UK, House of Commons, “Address in Answer to the Speech”, vol 130, cols 110-195 (31 January 1854)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Address in Answer to the Speech“, vol 130 (1854), cols 110-195.
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ADDRESS IN ANSWER TO THE SPEECH
Viscount Castlerosse—Sir, in rising the purpose of moving the adoption of an Address to Her Majesty, in answer to the gracious Speech which the House has just heard from the Chair, I have to solicit that forbearance and that kind indulgence which this House never fails to extend to those who have the honour of addressing it for the first time; and the more to merit that indulgence I shall be as brief as possible in fulfilling the duty which now devolves upon me, of endeavouring to induce the House to agree to the Address which I shall have the honour to move.
Sir, the period at which Parliament has assembled is, perhaps, as momentous as any in our former history; and I trust I may be permitted to express a hope that the House of Commons, throwing aside all party differences, will bring to the deliberations upon which we are about to enter that unanimity of feeling for the honour and welfare of this country which will enable her to maintain her proud and foremost place amongst the nations of the earth. I shall now, Sir, proceed, with the kind permission of the House, to touch very briefly upon some of the topics alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech. I feel convinced that the House will cordially sympathise in the deep regret expressed by Her Majesty at the threatened termination of that peace with which we have been blessed for a period of nearly forty years. I think Her Majesty’s Government are entitled to
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the thanks and to the confidence of the country for the forbearance and moderation which they have displayed during the last nine months. Throughout that long and eventful period, they have, in conjunction with His Majesty the Emperor of the French, and Her Majesty’s other allies, had recourse to every possible means which negotiation and diplomacy could suggest, in their anxious desire to save this country, not to say Europe, from war, with all its accompanying miseries and burdens. Sir, while I feel assured this forbearance will receive its just reward, and be duly appreciated by the country, it has, in my humble judgment, been productive of two great advantages: first, it has given the country time to discuss the question in all its various bearings, and to form its own opinion; and, in the second place, it has enabled Her Majesty’s Government to be prepared for whatever emergency might arise, by sending to sea a fleet unrivalled in the annals of our naval history. But should this country, Sir, unfortunately be compelled to engage in war, it will have the consolation of knowing that it will not be a war embarked in rashly, or for the sake of military or naval glory, or through the desire of conquest, but undertaken for the purpose of maintaining inviolate those treaties to which the faith of England has been pledged.
The House will at once be put in possession of every information respecting the Eastern question, as all papers relating to the negotiations which have been carried on, will be forthwith laid upon the table. Sir, I am confident the House will again sympathise in the regret expressed by Her Majesty at the distress—temporary, I trust—which prevails amongst the labouring classes, in consequence of the deficient harvest with which it has pleased Providence to visit this country; it is, however, gratifying to reflect on the benefits conferred on those classes by recent legislation, which by cheapening the necessaries of life must tend to mitigate their sufferings. It is now my pleasing duty to congratulate the House on the great financial prosperity of the country, as described in Her Majesty’s Speech, and indicated by the returns of trade and revenue. Passing on, now, Sir, to the last paragraph, I am glad to find that it is the intention of the Government to introduce a measure of Parliamentary reform during the present Session. It must, I think, be obvious to all that some reform is necessary; and
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though, no doubt, great difference of opinion will prevail as to the amount and nature of the reform required, yet it is impossible to overlook the fact, as evidenced by the Reports laid upon the table of the House during the last Session, of the great and wide-spread corruption which prevailed at the late general election. There is every reason to hope that the measure which Her Majesty’s Government are about to submit to Parliament will remedy that great evil, and give, I trust, general satisfaction to the country. I shall not presume to trespass longer on the time and attention of the House with any further observations of my own, feeling as I do how in it would become one inexperienced as myself, were I to attempt to enter upon the many grave and important measures mentioned in Her Majesty’s Speech, and which will be submitted to the consideration of the House. Thanking the House for its extreme kindness and indulgence to me, I beg, Sir, to move—
“That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to convey to Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech from the Throne:
“Humbly to thank Her Majesty for the assurance of the peculiar satisfaction with which on the present occasion She recurs to the advice and assistance of Her Parliament:
“Humbly to assure Her Majesty of the regret with which we learn that the hopes which Her Majesty expressed at the close of the last Session, that a speedy settlement would be effected of the differences existing between Russia and the Ottoman Porte have not been realised, and that a state of Warfare has ensued:
“That we rejoice to learn that Her Majesty has continued to act in cordial co-operation with the Emperor of the French, and that Her Majesty’s endeavours, in conjunction with Her Allies, to preserve and to restore Peace between the contending parties, although hitherto unsuccessful, have been unremitting:
“Humbly to express our satisfaction at learning that Her Majesty will not fail to persevere in these endeavours; and to thank Her Majesty for informing us, that as the continuance of the War may deeply affect the interests of this Country and of Europe, Her Majesty thinks it requisite to make a further augmentation of Her Naval and Military Forces, with the view of supporting
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Her representations, and of more effectually contributing to the restoration of Peace:
“To thank Her Majesty for having directed that the Papers explanatory of the Negotiations which have taken place upon this subject shall be communicated to us without delay:
“To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimates for the year will be laid before us, and for expressing Her hope that, consistently with the exigencies of the Public Service at this juncture, they have been framed with a due regard to economy:
“That we unite with Her Majesty in lamenting that in the year which has just terminated, the blessing of an abundant harvest has not been vouchsafed to us:
“That we concur in the opinion expressed by Her Majesty, that by this dispensation of Providence the price of provisions has been enhanced, and the privations of the poor have been increased; but that their patience has been exemplary, and that the care of the Legislature, evinced by the reduction of Taxes affecting the necessaries of life, has greatly tended to preserve a spirit of contentment:
“That we rejoice at the announcement that the Commerce of the Country is still prosperous, that Trade both of Export and Import has been largely on the increase; and that the Revenue of the past year has been more than adequate to the demands of the Public Service:
“To assure Her Majesty, that our best consideration will be given to the Bill which Her Majesty has informed us She has ordered to be framed for opening the Coasting Trade of the United Kingdom to the Ships of all friendly Nations; and to thank Her Majesty for expressing the satisfaction with which Her Majesty looks forward to the removal of the last legislative restriction upon the use of Foreign Shipping for the benefit of Her people:
“Humbly to thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that communications have been addressed, by Her Command, to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge with reference to the improvement which it might be desirable to effect in their Institutions, and for informing us that these communications will be laid before us, and that measures will be proposed for our consideration with the view of giving effect to such improvements:
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“That we learn with satisfaction that the Establishments requisite for the conduct of the Civil Service, and the Arrangements bearing upon its condition, have recently been under review; and that we humbly thank Her Majesty for informing us that She will direct a plan to be laid before us, having for its object the improvement of the system of admission, and thereby to increase the efficiency of the service:
“That we rejoice to learn that the recent measures of Legal Reform have proved highly beneficial, and that the success which has attended them has been such as may well encourage us to proceed with further amendments; and that we beg humbly to express our thanks to Her Majesty for the information that Bills will be submitted to us for transferring from the Ecclesiastical to the Civil Courts the cognizance of Testamentary and of Matrimonial Causes, and for giving increased efficiency to the Superior Courts of Common law:
“That we humbly beg to concur in the opinion expressed by Her Majesty, that the Laws relating to the Poor have of late undergone much salutary amendment; and to assure Her Majesty that our best attention shall be directed to the Law of Settlement, in compliance with Her Majesty’s recommendation, and in accordance with Her Majesty’s intimation that this Law impedes the freedom of Labour, and that if this restraint can with safety be relaxed, the workman may be enabled to increase the fruits of his industry, and the interests of Capital and of Labour will be more firmly united:
“To thank Her Majesty for informing us that measures will be submitted to us for the amendment of the Laws relating to the Representation of the Commons in Parliament:
“Humbly to express our concurrence in the opinion that recent experience has shown that it is necessary to take more effectual precautions against the evils of Bribery, and of corrupt practices at Elections; to assure Her Majesty that it will be our duty to consider whether more complete effect may not be given to the principles of the Act of the last Reign, whereby Reforms were made in the Representation of the People in Parliament, and humbly to thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that, in recommending this subject to our consideration, Her desire is to remove every cause of just complaint,
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to increase general confidence in the Legislature, and to give additional stability to the settled institutions of the State:
“To express our humble thanks to Her Majesty for submitting these important subjects to our consideration; and to assure Her Majesty, that we unite with Her in fervently praying to Almighty God to prosper our counsels and to guide our decisions.”
Mr. Thomson Hankey—Mr. Speaker, in rising to second the Motion which has just been submitted to the House by the noble Lord the Member for Kerry, I, like him, must crave the kind indulgence of the House—an indulgence which, inexperienced as I am, I am certain is never refused to a Member who rises for the first time within these walls to endeavour to discharge a public duty to the best of his ability. Sir, I feel that that indulgence is more particularly needed by myself on the present occasion, not only on account of my inexperience in the customs and ordinary habits of the House, but also on account of the magnitude and importance of the subjects that are alluded to in the Speech you have heard this day from the Throne. The most important and all-absorbing topic in that Speech undoubtedly refers to the Eastern question. In the notice which I may consider it necessary to take of the various points alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech, I shall endeavour to avoid the introduction of any topic which I believe may be, or is, likely to cause any difference of opinion in this House. At the same time, Sir, I feel anxious to bring under your notice, as briefly as I can, the various points which appear to me it is important should be brought under the immediate consideration of the House, in its connexion with the position of the times in which we live. The question in Her Majesty’s Speech of more immediate importance is, as I have already said, the question respecting the settlement of the disputes now existing between the Eastern Powers. In connexion with that subject it appears to me that, if unfortunately this country is likely to be engaged in war—and the notice that has been communicated to this House from Her Majesty this day is certainly a forerunner of such an event—if that message is to be considered by the House as indicating that we are about to engage in war, and as requiring an augmentation of the force of the country, it surely cannot be
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inopportune for us to consider in what situation this country is placed as to its national resources and its means of meeting the emergency of the times in which we are placed. I ask the House to bear with me for a few minutes while I allude as briefly as I can to what appears to me to be a matter of great importance, and that is the relative position, both financially and socially, of this country as compared with that in which we were placed at the close of the last war.
After a period of nearly twenty years almost consecutively of war, this country was found with an increase of the national debt to the extent of above 600,000,000l. sterling, while the burden for interest of that debt was increased to the extent of 23,000,000l. or 24,000,000l. sterling. The burden which that debt imposed upon the country was great and severe: and it has been the policy of the various Ministers who have presided over the financial affairs of this country, from that time to the present, to endeavour to relieve the country from the weight of those heavy obligations which that unfortunate war imposed upon her. Sir, I wish briefly to allude to one or two leading and striking differences which it appears to me important to consider in contrasting the position which we occupy at the present period with that in which we were placed in 1815. In 1815 the national debt amounted to 840,000,000l. sterling. At present the total amount of the national liabilities is 770,000,000l. The interest of the debt at the close of the war was about 32,000,000l. sterling; it is now only 29,000,000l. The reduction of taxation which has taken place during that interval has, I believe, amounted to upwards of 30,000,000l.; that is, that the excess of the taxes which have been reduced or taken off, over those which have been imposed, is equal to no less than that sum.
Since 1815 the customs and excise duties alone have been reduced by upwards of 20,000,000l. sterling, and yet such have been the consequences of the vastly increased powers of consumption amongst our people, that at the present time these duties yield a revenue of 37,000,000l. It is true that these great results may by many persons be attributed to the legislative enactments which have been passed by Parliament from time to time. But, Sir, it is my opinion that we owe them to a vastly more influential cause than any legislation which could possibly have affected this subject—to the continued blessing
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of peace, which this country has enjoyed for a period of now nearly forty years—a peace which has enabled the Legislature to achieve such great and important results in the furtherance of civil and religious liberty; which has placed it in the power of this House to remove from the Statute-book many of the most objectionable laws which it contained; which has permitted this country to develop its vast resources; which has left every man at liberty to turn his attention to that occupation which he has thought most likely to be profitable and advantageous to himself; which has enabled this House to remove one of the greatest blots on the constitution, by the adoption of the measure for the reform of Parliament—a measure which was calculated to effect, and I believe did effect, much good, though it has paved the way—and I am happy to think it has done so—to a still further progress in the same direction. It is, I say, Sir, owing to that long peace that the country has achieved that great and glorious work which was commenced by Clarkson and Wilberforce, and that England is now able to say that on British soil slavery exists no longer. For all these blessings which have resulted from peace, ought we not to be grateful?—and ought we not also to express our approbation of that Government which has shown itself so anxious and solicitous to preserve that peace, and to avoid the miseries consequent upon war? Sir, in connexion with the names of the Ministers who have taken this course, I would beg leave to read one single sentence from the speech of a right hon. Gentleman who was ever one of the greatest authority in this House, and whose memory is revered by every Member of it.
In a speech which the late Sir Robert Peel delivered to the electors of Tamworth in 1847, he said— When the late Government was formed, the charge of that department was committed by the Queen to a Minister, of whom I may say with truth that he succeeded in acquiring the esteem and confidence of every man engaged in the diplomatic service of other States, and that he made that esteem and confidence conducive to the great object of his political life—the maintenance of honourable peace. It is for you to judge whether Lord Aberdeen acted wisely in disregarding those appeals to national pride and national sensibilities which, if not provocations to war, were great impediments to the maintenance of peace, and in resolving to adjust—if possible by means of amicable and mutual concession—the petty differences which constantly occur between powerful nations, and which, if treated in any other spirit, are easily inflamed into national quarrels.
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It is in pursuance of that policy that the Ministers of this country have used every effort, and are still, I believe, ready and prepared to make great concessions rather than to admit even the possibility of war. I will admit that these efforts may be less fruitful than we could hope. I can conceive that these concessions have a clear, decided, and well-defined limit, and that is, that they shall not extend to anything involving the character, the honour, and the good faith of the country. So long as Her Majesty’s Government can see or feel that negotiations are likely to tend to an amicable result, I am sure that negotiations will be continued; but if these efforts should prove futile, if that limit to which I have alluded is already attained, then I venture to say that the knowledge that the Government of this country have acted with a determination to preserve peace and avoid war if possible—that they have acted as if they felt and knew that peace was the greatest blessing that God can give to man on earth, and that war was the greatest misery that could be entailed upon him—I believe that that knowledge will inspire such an amount of confidence in the people of this country, through the length and breadth of the land, that whenever the Ministers shall tell them that the sword must be unsheathed, the people will rise as one man, and will be prepared to show that they will support a Government in whom they have confidence, and also that the resources of this country are great beyond all possible conception.
They will thus show that the time during which they have enjoyed that blessing has not been lost, and that the vast accumulation of capital in this country has enabled persons to save money to increase the available resources of the empire to a degree that can scarcely be conceived, and we shall then really profit by the impetus which peace has given to commerce. Allow me to refer briefly to some of those great and gigantic undertakings in which the capital and savings of this country have been embarked. I need scarcely do more than allude to the vast increase of this metropolis, or the growth which has taken place both in the population and extent of Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow;—the 31,000 or 32,000 ships which have been built, giving an increase of above 4,000,000 of tons to the carrying power of our mercantile marine. Nor can any one here be ignorant of the roads, the harbours, and
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the railways that have been constructed—the latter alone at an expense of 260,000,000l. sterling. Nor has the work of improvement been limited to the development of the industrial resources of the country. I believe that no fewer than 2,000 churches have been built, besides, probably, an equal number of places of worship in connexion with the various other denominations of Christians in the country;—and even these have been found inadequate to meet the increased wants and necessities of our increasing population. These are some of the blessings that we have enjoyed during a state of peace, and that we must for a time forego if we are unfortunately driven into war.
If such is the case, I say again that we must feel deeply grateful for that policy which would still show an entire desire for peace, and an earnest aversion to engage in war; and I trust that policy will be continued, and that the Ministers will feel that in so acting they carry with them the support and the confidence of every well-wisher of his country. Passing from this subject I regret to say, that the next topic alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech is the deficiency which has occurred in the harvest throughout the country. That is a calamity which every Member of this House must deeply deplore, and it is one which has been much augmented by the fact of an equal if not even a greater deficiency having occurred in the neighbouring empire of France. But the mitigation of this misfortune to which Her Majesty has alluded in Her Speech, will, I trust, show that the legislation of this country has been carried on in a right direction.
There is, Sir, another misfortune which the country has had to deplore—the sufferings of the poor from the extremely high price of coals and of other necessaries of life. That has no doubt been partly caused by the excessive state of prosperity which this country is now enjoying. It is evidently greatly due to the fact that the vast trade of this country has far exceeded its carrying powers—that our merchants are, at the present moment, unable anywhere to find ships to carry the goods which are being daily manufactured and prepared for exportation. I will but briefly allude to one fact to show the extent of that national prosperity to which Her Majesty has alluded. I find that in 1830, during the reign of George IV.—the Duke of Wellington being then Prime Minister—the King was advised to allude to the great state of prosperity of
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the country in His Speech from the Throne, and to announce to the Houses of Parliament that the export trade exceeded that of any former year. Now I find that the amount of the exports from this country at that period was between 36,000,000l. and 37,000,000l. sterling; while the exports in the year 1853, which has just concluded, amounted to 90,000,000l. sterling. Is it surprising that with this vast increase in the producing powers of this country there should be some scarcity of ships required to carry on this vast trade, and that the sufferings of the poor from the deficient supply of grain should have been somewhat enhanced by the want of the vessels required to carry coals during the inclement weather which we have experienced?
The deficiency of grain, and its consequent high price, are no doubt also due in a certain degree to the high rate at which freights have ruled throughout the world. Although the country may unquestionably be congratulated upon the vast increase and extent of the national resources, still I am not prepared to say that there are not many circumstances connected with the state of trade in various parts of the country which are adverse, and which should enlist the sympathies of every well-wisher of his country. I know that a large class of persons connected with the West India trade have suffered severely, and no doubt in consequence, to a certain extent, of having been made the victims of a great national policy—in the adoption of which, however, I most sincerely rejoice, though I feel that it has entailed upon individuals sufferings which are deeply to be deplored.
