Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

a

entitled to additional representation, but he retained his opinion that the best way of giving it was by increasing the number of members of the House. He had never heard any argument against it. It was said that the numbers were already too great for a deliberative assembly, but what did they mean by a deliberative assembly? It was essentially a representative assembly, and if it were a representative assembly it must be a popular assembly, and it could not be a popular assembly if it were to be restricted in its numbers. He regretted that the House was not disposed to increase its numbers, but as that was so, what they had to do was to bring the question to a conclusion, and to consider what was the best course, and of the two propositions he thought the better one was that of Sir Rainald Knightley.

Upon a division Mr. Baxter's motion was carried by 217 to 196.

Another important amendment, moved by Mr. Bouverie, proposed to get rid of the rate-paying qualification in Scotland altogether by omitting the words making the payment of rates (as in the English Bill) a necessary condition of the franchise. This motion was strongly opposed by the Lord Advocate, but carried against the Government by 118 against 96.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer required time to consider the course which the Government should adopt in consequence of this decision. At the next sitting of the Committee, however, the Lord Advocate expressed the intention of acquiescing in the abandonment of the rate-paying clause. The occupation franchise for counties was fixed at 14., the reference to “rateable value” being expunged.

Mr. Disraeli said he would now make another proposition, that seven additional members be given to Scotland, not ten; namely, one member to each of the three counties of Lanark, Ayr, and Aberdeen, one member more to Glasgow, and another to Dundee and two members to the Universities. One member he would obtain by combining the counties of Selkirk and Peebles, which now returned one each, and the remainder he would obtain by applying so far the principle of Mr. Baxter's resolution.

Mr. Baxter declined to accept the Government proposition, and proceeded to move that ten additional members be allocated to Scotland as follows :-two to the Universities, one additional to each of the counties of Ayr, Lanark, and Aberdeen ; that Glasgow be divided into two districts, each returning two members; that one additional member be given to each of the cities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee.

Mr. G. Hardy moved as an amendment that three members only be given to Glasgow, which being carried on a division, it was agreed to further amend the clause in accordance with the proposition of Mr. Disraeli. Another question which arose and was discussed at much length was as to the mode of electing the three members for Glasgow. Mr. Graham, one of the representatives of that city, proposed that Glasgow be divided into three districts,

each returning one member. Mr. Disraeli, however, contended that the principle adopted in the English Bill for representation of the minority should be applied to Scotland also. Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Bright, Sir George Grey, and Mr. B. Osborne, opposed the extension of the ininority principle, while Mr. J. S. Mill, Mr. B. Hope, Mr. Lowther and other members argued in favour of it. Mr. Graham's amendment was eventually rejected on a division, and the minority principle affirmed by 244 to 185. It remained for the Committee to give effect to the amendment which had been carried by Mr. Baxter for obtaining the additional seven seats granted to Scotland by the disfranchisement of as many English boroughs heretofore returning one member. Sir James Fergusson accordingly proposed, on the part of the Government, a clause providing that the following places in England should cease to return members to Parliament, viz. Arundel, Ashburton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Lyme Regis, Thetford, and Wells. This clause, after some contention as to particular boroughs, was adopted, and the Bill finally passed through Committee. No opposition any importance was made in the subsequent stages, or in the House of Lords, and the Bill for amending the representation of the people of Scotland in due course became law.

