Page images

Mr. Bentinck remarked that all prepared to oppose the introalthough the pretence for the Bill duction of the Bill. He was, was that its object was to extend however, more strongly of opinion the county franchise, its practical every day that, if there ought to effect would be to inundate the be a measure for the reconstrucrural districts with an urban con- tion of Parliament, it should be stituency, and import into those large and comprehensive. If such districts the corrupt practices of a measure could not be passed, certain boroughs.

the inference was that there was Lord Palmerston said there no necessity for it; and, in a were two things he did not mean measure of such a character, all to do—one was, to oppose the the responsibility of Ministers motion ; the other, to argue the was required. He thought the subject of the Bill. The first proposed measure would have an would be discourteous to the injurious effect upon the country, mover, and expose him (Lord and that the objections urged by Palmerston) to the imputation of Mr. Newdegate were well worthy a change of opinion upon the the attention of the House. subject; and he could not enter Mr. Griffith having withdrawn into a discussion of the reasons his amendment, the motion was why the Government had not agreed to without a division. proposed to introduce a Reform The second reading of the Bill Bill this session. He could not being moved on the 13th of assent to the amendment, be- March, a general debate took cause it would be anticipating place, after a short introductory a discussion that would pro- speech by Mr. L. King. perly belong to the Committee Mr. A. Smith moved the preon the Bill. There was a time vious question, explaining his for waiting, it had been said, as reasons for taking this course, well as a time for action. The instead of moving to defer the present session, he thought, was second reading for six months. a time for waiting upon this ques- The measure,

he remarked, tion, and not for action. Believ- could not be considered by itself, ing that measures of reform were apart from its consequences, one of vast importance, and that they of which must be the division of ought to originate with a respon- the country, with reference to the sible Government and not with county representation, into elecprivate individuals, he regretted toral districts. He pointed out that some of his friends had other effects which it would have thought it their duty to anticipate upon the balance of interests and the action of the Ministers of the upon the urban constituency, to Crown, and they must take upon the injury, he believed, of Liberal themselves all the responsibility principles. He deprecated the of the future progress of their discussion of these reform meameasures, allowing the Govern

sures, which, he said, distracted ment to deal with them as they the attention of the House, and might think it their duty, from diverted it from the regular busitime to time, to do.

ness of the session. Mr. Disraeli said that, under This motion was seconded by the circumstances, he was not at Mr. Du Cane, who thought the

measure more inopportune and to be dealt with in a fragmentary uncalled-for than at any former manner, and by the irresponsible period, and noticed the absence hands of a private member. He of agitation and indignation meet- objected to the Bill, moreover, inys on the subject of reform, on the ground of its intrinsic notwithstanding the provocative demerits. contained in the remark of Lord Mr. Coningham considered J. Russell upon the apathy of the that this treatment of the great country.

question of reform was trifling Lord Henley drew attention to with it. The bringing forward some effects which the Bill would petty measures of details was produce. It would, he said, in- bringing the great Liberal party crease the already enormous and into contempt. He should give ruinous expense of county elec- no vote upon the question before tions, which practically limited the House. the choice of the counties while Mr. Bristow supported, and it saddled families with debt and Sir L. Palk, Mr. Barrow, and Mr. encumbrances; and it would in- A. Egerton opposed the Bill. crease the power of the great Sir G. Lewis observed that freeholders and destroy the in- the House had, on the first fluence of the smaller. He should, night of the session, confirmed however, vote for the Bill. by a large majority the decision

Mr. Adderley argued that the of the Government, that it was question of reform must be treated not advisable that they should as a whole or not at all; that the introduce this session an extendealing with it in this manner, by sive measure for lowering the isolated measures, was playing franchise' in counties and bowith this great question and with roughs. Although he felt that the interests of the country. The there were many advantages in Bill contained no principle un- proceeding gradually, still he connected with the entire ques. thought experience would prove tion. He admitted that the pre- that the question of reform could sent county franchise was too be satisfactorily dealt with only high, but this question, which by a more comprehensive meawould be a very fair element in a sure than that submitted to the general Reform Bill, would not House. The “previous question justify him in voting for this would not dispose of the Bill. measure.