And now, Sir, having called the attention of the House to the vast increase which has taken place in our national resources, and to our vastly increased power of meeting any additional call which may be made upon the energies of this country, or of paying any fresh taxation should it be necessary, let me say one word more with reference to the different position of the country in respect to taxation now and in 1815. In 1815, the taxation amounted to 4l. 5s. per head on every individual throughout the country. At the present moment I believe it is somewhere about 1l. 17s. per head. This is an additional proof of the lightness with which taxation really weighs upon the people of this kingdom, and of the vast increase which has taken place in our national resources, and which has enabled the country
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to bear the burdens which have necessarily devolved upon it.
The next point alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech is the reform of the Universities. That is a subject which would naturally be brought under the notice of this House, interested, as they have always shown themselves to be, in the general subject of the education of the people of this country. I recollect well the interest with which the House, in the last Session, received the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) with respect to the state of the education of the people; and it would be indeed astonishing if, with this interest, some endeavour was not made by the Legislature to effect a reform in the higher walks of education.
Whenever the measure to which I have alluded is brought before the House, I am sure it will be met and considered in that calm and dispassionate manner which is due to a subject of so much interest and importance to the country; and I venture, also, to express a belief that it will be met by the Universities in the same spirit, with the exhibition of a desire to see those institutions improved, and to join with this House in endeavouring to effect those changes which are necessary, and which, if they have been tardy in effecting, they are now at least sensible must be well considered and matured. I hope the House will excuse me if upon this point I refer to a single sentence in a letter written by a college friend, who is a fellow and a rising man in one of the colleges of Oxford, and who has taken a great interest in the subject. He says— It is no use blinking the question which the progress of public opinion has forced upon us. The question is not how near the wind of our statutes we can steer so as to save our consciences and prejudices, at the same time, to appease Lord John Russell—it is simply this: how far are we fulfilling our duties as a college? In order to answer this we must place clearly before us the idea for which we exist, and we must ask whether there is any man throughout the length and breadth of England who, if asked what a college is, will not tell you that it is a place for education. If there is this spirit abroad amongst the young men, if they partake in this desire to join with the higher authorities in correcting abuses, and in rendering the Universities more adapted to the wants and the exigencies, and more consonant to the feelings of the present day, I am sure there will be little difficulty in the way of this House dealing with the question in a satisfactory
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manner. Before I quit this subject, I hope I may be excused for alluding to the absence of a Member who, had he been still in the House, would, I am sure, have felt it both his duty and his desire to aid the House in well considering and digesting any measure relative to the reform of the University of Oxford. The well-known urbanity of the hon. Baronet, the high consideration in which he was held by all parties while he occupied a seat here, must, I am sure, create a deep feeling of regret amongst his friends, and even, I will venture to say, amongst his political opponents, that he is no longer here to assist us with his counsels, and to apply, as formerly, the kind, benevolent, conscientious, and upright principles which he held, to the solution of every question submitted to the House.
The next topic to which I will allude is one which has greatly occupied the attention of the country, and which, indeed, must interest every one who is at all concerned for our laws and constitution—I mean the reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts. The abuses existing in these courts have become a by-word throughout the country. I will not venture to allege whether all that has been asserted against them is true or otherwise; but I will venture to say that this House will be glad to learn that the time has arrived when the Government have deemed it necessary to reform certain abuses connected with them, and to make them more efficient for the purposes for which I believe they were originally intended. I consider that the cause of the great anomaly that exists in these courts arises from the fact that the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts does not extend beyond the proof of a will, and that it is left to the other courts to carry out the principles which have been commenced here.
I believe, that by the law as it at present stands, all questions relating to the disposition of property, whether the parties devising it are alive or after their death, are under the jurisdiction of the ordinary civil courts of the country; and I cannot, therefore, but think it objectionable to allow them to be discussed or initiated elsewhere. One important point, I am told, is to be legislated upon in connexion with this subject—the law of divorce. I believe I shall carry with me the feelings of the House when I say that I rejoice greatly in the belief that the time is at hand for putting an end to the difference between the rich and the
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poor man which at present exists as to the law of divorce. It was an act of crying injustice to the poor man, that he should in this respect be placed in a worse position than a rich man. It is, I believe, to remove this amongst other evils which at present exist in connexion with the jurisdiction of these courts, that Her Majesty’s law advisers have determined to introduce this measure. I am sure it will be received by the House with cordial satisfaction, and will receive, if not their entire support, at least their best consideration.
Another point referred to in Her Majesty’s Speech to which I would briefly refer, is the law with regard to the settlement of the poor. Having had but little experience myself in the working of the poor-law in the country—my own experience being entirely confined to its working in the metropolis—I might appeal to the country Gentlemen, who have made this law, so materially affecting the welfare of the poor, their especial care, to say whether the present law of settlement does not impose a grievous evil on the poor man throughout the country? I believe great and important alterations are about to be introduced—and they ought to have been introduced long since—respecting the law of settlement.
I believe that under the present system the ratepayers are great sufferers, as certainly the poor are great sufferers; for when we consider that the poor are continually travelling about the country in search of employment, and that if a reverse overtakes them, and they become chargeable upon the parish, they are frequently sent hundreds of miles to be relieved in what is said to be their own parish—that is, the parish in which they have only a legal settlement, and not that in which they have a natural claim for assistance, and where they might naturally look for that relief and benefit which the poor-law promises to give to the poor man throughout the country—I say, when I consider this, I rejoice that the law of settlement is about to be revised, and I trust that if it be not entirely abrogated—for I do not know the extent to which the views of the Government go on this subject—but I hope that the measure to be proposed is one which will render justice to the poor man, while it will avoid the imposition of unnecessary expense upon the ratepayer. I will allude but very briefly to the last topic but one in Her Majesty’s Speech with respect to the alteration suggested with regard to
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the civil service. I believe that alterations may be necessary as to the mode of choosing the civil servants of the country; but until I know what the proposed measure is, I should be sorry to use towards it any expressions of approbation on the one hand, or of censure on the other. I confess, however, I do look at the measure with somewhat of apprehension, and I do hope that Her Majesty’s Government will consider this—that if it is necessary to increase the efficiency of the public service, and obtain a larger share of talent for that particular branch of the service, they will also consider it right and proper that they should receive a larger amount of remuneration than they do at present. It is not just to expect more than ordinary ability if the salaries are to be kept down to the present ordinary level. I do not know to what precise ordeal it is the intention of the Treasury or the Government to submit candidates for public offices—whether all are to undergo it, from the highest to the lowest, or whether it is to be confined to those who enter the service. If, however, the intended measure can render the public service more efficient, no one will rejoice more than myself, and I am sure that a measure introduced with that object will receive the support of the House.
The last topic alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech is one which I approach with some difficulty, because I consider it one of the utmost importance—that is, the question of Parliamentary reform. I know that this question has occupied the minds of statesmen for a long period of years. It has occupied the attention of many persons who have highly approved of the alteration that was made by the great Reform Bill of 1832, but who are nevertheless satisfied that that Reform Bill must be still further improved and enlarged before it can be rendered as effective as was desired. The country at large look with anxiety for a great measure of reform. I do not know how far the noble Lord who will have charge of that Bill may be prepared to go; but I am quite sure that his anxieties and his energies have long been directed to endeavouring to produce a satisfactory result, and to satisfy the people of this country that their wants and their grievances should be redressed, while the principles of the constitution should not be altered in a way which he considers prejudicial to the interests of the country at large. If that principle is adopted and followed out by the assistance of this
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House, I cannot doubt but that some means will be resorted to to prevent that extensive system of bribery and corruption which has disgraced almost every person who has been connected with an election in this country. This is an evil that applies as much to the elected as to the elector. It is to remedy this evil that the attention of the noble Lord has, I hope, been mainly directed. I regard it as of the utmost importance that the people of this country should feel that their wants will be considered by this House, and that even if war is to be apprehended, that such measures of reform as it may be wholesome and as it may be safe for this country to adopt, will be adopted even in times of difficulty, and will be carried out with as much efficiency as if these were times of much ease and much greater facility for managing the affairs of the country.
I trust the House will excuse the length of time I have occupied in endeavouring to express my feelings, which I trust are in accordance generally with those of the House. In conclusion, allow me to say that I feel strongly the position in which we are placed; and that it is of importance for this House to show to the country that it does possess great and expansive powers by which any calamity such as war may be met without imposing any great or unnecessary privations upon the poor man.
I do consider that we are in a position which may enable us if, unfortunately, we have to go to war, to do so with greater power, with greater means, and thereby with greater hope of bringing that war to a satisfactory conclusion, that at any previous period in the history of the country. It may be said that the armaments and fleets of this country are small. But they are capable of being increased to any extent that the exigencies of the country require, and I am quite satisfied that our soldiers and our sailors are now in as efficient a condition, and are as able and as willing to fight the battles of this country, as they were in the times of Nelson and Wellington. With these feelings, I trust this House will adopt with unanimity the proposal which has been submitted to it by the noble Lord.
Mr. Speaker, having read the Address as moved,
Mr. Baillie said, that it was not his intention to trouble the House by entering upon the discussion of all the various topics which had been adverted to in Her Majesty’s
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most gracious Speech. He should endeavour in the few observations which he felt it his duty to make to the House to confine himself to that topic which was beyond all others interesting to the people of England at the present moment, because it involved the honour, the character, and the integrity of England. He, of course, alluded to the question of the manner in which our foreign affairs had been conducted during the last twelve mouths. But, perhaps, it might be said that this was not a fit opportunity to enter into any discussion upon the subject, and that they ought to wait patiently until Her Majesty’s Government should have laid the papers containing full information upon the table of the House.
He (Mr. Baillie) was not of that opinion. He, for one, did not coincide in that opinion, for he thought that when a question arose which touched the honour of England, the sooner it was discussed in that House the better. And as for information, they had quite as much information upon the subject—not official information, he admitted, but information from other sources which could be depended upon—quite as much as they were likely to receive from a blue book carefully prepared to conceal all that the Government might feel anxious to suppress. He did not make that observation with a view of throwing any taunt upon Her Majesty’s present Government. He spoke from experience, and from his knowledge of the manner in which those documents relating to our foreign affairs had hitherto almost invariably been prepared for that House.
Now, he was not one of those who thought that blame attached to Her Majesty’s Government for their earnest and anxious endeavours by diplomatic agency to avert the horrors of war. He did not believe that, had they in the first instance pursued a bolder course, it would have been a more successful one; or that, had they intimated to the Court of Russia that they would have regarded the passage of the Truth as a declaration of war, that would have been a course which would have tended to avert, but rather to precipitate hostilities. So far, then, as those early negotiations were concerned, he was ready to do full justice to Her Majesty’s Government for their earnest and anxious endeavours to secure the peace of Europe. But he confessed he did regret that Her Majesty’s Government should have so far yielded to the popular cry as to have adopted in the first instance, that antiquated theory which, by some, had been
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called the traditionary policy of this country—that is to say, that they should have adopted and acted upon the principle that it was necessary for the safety of this country, as well as for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe, that the blood and treasure of the people of England should be expended for the purpose of maintaining in all its integrity, and he must also add in all its deformity, the tottering fabric of the Turkish Empire. What had we to do with an antiquated traditionary policy? If it were antiquated and traditionary, the probability was that that policy was inapplicable to the existing state of things. But perhaps he might be asked—was he prepared to allow the Russians to take possession of Constantinople? He would not for a moment admit that a policy of non-interference, had it been adopted in the first instance would have led to any such result.
He believed that it would have had a directly contrary effect. If, for example, Her Majesty’s Government, as soon as they received the intelligence of the arrival of Prince Menschikoff at Constantinople, and had become aware of the nature of the ultimatum of which he was the bearer, had forthwith openly intimated to the Turkish Government that the people of England were not prepared to go to war in order to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and that whatever course the Turkish Government might pursue must be adopted without reference to any aid or support from England—if such an intimation had been given, he believed we should have beard no more of war, and the whole question would have been speedily settled. The demands of Prince Menschikoff would have been accepted, and the fate of the Ottoman Empire would have been indefinitely postponed. What, he should be glad to know, would they gain by a bloody war, further than putting off for a season the impending fate of the Ottoman Empire. True it was that Her Majesty’s Government, at a later period, did instruct the Ambassador at Constantinople to urge upon the Porte the acceptance of a proposition suggested by Austria; and this was a circumstance to which he wished to call the attention of the House. When Lord Stratford de Redcliffe waited upon the Turkish Minister, in order to enforce upon the Government of the Porte the necessity of agreeing to that Austrian proposition, he candidly admitted that he was himself aware that the Austrian proposition virtually
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conceded all that Prince Menchikoff had demanded. Now, that, in his opinion, was an extraordinary admission for an Ambassador to make, who for a few weeks previously had advised the Porte to reject those demands to which he subsequently used his influence to induce her to accede. That was a circumstance which clearly showed that the policy of the Government by whom Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was employed was, to use the least offensive phrase, extremely vacillating. But more than that, it proved two things.
First of all, it proved that Her Majesty’s Government had never for a moment been deceived by that Austrian proposition; they perfectly understood its meaning and import, as their Ambassador advised them; and, secondly, it proved that they were prepared to sacrifice the interests of Turkey, and even the honour of England, provided they could do it cleverly and adroitly, and without being found out. Fortunately, however, for the honour of England, the time had gone by when any such proposition could be accepted, and in the interval between the first arrival of Prince Menschikoff at Constantinople and the period to which he referred, when that Austrian proposition was submitted to the Porte—in that interval the Government of Turkey had succeeded in rousing the religious fanaticism of their people throughout the whole length and breadth of the Empire, and those demands which at first would have been frankly admitted, had the Porte not been advised to the contrary by the English Ambassador, by the time to which he alluded could no longer be submitted to the Divan without shame and dishonour.
Now, before they went further, it was right that the House should clearly understand what was the course that Her Majesty’s Government adopted when they first received the intelligence of the arrival of Prince Menchikoff at Constantinople, and the demands of which he was the bearer. He said it was necessary they should clearly understand this, because he was prepared to show that the course pursued by the Government placed this country in a false position, from which all the turnings and twistings to which they afterwards had recourse had not been sufficient to rescue her. It might be said that there was no official information before us on this subject; but still, as he said before, they had sufficient information to guide them, and he thought he did not err when he said that although on the 21st of May the Ambassadors,
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of the four great Powers did, in a formal and official note, decline that any advice should be given to the Porte as to the demands of Prince Menchikoff, yet that unofficially the Porte was advised by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to resist those demands, and publicly he declared his entire approbation of the course which the Turkish Government had pursued in rejecting, those demands. Shortly after that, a declaration was made by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place in Parliament, by which he at once made known that England was determined to resist any aggression upon the Turkish Empire, and, if necessary, to go to war in order to defend the Porte.
Now, it was but natural to suppose that the Turkish Government would have no hesitation, with such an assurance as that, in resisting and defying the power of Russia. That was the natural consequence—the inevitable result. But what then became the position of England? From the moment that assurance had been given to which he had referred, England became a party to the war. From the moment that assurance was given, England was morally bound to aid and support Turkey in the struggle against the Czar, whatever might be its result—whatever the consequences to which it might lead; but with this signal disadvantage, that England was unable to control the events in which at any time she might be called upon to take an active part. She might be called upon by Turkey to come forward and to declare war against Russia, and she would be unable to resist the appeal without sacrificing the honour and the character of the country.
He did not believe there was a man in that House, be he a member of the Peace Society or be he not, who would be prepared to assert that, under the circumstances to which he had referred, it would have been possible for England to desert Turkey in the hour of danger, or in a cowardly and dastardly manner to sneak out of the engagements under which, the Government had come. But what was then the course pursued by the Government? From that time Government appeared to have been afraid to take that line which the policy they had deliberately adopted, imperatively called upon them to follow out. They adopted a war policy, and yet they refused to declare war, even when the honour of England called upon them to do so; for he would maintain that it was a blot upon the honour
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of England that our ships should have been idle at Constantinople, after having promised, our support and aid to the Turks, whilst it was notorious that the Russian ships were blockading all the Turkish ports, and sweeping their ships from the Black Sea. Did the Government suppose all they had to do was to make a moral demonstration of force, and let our ships sail up the Bosphorus and down again? Or had their half measures been so successful in India as to justify them in resorting to them at the present crisis? They had but to look at the conduct of the Burmese war, where the weakness and folly of half measures was so signally manifested—that war undertaken without just grounds, carried on without vigour, and eventually relinquished without any sufficient guarantee for the future—if in fact that could be called concluding a war which consisted in withdrawing troops to fortified places, and leaving the unhappy inhabitants of the country, whom we had led to expect our protection, to the mercy of an infuriated enemy. Such had been the consequence of Ministerial imbecility in India, and the result would be another Burmese war, carried on in all probability by a new Governor General, but against an enemy far better prepared to meet us. But it had been said that latterly Her Majesty’s Government had determined to take more decided and vigorous measures; and if report spoke true, the change of policy had been accelerated by the determination of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston).
He trusted it might be true, and it would not be the least of those services which that noble Lord had rendered to this country, and much as he valued the services of the noble Lord in the position he now occupied, he believed he but gave expression to the general feeling of the country when he said it was one of regret that the noble Lord had not been Secretary for Foreign Affairs during the past year. He could easily understand that a Minister who depended for support in this House upon a body of Gentlemen who were members of the Peace Society, would be very much disinclined to go to war—that was natural enough; but he should have thought of that before he adopted a war policy. From that war policy there was no return. He (Mr. Baillie) knew that the war would be unpopular—whatever might be the general feeling and enthusiasm of
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the country at the present moment, that war would soon be unpopular. It would be unpopular amongst a large class who entertained strong religious views on the subject, and who believed they could interpret the prophecies that the destruction of the Ottoman Empire was about to be accomplished, that Christianity was about to be spread over the world, and that Russia was to be instrumental in carrying out that consummation. He did not say these were his opinions, but he said that such opinions extensively prevailed, and where they did prevail they could not fail to make this war unpopular. He was disposed to take a political and not a religious view of the question, and he was very much mistaken if the people of England did not ere long find reason to regret the course which had been taken on this occasion, and the fatal rupture it had caused in those friendly relations which had so long subsisted between this country and Russia.
He was much mistaken if the people of England would not some day find out that France, in possession of Antwerp, might possibly be a more dangerous neighbour to us than Russia, even in possession of Constantinople. Should such a contingency arise, Russia would not forget the course that England had taken on the present occasion. Her views would remain unchanged, and depend on it the religious feelings of Russia, he might say the religious feelings of Europe, would not long continue to endure that 12,000,000 of Christians should remain in subjection to the barbarous yoke of Turkey for no other object than that of maintaining the fanciful balance of European power.
