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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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This etext was prepared by Dr. Mike Alder and Sue Asscher
from the book made available by Dr. Mike Alder.













It was most reluctantly that I determined to suspend, during the
last autumn, a work which is the business and the pleasure of my
life, in order to prepare these Speeches for publication; and it
is most reluctantly that I now give them to the world. Even if I
estimated their oratorical merit much more highly than I do, I
should not willingly have revived, in the quiet times in which we
are so happy as to live, the memory of those fierce contentions
in which too many years of my public life were passed. Many
expressions which, when society was convulsed by political
dissensions, and when the foundations of government were shaking,
were heard by an excited audience with sympathy and applause,
may, now that the passions of all parties have subsided, be
thought intemperate and acrimonious. It was especially painful
to me to find myself under the necessity of recalling to my own
recollection, and to the recollection of others, the keen
encounters which took place between the late Sir Robert Peel and
myself. Some parts of the conduct of that eminent man I must
always think deserving of serious blame. But, on a calm review
of his long and chequered public life, I acknowledge, with
sincere pleasure, that his faults were much more than redeemed by
great virtues, great sacrifices, and great services. My
political hostility to him was never in the smallest degree
tainted by personal ill-will. After his fall from power a
cordial reconciliation took place between us: I admired the
wisdom, the moderation, the disinterested patriotism, which he
invariably showed during the last and best years of his life; I
lamented his untimely death, as both a private and a public
calamity; and I earnestly wished that the sharp words which had
sometimes been exchanged between us might be forgotten.

Unhappily an act, for which the law affords no redress, but which
I have no hesitation in pronouncing to be a gross injury to me
and a gross fraud on the public, has compelled me to do what I
should never have done willingly. A bookseller, named Vizetelly,
who seems to aspire to that sort of distinction which Curll
enjoyed a hundred and twenty years ago, thought fit, without
asking my consent, without even giving me any notice, to announce
an edition of my Speeches, and was not ashamed to tell the world
in his advertisement that he published them by special license.
When the book appeared, I found that it contained fifty-six
speeches, said to have been delivered by me in the House of
Commons. Of these speeches a few were reprinted from reports
which I had corrected for the Mirror of Parliament or the
Parliamentary Debates, and were therefore, with the exception of
some errors of the pen and the press, correctly given. The rest
bear scarcely the faintest resemblance to the speeches which I
really made. The substance of what I said is perpetually
misrepresented. The connection of the arguments is altogether
lost. Extravagant blunders are put into my mouth in almost every
page. An editor who was not grossly ignorant would have
perceived that no person to whom the House of Commons would
listen could possibly have been guilty of such blunders. An
editor who had the smallest regard for truth, or for the fame of
the person whose speeches he had undertaken to publish, would
have had recourse to the various sources of information which
were readily accessible, and, by collating them, would have
produced a book which would at least have contained no absolute
nonsense. But I have unfortunately had an editor whose only
object was to make a few pounds, and who was willing to sacrifice
to that object my reputation and his own. He took the very worst
report extant, compared it with no other report, removed no
blemish however obvious or however ludicrous, gave to the world
some hundreds of pages utterly contemptible both in matter and
manner, and prefixed my name to them. The least that he should
have done was to consult the files of The Times newspaper. I
have frequently done so, when I have noticed in his book any
passage more than ordinarily absurd; and I have almost invariably
found that in The Times newspaper, my meaning had been correctly
reported, though often in words different from those which I had

I could fill a volume with instances of the injustice with which
I have been treated. But I will confine myself to a single
speech, the speech on the Dissenters' Chapels Bill. I have
selected that speech, not because Mr Vizetelly's version of that
speech is worse than his versions of thirty or forty other
speeches, but because I have before me a report of that speech
which an honest and diligent editor would have thought it his
first duty to consult. The report of which I speak was published
by the Unitarian Dissenters, who were naturally desirous that
there should be an accurate record of what had passed in a debate
deeply interesting to them. It was not corrected by me: but it
generally, though not uniformly, exhibits with fidelity the
substance of what I said.

Mr Vizetelly makes me say that the principle of our Statutes of
Limitation was to be found in the legislation of the Mexicans and
Peruvians. That is a matter about which, as I know nothing, I
certainly said nothing. Neither in The Times nor in the
Unitarian report is there anything about Mexico or Peru.

Mr Vizetelly next makes me say that the principle of limitation
is found "amongst the Pandects of the Benares." Did my editor
believe that I uttered these words, and that the House of Commons
listened patiently to them? If he did, what must be thought of
his understanding? If he did not, was it the part of an honest
man to publish such gibberish as mine? The most charitable
supposition, which I therefore gladly adopt, is that Mr Vizetelly
saw nothing absurd in the expression which he has attributed to
me. The Benares he probably supposes to be some Oriental nation.
What he supposes their Pandects to be I shall not presume to
guess. If he had examined The Times, he would have found no
trace of the passage. The reporter, probably, did not catch what
I said, and, being more veracious than Mr Vizetelly, did not
choose to ascribe to me what I did not say. If Mr Vizetelly had
consulted the Unitarian report, he would have seen that I spoke
of the Pundits of Benares; and he might, without any very long or
costly research, have learned where Benares is, and what a Pundit

Mr Vizetelly then represents me as giving the House of Commons
some very extraordinary information about both the Calvinistic
and the Arminian Methodists. He makes me say that Whitfield held
and taught that the connection between Church and State was
sinful. Whitfield never held or taught any such thing; nor was I
so grossly ignorant of the life and character of that remarkable
man as to impute to him a doctrine which he would have abhorred.
Here again, both in The Times and in the Unitarian report, the
substance of what I said is correctly given.

Mr Vizetelly proceeds to put into my mouth a curious account of
the polity of the Wesleyan Methodists. He makes me say that,
after John Wesley's death, "the feeling in favour of the lay
administration of the Sacrament became very strong and very
general: a Conference was applied for, was constituted, and,
after some discussion, it was determined that the request should
be granted." Such folly could have been uttered only by a person
profoundly ignorant of the history of Methodism. Certainly
nothing of the sort was ever uttered by me; and nothing of the
sort will be found either in The Times or in the Unitarian

Mr Vizetelly makes me say that the Great Charter recognises the
principle of limitation, a thing which everybody who has read the
Great Charter knows not to be true. He makes me give an utterly
false history of Lord Nottingham's Occasional Conformity Bill.
But I will not weary my readers by proceeding further. These
samples will probably be thought sufficient. They all lie within
a compass of seven or eight pages. It will be observed that all
the faults which I have pointed out are grave faults of
substance. Slighter faults of substance are numerous. As to
faults of syntax and of style, hardly one sentence in a hundred
is free from them.

I cannot permit myself to be exhibited, in this ridiculous and
degrading manner, for the profit of an unprincipled man. I
therefore unwillingly, and in mere self-defence, give this volume
to the public. I have selected, to the best of my judgment, from
among my speeches, those which are the least unworthy to be
preserved. Nine of them were corrected by me while they were
still fresh in my memory, and appear almost word for word as they
were spoken. They are the speech of the second of March 1831,
the speech of the twentieth of September 1831, the speech of the
tenth of October 1831, the speech of the sixteenth of December
1831, the speech on the Anatomy Bill, the speech on the India
Bill, the speech on Serjeant Talfourd's Copyright Bill, the
speech on the Sugar Duties, and the speech on the Irish Church.
The substance of the remaining speeches I have given with perfect
ingenuousness. I have not made alterations for the purpose of
saving my own reputation either for consistency or for foresight.
I have not softened down the strong terms in which I formerly
expressed opinions which time and thought may have modified; nor
have I retouched my predictions in order to make them correspond
with subsequent events. Had I represented myself as speaking in
1831, in 1840, or in 1845, as I should speak in 1853, I should
have deprived my book of its chief value. This volume is now at
least a strictly honest record of opinions and reasonings which
were heard with favour by a large part of the Commons of England
at some important conjunctures; and such a record, however low it
may stand in the estimation of the literary critic, cannot but be
of use to the historian.

I do not pretend to give with accuracy the diction of those
speeches which I did not myself correct within a week after they
were delivered. Many expressions, and a few paragraphs, linger
in my memory. But the rest, including much that had been
carefully premeditated, is irrecoverably lost. Nor have I, in
this part of my task, derived much assistance from any report.
My delivery is, I believe, too rapid. Very able shorthand
writers have sometimes complained that they could not follow me,
and have contented themselves with setting down the substance of
what I said. As I am unable to recall the precise words which I
used, I have done my best to put my meaning into words which I
might have used.

I have only, in conclusion, to beg that the readers of this
Preface will pardon an egotism which a great wrong has made
necessary, and which is quite as disagreeable to myself as it can
be to them.


Parliamentary Reform. (March 2, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (July 5, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (September 20, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (October 10, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (December 16, 1831)

Anatomy Bill. (February 27, 1832)

Parliamentary Reform. (February 28, 1832)

Repeal of the Union with Ireland. (February 6, 1833)

Jewish Disabilities. (April 17, 1833)

Government of India. (July 10, 1833)

Edinburgh Election, 1839. (May 29, 1839)

Confidence in the Ministry of Lord Melbourne. (January 29, 1840)

War with China. (April 7, 1840)

Copyright. (February 5, 1841)

Copyright. (April 6, 1842)

The People's Charter. (May 3, 1842)

The Gates of Somnauth. (March 9, 1843)

The State of Ireland. (February 19, 1844)

Dissenters' Chapels Bill. (June 6, 1844)

The Sugar Duties. (February 26, 1845)

Maynooth. (April 14, 1845)

The Church of Ireland. (April 23, 1845)

Theological Tests in the Scotch Universities. (July 9, 1845)

Corn Laws. (December 2, 1845)

The Ten Hours Bill. (May 22, 1846)

The Literature of Britain. (November 4, 1846)

Education. (April 19, 1847)

Inaugural Speech at Glasgow College. (March 21, 1849)

Re-election to Parliament. (November 2, 1852)

Exclusion of Judges from the House of Commons. (June 1, 1853)




On Tuesday, the first of March, 1831, Lord John Russell moved the
House of Commons for leave to bring in a bill to amend the
representation of the people in England and Wales. The
discussion occupied seven nights. At length, on the morning of
Thursday, the tenth of March, the motion was carried without a
division. The following speech was made on the second night of
the debate.

