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.- -'--:......---THE SPIRIT…


THE SPIRIT OF THE BALLOT DEBATE. The subject of the Ballot came before the House of Commons on Tuesday on the motion of Mr. H. Berkeley for leave to bring in a bill. The hon. gentleman delivered a long speech, and kept the House in good liuinour but there was little disposition to hear anyone else, and a division was soon called for, the result of which showed A tailing off among the supporters of the Ballot to tfec extent of nearly a hundred. We extract the following -.— Mr. H. Berkeley (who on rising to address the House from the front Opposition bench was received with laughter from the Ministerial side) said that probably hon. gentlemen who cheered, because they fancied he had deserted them, felt in their own consciences that they deserved desertion. He was about to make a proposition which he had often made before in vain, and he expected to make it in vain again that night. Nevertheless it was his duty to persevere, and he had never felt that duty more imperative than now, when they had before them a so-called Reform Bill, without that protection to the elector which was doubly essen- tial in any measure extending the franchise to the poorer classes. After the severely contested general election of 1852, in which both the great parties who played at battledore and shuttlecock with the govern- ment of the State exerted themselves to the utmost to gain or keep possession of Downing-street, it was felt the corruption and electoral abuses which had been so extensively practised required that something should be attempted to be done. "HOW NOT TO DO IT" LEGISLATION. It was not, however, really sought to amend the system, but only to go through the form of doing so. A select committee was accordingly appointed, on which many distinguished members of that House sat. Among them was his hon. friend the member for Bir- mingham, who, however, afterwards left the committee because he found that it was determined to do nothing. Still they presented a report, and a Bill followed, called the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, in which also was faithfully exemplified the great principle of how not to do it." This bill met with the approval of the House, more particularly of its legal members, and, being seen to be worthless, it was likewise passed with great satisfaction in another place. The experience of 1857, the first occasion on which the measure came into force, fully justified the character that the Times bad given of it. In 1859, again, whenever it was affected t. be used, it was followed by one universal yell of execration, it being proved to deserve the name of the Corrupt Practices Encouragement Act" rather than that of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act. MR. BERKELEY'S BILL AND HIS OPPONENTS. He might fairly ask the House to pass the first read- ing of his Bill that night, and allow it the same chance as the Bills of those two hon. and learned gentlemen, the members for Nottingham and Suffolk. His measure had at its back some 230 members, the majority of those who kept the noble lord in power; and the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, and two members of the Cabinet whose votes he hoped to have that night, were also among the supporters of the ballot. He did not, however, expect that his Bill would be treated with the consideration to which it was entitled. The Bill was intended to give the electors protection at the polling booth which they so eminently required and to secure' purity of election, the absence of which was so foul a blot on the national escutcheon. When he look back at the names of those by whom he had been opposed upon this question he experienced mingled feelings of astonishment, satis- faction, and regret. He was astonished at the vast amount of talent which hadjbeen arrayed 'against him, and at the miserably feeble argument to which it had condescended. Among his opponents had been Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, Sir J. Graham, Sir G. Grey, Mr. S. H. Walpole, Mr. S. Estcourt, and Sir G. C. Lewis, all men of undoubted talent and great logical powers, and all practised debaters yet, having looked through their speeches, he declared on his con- science that he had not found one valid argument in them all. "APPLE-PIP" ARGUMENTS AGAINST IT. It was with both satisfaction and regret that he was obliged to add that he had risen from the perusal of their speeches under the painful impression that they were disingenuous, that the thoughts of these distin- guished speakers were apart from their words, and that they were opposed to the protection of the voter for some other reason than that which they alleged in that House. Their arguments reminded him of the attempt made by Sir F. Kelly, who was defending a poisoner, to persuade the Jury that the death of the victim had been caused by eating apples (a laugh), the pips of which had generated prussic acid in the system. Just that sort of apple-pip argument was used against the ballot, but those who had used it had the advantage of addressing not an unbiassed jury, but an assembly a great part of which was returned to that House by the influence of the aristocracy through the medium of the institution which they were defending. LORD PALMERSTON'S OPINION. The speeches of the aoble lord the member for Tiverton contained nothing but the weakest plati- tudes. He said that open voting was manly and English, and that secret voting was unmanly and un- English. How, then, could the ballot be un-English when it was used in all elections except Parliamentary and municipal ones ? It is employed at the Bank of England and in elections of county constables; and even the proof of some exceptions would not bear out the assertion that it was an un-English. The noble lord also stated that the elective franchise was a trust- a proposition which was entirely refuted in an able speech by Sir R. Bethell, but which the noble lord rather dictatorily than