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the commission of murder; but who could say how many persons had been deterred from the commission of that crime by the contemplation of the awful circumstances attending an execution ?
The amendment of Mr. Gilpin was rejected by the large majority of 127 to 23, and the Bill passed with very slight opposition through both Houses, and received the Royal Assent.
PARLIAMENTARY REFORM AND ELECTORAL LAW-Bills for amending the Repre
sentation of Scotland and Ireland - The Scottish Reform Bill brought in by the Lord Advocate-Objections taken to the scheme for redistribution of seats-Discussions upon the proposition to increase the nunber of the House by the addition of seven Members for Scotland - Mr. Baster proposes as an alternative to disfranchise seven small boroughs in England Counter-proposition of Sir R. KnightleyMr. Baxter's proposition is carried on a division, and acquiesced in by the Government-Discussions as to the new constituencies-Mr. Disraeli's proposition as to the distribution of the seven seats is agreed to-A clause is added to the Bill, by which seven English towns having a population below 5000 are disfranchised - The Bill is passed – A corresponding measure for Ireland is brought in by the Earl of MayoDiscussions on the franchise proposed by the Bill, and on the redistribution of seats- Much dissatisfaction is expressed with respect to the latter— The Chancellor of the Exchequer resolves to abandon this portion of the Bill, and to limit its operation to the electoral franchise-Proposal of Col. French to lower the standard for counties from 121. to 81.—The Amendment is negatived on a division—The Bill is passed, but with strong expressions of dissatisfaction as to its incompleteness, in both Houses— The Boundary Bill for England and Wales-Origin and character of this measure-Recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners appointed in 1867—Petitions of various boroughs against the proposed adjustment of limits Debates in the House of Commons on that subject—The Government accede to the suggestion of referring the boundaries in controversy to a Select Committee-Five members are appointed by the House to consider the subject— They make a report at variance in some cases with the recommendations of the Commissioners – The rival propositions are discussed with some warmth in the House— Those of the Select Committee are ultimately adopted— The same controversy arises in the House of Lords, and leads to a remarkable scene— The Bill is finally passed as sent up from the House of Commons- Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices Prevention Bill-A measure for removing the jurisdiction over Election Petitions from the House of Commons is brought in by the Government-Recommendation of the Select Committee of 1867 to transfer this jurisdiction to the Judges-Letter of the Lord Chief Justice to the Lord Chancellor, stating strong objections on the part of the Judges to be so employed- The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes, in deference to these objections, to create a new tribunal to bear Petitions-Unfavourable reception of this plan-After much debate the House recurs to the proposition of the Select Committee-The Government proposes that three new Judges be created, and that Petitions should be tried by a rota forined out of the three courts- Various Amendments bearing on the electoral laws are mored, and discussed at much length-The Bill, as amended at the instance of the Government, is ultimately passed through both Houses—The Registration of Voters Bill–Object of this measure to accelerate the Elections, and enable the new Parliament to meet before the end of 1868–It is passed with general concurrence, and receives the
Royal Assent. The completion of the work of Parliamentary Reform, by extending the franchise and enlarging the basis of representation in Scotland
and Ireland, formed one of the main features in the legislative programme of the Session. In fulfilment of the pledge given by the Government to carry this purpose into execution, the Lord Advocate for Scotland took the earliest opportunity of introducing the measure proposed for that part of the kingdom. In so doing he stated that as regarded the franchise it would be based on the English Act. The borough franchise would be extended to all householders rated and paying rates; and, though he believed the case of lodgers to be amply provided for in Scotland by the present rating laws, there would be no objection to a clause to remove all doubt. In the counties there would be an ownership franchise of 51. clear annual value, and an occupation franchise of 121. There would also be provisions for securing fairness and uniformity of assessment, which the Lord Advocate explained in some detail. Passing to the Distribution clauses, he stated that there would be seven new members given to Scotland, which would be an addition to the aggregate numbers of the House. Of these seven, two would be given to the Scotch Universities, one to each of the counties of Ayr, Lanark, and Aberdeen, one to Glasgow (to be elected on the
representation of minorities” principle), and one to a group consisting of Ardrossan, Coatbridge, Wishaw, Barrhead, Johnstone, Helensburgh, Kirkintilloch, and Pollockshaws, all in the counties of Lanark, Renfrew, Ayr, and Dumbarton, and containing a population of 74,000. Further than this, it was proposed to add Hawick and Galashiels to the Haddington Burghs, and Alloa to the Stirling Burghs.
