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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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OCTOBER, 1831.

On the morning of Saturday, the eighth of October, 1831, the
House of Lords, by a majority of 190 to 158, rejected the Reform
Bill. On the Monday following, Lord Ebrington, member for
Devonshire, moved the following resolution in the House of

"That while this House deeply laments the present fate of a bill
for amending the representation of the people in England and
Wales, in favour of which the opinion of the country stands
unequivocally pronounced, and which has been matured by
discussions the most anxious and laborious, it feels itself
called upon to reassert its firm adherence to the principle and
leading provisions of that great measure, and to express its
unabated confidence in the integrity, perseverance, and ability
of those Ministers, who, in introducing and conducting it, have
so well consulted the best interests of the country."

The resolution was carried by 329 votes to 198. The following
speech was made early in the debate.

I doubt, Sir, whether any person who had merely heard the speech
of the right honourable Member for the University of Cambridge
(Mr Goulburn.) would have been able to conjecture what the
question is on which we are discussing, and what the occasion on
which we are assembled. For myself, I can with perfect certainty
declare that never in the whole course of my life did I feel my
mind oppressed by so deep and solemn a sense of responsibility as
at the present moment. I firmly believe that the country is now
in danger of calamities greater than ever threatened it, from
domestic misgovernment or from foreign hostility. The danger is
no less than this, that there may be a complete alienation of the
people from their rulers. To soothe the public mind, to
reconcile the people to the delay, the short delay, which must
intervene before their wishes can be legitimately gratified, and
in the meantime to avert civil discord, and to uphold the
authority of law, these are, I conceive, the objects of my noble
friend, the Member for Devonshire: these ought, at the present
crisis, to be the objects of every honest Englishman. They are
objects which will assuredly be attained, if we rise to this
great occasion, if we take our stand in the place which the
Constitution has assigned to us, if we employ, with becoming
firmness and dignity, the powers which belong to us as trustees
of the nation, and as advisers of the Throne.

Sir, the Resolution of my noble friend consists of two parts. He
calls upon us to declare our undiminished attachment to the
principles of the Reform Bill, and also our undiminished
confidence in His Majesty's Ministers. I consider these two
declarations as identical. The question of Reform is, in my
opinion, of such paramount importance, that, approving the
principles of the Ministerial Bill, I must think the Ministers
who have brought that bill forward, although I may differ from
them on some minor points, entitled to the strongest support of
Parliament. The right honourable gentleman, the Member for the
University of Cambridge, has attempted to divert the course of
the debate to questions comparatively unimportant. He has said
much about the coal duty, about the candle duty, about the budget
of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. On most of the
points to which he has referred, it would be easy for me, were I
so inclined, to defend the Ministers; and where I could not
defend them, I should find it easy to recriminate on those who
preceded them. The right honourable Member for the University of
Cambridge has taunted the Ministers with the defeat which their
plan respecting the timber trade sustained in the last
Parliament. I might, perhaps, at a more convenient season, be
tempted to inquire whether that defeat was more disgraceful to
them or to their predecessors. I might, perhaps, be tempted to
ask the right honourable gentleman whether, if he had not been
treated, while in office, with more fairness than he has shown
while in opposition, it would have been in his power to carry his
best bill, the Beer Bill? He has accused the Ministers of
bringing forward financial propositions, and then withdrawing
those propositions. Did not he bring forward, during the Session
of 1830, a plan respecting the sugar duties? And was not that
plan withdrawn? But, Sir, this is mere trifling. I will not be
seduced from the matter in hand by the right honourable
gentleman's example. At the present moment I can see only one
question in the State, the question of Reform; only two parties,
the friends of the Reform Bill and its enemies.

