as far as he was concerned, with the resignation which he had tendered to his Majesty on the day following the defeat on the Civil List, than any thing else in the world. He admitted he resigned next morning because he did not wish to expose his Majesty and the country to the consequences which might result from the Government going out on the success of the question of Parliamentary Reform. There was the truth, but to say he had resigned upon account of Parliamentary Reform was wrong;. He had resigned upon the ground before stated, and he had resigned at the particular moment when he did, because he did not choose to expose his Majesty and the country to the consequences that might ensue from the occurrence of the case just mentioned. There was the real fact of the story. But the noble and learned Lord said, the late Ministry had given up the principle of Parliamentary Reform by their resignation: no such thing—they resigned because they did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, and they thought that the same majority which defeated them on Monday on the Civil List, might have defeated them on Tuesday on Reform, and then they would have sacrificed (as the noble Lord said) the principle of Parliamentary Reform in the Commons. He did not think it worth while to make any further struggle in order to retain office a day or two longer. He came now to the circumstance of the members of the present Government taking office, and he found the noble Earl stating, on the first opportunity after having occupied office, the three principles of his Government; and these were,—Retrenchment, Peace and Reform. As for Retrenchment, and Peace, he maintained that there existed no difference between the noble Earl and himself. As far as he had heard, up to that moment the noble Earl had not found a single six-pence to be retrenched in the public expenditure; every thing had been done which could be done by the late Government to promote economy in all our establishments. With respect to peace, he hoped the noble Earl had found things in such a train 1069 that he could and would be able to maintain peace with all the world. He did not say that some details had not occurred since his resignation, in which he could not agree with the noble Earl, but sooner than put the noble Earl to the risk of any inconvenience with respect to subjects so delicate, he would not have a single question asked in relation to them, if he could help it, because no man desired more than himself the prosperity of the noble Earl's Government, not out of any peculiar attachment to the noble Earl himself, but through love of his country. Parliamentary Reform was the remaining question,—for the introduction of that it appeared Ministers had obtained the consent of his Majesty, and certainly it appeared that his Majesty's name had been used upon the subject, and. he believed, frequently by persons who were by no means authorised to use it, and also upon occasions when it ought not to have been used. It was true Government had the sanction of his Majesty to bring forward the question of Reform—perhaps this measure of Reform; but to say his Majesty had taken a more active part in the matter than was implied in taking the advice of his Ministers, was not constitutional; and such being the case, he could not consider the assertion as being founded in fact. Let their Lordships look at what such a measure ought to be, and let them see what the measure was which had been brought forward by the Ministers. A measure of Parliamentary Reform brought forward by Government ought to be a measure which should enable Government to carry on the King's service in Parliament according to the Constitution as it was established at the Revolution, and as it had since proceeded. How had the public service been carried on since the Revolution? By persons of talent, property, and knowledge—scientific, political, commercial, and manufacturing,—men connected with or representing all the great interests of the country,—men noted for great abilities, who on all occasions had been a conservative party in the State, and who had supported the power and glory of the country in war, and had promoted her prosperity in peace during the last 140 years. If the country were to lose such a Parliament, Ministers were bound to see that their new system of election should be such as would secure the King's Government the support of this 1070 other Parliament when formed upon the new principle. Look at the new system. His noble friend, who had addressed the House earlier in the debate, stated with great clearness what would be the result of the Bill in certain respects. His noble friend stated, that throughout the towns of England and Wales many existing interests would be interfered with, and he also stated the effect of giving votes to 10l. householders for counties. His noble friend's statements well deserved the attention of their Lordships. He himself had examined the Bill with reference to its effects on the county of Southampton. In that county were several towns—Winchester, Christchurch, Portsmouth, Southampton, and the borough of Lymington. Several boroughs in this county were struck out of the Representation by the Bill, and there were besides a number of considerable towns left unrepresented; but the voters of these places were to come into the county constituency. According to the old system, only the freeholders had votes for the county, but according to the new system the inhabitants of these unrepresented towns would have votes for the county. Now copyholders and 50l. leaseholders were to vote for the county. In the towns those two classes were for the most part shop keepers. He was convinced that there were not less than 4,000 or 5,000 such inhabitants of towns in Hampshire, who would come to have votes for the county as well as the freeholders. Now, of whom did this class of electors consist? As he had before stated, they were shopkeepers—respectable shopkeepers—in the towns. He begged to ask, were they fit persons to be the only electors to return county Members to a Parliament which was to govern the affairs of this great nation, consisting of 100,000,000 of subjects, and so many various relations, foreign, domestic, colonial, commercial, and manufacturing? Men of the description he had mentioned, with their prejudices and peculiar interests, however respectable as a body, could not be fit to be the only electors of Members of