It is a circumstance, Sir, of happy augury for the motion before
the House, that almost all those who have opposed it have
declared themselves hostile on principle to Parliamentary Reform.
Two Members, I think, have confessed that, though they disapprove
of the plan now submitted to us, they are forced to admit the
necessity of a change in the Representative system. Yet even
those gentleman have used, as far as I have observed, no
arguments which would not apply as strongly to the most moderate
change as to that which has been proposed by His Majesty's
Government. I say, Sir, that I consider this as a circumstance
of happy augury. For what I feared was, not the opposition of
those who are averse to all Reform, but the disunion of
reformers. I knew that, during three months, every reformer had
been employed in conjecturing what the plan of the Government
would be. I knew that every reformer had imagined in his own
mind a scheme differing doubtless in some points from that which
my noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, has developed. I
felt therefore great apprehension that one person would be
dissatisfied with one part of the bill, that another person would
be dissatisfied with another part, and that thus our whole
strength would be wasted in internal dissensions. That
apprehension is now at an end. I have seen with delight the
perfect concord which prevails among all who deserve the name of
reformers in this House; and I trust that I may consider it as an
omen of the concord which will prevail among reformers throughout
the country. I will not, Sir, at present express any opinion as
to the details of the bill; but, having during the last twenty-
four hours given the most diligent consideration to its general
principles, I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a wise, noble,
and comprehensive measure, skilfully framed for the healing of
great distempers, for the securing at once of the public
liberties, and of the public repose, and for the reconciling and
knitting together of all the orders of the State.

The honourable Baronet who has just sat down (Sir John Walsh.),
has told us, that the Ministers have attempted to unite two
inconsistent principles in one abortive measure. Those were his
very words. He thinks, if I understand him rightly, that we
ought either to leave the representative system such as it is, or
to make it perfectly symmetrical. I think, Sir, that the
Ministers would have acted unwisely if they had taken either
course. Their principle is plain, rational, and consistent. It
is this, to admit the middle class to a large and direct share in
the representation, without any violent shock to the institutions
of our country. I understand those cheers: but surely the
gentlemen who utter them will allow that the change which will be
made in our institutions by this bill is far less violent than
that which, according to the honourable Baronet, ought to be made
if we make any Reform at all. I praise the Ministers for not
attempting, at the present time, to make the representation
uniform. I praise them for not effacing the old distinction
between the towns and the counties, and for not assigning Members
to districts, according to the American practice, by the Rule of
Three. The Government has, in my opinion, done all that was
necessary for the removing of a great practical evil, and no more
than was necessary.

I consider this, Sir, as a practical question. I rest my opinion
on no general theory of government. I distrust all general
theories of government. I will not positively say, that there is
any form of polity which may not, in some conceivable
circumstances, be the best possible. I believe that there are
societies in which every man may safely be admitted to vote.
Gentlemen may cheer, but such is my opinion. I say, Sir, that
there are countries in which the condition of the labouring
classes is such that they may safely be intrusted with the right
of electing Members of the Legislature. If the labourers of
England were in that state in which I, from my soul, wish to see
them, if employment were always plentiful, wages always high,
food always cheap, if a large family were considered not as an
encumbrance but as a blessing, the principal objections to
Universal Suffrage would, I think, be removed. Universal
Suffrage exists in the United States, without producing any very
frightful consequences; and I do not believe that the people of
those States, or of any part of the world, are in any good
quality naturally superior to our own countrymen. But,
unhappily, the labouring classes in England, and in all old
countries, are occasionally in a state of great distress. Some
of the causes of this distress are, I fear, beyond the control of
the Government. We know what effect distress produces, even on
people more intelligent than the great body of the labouring
classes can possibly be. We know that it makes even wise men
irritable, unreasonable, credulous, eager for immediate relief,
heedless of remote consequences. There is no quackery in
medicine, religion, or politics, which may not impose even on a
powerful mind, when that mind has been disordered by pain or
fear. It is therefore no reflection on the poorer class of
Englishmen, who are not, and who cannot in the nature of things
be, highly educated, to say that distress produces on them its
natural effects, those effects which it would produce on the
Americans, or on any other people, that it blinds their judgment,
that it inflames their passions, that it makes them prone to
believe those who flatter them, and to distrust those who would
serve them. For the sake, therefore, of the whole society, for
the sake of the labouring classes themselves, I hold it to be
clearly expedient that, in a country like this, the right of
suffrage should depend on a pecuniary qualification.

But, Sir, every argument which would induce me to oppose
Universal Suffrage, induces me to support the plan which is now
before us. I am opposed to Universal Suffrage, because I think
that it would produce a destructive revolution. I support this
plan, because I am sure that it is our best security against a
revolution. The noble Paymaster of the Forces hinted, delicately
indeed and remotely, at this subject. He spoke of the danger of
disappointing the expectations of the nation; and for this he was
charged with threatening the House. Sir, in the year 1817, the
late Lord Londonderry proposed a suspension of the Habeas Corpus
Act. On that occasion he told the House that, unless the
measures which he recommended were adopted, the public peace
could not be preserved. Was he accused of threatening the House?
Again, in the year 1819, he proposed the laws known by the name
of the Six Acts. He then told the House that, unless the
executive power were reinforced, all the institutions of the
country would be overturned by popular violence. Was he then
accused of threatening the House? Will any gentleman say that it
is parliamentary and decorous to urge the danger arising from
popular discontent as an argument for severity; but that it is
unparliamentary and indecorous to urge that same danger as an
argument for conciliation? I, Sir, do entertain great
apprehension for the fate of my country. I do in my conscience
believe that, unless the plan proposed, or some similar plan, be
speedily adopted, great and terrible calamities will befall us.
Entertaining this opinion, I think myself bound to state it, not
as a threat, but as a reason. I support this bill because it
will improve our institutions; but I support it also because it
tends to preserve them. That we may exclude those whom it is
necessary to exclude, we must admit those whom it may be safe to
admit. At present we oppose the schemes of revolutionists with
only one half, with only one quarter of our proper force. We
say, and we say justly, that it is not by mere numbers, but by
property and intelligence, that the nation ought to be governed.
Yet, saying this, we exclude from all share in the government
great masses of property and intelligence, great numbers of those
who are most interested in preserving tranquillity, and who know
best how to preserve it. We do more. We drive over to the side
of revolution those whom we shut out from power. Is this a time
when the cause of law and order can spare one of its natural

My noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, happily described
the effect which some parts of our representative system would
produce on the mind of a foreigner, who had heard much of our
freedom and greatness. If, Sir, I wished to make such a
foreigner clearly understand what I consider as the great defects
of our system, I would conduct him through that immense city
which lies to the north of Great Russell Street and Oxford
Street, a city superior in size and in population to the capitals
of many mighty kingdoms; and probably superior in opulence,
intelligence, and general respectability, to any city in the
world. I would conduct him through that interminable succession
of streets and squares, all consisting of well built and well
furnished houses. I would make him observe the brilliancy of the
shops, and the crowd of well-appointed equipages. I would show
him that magnificent circle of palaces which surrounds the
Regent's Park. I would tell him that the rental of this district
was far greater than that of the whole kingdom of Scotland, at
the time of the Union. And then I would tell him that this was
an unrepresented district. It is needless to give any more
instances. It is needless to speak of Manchester, Birmingham,
Leeds, Sheffield, with no representation, or of Edinburgh and
Glasgow with a mock representation. If a property tax were now
imposed on the principle that no person who had less than a
hundred and fifty pounds a year should contribute, I should not
be surprised to find that one half in number and value of the
contributors had no votes at all; and it would, beyond all doubt,
be found that one fiftieth part in number and value of the
contributors had a larger share of the representation than the
other forty-nine fiftieths. This is not government by property.
It is government by certain detached portions and fragments of
property, selected from the rest, and preferred to the rest, on
no rational principle whatever.

To say that such a system is ancient, is no defence. My
honourable friend, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir
Robert Harry Inglis.), challenges us to show that the
Constitution was ever better than it is. Sir, we are
legislators, not antiquaries. The question for us is, not
whether the Constitution was better formerly, but whether we can
make it better now. In fact, however, the system was not in
ancient times by any means so absurd as it is in our age. One
noble Lord (Lord Stormont.) has to-night told us that the town of
Aldborough, which he represents, was not larger in the time of
Edward the First than it is at present. The line of its walls,
he assures us, may still be traced. It is now built up to that
line. He argues, therefore, that as the founders of our
representative institutions gave members to Aldborough when it
was as small as it now is, those who would disfranchise it on
account of its smallness have no right to say that they are
recurring to the original principle of our representative
institutions. But does the noble Lord remember the change which
has taken place in the country during the last five centuries?
Does he remember how much England has grown in population, while
Aldborough has been standing still? Does he consider, that in
the time of Edward the First, the kingdom did not contain two
millions of inhabitants? It now contains nearly fourteen
millions. A hamlet of the present day would have been a town of
some importance in the time of our early Parliaments. Aldborough
may be absolutely as considerable a place as ever. But compared
with the kingdom, it is much less considerable, by the noble
Lord's own showing, than when it first elected burgesses. My
honourable friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, has
collected numerous instances of the tyranny which the kings and
nobles anciently exercised, both over this House and over the
electors. It is not strange that, in times when nothing was held
sacred, the rights of the people, and of the representatives of
the people, should not have been held sacred. The proceedings
which my honourable friend has mentioned, no more prove that, by
the ancient constitution of the realm, this House ought to be a
tool of the king and of the aristocracy, than the Benevolences
and the Shipmoney prove their own legality, or than those
unjustifiable arrests which took place long after the
ratification of the great Charter and even after the Petition of
Right, prove that the subject was not anciently entitled to his
personal liberty. We talk of the wisdom of our ancestors: and
in one respect at least they were wiser than we. They legislated
for their own times. They looked at the England which was before
them. They did not think it necessary to give twice as many
Members to York as they gave to London, because York had been the
capital of Britain in the time of Constantius Chlorus; and they
would have been amazed indeed if they had foreseen, that a city
of more than a hundred thousand inhabitants would be left without
Representatives in the nineteenth century, merely because it
stood on ground which in the thirteenth century had been occupied
by a few huts. They framed a representative system, which,
though not without defects and irregularities, was well adapted
to the state of England in their time. But a great revolution
took place. The character of the old corporations changed. New
forms of property came into existence. New portions of society
rose into importance. There were in our rural districts rich
cultivators, who were not freeholders. There were in our capital
rich traders, who were not liverymen. Towns shrank into
villages. Villages swelled into cities larger than the London of
the Plantagenets. Unhappily while the natural growth of society
went on, the artificial polity continued unchanged. The ancient
form of the representation remained; and precisely because the
form remained, the spirit departed. Then came that pressure
almost to bursting, the new wine in the old bottles, the new
society under the old institutions. It is now time for us to pay
a decent, a rational, a manly reverence to our ancestors, not by
superstitiously adhering to what they, in other circumstances,
did, but by doing what they, in our circumstances, would have
done. All history is full of revolutions, produced by causes
similar to those which are now operating in England. A portion
of the community which had been of no account expands and becomes
strong. It demands a place in the system, suited, not to its
former weakness, but to its present power. If this is granted,
all is well. If this is refused, then comes the struggle between
the young energy of one class and the ancient privileges of
another. Such was the struggle between the Plebeians and the
Patricians of Rome. Such was the struggle of the Italian allies
for admission to the full rights of Roman citizens. Such was the
struggle of our North American colonies against the mother
country. Such was the struggle which the Third Estate of France
maintained against the aristocracy of birth. Such was the
struggle which the Roman Catholics of Ireland maintained against
the aristocracy of creed. Such is the struggle which the free
people of colour in Jamaica are now maintaining against the
aristocracy of skin. Such, finally, is the struggle which the
middle classes in England are maintaining against an aristocracy
of mere locality, against an aristocracy the principle of which
is to invest a hundred drunken potwallopers in one place, or the
owner of a ruined hovel in another, with powers which are
withheld from cities renowned to the furthest ends of the earth,
for the marvels of their wealth and of their industry.

