Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

10 articles on this Page



IMPERIAL PARLIAMENT. HOUSE OF COMMONS.—THURSDAY. THE REFORM BILL. Mr Layard stated, in reply to Mr Gregory, that Austria and Russia had issued decrees, by which it was agreed, in case of war, to confer on the enemy's merchant ships at sea the same immunities as had been granted to neutral vessels by the Declaration of Paris in 1856. The hon. member also, in answer to Mr Lidde'l, confirmed the statement that the Chilian Minister had presented letters of recall. He further observed, in replying to an inquiry of Colonel Sykes, that the distinguished Chinese, with their Tartar and Mongol friends, who had just arrived in this country, had not come here in any official capacity, but Her Majesty's Government were glad to see them, and would do all in their power to make their visit useful and agreeable, and he hoped that it might pave the way to the appointment of a representative from the Imperial Government hereafter. The communication was received with lond cheers, the echoes of which h d scarcely died away when the illustrious Prince, accompanied by his son Yo-ho, three attendants, and Mr Hart, the Imperial inspector of customs in China, made their appearance in the gallery usually doveted to foreign and distinguished visitors, where they remained for some time during the Reform debate, which occupied the reatofthe evening. The arij turned debate on Mr Hayter's amendment on going into committee on the Representation of the People Bit! and the Redistribution of Seats Bit!, was resumed by Mr J. Goldsmid, who objected to the mode in which the proposed grouping of boroughs was to be effected, and suggested as a (air settlement that, boroughs which liad a population between 8,000 and 10,000, and now re- turned two members, should hereafter return one. and that groups of boroughs, the combined population of which was above 10,000, should return two members. If this were done the borough of Honiton, which he re- presented, would be prepared to sacrifice one of its seats and he would give his support to the bill. Mr Goschen followed with a laboured defence of the ministerial scheme, in the course of which he alluded to the population of 8,000 as that alone which would enable the Bill to pass-an observation which evoked a burst of merriment and much ironical cheering from the Opposi- tion. He also argued that it was not necessary that the boroughs to be grouped should be locally connected or be geographically near, and declared his belief that if the electoral instead of the population line were adopted, there would be very little difference in the result. Sir J.Pakington invited any independent member of the House to say that this was a plan which Parliament ought to adopt as a means of improving the representative system. The measure was immature, and showed a want of care, deliberation, and foresight; and looking upon the plan as whole, he could Trace nothing of patriotism or wisdom, or even of the ordinary prudence which ought to govern men in dealing with a question of magnitude. Looking at the gi eat difficulties by which this question was surrounded he thought it was worthy of consideration whether it might not be taken out of the category of party questions and referred, with the question of bribery and corruption, to a fairly constituted Royal commission to consider it in all its ramifications, and to make a deli- berate report upon it which might be the means of en- abling the Government of the day, of whatever party it might be composed, to mature a measure that would be more comprehensive and satisfactory than it was possible ior any Government to produce by their unaided exer- tions. Mr Scourfield believed that the system of grouping proposed by the Government would entail increased expenditure on candidates seeking Parliamentary honours. The feeling of the majority of the hon. mem- bers who voted for the motion of his lion, friend the member for Northamptonshire (Sir R. Knightley) was that under the proposed Reform Bill the only certainty discernible was a great increase in electoral expenditure. Some of the places to be grouped together had no com- munity of interest, and very often great rivalry existed between them. He had had considerable experience in contests, and the opinion he had formed was, that the grouping of the boroughs would multiply contested elections. (Hear, hear.) He could not fancy any position more irritating than that of a borough which, although it might have a majority of votes in favour of a particular view, because it was associated with a larger borough supporting different views, was always in a minority. The right .hen, gentleman the member for the city of London seemed to attach very little importance to boroughs grouped together being in the same county, or to the distance they were apart. Now, he thonght that such considerations were of great consequence, and Sir G. Lewis, no mean authority in such matters, had expressed the same opinion. Locality must be taken into account in dealing with the representation of the people; and. unless it were great evils would be the result representation would be practically unrepresented. (Hear, hear.) The bill seemed to him to be constructed on what he might call 'the something-must-be-done principle.' In coversation with people favourable to the bill, he found that they did not criticise all its parts, but they exclaimed, 'But really we want a settlement of this question, and something must be done.' Now, in politics that was a very dangerous principle. It might be necessary that something should be done; but that something should be well done and if a settlement of the question of Reform was desired, a good settlement ought, if possible, to be arrived at. The simple desire to get rid of the question was a great mark of importance. With regard to the franchise, he entertained one objection to which he thought very little special reference had been made, except by his right hon, friend the member for the University of Cambridge. In dealing with this matter he could not see that the Government had made anything like an attempt at drawing a satisfactory line of demar- cation between the voter and non-voter, a point which be held to be of great importance. (Hear, hear.) It struck him that the house duty, if rightly considered, might aid in the solution of the difficulty. Home looke had said that benefit and