« PreviousContinue »
rich man,-public calamity, the want of bread, and all the evils that follow in the train of a convulsed state of the country, would be sure to press with the most grinding effect upon the humbler classes. Your Lordships might suffer if every man were frantic enough to dream of unsettling the established institutions of his country, and to introduce confusion into this empire; but who would suffer first, and most severely ?—who but the humbler classes, not excepting the day-labourer, the artizan, and the agricultural labourers? But the men who would suffer most of all, are those individuals of the middle-aye, even to the humbler portion of the middle class,--to whom this measure proposes to give the franchise. Why, then, my Lords, be afraid to trust those classes ?--why be afraid that such a Parliament as they would return would dream of unsettling the Constitution of the country?-why not trust those classes who are, at least, as worthy of trust as those 'whom you trust now ?-why not admit those whose interests and feelings, it must be allowed, are most adverse to any violent change? Suppose, my Lords, that there exists a worse portion of the people (and I entreat your Lordships' attention to this point),-suppose the existence of any such portion, bent upon mischievous designs,—the populace we may call them,-men
over whom you have no hold,-men who have no stake in the country,-men tossed about by every gale of opinion,-men to whom agitation is described as natural—the supporters of those opinions about which so much alarm has been expressed,-if there be a body of men of this sort in the country, I ask whether any one thing can be conceived more effectual towards reclaiming them, and bringing them back to a sense of their duty to their country and to a right view of their own interests, than the course which this measure pursues ? for it affords an opportunity of reclaiming these misguided individuals, by placing among them persons capable of controlling them by their influence, and of gaining them over, by their advice, to the interests of both,-men not very far above themselves, but renting small £ 10. houses ; and by giving them an interest in the preservation of the institutions of the country.
Hitherto, patronage has been carried to such an extent, that no honest Ministry can possibly carry on the Government. That has been one of the charges brought against the existing system; but when you have a reformed Parliament, Ministers will not, with such patronage existing, be able to carry Government on at all.
I have no expectation that a reformed House of Commons will bear down the official patronage of the Crown, which is essential to its efficiency, and which the public service requires. But I am quite sure it will do one thing—it would be unfortunate if it did not,-it will not allow patronage even to the most moderate amount to exist merely as patronage, and for the purpose of patronage, and in order to enable a Government to carry on the affairs of the country, which, without that patronage, could not steadily pursue its course. But, my Lords, it will nevertheless afford a ready and energetic support to a Government wisely and honestly intent on doing its duty to this country. Beyond what is necessary for that purpose, no support will be given; but Government must stand on its own merits alone, and the merits of its measures; and must not trust to the influence arising from mere patronage, any more than it can trust to the influence of nomination boroughs. My Lords, many things may be looked forward to from these changes, and many things may be ascribed to reform which are not altogether to be ascribed to it. I verily believe, as Parliament is at present constituted, that for years and years to come, difficulties will be found all but insurmountable for any Government to overcome; but reform the Parliament, and I am convinced
it will give its best support to an honest, a fair, and a liberal policy, as I will not say is dictated by caprice or even by the feelings of the people,—but such a policy as shall carry along with it the opinions of all the rational part of society, whom I believe in my conscience to be an overwhelming majority of all ranks and classes of his Majesty's subjects, extending even to the
When education has made such progress as it has done, and when I look to the further
it may reasonably be anticipated to make in few years, I can trust with implicit, with
e cherful, with increasing, daily increasing, and I will add, with exulting confidence, in the plain, good sense, the rational, consistent, regular, and peaceful opinions and wishes of the majority of the people. It is proper that there should be some restriction in the right of voting, for the purpose of avoiding the evils which will always attach to too numerous assemblies of the people, and for the purpose of preventing too vast an expense at elections, and the mischief which would arise from not drawing any line at all ; but it is not from any distrust that I have of even those classes to whom this measure does not give the elective franchise, that I assent to this restriction; for I am sure, if you will remove the great
and obvious grievance of our time, and of times long past, owing to the state of the representation,-if you destroy the system of nomination, you will restore yourselves to a place in the affections of the people, which the existence of that grievance has caused you to lose:—that is the great and capital grievance of all :once remove it, and I, for one, entertain not the slightest apprehension from the power and conduct of even those who are below the humblest class to whom the franchise will, by this Bill, be given.
Upon this occasion much has been said as · to the consequences of rejecting this measure. I will not dwell upon that view of the subject, because I wish to avoid saying any thing that can, even by the most ingenious perversion, be construed into the language of intimidation. But, my Lords, I only beg and entreat you not to lose this opportunity of improving (I will not say of regaining, because that would imply loss) your place in the affections of your fellow-countrymen. If their confidence in you,—if their love and respect for you, should unfortunately have been shaken, I think not only wisdom, prudence, and good feeling, but a due regard to the peace and security of the kingdom,—a due regard to the interests of all classes, and to your