Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

the condition of the people and the into importance, and had no repreconstitution of the government had sentatives at all

. These details, unhappily come to exist, calamities however, would be matter of future must some day or other ensue, deliberation. · The object which unless the state of the representa- he had in view, in moving the pretion were amended, from which sent resolution, was, in the words neither the constitution nor the of. Mr. Fox, “ not to pull down, country would ever recover. It but to work upon, our constitution, was certain, he argued, from the to examine it with care and rehistory of our parliaments, that the verence, to repair it where decayed, knights of the shire were originally to amend it where defective, to elected by all the freeholders of the prop it where it wanted support, to county, and that the representa- adapt it to the purposes of the pretives of boroughs were chosen, not sent time, as our ancestors had done by a select corporation, always from generation to generation, and easily managed by a few influential always transmitted it not only unimindividuals, but by the whole body paired, but improved, to posterity." of the inhabitants; for, in point Mr. Denison, in speaking on this of fact, all the inhabitants were topic for the first time, could not burgesses. It was impossible, he help feeling that there was nothing thought, to look back upon our in the state of the House, or the history and not see that the ori- conduct of the government, to have

gin and early usage of parliament rendered it necessary to press such jwent upon the principle that those a motion on the very eve of a geonly should be summoned who neral election. He was opposed were qualified to speak the sense, to it on principle. The object of and represent the feelings, of the those who advocated reform seemed people, and that members should to be, to reduce the system of renot be sent from such places as presentation to greater uniformity Old Sarum, while Leeds and Man- in its operation. There were only chester were left unrepresented. two ways by which this could be Having noticed the objections effected. The first would be by a commonly urged against the ne- greater extension of the popular cessity of reform, the noble mover system of representation, the secontinued, that, of two modes of cond went on the ground of apporreform which it was customary to tioning the representation to the propose, the one a total reconstruc- amount of property possessed. Of tion, and the other a partial, and, these methods there were: living so to speak, a piecemeal renovation, examples; and, as experience was, of the House of Commons; the in such matters, the best instructor, latter appeared to him the sounder in France, the elective system in principle, and the better suited was founded upon property. If to the condition of the country. we desired to proceed in that way, The principal feature of his plan the first step necessary to be taken would be, to restrict an hundred of would be to disfranchise a large the smaller boroughs to one mem- portion of the country. But his ber, instead of allowing them twó, majesty's ministers were aware of and give the number of represen- the consequences of such a proceedtatives thus subtracted from them ing, and knew too well how weak to other towns which had risen and feeble government must be come, if supported by a House of British polítics had maintained. Commons resembling the French This consistency he wished to preChamber of Deputies. The other serve inviolate. He felt no dismethod, was to place the represent- position to tamper with the ination on a popular basis, approach- tegrity of the constitution. Its ing to what might be called a fabric had not been constructed on Representative Democracy. The the chaste and simple principle of example of that course was to be Grecian uniformity, but rather parfound in the United States of took of the minute and multifarious America. Great allowance must, character which distinguished the notwithstanding, be made in any Gothic temple; and he confessed attempt to draw a practical argu- that he found it impossible not to ment from the circumstances of stand in awe and admiration of nations in many most material the venerable pile, and he dared points so different. Here we had not approach it with the hand of a a limited monarchy, there the go- daring, though specious, reform. vernment was a pure democracy. Mr. Hobhouse made a very disWhatever liberty we possessed in cursive speech in support of the this country had grown gradually motion. It was objected, he said, up among us; whatever freedom that the reformers had no plan to existed there, had been suddenly offer ; now this he denied. The obtained. There the principle of noble mover had a good plan; the universal suffrage, with little or no member for Durham (Mr. Lambrestriction, was admitted; here the ton) had a very good plan ; and parliamentary advocates, at least, he himself had a plan, of whose of reform, had never ventured to merits he would say nothing. It go so far. Even the differences was objected to them, likewise, between the state of society in the that the property of the country two countries rendered all reason- was really represented; he denied ing from the one to the other in- this too. Property was not reconclusive. He could not admit presented: for the most ragged the advantage of any change in the part of the population, who ought existing system of representation, to be in the work-house, were embracing, as it did, the advan- voters, and perjured themselves at tages of both schemes, without the the poll by saying they gave their defects of either. We had the votes for such a candidate, when, French principle of property, con- in fact, they gave the votes of trolled by the American principle those who sent them there. The of democracy, and that in its turn electors themselves were not poschecked by the influence of the sessed of property: the persons aristocracy. The House partook really possessing property resided of all the changes and varieties of in towns which had no representthe state, and afforded a means for atives. The House, therefore, the introduction of every expres- must either adopt some reform, or sion of public opinion. No one abandon the hypocrisy of pretendparliament had ever greatly de- ing that there was a representation. viated from the path of its prede- The effects of the system on the cessors, and to this circumstance, votes of that House furnished irreperhaps, more than any other rea- fragable answers to every pretence son, was owing the even tenor of its voice being that of the couns Vol. LXVIII..