He would not dwell any longer on this subject, as there would be other opportunities of discussing it, and he should only have one or two observations to make with respect to that paragraph in Her Majesty’s Speech which adverted to the question of Parliamentary Reform. And here he would wish not to be misunderstood—he did not wish to shirk the question of Parliamentary Reform. He should be ready, when the proper time came, to give his support to a measure which might apply an effectual remedy to the abuses which existed in our electoral system; and perhaps he might go further in this respect than some of the Members of Her Majesty’s Government. But no fear of a popular outcry should deter him from the postponement of the discussion of a question calculated to excite internal turmoil and trouble at a time
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when we were on the very eve of a dangerous war. And let not the Government suppose they could avert the unpopularity which attached to an unsuccessful foreign policy by plunging the country into a sea of danger and confusion at a moment when it was so desirable that all classes in it should unite to support the Government and the Crown in the arduous and difficult struggle in which we were about to be engaged. The people of England might or might not take a deep interest in the extension of the electoral franchise; but of this he was sure—that they would take a far deeper interest in that cordial union and co-operation of all classes of the community, without which it was vain to expect that they would be able to maintain the honour of the Crown, or to preserve the ancient fame and glory of this great Empire.
Mr. Blackett said, he would not attempt to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken in the observations he had offered on the subject of the foreign policy of this country. He was quite ready to acquiesce in the general wish of the House that that discussion should be postponed until they had studied the papers which were shortly to be laid before them, in order to enable that House to form a judgment on the question. But he wished to take that early opportunity of uttering a respectful protest, and expressing his deep regret at the silence in which Ministers had thought proper to envelop the negotiations which had taken place in reference to Turkey.
He believed it was the general opinion of the country that by that conduct the Government had shown an unfortunate want of confidence in a community which certainly had shown no hesitation as to confiding in them, and he must say that the occupants of the Treasury bench, themselves the responsible Ministers of a free people, were bound not to shrink from that measure of publicity which was courted by the despotic agents of the Emperor of Russia. He did not know on what grounds the noble Lord the Member for London would defend their policy this evening, but he recollected that last Session the noble Lord said he was only following the usual practice of this country on such occasions. He believed, however, it was not strictly accurate to say that this had been the uniform practice of the English Government, as Sir Robert Peel’s Administration, for instance, in 1843, produced
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papers on Servia whilst the negotiation was actually pending; and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), not satisfied with this concession, actually moved for additional papers on that subject, thereby giving the high sanction of his authority to the practice which he lamented to see neglected on the present occasion. But the noble Lord the Member for London might further recollect that there was scarcely any unconstitutional practice for which he might not find a precedent in the past times of Parliament, and also that in the other departments of the State, publicity was, year by year and day by day, becoming more and more the practice of our constitution.
He did not think there was any more weight in the noble Lord’s appeal to the example of Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh, than there would have been in the fact of a Minister of one of the Stuart Princes following a precedent which had occurred under the Tudors. He had not the slightest wish to anticipate the discussion which must take place when full information should have been laid before the House; but he must say he thought that this concealment had already been productive of very calamitous effects. By the want of any hearty co-operation between this country and the Government, we had afforded to Europe the spectacle of a nation doubting and distrusting every step taken by its rulers in a policy which, so far as present appearances went, had not been marked by any singular success, which was exceedingly capable of doubt and misconstruction, and which had not received any great elucidation from the meagre and characterless sentences which commenced Her Majesty’s Speech.
Next, he thought, that, by pursuing this practice of secrecy to an extreme on which former Ministers had scarcely ever ventured, the present Government had broken what might have proved a very valuable weapon in their hands, and that the very name of diplomatic secrecy had become so loathed by the country that the least mention of it would be actually scouted on the next occasion when the necessity for its exercise might arise. But, above all, he lamented other consequences to which this silence on the part of the Government had led, and to which he would not allude further than to say that it was to their policy of secrecy they owed those wild apprehensions, those exaggerated rumours, those suspicions and jealousies which were the natural growth
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of a community starved of any authentic information, and deprived of legitimate expression of opinion of its own.
Colonel Sibthorp said, he did not think it possible for any Member of that House, who had not the means of examining and analysing the statements of the Speech, to give them that consideration which was necessary, or to make those observations which might suggest themselves on each of the subjects comprised in it. He hoped there was no man in the kingdom more disposed than himself to treat the Speech with that reverent attention which it had a right to command from a subject—for he had ever looked on the Speech from the Throne as not the Speech of the Sovereign, but as a sort of omnium gatherum or olla podrida sort of thing got up by the Government in order to conceal their own feelings, or, if he might use that historical expression, their own iniquitous proceedings.
He always looked upon a Government speech with that degree of jealousy and suspicion that he was disposed to say he did not believe one word of it. He had heard the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie), whom no man more highly respected than himself, say he did not think that a bolder course taken by the Government in their foreign policy would have averted the evils which their actual proceedings had produced. Now he believed that greater political cowardice had never been displayed by any Government than by the present; and he could not help saying that he thought the sacrifice of life which had occurred ought to be laid to the doors of Her Majesty’s Government.
Had they pursued a becoming policy, avoiding all the vacillation which had marked their proceedings, and exhibiting proper courage and determination, what had occurred might have been averted, and a recent massacre might have been prevented. He only wished the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) now filled that office which he had long held with so much credit to himself and so much satisfaction to the country. He was confident that in that case they would not have witnessed such a lamentable exhibition of imbecility, for the noble Lord knew how to act, and knowing how to act, he would have done so efficiently. He (Col. Sibthorp) was told that the papers would be laid on the table of the House. When they came what would he see? He would see garbled statements from beginning
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to end, full of trickery and of falsehood. But that they would discuss hereafter. He hoped an opportunity would be given—for they would have it out. They were told something about another reform measure, but they heard not a word of the reform which, he ventured to say, the country thought more wanted than any other—a reform of the Treasury bench corruption! Yes, a small man like himself might give a shilling to a poor person, and that would be called bribery and corruption; but a Minister, too fat, too lazy to act, who scarcely knew where his office was, and was indebted to his clerks for all the information he could lay hold of, would have no scruple in telling an elector—”If you don’t give me your vote in the City of London, your cousin shall not hold the situation he wants, for none of those who refuse me their support shall share my patronage.”
He would tell the noble Lord be never paid or bribed any man to vote for him, or offered any recompense for support. Let reform begin where it ought to begin—let a lot the Treasury bench escape—let not that which was impure be called pure. He had no objection to a proper reform, but he wanted light to be let in upon the back stairs and by-passages of office, and places full of corruption to be cleansed. He hoped the house would demand time for a full consideration of the new Reform Bill, and take care how they dealt with the Government measure. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had told them he was against war. For his part, he (Col. Sibthorp) was for war; he hoped we should have “a war;” and still more, he hoped the Turks would give the Russians a downright sound beating. These were his warmest wishes, whatever secret intrigue might take place—for there was some apprehension, some suspicion of that; but he hoped they would be able to un-trammel the whole matter, to unearth the snake and strip him of his fangs. Something had been going on which ought not to have gone on, and the people believed it.
Sir Robert Peel said, he was happy to see that there was no intention to oppose the Address which had been moved in answer to the Speech from the Throne on the present occasion. But he maintained that the time was come when they should speak out frankly and freely the opinions they had formed; but if any inference could be drawn from the observations
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addressed to the House in the course of the debate, it was that almost all opinions agreed as to the manner in which Her Majesty’s Government had discharged their duty since Parliament last met. Grave events had occurred—he spoke, of course, with reference to the topic which pre-eminently excited public attention at the present moment—and he, for one, was prepared unhesitatingly to express his unqualified disapprobation of the mean and subtle hypocrisy which had characterised the proceedings of Russia during the whole of her transactions with the Porte; and he could not avoid, in the first place, at the very outset remarking upon the shallowness of the reasoning which would endeavour to place the conduct of the British Government in odious comparison with that of France. An impression had been said to exist that we had not been as prompt as France in expressing our dissent from the aggressions of Russia—that we had not acted with that loyal and frank bearing which so well became the character of this country, or upheld so firmly as France had done the authority, of international law.
Nothing could be more fallacious, or give greater proof of a factious spirit of opposition, than to endeavour to cavil at in England, and applaud in France, a policy which, whatever had been its merits; was in fact identical. Once before, during the last twenty years, we have had an Eastern dispute, when M. Thiers was Minister. Then we were opposed to France, but it was now matter of rejoicing to see the two leading countries of Western Europe acting in unison to oppose the overbearing and soul-debasing policy of Russia; and although France and England had equal interests at stake in adopting the only policy which could secure the independence and the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, yet he thought it the fairest proof of social improvement to see nations which had so long regarded each other with envy and distrust, now co-operating harmoniously and loyally.
He knew nothing of the truth of the insinuations thrown out as to influences being brought to bear on Her Majesty’s Government, with the view of impeding its free action. Even if those influences had been exercised, he did not think they would have had any control over the independence or the morality of our public men. But he believed that Louis Napoleon, in resisting the influences which had
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been used to induce him to separate from us, had the proud satisfaction of feeling that he had strengthened the fabric of his own Empire, and that not by war or violence, but by ministering to the interests of Europe in endeavouring to uphold peace. If they looked back to the policy which this country had followed for several years, namely, in 1827, 1829, 1830, 1831, 1840, and 1841, and then compared it with that of the past year, for instance, he maintained that the policy, the line of conduct which they had displayed in acting with France, far from having exposed the Government to any amount of blame, had been the only popular one, and that which was the best calculated to secure the independence of the Ottoman Empire.
Our true interests and a sense of justice ought to induce us to maintain that policy. We were new in the same position as we were in 1823, when Lord Grey, in answer to a discussion in the House of Commons in reference to Spain when attacked by France, said, “Our interests and the sense of justice—if interest and justice can be separated—induce us to maintain the independence of Spain;” and precisely the same considerations, the same sense of justice, ought now to move us to maintain the independence of the Ottoman Empire. He read an admirable speech the other day of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) in which he said, this was a war of sympathy. He (Sir R. Peel) thought that was altogether an erroneous impression.
No Englishman would support such a war on the ground of its being a war of sympathy with the Turks, for we had no sympathy either with their religion or their social condition. He thought it was evident to every one that the state of Turkey was altogether antagonistic to the state of European civilisation. But, looking to the present posture of affairs in the East, we had considerations in this dispute which it would be impossible for our Government to disregard with dignity, or to shun with credit. It had been said by the hon. Member who spoke next after the seconder of the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, that this was an antiquated policy; and truly so long as there was a chance that the peace of Europe would not be disturbed, we took no active interference in this matter. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) said the Government had pursued an antiquated
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policy. He cared not whether or no it was an antiquated policy, but this he knew, that it was the policy which this country had followed since 1815. Let the House recollect that every page of the history of the last war taught them a lesson which it was now the time to profit by; and God forbid that this country should ever again consent to run headlong into the disputes of other nations, unless they became an object of solicitude to European Cabinets! Why, that was the policy which Castlereagh proclaimed in 1820, and which Canning adopted in 1822; and, antiquated though it might be, it was still that policy which would secure the greatest amount of public support in this country. There might be those who would be inclined to find fault with our alliance with France, as intimating a throwing over of Prussia and Austria; but he thought that was altogether a false position. We united with France because it was our natural alliance.
He should like to know if we had always had such confidence in alliances with Prussia and Austria as now to induce us to reject an alliance with France? Why, what was the first Power which separated from the general European coalition of 1795, and that, too, notwithstanding it was subsidized by England? Why, it was Prussia; and, although in intimate connexion with Austria, it entered into the treaty of Basle, which opened a door to the armies of France and Austria, and tended to the annihilation, in the early part of this century, of that Power. But observe a very remarkable feature in this matter with regard to Russia. It was evident that the policy of Russia had along been to separate France and England, because it was well known that while such an alliance existed we were effectually barring Constantinople from the grasp of the Czar.
If the House had observed the history of the Turkish Empire of late years, they would have seen how on every occasion Russia had advocated a policy tending to dismember the Ottoman Empire, and how on every occasion that advice had always been turned to advantage by Russia. He would take three instances—the establishment of the kingdom of Greece, and the destruction of the Turco-Egyptian fleet at Navarino. What did that lead to but the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829, which gave power to Russia in Moldavia and Wallachia? Again, in 1831, Mehemet Ali was urged on by Russia to revolt from the Porte; and what did that lead to but
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the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi in 1833? Then, again, in 1839, there was the proposal to give to Mehemet Ali the pachalic of Acre and Syria, and to make Egypt hereditary in his family. All those movements were urged on by Russia, evidently to serve its own interests; but he thought the alliance between England and France would put a stop to similar proceedings in future. He thought, too, the time was past when we could any longer permit the exclusive claims of Russia over the Ottoman Empire. If interference of that kind was required, we had a right to see that that interference should not be limited to the action of one, but embrace the action of all.
When the Emperor of Russia talked of exclusive rights over the Greek Church, he (Sir R. Peel) should like to know if the Greeks were so very enthusiastically in favour of the advent of such a protectorate? No, indeed, they well knew that Russia would not only destroy their independence and their liberty, but moreover the fusion of the Greco-Russ faith was absolutely impossible; for there were doctrines which the Greek Church had held from time immemorial, such as concerning baptism, for instance, doctrines which the Russian Church entirely rejected. And yet the Czar appealed to the sympathies of his slaves to urge him on to this war to back his ambitious lust. He (Sir R. Peel) thought the Emperor of Russia seemed to have in view a very well-known saying of a Pope of Rome to the Emperor of Germany, when he was now endeavouring to obtain such immense power over the Ottoman Empire.
The Emperor of Germany said to Gregory VII., “Pay attention to the spiritual concerns of my people, but do not trouble yourself with their temporal affairs;” to which the Pope craftily replied, “When once we are master of the spiritual affairs of a people, it is all very easy to control their temporal affairs.” That seemed to be the end which Russia was aiming at in her sympathy with the Greek Church. Then let the House mark how all along, even up to the destruction of the Turkish fleet at Sinope, Russia had talked of “pacific intentions.” In fact, the Emperor of Russia had never ceased to talk of “pacific intentions; but he apprehended the House knew very well what those pacific intentions meant. They had an exact parallel in history. In 1733 Russia crossed the Vistula with similar pacific intentions towards Poland, to those which,
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no doubt, she felt towards Turkey at the present time; and what did that lead to? Why, to the sending of a French army of 80,000 men, under Marshal Berwick, to the Rhine. The House also knew that it was the profession of “pacific intentions” which led to the rupture of the Peace of Amiens. The truth was, that those “pacific intentions” had been intended to lull this country into apathy and indifference, and he thought it spoke well for the Government of this country that such had not been their effect up to the present moment. Moldavia and Wallachia had of course fallen into the hands of Russia, as might have been expected on the first outbreak of hostilities; but too much stress need not be laid on that circumstance, except so far as it indicated the savage brutality which had characterised their occupation, and had probably alienated every spark of sympathy for Russia which might have lurked in the bosoms of a portion of the inhabitants.
But, apart from the occupation of the Danubian Principalities, which the geographical features of Europe would in any case have hindered the Western Powers from preventing, not one inch of territory had been gained. The Danube still flowed to separate, the two contending armies; and he believed not one single inch of territory had been acquired in Asia. He maintained, therefore, that there was no ground for asserting that our Government had been lulled into apathy; but surely, while there was a chance of the adjustment of those differences, we were following the interests of this country, and were actuated by a sense of justice, in endeavouring by negotiation, to further that adjustment.
But, turning from those scenes of war and violence in the East, what a gratifying and pleasing task it was to refer to the commercial prosperity and social well-being of this country, which was so properly noticed in the Speech from the Throne. It was true that last year was one of extraordinary promise at its commencement, but that promise was not realised at its close. It was true that articles of the first necessity had greatly risen in value. The article of wheat, for instance, since May last, had risen from 35s. to 40s. a quarter above its then price, and the rate of discount had risen from 2½ to five per cent. The rise of 1 per cent, indeed, in the rate of discount almost produced a sort of panic in the French trade; but this country remained in a state of the soundest
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health and prosperity—thanks to the sagacity and prudence which had placed us in a sound financial position. But this discount had now risen from 2½ to 5 per cent. What was the consequence? In spite of all this, the state of this country was sound and vigorous, and gave proof of a healthy development, which was the best proof of the strength and elasticity of our resources. He might be allowed to contrast that state of things with what existed ten years before. Ten years before, we found diminished consumption, an unhealthy state of the revenue, and impoverishment and distress in the manufacturing districts. What did we find now?
The returns of the revenue disclosed the gratifying fact that by our industry we were carrying on an enormous trade to the extent of about 90,000,000l. of exports, being 16,000,000l. more than last year, and that trade was not recklessly carried on, but firmly based on a good footing. We were not, at all events, in a financial condition like that of “our ancient ally,” as some liked to call Austria, for we had a surplus income over expenditure. And what was that owing to? It had been justly ascribed to that system of commercial freedom which had opened up new channels of trade and navigation between this country and every country in the world. What greater homage could be paid to that policy than to see foreign countries marking the increase in our prosperity, and deducing therefrom the wisdom of removing those restrictions which pressed upon the springs of their industry and hampered their commerce? Take the United States, France, and Belgium. The United States, he understood, had just prepared a list of articles for free admission. France, he found, had not only lowered the amount of duty on coal and iron, but had admitted cotton free, from British possessions, into Europe, and also the free importation of corn. He believed Belgium was doing the same thing. That was the proud homage which was paid to our policy, and he had every reason to believe and to hope that that policy would be carried out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the broadest limits in a free, liberal, and enlightened spirit. And, moreover, this prosperity had not been confined to Great Britain, but, what was a very unusual circumstance, it had crossed the Channel, and linked Ireland to its car. It was the first time for a long period that no mention had been made of Ireland in a Speech from the
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Throne—it was a happy distinction. It was a proof that there were men in that country who were turning to good account resources which had heretofore remained inactive and undeveloped. As the Recorder of Dublin said the other day in an admirable speech, “We have now found the true agitators—men who will stimulate native industry and develop the resources of our country for the public good.” But he thought some allusion ought to have been made to the main source of all those benefits to Ireland—he meant the operation of the Encumbered Estates Act. That Act had now been in operation four years, and within that period 1,500,000 acres of land had been disposed of for the sum of 10,400,000l.