the House of Commons? But he begged to say, that however respectable this or any other class of electors might be, there was a strong reason against any uniformity of system in the Representation of the country. He had heard already of the establishment in this town of a Committee formed for the purpose of recommending candi- 1071 dates for the Representation to the different towns throughout the country. Now, considering the means of combination, and the facilities of communication which existed, he thought such a body dangerous. Associations of a like kind had been found effectual in other countries to put down the Government. Was it fit to establish such a uniform system of election (he cared not in whose hands placed), that any Committee sitting in London could guide the determination of the entire country with respect to the Representation? He wanted to know what security there would be for their Lordships' seats in that House if such a Committee existed at the first general election of a Reformed Parliament? He was in France at the period when the law of elections was passed in 1817, at that period there were in each department 300 persons, who, paying the highest amount of taxes, were chosen to manage the Representation. The King and Government altered this, and gave the power of choosing representatives to persons paying taxes to the amount of 300 francs. Two years afterwards they were obliged to alter the law again, and form two classes of electors. Since then there had been two general elections, one more unfavourable than the other to the Government, and the matter ended in the formation of a Parliament, the spirit of which rendered it impossible for a Government to act. It was not his business, and he had no wish to defend the late French Government, but he wished on that occasion to observe, that he had never written to Prince Polignac in his life (much as he had been accused of encouraging the proceedings of that person), and he had never written to Charles 10th, except when that monarch lost his son, and when his grandson was born, till he came to this country. In fact, he had never corresponded with any French Minister without the knowledge of his colleagues. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack might rely on it he had no more knowledge of Prince Polignac's proceedings than the noble and learned Lord himself, or most probably still less. He was not the apologist of Prince Polignac; but things had been brought to that state in France, that it was impossible there should not be a revolution. When he saw a similar mode of election recommended in this country—when he saw the adoption of a uniform system 1072 of election—when he saw the election placed in the hands of shopkeepers in towns and boroughs all over the country—he thought that we incurred considerable danger, and did put the country in that situation that no Minister could be certain that any one measure which he brought forward would succeed, or that he would be enabled to carry on the Government. The circumstances of France and England were in many particulars alike, and we ought to take warning by the dangers of the neighbouring country. He wished the House to advert to what the business of the King's Government in Parliament was. It was the duty of that Government to manage every thing. He had heard the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, in a speech of admirable eloquence and knowledge, propose a new judicial system at the commencement of the Session; but he maintained that it would be impossible for the Government ultimately to decide on that question, and he told the noble and learned Lord this—that if a Parliament were constructed on the new plan, it would be too strong for Government on that and many similar questions. So, also, in matters affecting commerce and manufactures, Government would depend entirely upon Parliament. He wanted to know how Government was to carry any measure on the appointment of a new Parliament? There was a great question now before the House of Commons on the subject of tithes. A Government might submit to the will of a majority opposed to its own views on other questions, but on the question of Tithes and the Church, its duty was clearly pointed out, the King's Coronation Oath, and the acts of Union with Scotland and Ireland, guaranteeing the integrity of the Church establishment. But he wanted to know how Government was to maintain the safety of the Established Church, after placing Parliament on the footing proposed. He did not wish to carry this argument farther than it would safely go; but he inferred from every thing he could see, that the Government of the country could not be carried on as hitherto, if this plan were adopted. In such an event we must alter the Constitution. He did not say the Crown could not be preserved: the King's power might be limited and confined to the management of the Army, Navy, &c.; but that would not be the English Constitution,—the country could 1073 no longer go on as before—it would not be the same England. Assuming that the concession of the Catholic question, and that the Union with Ireland were great alterations, as the noble and learned Lord stated, in the Constitution, still they were both resorted to on the principle of expediency, which was clearly made out, and he could not admit that the expediency of the present measure had been demonstrated. On the contrary, all experience warranted him in saying, that the present Legislature had answered its purposes remarkably well, and that there must arise great danger, if not irremediable mischief, from altering its composition. The great difference, therefore, between those departures from the Constitution and the present measure was, that they were warranted by expediency, and it is not. He regretted being compelled to differ from many of his political friends with respect to Reform, but duty obliged him to do so. He had no desire for any thing, except to be useful for the service of the public in any way that might be required. He had no personal reasons for communicating his opinions; he spoke them broadly and openly, with a view to the country benefit-ting by their expression. He wished to God he could convince the noble Earl and his colleagues of the error into which they had fallen on the subject of Reform, being convinced that they would place the country in the greatest possible peril if they passed the Bill in its present shape.
