moved, that the Petitioners from Coventry be heard by Counsel at the Bar, in support of their privileges, and in opposition to some of the allegations in the Report of the Commissioners of Municipal Inquiry. The noble Lord complained of the manner in which the Bill would dispose of particular kinds of property, which had been bequeathed to Corporations for charitable purposes. He alluded in particular to Sir Thomas White's estates, which had been given for the benefit of the Freemen of Coventry, but which under the operation of this Bill, would be diverted to uses totally at variance with the intention of the donor.
§ Viscount Melbourne
suggested to their Lordships, that it would be utterly impossible for them to concur in the Motion of the noble Lord who had just sat down, because that Motion was consistent neither with precedent, reason, nor principle. If the Report of the Commissioners, against which the petitioners desired to be heard, imputed any misconduct to the borough of Coventry in particular, he was perfectly ready to admit that the case would be a proper one in which to hear Counsel. But this was a measure founded, not upon the malfeasance of any particular corporation, but upon one broad, fixed, and general principle, applicable alike to all corporations. It was a general Bill, founded upon a general principle, for the general advantage of the country. It was a Bill similar to that which their Lordships had formerly passed for the disfranchisement of 40s. freeholders in Ireland, and with respect to which it was not deemed necessary that Counsel should be heard at the Bar. It was a Bill similar to that which was passed a few years since for the general Reformation of the Representation of the People throughout the kingdom—a Bill disfranchising many, enfranchising others, depreciating the value of the property of some, enhancing the value of the property of others—destructive of power and authority here, communicative of power and authority there—and yet that Bill, effecting so many changes, and variously affecting so many various interests, was passed by both branches of the Legislature without any Counsel having been heard, or any such proposition as that of the noble Viscount (Strangford) being made; or if made, not for a moment listened to. He might advert, indeed, to another Bill, more immediately applicable to the Bill then under consideration, than either of the two measures to which he had already adverted—he meant the Bill which was passed towards the close of the Session of 1833, for Reforming the whole of the Corporations of Scotland. By that Bill, important interests, and an immense mass of commercial property in the great towns—such as Edinburgh and Glasgow—were very materially affected, yet no Counsel was heard; no such motion as that of the noble Viscount was made; nor if made, would it have been listened to. Upon those general grounds, he submitted to their Lordships that there was no pre- 1134 tence whatever for hearing Counsel in the present case. There could be no pretence whatever for adopting such a course, unless, indeed, it were their Lordships' wish and intention to defeat the Bill by delay. If it were their Lordships' intention to defeat the Bill by delay, then they might hear Counsel; but if they had no such intention—if they meant to give the measure a bona fide consideration—if they meant to give it fair play—if they meant to give it that calm and considerate attention which its importance, and the anxiety of the whole country with respect to it demanded—they would not pursue such a course as that which the noble Viscount had called upon them to adopt. "I respect," continued his Lordship, "I respect your Lordships—I respect your authority—I respect your dignity—I respect the position you occupy relative to the constitution. Your dignity is well assured, and your power is well settled; but the power, and dignity, and authority of no body of men, either in these or in any other times, was ever so settled and secured as to enable them with impunity to trifle with the popular opinion." He implored their Lordships, therefore, not to listen to the Motion which had been made by the noble Viscount, but to go fairly, and without delay, into the consideration of the Bill. The noble Viscount had made a great many observations with respect to the Reform Bill, and to the diversion of the funds of charities to other purposes than those to which they were originally intended. The noble Viscount said, that Sir Thomas White's charity was vested in the freemen of Coventry, and in justice could be extended to no others. But supposing that the freemen of Coventry ought to be abolished in other respects, did the noble Viscount mean to say, that they ought to be kept up for the purpose of enjoying Sir Thomas White's charity. Surely their Lordships would not say, that to fulfil the will of a donor they were bound to maintain that which was acknowledged or found to be an abuse? If their Lordships were to accede to the noble Lord's proposition, it would be impossible to tell to what an extent it might be carried; because, if it were once admitted that one corporation had a right, to be heard, all would claim to be heard, and thus it would be rendered impossible to carry the Bill through during the present Session. If their Lordships intended 1135 to put an end to the measure in that way, they would accede to the motion: if they had a bona fide intention of fairly discussing it, they would not for a moment listen to such a motion.