burden, privilege and obligaiion, should go together; and, certainly, the person who bad to pay should have some consolation in having the privilege. He concluded that the voter should not be separated from the non-voter by a mere arbitrary line of 3 £ d, or 2d, or the smallest sum that could be named. This he held to be one areat fault in the scheme the Government had proposed to the House. He had little confidence of being able to make the required amendments in committee, and hon. members generally were afraid to leave defects to the chance of being remedied at that stage. After long debates on general principles hon. members became wearied with the anbject, and many things were allowed to pass which ought to have been amended. Some of the clauses of thebillwereinconsistentwitheach other, In the 16th elause it was proposed to disfranchise the labourers in the dockyards; but he could not find any reason for such a course. No charge of corruption had ever been brought against them, nothing except a certain inclina- tion to put a pressure upon their representatives to make an effort for an increase in their wages. Now, considera- tions of this nature ought not to have any weitht in determining who should have the franchise. Then there was a clause which negatived the necessity of paying any rates or taxes in order to obtain a vote; and this he supposed, on principle. It might be said, I Surely there are other means of recovering rates and taxes;' which was very likely, but he wished to encourage their pay- ment. Many of the charities of the country depended on the collection of rates. To suspend the payment of poor-rates for two months would entail great miseries, and possibly starvation in some parts of the country. The hon. baronet the member for Yorkshire was the only person who had advanced anything like a coloured ground for the change, and his argument was based upon the assumption that in particular cases, which must have been of very rare occurrence, the overseers of rates had exercised some partiality with regard to arrears He could only say,for his own part,thatif proof were given of any such undue preference on the part of overseers, he would gladly join in any legislation that might tend to correct the evil. The proposal of the Government seemed to him marked by an undue desire to depress the purity of the rural element in the Constitution. A good deal has been said about tempering the uniformity of the rl ral constituencies by some of the more active elements of the towns; but surely a reciprocal advantage might be gained by the towns in the introduction of more tranquil elements from the counties. He would, take, as an instance, the East Riding of the country of Norfolk. As far as he was aware, no oharge of corruption had ever been made against it but it included a celebrated borough called Yarmouth (hear, hear), which had constantly attracted the attention of committees, and was even now awaiting the visit of a Royal Commission. Was the home prepared to send an invasion of lease- holders from Yarmouth into the county of Noriolk? (Hear, hear) He believed that out of 8,0.0 voters in the East Riding no less than 1 000 would be leaseholders of Yarmouth. It these 1,000 voters were corrupt, their introduction would be a great hardship to East Norfolk if, on the other band, they were pure and upright voters, hey had better remain ia Yarmouth, where they were | sadly wanted. ('Hear.' and laughter.) It had always struck him that the otj 'ctions urged to the bill of 1859 on the ground of the alteration made with regard to the votes of freeholders in towns were much exaggerated. In the case of Exeter, Norwich, Nottingham, Lichfield, and possibly other towns, the principle of freeholders voting in the town if they lived.within a distance of seven mi!es existed at the present momont, having been con- tinned by the bill of 1831. (Hear, hear.) It would be well.if, in some cases at least, this seven miles limit were extended. The hon. gentlemen the senior member for the City of London had shown what great alterations increased facility of communication had made in the character of his constituency. Formerly, seven miles was an ample suburban limit, but now a great proportion of the wealthiest citizens lived at greater distances, and consequently were excluded from the right of voting. Connection by property, and not the actual place of resi- dence, seemed to him the point of importance. Fur, practically, in these days, nobody knew where be lived. If a residential franchise were being created, the London and North Western or the Great Western Railway would be the place to give it to. (A laugh.) Being himself a freeholder by inheritance in the City of London, he should be very glad to have the power of voting in right of it, so that when the London, Chaiham, and Dover Railway came down to take the property-a most likely contingency to happen to any one-(langhter)-he might be able to interest one of the members for the City of London upon the subject. As matters stood, these hon. members, of course, wou!d have nothing to say to him and his vote out of property in the city of London went to neutralise that of some worthy farmer in the county of Middlesex (Hear, hear ) At present the counties were certainly not over represented. The agricultural element, no doubt, was largely included in that party of stupidity of which mention had been made by the hon. member for Westminster; but, though it might have its vices and its failing, it had also its merits and its virtues-(hear, hear,) and justice was done to these when the large towns were able to exercise a double power in the representation. He agreed with the right hon. baronet, the member for Droitwich, that the Government had been very unfortu- nate in the mode of dealing with this Reform question. They might either have settled it by producing a large, comprehensive, and well-considered measure, recom- mending itself to the approval of the great majority of the members; or they might have taken a different cour-e,-a course which, he believed, the Government, at one time, had some faint notion of cntertainlng,-they i might have introduced the heads of a bill, the framework and foundation for a measure, trusting to an amicable agreement of both si !es of the House with regard to the details. (Hear, hear.) But from the beginning to the end, every hope of such an amicable agreement had been marred by the course which the