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contention up to the very last stages of the Reform con. much of the Reform Bill of 1867, was at first sight troversy. The fact was, that, as has been truly said, extremely moderate. In the first place, it advanced the "the subject was one of which a large section of the property qualification for the borough franchise which House of Commons was profoundly ignorant,” even in Lord Russell's bill had fixed at £6 to £7—a step which 1866; and it required all the information supplied by Mr. Mr. Gladstone explained as follows : “A £6 rental, cal. Lambert's book, and all the debates in which he figured culated upon the most careful investigation, and after so prominently, to make the "compound householder" making every allowance and deduction that ought to be and his grievances really known to the public and to the made, would give 242,000 new voters, whom I should Parliament which was to legislate for him. But, as Mr. take as all belonging to the working class. I should then Gladstone very well knew, without a repeal of the rate. arrive at a gross total of 428,000 persons” (that is, by paying clause of the Act of 1832, any further lowering adding together old and new electors)," which would, in of the property qualification for the franchise would be fact, probably place the working classes in a clear majority practically ineffectual, since it was the tenants occupying upon the constituency. Well, that has never been tho houses below the annual value of £10, the limit fixed in intention of any bill proposed in this House. I do not 1832, who came principally under the head of compound think it is a proposal that Parliament would ever adopt. householders; that is to say, whose rates were compounded ... I do not think that we are called upon by any for by their landlord, and paid by him to the parish, in overruling or sufficient consideration, under the circum. stead of by themselves. The object of this arrangement stances, to give over the majority of the town constitubetween tho parish and the landlords was to secure a encies into the hands of the working class. We therefore more safe and regular payment of rates than it would propose to take the figure next above that which I havo have been otherwise possible to obtain ; indeed, the parish named-namely, a clear annual value of £7.” Under the was willing to accept a reduced rate from the landlord | £7 qualification, it was calculated that 144,000 voters of in consideration of this greater security of payment and the working class would be admitted to the borough convenience of collection. The case then stood thus : franchise-enough to give the artisan class its due weight Under the Small Tenements Act, landlords were allowed, and share in elections, without swamping the other ele. if the parish wished it, to compound for their tenants' ments of the constituency. Mr. Gladstone also proposed rates, paying the rates to the parish, and reimbursing by means of the abolition of the ratepaying clauses of themselves by a corresponding increase of rent from the the Reform Act of 1832, by registration of compound tenant; in consequence of this arrangement it happened householders, and by a lodger franchise applicable to that such tenants did not appear upon the rate books, persons occupying rooms of the annual value of £10_to which only register personal and actual ratepayers; the further increase the number of borough voters by 60,000, Reform Bill of 1832 refused the franchise to all who giving a general increase of 204,000. To this increase were not ratepayers, and the electoral officers, in most must be added the proposed number of new county cases, considered nobody a ratepayer whose name was not voters, “ fourteen-pound tenants," 172,000 in number; upon the rate books; consequently, hundreds of persons and the dopositors in savings-banks, &c., 24,000 moro, were disfranchised by no fault or disqualification of theirs, In all, the number of new voters to be added by the till but simply by “ the conflict between the ratepaying clauso was estimated at 400,000, equally divided, according to (of the first Reform Act) and the local practice of rate the belief of the framers of the bill, between the middle collectors.” It would have been well if the House of class and the artisans. Commons had laid these facts accurately to heart before Mr. Gladstone introduced his bill on March 12, 1866, entering upon the Reform debates of 1866 and 1867; much in a speech worthy of the occasion, though the beginning blundering and misconception would have been prevented was marked by even more than his usual humility. At had they done so. With regard to the proportion of artisans the outset he read the passage in the Queen's Speech on the register, the statistics given in Mr. Lambert's book which bore upon the question :-“When that information gave rise to much debate. According to them, the pro- i (relative to the existing rights of voting) is complete, the portion of artisans to the rest of the electors was 26 | attention of Parliament will be called to the result thus per cent.; or, in other words, 128,603 out of 488,920 obtained, with a view to such improvement in the laws persons on the borough register of England and Wales which regulate the rights of voting in the election of came under the definition of mechanics and artisans. It members of the House of Commons as may strengthen was, however, maintained that in many towns the number our free institutions and conduce to the public welfare." of artisans, properly so called, had been much over. Words like this gave Mr. Gladstone a good starting-point, rated-& mistake which seems very possible when one | He appealed to them and to the numerous occasions on considers the difficulty of giving an accurate statistical which the same recommendation had been given from the account of the occupations of the poorer classes in large throne. “By no less than fivo administrations, in no less towns. .