§ The Duke of Wellington
agreed with the noble Lord who had just spoken, that nothing would be more unbecoming or unworthy of that House than to trifle with the property or privileges of any class of the community, or to attempt, by vexatious delay, to defeat any measure that might be submitted to their consideration. But never was there an occasion on which such an imputation as that thrown out by the noble Lord was more unfounded, or more undeserved; for if ever there was a question on which any body of men seemed disposed to move with all the celerity that circumstances would admit of, it was the question then under their Lordships' consideration. In point of fact, the evidence upon which they had to proceed in legislating upon the subject, had only for a few days (at least the greater part of it) been upon their Lordships' Table, and he would venture to say, that not one in ten of their Lordships had perused more than a very small portion of that which had been produced. He had not the smallest desire to delay the second reading of the Bill, or any of the future proceedings upon the subject. Nay, if the noble Lord had not made such a charge upon that side of the House, he (the Duke of Wellington) was prepared to come forward with a proposition with respect to the hearing of Counsel, which, in his opinion, would have precluded the possibility of any delay, whilst at the same time full justice would be done to all parties. The noble Lord (Melbourne) began by stating, that this was a measure of general policy and not a measure embodying separate and distinct charges against individual boroughs. He (the Duke of Wellington) admitted it was a measure of general policy, but it was a measure of general policy founded upon the Reports laid upon their Lordships' Table, and of the truth of which the parties, in many instances, complained and desired that their Lordships would be pleased to hear their complaints. The noble Lord had been pleased to compare this transaction with another transaction in respect of the 40s. freeholders of Ireland. The noble Lord forgot that the offer had been made for the disfranchise- 1136 ment of the 40s. freeholders, on certain conditions, not less than two or three years before the measure by which they were actually disfranchised was carried. Neither did the noble Lord state that it was admitted, in the discussions in that House upon the Report, that the 40s. freeholders were useless, nay injurious, as members of the electoral body. That being the case, it was natural enough that they should not be heard by Counsel. With respect to the Reform Bill, it was perfectly true that many persons had been injured in their property, in consequence of the adoption of that Bill; and it was also true, that many, very many interests had been entirely set aside by it; and although Counsel were not heard upon that Bill, any more than on the case of the Irish 40s. freeholders, and the Scotch Corporations' Bill, the noble Lord (Melbourne) should not forget that there were other measures, having as strict an affinity to the present Bill as any he had mentioned, upon which Counsel were heard. For instance, in the case of the Bill for the Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions in Scotland, Counsel were heard on the second reading, and on the Question for going into Committee. In the present instance he (the Duke of Wellington) was prepared to offer to the noble Lord (Melbourne), in order to create no delay, supposing the House to agree to the second reading, that Counsel should be heard on the Question for going into Committee; and he (the Duke of Wellington) was perfectly ready to proceed with the discussion the very day after the second reading should be disposed of. He must say, therefore, that the charge which had been made against any body of persons in that House having an intention to defeat the measure by delay, was unjust and uncalled for; and he must go further, and say that it was not quite founded upon the fact. As to going into Committee on the Bill, it could not be expected that any one would be prepared to do so, for some few days to come. To hear Counsel, therefore, previous to going into Committe, would, in fact, be to create no delay whatever.