But these great cities, says my honourable friend the Member for
the University of Oxford, are virtually, though not directly,
represented. Are not the wishes of Manchester, he asks, as much
consulted as those of any town which sends Members to Parliament?
Now, Sir, I do not understand how a power which is salutary when
exercised virtually can be noxious when exercised directly. If
the wishes of Manchester have as much weight with us as they
would have under a system which should give Representatives to
Manchester, how can there be any danger in giving Representatives
to Manchester? A virtual Representative is, I presume, a man who
acts as a direct Representative would act: for surely it would
be absurd to say that a man virtually represents the people of
Manchester, who is in the habit of saying No, when a man directly
representing the people of Manchester would say Aye. The utmost
that can be expected from virtual Representation is that it may
be as good as direct Representation. If so, why not grant direct
Representation to places which, as everybody allows, ought, by
some process or other, to be represented?

If it be said that there is an evil in change as change, I answer
that there is also an evil in discontent as discontent. This,
indeed, is the strongest part of our case. It is said that the
system works well. I deny it. I deny that a system works well,
which the people regard with aversion. We may say here, that it
is a good system and a perfect system. But if any man were to
say so to any six hundred and fifty-eight respectable farmers or
shopkeepers, chosen by lot in any part of England, he would be
hooted down, and laughed to scorn. Are these the feelings with
which any part of the government ought to be regarded? Above
all, are these the feelings with which the popular branch of the
legislature ought to be regarded? It is almost as essential to
the utility of a House of Commons, that it should possess the
confidence of the people, as that it should deserve that
confidence. Unfortunately, that which is in theory the popular
part of our government, is in practice the unpopular part. Who
wishes to dethrone the King? Who wishes to turn the Lords out of
their House? Here and there a crazy radical, whom the boys in
the street point at as he walks along. Who wishes to alter the
constitution of this House? The whole people. It is natural
that it should be so. The House of Commons is, in the language
of Mr Burke, a check, not on the people, but for the people.
While that check is efficient, there is no reason to fear that
the King or the nobles will oppress the people. But if the check
requires checking, how is it to be checked? If the salt shall
lose its savour, wherewith shall we season it? The distrust with
which the nation regards this House may be unjust. But what
then? Can you remove that distrust? That it exists cannot be
denied. That it is an evil cannot be denied. That it is an
increasing evil cannot be denied. One gentleman tells us that it
has been produced by the late events in France and Belgium;
another, that it is the effect of seditious works which have
lately been published. If this feeling be of origin so recent, I
have read history to little purpose. Sir, this alarming
discontent is not the growth of a day or of a year. If there be
any symptoms by which it is possible to distinguish the chronic
diseases of the body politic from its passing inflammations, all
those symptoms exist in the present case. The taint has been
gradually becoming more extensive and more malignant, through the
whole lifetime of two generations. We have tried anodynes. We
have tried cruel operations. What are we to try now? Who
flatters himself that he can turn this feeling back? Does there
remain any argument which escaped the comprehensive intellect of
Mr Burke, or the subtlety of Mr Windham? Does there remain any
species of coercion which was not tried by Mr Pitt and by Lord
Londonderry? We have had laws. We have had blood. New treasons
have been created. The Press has been shackled. The Habeas
Corpus Act has been suspended. Public meetings have been
prohibited. The event has proved that these expedients were mere
palliatives. You are at the end of your palliatives. The evil
remains. It is more formidable than ever. What is to be done?

Under such circumstances, a great plan of reconciliation,
prepared by the Ministers of the Crown, has been brought before
us in a manner which gives additional lustre to a noble name,
inseparably associated during two centuries with the dearest
liberties of the English people. I will not say, that this plan
is in all its details precisely such as I might wish it to be;
but it is founded on a great and a sound principle. It takes
away a vast power from a few. It distributes that power through
the great mass of the middle order. Every man, therefore, who
thinks as I think is bound to stand firmly by Ministers who are
resolved to stand or fall with this measure. Were I one of them,
I would sooner, infinitely sooner, fall with such a measure than
stand by any other means that ever supported a Cabinet.

My honourable friend, the Member for the University of Oxford,
tells us, that if we pass this law, England will soon be a
republic. The reformed House of Commons will, according to him,
before it has sate ten years, depose the King, and expel the
Lords from their House. Sir, if my honourable friend could prove
this, he would have succeeded in bringing an argument for
democracy, infinitely stronger than any that is to be found in
the works of Paine. My honourable friend's proposition is in
fact this: that our monarchical and aristocratical institutions
have no hold on the public mind of England; that these
institutions are regarded with aversion by a decided majority of
the middle class. This, Sir, I say, is plainly deducible from
his proposition; for he tells us that the Representatives of the
middle class will inevitably abolish royalty and nobility within
ten years: and there is surely no reason to think that the
Representatives of the middle class will be more inclined to a
democratic revolution than their constituents. Now, Sir, if I
were convinced that the great body of the middle class in England
look with aversion on monarchy and aristocracy, I should be
forced, much against my will, to come to this conclusion, that
monarchical and aristocratical institutions are unsuited to my
country. Monarchy and aristocracy, valuable and useful as I
think them, are still valuable and useful as means, and not as
ends. The end of government is the happiness of the people: and
I do not conceive that, in a country like this, the happiness of
the people can be promoted by a form of government in which the
middle classes place no confidence, and which exists only because
the middle classes have no organ by which to make their
sentiments known. But, Sir, I am fully convinced that the middle
classes sincerely wish to uphold the Royal prerogatives and the
constitutional rights of the Peers. What facts does my
honourable friend produce in support of his opinion? One fact
only; and that a fact which has absolutely nothing to do with the
question. The effect of this Reform, he tells us, would be to
make the House of Commons allpowerful. It was allpowerful once
before, in the beginning of 1649. Then it cut off the head of
the King, and abolished the House of Peers. Therefore, if it
again has the supreme power, it will act in the same manner.
Now, Sir, it was not the House of Commons that cut off the head
of Charles the First; nor was the House of Commons then
allpowerful. It had been greatly reduced in numbers by
successive expulsions. It was under the absolute dominion of the
army. A majority of the House was willing to take the terms
offered by the King. The soldiers turned out the majority; and
the minority, not a sixth part of the whole House, passed those
votes of which my honourable friend speaks, votes of which the
middle classes disapproved then, and of which they disapprove

My honourable friend, and almost all the gentlemen who have taken
the same side with him in this Debate, have dwelt much on the
utility of close and rotten boroughs. It is by means of such
boroughs, they tell us, that the ablest men have been introduced
into Parliament. It is true that many distinguished persons have
represented places of this description. But, Sir, we must judge
of a form of government by its general tendency, not by happy
accidents. Every form of government has its happy accidents.
Despotism has its happy accidents. Yet we are not disposed to
abolish all constitutional checks, to place an absolute master
over us, and to take our chance whether he may be a Caligula or a
Marcus Aurelius. In whatever way the House of Commons may be
chosen, some able men will be chosen in that way who would not be
chosen in any other way. If there were a law that the hundred
tallest men in England should be Members of Parliament, there
would probably be some able men among those who would come into
the House by virtue of this law. If the hundred persons whose
names stand first in the alphabetical list of the Court Guide
were made Members of Parliament, there would probably be able men
among them. We read in ancient history, that a very able king
was elected by the neighing of his horse; but we shall scarcely,
I think, adopt this mode of election. In one of the most
celebrated republics of antiquity, Athens, Senators and
Magistrates were chosen by lot; and sometimes the lot fell
fortunately. Once, for example, Socrates was in office. A cruel
and unjust proposition was made by a demagogue. Socrates
resisted it at the hazard of his own life. There is no event in
Grecian history more interesting than that memorable resistance.
Yet who would have officers appointed by lot, because the
accident of the lot may have given to a great and good man a
power which he would probably never have attained in any other
way? We must judge, as I said, by the general tendency of a
system. No person can doubt that a House of Commons chosen
freely by the middle classes, will contain many very able men. I
do not say, that precisely the same able men who would find their
way into the present House of Commons will find their way into
the reformed House: but that is not the question. No particular
man is necessary to the State. We may depend on it that, if we
provide the country with popular institutions, those institutions
will provide it with great men.

There is another objection, which, I think, was first raised by
the honourable and learned Member for Newport. (Mr Horace
Twiss.) He tells us that the elective franchise is property;
that to take it away from a man who has not been judicially
convicted of malpractices is robbery; that no crime is proved
against the voters in the close boroughs; that no crime is even
imputed to them in the preamble of the bill; and that therefore
to disfranchise them without compensation would be an act of
revolutionary tyranny. The honourable and learned gentleman has
compared the conduct of the present Ministers to that of those
odious tools of power, who, towards the close of the reign of
Charles the Second, seized the charters of the Whig corporations.
Now, there was another precedent, which I wonder that he did not
recollect, both because it is much more nearly in point than that
to which he referred, and because my noble friend, the Paymaster
of the Forces, had previously alluded to it. If the elective
franchise is property, if to disfranchise voters without a crime
proved, or a compensation given, be robbery, was there ever such
an act of robbery as the disfranchising of the Irish forty-
shilling freeholders? Was any pecuniary compensation given to
them? Is it declared in the preamble of the bill which took away
their franchise, that they had been convicted of any offence?
Was any judicial inquiry instituted into their conduct? Were
they even accused of any crime? Or if you say that it was a
crime in the electors of Clare to vote for the honourable and
learned gentleman who now represents the county of Waterford, was
a Protestant freeholder in Louth to be punished for the crime of
a Catholic freeholder in Clare? If the principle of the
honourable and learned Member for Newport be sound, the franchise
of the Irish peasant was property. That franchise the Ministers
under whom the honourable and learned Member held office did not
scruple to take away. Will he accuse those Ministers of robbery?
If not, how can he bring such an accusation against their