than six speeches of the Queen anterior to that of the Parliament opened amid general interest and excitement present year," had the need of Reform been suggested to with regard to Reform; and in March Mr. Gladstone the House. Such an accumulation of authority, he went brought in his “Bill to extend the Right of Voting at on to say, seemed to excuse him from the necessity Elections of Members of Parliament in England and of arguing the abstract question of the advisability of Wales.” This important bill, upon which was based so Reform. He took that for granted. Again, Mr. Lam
bert's work had been so well and quickly done that the of Reform altogether. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Government found itself ready to offer the bill at once, had, he said, given a clear and elaborate account of the without waiting a year. But-here was the important various provisions of the proposed bill; but “although point-partly with a view to break up the opposition he ably entered into these matters, and with a detail to the Government proposals, partly to prevent the bill which reminds me more of a speech on the Budget than becoming unwieldy and its progress too slow, it was to con- / on Reform, he did not find-he was so pinched for timesist really of two bills. The first, with which Mr. Gladstone a moment to say why the Constitution under which we proposed now to deal exclusively, was & Bill for the have lived so long might not be left to us a little longer.” Extension of the Franchise; the second, to be considered Mr. Gladstone had taken up the position that Reform after the settlement of the first, was to be concerned was inevitable, and had long been proved inevitable; he with that much more dangerous, much more personal had declined to go into the merits of the question, upon matter, the Redistribution of Seats. Into Mr. Glad- the ground of “accumulated authority” on the side of stone's details as clear and as copious in this speech as Reform; granted the necessity of Reform, he had such they always were with him-we need not follow him, for and such propositions to make. Mr. Lowe, on the other we have already sketched the main provisions of his bill. hand, argued the question of Reform in the abstract; He commended it to the House, hoping that "if, un- was it necessary ? were the existing institutions of the happily, issue was to be taken adversely upon the bill, it country really in need of such violent remedies ? If it would be, above all, a plain and direct issuo ”-that is, was pleaded that Reform was needed for the working whether or not there ought to be enfranchisement down. classes, the best of whom, it had been said by Lord wards. In other words, Mr. Gladstone, though he had Russell in the preceding year, were excluded from nearly ignored the general question of the need of Par. the franchise, Mr. Lowe contended that Mr. Lambert's liamentary Reform, courted discussion of that general statistics proved the working man was already adequately question. He brought in his bill, not like a Trojan horse represented. And even if they were not, there was a (he said) “approaching the walls of the sacred city, and natural progress going on among the lower orders, which filled with armed men, bent upon ruin, plunder, and con. provided far safer means of enfranchisement than any flagration,” but rather as bringing recruits to the Par- legislative tinkering. Were not wages rising, and was liamentary army-children to the Parliamentary family, not wealth spreading farther every year ? Every day “Give to these persons,” ran his peroration, “new inte. labour was becoming more and more in demand, and the rests in the Constitution ; new interests which, by the proportion of men earning high wages was every day beneficent processes of the law of nature and Providence, becoming greater. The vast extension of trade and shall beget in them new attachment; for the attachment commerce, emigration, the discovery of gold in California of the people to the Throne, the institutions, and the laws and Australia, all were so many levers, which would in under which they live is, after all, more than gold and time lift the working man to the place in the constituency silver, and more than fleets and armies; at once the properly belonging to him. The process was a natural strength, the glory, and the safety of the land.”