was sure no person felt more strongly than he did the impropriety of any such charge against that House as that to which the noble Duke had alluded; but if he rightly heard his noble Friend, (Lord Melbourne) he rather 1137 thought that his noble Friend particularly endeavoured, fruitlessly, as it would seem, to guard himself against the very charge which the noble Duke had brought against him, because he expressly said, that he would impute no such desire to their Lordships as that of defeating the measure by delay, but that he wished to warn their Lordships not by any act of theirs, to induce the people out-of-doors to suppose that they were actuated by such a desire. But, passing from that point, he begged for a moment to call their Lordships' attention to what the result would be, if such a motion as that of the noble Lord opposite (Strangford) were carried. If it should succeed, every corporation in the kingdom would set up its right to be heard by Counsel, and if the right were acknowledged in one instance, it must necessarily be acknowledged in all. Coventry had no greater claim to be heard than Liverpool, or Warwick, or Maidstone, or any other of the corporate towns of the kingdom whose interests would be affected by that Bill. Sir Thomas White's was not the only charity in which corporate bodies had an interest. There was Smith's charity, and the Bedford charity, in each of which precisely the same claims might be put forward. Already there were twenty towns claiming to be heard by Counsel; accede to the present proposition, and by the end of another week there would be two hundred. In each of those two hundred cases at least two Counsel would be employed, and thus not only would the House have to listen to four hundred speeches, of the duration of each of which two hours might be taken as a short average, but there would also be all the details of evidence obtained from perhaps as many as a thousand witnesses. It was clear, therefore, that their Lordships must either make their own sittings perpetual, or else reject such a proposition as that which the noble Lord (Strangford) had brought forward. There certainly was one arrangement under which it would be possible, and perhaps advantageous, that Counsel should be heard. If all the parties opposed to the Bill would consent to consolidate their opposition under one banner—select two Counsel to conduct their case, and agree to abide by the result of the argument which those two Counsel should be enabled to advance against it; he was not aware that there would be any objection to the 1138 adoption of such a course. If, for instance, Sir Charles Wetherell and Mr. Knight, two of the most eminent men at the bar, should be selected to conduct the argument, and should be admitted to their Lordships' Bar to oppose the principle of the Bill, he was quite sure that any particular corporation would be very foolish in afterwards expressing a wish to be heard separately; because if those learned and accomplished gentlemen could not convince their Lordships by the arguments which they should advance upon the subject, he did not know who could. To such an arrangement he (Lord Brougham) should not be opposed; but he did most peremptorily object to the Motion then under the consideration of the House, because it seemed calculated by a side-wind to get rid of the whole subject.
§ The Earl of Ripon
had heard with satisfaction the manner in which the noble and learned Lord had vindicated their Lordships from the charge that there existed on their part any desire to interpose any unreasonable or unjustifiable delay in the early and immediate consideration of the Bill. For his own part, he (Lord Ripon) thought that nothing would be more unbecoming, more absurd, or less creditable, than the adoption of such a course; but it did not follow from that, that there might not be circumstances in the case which would make it advisable and just for their Lordships to give some hearing to the petitioners who appeared before them; and he had, therefore, heard with great satisfaction the suggestions thrown out by the noble and learned Lord (Brougham), by which, as it seemed to him, justice might be done without the interposition of any inconvenient delay. If, indeed, the effect of the proposition made by his noble Friend on the right (Lord Strangford) were to be that they should hear Counsel from every borough which should petition against the Bill, it must be obvious that the labours of the House must be interminable. But it appeared to him that there would be no improper delay, if they were to accede to the proposition of the noble and learned Lord, which, judging from what had fallen from the noble Duke, would not be objected to by him. He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships would be induced to adopt that proposition. But if it were right and practicable to take that course with respect to the principle of the Bill, he thought it would 1139 be equally right and equally practicable to do the same with regard to those peculiar objections on which so many of the petitioners relied. It appeared to him to be of the utmost importance that those parts of the Bill should be argued which affected, not the political rights, but the pecuniary interests of the parties.
The Earl of Falmouth
agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down, in the distinction which he had drawn between the hearing of Counsel merely on the principle of the Bill, and the hearing of them on those particular parts of it which affected individual interests. Why were the petitioners to be deprived of the right of being heard in opposition to the charges which had been brought against them? They were British subjects—they had a right to be heard; but, said the noble Viscount (Melbourne), "We have nothing to do with the charges contained in the Report—we legislate generally." That might be true enough; but in point of common sense and common reason, he asked, on what was the Bill founded? Was it not founded on the Report of the Commissioners, setting forth the very charges of Which the petitioners complained? With respect to the evidence taken before the Commissioners, he could not speak of it with any patience. He had looked into that evidence, and he would venture to say, that a mass of grosser exaggeration and misrepresentation never disgraced the table of a legislative assembly. He was willing to accede to the proposition of limiting the opposition to the principle of the Bill to the argument of two Counsel; but he still thought that the petitioners had a right to be heard upon those points which affected their individual interests.