Mr. Baxter said if the occupation franchise in Scotland might consist of land only it would be in the power of one or two landowners in some counties virtually to command the representation of the county. But he still more strongly disapproved of the proposed scheme of redistribution. He protested against adding to the number of members of that House. No one would dispute the claims of Scotland to additional representation, but rather than obtain it by that means he would prefer waiting till they could have the question of redistribution as applied to the whole kingdom dealt with by a reformed Parliament. Scotland demanded to be treated as an integral portion of the United Kingdom. They did not ask for additional representation for Scotland quâ Scotland, but they asked for a redistribution of the representation of the whole of the kingdom.
Mr. Smollett, though holding that the addition to Scotland ought to be obtained by diminishing the representation of England and Ireland, and favourable to a reduction in the numbers of the House, exhorted the Scotch members to accept the offer now made, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread.
Mr. Laing argued that the practical question the House would have to decide was-should the numbers of the House be increased, or should the just addition to the representation of Scotland be indefinitely postponed ? His experience last year taught him that
it was hopeless to attempt to reopen the redistribution question in this Parliament. He was favourable to accepting this instalment of justice from the Government, and that, he asserted, was the prevaling sentiment in Scotland. Having examined the arguments against an increase of the House, and concluded that there was no force in them, he criticized some of the details of the Bill, and maintained that, on the principles of the Act of last Session, Aberdeen and Dundee were entitled to additional members.
Mr. Moncrieff canvassed closely the distribution scheme, and asserted that the grouping part of it was a mockery, and could never be accepted by the House. He objected, too, to the proposed increase of the House—the legitimate source was the disfranchisement of the small boroughs. The rating principle would create great inconvenience in Scotland; and he suggested its omission from the Bill and the insertion of some provision against the manufacture of fictitious votes. The details of the distribution scheme were also unfavourably criticized by Colonel Sykes and by Mr. M‘Laren, who characterized the Bill as much worse than that of last year, though he justified an increase in the numbers of the House, asserting that it ought to be to the extent of fifteen at least; and by Sir E. Colebrooke.
Sir James Fergusson replied to objections, dwelling on the difficulties of extending the disfranchisement of English boroughs, and of persuading English members to part with any English seats to Scotland, and exhorting Scotch members not to throw away this chance of obtaining an increase in their numbers. Correcting the statement of the Lord Advocate, he explained that Ardrossan would not form part of the new group, but would be added to the Ayr Burghs; and he defended the creation of new burghs by the importance of conferring the franchise on the working classes there.
Mr. Graham objected to the mode in which the constituency of Glasgow was to be increased, and preferred to divide the city.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed some surprise that Scotch members should talk of opposing a Bill which contained the largest extension of the suffrage ever offered simply on the minor ground of the distribution scheme. The only principle of that part of the Bill was an addition to the representation of Scotland, and the manner in which that addition should be carried out was a matter of detail to be settled in Committee. The Government had no personal interest to serve either one way or the other. The representation of England, he maintained, was not disproportionate to population and property, and he warned the Scotch members that if at any time disfranchisement were carried further in England the seats thus gained would be applied to perfecting the English representation, and would not be handed over to Scotland. Looking to the unwillingness of English members to deprive England of any portion of her representation, it would be wiser for Scotch members to unite in passing a moderate measure
this year than to run after the "jack o' lantern ” of what the Reformed Parliament would do for them.
After some further discussion, leave was given to bring in the Bill. The motion for the second reading was strongly opposed by Mr. Hatfield, who moved the postponement for six months. He objected to the proposed increase of the number of the House, and urged that the additional seats required for Scotland should be obtained by the disfranchisement of the small English boroughs. Mr. B. Cochrane also considered the addition of seven Scottish members inadequate, but he dissuaded the representatives of that country from rejecting the Bill.