Every gentleman, I think, who has spoken from the other side of
the House, has alluded to the opinions which some of His
Majesty's Ministers formerly entertained on the subject of
Reform. It would be officious in me, Sir, to undertake the
defence of gentlemen who are so well able to defend themselves.
I will only say that, in my opinion, the country will not think
worse either of their capacity or of their patriotism, because
they have shown that they can profit by experience, because they
have learned to see the folly of delaying inevitable changes.
There are others who ought to have learned the same lesson. I
say, Sir, that there are those who, I should have thought, must
have had enough to last them all their lives of that humiliation
which follows obstinate and boastful resistance to changes
rendered necessary by the progress of society, and by the
development of the human mind. Is it possible that those persons
can wish again to occupy a position which can neither be defended
nor surrendered with honour? I well remember, Sir, a certain
evening in the month of May, 1827. I had not then the honour of
a seat in this House; but I was an attentive observer of its
proceedings. The right honourable Baronet opposite (Sir Robert
Peel), of whom personally I desire to speak with that high
respect which I feel for his talents and his character, but of
whose public conduct I must speak with the sincerity required by
my public duty, was then, as he is now, out of office. He had
just resigned the seals of the Home Department, because he
conceived that the recent ministerial arrangements had been too
favourable to the Catholic claims. He rose to ask whether it was
the intention of the new Cabinet to repeal the Test and
Corporation Acts, and to reform the Parliament. He bound up, I
well remember, those two questions together; and he declared
that, if the Ministers should either attempt to repeal the Test
and Corporation Acts, or bring forward a measure of Parliamentary
Reform, he should think it his duty to oppose them to the utmost.
Since that declaration was made four years have elapsed; and what
is now the state of the three questions which then chiefly
agitated the minds of men? What is become of the Test and
Corporation Acts? They are repealed. By whom? By the right
honourable Baronet. What has become of the Catholic
disabilities? They are removed. By whom? By the right
honourable Baronet. The question of Parliamentary Reform is
still behind. But signs, of which it is impossible to
misconceive the import, do most clearly indicate that unless that
question also be speedily settled, property, and order, and all
the institutions of this great monarchy, will be exposed to
fearful peril. Is it possible that gentlemen long versed in high
political affairs cannot read these signs? Is it possible that
they can really believe that the Representative system of
England, such as it now is, will last to the year 1860? If not,
for what would they have us wait? Would they have us wait merely
that we may show to all the world how little we have profited by
our own recent experience?--Would they have us wait, that we may
once again hit the exact point where we can neither refuse with
authority, nor concede with grace? Would they have us wait, that
the numbers of the discontented party may become larger, its
demands higher, its feelings more acrimonious, its organisation
more complete? Would they have us wait till the whole
tragicomedy of 1827 has been acted over again? till they have
been brought into office by a cry of 'No Reform,' to be
reformers, as they were once before brought into office by a cry
of 'No Popery,' to be emancipators? Have they obliterated from
their minds--gladly, perhaps, would some among them obliterate
from their minds--the transactions of that year? And have they
forgotten all the transactions of the succeeding year? Have they
forgotten how the spirit of liberty in Ireland, debarred from its
natural outlet, found a vent by forbidden passages? Have they
forgotten how we were forced to indulge the Catholics in all the
license of rebels, merely because we chose to withhold from them
the liberties of subjects? Do they wait for associations more
formidable than that of the Corn Exchange, for contributions
larger than the Rent, for agitators more violent than those who,
three years ago, divided with the King and the Parliament the
sovereignty of Ireland? Do they wait for that last and most
dreadful paroxysm of popular rage, for that last and most cruel
test of military fidelity? Let them wait, if their past
experience shall induce them to think that any high honour or any
exquisite pleasure is to be obtained by a policy like this. Let
them wait, if this strange and fearful infatuation be indeed upon
them, that they should not see with their eyes, or hear with
their ears, or understand with their heart. But let us know our
interest and our duty better. Turn where we may, within, around,
the voice of great events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that you
may preserve. Now, therefore, while everything at home and
abroad forebodes ruin to those who persist in a hopeless struggle
against the spirit of the age, now, while the crash of the
proudest throne of the Continent is still resounding in our ears,
now, while the roof of a British palace affords an ignominious
shelter to the exiled heir of forty kings, now, while we see on
every side ancient institutions subverted, and great societies
dissolved, now, while the heart of England is still sound, now,
while old feelings and old associations retain a power and a
charm which may too soon pass away, now, in this your accepted
time, now, in this your day of salvation, take counsel, not of
prejudice, not of party spirit, not of the ignominious pride of a
fatal consistency, but of history, of reason, of the ages which
are past, of the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce
in a manner worthy of the expectation with which this great
debate has been anticipated, and of the long remembrance which it
will leave behind. Renew the youth of the State. Save property,
divided against itself. Save the multitude, endangered by its
own unpopular power. Save the greatest, and fairest, and most
highly civilised community that ever existed, from calamities
which may in a few days sweep away all the rich heritage of so
many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger is terrible. The time
is short. If this bill should be rejected, I pray to God that
none of those who concur in rejecting it may ever remember their
votes with unavailing remorse, amidst the wreck of laws, the
confusion of ranks, the spoliation of property, and the
dissolution of social order.




On Tuesday, the fourth of July, 1831, Lord John Russell moved the
second reading of the Bill to amend the representation of the
people in England and Wales. Sir John Walsh, member for Sudbury,
moved, as an amendment, that the bill should be read that day six
months. After a discussion, which lasted three nights, the
amendment was rejected by 367 votes to 231, and the original
motion was carried. The following Speech was made on the second
night of the debate.

Nobody, Sir, who has watched the course of the debate can have
failed to observe that the gentlemen who oppose this bill have
chiefly relied on a preliminary objection, which it is necessary
to clear away before we proceed to examine whether the proposed
changes in our representative system would or would not be
improvements. The elective franchise, we are told, is private
property. It belongs to this freeman, to that potwalloper, to
the owner of this house, to the owner of that old wall; and you
have no more right to take it away without compensation than to
confiscate the dividends of a fundholder or the rents of a

Now, Sir, I admit that, if this objection be well founded, it is
decisive against the plan of Reform which has been submitted to
us. If the franchise be really private property, we have no more
right to take members away from Gatton because Gatton is small,
and to give them to Manchester because Manchester is large, than
Cyrus, in the old story, had to take away the big coat from the
little boy and to put it on the big boy. In no case, and under
no pretext however specious, would I take away from any member of
the community anything which is of the nature of property,
without giving him full compensation. But I deny that the
elective franchise is of the nature of property; and I believe
that, on this point, I have with me all reason, all precedent,
and all authority. This at least is certain, that, if
disfranchisement really be robbery, the representative system
which now exists is founded on robbery. How was the franchise in
the English counties fixed? By the act of Henry the Sixth, which
disfranchised tens of thousands of electors who had not forty
shilling freeholds. Was that robbery? How was the franchise in
the Irish counties fixed? By the act of George the Fourth, which
disfranchised tens of thousands of electors who had not ten pound
freeholds. Was that robbery? Or was the great parliamentary
reform made by Oliver Cromwell ever designated as robbery, even
by those who most abhorred his name? Everybody knows that the
unsparing manner in which he disfranchised small boroughs was
emulously applauded, by royalists, who hated him for having
pulled down one dynasty, and by republicans, who hated him for
having founded another. Take Sir Harry Vane and Lord Clarendon,
both wise men, both, I believe, in the main, honest men, but as
much opposed to each other in politics as wise and honest men
could be. Both detested Oliver; yet both approved of Oliver's
plan of parliamentary reform. They grieved only that so salutary
a change should have been made by an usurper. Vane wished it to
have been made by the Rump; Clarendon wished it to be made by the
King. Clarendon's language on this subject is most remarkable.
For he was no rash innovator. The bias of his mind was
altogether on the side of antiquity and prescription. Yet he
describes that great disfranchisement of boroughs as an
improvement fit to be made in a more warrantable method and at a
better time. This is that better time. What Cromwell attempted
to effect by an usurped authority, in a country which had lately
been convulsed by civil war, and which was with difficulty kept
in a state of sullen tranquillity by military force, it has
fallen to our lot to accomplish in profound peace, and under the
rule of a prince whose title is unquestioned, whose office is
reverenced, and whose person is beloved. It is easy to conceive
with what scorn and astonishment Clarendon would have heard it
said that the reform which seemed to him so obviously just and
reasonable that he praised it, even when made by a regicide,
could not, without the grossest iniquity, be made even by a
lawful King and a lawful Parliament.

Sir, in the name of the institution of property, of that great
institution, for the sake of which, chiefly, all other
institutions exist, of that great institution to which we owe all
knowledge, all commerce, all industry, all civilisation, all that
makes us to differ from the tattooed savages of the Pacific
Ocean, I protest against the pernicious practice of ascribing to
that which is not property the sanctity which belongs to property
alone. If, in order to save political abuses from that fate with
which they are threatened by the public hatred, you claim for
them the immunities of property, you must expect that property
will be regarded with some portion of the hatred which is excited
by political abuses. You bind up two very different things, in
the hope that they may stand together. Take heed that they do
not fall together. You tell the people that it is as unjust to
disfranchise a great lord's nomination borough as to confiscate
his estate. Take heed that you do not succeed in convincing weak
and ignorant minds that there is no more injustice in
confiscating his estate than in disfranchising his borough. That
this is no imaginary danger, your own speeches in this debate
abundantly prove. You begin by ascribing to the franchises of
Old Sarum the sacredness of property; and you end, naturally
enough, I must own, by treating the rights of property as lightly
as I should be inclined to treat the franchises of Old Sarum.
When you are reminded that you voted, only two years ago, for
disfranchising great numbers of freeholders in Ireland, and when
you are asked how, on the principles which you now profess, you
can justify that vote, you answer very coolly, "no doubt that was
confiscation. No doubt we took away from the peasants of Munster
and Connaught, without giving them a farthing of compensation,
that which was as much their property as their pigs or their
frieze coats. But we did it for the public good. We were
pressed by a great State necessity." Sir, if that be an answer,
we too may plead that we too have the public good in view, and
that we are pressed by a great State necessity. But I shall
resort to no such plea. It fills me with indignation and alarm
to hear grave men avow what they own to be downright robbery, and
justify that robbery on the ground of political convenience. No,
Sir, there is one way, and only one way, in which those gentlemen
who voted for the disfranchising Act of 1829 can clear their
fame. Either they have no defence, or their defence must be
this; that the elective franchise is not of the nature of
property, and that therefore disfranchisement is not spoliation.