The Duke of Newcastle
thought, that if the House wished to do justice to those whom it proposed to disfranchise, it ought first to hear them; and, in his opinion, the parties ought to be heard before the principle of the Bill was recognized by their Lordships, as it would be after the measure had been read a second time.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
observed, that the last portion of the observations which had fallen from the noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government, certainly held out a threat against the rights, privileges, and independence of that House. It was too clear not to strike every one of their Lordships, and he was sure it would 1140 be equally obvious out of doors. An attack was made by the Bill on the actual property of the Corporations who were affected by it; and, in his opinion, they had an unequivocal right to be heard in defence of that property. Delay was by no means his object, and he was quite aware that if Counsel were to be heard in every case, it would be a virtual defeat of the Bill. But he thought that they might all be called upon to state their cases, and that their Lordships might then determine what cases should be defended by Counsel. That would save the appearance of denying the right, and yet would not waste their Lordships' time. He rather wished that his noble Friend near him had postponed his proposition until after the second reading of the Bill.
The Earl of Winchilsea
said, that nothing could have induced him to present himself to their Lordships that night, but his deep sense of the injustice and unconstitutional nature of the measure, which, if passed into a law, would affect all existing privileges, all property, and all existing rights, from those of the Crown itself down to those of the lowest subject connected with it. He could offer to his fellow-countrymen no stronger proof of his desire faithfully to discharge his duty by them, and to guard their rights and privileges, which were as dear to them as his own were to him (Lord Winchilsea), than his having been induced to appear among their Lordships that evening, and thereby showing the sincerity of the advice he had so often urged there and elsewhere—namely, that every Englishman must consider that the time had come when private feeling must yield to public duty. Never, in his opinion, had their Lordships, who stood the guardians of property and of the public peace, to discharge so important a duty as at present. From the bottom of his heart he could say, that if the Bill went only to the extent of communicating additional rights and privileges, upon constitutional grounds, to a great portion of his countrymen—if the measure, going further, went only to correct the abuses which had crept into the management of property, he would give it his most cordial support. He found, indeed, that these two principles were, to a certain extent, embraced in the measure, but it contained others to which he never could assent. He never could consent that any class of his fellow- 1141 countrymen should be deprived of privileges which were relatively of as much value to them as those he enjoyed were to himself. They were called too to alter the tenure of property, and they were asked to make this change without any other evidence excepting that of the Report laid on the Table—the Report on which the Bill was founded—the Report against the allegations in which the petitioners prayed to be heard. Allusion had been made to the 40s. freeholders; he had voted in their favour, and was therefore not acting inconsistently now in raising his voice in favour of justice, and a fair trial for the freemen. Certainly he should divide the House, unless the noble Viscount (Melbourne) pledged himself that he would not unnecessarily destroy any of the existing rights and privileges in esse or in posse. He had been anxious to record his opinions on this occasion, and was thankful to their Lordships for bearing him.
thought, that something like the course which he was about to suggest might enable their Lordships to do justice without subjecting themselves to any undue imputations. It was founded on a precedent in 1808, when a measure having been brought into Parliament affecting the interests of five great trading communities, viz., Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, London, and Birmingham, those communities agreed to consolidate their claims, and to be heard by one counsel. He (Lord Brougham) was the counsel employed; and he remembered that he occupied only about two hours of their Lordships' time, and only about three hours of the time of the other House of Parliament. A similar precedent might be found in 1746, the year after the rebellion. What he suggested was, that the Bill should be read a second time, sub silentio, if their Lordships pleased; and that the Committee should be put off until a period when Counsel might be prepared to attend.