It is not my intention, Sir, again to discuss the merits of the
Reform Bill. The principle of that bill received the approbation
of the late House of Commons after a discussion of ten nights;
and the bill as it now stands, after a long and most laborious
investigation, passed the present House of Commons by a majority
which was nearly half as large again as the minority. This was
little more than a fortnight ago. Nothing has since occurred to
change our opinion. The justice of the case is unaltered. The
public enthusiasm is undiminished. Old Sarum has grown no
larger. Manchester has grown no smaller. In addressing this
House, therefore, I am entitled to assume that the bill is in
itself a good bill. If so, ought we to abandon it merely because
the Lords have rejected it? We ought to respect the lawful
privileges of their House; but we ought also to assert our own.
We are constitutionally as independent of their Lordships as
their Lordships are of us. We have precisely as good a right to
adhere to our opinion as they have to dissent from it. In
speaking of their decision, I will attempt to follow that example
of moderation which was so judiciously set by my noble friend,
the Member for Devonshire. I will only say that I do not think
that they are more competent to form a correct judgment on a
political question than we are. It is certain that, on all the
most important points on which the two Houses have for a long
time past differed, the Lords have at length come over to the
opinion of the Commons. I am therefore entitled to say, that
with respect to all those points, the Peers themselves being
judges, the House of Commons was in the right and the House of
Lords in the wrong. It was thus with respect to the Slave trade:
it was thus with respect to Catholic Emancipation: it was thus
with several other important questions. I, therefore, cannot
think that we ought, on the present occasion, to surrender our
judgment to those who have acknowledged that, on former occasions
of the same kind, we have judged more correctly than they.

Then again, Sir, I cannot forget how the majority and the
minority in this House were composed; I cannot forget that the
majority contained almost all those gentlemen who are returned by
large bodies of electors. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to
say, that there were single Members of the majority who had more
constituents than the whole minority put together. I speak
advisedly and seriously. I believe that the number of
freeholders of Yorkshire exceeds that of all the electors who
return the Opposition. I cannot with propriety comment here on
any reports which may have been circulated concerning the
majority and minority in the House of Lords. I may, however,
mention these notoriously historical facts; that during the last
forty years the powers of the executive Government have been,
almost without intermission, exercised by a party opposed to
Reform; and that a very great number of Peers have been created,
and all the present Bishops raised to the bench during those
years. On this question, therefore, while I feel more than usual
respect for the judgment of the House of Commons, I feel less
than usual respect for the judgment of the House of Lords. Our
decision is the decision of the nation; the decision of their
Lordships can scarcely be considered as the decision even of that
class from which the Peers are generally selected, and of which
they may be considered as virtual representatives, the great
landed gentlemen of England. It seems to me clear, therefore,
that we ought, notwithstanding what has passed in the other
House, to adhere to our opinion concerning the Reform Bill.