That was not only the introduction of fresh capital, but it was a vivifying of the very soil of Ireland, and making it more productive than it was before; and yet with all that prosperity in England and Ireland, it was lamentable to think that there was an outcry against capital going on in Lancashire and some of the midland counties. It required not a moment’s reflection to see that this outcry against capital was at variance with, and must seriously affect, the intelligence and industry of the country. There were thousands of men in his own neighbourhood and in the midland counties out of work, misguided, as he apprehended, and misled. They were told they could live on the wages of others, and that they could now wage war against the manufacturers. It was lamentable to see those men led away by those who were pandering to the worst feelings of human nature. He saw there was a meeting yesterday at the rooms of the Society of Arts, held with the view of settling this question. Would to God that this could be settled! Would that those men could see that, as in 1826 and 1831–32, those strikes must now, and always, end in disappointment! But it was certain, if those men—either masters or men—thought they could by arbitrary decisions control the standard of wages, all our influence would be gone, and we should lose that position which we held as the greatest commercial and manufacturing country in the world. But he was glad to see, by the Speech from the Throne, that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was prepared to grapple with the question of education.
Some Hon. Members—No, no! education is not mentioned.
Colonel Sibthorp—He (Sir R. Peel) had applied several times at the proper department
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for a printed copy of the Speech, in the usual way, but had been unable to obtain it. He had understood there was some allusion to education in that document, and he was now sorry to learn that it was otherwise; but he had been given to understand that the noble Lord was pledged to a measure which might at this moment have been productive of great advantage. He thought nothing was more desirable than that the condition of the poorer classes of the population should be ameliorated by some healthful system of popular education for their children. He had a letter the other day from a gentleman in Lancashire showing the necessity of education among that class of the people. His correspondent stated, that in the parish in which he was resident, containing a population of about 25,000, forty-five out of fifty-five of the men and women who came to be married were unable to sign their names. Surely that was a state of things which required a system of education on the part of a Government which was prepared to carry out measures of a liberal and enlightened character.
With respect to the question of Reform, adverted to in the Speech from the Throne, for himself he was not prepared to support any sweeping measure of that description. He thought, when we were apparently on the brink of a European war, it would be as well to postpone the discussion of questions affecting the social condition of the country. He fully admitted there had been great corruption; and he would have the House punish by all means those boroughs which had been guilty of it. Let it do away with the “flag-bearers” of the borough of Cambridge, “the messengers” of Maldon, “the long-shore men” of the City of London, and “the two-and-sixpenny freemen” of Liverpool.
Let it also do away with scot-and-lot voters and potwallopers, and give places like Staleybridge, Doncaster, Birkenhead, and the unrepresented parts of the metropolis, each a Member. That would be a measure productive of great good, which the country would appreciate, and one to the consideration of which they ought to proceed without delay. He hated war as much as any member of the Peace Society, and perhaps on the same grounds. He hated it, not only because it destroyed all the flourishing arts of peace, and placed obstacles in the way of social progress, but because it represented a retrograde movement. Surely a great commercial country like this, with all its vast and varied interests,
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would never rush headlong into a war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, whatever might be the consequences of the past year, had the satisfaction of knowing that, without adding a single halfpenny to the burdens of the poor and industrious classes of the country, he had been enabled to equip and furnish the finest armament that had ever sailed on the waters of the Euxine. The hon. Member near him (Mr. Baillie) said that such a war would be unpopular. He (Sir R. Peel) maintained, on the contrary, that the people, having confidence in the policy of the Ministry, would be prepared to accept whatever responsibility that war and their duty might entail. At every stage of these unfortunate proceedings, he maintained that we had shown a disposition to negotiate honourably. He gave his support to the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, and he was prepared on those grounds to support the policy of the Government. He thought he was speaking the sentiments of many, when he said that the people of this country rested satisfied that the apparent delay which had marked their interference in this momentous question, far from having sacrificed one iota of the national dignity, was proof of that temperate judgment and that wise discrimination which afforded the happiest test of the capacity of a Government.
Mr. Hume said, he was not prepared to enter upon the discussion of this momentous question affecting the East, till he had perused the documents which were to be laid before them. He had seen such contradictory accounts in the public prints, that he was quite at a loss to know what to believe, and, therefore, he was anxious to see the papers. He must be allowed to express the hope that, if war was necessary, the naval and military establishments of the country would be dealt with in terms of the recommendations of the various Committees who had reported on the subject of our armaments, and that none of the waste and extravagance would be experienced which had so much prevailed in past times. He hoped, also, that the true policy would be followed of raising within the year all that they required for war, without adding a single additional tax. He hoped to see removed from our commercial system all those impediments to our prosperity that still existed, especially as the House now saw how all the prophecies of evil from the changes which
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had already taken place had been contradicted by the fact. With regard to the reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts, he wanted no half measures, but some such measure as had been introduced last year by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier). He thought it was very much to be regretted that Government had not gone further in their career of reform with respect to the Ecclesiastical Courts, and more particularly that they had retained the Admiralty jurisdiction, which would be much better abolished altogether. There had been a number of meetings held in England and Scotland recently, at which a great desire was expressed for reformatory schools.
The necessity of providing for our criminal population, in consequence of the abolition of transportation, threw on the community at large great additional burdens, and some means must be adopted to meet them. He asked the House and the Government to go to the root of the evil, and, by training up the young, and educating them carefully, to prevent them growing up in vice and inflicting the evils on society which necessarily followed. It had been stated by the hon. Baronet who last spoke, that forty-five out of fifty-five persons who came to be named could neither read nor write; and he had been informed by a coroner of experience that, in the country there were probably, on an average, only one or two persons on a jury who could sign their names.
It was discreditable to the Government of this country not to have grappled with that important question of education ere this, and now that they could not transport convicts, and that the punishment of death was almost abolished—what could they do if they would not train up the poor while they were young, so that when old they might not be burdens to the State? He could have wished the Speech had contained allusions to our relations with the United States. He wished to have had some information as to how they stood as to the fishery laws and the negotiations into which they had entered on that subject. The hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had stated that he was favourable to a union with France, and in that he (Mr. Hume) entirely concurred; but he wished to see the union between England and the United States equally strong, and all the petty differences which had existed between those two great nations entirely removed. He was sure the Government
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could not undertake anything more important to the interests of the West Indian colonies and of the North American possessions than by setting at rest all the differences between us and the United States. Let them in all respects carry out the principles of free trade—other countries would be certain to follow them. They had been told that would not be the case; but day after day our example had its effect, and if Government carried out the principle he was quite sure of the result. He would only say one word on the subject of reform. He was very sorry to see that the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had thrown out any doubts as to the necessity of reform.
If there was anything which more than another would tend to the contentment of the country, it was to give the working mail his proper value in the State—to let him know what was his duty and what were his rights—to give him his proper status—to let the constitution rest on as broad a basis as possible, and then he (Mr. Hume) was quite satisfied that the unfortunate disputes which had taken place and were going on in the manufacturing districts, which were so destructive to working men—for the masters could manage to get on, while the workmen were sure eventually to suffer—and which were so injurious to our trade and commerce, would be put an end to altogether.
He hoped Government would take care there was a measure for the extension of the suffrage in their new Bill; and if the ballot, which he wished to try, could not be acceded to, let there be, at all events, some protection provided for the voter. They talked of their constitution, but at present it was so covered with corruption and bribery that every Englishman, instead of being proud of it, should be anxious to get rid of it. Nothing but protection to the voter would remove these evils, and he was satisfied if they afforded such protection to the constituency, the working men would have the importance they deserved, and would no longer be led away by men possessed of talent, certainly, but who seemed to apply that talent to obtain money for their own use alone. He should wait till Government had laid all the documents relating to the Eastern question on the table of the House, which would, he understood, be done at an early day, before he stated his opinion as to what had occurred. He must complain that the Speech,
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owing to the fault of somebody or other, had not been printed and delivered as was usual to Members ere that discussion came on, and, therefore, he was ignorant as to its actual contents.
Mr. Liddell said, he rose specially for the purpose of referring to that paragraph in the Speech from the Throne which related to a further change in the navigation laws. He was not prepared to say the Government might not have good grounds for recommending a Bill to be framed to open the coasting trade, and he begged leave to make a few remarks on a subject on which he would have been silent, had it not been for the allusions made to it in the Speech. The increase in the price of coals, mainly caused by the rise of freights, was, no doubt, one of the causes of the privations to which the people, and especially the inhabitants of the metropolis, lad been exposed; and it was to be remembered that, not long ago, a strike was expected to take place in the north, which by the good conduct and sense of the seamen employed in the coal trade of those ports, had been prevented from assuming the character it might otherwise have done.
He saw another reason for considering the propriety of opening our coasting trade in the fact that the United States had taken advantage of the present restrictions here to exclude British ships from the whole trade between New York as far as California, on the ground that it was a coasting trade—what they were scarcely warranted in saying—and that they must submit to be shut out, as our laws shut American ships out from the trade along our shores. But, while he made these admissions, he could not certainly go so far as to say with the hon. Member for Montrose, that the changes which had recently taken place in our navigation code had been productive of nothing but benefit, and had been attended with no evil or inconvenience. He had, ere he rose to speak on that occasion, determined to take the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the grievous losses which had been inflicted within a very short time on the shipping interest by many calamities which they had all so much to deplore—he meant the loss of the Tayleur and other vessels. It was to be feared from the evidence of witnesses examined at the coroner’s inquest that the loss of the Tayleur was greatly attributable to the inefficiency of the crew. It was folly to say
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that if liberty had not been given to British vessels to ship crews of that kind, many of them would have remained unemployed at home. It would be far better for them to remain at home till they got crews of efficient men, than to put to sea in such a state; and when the hon. Member for Montrose said no inconvenience had taken place from those changes in our laws, he begged to point out cases to show the contrary. He hoped when the Government recommended their Bill to Parliament, they would take steps to remedy those evils, especially with regard to emigrant ships; and he could assure them he, as the representative of the largest shipping port in the kingdom, and those who sat near him, would lend them the best assistance in their power to make it efficient.
He could only hope Government would not close their ears to the representations of those most interested in and most conversant with the facts and merits of the question, but that they would listen to the reports of the different Chambers of Commerce, and the associations of shipowners throughout the country, with respect to the alterations and amendments proposed. As to the Speech from the Throne in general, he might be permitted to say he did not think it had received in that debate the attention and consideration due to it. At no period since the peace of 1815 had Parliament ever met under circumstances of such gravity, or which might be followed by such important consequences as at present. In the sentiments of the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), who had that night addressed the House with such eloquence, and he might say with hereditary ability, he entirely concurred.
Far be it from him to find fault with the efforts of the Government, or to censure them for the patience and moderation with which they had conducted those long negotiations. But however that might be, he reared Her Majesty was but too well justified in preparing the House and the country for the results of the circumstances in which they were now placed. He believed that Russia, whose colossal power could scarcely be overrated, was, as yet, chiefly desirous of protracting the negotiation, in order that she might assemble her gigantic force on the borders of the Caucasus and the frontiers of Turkey, and, as no one had thought fit to allude to the vast power of that empire, and of the great Autocrat who controlled it, and as the war
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was undoubtedly popular at the present moment—so much so, indeed, that the Government had incurred some unpopularity because they had not interfered more decisively by force of arms already—he did not think the time altogether unemployed, if, on the eve of a step of which no one could foresee the consequences, he directed the attention of the House, on data and authorities which he believed to be indisputable, to the actual amount of the Russian forces. Sir Archibald Alison said— If Western Europe has little to fear from the rivalry of Russian art or the flight of Russian genius, it is otherwise with the imitation of the military art, which has been carried to the very highest point in the Muscovite armies.
The army consisted in 1840 of 72 regiments of infantry, 24 of light cavalry, 90 batteries of foot, and 12 of horse artillery. Each regiment consists of seven battalions of 1,000 each, so that the infantry alone, if, complete, would contain above 500,000 men. The guards, composed of the élite of the whole population, consist of 12 regiments of infantry, 12 of cavalry, 12 batteries of foot, and 4 of horse artillery. Besides these, there are 24 regiments of heavy reserve cavalry, and 12 batteries of reserve horse artillery, and the armies of the Caucasus, Orenburg, Siberia, Finland, and the Interior, containing 100 battalions of 1,000 men each, 40 regiments of cavalry, and 36 batteries of cannon, In addition to these, 104 regiments of Cossacks, of 800 horsemen each. If these forces were complete, the total would give 800,000 infantry, 250,000 horse soldiers, and 100,000 artillerymen.
And even with all the difference between returns on paper and the effective muster, Russia could produce, when her strength was fully called forth, not less than 400,000 infantry, 100,000 cavalry, and 50,000 artillerymen for service beyond her own frontier, although the distances of the empire were so great that it would require more than a year to bring even the half of this immense force to bear on any point in Europe or Asia. Hence the principal armies were disposed in positions where they might be comparatively near the probable scene of military operations.
The first army, 112,000 strong, was stationed in Poland and the adjacent frontiers of Russia. The second, also 112,000, was cantoned in the southern provinces, between Odessa and the Danube, and was destined to overawe Turkey. The third, 120,000 strong, was stationed as a reserve at Moscow and the central provinces, and was intended to reinforce either of the great armies on the frontier. In addition to these, there were 60,000 men, including the guards, at St. Petersburg, 140,000 in the Caucasus, or in the province of Georgia. These immense forces might all be rendered disposable without weakening any garrison or military station in the interior. They were, however, so far separated from each other that it required a long time to concentrate them on any one point, or to produce the imposing array of 160,000 warriors whom Alexander, in 1815, reviewed on the plains of Champagne. He alluded to these facts with a double object—first, to show that, whereas time
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was necessary for Russia to bring up those enormous armies, it would be the height of folly and delusion to believe that these negotiations of Prince Orloff, or of any other mediator, were for any other purpose than for obtaining the delay Russia required; and, next, to put this country on its guard against being deluded by these negotiations, and to give a salutary warning to the people as to what they might expect when confronted with a foe of resources so great as he had stated. He believed he spoke in the unanimous sense of the British people when he said he had heard with pain and regret the language of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) on this question. He could not agree with one word that fell from that hon. Member.
Whether it was on the grounds of a change from an antiquated policy, of the decay of Turkey, or of religious feeling, he hoped he never would be found abetting Russia in her nefarious schemes of aggrandisement and plunder. If Turkey was indeed to fall, he said boldly the time for its dissolution was not yet arrived. She had preserved the faith of treaties, and had admitted us to great commercial advantages, which could not be recklessly sacrificed by admitting the claims which Russia had put forward, at first so insidiously, and next so violently. He believed he spoke the sentiments of the people at large when he assured the Government that any measure they brought forward to preserve the honour and maintain the security of the country would receive that support which was due to such a measure from every patriot.
It was on that account he rejoiced, when he saw the carriage of the Turkish Ambassador drive through the park, and the people crowding round it with such feeling, for it showed how naturally their sympathies went along with an injured nation; and he was satisfied that whatever sacrifices might be required in aiding them would not be grudged by the large body of the people. It was fitting, however, that we should be prepared for the calamities in which a protracted struggle would necessarily involve this country. The question of peace or war did not rest with them. It was the prerogative of the Crown; but if the Crown should unhappily be compelled to declare war, it would then be the duty of the Queen’s Government to go to that House and to demand from them, not only a ratification of their policy, but the contribution
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also of those supplies which would be necessary to carry on the war. Upon a subject on which so much public feeling, national honour, and patriotism were concerned, it was essential that the Government should be able to appeal to a united people; and he thought therefore that they would have done wisely under present circumstances to postpone the question of Parliamentary reform. He was not going to commit his own opinion, nor did he ask others to commit their opinions to any Bill which they might propose; but if the measure of Parliamentary reform consisted solely of a proposition for enfranchising any non-privileged classes—simply of an extension of the franchise, by which the good feeling of the country would be only the more united, there might be fewer objections to such a proposition.
But his apprehensions were that the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, in whatever measure of Parliamentary reform they might bring forward, would propose a Bill to disfranchise as well as to enfranchise. If it were intended to produce a new Schedule A, by which many boroughs which had now the right to return Members would be disfranchised, he forewarned the noble Lord the Member for London, that he would involve that House in a painful, protracted, and acriminous struggle. He must tell the noble Lord that the moment when he demanded the co-operation of the House in their foreign policy, and called upon the people of England to vote the supplies that might be necessary to carry on the war, was not the time to throw discredit upon the people to whom he appealed, and to cast dirt upon the representatives of the people.
Even if the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had given rash pledges, he thought that they would have done more honour to themselves, and would have evinced a truer sense of what was due to the feeling of the country, if they had withdrawn all notice of Parliamentary reform from the House; because one subject of grave and momentous importance was surely enough for this House to give attention to. He humbly thought, therefore, that the Government would have done much wiser if they had for the time sacrificed their feelings upon Parliamentary reform, and had given them another year to see what would be the probable result of the struggle upon which they were about to enter. If they looked for precedents for such a course, he could
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point them out one which, though not palatable, perhaps, to the noble Lord opposite could not but be of importance to the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had been brought up at the feet of Mr. Canning, when he named the name of Mr. Pitt, and the conduct which be pursued upon a very parallel occasion to the present. It had been the fashion of the reform party to say that Mr. Pitt was not a sincere reformer. He denied such an assertion. He believed that the genius, knowledge of politics, and the powers of mind of Mr. Pitt, were such that could not but see the objections which existed to an unreformed House of Commons.
What was the course which Mr. Pitt pursued in 1782? He first brought forward his Motion for Parliamentary reform upon the 7th of May, when it was lost by the small majority of twenty. In 1783 Mr. Pitt renewed his Motion, when it was lost by a larger majority. In 1784 that memorable conflict ensued between Mr. Pitt standing singly in that House against a coalition of parties, when, in the face of majorities against him, night after night he still retained the reins of power, and at last excited such a spirit in the country that he was enabled to dissolve Parliament and to meet the next Parliament with a good majority.