The Lord Chancellor
assured the noble Duke (Wellington), that he never had any concern with Polignac or Charles 10th; and with respect to the government of France, he had only in conjunction with the liberal party in this country, recommended it to take the side of mercy.
§ Earl Grey
found it impossible to remain silent after listening to the speech of the noble Duke opposite, though if he had consulted his own ease, he certainly should not have addressed their Lordships at that late hour. He would begin by expressing the same wish towards the noble Duke, as the noble Duke had expressed with respect to him. He wished to God he could cure the noble Duke of the error into which he thought his Grace had fallen. The noble Duke thought him in error; he thought the noble Duke mistaken—which was right, time would show. He believed there was hardly one 1074 man in the House, and but a very small proportion of persons in the country, who concurred with the noble Duke in opinion, that there was nothing in the state of the Representation of the people in Parliament, or in the circumstances and character of the times, which required any alteration to be made in those laws by which the Representation of the people in Parliament was at present constituted. This opinion the noble Duke was pledged to,—that the system was perfect as it stood—that all those things which others called abuses, had contributed to the glory and welfare of the country,—that the abuses were an essential part of the system,—and that, if we attempted to correct them, we at once put an end to the glory, power, and prosperity of the empire. This was a bold doctrine, which few men could be brought to concur in; even the noble Duke himself did not say that one of those generally united with him in political principles agreed with him in this opinion. In all the discussions on the subject, he had hardly heard one person (certainly not the noble Lord who opened the Debate) venture to say, that situated as this country was, and in the present state of public opinion, it was impossible to proceed safely without some attempt to restore the satisfaction and confidence of the people, by giving them a share in the right of Representation to which they considered themselves (and he thought justly considered themselves) entitled. The noble Duke had stated the circumstances under which he thought the question arose, and it was a satisfaction to him to hear, not only from his noble friend who opened the Debate, but also from the noble Duke, statements that relieved him from a charge under which he felt a good deal of uneasiness—namely, that to him and his colleagues was owing that state of excitement at present existing in the country, which alone seemed to make some change necessary. He must here observe, that a great part of the noble Duke's speech had been to him not very intelligible. The noble Duke stated the circumstances of his resignation of office, and in doing so referred to the division on the Civil List, intimating that the majority was occasioned by a combination of parties against the Government, of which combination, if it ever existed, he was certainly altogether ignorant. Indeed, it would seem from the 1075 noble Duke's statement, that a want of confidence in the Government, on the part of Parliament, placed him under the necessity of tendering his resignation to his Majesty; but the noble Duke denied that the act was connected with Reform, yet in the same breath the noble Duke stated, that he thought it his duty to save his Majesty from the embarrassing situation in which he might have been placed if the question of Reform had been carried against the wishes of Government; such a result, as the noble Duke very properly said, being also calculated to decide the principle of Reform. Why, then, it appeared that it was upon the principle of Reform, after all, that the noble Duke had resigned. To be sure, the noble Duke said, he did not go out upon Reform, but in order to spare his Majesty the difficulty that might result from Government being beaten upon Reform.