Having disposed, as I think, of the question of right, I come to
the question of expediency. I listened, Sir, with much interest
and pleasure to a noble Lord who spoke for the first time in this
debate. (Lord Porchester.) But I must own that he did not
succeed in convincing me that there is any real ground for the
fears by which he is tormented. He gave us a history of France
since the Restoration. He told us of the violent ebbs and flows
of public feeling in that country. He told us that the
revolutionary party was fast rising to ascendency while M. De
Cazes was minister; that then came a violent reaction in favour
of the monarchy and the priesthood; that then the revolutionary
party again became dominant; that there had been a change of
dynasty; and that the Chamber of Peers had ceased to be a
hereditary body. He then predicted, if I understood him rightly,
that, if we pass this bill, we shall suffer all that France has
suffered; that we shall have violent contests between extreme
parties, a revolution, and an abolition of the House of Lords. I
might, perhaps, dispute the accuracy of some parts of the noble
Lord's narrative. But I deny that his narrative, accurate or
inaccurate, is relevant. I deny that there is any analogy
between the state of France and the state of England. I deny
that there is here any great party which answers either to the
revolutionary or to the counter-revolutionary party in France. I
most emphatically deny that there is any resemblance in the
character, and that there is likely to be any resemblance in the
fate, of the two Houses of Peers. I always regarded the
hereditary Chamber established by Louis the Eighteenth as an
institution which could not last. It was not in harmony with the
state of property; it was not in harmony with the public feeling;
it had neither the strength which is derived from wealth, nor the
strength which is derived from prescription. It was despised as
plebeian by the ancient nobility. It was hated as patrician by
the democrats. It belonged neither to the old France nor to the
new France. It was a mere exotic transplanted from our island.
Here it had struck its roots deep, and having stood during ages,
was still green and vigorous. But it languished in the foreign
soil and the foreign air, and was blown down by the first storm.
It will be no such easy task to uproot the aristocracy of

With much more force, at least with much more plausibility, the
noble Lord and several other members on the other side of the
House have argued against the proposed Reform on the ground that
the existing system has worked well. How great a country, they
say, is ours! How eminent in wealth and knowledge, in arts and
arms! How much admired! How much envied! Is it possible to
believe that we have become what we are under a bad government!
And, if we have a good government, why alter it? Now, Sir, I am
very far from denying that England is great, and prosperous, and
highly civilised. I am equally far from denying that she owes
much of her greatness, of her prosperity, and of her civilisation
to her form of government. But is no nation ever to reform its
institutions because it has made great progress under those
institutions? Why, Sir, the progress is the very thing which
makes the reform absolutely necessary. The Czar Peter, we all
know, did much for Russia. But for his rude genius and energy,
that country might have still been utterly barbarous. Yet would
it be reasonable to say that the Russian people ought always, to
the end of time, to be despotically governed, because the Czar
Peter was a despot? Let us remember that the government and the
society act and react on each other. Sometimes the government is
in advance of the society, and hurries the society forward. So
urged, the society gains on the government, comes up with the
government, outstrips the government, and begins to insist that
the government shall make more speed. If the government is wise,
it will yield to that just and natural demand. The great cause
of revolutions is this, that while nations move onward,
constitutions stand still. The peculiar happiness of England is
that here, through many generations, the constitution has moved
onward with the nation. Gentlemen have told us, that the most
illustrious foreigners have, in every age, spoken with admiration
of the English constitution. Comines, they say, in the fifteenth
century, extolled the English constitution as the best in the
world. Montesquieu, in the eighteenth century, extolled it as
the best in the world. And would it not be madness in us to
throw away what such men thought the most precious of all our
blessings? But was the constitution which Montesquieu praised
the same with the constitution which Comines praised? No, Sir;
if it had been so, Montesquieu never would have praised it. For
how was it possible that a polity which exactly suited the
subjects of Edward the Fourth should have exactly suited the
subjects of George the Second? The English have, it is true,
long been a great and a happy people. But they have been great
and happy because their history has been the history of a
succession of timely reforms. The Great Charter, the assembling
of the first House of Commons, the Petition of Right, the
Declaration of Right, the Bill which is now on our table, what
are they all but steps in one great progress? To every one of
those steps the same objections might have been made which we
heard to-night, "You are better off than your neighbours are.
You are better off than your fathers were. Why can you not leave
well alone?"

How copiously might a Jacobite orator have harangued on this
topic in the Convention of 1688! "Why make a change of dynasty?
Why trouble ourselves to devise new securities for our laws and
liberties? See what a nation we are. See how population and
wealth have increased since what you call the good old times of
Queen Elizabeth. You cannot deny that the country has been more
prosperous under the kings of the House of Stuart than under any
of their predecessors. Keep that House, then, and be thankful."
Just such is the reasoning of the opponents of this bill. They
tell us that we are an ungrateful people, and that, under
institutions from which we have derived inestimable benefits, we
are more discontented than the slaves of the Dey of Tripoli.
Sir, if we had been slaves of the Dey of Tripoli, we should have
been too much sunk in intellectual and moral degradation to be
capable of the rational and manly discontent of freemen. It is
precisely because our institutions are so good that we are not
perfectly contended with them; for they have educated us into a
capacity for enjoying still better institutions. That the
English Government has generally been in advance of almost all
other governments is true. But it is equally true that the
English nation is, and has during some time been, in advance of
the English Government. One plain proof of this is, that nothing
is so ill made in our island as the laws. In all those things
which depend on the intelligence, the knowledge, the industry,
the energy of individuals, or of voluntary combinations of
individuals, this country stands pre-eminent among all the
countries of the world, ancient and modern. But in those things
which it belongs to the State to direct, we have no such claim to
superiority. Our fields are cultivated with a skill unknown
elsewhere, with a skill which has extorted rich harvests from
moors and morasses. Our houses are filled with conveniences
which the kings of former times might have envied. Our bridges,
our canals, our roads, our modes of communication, fill every
stranger with wonder. Nowhere are manufactures carried to such
perfection. Nowhere is so vast a mass of mechanical power
collected. Nowhere does man exercise such a dominion over
matter. These are the works of the nation. Compare them with
the works of the rulers of the nation. Look at the criminal law,
at the civil law, at the modes of conveying lands, at the modes
of conducting actions. It is by these things that we must judge
of our legislators, just as we judge of our manufacturers by the
cotton goods and the cutlery which they produce, just as we judge
of our engineers by the suspension bridges, the tunnels, the
steam carriages which they construct. Is, then, the machinery by
which justice is administered framed with the same exquisite
skill which is found in other kinds of machinery? Can there be a
stronger contrast than that which exists between the beauty, the
completeness, the speed, the precision with which every process
is performed in our factories, and the awkwardness, the rudeness,
the slowness, the uncertainty of the apparatus by which offences
are punished and rights vindicated? Look at the series of penal
statutes, the most bloody and the most inefficient in the world,
at the puerile fictions which make every declaration and every
plea unintelligible both to plaintiff and defendant, at the
mummery of fines and recoveries, at the chaos of precedents, at
the bottomless pit of Chancery. Surely we see the barbarism of
the thirteenth century and the highest civilisation of the
nineteenth century side by side; and we see that the barbarism
belongs to the government, and the civilisation to the people.

This is a state of things which cannot last. If it be not
terminated by wisdom, it will be terminated by violence. A time
has come at which it is not merely desirable, but indispensable
to the public safety, that the government should be brought into
harmony with the people; and it is because this bill seems to me
likely to bring the government into harmony with the people, that
I feel it to be my duty to give my hearty support to His
Majesty's Ministers.

We have been told, indeed, that this is not the plan of Reform
which the nation asked for. Be it so. But you cannot deny that
it is the plan of Reform which the nation has accepted. That,
though differing in many respects from what was asked, it has
been accepted with transports of joy and gratitude, is a decisive
proof of the wisdom of timely concession. Never in the history
of the world was there so signal an example of that true
statesmanship, which, at once animating and gently curbing the
honest enthusiasm of millions, guides it safely and steadily to a
happy goal. It is not strange, that when men are refused what is
reasonable, they should demand what is unreasonable. It is not
strange that, when they find that their opinion is contemned and
neglected by the Legislature, they should lend a too favourable
ear to worthless agitators. We have seen how discontent may be
produced. We have seen, too, how it may be appeased. We have
seen that the true source of the power of demagogues is the
obstinacy of rulers, and that a liberal Government makes a
conservative people. Early in the last session, the First
Minister of the Crown declared that he would consent to no
Reform; that he thought our representative system, just as it
stood, the masterpiece of human wisdom; that, if he had to make
it anew, he would make it such as it was, with all its
represented ruins and all its unrepresented cities. What
followed? Everything was tumult and panic. The funds fell. The
streets were insecure. Men's hearts failed them for fear. We
began to move our property into German investments and American
investments. Such was the state of the public mind, that it was
not thought safe to let the Sovereign pass from his palace to the
Guildhall of his capital. What part of his kingdom is there in
which His Majesty now needs any other guard than the affection of
his loving subjects? There are, indeed, still malecontents; and
they may be divided into two classes, the friends of corruption
and the sowers of sedition. It is natural that all who directly
profit by abuses, and all who profit by the disaffection which
abuses excite, should be leagued together against a bill which,
by making the government pure, will make the nation loyal. There
is, and always has been, a real alliance between the two extreme
parties in this country. They play into each other's hands.
They live by each other. Neither would have any influence if the
other were taken away. The demagogue would have no audience but
for the indignation excited among the multitude by the insolence
of the enemies of Reform: and the last hope of the enemies of
Reform is in the uneasiness excited among all who have anything
to lose by the ravings of the demagogue. I see, and glad I am to
see, that the nation perfectly understands and justly appreciates
this coalition between those who hate all liberty and those who
hate all order. England has spoken, and spoken out. From her
most opulent seaports, from her manufacturing towns, from her
capital and its gigantic suburbs, from almost every one of her
counties, has gone forth a voice, answering in no doubtful or
faltering accent to that truly royal voice which appealed on the
twenty-second of last April to the sense of the nation.

So clearly, indeed, has the sense of the nation been expressed,
that scarcely any person now ventures to declare himself hostile
to all Reform. We are, it seems, a House of Reformers. Those
very gentlemen who, a few months ago, were vehement against all
change, now own that some change may be proper, may be necessary.
They assure us that their opposition is directed, not against
Parliamentary Reform, but against the particular plan which is
now before us, and that a Tory Ministry would devise a much
better plan. I cannot but think that these tactics are
unskilful. I cannot but think that, when our opponents defended
the existing system in every part, they occupied a stronger
position than at present. As my noble friend the Paymaster-
General said, they have committed an error resembling that of the
Scotch army at Dunbar. They have left the high ground from which
we might have had some difficulty in dislodging them. They have
come down to low ground, where they are at our mercy. Surely, as
Cromwell said, surely the Lord hath delivered them into our hand.

For, Sir, it is impossible not to perceive that almost every
argument which they have urged against this Reform Bill may be
urged with equal force, or with greater force, against any Reform
Bill which they can themselves bring in.

First take, what, indeed, are not arguments, but wretched
substitutes for arguments, those vague terms of reproach, which
have been so largely employed, here and elsewhere, by our
opponents; revolutionary, anarchical, traitorous, and so forth.
It will, I apprehend, hardly be disputed that these epithets can
be just as easily applied to one Reform Bill as to another.

But, you say, intimidation has been used to promote the passing
of this bill; and it would be disgraceful, and of evil example,
that Parliament should yield to intimidation. But surely, if
that argument be of any force against the present bill, it will
be of tenfold force against any Reform Bill proposed by you. For
this bill is the work of men who are Reformers from conscientious
conviction, of men, some of whom were Reformers when Reformer was
a name of reproach, of men, all of whom were Reformers before the
nation had begun to demand Reform in imperative and menacing
tones. But you are notoriously Reformers merely from fear. You
are Reformers under duress. If a concession is to be made to the
public importunity, you can hardly deny that it will be made with
more grace and dignity by Lord Grey than by you.