The Duke of Cumberland
had no objection to such a proposition, if it were distinctly understood that their Lordships did not concede the principle of the Bill by acceding to it; but that the principle of the Bill should be still open to discussion on the Report, or on the third reading. He by no means wished for delay; he was only anxious that justice should be done.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
did not understand that the petitioners wished to be heard by 1142 Counsel against the general principle of the Bill; he understood that they wished to be heard against the charges which the Bill contained against them. [Viscount Melbourne: There are no such charges in the Bill.] Why, the noble Viscount could not have read the Bill. "And, whereas, partly by defects in the Charters by which the said bodies corporate have been constituted, partly by neglect and abuse of the privileges by such Charters granted and confirmed to the inhabitants of the said cities, towns, and boroughs, and partly by change of circumstances since the said Charters were granted, the said bodies corporate for the most part have not of long time been, and are not now, useful and efficient instruments of local Government." Charges of abuse against the different Corporations, therefore, formed one of the foundations of this Bill. He understood that the parties now desirous of being heard by Counsel at the Bar did not wish to argue against the principle of the Bill, but to disprove these charges, and it was material that they should be permitted to do so, as the Bill did not apply to all Corporations. The petitioners said, that the evidence adduced in support of these charges was garbled—that they were desirous of exculpating themselves, and they prayed the House that, they might be at liberty to bring forward evidence in support of their case. This was the petitioners' object, and to it he should call their Lordships' attention, in the hope that some understanding might be come to as to what Counsel it was necessary to hear. If the House should decide that Counsel were not to be heard against the principle of the Bill, then they ought to be allowed to reserve their observations to the going into Committee. One of the objections urged against hearing Counsel at the Bar on this Bill was, that so much time would be occupied by their arguments. Now, here was a great sweeping measure, affecting 240 Corporations, If only one of these Corporations were sought to be affected, it was admitted on all hands that in justice that Corporation ought to be allowed to defend itself, but now, on this sweeping measure, not one of them was to enjoy that privilege. If the House determined upon hearing Counsel, it would then be their Lordships' duty to decide as to what extent they ought to be heard. In the case of the borough of Coventry 1143 the petitioners did not wish to be heard against the general principle of the Bill, but solely for the purpose of disproving the charges brought against them. He had had some communication with those petitioners, and they had told him certain facts which, if they could be substantiated, would cover with disgrace a particular Gentleman, in whose Report the charges made against them were found.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, petitions had been presented from about six or eight Corporate bodies, wishing to be heard against this Bill by Counsel; and Bristol and Liverpool, as wishing to be heard against the Bill by their Recorders. If the House were pleased to accede to the proposition for hearing two Counsel on the whole case, the Bill might be read a second time now, and the Motion for going into a Committee be fixed for some day in the latter end of the week, on which day the Counsel might be called to the Bar.
could understand how the different parties might agree to be heard by two Counsel against the general principle of the Bill; but could not understand how they could agree to be heard by two Counsel against its numerous and distinct details.
§ Viscount Melbourne
rose to say a few words in explanation of the observations he had before made, and to answer the remarks of some of the noble Lords opposite. Their Lordships would recollect, that when he last spoke he had not heard the statement of the noble Duke, and all that he would now say, was, that several petitions having been presented, a noble Lord (Viscount Strangford) got up, and made a Motion that the petitioners be heard at the Bar by Counsel. He, therefore, contended that he was perfectly justified in saying that if noble Lords resorted to the same course on all the other petitions the present measure would be smothered. Such a course would have another effect. He had not addressed any threat to their Lordships, as he had been charged with doing, out he would admit that he had addressed a strong admonition—an admonition which he should always consider himself bound to address to their Lordships when he saw them likely to fall into that which he thought would be prejudicial to the House and prejudicial to the interests of the country. The noble Duke himself some- 1144 times addressed very strong admonitions to him (Viscount Melbourne), respecting the course which he, as a Minister of the Crown, thought proper to pursue. He was always glad to receive, and he always received with the greatest deference any opinion of the noble Duke; but, at the same time, he thought he had a right to address noble Lords in the same strain of Counsel and advice. His opinion on this question still remained the same as he had expressed it at an earlier part of the debate. He could not deny but that there might certainly be cases on which Counsel ought to be allowed to observe, and if Counsel were to be heard at all, he was extremely anxious to agree to any feasible plan that might be come to on the subject. Counsel might be heard in behalf of those Corporations which had already presented their petitions, but could the House in justice merely confine itself to those? If it should so resolve all the other boroughs would be discontented, and say that they had just as good a right to be heard on the subject. He was perfectly willing to admit that the object of noble Lords' opposition was not to delay this Bill, but the carrying of the present Motion would certainly have the effect of procrastinating or impeding its progress. He again repeated that he was most anxious to come to an agreement on the subject.