§ The Duke of Wellington
begged leave to explain. He was sure the noble Earl did not wish to misrepresent what he had said.—He had stated, that he had determined to resign, because he found he did not enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons, having been defeated on the Civil List on Monday: he might, however, have remained in office on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or possibly longer, if the Reform Question had not been fixed for Tuesday; but such being the case, he determined to resign on the Tuesday, with the view before stated, of extricating his Majesty from the difficulty that might result from Government being beaten upon that question.
§ Earl Grey
resumed.—He had stated the noble Duke's Sentiments exactly as it struck him that they had been expressed, and now he found that the difference between his account and the noble Duke's was very trifling. It appeared that the noble Duke having determined to resign on the Civil List defeat, hastened to put his determination into execution in order to avoid being in the King's service during the discussion of the Reform Question, lest it might have been carried against the Government, and embarrass his Majesty. He gathered from the noble Duke's own account of the matter, that there was existing in the country—the thing was manifested at the general election—a strong desire, (whether augmented, as the noble Duke supposed, by the Belgian or French Revolution, or occasioned by some 1076 other cause), a strong desire among the people to procure Parliamentary Reform. Nay, the noble Duke had gone farther; he acknowledged that this inclination was so far indulged in by the House of Commons itself, that if he had remained much longer in office, he apprehended the question might have been carried against him. The noble Duke had admitted then that there existed in the country, and in the House of Commons, at the time the present Government came into office, so strong a feeling in favour of Parliamentary Reform, that it was impossible for the Government to avoid taking that subject into its earliest consideration. The noble Duke had adverted to the statement which he (Earl Grey), had made of the principles on which he accepted office. In the first place, he would state that the opinion of the necessity of some measure of Reform did not force itself upon his mind for the first time on that occasion. He took the opportunity of adverting the other night to what he had stated on the first day of the Session. He was sure the noble Duke could not forget it, because it produced from him that memorable declaration, which at once astonished and astounded, to use the words of his noble friend, everybody who heard it, and produced an effect throughout the country, such as he remembered hardly ever to have been produced by the declaration of any Minister. On the first day of the Session, looking at the state of Europe, the circumstances of this country, and the difficulties and dangers with which he was surrounded, he said, that the best measure of security to which Parliament could resort, was to effect such a Reform of the House of Commons as would restore that confidence on the part of the people on which alone the safety of the Government could depend. He asked, then, with that recent declaration in favour of the consideration of the question, which was in conformity with the opinions which he had maintained during the whole of his life, was it possible for him, if he meant to retain any character for consistency, and to possess in any degree the confidence of the country, when power was offered to him to accept it on any other condition than that of being allowed to propose to Parliament those measures which he had stated to be necessary for the security of the country? The noble Duke had adverted to a former declara- 1077 tion of his, with respect to which he must be permitted to say a few words. The noble Duke stated, that he (Earl Grey) had made a declaration on some occasion, what he knew not, in 1817, with respect to the constitution of the House of Commons, which proved that there was no material difference between their respective opinions on that point. He certainly could not recollect everything which he might have said on every occasion on which the great Question of Parliamentary Reform had been discussed, during the forty-five years he had been in Parliament: but he could say conscientiously, that he had never for a moment swerved from the opinion which he originally formed on the subject. He would maintain, without fear of contradiction, that he had never said anything adverse to the Question of Reform. He understood that the declaration to which the noble Duke adverted, was one in which he alleged that many benefits had arisen from the House of Commons as at present constituted. It was very possible he might have said, what he had now no hesitation in saying, that with all its acknowledged defects, which did not assist, but materially impeded its beneficial effects, the House of Commons, take it altogether, had done greater good than any Legislative Assembly that ever existed in any country. But he was not on that account to shut his eyes to the acknowledged defects of the House of Commons, more especially when they were more and more felt by the people as a grievance, and tended to destroy confidence in its decisions, and obedience to its decrees. To return to the principles upon which he accepted office, to which the noble Duke had adverted, he certainly did take his present responsible situation pledged to three things—Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform. With respect to peace, the noble Duke said he did not think that there was much difference between the late and the present administration. If the noble Duke was sincerely anxious to maintain peace, as he believed he was, there was no