Then you complain of the anomalies of the bill. One county, you
say, will have twelve members; and another county, which is
larger and more populous, will have only ten. Some towns, which
are to have only one member, are more considerable than other
towns which are to have two. Do those who make these objections,
objections which by the by will be more in place when the bill is
in committee, seriously mean to say that a Tory Reform Bill will
leave no anomalies in the representative system? For my own
part, I trouble myself not at all about anomalies, considered
merely as anomalies. I would not take the trouble of lifting up
my hand to get rid of an anomaly that was not also a grievance.
But if gentlemen have such a horror of anomalies, it is strange
that they should so long have persisted in upholding a system
made up of anomalies far greater than any that can be found in
this bill (a cry of "No!"). Yes; far greater. Answer me, if you
can; but do not interrupt me. On this point, indeed, it is much
easier to interrupt than to answer. For who can answer plain
arithmetical demonstration? Under the present system,
Manchester, with two hundred thousand inhabitants, has no
members. Old Sarum, with no inhabitants, has two members. Find
me such an anomaly in the schedules which are now on the table.
But is it possible that you, that Tories, can seriously mean to
adopt the only plan which can remove all anomalies from the
representative system? Are you prepared to have, after every
decennial census, a new distribution of members among electoral
districts? Is your plan of Reform that which Mr Canning
satirised as the most crazy of all the projects of the disciples
of Tom Paine? Do you really mean

"That each fair burgh, numerically free,
Shall choose its members by the rule of three?"

If not, let us hear no more of the anomalies of the Reform Bill.

But your great objection to this bill is that it will not be
final. I ask you whether you think that any Reform Bill which
you can frame will be final? For my part I do believe that the
settlement proposed by His Majesty's Ministers will be final, in
the only sense in which a wise man ever uses that word. I
believe that it will last during that time for which alone we
ought at present to think of legislating. Another generation may
find in the new representative system defects such as we find in
the old representative system. Civilisation will proceed.
Wealth will increase. Industry and trade will find out new
seats. The same causes which have turned so many villages into
great towns, which have turned so many thousands of square miles
of fir and heath into cornfields and orchards, will continue to
operate. Who can say that a hundred years hence there may not
be, on the shore of some desolate and silent bay in the Hebrides,
another Liverpool, with its docks and warehouses and endless
forests of masts? Who can say that the huge chimneys of another
Manchester may not rise in the wilds of Connemara? For our
children we do not pretend to legislate. All that we can do for
them is to leave to them a memorable example of the manner in
which great reforms ought to be made. In the only sense,
therefore, in which a statesman ought to say that anything is
final, I pronounce this bill final. But in what sense will your
bill be final? Suppose that you could defeat the Ministers, that
you could displace them, that you could form a Government, that
you could obtain a majority in this House, what course would
events take? There is no difficulty in foreseeing the stages of
the rapid progress downward. First we should have a mock reform;
a Bassietlaw reform; a reform worthy of those politicians who,
when a delinquent borough had forfeited its franchise, and when
it was necessary for them to determine what they would do with
two seats in Parliament, deliberately gave those seats, not to
Manchester or Birmingham or Leeds, not to Lancashire or
Staffordshire or Devonshire, but to a constituent body studiously
selected because it was not large and because it was not
independent; a reform worthy of those politicians who, only
twelve months ago, refused to give members to the three greatest
manufacturing towns in the world. We should have a reform which
would produce all the evils and none of the benefits of change,
which would take away from the representative system the
foundation of prescription, and yet would not substitute the
surer foundation of reason and public good. The people would be
at once emboldened and exasperated; emboldened because they would
see that they had frightened the Tories into making a pretence of
reforming the Parliament; and exasperated because they would see
that the Tory Reform was a mere pretence. Then would come
agitation, tumult, political associations, libels, inflammatory
harangues. Coercion would only aggravate the evil. This is no
age, this is no country, for the war of power against opinion.
Those Jacobin mountebanks, whom this bill would at once send back
to their native obscurity, would rise into fearful importance.
The law would be sometimes braved and sometimes evaded. In
short, England would soon be what Ireland was at the beginning of
1829. Then, at length, as in 1829, would come the late and vain
repentance. Then, Sir, amidst the generous cheers of the Whigs,
who will be again occupying their old seats on your left hand,
and amidst the indignant murmurs of those stanch Tories who are
now again trusting to be again betrayed, the right honourable
Baronet opposite will rise from the Treasury Bench to propose
that bill on which the hearts of the people are set. But will
that bill be then accepted with the delight and thankfulness with
which it was received last March? Remember Ireland. Remember
how, in that country, concessions too long delayed were at last
received. That great boon which in 1801, in 1813, in 1825, would
have won the hearts of millions, given too late, and given from
fear, only produced new clamours and new dangers. Is not one
such lesson enough for one generation? A noble Lord opposite
told us not to expect that this bill will have a conciliatory
effect. Recollect, he said, how the French aristocracy
surrendered their privileges in 1789, and how that surrender was
requited. Recollect that Day of Sacrifices which was afterwards
called the Day of Dupes. Sir, that day was afterwards called the
Day of Dupes, not because it was the Day of Sacrifices, but
because it was the Day of Sacrifices too long deferred. It was
because the French aristocracy resisted reform in 1783, that they
were unable to resist revolution in 1789. It was because they
clung too long to odious exemptions and distinctions, that they
were at last unable to serve their lands, their mansions, their
heads. They would not endure Turgot: and they had to endure

I am far indeed from wishing that the Members of this House
should be influenced by fear in the bad and unworthy sense of
that word. But there is an honest and honourable fear, which
well becomes those who are intrusted with the dearest interests
of a great community; and to that fear I am not ashamed to make
an earnest appeal. It is very well to talk of confronting
sedition boldly, and of enforcing the law against those who would
disturb the public peace. No doubt a tumult caused by local and
temporary irritation ought to be suppressed with promptitude and
vigour. Such disturbances, for example, as those which Lord
George Gordon raised in 1780, should be instantly put down with
the strong hand. But woe to the Government which cannot
distinguish between a nation and a mob! Woe to the Government
which thinks that a great, a steady, a long continued movement of
the public mind is to be stopped like a street riot! This error
has been twice fatal to the great House of Bourbon. God be
praised, our rulers have been wiser. The golden opportunity
which, if once suffered to escape, might never have been
retrieved, has been seized. Nothing, I firmly believe, can now
prevent the passing of this noble law, this second Bill of
Rights. ["Murmurs."] Yes, I call it, and the nation calls it,
and our posterity will long call it, this second Bill of Rights,
this Greater Charter of the Liberties of England. The year 1831
will, I trust, exhibit the first example of the manner in which
it behoves a free and enlightened people to purify their polity
from old and deeply seated abuses, without bloodshed, without
violence, without rapine, all points freely debated, all the
forms of senatorial deliberation punctiliously observed, industry
and trade not for a moment interrupted, the authority of law not
for a moment suspended. These are things of which we may well be
proud. These are things which swell the heart up with a good
hope for the destinies of mankind. I cannot but anticipate a
long series of happy years; of years during which a parental
Government will be firmly supported by a grateful nation: of
years during which war, if war should be inevitable, will find us
an united people; of years pre-eminently distinguished by the
progress of arts, by the improvement of laws, by the augmentation
of the public resources, by the diminution of the public burdens,
by all those victories of peace, in which, far more than in any
military successes, consists the true felicity of states, and the
true glory of statesmen. With such hopes, Sir, and such
feelings, I give my cordial assent to the second reading of a
bill which I consider as in itself deserving of the warmest
approbation, and as indispensably necessary, in the present
temper of the public mind, to the repose of the country and to
the stability of the throne.




On Monday, the nineteenth of September, 1831, the Bill to amend
the representation of the people in England and Wales was read a
third time, at an early hour and in a thin house, without any
debate. But on the question whether the Bill should pass a
discussion arose which lasted three nights. On the morning of
the twenty-second of September the House divided; and the Bill
passed by 345 votes to 236. The following Speech was made on the
second night of the debate.

It is not without great diffidence, Sir, that I rise to address
you on a subject which has been nearly exhausted. Indeed, I
should not have risen had I not thought that, though the
arguments on this question are for the most part old, our
situation at present is in a great measure new. At length the
Reform Bill, having passed without vital injury through all the
dangers which threatened it, during a long and minute discussion,
from the attacks of its enemies and from the dissensions of its
friends, comes before us for our final ratification, altered,
indeed, in some of its details for the better, and in some for
the worse, but in its great principles still the same bill which,
on the first of March, was proposed to the late Parliament, the
same bill which was received with joy and gratitude by the whole
nation, the same bill which, in an instant, took away the power
of interested agitators, and united in one firm body all the
sects of sincere Reformers, the same bill which, at the late
election, received the approbation of almost every great
constituent body in the empire. With a confidence which
discussion has only strengthened, with an assured hope of great
public blessings if the wish of the nation shall be gratified,
with a deep and solemn apprehension of great public calamities if
that wish shall be disappointed, I, for the last time, give my
most hearty assent to this noble law, destined, I trust, to be
the parent of many good laws, and, through a long series of
years, to secure the repose and promote the prosperity of my

When I say that I expect this bill to promote the prosperity of
the country, I by no means intend to encourage those chimerical
hopes which the honourable and learned Member for Rye (Mr
Pemberton.), who has so much distinguished himself in this
debate, has imputed to the Reformers. The people, he says, are
for the bill, because they expect that it will immediately
relieve all their distresses. Sir, I believe that very few of
that large and respectable class which we are now about to admit
to a share of political power entertain any such absurd
expectation. They expect relief, I doubt not; and I doubt not
that they will find it: but sudden relief they are far too wise
to expect. The bill, says the honourable and learned gentleman,
is good for nothing: it is merely theoretical: it removes no
real and sensible evil: it will not give the people more work,
or higher wages, or cheaper bread. Undoubtedly, Sir, the bill
will not immediately give all those things to the people. But
will any institutions give them all those things? Do the present
institutions of the country secure to them those advantages? If
we are to pronounce the Reform Bill good for nothing, because it
will not at once raise the nation from distress to prosperity,
what are we to say of that system under which the nation has been
of late sinking from prosperity into distress? The defect is not
in the Reform Bill, but in the very nature of government. On the
physical condition of the great body of the people, government
acts not as a specific, but as an alternative. Its operation is
powerful, indeed, and certain, but gradual and indirect. The
business of government is not directly to make the people rich;
and a government which attempts more than this is precisely the
government which is likely to perform less. Governments do not
and cannot support the people. We have no miraculous powers: we
have not the rod of the Hebrew lawgiver: we cannot rain down
bread on the multitude from Heaven: we cannot smite the rock and
give them to drink. We can give them only freedom to employ
their industry to the best advantage, and security in the
enjoyment of what their industry has acquired. These advantages
it is our duty to give at the smallest possible cost. The
diligence and forethought of individuals will thus have fair
play; and it is only by the diligence and forethought of
individuals that the community can become prosperous. I am not
aware that His Majesty's Ministers, or any of the supporters of
this bill, have encouraged the people to hope, that Reform will
remove distress, in any other way than by this indirect process.
By this indirect process the bill will, I feel assured, conduce
to the national prosperity. If it had been passed fifteen years
ago, it would have saved us from our present embarrassments. If
we pass it now, it will gradually extricate us from them. It
will secure to us a House of Commons, which, by preserving peace,
by destroying monopolies, by taking away unnecessary public
burthens, by judiciously distributing necessary public burthens,
will, in the progress of time, greatly improve our condition.
This it will do; and those who blame it for not doing more blame
it for not doing what no Constitution, no code of laws, ever did
or ever will do; what no legislator, who was not an ignorant and
unprincipled quack, ever ventured to promise.