The corresponding measure for Ireland was introduced in the House of Commons by the Earl of Mayo, on the 19th of March. The noble Lord stated that the last Reform Act for Ireland gave an occupation franchise in counties of the value of 121., and in boroughs of 81., and the effect of that was to make a large addition to the number of electors. He did not propose to make any alteration in the county franchise ; but he proposed to make a considerable reduction with regard to the boroughs. In Ireland the owner and the occupier each paid half the poor-rate, but the owner paid the whole rate of houses under 41. except in five towns, in which the owner paid the whole of the rates of houses under the value of 81. It was proposed to assimilate the law in this respect by enacting that the landlord should pay the poor-rate of all houses below 41., and to fix the borough franchise at 41. The present number of borough electors was 30,700, and the effect of this proposal would be to add 9813 to the roll. It was also proposed to extend the lodger franchise to Ireland on the same conditions as in England; and that a Boundary Commission should be appointed. There were thirty-three boroughs returning thirtynine members, containing an aggregate population of 790,000. Of this population the three cities of Dublin, Cork, and Belfast absorbed more than one-half and two-thirds of the valuation. There were no unrepresented towns in Ireland which could fairly lay any claim to additional representation. There were thirtytwo counties which returned sixty-four members. The four largest counties, Cork, Tyrone, Down, and Tipperary, had one member for every 156,000 of the population, and 360,0001. of valuation ; the other twenty-eight counties had one member to every 66,000 of the population, and 120,0001. of valuation ; so that there was a great discrepancy, and these four counties had a strong claim to increased representation. This could not be done by taking the second member from any town, nor by grouping, for there were not the elements for a system of grouping in Ireland. It was proposed, therefore, to disfranchise certain boroughs. Downpatrick would be asked to yield its seat to a division of the county of Down ; Dungannon its seat in favour of the county of Tyrone. Bandon and Kinsale would be disfranchised, and the seats given to the West Riding of the county of Cork. Then Cashel would be disfranchised in favour of the northern division of the county of Tipperary. It was also proposed to disfranchise Portarlington, and to give a third member to Dublin. In this scheme he could not be charged with party motives, as it so happened that three members who would lose their seats sat on one side of the house, and three on the other.

A brief discussion took place at this stage of the measure in which some of the representatives of Ireland took part.

Mr. Brady complained that no reduction was made in the county franchise, and demanded vote by ballot for the Irish tenants; Mr. Bagwell objected to the elimination of the urban representation, and pointed out that the change was in favour of the territorial influence; Mr. Lawson denied that the largest counties had been fairly chosen for increased representation, and asked why the third member was not given to the counties, as well as to Dublin city, on the minority principle. Mr. Reardon also made some remarks in condemnation of the Bill, and Mr. O'Beirne complained of the attack on his borough (Cashel) in violation of the principle of the English and Scotch Bills that no place should be disfranchised.

Mr. Gladstone, admitting that there were one or two good principles in the Bill, reserved his opinion on the details until the plan was in print. But he regretted that the Government had not seen their way to a larger increase of the Irish constituency, and pointed out that the merging of boroughs into counties would make it more difficult to retain the county franchise at its present figure.

Leave was then given to bring in the Bill. It was read a second time, with very little discussion, on the 7th of May, though some members expressed dissatisfaction with the redistribution of seats which was proposed. On the House going into Committee, which did not take place till the 15th of June, the same objections were taken to the arrangements for altering the seats. Ultimately, Mr. Disraeli expressed his regret that the redistribution scheme had met with so little favour on either side of the House, and stated that he was prepared to withdraw that part of the Bill. The Gordian knot having been thus cut, the further progress of the measure was much facilitated.

Mr. C. Fortescue moved a clause to the effect that in all future

a

Parliaments the University of Dublin and the Queen's University in Ireland should jointly return two members, and that all doctors of law and medicine, masters of arts and masters of surgery, bachelors of law and of medicine of two years' standing, and all bachelors of arts of three years' standing, upon whom degrees had been or should be conferred by the Senate of the Queen's University for the time being, should, if of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity, be entitled to vote in the election of members to serve in Parliament for the said Universities.

The Earl of Mayo, in opposing the motion, said the scheme of redistribution had been abandoned by general consent, and this amendment would set aside that understanding. But the governing body of Trinity College had authorized him to state that they would agree to insert a clause in the Registration Bill, binding them to give the electoral franchise to every master of arts on taking his degree without payment of the additional fee.