difference between them so far, though with respect to the means of effecting that object there might possibly be some difference. The noble Duke took credit to himself for not having asked questions which might have embarrassed the Government. He stated, that he wished prosperity to the present Ministers,—not from any personal attach- 1078 ment to them, and that he (Earl Grey) had no right to claim or expect,—but from regard to the interests of the country. The noble Duke understood his duty too well to put questions in the delicate situation of foreign affairs, where one false step or rash word might have plunged the whole of Europe into war. The noble Duke did no more than his duty in abstaining from putting such questions, and if he had put them, he knew his duty too well either to answer them or to enter into any discussion on the subject. The noble Duke would give him credit for this, that however anxious he might be for the preservation of peace, he would never for that object sacrifice what he considered to be essential to the interests and honour of the country. The next principle on which he accepted office was that of retrenchment; and here again the noble Duke said, that there was not much difference between them. He certainly had not been able, under the circumstances of the country, to do all that he wished to have done in this respect; but he must say, in justice to himself and his colleagues, that as far as they could they had done their utmost to fulfil the pledge which they gave. Their Lordships would recollect the situation in which the present Ministers found the country when they were called to the councils of his Majesty. They would remember that the utmost alarm prevailed in the manufacturing districts, and that the counties round London were in a state of open insurrection, and as far as he had yet ascertained no measures had been taken by the late Government to put down the disturbances. The measures which the present Government adopted on that occasion proved that they were not deficient in the performance of that important part of their duty. The law obtained a signal triumph without any recourse being had to extraordinary measures, which, however, he would not hesitate to apply to Parliament for, if the state of things in another part of the empire should render it necessary to do so. Considering the state of Europe, the present Ministers had found it impossible to diminish the army or the navy, and the internal state of the country rendered it necessary that an addition should be made to the former. This circumstance, and the expense attending the calling out of the militia, and the appointment of the special commissions rendered it impossible to make any 1079 extensive reduction of expenditure this year. Nevertheless, Ministers had diminished the expenses of the country as far as they could, without impairing the efficiency of the Government. The Civil List had been reduced prospectively from 179,000l. to 75,000l. The only pension on the Civil List for which he was personally responsible was that to the widow of Mr. Fox, which was granted in 1806, at his recommendation. He knew, however, that many of the pensions had been be- stowed as acts of charity, and as it was generally considered that they had been granted for life, he thought it would be a cruelty under these circumstances to annul them. He had therefore determined that they should only cease with the lives of the present owners. He did not mean to defend those pensions, he believed that many of them had been granted on improper occasions to unworthy persons, but it certainly would appear very ungracious in his present Majesty to withdraw the bounty of his father and his brother. As the holders of these pensions died, others would not be granted, and thus at the end of a short period, about 80,000l. a year would be saved to the public. In the various departments of the Government, too, Ministers had abolished between forty and fifty principal offices, and between 160 and 170 inferior ones, making a total of upwards of 200 offices. This was a material sacrifice of patronage on the part of the Government. He could therefore appeal to his acts and to the public, whether, on the subject of retrenchment, Ministers had not done as far as lay in their power, what they had proposed to do. He now came to the last point, which was the subject of that night's Debate. Parliamentary Reform was made a condition of his acceptance of office, and in fulfilment of that condition the question had been proposed to Parliament. A complaint had been made which, he thought, was reiterated by the noble Duke, of the use which had been made of the King's name on this occasion. The noble Duke admitted that the question could not have been introduced to Parliament by Ministers without the King's consent; but declared that nothing should have been said with respect to his Majesty for the purpose of influencing the votes of Members of Parliament. The noble Duke was quite correct in his position. The House, however, was frequently informed, 1080 by a Message from the Crown itself, that the Monarch was aware of particular measures recommended to him by his Ministers. This course was pursued with respect to the Catholic Question, when the noble Duke advised his Majesty to recommend to Parliament, in a Speech from the Throne to adopt measures on the subject. He could not but recollect the strong and emphatic manner in which the noble Duke, in introducing the Catholic Relief Bill into the House, stated that he had the cordial support of his late Majesty to that measure. He did not mean to instance one wrong act as an excuse for another, but when such complaints were made from such quarters, he might plead example by way of mitigation of censure. It had also been said, that he had resorted to threats. He had held out no threat, and he meant