The next question is this; ought we to make a formal declaration
that we adhere to our opinion? I think that we ought to make
such a declaration; and I am sure that we cannot make it in more
temperate or more constitutional terms than those which my noble
friend asks us to adopt. I support the Resolution which he has
proposed with all my heart and soul: I support it as a friend to
Reform; but I support it still more as a friend to law, to
property, to social order. No observant and unprejudiced man can
look forward without great alarm to the effects which the recent
decision of the Lords may possibly produce. I do not predict, I
do not expect, open, armed insurrection. What I apprehend is
this, that the people may engage in a silent, but extensive and
persevering war against the law. What I apprehend is, that
England may exhibit the same spectacle which Ireland exhibited
three years ago, agitators stronger than the magistrate,
associations stronger than the law, a Government powerful enough
to be hated, and not powerful enough to be feared, a people bent
on indemnifying themselves by illegal excesses for the want of
legal privileges. I fear, that we may before long see the
tribunals defied, the tax-gatherer resisted, public credit
shaken, property insecure, the whole frame of society hastening
to dissolution. It is easy to say, "Be bold: be firm: defy
intimidation: let the law have its course: the law is strong
enough to put down the seditious." Sir, we have heard all this
blustering before; and we know in what it ended. It is the
blustering of little men whose lot has fallen on a great crisis.
Xerxes scourging the winds, Canute commanding the waves to recede
from his footstool, were but types of the folly of those who
apply the maxims of the Quarter Sessions to the great convulsions
of society. The law has no eyes: the law has no hands: the law
is nothing, nothing but a piece of paper printed by the King's
printer, with the King's arms at the top, till public opinion
breathes the breath of life into the dead letter. We found this
in Ireland. The Catholic Association bearded the Government.
The Government resolved to put down the Association. An
indictment was brought against my honourable and learned friend,
the Member for Kerry. The Grand Jury threw it out. Parliament
met. The Lords Commissioners came down with a speech
recommending the suppression of the self-constituted legislature
of Dublin. A bill was brought in: it passed both Houses by
large majorities: it received the Royal assent. And what effect
did it produce? Exactly as much as that old Act of Queen
Elizabeth, still unrepealed, by which it is provided that every
man who, without a special exemption, shall eat meat on Fridays
and Saturdays, shall pay a fine of twenty shillings or go to
prison for a month. Not only was the Association not destroyed:
its power was not for one day suspended: it flourished and waxed
strong under the law which had been made for the purpose of
annihilating it. The elections of 1826, the Clare election two
years later, proved the folly of those who think that nations are
governed by wax and parchment: and, at length, in the close of
1828, the Government had only one plain choice before it,
concession or civil war. Sir, I firmly believe that, if the
people of England shall lose all hope of carrying the Reform Bill
by constitutional means, they will forthwith begin to offer to
the Government the same kind of resistance which was offered to
the late Government, three years ago, by the people of Ireland, a
resistance by no means amounting to rebellion, a resistance
rarely amounting to any crime defined by the law, but a
resistance nevertheless which is quite sufficient to obstruct the
course of justice, to disturb the pursuits of industry, and to
prevent the accumulation of wealth. And is not this a danger
which we ought to fear? And is not this a danger which we are
bound, by all means in our power, to avert? And who are those
who taunt us for yielding to intimidation? Who are those who
affect to speak with contempt of associations, and agitators, and
public meetings? Even the very persons who, scarce two years
ago, gave up to associations, and agitators, and public meetings,
their boasted Protestant Constitution, proclaiming all the time
that they saw the evils of Catholic Emancipation as strongly as
ever. Surely, surely, the note of defiance which is now so
loudly sounded in our ears, proceeds with a peculiarly bad grace
from men whose highest glory it is that they abased themselves to
the dust before a people whom their policy had driven to madness,
from men the proudest moment of whose lives was that in which
they appeared in the character of persecutors scared into
toleration. Do they mean to indemnify themselves for the
humiliation of quailing before the people of Ireland by trampling
on the people of England? If so, they deceive themselves. The
case of Ireland, though a strong one, was by no means so strong a
case as that with which we have now to deal. The Government, in
its struggle with the Catholics of Ireland, had Great Britain at
its back. Whom will it have at its back in the struggle with the
Reformers of Great Britain? I know only two ways in which
societies can permanently be governed, by public opinion, and by
the sword. A Government having at its command the armies, the
fleets, and the revenues of Great Britain, might possibly hold
Ireland by the sword. So Oliver Cromwell held Ireland; so
William the Third held it; so Mr Pitt held it; so the Duke of
Wellington might perhaps have held it. But to govern Great
Britain by the sword! So wild a thought has never, I will
venture to say, occurred to any public man of any party; and, if
any man were frantic enough to make the attempt, he would find,
before three days had expired, that there is no better sword than
that which is fashioned out of a ploughshare. But, if not by the
sword, how is the country to be governed? I understand how the
peace is kept at New York. It is by the assent and support of
the people. I understand also how the peace is kept at Milan.
It is by the bayonets of the Austrian soldiers. But how the
peace is to be kept when you have neither the popular assent nor
the military force, how the peace is to be kept in England by a
Government acting on the principles of the present Opposition, I
do not understand.