one, and would not bear being interfered with. The The night following the introduction of the bill was Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been able to make marked by the second of Mr. Lowe's famous Reform up his mind to the £6 franchise because it would give the speeches, and the first of those fierce attacks upon the working classes a majority in the constituencies. But Russell Ministry which more than anything else con that majority would soon be theirs, whether Mr. Gladstone tributed to bring in the Conservatives in the following granted it now or not. “ Is it not certain that causes are at year. Mr. Lowe was then member for Calne. He had work which will have a tendency to multiply the franchise held office under Lord Palmerston as Vice-President of -that the £6 houses will become the £7 ones, and the the Council from 1859 to 1864, and had long been known £9 houses will expand to £10 ? ... Sooner or later in the House as an accomplished man and ready de- / we shall see the working classes in a majority in the bater; but probably few, in 1866, had any idea of the real constituencies.” And then came the famous passage greatness of his oratorical gift, and of the splendid dis- which has made Mr. Lowe the bugbear of the working plays he was to mako of it before the close of the session. classes ever since, but which he has always strenuously, In his address to his constituents, in June, 1865, Mr. Lowe and sometimes angrily, defended. “Look at what such had given sufficient warning of the course he meant a majority implies. I shall speak very frankly on this to take with regard to Reform. So long as tranquillity subject, for—having lost my character by saying that the and content existed unbroken in England, he said, “I see working man could get the franchise for himself, which no reason for great organic changes in institutions which, has been proved to be true, and for saying which, he and though partaking largely of the imperfection incident to his friends will not hate me one bit the less—I shall say all things human, and susceptible, doubtless, of great im- exactly what I think. Let any consider-I have had provements as our experience widens and ripens, have such unhappy experiences, and many of us have-let any combined order and liberty, stability and progress, in a gentleman consider the constituencies he has had the greater degree than the institutions of any other nation.” honour to be concerned with. If you want venality, if And throughout the Reform debates Mr. Lowe amply you want ignorance, if you want drunkenness and facility redeemed the pledge of action thus given. At the very for being intimidated; or if, on the other hand, you want outset of his speech on March 13, he denied the necessity | impulsive, unreflecting, and 'violent people, where do you
look for them in the constituencies? Do you go to the only with power, bat with a sense of power. “They will top or to the bottom?"
say, “ We can do better for ourselves. Don't let us any It has been said, he went on, that the sins of the con- longer be cajoled at elections. Let us set up shop for stituencies are to be laid at the door of the small shop- ourselves. We have our objects to serve as well as our keepers and beer-house keepers. They, it is granted, neighbours, and let us unite to carry out those objects. "are an indifferent class of people; but get to the artisans, We have machinery; we have our trades unions; ve
and there you will see the difference.” Mr. Lowo had have our leaders all ready.'” This, in fact, was the main nothing but ridicule for this view of things. It was, he ground of Mr. Lowe's opposition, as it was the main said, like the ancients' idea of getting to the back of the ground of the opposition which the Conservatives brought north wind. If, they argued, it was so cold in front of to bear, and which in the end, as we shall show, unseated the north wind, how warm it would be if you could get the Government. It was the aristocratic, or at least the to the back of it! Then, descending to questions of anti-democratic argument, that Reform would lessen the practical detail, Mr. Lowe went on to oppose the bill, power of the fow in proportion as it emancipated the many. because it would increase the expenses of candidates, Tho argument, however, was applied in many forms by " for,” he said, “experience shows that corruption varies Mr. Lowe : ho urged that the course on which the Governinversely as the franchise ;” and, with still greater ment was entering would make the constituencies in the energy, because it would invest the working men not I end so largo and so expensive that none but millionaires
or demagogues would find a seat, and that the Executive of the bill, and through the winter of 1866, to be Government would be lowered even below the pitch of directed mainly against the "renegade Liberals” and " painful weakness” at which, according to Mr. Lowe, it their leaders, shows that nothing is so effective in firing had already arrived. Lastly, Who asked for the bill ? a train of explosive feeling as an epithet. Mr. GladNot the people, not the House of Commons, but the stone's Liverpool speech was of the most uncompromising Radical leaders, as a salve for a theoretical and not a kind. “We do not desire,” he said, "we should be the practical grievance! "All I can say,” concluded Mr. first to resist, sudden and violent sweeping changes; but Lowe, "is, that if my right honourable friend does suc- the progressive enlargement of the popular franchise ceed in carrying this measure through Parliament, when with due regard to the state and circumstances of the the passions and interests of the day are gone by, I country-we do not consider liable to the application of do not envy him his retrospect. I covet not a single any of these epithets. Having produced this measure, leaf of the laurels that may encircle his brow. I do framed in a spirit of moderation, we hope to support it not envy him his triumph. His be the glory of carrying with decision.. . . . Wo stake ourselves, we stake our it; mine of having, to the utmost of my poor ability, existence as a Government, and we also stake our political resisted it.”