to hold out none—he was not authorised to hold out any, and he hoped that he knew his duty too well as a Minister of the Crown to say any thing until he had received his Majesty's sanction. He would only repeat what he stated on a former occasion, that he thought the measure of Reform now recommended by the Ministers of the Crown was of the greatest importance to the well-being of the country; to that measure he was committed heart and soul, and he would not shrink from giving his advice to his Majesty to adopt every constitutional means to carry it into effect. The noble Duke said, that if the measure should become a law, it would be impossible that the business of the Government should be carried on. He did not understand how the noble Duke made out that proposition. The noble Duke said, rather curiously, that it should have been the object of Ministers to look rather to the constitution of the assembly than to the qualification of the voters. What Ministers had looked to, certainly, was the composition of the legislative assembly. It was an error to suppose that the consideration of the two things could be separated. The noble Duke said, the effect of the measure would be to add 5,000 voters to the constituent body in Hampshire. He could hardly believe it possible that the noble Duke was correctly informed upon this point, because the whole constituent body in Hampshire at the present moment was only 8,000 or 9,000. The noble Duke said, that after the Bill should pass, it would be impossible for Government to carry any questions relating to finance, 1081 colonial policy, and other intricate subjects. What was this but saying that the Government need no longer have the power of dictating what the decision of the House of Commons should be? The noble Duke shook his head, but that was really the result of his argument. He believed that the Government would continue to possess all the influence which it ought to have, and that, relying on the confidence of the people, there was no fear of the salutary measures which it might propose not being carried into effect. The noble Duke had endeavoured to excite alarm by dwelling on the subject of tithes. The people of England were attached to the national church establishment, and a free Representation of the people would, however they might correct the abuses, which were not the strength but the weakness of the Church, never countenance any attempt to invade the just rights of the establishment. There were several points to which he should have wished to call their Lordships' attention but for the lateness of the hour: but there was one point which he could not pass over. It was objected to the measure, that it was not a resting-place; that it would necessarily lead to ulterior consequences, which would be fatal to the peace and security of the empire. "Give," it was said, "to those who clamour for Reform, the measure you now propose, and they will force you to go forward to extremes which you would wish in vain to avoid." He believed that the result would be the very reverse. The prospect of the measure had given almost universal satisfaction, and he had no doubt that it would unite all those who were at present in a state of discontent in attachment to the Government. But supposing, which he did not, that such might be the consequences, how would it be remedied by not granting Reform? The noble Lord saw that Reform was irresistible; that, whatever Government was at the head of affairs, it could not exist, if it did not do something to satisfy the expectations of the people. No paltry, no half measure would do; there must be something, he admitted substantial and effective. Then what he (Earl Grey) wished, with his noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, was to bring those persons who held his opinion to state what was the measure they meant to propose. If he knew what that substantial and effective measure was, he should then be able to give an opinion, Short of this measure 1082 it must be less satisfactory to the people, and then would be more likely to lead to those extremes which his noble friend wished to avoid. The difference between his noble friend and himself was this—his noble friend was for an extension of the right of voting, and for the extinction of boroughs, for he admitted that not only was Reform necessary, but he admitted the principle of disfranchisement; he would go a certain length, but he would not go the whole length of this measure, and he would consequently leave discontent behind. The measure would be an imperfect measure, founded on admitted principles. It could not give satisfaction, and therefore all the consequences predicted from the present measure,—but which he did not expect,—would certainly flow from the partial Reform alluded to by his noble friend. With respect to the measure of Reform, he had considered himself pledged to it when out of office, and still more when in office, from a sense of public duty. He thought the state of the country required that the question should be looked at, and he asked himself what was to be done? Should he bring forward a short measure, that should "keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope?" or should he bring forward a measure that would afford a reasonable hope of satisfying the people, and would put an end to the agitation by which the country was disturbed? He had been represented as if he had gone further than the intention he had at first held out. Undoubtedly he had said moderate Reform, but at the same time effective Reform, such as would produce the effect of satisfying the country. The first disposition of his mind undoubtedly was to limit the Reform within a much narrower compass; but after full consideration, and discussing the subject with his colleagues, he was convinced that nothing short of the present measure would tend to the