In the new Parliament Alderman Saw-bridge revived the question by moving for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the state of the representation. Mr. Pitt supported the Motion, but it was lost by a majority of 68. Lastly, in 1785, Mr. Pitt, when First Lord of the Treasury, brought forward a well-considered, detailed, and specific plan of reform, moving for leave to bring in a Bill; but that Motion was lost by a majority of 248 to 174. This was the last effort which was made by Mr. Pitt to obtain a reform in Parliament; and the real and ostensible ground of his relinquishing that question was the altered state of our foreign relations, the terrible outbreak a the French revolution, and the engaging in that war in which Mr. Pitt saw that the whole strength of the country would be required in the operations of the field, and that it would be no wise policy to divide the country by a domestic question like that of Parliamentary reform. He very much desired that the present Ministry would
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take an example from that patriotic conduct of Mr. Pitt. He wished that the noble Lord had had the moderation, forbearance, and courage, to state reasons such as these why he thought it necessary to postpone a measure for Parliamentary reform; for he believed, if he had done so, that he would have found an echo throughout the whole country. They might talk as they pleased; but he asserted that there was at present no dissatisfaction of any amount at the state of the Parliamentary representation, and no general demand for a change in that respect. Let them look at the meeting which had been held the other day in Manchester, the very focus of Parliamentary reform.
Out of a population of 500,000, not above 250 persons assembled at that tea party. A gentleman was voted into the chair to introduce the subject of Parliamentary reform to the assembly, and he did so with a few statistics touching the proportions of what he called the “non-represented part of the community,” upon the strength of which he had the modesty to claim no less than fifty Members for the county of Lancaster, or one-tenth of the whole representation of England. But though that meeting was ostensibly for the discussion of the question of Parliamentary reform, there was not a speaker among them who did not take the first opportunity to fly off at a tangent from that point, and the whole resolved itself into a discussion of the great and absorbing question of peace or war.
That was almost the only meeting which had taken place in support of Parliamentary reform, and he believed that lit was not only justified in saying that it was an uncalled for measure on the part of the people, but that he sincerely believed, if the noble Lord said he would postpone the consideration of it until we could see a little more clearly what was the state of our foreign affairs, that there was not a man in that House, and scarcely a well wisher to his country in the Kingdom, who would not feel as if a weight had beet taken off his breast, and that he had beet relieved of a great responsibility. He felt this matter so strongly that he rejoiced that he had had an opportunity of fairly stating it to the House. He hoped, though he had presumed to censure the Government, that he had not done so in language either unbecoming or acrimonious. He gave the Government credit for much that they had done under difficult circumstances.
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He did not mean to place embarrassments in their way by anything in the shape of factious opposition; but when a matter of policy so grave as that to which he had alluded might be fairly pointed out by a Member of the Opposition, he considered that he only performed his duty to the State and to his own conscience by boldly expressing himself and indicating the error which he thought the Government had committed, in the hope that they would do what they could to redeem that error while it was yet in their power. He did not think it necessary to move an amendment on the Address. Other opportunities would occur when these matters might be more specifically discussed, and, in the mean time, he was content with having brought the matter before the House and the country.
Serjeant Shee said, he did not rise to disturb the unanimity which appeared to prevail upon the subject of the Address to Her Majesty. No doubt the Ministers had hitherto honourably endeavoured to preserve an honourable peace; and he doubted not that they would be supported by all parties in that House, and by the country generally, if, after their endeavours to preserve that peace had failed, they should prosecute the war with vigour, in order to arrive again at an honourable peace. He should be ready to consider all those measures of reform which Her Majesty’s Ministers had announced to be in contemplation, and some of which appeared to him to be most worthy of the consideration of the House and of the country.
He was exceedingly sorry to find that it was his duty to advert to what he considered to be a serious and unpardonable omission in the Speech from the Throne. He heartily wished that the distinction which that speech had obtained, according to the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) by not mentioning Ireland, could with good reason and just cause be one worthy of imitation in other Speeches from the Throne. He did not know that England had any interest greater than the happiness and contentment of the people of Ireland, and he sincerely hoped that the time would come, and that it was not far distant, when a Minister would sit upon the benches opposite who would be brave enough, and honest enough, to give effect to his own deliberate convictions, and to redress the well-known grievances of the sister country.
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It was not his intention to trouble the House with a detail of those grievances. He was happy to express his conviction that they were not very many in number, and that nothing was wanted for their redress, but a firm, honest, and courageous intention on the part of an English Minister to redress them. But there was one of those grievances to which he felt that it was his duty to advert. During the last ten years every Ministry had admitted the necessity of reforming the laws which regulated the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. Indeed, it would be impossible for any Minister not to admit that necessity, seeing that ten years ago the Report of a Commission had been presented to Her Majesty, from which it appeared that the people of Ireland were the worst clothed, the worst fed, and the worst lodged of all the people upon the face of the earth, and that in the great majority of the counties of Ireland some forty or fifty per cent of the inhabited houses were mud dwellings with only one room. Shocked and scandalized at that information obtained by a Commission, the members of which were above all exception, Minister after Minister, the Earl of Derby in the other House, and the Duke of Newcastle (then Earl of Lincoln), the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan (Sir J. Young), in that House, had admitted the necessity of a reform of the law which regulated the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland; but as yet nothing had been done.
He could not forget that at the commencement of last Session, this subject formed a prominent portion of the Speech from the Throne, and that the late Government early in the Session, through the then Attorney General for Ireland, the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), laid upon the table of the House four Bills, which were in the main, as it turned out, well-considered measures, for the purpose of redressing that greatest, perhaps, or the greatest but one, of all the grievances of the sister country—the state of the law regulating the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman explained at that time his code at great length. The Irish Members took some exceptions to it, which the right hon. Gentleman had the candour to admit were not indicative of any
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disposition to offer a factious opposition to such reforms as the late Government might wish to introduce upon that subject. The Bills were introduced, and the late Government was thrown out; but during the whole of the Session he had been under the impression that the present Government, represented upon this subject by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan, was seriously and honestly intent upon effecting a substantial reform in those laws. He had watched the—right hon. Gentleman and the Government, in the Select Committee, and in that House. They had sat six or seven weeks upon the subject upstairs. The four Bills were afterwards carefully considered in that House, and, with some amendments, they passed, in their main features, as they had been introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier). They were then taken up to the House of Lords, where they were read a second time. Surely, after that, he had a right to infer that this grave question of imperial policy was worthy the consideration of Parliament, and worthy to be mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, that the people of Ireland might know whether the Government were seriously intent upon giving them that reform or not.
The hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) informed them, that he attributed the absence of all mention of Ireland to the good effects of the Incumbered Estates Act. It was a very good measure, no doubt, but it was not sufficient to remove the evils which afflicted that country. The comparative prosperity of Ireland had arisen, not from that measure alone, but from the fact that its main industry was agricultural, and that prices had considerably risen. There was another reason for the apparent absence of discontent, and that was, that there had existed up to this moment a certain degree of reliance in the honesty and sincerity of the Government last year, and a belief that they really did intend to legislate beneficially upon this most important question. He was not hasty to arrive at conclusions, but he feared that all omission of the subject indicated a lukewarmness and an indifference as to whether it should be considered or not. If, however, there really did exist an honest intention to promote the reform of those laws, he entreated the Government not to let that evening pass without an assurance to that effect; not to let it be said, when the news of that
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night’s debate arrived in Ireland, that Her Majesty’s Ministers, who had appeared so earnest last year, had forgotten their promises, and meant to take advantage of the rise in prices and the comparative prosperity of the country, to leave those laws in their present unsatisfactory condition. It appears from a most useful Report upon this subject, which had been prepared by an hon. and learned Gentleman in that House, that the state of the law in Ireland in this respect was not only different from the law in England, but from the law of every civilised nation in the world; and the hon. and learned Gentleman in that Report pointed out certain remedies which had been adopted in one of the Bills of last Session. He trusted that what the late Government intended to do, and what the present Government had obtained support from Ireland, on account of their supposed intention to do, had not now slipped their memories. He hoped they would have an assurance from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan, that he had not spent all his time and anxiety for nothing last Session, but that he intended to resume his labours this Session, and to bring them to some useful and practical result.
Sir John Young said, he thought that the conclusion at which the hon. and learned Gentleman had arrived, that the Government intention of legislating beneficially on the subject of the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland had been abandoned, was rather hasty. He was not aware that any indication had been given of such an abandonment. There had been an honest desire on the part of the Government to legislate in this matter, so as, while fully guarding the property of the landlord, to put the tenant into a better position; and the hon. and learned Gentleman did no more than justice when he supposed that such was the sincere wish of Her Majesty’s Ministers. The Government took, as the basis of legislation, the measures proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier). He, for one, would never hesitate to award to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, the praise to which he was fairly entitled for his share in these Bills. They were framed with great care, with admirable skill, and with a due regard to the interests of the landlord as well as the tenant. If the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny
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(Mr. Serjeant Shee) would, however, recall to his recollection what Her Majesty’s Government had done in the last Session with regard to this subject, he would see that they had done more than they had promised. They appointed a Committee in which those who called themselves peculiarly the friends of the tenant-farmer, were represented in a much greater degree than they were in that House, or even, he believed, in the country at large. After much consideration the hon. and learned Gentleman’s own Bill was rejected, and, what was thought the safer measure of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin adopted with a few amendments—amendments certainly not unimportant, which he had had the honour of proposing on the part of the Government, but which, though material, were yet rather details affecting the mode of compensation, and simplifying the machinery and complicated notices in the original Bill, than a change in its principle.
No blame could be cast on the Government for the delay which occurred after those Bills left the Select Committee. On more than one occasion he offered those Bills to the consideration of the House; they were postponed, mainly, he believed, on the representations made by hon. Gentlemen friendly to them. When these were sent up to the other House, their Lordships did not consider they had sufficient time to deal with them, but they read them a second time, thereby affirming that they thought it right that the subject should be considered, and that they saw nothing in the Bills themselves which should prevent their taking them into consideration.
There was, he believed, an agreement that the Bills should be revived this Session, that they should be fully considered by their Lordships, and then sent down to this House. He believed it was the intention of Her Majesty’s Government to press for the accomplishment of that agreement, and that the Bills of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin would be introduced into the House of Lords, and afterwards sent down to this House for its consideration. This assurance, he trusted, would satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Government was perfectly honest in its intentions with regard to these Bills.
Mr. Digby Seymour begged to thank the Government, on behalf of his
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constituents, for that paragraph in the Royal Speech which related to the removal of restrictions on the coasting trade. There was one fact which he thought it necessary to mention with regard to the increase of business at Sunderland, as being of national importance, and showing the general commercial prospects of the country. It was, that upon a comparison of the relative production of the shipyards of New York and Sunderland during the last year, he found that Sunderland had built sixty-five more ships than New York, with an excess of tonnage of 22,256 tons over that of New York. More than that, he believed that recent legislation had tended to increase the character, style, and size of the ships.
The number of ships registered at Sunderland during the year 1851 gave an average of 211 tons, and for the year 1853, 219 tons; and the number of ships launched in the Wear during those two years gave the average of 355 tons for 1851, and 449 tons for 1853. He found, however, that while the foreign trade had increased, there had been some falling off in the coasting trade, and the effect of free trade had been, therefore, to give an impetus to the higher class of shipping in Sunderland, and to draw the attention of the shipbuilders there to the foreign trade. English ships engaged on the coasts would have a natural protection as compared with foreign vessels engaged in that trade, by the facilities which they would possess for the accommodation of their sailors in the home ports, and also in the nature of the coast navigation.
The Government had, he rejoiced, made up their minds by throwing open the coasting trade to foreign ships, to toll the last knell of protection; and the House and the people had reason to congratulate themselves that, whilst the Government took measures to preserve the dignity of the Crown and the security of the Empire, they were also mindful of bringing forward measures of a peaceful character and of a useful nature—measures tending to develop the energies, and to promote the prosperity of the nation.
Mr. Fagan said, he regretted very much to find from that sentence of the Speech from the Throne which referred to University reform that it was not the intention of Her Majesty’s Government to extend that reform to Ireland. In his opinion much as reform was required in the Universities of England, it was called for
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doubly in Ireland. Her Majesty’s Government had issued a Commission to inquire into the system of university education, there, and the Report of that Commission had been placed upon the table of the House, and though no information was furnished as to the nature of the reform called for, still there was abundant evidence to show that Her Majesty’s Government were bound when they proposed a measure of university reform certainly not to exclude Ireland from the benefit of it.
It was well known that five-eighths of the inhabitants of Ireland were Roman Catholics, but they were excluded from the honour and benefits of university education. It was no argument to say that there were now in Ireland provincial colleges for the middle classes. The nature of the education in those provincial colleges was not so high as at the University of Dublin. He saw no reason why the Roman Catholics of Ireland should not have a right to the honours and benefits of their education as well as the Protestants. It was a matter of surprise to him that university reform had been confined to this country, and not extended to the sister kingdom.
He denied that the University of Dublin was an ecclesiastical establishment. It had been founded originally for the purpose of giving education to all the people of Ireland. If the Government did not introduce any Bill on the subject, he should himself during the course of the present Session propose to the House a measure which he thought would carry out the views which he, in common with the great mass of the people of Ireland, held on the subject. In conclusion, he must say that he concurred entirely in all that had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee); and he thought the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel) was not justified in saying that there was good reason for not alluding to Ireland in the Queen’s Speech, while the relations of landlord and tenant in that country continued in their present state.
Mr. Hadfield said, he must beg to express his high gratification with that paragraph of the Royal Speech which related to the reform of the probate jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts. He believed there was scarcely a family in the whole kingdom who would not be interested in this great measure. He only regretted that the Ecclesiastical Courts were to be retained at all under any circumstances.
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He could not imagine that after these two important functions of which it was proposed to deprive them were gone, anything would be left worth retaining. Their duties could be undertaken by the existing Courts at Westminster, and he was confident that the people would prefer to see them committed to the Courts at Westminster. During a long practice in the law he had never heard these Courts spoken of by practitioners with anything but scorn and contempt. He knew not for what these Courts had existed except to create fees for official men; and, generally speaking, those men who enjoyed these fees—extracted from the orphans, widows, and bereaved families—were the descendants of dignitaries of the Church, entirely incompetent, in the opinion of the profession at large, for the requisite discharge of the duties.
An influence was brought to bear in support of them in that House for which he could not account, but it was an influence stronger than that House—stronger than both Houses—stronger than the Throne itself. He had presented petitions in support of a measure which he himself had the honour of introducing on this subject last Session, signed by persons representing property to the extent of 100,000,000l., and they complained in the strongest terms of the inconveniences and hardships which the Ecclesiastical Courts, in their present shape, entailed upon them. He certainly had understood the hon. and learned Solicitor General to hold out an intimation last Session that the Government intended to do away with probates altogether, and he regretted that this was not the case, for he saw no use for them except to increase the expense of wills.
Mr. J. Phillimore said, he was pleased to find that the Government had directed their attention to the question of reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts; but he must protest against the acrimonious tone of the hon. and learned Member who had last spoken. It was not his intention to enter into any elaborate defence of institutions for which the practitioners were not responsible, and which had long since been universally condemned; but when the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield spoke of the practitioners as being objects only of scorn and contempt, he could not refrain from saying that some of them were as distinguished as any which the annals of this country afforded. The names of Dr. Lawrence,
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from whom Fox was glad to take advice—of the late amiable and accomplished Speaker of that House—of Lord Stowell, and of others to whom be did not wish more particularly to allude, should have induced the hon. and learned Gentleman to pause before he weakened a cause strong enough in itself by much unnecessary and violent vituperation. Before sitting down, he could not help expressing his regret that there was no mention in the Speech from the Throne of that cause which, after the cause of national honour, was the most sacred that could occupy their attention—he meant the great cause of national education. There was much in the Speech with regard to the education of the rich—there was nothing with regard to the education of the poor. Coupling that omission with the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) in answer to the question of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington), and with the circumstance that Convocation, for some absurd purpose was to be allowed to sit for twelve hours—he supposed for the sake of doing mischief; it could do nothing else—he could not resist the conclusion that to the same spirit which dictated so absurd a proceeding as that, they must ascribe the total omission from the Speech from the Throne of any reference to the most important subject that could engage the attention of statesmen.
Mr. Disraeli—Sir, I think that the resolution to which it seems the House has come, not to enter into any discussion with respect to that great question of foreign policy which now agitates the nation until Her Majesty’s Government have laid the documents relating to it upon the table of the House, is wise and judicious, and I will not attempt in any way to act in a different spirit. When Parliament was prorogued last autumn, Her Majesty informed us, She had reason to believe that the negotiations which Her Government were then carrying on would be crowned with success, and even immediate success. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Clarendon) described, in the other House of Parliament, the character of the measures which he believed would achieve this desirable end. He stated, a few clays before the prorogation of Parliament, that we might consider that the question which had so long been in controversy between Russia and the Ottoman Porte, and which had so much agitated the feelings of England
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and of Europe, was in fact arranged. I am obliged to speak from memory of the general tenour of the noble Lord’s observations, but I think I am not misstating them. The noble Lord said, on that occasion, that the arrangements, which might be considered virtually to have been concluded, were arrangements which, with many other advantages which he referred to, had this peculiarity—that they contained no condition derogatory to the interests or to the honour of the Ottoman Porte. Sir, I need not remind the House that a few days after Parliament was prorogued, the arrangement which the Government had referred to made its appearance, and that appearance took the form of the famous Vienna note. That note has since been recognised to have been a proposition identical in spirit, and in many parts of it, even in language, with that celebrated ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff which has gained so much odium, and caused so much excitement. Now, Sir, remembering the tone in which Her Majesty’s Ministers addressed Parliament at the end of last Session, and the confident hopes which they held out on that occasion of an immediate conclusion of this important controversy, I cannot but refer with some hesitation to the language in which we are now addressed in the present Speech.
I am not going on this occasion to enter at all into the conduct of the Government during all these prolonged negotiations. The documents which they may place before us will have all the attention they deserve, and I shall not presume at this instant to offer any opinion of my own upon any of these transactions, even in cases in which we have been furnished with documents by other Governments, or in that one instance in which we have received a very important paper from Her Majesty’s Ministers—namely, the despatch of my Lord Clarendon. All I wish now, is to remind the House of the tone adopted by the Government when Parliament was last prorogued, and the expectation that was then held out to Parliament of an immediate and satisfactory conclusion of this question, and to compare the language used on that occasion with the language now under our notice. Sir, I think the House will not fail to observe that we are addressed now much in the same terms as we were then, We are still told that negotiations are going on—a hope is still held out that these negotiations
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may be successful; but I think Her Majesty’s Government, after the complete failure of the expectations which they held out to us six months ago—after its having eventually been proved that the plan which they then proposed was a plan which they themselves now would not for a moment sanction—I think Her Majesty’s Government, while they tell the House that negotiations are still proceeding, and that they do not entirely despair of these negotiations effecting their object, ought to have assured us that the object of these negotiations is not one in the spirit of the Vienna note, which, six months ago, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in another place, held out to us as an arrangement not derogatory to the interests or to the honour of the Ottoman Porte.
