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was fixed upon because they slept in the same bed or rode on the same horse on their journeys to London. But if you come to make it a general practice to give three members to counties, I think we are entitled to ask upon what principle this is to be done. For my own part, I can suggest no other principle than the mere worship of numbers. It is quite a new principle that numbers should not only be represented in this House because they are important but that that importance should entitle them to more votes. The House will recollect that every member has two separate and distinct duties to perform. He is the representative of the borough which sends him to Parliament, and he has to look after its local interests to the best of his power. That is a small and, in the mild and just times in which we live, generally a comparatively easy duty; but his greater and more pre-eminent duty is to look after the affairs of the empire. The real use, therefore, of an electoral district, be it small or large, is one more important than the adequate representation of the numbers of any particular place, so long as they are represented. It is, that it should send to Parliament the persons best calculated to make laws and perform the other functions demanded of the members of this House. This seems to me to go directly against the principle that these great communities are not only entitled to send competent gentlemen to represent their affairs, but to send as many members as will correspond with their weight in the country. If once you grant this principle you are advancing far on the road to electoral districts and numerical equality. I say this is the mere principle of numbers. If the principle be once established, it is very easy to give it extension. Scarcely a meeting is assembled on this subject, without some man getting up and complaining that the member for a small borough, myself, for instance, should have a vote which will counterbalance the vote of the representative of a borough containing 200,000 or 300,000. If it was a fight for the good things of this world between Calne and Birmingham, I could understand how such a principle might be adopted ; but when it is a question of making the laws and influencing the destinies of this country, the question is not which is the larger body but which best discharges its duty in sending members to Parliament. I cannot find a trace of that principle in the whole of this Bill, for it is clear that there is no such idea in
giving these three members to counties. They are mere concessions to the importance of the constituencies to which they are given while the small boroughs are grouped in a manner likely to promote mediocrity, because gentlemen of shining qualities and useful attainments will scarcely be able to contest them, unless possessed of great wealth. I cannot bring my mind to the idea of giving three members to those large constituencies. We should, on the whole, be far better without those twenty-nine members. We had better leave matters alone, if we can find no better use for them. Now, I have gone through what I have to say upon the details of this Bill ; and perhaps the House will allow me to sum up what I think of the whole effect of the ministerial measure. You say how frightful the expenses of elections are, and declare that they are a cankerworm in the very heart of the Constitution. Yet what is the effect of this Bill with regard to the legitimate expenses of elections ? The Government are proposing to increase the size of the constituency of every borough in the Kingdom. Will that decrease expense ? They propose to disfranchise small boroughs; and instead of sub-dividing districts with a view to make more manageable constituencies, except in the case of the Tower Hamlets and South Lancashire, a senseless homage is paid to mere numbers, adding to that which is already too much. Then there is another thing. It is the duty of every man who calls himself a statesman, to study the signs of the times, and make himself master, as far as he can, of the tendencies of society. What are those signs and tendencies ? I suppose we shall none of us doubt that they are tending more or less in the direction, as I said before, of uniformity and democracy. What then, is the duty of a wise statesman under such circumstances ? Is it to stimulate the tendencies which are already in full force and activity, or is it not rather, if he cannot leave matters alone, to see if he cannot find some palliative ? If he cannot prevent the change which stronger powers are working, should he not make that change as smooth as possible and not by any means accelerate it? But the whole of this Bill is not in any way of moderating, but of stimulating, existing tendencies. It is not always wise (and the observation is as old as Aristotle) to make a law too accurately in correspondence with the times, or the genius of the Government under which you live. The best law that
could be made for the United States would not be one purely democratic. The best law for the French Government to enact is not one of an ultra-monarchical character. There is sound wisdom in this, and it should be kept well in mind; but it seems to have been by no means considered by the framers of the crude measure before us.
“But our new Jehu spurs the hot-mouth horse,
Instructs him well to know his native force,
To the next headlong steep of anarchy."
of the Exchequer upon two grounds-flesh and blood, and fathers of families. The £7 franchise is defended by the honourable member for Birmingham upon another ground; he takes his stand on the ancient lines of the British Constitution. I will suggest to him one line of the British Constitution, and I should like to know whether he means to stand by it. In his campaign of 1858, in which he had taken some liberties with the Crown, and spoke with some disrespect of the temporal peers, he came to the spiritual peers, and this was the language he employed. He said “That creature of monstrous—nay, of adulterous birth.” I suppose there is no part of the British Constitution much more ancient than the spiritual peers. Is that one of the lines the honourable gentleman takes his stand upon ? Again, the AttorneyGeneral, having recovered from the blow the grouping of Richmond must have been to him, has become a convert, and, like most converts, he is an enthusiast. He tells us that he is for the £7 franchise because he is in favour, like the honourable member for Birmingham, of household suffrage. These are the reasons which are given in order to induce us to adopt the £7 franchise. I ask the House, is there any encouragement in any of these arguments to adopt it ? The Chancellor of the Exchequer says it is flesh and blood ; it is a very small instalment of flesh and blood, and none can doubt that anyone asking for it upon that ground only asks for it as a means to get more flesh and blood. The honourable member for Birmingham stands upon the Constitution, and he puts me in mind of the American squib, which says:
“Here we stand on the Constitution, by thunder,
It is a fact on which there are bushels of proofs,
If it wasn't continually under our hoofs ! Well, the honourable gentleman asks the £7 upon the ground that it is constitutional—that is, upon the ground of household suffrage. He wants it with a view of letting us down gently to household suffrage. The Attorney-General, of course, means the same. In fact, he said we ought to do it at once. But we see what a condemnation the Attorney-General passes upon the Government of which he forms a part. He says, “ You have taken your stand upon the £7 franchise. The ground you have taken is so slippery and unsafe, so utterly untenable, that I would
rather go down to household suffrage at once—to the veriest cabin with a door and a chimney to it that can be called a house. There I may, perhaps, 'touch ground.'” What encouragement do these gentlemen give us to take the £7 franchise ? Yet the honourable member for Westminster says that £7 is no great extension, and out of all comparison with universal suffrage; so he excuses himself for having thrown overboard all the safeguards which he has recommended should be girt round universal suffrage. I do not object to his throwing them overboard. Checks and safeguards, in my opinion, generally require other safeguards to take care of them. The first use universal suffrage would make of its universality would be to throw the safeguards over altogether. He says the £7 franchise has nothing to do with safeguards. The Chancellor of the Exchequer goes to universal suffrage, and the other two to whom I have referred profess they go to household suffrage. Do you think you could stop there ? You talk of touching ground—would it be solid ground or quicksand ? You think that when you have got down to that, you can create a sort of household aristocracy. The thing is ridiculous. The working classes protest even now against what they call a brick and mortar suffrage. They say, “A man's a man for a' that." The Bill appears to me to be the work of men who :
"At once all law, all settlement control,
To physic their disease into a worse. What shall we gain by it ? I have not, I think, quibbled with the question ; I have striven to do what the Government have evaded doing—to extract great principles out of this medley (for medley it is) composed partly out of a veneration for numbers and partly out of a sort of traditional veneration for old boroughs, which are to be preserved after what is beneficial in them has been taken from them. Then we have to consider the proposed county franchise, founded, as has been said, upon utter ignorance. It is quite evident that this Bill has been framed without information, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as is well known, has told us that the only copy he had I may be right; at any rate, I cannot be wrong until I have stated it somehow. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the only copy he had of those statistics was the