character, on the adoption of the bill in its main provisions, The cheers that greeted this speech and not only the You have a right to expect from us that we should tell Opposition, but for a moment the Ministerialists, were you what we mean, and that the trumpet which it is our carried away by its eloquence and wit-were a kind of business to blow shall give forth no uncertain sound. omen of the difficulties that the Government were to Its sound has not been, and I trust will not be, uncertain. meet with during the progress of the measure. But they We have passed the Rubicon, we have broken the bridge wero not to fall yet-not till a whole session had been and burned the boats behind us. . . . The defeat of the spent in desperate fighting, and till a score of new repu | bill, what would it procure ? an interval, but not an intations had been made, and old ones more than maintained terval of repose-an interval of fever, an interval of er. in the incessant debates. In this debate on the first pectation, an interval for the working of those influences reading, Mr. Horsman, the Liberal member for Stroud, which might extend even to the formidable dimensions of took up the same position of hostility to the measure as political danger.” Mr. Lowe; and it was in answer to him that Mr. Bright The great debate on the second reading began on the threw out his famous nickname for the new party. “He 12th of April; and never within living memory had has retired into what may be called his political cave of a greater display of eloquence, argument, and energy Adullam, and he has called about him every one that was been witnessed within the walls of the House of Commons. in distress, and every one that was discontented.” The Mr. Gladstone had seen enough of the spirit of opposition name of Adullamites was ever afterwards given to the that had been awakened to make it necessary for him to group of seceding Liberals, and their position was called make an elaborate speech on moving the second reading, the Cave.
directed mainly against the amendment of which notice The bill was brought in, and read a first time, and the had been given by Lord Grosvenor, the eldest son of the House adjourned for the Easter Holidays to think over Marquis of Westminster. This amendment, which was the situation. It was evident that a storm was coming, to be seconded by Lord Stanley, was to the effect "that and questions perhaps graver than that of the fate of a it was inexpedient to consider this bill until the House Cabinet or of a measure were dependent on the issue. A had before it the whole scheme of representation ; " that great meeting was held at Liverpool, at which Mr. Glad. is to say, that it was inexpedient to break up the Reform stone made a speech in defence of the bill. Mr. Lowe's legislation into two parts, to separate the question of the Liberal constituents at Calne wrote him a strong protest franchise from the question of redistribution. It is not against his conduct, and clearly indicated that he must necessary to go through the points that Mr. Gladstone not ask for a continuance of their confidence. His an- raised; for to do so would be to anticipate the course of swer to them was, in fact, an answer to a perfect chorus the debate, so exhaustive and voluminous was his eloof invective with which he was greeted by every Liberal quence. The former part of the speech was of a more newspaper, and in every meeting of Liberals throughout general kind than that which had introduced the bill the country. He maintained that he had but fulfilled the originally; it was a sort of answer to Mr. Lowe and to announcement which he had made to them at the time of those who had denied the necessity and the demand for his election in 1865, when the words of his address had Reform, and it dwelt with immense force upon the been, “I attach too much importance to the blessings we pledges given in past years by Mr. Disraeli, Mr. already enjoy, to risk them in pursuit of ideal perfection, Horsman, and others, now strenuous opposers of Reform or even of theoretical improvement.” And, while with in any shape. Mr. Disraeli, in 1859, had pronounced perfect frankness ho affirmed his belief that “ignorant, that he and his colleagues in Lord Derby's Cabinet“ were drunken, venal, violent” people were to be found at the perfectly prepared to deal with the question of the bottom of the constituencies, he denied that he had meant borough franchise and of the introduction of the working the words to apply to a whole class of his countrymen. classes by lowering the franchise in boroughs, and by But this disclaimer availed little; the words had been acting in that direction with sincerity." Mr. Horsman. spoken, and they stuck. The popular excitement which in 1851, had been one of the very persons who had they caused, and which continued after the failure / pressed on the Government a measure of “piecemeal