Mr. Gregory said that the Irish Secretary's speech was the most miserable exhibition of political pusillanimity which had ever emanated from a Cabinet Minister, and denounced the authorities of Trinity College as a narrow-minded and intolerant corporation, which had invariably opposed every concession to religious liberty.

The clause was negatived on a division by 183 to 173. An attempt was then made by Sir Colman O’Loghlen to abolish the right of voting by freemen, subject to a reservation of existing rights.

This proposition gave rise to an animated debate, in which the arguments on either side were a reproduction of those used when a similar clause was proposed in the English Bill of the preceding year. Mr. Gladstone earnestly supported the clause, while Mr. Henley made an elaborate vindication of the claims and merits of the class which it was proposed to disfranchise. A division resulted in a majority of 155 to 109 against the amendment. The sharpest struggle took place on an amendment moved by Colonel French to reduce the county franchise from 121. to 81. rateable value. In support of his motion Colonel French entered into a

. long statement of the rating arrangements in Ireland, to show that the reduction proposed by him would almost equalize the county franchise in the three kingdoms.

Lord Mayo, in objecting to the amendment, dwelt on the fact that the Government scheme of Reform placed the county franchise on the same footing in all the three kingdoms, though Ireland had anticipated England and Scotland by some years in adopting the figure of 121. There was nothing, he urged, in the circumstances of Ireland to justify this further reduction, for it was absolutely certain that in a very short time there must be an alteration in the system of valuation in Ireland which would completely assimilate the basis of valuation in all the three countries. The proportion of the number of county voters to the population by the Bill would be about the same in Ireland as in England and Scotland.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Mr. Osborne, designating the Bill as an ignis fatuus and a farce, made light of this or any other reduction of the county franchise, unless accompanied by the protection of the ballot. Between the landlord and the priest, the franchise would be a curse to the tenant without a lease.

Mr. Gregory took much the same view of the effect of the amendment. It would not strengthen public opinion, but would hand over the counties more completely to the influence of a certain number of great landlords.

Mr. Gladstone dwelt on the importance of observing a certain proportion in the Reform arrangements for the three countries, and argued that, if this Bill passed in its present form, the franchise, both in town and country, would be left at a higher point in Ireland than in the other two countries. In fact, a Bill of so limited a scope, adding only 9000 to the borough voters, could not be said to dispose of the subject of Irish Reform. Lord Mayo’s assumption that an assimilation of the county franchise would be speedily brought about by a revision of the Irish system of valuation he treated as completely illusory, and he reminded the House that in 1850 it had accepted an 81. franchise for Ireland with the approval of Sir R. Peel.

Lord John Brown suggested as a compromise that a 101. franchise should be adopted. Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Synan supported the amendment.

On a division the amendment was rejected in favour of the Government proposal by 241 to 205.

Sir John Gray then moved a clause to the effect that votes at elections in Ireland should be taken by ballot. This was also rejected by a majority of ninety-nine, and the Bill passed through Committee. Upon the consideration of the report some strong observations were made by Irish members on the inadequate and illusory character of the Bill as it then stood, denuded of those provisions by which the representation might have been amended, and the basis of the franchise enlarged.

Mr. O'Beirne expressed his dissatisfaction with the Bill. First, he thought the borough franchise was fixed at an unfair figure, and one that would not satisfy the Irish people.

ish people. Next, the freeman franchise was left untouched. Lastly, the county franchise

. was not reduced below the figure at which it was placed eighteen years ago, when the English county franchise was more than six times that amount. The late Mr. Hume had said that an 81. county rating in Ireland was equal to a 301. county rating in England, and the late Sir James Graham had expressed his opinion that the basis of the county franchise in Ireland ought to be largely extended. Why should a stigma be cast on the Irish farmers by the presumption that they were not as competent to exercise the franchise as the farmers of West Kent ? By this Bill 9000 would be added to the total number of voters in Ireland, while by the English Reform Act of last Session a number equal to one

« ÎnapoiContinuă »