There is in truth a great anomaly in the relation between the
English people and their Government. Our institutions are either
too popular or not popular enough. The people have not
sufficient power in making the laws; but they have quite
sufficient power to impede the execution of the laws when made.
The Legislature is almost entirely aristocratical; the machinery
by which the degrees of the Legislature are carried into effect
is almost entirely popular; and, therefore, we constantly see all
the power which ought to execute the law, employed to counteract
the law. Thus, for example, with a criminal code which carries
its rigour to the length of atrocity, we have a criminal
judicature which often carries its lenity to the length of
perjury. Our law of libel is the most absurdly severe that ever
existed, so absurdly severe that, if it were carried into full
effect, it would be much more oppressive than a censorship. And
yet, with this severe law of libel, we have a press which
practically is as free as the air. In 1819 the Ministers
complained of the alarming increase of seditious and blasphemous
publications. They proposed a bill of great rigour to stop the
growth of the evil; and they carried their bill. It was enacted,
that the publisher of a seditious libel might, on a second
conviction, be banished, and that if he should return from
banishment, he might be transported. How often was this law put
in force? Not once. Last year we repealed it: but it was
already dead, or rather it was dead born. It was obsolete before
Le Roi le veut had been pronounced over it. For any effect which
it produced it might as well have been in the Code Napoleon as in
the English Statute Book. And why did the Government, having
solicited and procured so sharp and weighty a weapon, straightway
hang it up to rust? Was there less sedition, were there fewer
libels, after the passing of the Act than before it? Sir, the
very next year was the year 1820, the year of the Bill of Pains
and Penalties against Queen Caroline, the very year when the
public mind was most excited, the very year when the public press
was most scurrilous. Why then did not the Ministers use their
new law? Because they durst not: because they could not. They
had obtained it with ease; for in obtaining it they had to deal
with a subservient Parliament. They could not execute it: for
in executing it they would have to deal with a refractory people.
These are instances of the difficulty of carrying the law into
effect when the people are inclined to thwart their rulers. The
great anomaly, or, to speak more properly, the great evil which I
have described, would, I believe, be removed by the Reform Bill.
That bill would establish harmony between the people and the
Legislature. It would give a fair share in the making of laws to
those without whose co-operation laws are mere waste paper.
Under a reformed system we should not see, as we now often see,
the nation repealing Acts of Parliament as fast as we and the
Lords can pass them. As I believe that the Reform Bill would
produce this blessed and salutary concord, so I fear that the
rejection of the Reform Bill, if that rejection should be
considered as final, will aggravate the evil which I have been
describing to an unprecedented, to a terrible extent. To all the
laws which might be passed for the collection of the revenue, or
for the prevention of sedition, the people would oppose the same
kind of resistance by means of which they have succeeded in
mitigating, I might say in abrogating, the law of libel. There
would be so many offenders that the Government would scarcely
know at whom to aim its blow. Every offender would have so many
accomplices and protectors that the blow would almost always miss
the aim. The Veto of the people, a Veto not pronounced in set
form like that of the Roman Tribunes, but quite as effectual as
that of the Roman Tribunes for the purpose of impeding public
measures, would meet the Government at every turn. The
administration would be unable to preserve order at home, or to
uphold the national honour abroad; and, at length, men who are
now moderate, who now think of revolution with horror, would
begin to wish that the lingering agony of the State might be
terminated by one fierce, sharp, decisive crisis.

Is there a way of escape from these calamities? I believe that
there is. I believe that, if we do our duty, if we give the
people reason to believe that the accomplishment of their wishes
is only deferred, if we declare our undiminished attachment to
the Reform Bill, and our resolution to support no Minister who
will not support that bill, we shall avert the fearful disasters
which impend over the country. There is danger that, at this
conjuncture, men of more zeal than wisdom may obtain a fatal
influence over the public mind. With these men will be joined
others, who have neither zeal nor wisdom, common barrators in
politics, dregs of society which, in times of violent agitation,
are tossed up from the bottom to the top, and which, in quiet
times, sink again from the top to their natural place at the
bottom. To these men nothing is so hateful as the prospect of a
reconciliation between the orders of the State. A crisis like
that which now makes every honest citizen sad and anxious fills
these men with joy, and with a detestable hope. And how is it
that such men, formed by nature and education to be objects of
mere contempt, can ever inspire terror? How is it that such men,
without talents or acquirements sufficient for the management of
a vestry, sometimes become dangerous to great empires? The
secret of their power lies in the indolence or faithlessness of
those who ought to take the lead in the redress of public
grievances. The whole history of low traders in sedition is
contained in that fine old Hebrew fable which we have all read in
the Book of Judges. The trees meet to choose a king. The vine,
and the fig tree, and the olive tree decline the office. Then it
is that the sovereignty of the forest devolves upon the bramble:
then it is that from a base and noxious shrub goes forth the fire
which devours the cedars of Lebanon. Let us be instructed. If
we are afraid of political Unions and Reform Associations, let
the House of Commons become the chief point of political union:
let the House of Commons be the great Reform Association. If we
are afraid that the people may attempt to accomplish their wishes
by unlawful means, let us give them a solemn pledge that we will
use in their cause all our high and ancient privileges, so often
victorious in old conflicts with tyranny; those privileges which
our ancestors invoked, not in vain, on the day when a faithless
king filled our house with his guards, took his seat, Sir, on
your chair, and saw your predecessor kneeling on the floor before
him. The Constitution of England, thank God, is not one of those
constitutions which are past all repair, and which must, for the
public welfare, be utterly destroyed. It has a decayed part; but
it has also a sound and precious part. It requires purification;
but it contains within itself the means by which that
purification may be effected. We read that in old times, when
the villeins were driven to revolt by oppression, when the
castles of the nobility were burned to the ground, when the
warehouses of London were pillaged, when a hundred thousand
insurgents appeared in arms on Blackheath, when a foul murder
perpetrated in their presence had raised their passions to
madness, when they were looking round for some captain to succeed
and avenge him whom they had lost, just then, before Hob Miller,
or Tom Carter, or Jack Straw, could place himself at their head,
the King rode up to them and exclaimed, "I will be your leader!"
and at once the infuriated multitude laid down their arms,
submitted to his guidance, dispersed at his command. Herein let
us imitate him. Our countrymen are, I fear, at this moment, but
too much disposed to lend a credulous ear to selfish impostors.
Let us say to them, "We are your leaders; we, your own house of
Commons; we, the constitutional interpreters of your wishes; the
knights of forty English shires, the citizens and burgesses of
all your largest towns. Our lawful power shall be firmly exerted
to the utmost in your cause; and our lawful power is such, that
when firmly exerted in your cause, it must finally prevail."
This tone it is our interest and our duty to take. The
circumstances admit of no delay. Is there one among us who is
not looking with breathless anxiety for the next tidings which
may arrive from the remote parts of the kingdom? Even while I
speak, the moments are passing away, the irrevocable moments
pregnant with the destiny of a great people. The country is in
danger: it may be saved: we can save it: this is the way:
this is the time. In our hands are the issues of great good and
great evil, the issues of the life and death of the State. May
the result of our deliberations be the repose and prosperity of
that noble country which is entitled to all our love; and for the
safety of which we are answerable to our own consciences, to the
memory of future ages, to the Judge of all hearts!