But chimerical as are the hopes which the honourable and learned
Member for Rye imputes to the people, they are not, I think, more
chimerical than the fears which he has himself avowed. Indeed,
those very gentlemen who are constantly telling us that we are
taking a leap in the dark, that we pay no attention to the
lessons of experience, that we are mere theorists, are themselves
the despisers of experience, are themselves the mere theorists.
They are terrified at the thought of admitting into Parliament
members elected by ten pound householders. They have formed in
their own imaginations a most frightful idea of these members.
My honourable and learned friend, the Member for Cockermouth (Sir
James Scarlett.), is certain that these members will take every
opportunity of promoting the interests of the journeyman in
opposition to those of the capitalist. The honourable and
learned Member for Rye is convinced that none but persons who
have strong local connections, will ever be returned for such
constituent bodies. My honourable friend, the Member for
Thetford (Mr Alexander Baring.), tells us, that none but mob
orators, men who are willing to pay the basest court to the
multitude, will have any chance. Other speakers have gone still
further, and have described to us the future borough members as
so many Marats and Santerres, low, fierce, desperate men, who
will turn the House into a bear-garden, and who will try to turn
the monarchy into a republic, mere agitators, without honour,
without sense, without education, without the feelings or the
manners of gentlemen. Whenever, during the course of the
fatiguing discussions by which we have been so long occupied,
there has been a cry of "question," or a noise at the bar, the
orator who has been interrupted has remarked, that such
proceedings will be quite in place in the Reformed Parliament,
but that we ought to remember that the House of Commons is still
an assembly of gentlemen. This, I say, is to set up mere theory,
or rather mere prejudice, in opposition to long and ample
experience. Are the gentlemen who talk thus ignorant that we
have already the means of judging what kind of men the ten pound
householders will send up to parliament? Are they ignorant that
there are even now large towns with very popular franchises, with
franchises even more democratic than those which will be bestowed
by the present bill? Ought they not, on their own principles, to
look at the results of the experiments which have already been
made, instead of predicting frightful calamities at random? How
do the facts which are before us agree with their theories?
Nottingham is a city with a franchise even more democratic than
that which this bill establishes. Does Nottingham send hither
mere vulgar demagogues? It returns two distinguished men, one an
advocate, the other a soldier, both unconnected with the town.
Every man paying scot and lot has a vote at Leicester. This is a
lower franchise than the ten pound franchise. Do we find that
the Members for Leicester are the mere tools of the journeymen?
I was at Leicester during the contest of 1826; and I recollect
that the suffrages of the scot and lot voters were pretty equally
divided between two candidates, neither of them connected with
the place, neither of them a slave of the mob, one a Tory Baronet
from Derbyshire, the other a most respectable and excellent
friend of mine, connected with the manufacturing interest, and
also an inhabitant of Derbyshire. Look at Norwich. Look at
Northampton, with a franchise more democratic than even the scot
and lot franchise. Northampton formerly returned Mr Perceval,
and now returns gentlemen of high respectability, gentlemen who
have a great stake in the prosperity and tranquillity of the
country. Look at the metropolitan districts. This is an a
fortiori case. Nay it is--the expression, I fear, is awkward--an
a fortiori case at two removes. The ten pound householders of
the metropolis are persons in a lower station of life than the
ten pound householders of other towns. The scot and lot
franchise in the metropolis is again lower than the ten pound
franchise. Yet have Westminster and Southwark been in the habit
of sending us members of whom we have had reason to be ashamed,
of whom we have not had reason to be proud? I do not say that
the inhabitants of Westminster and Southwark have always
expressed their political sentiments with proper moderation.
That is not the question. The question is this: what kind of
men have they elected? The very principle of all Representative
government is, that men who do not judge well of public affairs
may be quite competent to choose others who will judge better.
Whom, then, have Westminster and Southwark sent us during the
last fifty years, years full of great events, years of intense
popular excitement? Take any one of those nomination boroughs,
the patrons of which have conscientiously endeavoured to send fit
men into this House. Compare the Members for that borough with
the Members for Westminster and Southwark; and you will have no
doubt to which the preference is due. It is needless to mention
Mr Fox, Mr Sheridan, Mr Tierney, Sir Samuel Romilly. Yet I must
pause at the name of Sir Samuel Romilly. Was he a mob orator?
Was he a servile flatterer of the multitude? Sir, if he had any
fault, if there was any blemish on that most serene and spotless
character, that character which every public man, and especially
every professional man engaged in politics, ought to propose to
himself as a model, it was this, that he despised popularity too
much and too visibly. The honourable Member for Thetford told us
that the honourable and learned Member for Rye, with all his
talents, would have no chance of a seat in the Reformed
Parliament, for want of the qualifications which succeed on the
hustings. Did Sir Samuel Romilly ever appear on the hustings of
Westminster? He never solicited one vote; he never showed
himself to the electors, till he had been returned at the head of
the poll. Even then, as I have heard from one of his nearest
relatives, it was with reluctance that he submitted to be
chaired. He shrank from being made a show. He loved the people,
and he served them; but Coriolanus himself was not less fit to
canvass them. I will mention one other name, that of a man of
whom I have only a childish recollection, but who must have been
intimately known to many of those who hear me, Mr Henry Thornton.
He was a man eminently upright, honourable, and religious, a man
of strong understanding, a man of great political knowledge; but,
in all respects, the very reverse of a mob orator. He was a man
who would not have yielded to what he considered as unreasonable
clamour, I will not say to save his seat, but to save his life.
Yet he continued to represent Southwark, Parliament after
Parliament, for many years. Such has been the conduct of the
scot and lot voters of the metropolis; and there is clearly less
reason to expect democratic violence from ten pound householders
than from scot and lot householders; and from ten pound
householders in the country towns than from ten pound
householders in London. Experience, I say, therefore, is on our
side; and on the side of our opponents nothing but mere
conjecture and mere assertion.

Sir, when this bill was first brought forward, I supported it,
not only on the ground of its intrinsic merits, but, also,
because I was convinced that to reject it would be a course full
of danger. I believe that the danger of that course is in no
respect diminished. I believe, on the contrary, that it is
increased. We are told that there is a reaction. The warmth of
the public feeling, it seems, has abated. In this story both the
sections of the party opposed to Reform are agreed; those who
hate Reform, because it will remove abuses, and those who hate
it, because it will vert anarchy; those who wish to see the
electing body controlled by ejectments, and those who wish to see
it controlled by riots. They must now, I think, be undeceived.
They must have already discovered that the surest way to prevent
a reaction is to talk about it, and that the enthusiasm of the
people is at once rekindled by any indiscreet mention of their
seeming coolness. This, Sir, is not the first reaction which the
sagacity of the Opposition has discovered since the Reform Bill
was brought in. Every gentleman who sat in the late Parliament,
every gentleman who, during the sitting of the late Parliament,
paid attention to political speeches and publications, must
remember how, for some time before the debate on General
Gascoyne's motion, and during the debate on that motion, and down
to the very day of the dissolution, we were told that public
feeling had cooled. The right honourable Baronet, the member for
Tamworth, told us so. All the literary organs of the Opposition,
from the Quarterly Review down to the Morning Post, told us so.
All the Members of the Opposition with whom we conversed in
private told us so. I have in my eye a noble friend of mine, who
assured me, on the very night which preceded the dissolution,
that the people had ceased to be zealous for the Ministerial
plan, and that we were more likely to lose than to gain by the
elections. The appeal was made to the people; and what was the
result? What sign of a reaction appeared among the Livery of
London? What sign of a reaction did the honourable Baronet who
now represents Okehampton find among the freeholders of Cornwall?
(Sir Richard Vyvyan.) How was it with the large represented
towns? Had Liverpool cooled? or Bristol? or Leicester? or
Coventry? or Nottingham? or Norwich? How was it with the great
seats of manufacturing industry, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, and
Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, and Cheshire? How was it with
the agricultural districts, Northumberland and Cumberland,
Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, Kent and Essex, Oxfordshire,
Hampshire, Somersetshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire? How was it
with the strongholds of aristocratical influence, Newark, and
Stamford, and Hertford, and St Alban's? Never did any people
display, within the limits prescribed by law, so generous a
fervour, or so steadfast a determination, as that very people
whose apparent languor had just before inspired the enemies of
Reform with a delusive hope.

Such was the end of the reaction of April; and, if that lesson
shall not profit those to whom it was given, such and yet more
signal will be the end of the reaction of September. The two
cases are strictly analogous. In both cases the people were
eager when they believed the bill to be in danger, and quiet when
they believed it to be in security. During the three or four
weeks which followed the promulgation of the Ministerial plan,
all was joy, and gratitude, and vigorous exertion. Everywhere
meetings were held: everywhere resolutions were passed: from
every quarter were sent up petitions to this House, and addresses
to the Throne: and then the nation, having given vent to its
first feelings of delight, having clearly and strongly expressed
its opinions, having seen the principle of the bill adopted by
the House of Commons on the second reading, became composed, and
awaited the result with a tranquillity which the Opposition
mistook for indifference. All at once the aspect of affairs
changed. General Gascoyne's amendment was carried: the bill was
again in danger: exertions were again necessary. Then was it
well seen whether the calmness of the public mind was any
indication of indifference. The depth and sincerity of the
prevailing sentiments were proved, not by mere talking, but by
actions, by votes, by sacrifices. Intimidation was defied:
expenses were rejected: old ties were broken: the people
struggled manfully: they triumphed gloriously: they placed the
bill in perfect security, as far as this house was concerned; and
they returned to their repose. They are now, as they were on the
eve of General Gascoyne's motion, awaiting the issue of the
deliberations of Parliament, without any indecent show of
violence, but with anxious interest and immovable resolution.
And because they are not exhibiting that noisy and rapturous
enthusiasm which is in its own nature transient, because they are
not as much excited as on the day when the plan of the Government
was first made known to them, or on the day when the late
Parliament was dissolved, because they do not go on week after
week, hallooing, and holding meetings, and marching about with
flags, and making bonfires, and illuminating their houses, we are
again told that there is a reaction. To such a degree can men be
deceived by their wishes, in spite of their own recent
experience. Sir, there is no reaction; and there will be no
reaction. All that has been said on this subject convinces me
only that those who are now, for the second time, raising this
cry, know nothing of the crisis in which they are called on to
act, or of the nation which they aspire to govern. All their
opinions respecting this bill are founded on one great error.
They imagine that the public feeling concerning Reform is a mere
whim which sprang up suddenly out of nothing, and which will as
suddenly vanish into nothing. They, therefore, confidently
expect a reaction. They are always looking out for a reaction.
Everything that they see, or that they hear, they construe into a
sign of the approach of this reaction. They resemble the man in
Horace, who lies on the bank of the river, expecting that it will
every moment pass by and leave him a clear passage, not knowing
the depth and abundance of the fountain which feeds it, not
knowing that it flows, and will flow on for ever. They have
found out a hundred ingenious devices by which they deceive
themselves. Sometimes they tell us that the public feeling about
Reform was caused by the events which took place at Paris about
fourteen months ago; though every observant and impartial man
knows, that the excitement which the late French revolution
produced in England was not the cause but the effect of that
progress which liberal opinions had made amongst us. Sometimes
they tell us that we should not have been troubled with any
complaints on the subject of the Representation, if the House of
Commons had agreed to a certain motion, made in the session of
1830, for inquiry into the causes of the public distress. I
remember nothing about that motion, except that it gave rise to
the dullest debate ever known; and the country, I am firmly
convinced, cared not one straw about it. But is it not strange
that men of real ability can deceive themselves so grossly, as to
think that any change in the government of a foreign nation, or
the rejection of any single motion, however popular, could all at
once raise up a great, rich, enlightened nation, against its
ancient institutions? Could such small drops have produced an
overflowing, if the vessel had not already been filled to the
very brim? These explanations are incredible, and if they were
credible, would be anything but consolatory. If it were really
true that the English people had taken a sudden aversion to a
representative system which they had always loved and admired,
because a single division in Parliament had gone against their
wishes, or because, in a foreign country, in circumstances
bearing not the faintest analogy to those in which we are placed,
a change of dynasty had happened, what hope could we have for
such a nation of madmen? How could we expect that the present
form of government, or any form of government, would be durable
amongst them?