Government pursued. In the first place, hon. members said, very naturally, We do not complain of'your not doing everything at the same time, but if you have got a plan let us know what it is As soon, however, as this most reasonable request was embodied in a motion by the noble earl, the member /or Chester, the Government immediately declared that this must be regarded as a motion of want of confidence. If anything like an amicable settlement was ever to be come to, the Government most avoid the multiplication of votes of 'confidence.' (Cheers.) His own opinion on that subject was greatly strengthened by words which fell from the eminent man whose loss they all deplored, in the course of the discussion upon the Reform Bill of 1859. These were the words of Lord Palmerston on that occasion •For it cannot be maintained in these times and in this House, that whenever a majority of the Hou-e of Com- mons otject to a particular measure which the Govern- ment of the day may propse, they are. by expressing that ohjection, censuring the Government in such a manner as to render it necessary for the Government to consider whether they should or should not resign their offices. If that doctrine were to be laid down in the present state of Parliament since the reform of Parliament in H:32, I maintain that it would be utterly impossible for any Government., unless it were far wiser Ahan any that has yet existed, to carry on for 12 months Hie administration of the affairs of this House.' (Hear, hear.) Those words of Lord Palmerston were not only true in themselves but almost prophetical. If members wished to settle this question, they must avoid all unnecessary fighting points. (Hear, hear.) Words, however, had been used in the recent debates which were not easily forgotten. The noble lord the member for Chester gave notice of his motion in terms which were certainly not offensive, and his proposal had been adopted and acted upon by the House. (Hear, hear.) Yet such words as 'foul' and 'dirty conspirators' (cheers) had been used with reference to the noble lord and those acting with him, whose object was not to damage the Government, but to press a fair and reasonable request. Still more recently the House had listened to phrases like organized hypocrisy and false pretences.' (Cheers.) Sayings like these might be very witty, very epigrammatic, but he doubted their being very wise (hear, hear), where it was sought to carry a measure of this kind by the co-operation of the House. When once the passions of the House were excited, it became—to employ a phrase much in vogue with a certain class of society—' an awkward customer to deal with.' (Hear.) To tell hon. members that they were to be kept in their places for two or three months, that all public business was to be interrupted, and that they were to be brought up again in November nr December to pass this measure, was not a way to conciliate the House. (Hear, hear) It was always apt to resent anything like a threat (cheers), particularly when the occasion calling forth that threat was not of its own making. (Hear, hear.) Personally he had never shown any desire to embarrass the Government (hear, hear, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer) he still entertained friendly feelings towards them. But there was one observation which he felt bound to make. It was intended to erect a monument to the memory of Lord Palmerston. But, meanwhile, a more enduring memorial was likely to be erected by the contrast between his remarkable facility of converting opponents into friends and the remarkable ability of his successors in converting friends into opponents. (Cheers.) The debate was continued by Mr Baxter, Mr Mowbray, Lord F. Cavendish, Mr Lowe, the Attorner General, and other hon. members, and was again adjourned. A Boy KILLED BY HIS PLAYFELLOW.—An inquest, was held at Birmingham on Saturday afternoon on the body of John Davies, ten years of age, who came by his death on Wednesday last under the circumstances detailed in the following narrative. There has for some time been rivalry between the boys employed at the glass works of MrGould, In Heneneage-street, and those at Mr Stephens's works in the same locality. On Wednesday the boys of the two factories had been fighting in the streets., The boys of the glass works chased those of Mr Stevens's factory down to the side of the canal. Thomas Magee, a boy of nine years of age, who was employed at Mr Stevens's, eseaped'from the pursuers.of his party and sat down at some distance on a doorstep. While he was there three of the glass works boys returned from the chase, and as they passed him they made some jeering observation, to which he replied in the same tone. Im- mediately afterwards five others of the same party came up. Magee got up from the doorstep with the intention of escaping, as it appears. He would not go in the direction of the three who had passed, as he feared a renewal of the dispute with them. He had, therefore to confront the five, and as he was passing them one of them gave him a severe blow on the ear i Magee had a knife in his hand open, and as soon as he ] was struck he drove the knife, by a vigorous backward i blow, into the heart of one of the boys—John Davis, the ( deceased. Davis tottered a short distance and then'fell, i He was taken to the hospital and was found to be dead I The medical evidence showed that the knife penetrated the heart and caused death. The jury deliberated for an hour and three quarters. They were understood to be divided in opinion as to whether the verdict should be one of man- slaughteror of accidental death. However, in the end they agreed to a special verdict, to the effect that The deceased and Magee being in boyish strife with the other boys, and Magee having at the same time a knife in his hand and being struck, he then swung back his right hand in which < he had the knife, and the blow caused a mortal wound ) to the heart of the deceased John Davis, of which wound < he died. The jury further say that the accused did not inflict the blow with any felonious or malicious intent.' t Magee remains in custody and will probabably be brought I up before the magistrates this day (Monday.) He is very 1 small, even tor the age of nine years, and during the f whole of the hearing of the evidence, which lasted about three hours, his demeanour gave no indication of his 5 being aware of the great gravity of the charge against I him, e B J