I think, Sir, it would have been more satisfactory to the House if the Government on this occasion had advised Her Majesty to use words which would have assured the country that, if the question can be settled without that fatal arbitrement of which we have of late been accustomed to speak, and to speak too familiarly, the settlement would be one which would maintain not only the integrity but the independence of the Porte. Although I shall not propose any alteration in the Address to Her Majesty, I feel it my duty to express my conviction that the language held in this Address is not sufficiently expressive, not sufficiently firm, not so explicit as, I think, the circumstances of the case require. There is a timidity of tone, I think, in this Address which appears to me not only unwise, but also unnecessary.
I think that if we still feel it our duty to support Her Majesty’s Government in that attempt at negotiation which they may not yet consider altogether desperate—and I am sure there is no Member in this House that will blame Her Majesty’s Government for still clinging to negotiations if they themselves have a conviction that there is still a chance of accomplishing the desired end by such means—we must also feel that the tone taken in the Speech and Address with regard to these transactions between the Porte and Russia should have been of a higher character than that which seems to pervade the document before us.
Sir, I cannot say, with regard to our foreign relations, that the language of this Address is in other respects altogether satisfactory. We hear—and I, for one, hear
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with pleasure—of the cordial co-operation of Her Majesty with the Emperor of the French. I cannot fail, Sir, to remember—though I have no inclination to dwell upon the circumstance at this moment—that little more than twelve months ago I felt it my duty to call the attention of the House to the relations between this country and France. I thought it my duty to attempt to call the attention of Parliament and of the country to certain expressions and certain conduct of eminent personages who, from their abilities and their station, were able to influence public opinion—which expressions and conduct I was convinced had a tendency to weaken that good feeling between England and France which, under all circumstances, should be cherished, but which, under the then and present aspect of affairs, was doubly desirable and important.
I remember I was told then that my observations were factious observations; but I appeal for my vindication to the language which is now held in Her Majesty’s Speech. I am gratified to find that Her Majesty is in cordial co-operation with the Emperor of the French; and I have no wish, or need, to say any more upon that subject. But, Sir, there is a suspicious omission in this Speech, which I think the House ought to notice. Her Majesty tells us in the Speech that She is in cordial co-operation with the Emperor of the French; but so far as the Speech from the Throne is concerned, and so far as our Address in answer to that gracious Speech is concerned, there is not the clear and manifest evidence in the sentence which follows, that, I for one, could have desired, that Her Majesty is in cordial co-operation with other Powers of very great interest and importance in this question. I wish we could be assured by the noble Lord opposite that there is no ground for any suspicion on that head.
A statement to that effect would be very satisfactory to the House and the country. I should hope that upon this question Her Majesty is not only acting in cordial co-operation with the Emperor of the French, but also with the Emperor of Austria and with the King of Prussia; and if Her Majesty is in so satisfactory a position, then I think the language of the Speech and the Address might have been of a bolder and firmer character, and one more calculated to cheer the heart of the country at a moment when it may be entering on a trial of so severe a character. Sir, the whole manner, indeed,
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in which our foreign relations are treated in the Speech from the Throne is peculiar. One would suppose, for example, that, in consequence of the absorbing interest of this unfortunate struggle between the Porte and Russia, all consideration for other great Powers and for other allies of Her Majesty was entirely overlooked and forgotten. I observed the other day that, in that part of the Address of the President of the United States in which he touches upon the external relations of the great republic, he particularly notices that there are three questions of policy connected with the Government of Great Britain which are yet unsettled, Now, Sir, it does not appear to me that it would have been an unusual, an unwise, or an unreasonable thing if there had been some reference in Her Majesty’s Speech on this occasion to those three unsettled questions of foreign policy with the United States, to which the President of the United States had so particularly and so formally referred. There have, also, been other incidents connected with our foreign affairs not unworthy, I think, of being noticed in an Address to Her Majesty or in a Speech from the Throne.
I remember about two or three years ago one paragraph of Her Majesty’s Speech informed the Parliament that a treaty had been effected with the State of Equador for the abolition of the slave trade. There were a great many Gentlemen in the House—not, I think, much to their discredit—who were not quite aware where the State of Equador was; but the paragraph which the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department, who was then Foreign Secretary, contributed to the Speech from the Throne on that occasion, was the important announcement of a treaty having been successfully negotiated and ratified by Her Majesty for the abolition of the slave trade in the State of Equador. Now, Sir, there have been treaties this year of still more importance than the treaty with the State of Equador, negotiated and ratified by Her Majesty, referring also to that part of the world, or, at least, that quarter of the globe; treaties in which the mercantile interests of this country are greatly interested, in the successful accomplishment of which they have taken great pride, and which I believe are of more real value than many diplomatic arrangements of greater pretensions. Why, is there not that important treaty which has opened to us the
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navigation of the great rivers of South America? If you want to know what is the opinion of the merchants of England of the importance of that treaty, go to the Royal Exchange, go to Liverpool, and there you will hear men, whose opinions upon such a question ought to influence the House of Commons, speak of that successful diplomatic arrangement as not inferior in value, at all events, to the Vienna note. Why was that not noticed in Her Majesty’s Speech? Why were not the House and the mercantile community gratified by an announcement in Her Majesty’s Speech of that important treaty having been concluded?
I will not believe for a moment that it was because the negotiations for this treaty had been mainly carried on, and the policy had been entirely recommended, by the predecessors of the present Ministry. That I cannot for a moment believe; but no one will deny that the treaty to which I refer is a most important arrangement—no one will deny that it is highly appreciated in this country—and allow me, Sir, to tell the House—allow me to impress upon the merchants of our great manufacturing and commercial towns, that they ought to be very thankful that that important treaty was successfully concluded; because, unless I am misinformed, when the despatch of the distinguished officer who successfully negotiated that treaty, announcing the completion of his mission was transmitted to this country, it crossed instructions coming from the Secretary of State at home, recalling him from his post, and telling him no, longer to waste the public time and money upon so fruitless an enterprise. Now, Sir, having obtained such a success under such hazardous circumstances, I think that is an additional reason why we should have been informed in Her Majesty’s Speech of such a treaty having been successfully concluded.
Sir, I shall not, as I have already said, attempt to touch upon the important question which probably will soon engage all our consideration. I am perfectly prepared to give Her Majesty’s Ministers credit for the most sincere desire to avert from this country the great calamity of war. That, I am sure, is a declaration which requires no affectation of candour on any man’s part to make. It must be so clearly their interest as well as their duty to maintain peace, that I am certain that no considerations but those of that paramount character
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which should influence statesmen will ever induce them to take a contrary step so vast in its character and so enormous in its results. But, Sir, although I am ready to give them that credit, I shall expect to find—and I am sure every Member of the House will agree with me in this—that they have been the faithful guardians of the honour of this country, I say the faithful guardians of the honour of the country, because I cannot dissever the idea of the honour of the country from the interests of the country. I utterly deny that in this great question of the balance of power—which, I think, has been unwisely sneered at to-night—I deny that there is what has been called a sentimental portion and a political portion.
I deny that there are things which are impolitic to be done, but which our honour requires us to accomplish. I say, on the contrary, that in every instance it can be made manifest that what our honour requires, you will find the interest of the State sternly demands. If there is one thing more than another which, notwithstanding the gloomy prospects of the country, still inclines me to hope that there is some chance of an honourable peace, it is the ample means which Her Majesty’s Ministers have provided for the occupation of the time of Parliament at the very commencement of the Session.
I can hardly conceive that a body of men who are about to embark in—I will not say a great European struggle, though that is the common phrase—but which, in fact, is not only a European struggle, but an Asiatic struggle—which, indeed, may stretch into a third quarter of the globe, for Russia has not only European and Asiatic but American territories—I say I cannot conceive that a body of statesmen, who believe that we are about to embark in such a conflict, who are preparing to meet such an awful conjuncture—I cannot believe that any body of statesmen so placed would have asked us not only to reform the whole of our civil service, not only to reform the ecclesiastical courts, not only to reform the poor-law, but even to reform the House of Commons. Sir, I came down here to-day with some fear—as many of us had—of some awful disclosure, of some terrible announcement, that was about to be made to us. I thought we were going to make war upon the Emperor of Russia. I find we are only going to make war upon ourselves. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for
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Liverpool (Mr. Liddell) in the abstract observations he made as to the very inopportune season in which the Government is about to bring forward their measure of Parliamentary reform. Certainly if we are about to go to war, when all the energies and feeling of the nation should be collected and concentrated on a struggle which concerns so nearly our honour and our interests, it appears to me in the highest degree unwise and unstatesmanlike that we should distract and dissipate those energies—that we should divert those feeling to another quarter, and to a question of an entirely different character.
In the general and abstract observations, therefore, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool. I agree with him that a period of war is hot favourable to the accomplishment of a great domestic change; but I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that his general observations apply to the position of the present Government. I think that the present Government have done only that which they ought to have done in meeting this question of Parliamentary reform. Let us look a little at the relations of the Government to that question. We have had two Prime Ministers, both of them members of the present Cabinet, who have formed their Administrations on the principle of the necessity of such a change—that being their chief political dogma. We have being maintaining the same opinions and taking the same course under circumstances of the most various kinds.
When two Prime Ministers have given their opinions on a subject of great policy—that it was one which ought to engage public attention—and when they have announced a measure with respect to it, I feel that it is utterly impossible that such a question can be put aside. The noble Lord (Lord john Russell) three or four years ago, after anxious meditation on the subject, came down to this House, and not only gave his opinion that there should be a measure of Parliamentary reform, but in the year after produced such a measure, he being then the Prime Minister of this country. Little more than a year ago a colleague of the noble Lord, now Prime Minister (the Earl of Aberdeen), formed his Administration on the clear understanding that there should be a large measure of Parliamentary reform; and we know that another member of the Cabinet, a distinguished colleague of the two noble Lords, made
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Parliamentary reform the condition of his accepting office. It is clear, therefore, whether we have regard to the public character or to our belief in the political truth of the statesmen who have taken this decided and matured course we cannot believe—not because it is inconvenient to them to fulfil the most solemn pledges of their public life, but because it will be felt as inconvenient by their followers and partisans—that they will now take a different course, and maintain that the principle, which they have so repeatedly, formally, and politically recommended, is one that is unwise and impolitic to be pursued.
They cannot avow that but at the expense of all their sagacity as public men—with the confession of how little prescience they have foreseen what was required for the interests of the country—if they now come forward and say—”True, four years ago I announced Parliamentary reform as the principle on which my Government was to be carried on—true, the year after I brought forward a highly finished and comprehensive measure in unison with that declaration—true, I quitted office, and, on unexpectedly returning to it, renewed all the pledges and repeated all the recommendations which I had given to Parliament and to the country—true, I am now acting with those who more formally and solemnly reiterated the same declaration; but what of that?
We spoke idly—we thoughtlessly gave in to the cry of the day—we meant little though we said much—we agitated the public mind by holding out fallacious hopes; but now placed in a grave and responsible position—some of our own followers not agreeing with us; even at the risk of destroying our character as public men for ever, we now tell you that Parliamentary reform is not necessary—that it is not desirable to consider the question, much less to legislate upon it; and that there should be a tabula rasa of all those principles on which two eminent statesmen founded their declarations and formed their Administrations.” But it may be said, and it has been said to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, “Look at the case of Mr. Pitt.” Mr. Pitt was a great statesman, though a young man—he was pledged to Parliamentary reform at least as much as those men who, though eminent, yet they will forgive me for saying, are not so eminent as Mr. Pitt. Mr. Pitt was pressed with a foreign war before he had fulfilled
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his pledges with respect to Parliamentary reform, and he did not hesitate, when this country was about to be involved in war, to act in opposition to his former opinions—opinions which I believe he sincerely entertained, although by discarding them he gave occasion to insinuations that he had been insincere. But I venture to remark that that illustrious instance will not apply to the present advisers of the Crown. It was only last year that the present Administration was formed on the principle of a large measure of Parliamentary reform, It is a very short time since the noble Lord chose to renew and to reiterate all the pledges and to repeat all the opinions on this important subject which he had previously expressed to the country—and he was wise in so doing.
But look at the circumstances of the case. You—I do not say the noble Lord—I know that he will not attempt to excuse himself—I speak to his friends who wish to find an excuse for him—you are about to embark in a war which, in your opinion, ought to change your views of pressing a measure of Parliamentary reform. But you thought of Parliamentary reform last year. Were you not then in danger of a war—nay, of worse than a war—were you not in apprehension of invasion? Yet it was then that you founded your Government on this principle, and you appealed to the electors on this very ground of Parliamentary reform; and yet at that time you thought, not only war was impending, but that invasion, immediate, instant, urgent, was the doom of this country.
Some Hon. Members—Oh, oh!
Mr. Disraeli—Why, is it not notorious? I do not wish to dwell upon the topic; I would pass it over lightly—but there was one Member of the present Administration—a Cabinet Minister—who, the moment he was appointed, went down to the hustings, where he told the people that we were not only to be invaded, but invaded in a peculiar way—by bodies of 10,000 men, who, without any previous notice, were piratically to be thrown upon our shores? Did he not say to his constituents, how are you to answer for your wives and daughters under these circumstances? This, said the right hon. Gentleman, is the position of the Government of which I am a Member; we are about to take steps to protect you, and not only to protect you, but to give you a measure of Parliamentary reform. I think, therefore, the House will agree with me that there is no possible excuse for the noble Lord, or
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the right hon. Gentleman, or the Prime Minister who founds his Government on a large measure of Parliamentary reform, to evade their solemn pledge. Do I suppose that the noble Lord contemplates evading his pledge? I know that he will honestly attempt to fulfil it. I do not speak of the noble Lord or of his colleague, but I speak of those devoted and ingenious friends of the noble Lord who are so interested in his position that they are quite willing that he should retain it at the expense of his personal honour and his political sagacity. But the noble Lord will act differently. I dare say that on the 13th of next month we shall have that large measure of Parliamentary reform which has been so long promised introduced to our notice.
I say that the present Ministry, in the present circumstances of the country, have no excuse for not introducing a large measure of Parliamentary reform. It may be unwise that Parliamentary reform should be introduced under any circumstances, it may be little short of madness to introduce it under the present existing circumstances; but the Ministers must bring in a large measure of Parliamentary reform. When that large measure of Parliamentary reform is proposed to us, I and my friends, after digesting it, as we shall digest the blue books, will take leave to offer our humble opinions upon it. And here I must be permitted to say at the outset, that I entirely protest against the adroit arrangement which would of necessity connect a measure for the purification of the Parliamentary constituency with a measure for a reconstruction of our electoral system. I hold that there is no necessary connexion whatever between these two subjects.
We all know that long before the great measure of 1832, in all cases of delinquent boroughs, where boroughs were proved guilty of organised and absolute corruption, you disfranchised them, and gave the seats thus vacated to other constituencies. That happened frequently before the Bill of 1832, but you gave those forfeited seats to other electoral bodies, formed on the known principles of the constitution—you took the seats from the places so punished, and you gave them to other bodies; but whether you gave them to counties, or enlarged the area of the boroughs themselves, you still conferred the right of sending Members to Parliament upon constituencies framed in the recognised spirit and in the ancient forms of
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the constitution. I shall be as ready as any man in this House to support the most comprehensive and the most stringent measures to put an end to bribery and corruption. I do not say, indeed, that any man can introduce a measure that will of itself put an end to bribery and corruption. I know that, for that end, you must look to influences higher than mere Acts of Parliament. You have put an end to the vice in classes higher than the constituent bodies, not by Acts of Parliament merely, but by giving them a higher tone of feeling, by educating the minds of those classes, by evoking in them a sense of public duty, and by cherishing and cultivating a feeling of self-respect.
The same influence which has prevented judges, and statesmen, and Members of this House, from being bribed, and flagrantly bribed, will in time, if it be fostered, beneficially act upon constituent bodies too. But I admit that by legislative measures we may do something to check bribery and corruption, and I will support any law, however stringent, which is at the same time practical for that purpose. It may be in the recollection of the House that only last Session I introduced a measure, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), for this very purpose. I must here repeat what I have often stated, that there is no class in the country less interested in bribery and corruption than the landed proprietors of England.
Bribery and corruption are influences which are substitutes for local influence; and those who have great local influence are exactly the class who ought to look with the greatest jealousy on every measure which would substitute illegitimate influences for that local influence which they may proudly exercise. I do not say that there are no instances where local influence has not been abused, as everything has been abused; but I do say that there is no class who have less abused the exercise of their local influence than the landed proprietors of this country, on whatever side of the House they may sit. Local influence has its source in the spirit of neighbourhood, in the principles of good fellowship and good feeling; and those influences are sufficient to place them in their eminent position without having recourse to those which were originally directed against themselves, and from which, from the days of Sir Robert Walpole to the present, they have been the greatest sufferers.
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I say, then, in the first place, that I will not connect a measure efficiently to check bribery and corruption with a measure for the reconstruction of the electoral body. There is no necessary connexion between the two subjects; they are put together to confuse our ideas, and to prevent us from seeing those measures which ought to accompany them. We have been told in the Speech from the Throne, that “recent experience has shown how necessary it is to take efficient precautions against the evils of bribery and corrupt practices at elections.” But why are we to limit our exertions to bribery and corruption only? Why is intimidation to be passed over? I want that question to be answered.
Great complaints have reached me as to intimidation at elections. I have had many cases brought before me of intimidation—I will not inquire now in which of Her Majesty’s kingdoms they took place. But if we are, in the spirit of purity, to put down bribery and corruption, I protest beforehand against this limitation of our labours, and I would suggest the introduction of the word “intimidation.” I do not mean formally to move it, but I make the suggestion to the noble Mover, and I trust he may avail himself of it. I shall for a moment suppose that we have a large measure of Parliamentary reform before us, and that it is not connected with a measure for checking bribery, corruption, and intimidation.