The Earl of Mansfield
said, that if the noble Viscount was only inclined to do justice, there was not the slightest wish on his opponents side for procrastination. But they contended, that in all cases in which the interests of individuals, or of communities were involved, no legislative measure ought to be adopted without, in the first place, affording the parties concerned an opportunity of stating and proving in what manner they were unjustly affected by it. The petitioners in the present case claimed to be heard against the Bill, not in its legislative character, but as affecting them in its details, which they characterized as partial and unjust. They declared that they had reason to complain of the ground on which, according to the preamble of the Bill, they were charged with neglect and abuse; and prayed to be allowed to defend themselves by Counsel against the imputation; nay, to support that defence by evidence; nay, to show also that the manner in which the evidence in the Report of the Commissioners had been obtained was irregular and 1145 partial. Under such circumstances he was at a loss to understand how their Lordships could say to Counsel, "You are at liberty to argue against the principle of the Bill, but you must not touch upon its details." Considering, however, that there was a Committee from the several Corporations now sitting in London, he thought that that Committee might advantageously compress their claims into a single statement, and then intrust the advocacy of them to two Counsel; and he hoped there would be no addition to the number of Corporations requiring to be heard by Counsel, although if there were, he could not see how their Lordships could impose any limit.
§ The Earl of Harewood
could not see how it would be possible for Counsel to avoid touching on the particular interests of particular places. That would certainly lead to delay; but it would only be that delay which would be just, and which the Corporate bodies affected by the Bill had a right to expect. The House would, he was persuaded, do its duty by endeavouring to protect the people from a violent and unprecedented measure, required by no necessity whatever. With respect to what had been said by the noble Viscount respecting admonitions, it should be considered that an admonition from one noble Lord to another, and an admonition from a noble Lord—and that noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government—addressed to the whole House, were two very different things.
begged leave to refer the House to a precedent which had not yet been cited. The precedent of the Reform Bill had been objected to. It had been said, that in the present case the property was vested in individuals, and that on public grounds, the property being so vested, these individuals ought not to be deprived of it without being heard. He (Lord Plunkett) begged to refer the House to a case in which one hundred Corporations, which possessed property infinitely more valuable than that to be affected by the present Bill, had been actually disfranchised, not certainly by that House, but by the Irish Parliament, at the time of the Union—a Union which he trusted in God was to be considered as a final and irrevocable measure. In the case of the Union one hundred Corporations, sending two hundred Members to the Irish Parliament, were disfranchised, and none of them 1146 were heard by Counsel. Was not that a case in point? He should be glad to know why it was not a case in point, and why it was not a precedent? His noble Friend (Viscount Melbourne) had distinctly declared, that he had held out no threat, but the noble Earl who had just sat down, had been pleased to say that there was a great distinction between an admonition addressed to an individual, and an admonition addressed to a body of men. He confessed, that he could see no distinction between the two cases; and, humble an individual as he was, he thought he had a right to offer his advice whenever he thought it would tend to the good of his country. He had heard with great satisfaction the speech of the noble Duke, and that of the, noble Lord opposite, who, however, were willing to recognize the unreasonable claim on behalf of the Corporators to be heard by Counsel. If such a claim were recognized, he saw no prospect of ever coming to a conclusion within any reasonable period of time. Every one of the boroughs to be affected by this Bill, as well as the borough of Coventry, would claim to have a right to be heard by Counsel, and an additional ground for complaint would be thus given, by refusing their petitions. It was said, that there were parties in town who represented the Corporations which objected to the Bill. If that were the case, what objection could there be to those persons naming Counsel to represent the whole of the Corporations? It would be said, that the arguments in favour of one borough would not apply to the others. That difficulty could be easily obviated by the Counsel making judicious arrangements by dividing their arguments into several heads, and by making the House understand that such observations had reference to such a class of boroughs. He did not desire, that the arguments should be confined merely to the principle of the Bill, but he thought that the Counsel ought to be permitted to touch upon particular points and facts, to show how and where they were in contradiction to the evidence on which the Report was founded.