Mr. Smollett, premising that he accepted the Bill as an inevitable necessity, proceeded to discuss its provisions and the question of Reform generally, in a sarcastic speech. Illustrating his argument by its presumed operation in Glasgow and Edinburgh, he maintained that the Bill would degrade the representation of the great towns, and criticized severely the grouping clauses, which he condemned as clumsy and ignorantly drawn, predicting that the Radical party in Committee would so manipulate them that the Conservative interest in Scotland would not for the future return more than one or two members. After sketching a portentous picture of the House of Commons of the future—a compound of elderly landowners, rich traders, working men, union delegates, and Fenian sympathizers, which would very soon be found amenable to corrupt influences—he wound up by an emphatic declaration that nevertheless he had no fear for the safety and invulnerability of the British Constitution.
Mr. M‘Laren criticized the details of the Bill with much minuteness, condemning the rating clauses, and showing that they would operate in a disfranchising sense. He urged the necessity of providing against the creation of fagot votes, and, in an elaborate analysis of the population and taxation returns, he sketched a scheme of redistribution which he contended was more consistent with justice to Scotland.
Colonel Sykes, Mr. Graham, and Mr. Crum-Ewing deprecated opposition to the second reading, and in answer to Mr. Moncrieff
, Sir James Fergusson, on the part of the Government, said they had never insisted that the additional members should be seven and no more. It would be for members who represented the claims of particular constituencies to make out their case.
Mr. Laing asserted that though the old Whigs opposed the Bill because they thought its defeat would embarrass the Government and retain the Scotch vote on their side at the next election, and though the extreme Radicals, more partisan than national in their feelings, opposed it, desiring to keep the question of redistribution open, yet the real independent and moderate Liberals of Scotland were disposed to accept the Bill on condition that ten additional members should be given to Scotland, that the distribution scheme should be amended, and that the creation of fagot votes should be
prevented. He advised the Government, therefore, to consider, between this and the next stage, the propriety of making these concessions.
These remarks provoked a strong protest from several Scotch members, Mr. Ellice, Mr. Kennard, Mr. Crawford, and others, who maintained that the state of opinion in Scotland bore no resemblance to Mr. Laing's representation of it. The Scotch members, they said, could not be bribed by the proposed increase of the number of members to accept the objectionable features of the Bill. Rather than accept the present scheme as it stood, they would defer the matter till the new Parliament.
The Lord Advocate defended the details of the Bill, and with regard to the number of members remarked, that to give Scotland twenty-five additional members it would be necessary to take thirteen members from England, and twelve from Ireland. As to the grouping, he stated that it was on the same principle as that of 1832.
Mr. Hadfield, in deference to the appeals made to him, having withdrawn his amendment, the Bill was read a second time. In Committee the measure underwent various important modifications, the majority of the House being able to carry several material amendments, to which the Government thought it advisable to accede. The first of these originated with Mr. Baxter, who moved, “That it be an instruction to the committee that, instead of adding to the numbers of the house, they have power to disfranchise boroughs in England having by the census returns of 1861 less than 5000 inhabitants.” He said that Scotland was entitled to twenty-five members more than she had, but he would accede to the Government proposal to add only ten, but not thereby to increase the number of members of the House. His proposal was not new. In 1832 Parliament subtracted eight seats from England and gave them to Scotland. There happened to be ten places which could scarcely be dignified by the name of boroughs, they being merely small decaying villages, but each of which returned one member to Parliament. They contained an aggregate population of only 39,704, and the number of electors was 2874, and eight out of the ten places had greatly decreased in numbers in the last five years. He proposed to disfranchise them, and in that manner to obtain the seats required.
Sir Rainald Knightley proposed as an alternative to this motion, that instead of disfranchising boroughs, the Committee have instructions to take one member from each of those boroughs in England which in 1861 had less than 12,000 inhabitants. Sir W. S. Maxwell seconded the amendment. Lord E. Howard pleaded warmly against the disfranchisement of Arundel. To extinguish the small boroughs, he argued, was a step towards the establishment of Electoral Districts.
Mr. Gladstone supported the proposition of Mr. Baxter.