[H]

[ocr errors]

try. He had an analysis of the connected with them ; and only majorities on the great questions one county member voted with which had been discussed in 1821 them. Such was the system by and 1822, which showed that these which ministers ruled parliament, majorities were wholly made up and parliament the country; and of the eighty-nine placemen, and of which Mr. Pitt had declared in of members intimately connected the days of his youth, that, under with the government, and if it it, it was impossible for a minister were not un-parliamentary he to be an honest man. The Se would read their names. He had cretary for Foreign Affairs had also another analysis, showing the once said, that he would scorn to divisions on thirty-six great ques- govern by a majority of placemen; tions which had taken place in but the boast was an empty one. those years, the result of which Ministers had no other means of was rather curious, and which he governing, and would have none, would take the liberty of reading till they had deserved the confidence to the House, to show how the of the country. “Without that state of the representation really confidence, in vain is all the boasted stood : Of the 40 counties of independence of the Foreign SeEngland, 25 members voted for cretary, in vain is all his manliness the government, and 37 against. of spirit and eloquence with which Of the 24 counties and towns of he delights his enraptured audience. Wales, 13 members voted for, and He would, indeed, be supported 9 against the government. Of 89 while he spoke from the benches cities and boroughs, where the where he now sits; but strip him election was open, 57 members of his robes of office, and what has voted for the government, and 107 happened to him before will happen against. Of the 99 cities and again ; his supporters will fail him, boroughs in which the election was and he will find that the empire confined, 151 voted for the go- of his persuasion is over, so soon vernment, and 12 against. Of the as he is reduced to charm them 33 counties and boroughs in Scot- only by his native graces of truth land, 25 members voted for, and and wisdom. The present condi11 against the government; of the tion of a minister of the Crown is 65 counties and boroughs of Ire- neither enviable nor desirable ; but land, 45 voted for, and 21 against I can depict nothing more noble, the

government ; of the remaining or more animating, than the situa112 members, making up a total tion of a minister in a reformed of 658, they either did not vote at parliament, presiding, with the all, or voted occasionally on either consent and support of the people, side. Even the vote which the over the destinies of the greatest other night had prevented the nation that ever challenged the creation of a new placeman, proved admiration of mankind. Then, thoroughly the corrupt state of the indeed, the cheers of the assembly representation. * The majority would not only play round his in favour of ministers on that head, but they would reach his occasion, consisted of 38 gentlemen heart ; his proud condition would who enjoyed places and salaries; enable him to anticipate the judgof ten more who were intimately ment of posterity, and admiration

would follow the mention of his * See infra, p. 113

name in history."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Mr. W. Lamb said, the measure effort to apply the doctrines of rerecommended to the House was so form to a particular instance, and - uncertain in its character, that he again moved for leave to bring in