argumentatively established to his own satisfaction by the assertion, All the world knows it is a trust." This mode of reasoning reminded him of that adopted by Peter in the "Tale of a Tub," who, in order to prove to John Martin that a brown loaf was a shoulder of mutton, said, Look, gentlemen, to convince you what a lot of blind and obstinate puppies you are [Query himself and Sir R BetheJl 1], I will use but this plain argument :-this is good, natural mutton as came out of Leadenhall-market, and eternally confound you both if you venture to say otherwise." HOW ELECTORS ARE FETTERED. But suppose the elective franchise to be a trust, what were its conditions ? Its conditions were, that the elector should vote freely and indiscriminately, without fear of punishment or hope of reward. Was the elector aided in discharging that trust by those who could not ostensibly interfere with him, standing by the polling booth and watching how he votea? Let them point out to him any way in which open voting assisted the elector to discharge his trust. Look on the other side of the question, and see whether it did not completely mar the discharge of his trust. He maintained that it did. Through open voting, the elector, in many cases, dared not go to the poll to dis- charge his trust according to his conscience. The con- sciences of the electors were interfered with. They did not vote according to their consciences, but accord- ing to the demands of others. Tens of thousands of electors were deterred from going to the poll at all, because they could not vote so as to discharge the duty of their trust. Tens of thousands of electors re- fused to be on the register at all, simply from the dread of interference. It was all very well for the rich country squire to go the poll. What responsi- bility did he incur? None whatever. He discharged his duty according to his conscience, and nobody inter- fered with him. But look at the responsibility to the poor tenant-at-will or the small tradesman, You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live," and the means of those unfortunate men often hung on their votes. "PREVENTION BETTER THAN CURE." Mr. Lawson thought the House should exert itself to put an end to this evil. The House had the remedy in its own hands, by directing the votes be taken in secret, by which they deprive men' of the means of getting value for their money. If they did this, the House would soon find the proof of the old axiom— "that prevention is better than cure." They had heard that the ballot had entirely failed in the colonies, but that had been ably refuted by the speech of the hon. gentleman the member for Ponfcefract. He i rr. Lawson) said that if the ballot were found effectual in the colonies, then the same remedy appli to the fam evils in this country, must produce the same effect. Not only had they a large majority of the electors of the country in favour of the ballot, but two- thirds of the members of that House had recorded their votes in its favour. He believed in his conscience that by the adoption of a measure such as that which was proposed, the House would wipe out one dark blot upon the institutions of this country, and would render them more than they were subjects of greater pride to themselves, and of admiration to surrounding nations. THE PREMIER ON POLITICAL TRUSTS. Lord Palmeston said I can assure the House that I shall treat it with more respect than to Go on refining, And think of convincing when they think of dining." (A laugh.) But, sir, I wish to assure my honourable friend opposite (Mr. Berkeley) that nothing which he has given us in his speech this evening has in any degree altered the opinions which I have always en- tertained upon the measure he proposes. My hon. friend has found fault with an assertion which I made, that the franchise was not a right, but a trust; and I, arguing that it was a trust and not a right, contended that every political trust ought to be exercised in public view. I say it would be a trust even in the case of universal suffrage, because, even then, the elector would be exercising the function as a trust for the benefit of all that portion of the population- women and children—whoso interests would be affected, but who would not be entitled to exercise any function in regard to the matter upon which he is going to vote. (Hear, hear.) Therefore it is that any political fran- chise which is vested in any person in this country is exercised in the sight of the public. A BALLOT-BOX MEMORIAL FOR MR. BERKELEY! I entertain the conviction, that if the bill of my hon. friend was c-riea, and the ballot established by law, you would demoralise the people of this country. You would turn your people into law-breakers or hypocrites —law-breakers, if they made known their votes it would be a breach of the law; and they would be hypocrites if they kept their votes secret. Besides, under the ballot many of those who had promised their votes would, ten to one, break their promises. We have been told in the course of the evening that in Australia the ballot does not prevent bribery and in- timidation-the two things against which we are told to vote with the hon. gentleman and it is remarkable that the advocates of the ballot, having for a long time grounded themselves on the example of the United States, have been obliged to quit the shores of the Atlantic and take refuge at the Antipodes. Well, sir, I won't keep the House any longer—I shall not intrude upon it by repeating the speech which I was in great hopes my hon. friend would read. (Laughter.) My hon. friend has pursued this course through evil report and through good report, though moderate success, and sometimes through less success, and no doubt it is a great honour to his perseverance and I only hope when the day shall come-and long may it be deferred—when a public memorial shall be erected to my hon. friend-that monument which he shall have so well deserved-may it be erected in the shape of a ballot-box.




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