Let me observe in what spirit we shall consider this large measure, which has been so long promised, and which is now about to be produced. It is, in our opinion, most unwise, especially at the present time, to introduce any measure of Parliamentary reform. Under these circumstances, we should perhaps be disposed to rest upon the extensive measure of 1832, however, in many instances, unjust in its arrangements with regard to the influence of the party that was opposed to the Government which introduced it. But the remedial agency of time has mitigated a great deal of that injustice, and we should be disposed to place against the advantages of an equitable arrangement of the claims of that party for redress, the immense disadvantages of tampering with the constituent body, and of perpetually disturbing that which, above all, ought to be hallowed by prescription. But if that famous Bill—the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill—is again to be brought before us, and placed on that table for execution by those who were its prime projectors, and who sailed
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into the power and authority on the heady current of its agitation, then we shall analyse the materials of which this House and the country is composed, with a view of attempting to effect an adjustment more complete than now exists between the various classes of the country and their representatives in this House. I have taken occasion before to point out to the House, when a large measure of Parliamentary reform was proposed by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), the extraordinary injustice with which the landed proprietors of the country have been treated with respect to the representation in the House, and all classes connected with the land.
I have placed before the House statistics of property and population, and I have shown that the greatest anomalies brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite in a thoughtless vein are equalled—nay, are not equalled, but are infinitely surpassed—if you apply these principles and test by these dogmas—by the arrangements for the representation of the inhabitants of the counties of England in the Commons House of Parliament.
We have lately had some important returns furnished by the Government. They only confirm and illustrate, by fresh and still more striking evidence, the principles which I have placed before the House with reference to this subject, and the facts which I have before stated. This is not to be denied—that at the present moment more than one-half the population of the country is represented in the House of Commons by a body of 160 or 170 county Members, while a population of not more than 7,500,000 are represented by more than 400 Gentlemen, who are called borough Members. So much for the facts at the present moment.
These are not considerations which would have induced us, especially at the present moment, to come forward and ask for Parliamentary reform, though we think that great injustice has been done us by the present arrangement. When you appeal to the passions, and dwell upon the importance of what you call the large towns; the fact is, that there are vast populations, still larger than the largest towns, which are represented only in a most imperfect manner, and who have not nearly the number of Members which, according to your principles, they are entitled to. When we come to this large measure—when we come to this bold proposition, as we have been informed, of disfranchisement—when we have to add them to that horde of forfeited seats which
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the noble Lord has been so long and so sedulously accumulating—we shall come forward not with clamour, not with that organised arrangement which is brought into play whenever anything is demanded by what are called the large towns—but we shall come down to the House of Commons and appeal to facts—we shall appeal to principles—we shall ask you to apply your own facts and principles and to do us justice; but remember at the same time that if you award to us that which we supplicate, you will at the same time add strength and reverence to the constitution of England.
Lord John Russell—Sir, the Government have no reason to complain of the manner in which the Speech from the Throne and the Address this evening have been treated by the House. On the contrary, I have to thank the House in the name of the Government for the general spirit of moderation which prevailed in the way in which hon. Members have declared, with respect to the great Eastern Question, on which opinions are so divided, that they are ready to wait to consult the papers which have been laid upon the table of the House, and that not till they have examined them will they be prepared to give their judgment upon them. Sir, if there was anything in the beginning of the debate which may have been considered to criticise the policy of the Government, I am quite ready to rest the answer to those observations on the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) who spoke with great eloquence and ability on our foreign relations.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made some philological observations upon phrases in the Speech from the Throne, rather than found fault with the policy which it embodies: Of that policy I have only to say, that I think it has been carried on with a view to preserve, if possible, the blessings of peace to England and to the world, and that it has been directed, in any event, either in a peaceful or in a warlike termination of our negotiations, to preserving the honour and interests of this country. Sir, that honour and those interests would not have been preserved if, when we saw the aggressions of Russia on her unoffending neighbour, we refrained from lifting up our voice in her support, and demonstrating that, if necessary, we were ready to take other means to prevent the success of what appeared to us to be an unprincipled and an
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unjust invasion. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the terms of the Vienna note. That note, as I stated in the former Session, was framed not by the English Government, but by the Government of the Emperor of the French. Some additions and alterations were made to it by the Austrian Government, and we accepted the note as a means which we hoped would prove for the benefit of Turkey, and conciliate her claims with those pretensions which the Emperor of Russia had put forth. It is quite true, I readily admit, that when that note arrived at Constantinople, and when the Turkish Government showed that, not in the plain sense, not in the sense affixed to it by the representatives of the Four Powers, but in the sense that might be affixed to it by her hostile and jealous neighbour, the note might infringe upon her independence, we had then no hesitation in recommending the modifications proposed by the Turkish Government to the consideration of the Emperor of Russia.
The answer that was made, above all the explanations that were given by Count Nesselrode as to the sense in which the Vienna note was understood by the Government of St. Petersburg, proved not only that the Government of Russia was not prepared to recede from any of its pretensions, but that to its unprincipled and unjust aggression, it added something which I cannot designate otherwise than fraudulent in the manner in which it pursued its policy. Sir, I should be misleading the House, if I were to express any confident expectation that the offer now made will be acceded to by the Emperor of Russia. But this I may say, in reference to the remark of the right hon.
Gentleman, that he hoped there was nothing contrary to the integrity and independence of Turkey in the terms proposed—that the terms now proposed are terms agreed to by the representatives of the Four Powers and of the Turkish Government, and that the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs himself framed and signed the note in which the propositions were conveyed; so that, in advising the Government of St. Petersburg to accept that note, we cannot suppose that we are in any way trenching upon the integrity or the independence of Turkey. I think it is very obvious from the terms of the Speech that whilst the British Government is most anxious, if possible, to effect a pacific settlement of the question, we are not disposed to let the Government of Russia so far take advantage of the time
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that may elapse as that, while she is making warlike preparations, when the end of the negotiations should arrive we should be found totally unprepared. I know no injury—I see, on the contrary, very great advantage—in protracted negotiations, as long as there is a hope that peace may be the result, if we do not allow the consequence to follow that an advantage may be gained by Russia during that time, which an earlier termination of the negotiations would prevent.
When the papers are laid upon the table, I shall have no objection, on any Motion that may be made, or discussion that may arise, to go fully into those questions. One thing I may say—that, considering the position of Russia in regard to Turkey, and the frontier which divides them, and that England and France have taken the most active part in opposing the designs of Russia, we have thought that it would be an immense advantage in every point of view, if Austria and Prussia would combine with us for the purpose of preventing a war from ensuing in consequence of the aggression that has been made by Russia. Our endeavours in that respect have not been fruitless. There has been a Protocol signed by the Ministers of the four Powers, in which they all declare that it is a satisfaction to them to be able to announce that no diminution of the integrity of the Turkish Empire will ensue from the war that now exists between Russia and her.
That declaration, no doubt, is not complete—that declaration does not fully meet the views of the Government of Great Britain; but still it is a great advantage that, so far as we can, we shall act together; and when the Government of Austria shall perceive that war is at length near—that the negotiations in which she has willingly taken part will not be successful in inducing the Emperor of Russia to desist from his efforts, and that nothing but bolder measures and a stronger tone would induce him to do so—I say I have great hopes that the Government of Austria, seeing her own interest—an interest much greater than that of England and France on this question—seeing, likewise, that the interest of Europe is involved in the settlement of this question—will, with the Government of Prussia, act generally with us, and I have no doubt of the immediate result. I say, considering all these things, that our time has not been lost in our efforts for conciliation, and in doing everything that we could consistently with our honour and interest
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for that purpose, and in endeavouring to persuade the Government of Austria to take what we think a more enlightened and more successful course.
Sir, in the course of the debate there have been remarks made upon various subjects by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) opposite; upon some domestic subjects by others—which had been omitted in the Speech. I quite agree in the importance of the treaty with Paraguay to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, and I have had the honour to present this evening, by command of Her Majesty, papers connected with that treaty. But really, considering the importance of some of the principal topics to be touched upon, there were so many topics contained in the Speech that unless the right hon. Gentleman would recommend us to depart from all former precedents, and to frame the Royal Speech of the length of the Message of the President of the United States, we should not be able to include all the various topics to be referred to. A most important subject has been mentioned by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth—the subject of education; and the hon. Member for Montrose has also spoken on that subject. Sir, there is no one, I believe, who is more anxious to see a good system of education extended and established in this country than I am myself.
But it is necessary to consider the means by which that object may be accomplished. With regard to one part of this great subject, taken as a whole—namely, the question of the English Universities—we have taken that subject into consideration, and I hope that during the course of the month of February—in the middle or towards the end of it—we shall introduce a measure for the improvement and reform of the University of Oxford. With respect to another department of this subject—namely, education in Scotland—my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate has prepared a Bill on the subject, and when it is finally approved of by the Government he will introduce it. Now, with respect to various measures relating to education, I would rather that we should wait at all events to see the progress of the numerous measures we have to introduce, before we say anything respecting them.
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the question of reform in Parliament, and he seemed partly to agree and partly to disagree with his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Liddell). The hon.
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Member for Liverpool told us that Mr. Pitt, in the year 1793, declared that he was no longer a supporter of a measure of Parliamentary reform in consequence of the war to which the country was engaged. Now, however great may be the authority referred to, for my part, I had much rather that Mr. Pitt had at that time refrained from entering into the war, and proceeded with the Parliamentary reform. But I do not think the precedent is applicable to the present time. If it were so, indeed, it would be no slight postponement of the question of reform, because that reform which Mr. Pitt postponed in 1793 was not adopted by Parliament until forty years afterwards, and I certainly cannot consent to a postponement for that length of time. But, Sir, it is to be considered whether the excuse was a good or a bad one.
What Mr. Pitt was engaged in resisting, or counteracting, was the spirit of republicanism and democracy, and he thought it unwise to allow that spirit to display itself by supporting any measure of Parliamentary reform. That was in fact the tendency, spirit, and object of his war. At present we are in a totally different position. Whatever complaint we may have to make of the Emperor of Russia, it is not that which Mr. Pitt made, namely, that he is engaged in supporting the pestilent doctrines of democracy abroad. We cannot say that the Emperor of Russia has issued any decree of fraternisation by which he hopes to spread republicanism. There is, therefore, no likeness between the cases. But I own, for my part, I do not agree in the cogency of the argument, even without the precedent which my hon. Friend (if he will allow me so to call him) the Member for Liverpool has used. It does not appear to me that this is at all an unfit or improper time for introducing the question of Parliamentary reform.
I know to those who do not like the measure a fit time is always wanting. Mr. Wyndham, who was a great master of illustration and allusion, when a measure of reform was introduced in a time of public quiet and peace, said, “You are like the man in the Spectator, who had every symptom of the gout except the pain; you are going to deal with a disease that causes you no inconvenience.” Times changed, and there was a vast deal of commotion, and agitation, and excitement, and still Mr. Wyndham opposed reform, saying, “Surely you will not repair your house in a hurricane.” On both occasions he was ready with an
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illustration, and so it is with many of those who now say that this is not the time to introduce a measure of Parliamentary reform. I cannot but refer to a pledge which I gave on this subject in the year 1848, a time when a great democratic revolution was flying through Europe. I thought when the hon. Member for Montrose then proposed a measure of reform that it was not advisable to introduce a measure of that kind at that period. I said, “Although I cannot concur with your proposal at this time, or with the exact grounds of your proposal at any time, yet my opinion is that when this fit has passed away, and when Europe shall be tranquil so far as regards those democratic movements, that will be the time to consider further improvements in our representative system.”
I cannot think that there is any danger in discussing the question of reform during the excitement of a foreign war; but the time that really is dangerous for such a discussion is the time of great popular excitement and dissension at home. It is said there is no feeling abroad on the subject—that there is a complete apathy about reform. If that be the case, is it not the fitter time to discuss the question of reform, lest in the course of the war there should be times and periods of distress, when the people should become excited, and large meetings should be assembled in every town, partly crying out for more wages and cheaper food, and partly crying out for an increase of political power—is it not wise to forestall any demand of that sort?
Supposing we have the calamity of war, and have with it the necessity for increasing the public burdens, is it not a fitting time to enlarge the privileges of the people when you are imposing upon them fresh taxes, so that the House of Commons, in imposing taxes upon the people, may, as far as possible, impose them upon these who have elected them? When the Bill shall be introduced, the right hon. Gentleman opposite will have an opportunity of making his criticisms upon its character. I own the right hon. Gentleman somewhat surprised me. After saying that it was unwise—that it was little short of madness—to introduce a Reform Bill at the present time, he ended by suggesting that perhaps he should have a Reform Bill of his own. If that is introduced, I shall listen to the right hon. Gentleman’s proposal, and see if we can borrow anything from the study which he has no doubt given to the subject. I remember about two
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years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, he spoke then of the expediency and propriety of giving the franchise to the working man. That was his doctrine at that time, and we shall see when this Bill is introduced whether he has departed from or maintained that doctrine.
Now, Sir, after having stated generally the views which I entertain with regard to the several topics of the Address, I have to call the attention of the House to a subject of very great importance, but one in speaking on which I hope I may not overpass the bounds of due discretion. I rejoice that I have not been wrong in supposing that no Member of this house would in any way adopt or countenance the calumnies that have been spread abroad with respect to a Royal Personage—the Prince Consort. And, Sir, if those calumnies were like ordinary calumnies, and had only ordinary effects, I might be disposed to leave them without notice to pass away in the course of time; but they affect so much the highest interest of the State, and there has been so much of honest delusion, as well as of foul calumny, that I do feel it necessary to make some statement with regard to the position of that illustrious Prince. I may first say, as to the charge generally of unconstitutional interference on the part of His Royal Highness, it is generally admitted—admitted throughout the country, and by all parties—that there never was a Sovereign who has acted more strictly in the spirit of the constitution in the exercise of Her high prerogative than Her Majesty. Her Majesty has accepted the Ministers whom She found approved of by the House of Commons, and She has given them Her whole and entire confidence.
On Her accession She found Lord Melbourne Prime Minister, and he had Her entire confidence. Lord Melbourne was succeeded by Sir Robert Peel, and Sir Robert Peel had the entire confidence of Her Majesty. It was my destiny to succeed Sir Robert Peel; and during more than five years, in which I held that honourable position, I can say most truly that I received from Her Majesty every support and every mark of confidence that a Minister could expect. I cannot but express towards Her Majesty my gratitude for the kindness with which I was treated, and for the attention with which all my representations were listened to by Her Majesty. Well, then, is it not strange that it should be said—is it not a strange and incredible
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assertion that Her Majesty, during a great part of that time, should have Her Consort by Her side, and that while the whole of the conduct of Her Government has been most constitutional, it should be possible that the Prince Consort during that time should have been acting in an unconstitutional manner. There is something absurd and contradictory on the face of such an assertion; but I do feel it is necessary, owing, to the honest delusion which I have said has prevailed, to enter somewhat into what is the position (not much defined in any of the law books or by precedents) of a Prince Consort in this country.
When Her Majesty came to the Throne, being then only eighteen years of age, and of course inexperienced, Lord Melbourne considered what it became him to do when Her Majesty was pleased to say that he should continue in the post of First Lord of the Treasury. It seemed to Lord Melbourne that it was his duty to advise Her Majesty on all subjects with regard to matters of domestic interest—with regard to the arrangements of the palace, as well as with respect to the higher and ordinary duties of a Prime Minister. But, doubtful as to whether he had come to a right opinion, he resorted for advice to the highest authority he could obtain; he went to the Duke of Wellington. The Duke of Wellington entirely agreed with him, and said that if he held the office of Prime Minister, he would take exactly the course that Lord Melbourne had pointed out. Three years after Her Majesty’s accession Her Majesty espoused Prince Albert, the present Prince Consort. The position in which Prince Albert should stand was likewise a matter of consideration. He was, as the House knows, naturalised by Parliament, and naturalised in such a manner that he could be a member of the Privy Council.
Some doubts have been started on this subject; but anybody who looks into the subject will see that he was not only enabled but fully authorised to sit in the Privy Council. Lord Melbourne asked me what was my opinion as to the course that should be pursued with respect to the despatches that should arrive, and all the secret communications of the Ministers. I said that I had no doubt whatever that Her Majesty should communicate them as She thought fit to the Prince Consort, and that I did not think, in his relation to Her Majesty, it would be fair to have any concealment on the subject. I am not sure from recollection, and do not very distinctly recollect,
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whether Lord Melbourne at that time mentioned the subject; but I am sure that Lord Melbourne and I thought it our duty to advise the Queen that that should be the conduct with regard to public despatches and communications. I think that any other advice would be foolish and unbecoming. It could not but happen that the Prince, after his marriage, should discuss public events with Her Majesty; and to fancy that he should only gather his information from the newspapers or public statements, while Her Majesty had all the despatches and official information before Her, would not only be an absurdity, but it would be impracticable.
Well then, Sir, such being the position of the Prince, it is quite evident that there is no truth whatever in the colour which has been attempted to be placed upon His Royal Highness’s relation to Her Majesty in this respect, or in the statement that Lord Melbourne constitutionally debarred the Prince from a knowledge of state affairs, and that Sir Robert Peel was the first person who introduced him to a knowledge of those affairs. Why, Sir, I believe it is true, that in Sir Robert Peel’s time, it first happened that His Royal Highness was present during the interviews with Ministers; but the House will at once see, that if His Royal Highness, according to the advice of Lord Melbourne, was informed of all that was going on, and knew as well as Her Majesty all that was taking place, his mere introduction into the closet when the Ministers had their communications with Her Majesty was merely a convenience, and established nothing beyond the principle that had been adopted.
If the Prince had not been present when the Ministers were with Her Majesty, Her Majesty would have communicated to him what had occurred. That would be a circuitous report of what the Ministers had said, and would be a less convenient mode of proceeding than if His Royal Highness had been present; for in the one case, as in the other, His Royal Highness, having, I need hardly say, the intellect, the information, and the general knowledge which belong to him, it would have been quite impossible that Her Majesty would not have spoken to him on every matter of great importance that would arise. I am now speaking generally of their relations, without any reference to the constitutional relations which subsist between the Sovereign and Her Ministers, because, as I have stated at the commencement, there has never been any
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complaint that those relations have not been properly recognised. Well then, it was not Sir Robert Peel, but Lord Melbourne and I who advised—and we thought we were acting entirely and in the spirit of the constitution in giving that advice—that His Royal Highness should be fully informed with respect to all that had passed. But did Lord Melbourne, when he went out of office, consider that there was no advantage in Her Majesty having that counsel. Be it remembered that he had taken upon himself on Her accession, during the youth of the Queen, to give Her advice upon every subject.