His vote would be given for its Lord Enfield observed that second reading; at the same both sides of the House were time he was of opinion that the pledged to some extent to a re- present was not a favourable opduction of the county franchise; portunity for bringing the subthe limit was a question open to ject under the consideration of consideration. He gave his cor- the House. dial and hearty assent to the se- Mr. B. Osborne supported the cond reading of the Bill. motion in a humorous speech.

Mr. Hunt opposed the Bill, He said he was puzzled by Sir which, he said, would introduce G. Lewis's speech, who admired a town element into counties. Mr. King's Bill as much as ever, The question was too important but thought it had not been introduced at a favourable moment; jected to deal with the question giving his vote for the Bill, but of extending the suffrage in coundamning it with faint praise. He ties otherwise than by a complete (Mr. Osborne) should vote for and comprehensive measure, in the Bill, though he believed connection with the borough fran: there was no better time for a chise, and with all that affected moderate and well-considered the representation of the people measure of comprehensive re. in Parliament. He denied that form, by a compromise which this Bill was in any degree in the country would accept and harmony with the Bill of the late approve.

Administration, which provided Lord J. Russell, after explain- for local government and for that ing the motives which had led protection to the land which was him to advocate Parliamentary necessary to public liberty. Reform, said he was disposed to Upon a division, the previous concur with Mr. Disraeli, that question was negatived by 248 any further amendment of the to 229, consequently the motion Constitution would be better for the second reading could not done by some comprehensivė be put, and the Bill miscarried. measure; and he was further of A similar result attended a opinion that no measure was motion made by Mr. Baines, one likely to succeed which was not of the members for Leeds, in founded upon a due regard to support of a Bill introduced by the general interests of all classes. him to extend the borough franBut it seemed to him that it was chise in England. The debate not necessary for the House to took place on the 10th of April. wait for a comprehensive mea- Anticipating the objections which sure. He concurred in the pro- might be urged against his proposition contained in the pre- position, Mr. Baines urged the amble of this Bill, that it is extreme difficulty of carrying expedient to extend the franchise through a great and comprehento certain of Her Majesty's sub- sive measure of reform, and adjects who had not hitherto en- duced examples showing that it joyed it. This did not bind the was practicable and useful to deal House to any particular amount in detail with separate branches to which the franchise should be of the law, and even with distinct lowered, and he considered it to matters of Parliamentary reform. be his duty to give his vote in He met other objections founded favour of the second reading of upon the assumption that this this Bill.

was a question which should be Mr. Disraeli said Lord John left in the hands of the GovernRussell, after admitting the gene- ment, and upon the alleged aparal principle that this great ques. thy of the country upon the subtion could be properly dealt with ject, insisting that a time of calm only by a complete and compre- was especially favourable for its hensive measure, had made an consideration. He contended that exception in favour of the county the improvement of the populafranchise, but had not stated on tion in industry, comfort, intelliwhat ground he justified the ex- gence, and virtue had outstripped ception. He (Mr. Disraeli) ob- their rate of numerical increase, and that the 61. borough occupier of the working classes to the of 1861 was as capable of properly franchise had not been objected exercising the franchise as the to by his side of the House ; but 101. occupier of 1831. He dis- he was opposed to the Bill for cussed a variety of details relating these among other reasons—that to the number which his mea- such a measure should be brought sure would add to the borough forward with the authority and constituency, and the proportion on the responsibility of an united which would consist of the work- Cabinet, and that it was introing classes, with the view of ba- duced at a most inopportune nishing any alarm that might be time. Whatever might be the felt at the admission of those abstract merits of this measure, classes to the franchise; and, re- it was not, in his opinion, preverting to the subject of the ad- sented in a form which ought to vartcement of the people during command the concurrence of the the last thirty years in all the House. elements of social and material Mr. A. Smith seconded this improvement, he stated facts amendment. which demonstrated the extraor- Mr. Leatham, after a few stricdinary impulse given to educa- tures upon the conduct of the tion among the working classes, Government in relation to the and their appetite for knowledge question of reform, accused the and for literature of a purer Conservative party of inconsisquality. He dwelt upon the tencies in their arguments on the enormous increase in the circu- subject of the borough franchise, lation of the Holy Scriptures, citing examples from the speeches and of the publications of the of Mr. Disraeli, the organ of the Religious Tract Society, as a fact party, and of other members. of peculiar significance bearing Their objection to the admission upon this question. To the evi- of the working classes was, he dence of capacity for political said, that they would swamp trust in the working classes, de- the constituency; he contended, rived from their education and however, that the same diverreading habits, he added proofs sity of political opinion existed of their providence and tempe- among the working classes as in rance, and of the moral result in others ; but, granting an identity the diminution of crime; and he of feeling, he ridiculed the idea maintained that they would be of their overpowering the other independent in the discharge of classes of the constituency. the trust.