desired result of satisfying the country, and give to the Government security and respect. Founded upon these principles the measure had been introduced, and had received the general approbation of the country. It had operated like oil on troubled water; agitation had subsided, and he had every expectation, that if the measure was suffered to pass into a law there would be a season of peace and tranquillity, of improvement to the wealth and prosperity of the country, and an addi- 1083 tion of strength to the Government, such as had not been witnessed for years past. Some persons had expressed a surprise that no opposition was made to it, but the current of opinion set too strong the other way. It would not do, at the present day, to talk of county meetings as farces, or to say they were not attended by a large proportion of the freeholders. Look at the meetings in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, counties which had hitherto been most adverse to Reform; look at the respectable names of the persons who attended those meetings, and then let their Lordships say if the question had not been favourably received by persons of all parties, and even by persons who were eminently Tories. There never had been a measure regarding which public opinion had so nearly approached to unanimity. He would refer to a criterion upon this head, sanctioned by an authority which even the noble Duke would think entitled to respect. In the discussion on the Catholic Question, a right hon. Gentleman had stated the proportion of counties and principal towns for and against that measure. He stated that there were nineteen counties for, and seventeen against the measure of Catholic Emancipation: of principal towns, twenty-six were for and nineteen against the measure. Assuming that as a practical and correct mode of estimating public opinion, let their Lordships see how that opinion was expressed upon this Question. Taking the same counties and towns, he found that twenty-seven counties were for, and nine against the measure; of principal towns, there were thirty-seven for, and eight against it. The noble Duke had said that if Parliament should reject the measure, he was satisfied the country would submit without a murmur. He would admit that, if the measure were rejected, there might be no opposition to the authority of the law or a throwing off attachment or allegiance to the Government and he trusted and hoped such would be the result; but that there would not be a murmur, let not the noble Duke "lay that flattering unction to his soul." That there would be a general attempt, by legal and constitutional means, to urge on Parliament the adoption of the measure, he had no doubt; there would be discontent and agitation throughout the country, which would be kept in alarm and irritation; and the consequence would be, a state of things similar to that which 1084 preceded Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. The very persons who now reject the measure would then find themselves obliged to agree to it. He had supported Catholic Emancipation for more than thirty years, through good report and evil report; he had been driven from office by an endeavour to make a slight step towards it; and it was a sacrifice he willingly made for that object. In all the discussions he had heard on that question, it had been contended that Catholic Emancipation must produce the subversion of the Constitution and the separation of the two countries. No man had argued more strongly against that measure than the noble Duke. He remembered the noble Duke saying that it was not Catholic Emancipation that Ireland wanted; adding—for the words sank deep into his ear—that Ireland had never been more than half conquered. These opinions had been uttered as confidently by the same persons who opposed Catholic Emancipation, as they now predicted similar results from Reform. But at the end of a few years these persons found the error they laboured under in resisting those claims, and the measure of Emancipation was proposed by those very men. Had the discovery been made sooner, the evils which now oppressed Ireland would perhaps have disappeared. The same would be the case in the event of the rejection of the proposition for Reform. Granted at the present moment, the people would consider it as an act of grace; refused, who could predict the consequences of the rejection? It was a rejection which might destroy the present Administration; but how would it operate on their successors? The people, disappointed of their just expectations, would be inflamed with resentment; and would eventually demand, with a voice of thunder, that which it would be found impossible longer to deny; but the granting of which would not only be unattended with the advantages that would now accompany its concession, but, in the strong excitement that would then exist, might be productive of evils which no man could foresee—evils that might throw the whole country into irremediable disorder. He was firmly convinced that the present measure would satisfy the people, and as firmly convinced that, without some large and liberal measure of Reform, the Government could not possibly be carried on advantageously for the country.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
made a short reply, 1085 in which he asserted, that the motion which he had made proceeded from himself alone; and contended that, although Reform, and a considerable degree of Reform, was necessary, his Majesty's Government might, if they had thought proper, have brought forward a plan which would have been sufficiently satisfactory to the whole country, instead of originating the rash and dangerous measure which they now advocated, and from the perilous consequences of which, should it be adopted, they would find it difficult to discover the means of extrication.
§ Motion agreed to.