On Friday, the sixteenth of December 1831, Lord Althorpe moved
the second reading of the Bill to amend the representation of the
people in England and Wales. Lord Porchester moved, as an
amendment, that the bill should be read a second time that day
six months. The debate lasted till after midnight, and was then
adjourned till twelve at noon. The House did not divide till one
on the Sunday morning. The amendment was then rejected by 324
votes to 162; and the original motion was carried. The following
Speech was made on the first night of the debate.

I can assure my noble friend (Lord Mahon.), for whom I entertain
sentiments of respect and kindness which no political difference
will, I trust, ever disturb, that his remarks have given me no
pain, except, indeed, the pain which I feel at being compelled to
say a few words about myself. Those words shall be very few. I
know how unpopular egotism is in this House. My noble friend
says that, in the debates of last March, I declared myself
opposed to the ballot, and that I have since recanted, for the
purpose of making myself popular with the inhabitants of Leeds.
My noble friend is altogether mistaken. I never said, in any
debate, that I was opposed to the ballot. The word ballot never
passed my lips within this House. I observed strict silence
respecting it on two accounts; in the first place, because my own
opinions were, till very lately, undecided; in the second place,
because I knew that the agitation of that question, a question of
which the importance appears to me to be greatly overrated, would
divide those on whose firm and cordial union the safety of the
empire depends. My noble friend has taken this opportunity of
replying to a speech which I made last October. The doctrines
which I then laid down were, according to him, most intemperate
and dangerous. Now, Sir, it happens, curiously enough, that my
noble friend has himself asserted, in his speech of this night,
those very doctrines, in language so nearly resembling mine that
I might fairly accuse him of plagiarism. I said that laws have
no force in themselves, and that, unless supported by public
opinion, they are a mere dead letter. The noble Lord has said
exactly the same thing to-night. "Keep your old Constitution,"
he exclaims; "for, whatever may be its defects in theory, it has
more of the public veneration than your new Constitution will
have; and no laws can be efficient, unless they have the public
veneration." I said, that statutes are in themselves only wax
and parchment; and I was called an incendiary by the opposition.
The noble Lord has said to-night that statutes in themselves are
only ink and parchment; and those very persons who reviled me
have enthusiastically cheered him. I am quite at a loss to
understand how doctrines which are, in his mouth, true and
constitutional, can, in mine, be false and revolutionary.

