said, that the noble Duke opposite, having a wish to gratify a brother collector of curiosities, had offered him (Lord Brougham) one of the rarest kind, namely, a Petition agreed to at a public meeting against the Municipal Corporations' Reform Bill. He said at the time, that he feared that this curiosity would, upon examination, turn out to be no curiosity at all; that it would, like the shield of Martinus Cornelius Scriblerus, not gain much advantage by having its nature closely looked into; that when the rust was cleaned off it would not turn out to be real metal, but that by the scouring, all the ærugo, so valuable in the eyes of an antiquary, would be rubbed off, and the shield prove to be a brass pot-lid; that, in fact, he should after all only have in his possession a mere hole-and-corner petition. He believed that that was the case, for he had received a statement from a most respectable inhabitant of Hastings, who was present at a meeting held there, and from an hon. Member of the other House, who represented the place, acquainting him with the fact, that there had been a public meeting of 400 or 500 inhabitants, to agree to a petition on the subject of the Municipal Reform Bill, and that a petition in favour of the Bill was unanimously agreed to; and that it was signed by 450 persons; and that within a few hours afterwards, the other party, who had held no public meeting, handed round sheets of paper, and got them signed; and then, he supposed somebody or other—some wag, in hopes of taking in the noble Duke and himself, had sent up a petition against the Bill, as a petition agreed to at a public meeting, and so the great curiosity turned out to be a thing of no value whatever. He should take that opportunity of adding, that he had received a statement respecting a borough in a neighbouring county, which showed how little a property qualification was required in the governing body under the present system, which noble Lords opposite considered so perfect. He should not name the borough: but he found that in the borough of—, the Mayor had assigned his property for the benefit of his creditors, and was made Mayor before these creditors were paid; that Richard—, the senior Alderman, was an uncertificated bankrupt; that 712 George—, the next Alderman, was in the same situation; that Charles—, the third Alderman, was in insolvent circumstances; that there were three other Aldermen who were non-resident; and that the two remaining Aldermen consisted of the postmaster, and of an individual of whom nothing was said. From this statement, it appeared that three out of the four senior Aldermen had been bankrupts, or were in insolvent circumstances. He trusted that their Lordships would consider this pretty strong evidence, calling on them to reconsider the Amendment they had adopted.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, with reference to the petition from Hastings, that he was sorry to see the noble and learned Lord set so little value by a curiosity he was so eager to possess. At this moment he was not in possession of the means of showing that the petition had been agreed to at a public meeting; but he believed that to be the case when he offered the petition to the noble and learned Lord.
was anxious to be satisfied of the fact before he put the article up to sale; for if it was a petition really agreed to at a public meeting, its value as a curiosity would be prodigious.
§ Petition laid on the Table.