found much difficulty in seeing his a bill to alter and amend the re3. way through it. So far as he did presentation of the city of Edinsee, it appeared to him that it was burgh, which contained, he said, a likely to be mischievous ; and he population of more than 100,000 doubted not that the motion was inhabitants, while the elective one of intimidation, brought for- franchise was in the hands of a ward for the purpose of being here- town council of thirty-three memafter employed on the hustings. bers self-elected, and what were Neither all intimidation, nor all called the vested rights of that corruption, was on the side of go- body were generally the principal vernment. The member for West- obstacles thrown in the way of a minster had talked much of the better system. But the franchise corrupt motives by which majorities had been given to the council for in that House were influenced. the benefit of the public ; and How could the hon. member know whenever it appeared to parliawhat these motives were ? They ment that the old mode of elec-might be influenced by motives tion was no longer fitting or beniewhich appeared to their judgment ficial, it might competently resume as correct, and as well founded in what it had given, and vest the just policy, as those which governed franchise in other hands. Another the votes of a minority. He knew objection was usually founded on of votes given in that House, on the assertion that the articles of professed constitutional grounds, union precluded any interference which, in his soul, he believed with the rights of private property. those who gave them knew well To this he would reply, that the to be hostile to the constitution heritable jurisdictions had been and to the interests of the country; abolished in the year 1747. If but if government had certain ends there existed any species of privito obtain, so also had they who lege which, more than an other, voted in this manner. Perhaps ought to be peculiarly accounted some opposition among their con- private, the heritable jurisdictions stituents was to be got over, some ought to be referred to that class. party to be conciliated, some ex- Nothing could ever have been pense to be saved. Were not these more distinctly recognised as primotives as corrupt as any by which vate property than were the heritaministerial majorities could be in- ble jurisdictions--they had been fluenced ? Corruption was not sold and mortgaged, and treated on necessarily or exclusively connected every occasion, and for every purwith majorities.

pose, as matters of private property. Neither Mr. Canning nor Mr. Yet they were abolished ; and that Brougham took a share in the de- at least showed that the articles of bate, which could not be expected, union did not preclude such an inon so hacknied a topic, to present terference with private property as much novelty; and it terminated might be esteemed for the general in the jection of the motion by good of the country. It was by a majority of 247 to 123.

no means required, he said, that Mr. Abercromby again made an those who opposed reform as it re

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

garded England, should, for the anxious to see compelled to unite in sake of consistency, likewise oppose one firm and unanimous struggle it as it regarded Scotland : for in for reform. That, however, which no one case, in Scotland, was there

was a reason against his entire and the most distant approach to popu- unqualified approbation of the molar representation; and yet, no city tion, was a reason for the House in the empire, of the same size, with the less scruple to accede to it; contained so many householders of for the case made out was comindependent fortune as Edinburgh. plete in itself. It was unanswered

Mr. Dundas, the member for and unanswerable, for so flagrant Edinburgh, and Sir George Clerk, was the injustice complained of, so the member for the county, op- very reasonable and moderate the posed the motion, as being evidently demand, that it was utterly imintended to undermine the barriers possible to conceive any feasible which resisted the inroads of a more objection to it.For a perfect case, wide and sweeping innovation. indeed, he knew of nothing like it, The unexampled prosperity of but the corruption of ScotlandEdinburgh in every branch of art it was totus, teres, atque rotundus ; and industry, was convincing proof it was so complete in all its parts, that the system of representation that it must thoroughly con, had not been prejudicial to her vince all those who were not, from interests; and the contentment inveterate principle and prejudice, which pervaded the whole coun- opposed to every species of reform, try shewed abundantly that a no matter in what modified shape limited franchise was not in itself it presented itself. The course necessarily mischievous. There adopted by the opponents of the were in England many large cities motion was, to answer one abuse in which the franchise was con- by another. Edinburgh was admitfined to a small number of in- ted to be an atrocious case, but Bath, dividuals ; and it would be less it was said, presented an instance objectionable to alter the system equally atrocious. Such a course here, than to disturb interests which was most insulting to that city had been secured by the solemn and its representative. He had no compact of the Union. No borough doubt that a few apothecaries in had ever been disfranchised in Bath could send as good a member England, except in cases where to parliament as the mock member gross and scandalous corruption for the city of Edinburgh; but had been fully proved ; and the would that be any answer to the present proposal went to dis- just demand of the enlightened franchise the corporation of Edin- citizens of Bath for that share in burgh without charging or proving the representation to which they any thing.

were justly entitled? Upon this Sir Francis Burdett confessed principle of setting one abuse that he felt in some degree less zeal against another, it would be imę in support of the motion than he possible ever to make any way whatshould have done ; if, instead of ever against corruption ; for no being placed upon insulated and conceivable case could be stated, to independent grounds, it had been which twenty gentlemen on the combined with the general inter- other side might not conscientiously ests of the empire, which he was start up, protesting that there

« EdellinenJatka »