At the time that Sir Robert Peel assumed the reins of Government, Her Majesty had been already married. It was in the beginning of September, 1841; and on the 30th of August in that year Lord Melbourne wrote in those terms to Her Majesty— Lord Melbourne cannot satisfy himself without again stating to Your Majesty in writing, what he had the honour of saying to Your Majesty respecting his Royal Highness the Prince. Lord Melbourne has formed the highest opinion of his Royal Highness’s judgment, temper, and discretion; and he cannot but feel a great consolation and security in the reflection, that he leaves Your Majesty in a situation in which Your Majesty has the inestimable advantage of such advice and assistance.
Lord Melbourne feels certain that Your Majesty cannot do better than to have recourse to it when it is needed, and to rely upon it with confidence. That was the opinion which Lord Melbourne had formed of His Royal Highness’s ability and character; and I may say that no one who had any intercourse with His Royal Highness could form any other opinion, but must appreciate the judgment and the ability of that distinguished personage. I should be sorry, without necessity, to refer to the affairs of a Prince so near the Throne; but, recollect, I am now speaking in defence of one who has been injured by anonymous slander, and this is the first opportunity on which he has authorised any communication to be made in reply to those slanders. His Royal Highness, therefore, continued in this position, giving advice to Her Majesty when it was expedient to do so, and stating to her his opinion when he thought assistance was necessary; but the most constitutional deference was paid to the advice of the Ministers; and be it observed, that though it may have been the case during the reign of the House of Hanover that Ministers may have been obliged to resign because they could not
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agree to something which the Sovereign proposed, or because they were obliged to propose advice that was not acceptable to the Sovereign, yet in the present reign the Administrations of the Queen have always ceased in consequence of a vote of this House. Well, Sir, during my Administration there occurred a case in which His Royal Highness had to consider his position, and to determine what he should do with respect to a proposal that was made. I had some correspondence with the Duke of Wellington at a time when the office of Adjutant General was vacant. The Duke of Wellington went to Windsor, and he there informed Prince Albert that it was his opinion that it would be of great advantage to the Army if after his death his Royal Highness were placed by Her Majesty in the position of Commander-in-Chief. His Grace said that he had thought much upon it—that all his feelings and wishes were for the good administration of the Army—that the Army peculiarly belonged to the Crown—and that he did not think its interest would in any way be so well cared for, as by Prince Albert consenting to be his successor.
He said he wished to have a decision upon the subject, because he would make such arrangements with respect to the office of Adjutant General and other offices at the Horse Guards as would give His Royal Highness all the assistance that he would require. Prince Albert could not but feel that it was a very great compliment to be told by the Duke of Wellington that he was a fit person to succeed him in the command of the Army; but after some reflection he informed the Duke of Wellington that he considered that his place was to be always near the Queen—that he thought he ought to identify himself with the Queen—with Her position and with Her interests—and that he would depart from that position if he had any separate office of his own, more especially an office of the importance of Commander-in-Chief, and thereby became responsible for other duties, and for the exercise of other powers beyond those which Her Majesty had to exercise or perform. Immediately after having given that answer, I had the honour of an interview with His Royal Highness, when he read the letter he had written to the Duke; and it appeared to me, and I immediately expressed my opinion, that His Royal Highness had judged roost rightly, and that he had correctly viewed his own position. I think there were other reasons
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why His Royal Highness should not take the office of Commander-in-Chief; it is quite unnecessary to state those reasons—those which His Royal Highness himself stated were quite sufficient, and they showed that, while he considered that he ought not to be Commander-in-Chief, be likewise considered that, whenever he could be of any aid or assistance to the Queen—whatever difficulty She might feel—whatever decision She might have to come to—he was bound to give the whole of his intelligence, and zeal, and wisdom to the consideration of that question.
With regard to the charges made against his Royal Highness, many of them are too frivolous to notice; many of them are mere straws which appeared one day, and disappeared the next:—but having explained now the general constitutional position of the Prince—a position of the greatest importance—I shall mention with regard to two different branches of the public service the sort of charges that have been made. With respect to the Army in particular, it has been said that His Royal Highness is in the habit of constantly interfering; now, I would say that when the Duke of Wellington acquiesced in the decision of the Prince, he said at the same time that as it was not likely that the Queen would personally attend to the details of the military service, he hoped His Royal Highness would always give his attention to anything that affected the state and efficiency of the Army.
That His Royal Highness has done with regard to any general question which he thought affected that state and efficiency; but with regard to the ordinary business of the Horse Guards, he has never in any way interfered; with respect to patronage, he has never at all interfered, and I think the House will agree that, having had this request from the Duke of Wellington, and seeing that it was not likely that Her Majesty would attend to those points which the Kings, Her predecessors, had attended to, it is but right that His Royal Highness, with respect to general questions that might affect the Army, should pay attention to those questions. Sir, it so happens that a short time ago a circumstance occurred which was so perverted that I must take the liberty of stating what were the real facts of the case. The Adjutant General and Quarter Master General are appointed by the Sovereign, and not by the Commander-in-Chief; but the Sovereign, as it may be supposed, usually takes the advice
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of the Commander-in-Chief in making those appointments. A difference of opinion occurred between Lord Hardinge and Sir George Brown with respect to the weight that the soldier should carry, and with regard to other points of military detail and arrangement. Sir George Brown, whose correspondence has been shown to me by Lord Hardinge, wrote a letter in exceedingly suitable terms, saying that as there was a considerable difference between Lord Hardinge and himself, and as his own opinion, formed upon what he had heard from the Duke of Wellington, was unshaken, he thought it was better that he should resign the office of Adjutant General; and he, therefore, begged Lord Hardinge to place his resignation before the Queen.
Now, it has been represented that this resignation was somehow produced by the interference of Prince Albert. That story is totally false. It arose entirely from the difference of opinion I have stated. Lord Hardinge immediately laid Sir George Brown’s resignation before Her Majesty, and recommended that Sir George Cathcart should be appointed the successor to Sir George Brown, as he considered him a very distinguished officer, and of an age that would enable him to perform actively the duties of that station.
Her Majesty acquiesced in the advice that Lord Hardinge gave, but she said she hoped that General Wetherall, who was next in that office of Adjutant General to Sir George Brown, would meet with every consideration from Lord Hardinge. Now, it should be mentioned that General Wetherall was the son of one who was in constant attendance upon the Duke of Kent, and I am sure that the House will not think it wrong that Her Majesty—recollecting the services of General Wetherall’s father to Her father—should wish that every consideration and kindness should be shown to that distinguished officer. Lord Hardinge said that he was quite ready to pay every consideration to the merits of General Wetherall, that he thought very highly of them himself, that he performed his duties in Canada very well, but that he (Lord Hardinge) did not think he would be so efficient an Adjutant General as Sir George Cathcart; that he was, however, quite ready to propose some method by which it should be shown that no disapprobation was entertained towards General Wetherall. Upon this an equerry of Her Majesty, who was likewise in attendance upon His Royal Highness, came to London to express to
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General Wetherall the Queen’s sense of his services, and that it was not from any slight to him that she had taken the advice of Lord Hardinge. General Wetherall, as might be expected, expressed his grateful sense of this mark of Her Majesty’s condescension and kindness, and made no complaint of the appointment which was made to the office of Adjutant General. Presently, however, it was said that General Brown had been spoken to by Lord Hardinge, and had said—but perhaps I had better read the letter in which this assertion is contained:— Great Stanhope-street, Jan. 20. Lord Hardinge presents his compliments to Sir George Brown, and requests his attention to an article in the Morning Advertiser of the 18th of January, which describes Sir George Brown as having on one occasion replied with great emphasis to lord Hardinge that he was aware that he had sworn allegiance to Her Majesty, but that he could not recognise the authority of the Prince in any matter connected with his office at the Horse Guards.’ Lord Hardinge desires to be informed whether, in the transaction of the official business of the Adjutant General’s department, any such conversation as that described ever took place between them?
To that note Sir George Brown replied as follows:— 61, Eaton-square, Jan. 20. Sir George Brown presents his compliments to Lord Hardinge, and in reply to his note this moment received, begs to assure his Lordship that he has no recollection whatever of ever having received orders from him as emanating from Prince Albert, and that consequently he never could have expressed himself in the terms he is represented to have done in the article extracted from the Morning Advertiser, transmitted with his Lordship’s note. With regard to the other statements respecting the Horse Guards, the same contradiction could be given if it were worth while. I believe I have described accurately the state of the case, and of the relations which do exist between Prince Albert and the Commander-in-Chief.
When the Duke of Wellington was Commander-in-Chief, these communications were frequent. They have been less frequent of late, but they all relate to the general efficiency of the Army. There is another subject, with respect to which a specific assertion was likewise hazarded. It was said that upon questions of foreign policy, and more especially upon that Eastern question which at present absorbs to so great a degree the attention of the country, Prince Albert had taken a course to thwart the advice of Her Majesty’s responsible Ministers, and that in the attempt so to thwart their advice he was in the habit of writing to our Foreign
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Ministers on these subjects. Now, on that point I will read the following letter from the Earl of Westmoreland:— To THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING ADVERTISER. Sir,—My attention has been called this day to a paragraph in the Morning Advertiser of the 14th inst., which states:—”That if these noblemen (Lord Stratford de Radcliffe and Lord Westmoreland) were called on to state what has passed in writing between an illustrious personage and themselves, relating to the Eastern question, and to produce the correspondence, we have no doubt that disclosures would be made which would startle the people of England from their propriety.’ I lose no time in informing you that there is not the slightest foundation for the supposition therein contained. I have not had any communication, directly or indirectly, with the ‘illustrious personage’ alluded to since I first came to Vienna.
I never received a letter from the Prince containing one word upon politics, public men, or public affairs. The only letters with which his Royal Highness has honoured me have related to matters of art and benevolence. I feel satisfied that you will take an early opportunity of giving publicity to this contradiction of the report circulated in your paper.—Your obedient servant, “WESTMORELAND. Vienna, Jan. 22, 1854. Thus, whenever these allegations took a specific shape, it is obvious they could be at once contradicted, and that in a manner the most decided. His Royal Highness has never been in the habit of corresponding with Foreign Ministers. There was one instance, and I believe one only, in which it happened that a Minister at a foreign Court wrote to him, and His Royal Highness immediately sent the letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and desired to know what answer he advised him to return.
With respect to the Court of St. Petersburg, I believe that the only communications that have passed have been on matters of ordinary courtesy and civility, and that it is some time since that took place. On another occasion, when a near relation of Her Majesty, being the representative of Austria at the Court of St. Petersburg, was afflicted by a dangerous illness, Sir Hamilton Seymour, our Minister at that Court, wrote repeated accounts from day to day of the health of that relation. I have thus gone through these various allegations quite as far as it is proper and becoming that I should do so. I need hardly appeal to this House to consider, but I hope that the country will consider, what must be the position of the Prince as relates to Her Majesty. We have had two female sovereigns before, both of whose reigns were great and glorious in English history. Queen Elizabeth, no doubt, feeling that she would
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not like to divide her power, and that her mind and her fortitude and her ambition were fully equal to the conduct of all the affairs of this realm, never married, as the House knows. Queen Anne was married to a prince of no very distinguished intelligence; and we all know that while the policy of Marlborough prevailed great victories were gained, but that owing to a change of influence at the palace, to one lady supplanting another, these victories gave place to the convention of Utrecht. Her present Majesty is in a different position to either of these sovereigns. Her Majesty is married to a Prince of singular attainments, and their domestic life is as good an example to all the Queen’s subjects as Her constitutional conduct is a model for all sovereigns.
Would any men believe me if I were to say that, while thus united, the Queen never consulted with the Prince Consort—whose eminent qualifications I have described—with respect to affairs that nearly interest Her Majesty, that interest Her fortunes, and the fortunes of Her crown, the welfare of Her people, the happiness of Her interior life, and Her relations with many of those who are dear to Her? No one would believe me if I made such an assertion. I say, then, that I hope in future there will be no delusion upon this subject. There is no harm in telling the whole truth with regard to this matter; in saying that Her Majesty and the Prince are inseparably united, and that both with regard to public counsels, as with regard to private affairs, they have no greater comfort than in communicating with one another. And when the people of this country, always just in the end, have reflected upon these matters, I think that the result of these calumnies, base as they are, and of these delusions, blind as they have been, will be to attach the people of this country still more strongly to the Queen of those realms, and to give a firmer and a stronger foundation to the Throne.
Mr. Walpole—Sir, I am sure that the House and the country are indebted to the noble Lord for the manly, honourable, and able manner in which he has vindicated the Prince Consort from charges as calumnious, and in my opinion, as extravagant, as ever were urged against any man. It would be presumption in me to add much to the statement of the noble Lord; for, with regard to the specific charges brought against that illustrious personage, they have received a specific answer, and to my mind
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they are disposed of completely; and, with regard to the constitutional position occupied by His Royal Highness, I have no hesitation in saying publicly what I have often before expressed in private with reference to these calumnies—that I conceive there is, according to the constitution, not only no reason why every public and private matter should not be communicated to the Prince Consort by the Queen, but that it would be contrary to all good feeling to suppose that such communications should not take place. The only point which I wish to add to the statement of the noble Lord is this;—the noble Lord has assured the House that Her Majesty the Queen has, according to the constitution, invariably reposed the utmost confidence in the Ministers of her choice, beginning with Lord Melbourne, going on with Sir Robert Peel, and ending with himself.
I hope I may be allowed to supply the only omission in the noble Lord’s statement. On my honour, I can assert, on behalf of Lord Derby and his colleagues, that the same confidence was as frankly and as fully extended to them upon this point. I will say no more, because the noble Lord has so completely disposed of the whole of the case, that nothing is required for me to add. I do not desire to flatter the Prince; but I will not be deterred by the fear of that charge from stating what I believe to be the truth, nor will I detract one iota from the high and just praise which the noble Lord has given to the Consort of the Queen, whose intelligence, capacity, and conduct since he has been in this country, entitle him to every possible respect and esteem from all Her Majesty’s subjects.
Having disposed of that part of the speech of the noble Lord, perhaps the House will allow me to recall its attention to certain passages with which it commenced. The part of his speech to which I refer related to our foreign policy. In these passages the noble Lord has, supplied a great omission, which would otherwise have been remarked upon in the country, with respect to certain matters connected with Russia and Turkey. In the first place, the noble Lord has assured the House—and it will be satisfactory to the country to hear that assurance—that the last efforts at negotiations which have been going on between this country and foreign Powers have now brought the matter to a unanimous expression of opinion in which the four great Powers are agreed, and, as I understood the noble Lord, with the assent of Turkey. I conclude
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he refers to what is called the collective note, which, to my mind, whatever may be my opinion of former parts of the transaction, has put the matter on a better basis, by maintaining and vindicating the independent sovereignty and integrity of Turkey. Another satisfactory part of the noble Lord’s speech appeared to me to be that in which he supplied another omission in the Speech from the Throne, I mean the passage in which he referred to the disposition of the other Powers. I understand from his statement, that we may now expect, if not as certain, at least as possible, that the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia are concurring, or likely to concur, with France and England in the views they take on this question. That also was an important communication which I was glad to hear from the noble Lord. The noble Lord made a third observation equally important, though I cannot agree with him on the conclusions which he agree from it. He told us that he thought it was not only not detrimental, but that it was advantageous to this country and to Europe to protract negotiations as long as possible, if by these protracted negotiations peace could be secured, and the interests of the parties were not in the meantime impaired.
I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for reminding him, in connexion with this part of his speech, that it was while former negotiations were going on that the Pruth was crossed, in order to obtain “a material guarantee for peace”—a new term, I believe, in European diplomacy. And we should not shut our eyes to the fact, that it was while these negotiations were proceeding that the Principalities have been occupied, that contributions have been levied, and that martial law has been proclaimed there. Now I agree with the noble Lord that negotiations should be continued so long as there is a chance of peace being preserved, consistently with the security due to Turkey. But I hope that negotiations will not be continued if no better protection can be secured to Turkey than she has met with hitherto in the occupation of the Principalities and the disaster of Sinope. And now, Sir, I cannot refrain from making a passing observation with reference to the remarks which fell from the noble Lord on the subject of the Reform Bill. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) pointed out to the noble Lord the extreme inconvenience of discussing a measure of this kind, which may give rise to great difference of opinion, while we
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should be endeavouring to unite every person in this country—hand and heart—to stand by an ally unjustly attacked, and to prevent, if possible, any further injustice being perpetrated against her. I think the observation of my right hon. Friend was a just one; but at any rate I hope that the noble Lord will take the advice given him by my right hon. Friend in a previous observation—that is to say, that he will not confound electoral purification with Parliamentary reform or the reconstruction of the Commons House of Parliament; and that in the Bill about to be introduced, care will be taken not to give to any class in this country an unequally large share of the representation, especially if that class already possesses an undue proportion of it.
In my opinion, the noble Lord has hazarded a great deal in introducing this Reform Bill; and I should have thought it would have been wiser and safer, notwithstanding the pledges which the Ministers of the Crown have already given, if they had not proposed so exciting a measure as that of reform in the present state of affairs abroad. Moreover, I must say that I have considerable doubts, and always have entertained considerable doubts, whether further reform in the representation of the people is either desired, or likely to be beneficial. Nay, more, I will go on and say that if you propose a Reform Bill at all, you are bound to make good two propositions before you can expect the Parliament of this country to adopt it. The one is, that you do not make any unnecessary change in the constitution of the State, unless you are convinced that there are grievances and abuses which cannot be redressed without such a change.
Having established that (if you can establish it), the second proposition is, that when you make the change you propose, you must not introduce by it greater evils than those that you profess and intend to remedy. But, as I have already said, I do not wish to anticipate the discussion of this important question. I am sure that when the Bill is laid on the table of the House, it will have the consideration which its importance deserves; but I frankly own that I neither think the time convenient for the proposition of such a measure, nor do I think that the measure itself is at all required, for I doubt very much whether the constitution of Parliament will be really improved by further tampering with the distribution of the franchise, or by varying materially the
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proportions in which the different interests are now represented.
Committee appointed, “to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:”—Lord Castlerosse, Mr. Hankey, Lord John Russell, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Viscount Palmerston, Sir James Graham, Sir Charles Wood, Mr. Sidney Herbert, Sir William Molesworth, The Attorney General, The Solicitor General, Sir John Young, Mr. Cardwell, the Judge Advocate, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Hayter, and Mr. Bouverie, or any Five of them.
Queen’s Speech referred.
House adjourned at Eleven o’clock.