§ Lord Fitzgerald
said, that he had not expected, that the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down, would have drawn his arguments and based his proposition on certain Acts of Parliament which that very same noble and learned Lord had at one time described as the most indefensible 1147 of all the Acts of the Irish Parliament. He must repeat that he did not expect the noble and learned Lord would have had recourse to such a precedent. The noble and learned Lord had stated, that at the time of the Union, 100 Corporations were disfranchised, and that the Corporators were not heard by Counsel. Now, it perhaps might be sufficient for him (Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey) to show that no application was ever made to that effect. But, perhaps, it might be still more important for him to state that the measure was totally different from the present Bill. That measure was similar to the Reform Bill in principle, because it deprived a certain number of boroughs of the right of returning Members to Parliament; but no part of the enactment went to deprive the Corporations of their property, or to extend the Corporate rights to any individuals but those who had before enjoyed them. The noble and learned Lord would admit this to be the fact; but there was another circumstance which very easily accounted for the reason why the parties did not choose to offer any opposition to that measure. Joining, as he did, in the prayer of the noble and, learned Lord, that the measure of the Union would be final and, irrevocable—and believing, as he did, that both for this country and for Ireland there was no hope for security, peace for the empire, respect for the Sovereign, or safety for the subject, but in the preservation of that Union, he most earnestly prayed that that measure might remain undisturbed; but, at the same time, he must remind the noble and learned Lord, that a sum of 15,000l. was given to every one of those Corporations—to reconcile them to their disfranchisement; and that in all probability would account for their not offering any opposition to the enactment in question. Having made these observations on the precedent cited by the noble and learned Lord as analogous to the question now before the House, he should only say, before sitting down, that he was most anxious that the petitioners should be heard in defence of their just claims; but if he considered this Motion only as a means of delay he should look upon such a means of defeating the Bill as most unworthy, and as a course to which he never would consent to be a party.
The Earl of Falmouth
could not consent to confine the hearing to such Corporations as had petitioned. It should be 1148 remembered, that some of the Corporate bodies were three or four hundred miles off, and that some time would elapse before they could be apprised of what had occurred.
The Earl of Wicklow
thought that their Lordships would not be called upon to attend to any further petitions which might be presented from Corporate bodies, praying to be heard by Counsel; because the measure had been so long in agitation, that the various Corporations whose interests were affected by it, had had ample time to petition the House on the subject. He took it for granted, that a majority of that House were sufficiently convinced of the necessity of some measure of Corporate Reform. It was, therefore, evident—the principle of a measure of Corporate Reform being admitted—that no arguments of Counsel could induce the House not to allow the Bill to be read a second time. Whilst, then, he expressed it as his own opinion that there was no necessity that Counsel should be heard on the principle, he felt bound to admit the fairness of the proposition which had been made, and which seemed to meet with the approval of both sides, that two Counsel should be heard on the principle of the Bill, with reference to the representations contained in all the petitions already presented. But he considered it perfectly consistent with propriety, and conformable to the rules of the House, to grant the prayer of the petitions already presented, with regard to hearing Counsel, without acceding to that conveyed in any other petition which might hereafter be presented.