Sir, the public feeling concerning Reform is of no such recent
origin, and springs from no such frivolous causes. Its first
faint commencement may be traced far, very far, back in our
history. During seventy years that feeling has had a great
influence on the public mind. Through the first thirty years of
the reign of George the Third, it was gradually increasing. The
great leaders of the two parties in the State were favourable to
Reform. Plans of reform were supported by large and most
respectable minorities in the House of Commons. The French
Revolution, filling the higher and middle classes with an extreme
dread of change, and the war calling away the public attention
from internal to external politics, threw the question back; but
the people never lost sight of it. Peace came, and they were at
leisure to think of domestic improvements. Distress came, and
they suspected, as was natural, that their distress was the
effect of unfaithful stewardship and unskilful legislation. An
opinion favourable to Parliamentary Reform grew up rapidly, and
became strong among the middle classes. But one tie, one strong
tie, still bound those classes to the Tory party. I mean the
Catholic Question. It is impossible to deny that, on that
subject, a large proportion, a majority, I fear, of the middle
class of Englishmen, conscientiously held opinions opposed to
those which I have always entertained, and were disposed to
sacrifice every other consideration to what they regarded as a
religious duty. Thus the Catholic Question hid, so to speak, the
question of Parliamentary Reform. The feeling in favour of
Parliamentary Reform grew, but it grew in the shade. Every man,
I think, must have observed the progress of that feeling in his
own social circle. But few Reform meetings were held, and few
petitions in favour of Reform presented. At length the Catholics
were emancipated; the solitary link of sympathy which attached
the people to the Tories was broken; the cry of "No Popery" could
no longer be opposed to the cry of "Reform." That which, in the
opinion of the two great parties in Parliament, and of a vast
portion of the community, had been the first question, suddenly
disappeared; and the question of Parliamentary Reform took the
first place. Then was put forth all the strength which had been
growing in silence and obscurity. Then it appeared that Reform
had on its side a coalition of interests and opinions
unprecedented in our history, all the liberality and intelligence
which had supported the Catholic claims, and all the clamour
which had opposed them.

This, I believe, is the true history of that public feeling on
the subject of Reform which had been ascribed to causes quite
inadequate to the production of such an effect. If ever there
was in the history of mankind a national sentiment which was the
very opposite of a caprice, with which accident had nothing to
do, which was produced by the slow, steady, certain progress of
the human mind, it is the sentiment of the English people on the
subject of Reform. Accidental circumstances may have brought
that feeling to maturity in a particular year, or a particular
month. That point I will not dispute; for it is not worth
disputing. But those accidental circumstances have brought on
Reform, only as the circumstance that, at a particular time,
indulgences were offered for sale in a particular town in Saxony,
brought on the great separation from the Church of Rome. In both
cases the public mind was prepared to move on the slightest

Thinking thus of the public opinion concerning Reform, being
convinced that this opinion is the mature product of time and of
discussion, I expect no reaction. I no more expect to see my
countrymen again content with the mere semblance of a
Representation, than to see them again drowning witches or
burning heretics, trying causes by red hot ploughshares, or
offering up human sacrifices to wicker idols. I no more expect a
reaction in favour of Gatton and Old Sarum, than a reaction in
favour of Thor and Odin. I should think such a reaction almost
as much a miracle as that the shadow should go back upon the
dial. Revolutions produced by violence are often followed by
reactions; the victories of reason once gained, are gained for

In fact, if there be, in the present aspect of public affairs,
any sign peculiarly full of evil omen to the opponents of Reform,
it is that very calmness of the public mind on which they found
their expectation of success. They think that it is the calmness
of indifference. It is the calmness of confident hope: and in
proportion to the confidence of hope will be the bitterness of
disappointment. Disappointment, indeed, I do not anticipate.
That we are certain of success in this House is now acknowledged;
and our opponents have, in consequence, during the whole of this
Session, and particularly during the present debate, addressed
their arguments and exhortations rather to the Lords than to the
assembly of which they are themselves Members. Their principal
argument has always been, that the bill will destroy the peerage.
The honourable and learned Member for Rye has, in plain terms,
called on the Barons of England to save their order from
democratic encroachments, by rejecting this measure. All these
arguments, all these appeals, being interpreted, mean this:
"Proclaim to your countrymen that you have no common interests
with them, no common sympathies with them; that you can be
powerful only by their weakness, and exalted only by their
degradation; that the corruption which disgusts them, and the
oppression against which their spirit rises up, are indispensable
to your authority; that the freedom and purity of election are
incompatible with the very existence of your House. Give them
clearly to understand that your power rests, not as they have
hitherto imagined, on their rational convictions, or on their
habitual veneration, or on your own great property, but on a
system fertile of political evils, fertile also of low iniquities
of which ordinary justice take cognisance. Bind up, in
inseparable union, the privileges of your estate with the
grievances of ours: resolve to stand or fall with abuses visibly
marked out for destruction: tell the people that they are
attacking you in attacking the three holes in the wall, and that
they shall never get rid of the three holes in the wall, till
they have got rid of you; that a hereditary peerage and a
representative assembly, can co-exist only in name, and that, if
they will have a real House of Peers, they must be content with a
mock House of Commons." This, I say, is the advice given to the
Lords by those who call themselves the friends of aristocracy.
That advice so pernicious will not be followed, I am well
assured; yet I cannot but listen to it with uneasiness. I cannot
but wonder that it should proceed from the lips of men who are
constantly lecturing us on the duty of consulting history and
experience. Have they never heard what effects counsels like
their own, when too faithfully followed, have produced? Have
they never visited that neighbouring country, which still
presents to the eye, even of a passing stranger, the signs of a
great dissolution and renovation of society? Have they never
walked by those stately mansions, now sinking into decay, and
portioned out into lodging rooms, which line the silent streets
of the Faubourg St Germain? Have they never seen the ruins of
those castles whose terraces and gardens overhang the Loire?
Have they never heard that from those magnificent hotels, from
those ancient castles, an aristocracy as splendid, as brave, as
proud, as accomplished, as ever Europe saw, was driven forth to
exile and beggary, to implore the charity of hostile Governments
and hostile creeds, to cut wood in the back settlements of
America, or to teach French in the schoolrooms of London? And
why were those haughty nobles destroyed with that utter
destruction? Why were they scattered over the face of the earth,
their titles abolished, their escutcheons defaced, their parks
wasted, their palaces dismantled, their heritage given to
strangers? Because they had no sympathy with the people, no
discernment of the signs of their time; because, in the pride and
narrowness of their hearts, they called those whose warnings
might have saved them theorists and speculators; because they
refused all concession till the time had arrived when no
concession would avail. I have no apprehension that such a fate
awaits the nobles of England. I draw no parallel between our
aristocracy and that of France. Those who represent the peerage
as a class whose power is incompatible with the just influence of
the people in the State, draw that parallel, and not I. They do
all in their power to place the Lords and Commons of England in
that position with respect to each other in which the French
gentry stood with respect to the Third Estate. But I am
convinced that these advisers will not succeed. We see, with
pride and delight, among the friends of the people, the Talbots,
the Cavendishes, the princely house of Howard. Foremost among
those who have entitled themselves, by their exertions in this
House, to the lasting gratitude of their countrymen, we see the
descendants of Marlborough, of Russell, and of Derby. I hope,
and firmly believe, that the Lords will see what their interests
and their honour require. I hope, and firmly believe, that they
will act in such a manner as to entitle themselves to the esteem
and affection of the people. But if not, let not the enemies of
Reform imagine that their reign is straightway to recommence, or
that they have obtained anything more than a short and uneasy
respite. We are bound to respect the constitutional rights of
the Peers; but we are bound also not to forget our own. We, too,
have our privileges; we, too, are an estate of the realm. A
House of Commons strong in the love and confidence of the people,
a House of Commons which has nothing to fear from a dissolution,
is something in the government. Some persons, I well know,
indulge a hope that the rejection of the bill will at once
restore the domination of that party which fled from power last
November, leaving everything abroad and everything at home in
confusion; leaving the European system, which it had built up at
a vast cost of blood and treasure, falling to pieces in every
direction; leaving the dynasties which it had restored, hastening
into exile; leaving the nations which it had joined together,
breaking away from each other; leaving the fundholders in dismay;
leaving the peasantry in insurrection; leaving the most fertile
counties lighted up with the fires of incendiaries; leaving the
capital in such a state, that a royal procession could not pass
safely through it. Dark and terrible, beyond any season within
my remembrance of political affairs, was the day of their flight.
Far darker and far more terrible will be the day of their return.
They will return in opposition to the whole British nation,
united as it was never before united on any internal question;
united as firmly as when the Armada was sailing up the Channel;
united as firmly as when Bonaparte pitched his camp on the cliffs
of Boulogne. They will return pledged to defend evils which the
people are resolved to destroy. They will return to a situation
in which they can stand only by crushing and trampling down
public opinion, and from which, if they fall, they may, in their
fall, drag down with them the whole frame of society. Against
such evils, should such evils appear to threaten the country, it
will be our privilege and our duty to warn our gracious and
beloved Sovereign. It will be our privilege and our duty to
convey the wishes of a loyal people to the throne of a patriot
king. At such a crisis the proper place for the House of Commons
is in front of the nation; and in that place this House will
assuredly be found. Whatever prejudice or weakness may do
elsewhere to ruin the empire, here, I trust, will not be wanting
the wisdom, the virtue, and the energy that may save it.


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