Sir J. Ramsden observed that The motion was seconded by the motion and the amendment Mr. W. Digby Seymour, who raised two distinct questionsargued that the Bill was simply first, as to the abstract merits a return to the first principles of of the measure; and secondly, the Constitution, and a necessary whether it was expedient at the supplement to the Reform Act. present time, after the determi

Mr. Cave moved the previous nation of the Government not question. He did not propose, to attempt the question of rehe said, to negative the principle form this session, a determiof the Bill, because the admission nation which had been generally which gave


approved. The amendment pro- tion, cited the opinions of several nounced no condemnation of a gentlemen of experience in elec61. franchise, and the question toral proceedings at home or in was whether the Government Australia, which were more or having determined, with the ap- less in favour of vote by ballot probation of the House, not to in. as a protection against intimidatroduce a measure of reforın this tion and a cure for bribery, and session, any private member might he mentioned instances of opundertake the task. He thought pression on the part of landlords the conclusion at which Mr. Cave which the ballot might have prehad arrived, recommended itself vented. He expressed little conby considerations of consistency fidence in the success of his and common sense, and that to motion, being conscious that the adopt the motion for the second feeling of the House was opreading of the Bill would be posed to him. practically to affirm that legisla- The motion was seconded by tion on this subject was possible Sir Charles Douglas, and disand desirable, and that the Go- posed of speedily by a division, vernment were wrong in not undertaking it. He should, therefore, For the motion

154 vote for the previous question.

Aguinst it

279 Mr. Lawson supported, and Mr. Black opposed, the Bill.


125 Mr. Stansfield said the opportuneness of the measure de. The only Bill, introduced, in pended upon the position of the this session, by the Government question of reform before Par- which proposed to alter the reliament. He reviewed the sub- presentative system one ject in its various phases, and brought in by Sir George Lewis, the manner in which the leading the Home Secretary, for the purmembers on either side of the pose of assigning the seats which House were affected by it, and had been vacated by the disfranconcluded that the promoters of chisement in former years of the the present Bill were justified in boroughs of Sudbury and St. Alasking the House to sanction it. ban's to other places. The inten

On a division, the previous tions of the Government, which question being carried in the were afterwards modified by the denegative, the Bill fell to the cision of the House of Commons, ground.

were explained by Sir G. Lewis, Another abortive attempt to in his motion for leave to introduce alter the electoral system, was the the measure. The right honourarepetition of Mr. H. Berkeley's ble gentleman stated that the two annual motion on the ballot. boroughs had been disfranchised The motion for leave to bring in by the Acts of 1844 and 1852, a Bill for this purpose was made and the Government had deemed on the 23rd April. The debate it advisable that the four seats was short, and the subject too should no longer remain vacant. much exhausted to admit of no- They proposed, therefore, to velty in the arguments. Mr. assign two of the seats to the Berkeley, in introducing his mo. two largest counties--namely,


« PreviousContinue »