The Marquess of Londonderry
was of opinion, that they should first decide that Counsel were to be heard. After they had decided that, they might then determine as to the classification of the topics to which they (the Counsel) should address themselves.
The Earl of Haddington
was by no means disposed to have his own discretion tied up, and he should be very sorry that their Lordships should be tied up by any pledge that they would not grant the prayer of any petition which might hereafter be presented on this subject to that House. It was, he thought, natural to suppose that questions might arise, fresh matter might be stated, and new views taken, which their Lordships would be perfectly justified in taking into consideration, though not touched upon in any petitions.
The Earl of Wicklow
was not for shutting out the consideration of anything which might imperatively call for their Lordships' attention. All he had said was, that by granting to their full extent the prayers of the petitions which had been already presented with respect to the subjects to which Counsel should be allowed to address themselves, they would act in a way which was sanctioned by every principle of fairness and justice.
The Marquess of Salisbury
perfectly concurred in the propriety of hearing only two Counsel with regard to the principle of the Bill, and hoped they would extend that indulgence as to the details of the measure, if a case of necessity were made out for their doing so.
§ Viscount Melbourne
felt no hesitation in agreeing to the proposition that Counsel should be heard, it being of course distinctly understood that there should be a fair determination on the part of the House to proceed with the Bill as rapidly as possible, and to discountenance any unnecessary delay. The course, then, which he understood to be agreed to was this:—That on Thursday and Friday next, Counsel should be heard, with the hope that their speeches should be limited to these two days, and that on Monday the principle and details of the measure should be discussed on going into Committee.
suggested, that the Motion of the noble Lord opposite, which referred merely to the borough of Coventry, should be withdrawn. With respect to the hour at which their Lordships should meet on Thursday, he thought twelve o'clock would be a good hour, though he himself had no objection to meeting at the earlier hour of ten o'clock. There was one other point on which he wished to say a word, as it might be imagined, from what had that night occurred, that he had in any way differed from his noble Friend (Lord Melbourne), or that he countenanced delay in the slightest degree by the proposition which he had submitted. The impression which he had originally formed was now, he found, turned into a certainly; for it was ascertained that the progress of the measure would be forwarded by the course now taken, because, instead of the Bill being now proposed for second reading, and the debate on it occupying to-night and to-morrow night, and the postponement of the Committee being (in conse- 1150 quence of the fatigue and weariness which would, no doubt, follow so protracted a discussion) determined to be moved to Tuesday or Wednesday, the Bill would, by the present arrangement, be committed as early as Monday.
§ The Duke of Wellington
did not see that there was any necessity for his noble Friend's withdrawing his Motion respecting Coventry. He did not see that it at all interfered with the Motion that the Bill be read a second time. With regard to the second reading of the Bill, the course which should be adopted depended, of course, entirely on the feeling of their Lordships. If their Lordships wished that the second reading should pass without discussion, he had no objection to accede to that proposition, provided that it was clearly understood, that the principle of the Bill was not now agreed to, but reserved for discussion by Counsel. Without that reservation, he did not think it would be right to agree to the second reading of a Bill of such a nature, and not discuss the principle on which it was founded.
§ Lord Alvanley
said, that he considered the discussion of the principle of the Bill for two days by Counsel would, be a perfect waste of time, and derogatory to the character of their Lordships' House. Surely his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Brougham) and his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) were perfectly competent to argue the principle of the measure.
assured his noble Friend that, submitting the proposition which he had laid before the House, he did so from no anxiety to hear the arguments of Counsel. He had quite as great an aversion to them as the noble Lord possibly could have. Indeed he might be fairly supposed to be more sick of them than his noble Friend, inasmuch as he had, during his life, heard a greater number of them, But a great number of their Lordships, and the parties themselves whom this Bill affected, did not feel satisfied that the measure should be taken into consideration without Counsel being heard. Therefore, it was that he had approved the suggestion with reference to the hearing of Counsel. He understood, however, that these Counsel should be allowed to make two speeches, which were not to be confined to the principle of the Bill merely.
§ The Motion of Viscount Strangford was withdrawn.