But, Sir, it is time that I should address myself to the
momentous question before us. I shall certainly give my best
support to this bill, through all its stages; and, in so doing, I
conceive that I shall act in strict conformity with the
resolution by which this House, towards the close of the late
Session, declared its unabated attachment to the principles and
to the leading provisions of the First Reform Bill. All those
principles, all those leading provisions, I find in the present
measure. In the details there are, undoubtedly, considerable
alterations. Most of the alterations appear to me to be
improvements; and even those alterations which I cannot consider
as in themselves improvements will yet be most useful, if their
effect shall be to conciliate opponents, and to facilitate the
adjustment of a question which, for the sake of order, for the
sake of peace, for the sake of trade, ought to be, not only
satisfactorily, but speedily settled. We have been told, Sir,
that, if we pronounce this bill to be a better bill than the
last, we recant all the doctrines which we maintained during the
last Session, we sing our palinode; we allow that we have had a
great escape; we allow that our own conduct was deserving of
censure; we allow that the party which was the minority in this
House, and, most unhappily for the country, the majority in the
other House, has saved the country from a great calamity. Sir,
even if this charge were well founded, there are those who should
have been prevented by prudence, if not by magnanimity, from
bringing it forward. I remember an Opposition which took a very
different course. I remember an Opposition which, while excluded
from power, taught all its doctrines to the Government; which,
after labouring long, and sacrificing much, in order to effect
improvements in various parts of our political and commercial
system, saw the honour of those improvements appropriated by
others. But the members of that Opposition had, I believe, a
sincere desire to promote the public good. They, therefore,
raised no shout of triumph over the recantations of their
proselytes. They rejoiced, but with no ungenerous joy, when
their principles of trade, of jurisprudence, of foreign policy,
of religious liberty, became the principles of the
Administration. They were content that he who came into
fellowship with them at the eleventh hour should have a far
larger share of the reward than those who had borne the burthen
and heat of the day. In the year 1828, a single division in this
House changed the whole policy of the Government with respect to
the Test and Corporation Acts. My noble friend, the Paymaster of
the Forces, then sat where the right honourable Baronet, the
member for Tamworth, now sits. I do not remember that, when the
right honourable Baronet announced his change of purpose, my
noble friend sprang up to talk about palinodes, to magnify the
wisdom and virtue of the Whigs, and to sneer at his new
coadjutors. Indeed, I am not sure that the members of the late
Opposition did not carry their indulgence too far; that they did
not too easily suffer the fame of Grattan and Romilly to be
transferred to less deserving claimants; that they were not too
ready, in the joy with which they welcomed the tardy and
convenient repentance of their converts, to grant a general
amnesty for the errors of the insincerity of years. If it were
true that we had recanted, this ought not to be made matter of
charge against us by men whom posterity will remember by nothing
but recantations. But, in truth, we recant nothing. We have
nothing to recant. We support this bill. We may possibly think
it a better bill than that which preceded it. But are we
therefore bound to admit that we were in the wrong, that the
Opposition was in the right, that the House of Lords has
conferred a great benefit on the nation? We saw--who did not
see?--great defects in the first bill. But did we see nothing
else? Is delay no evil? Is prolonged excitement no evil? Is it
no evil that the heart of a great people should be made sick by
deferred hope? We allow that many of the changes which have been
made are improvements. But we think that it would have been far
better for the country to have had the last bill, with all its
defects, than the present bill, with all its improvements.
Second thoughts are proverbially the best, but there are
emergencies which do not admit of second thoughts. There
probably never was a law which might not have been amended by
delay. But there have been many cases in which there would have
been more mischief in the delay than benefit in the amendments.
The first bill, however inferior it may have been in its details
to the present bill, was yet herein far superior to the present
bill, than it was the first. If the first bill had passed, it
would, I firmly believe, have produced a complete reconciliation
between the aristocracy and the people. It is my earnest wish
and prayer that the present bill may produce this blessed effect;
but I cannot say that my hopes are so sanguine as they were at
the beginning of the last Session. The decision of the House of
Lords has, I fear, excited in the public mind feelings of
resentment which will not soon be allayed. What then, it is
said, would you legislate in haste? Would you legislate in times
of great excitement concerning matters of such deep concern?
Yes, Sir, I would: and if any bad consequences should follow
from the haste and the excitement, let those be held answerable
who, when there was no need of haste, when there existed no
excitement, refused to listen to any project of Reform, nay, who
made it an argument against Reform, that the public mind was not
excited. When few meetings were held, when few petitions were
sent up to us, these politicians said, "Would you alter a
Constitution with which the people are perfectly satisfied?" And
now, when the kingdom from one end to the other is convulsed by
the question of Reform, we hear it said by the very same persons,
"Would you alter the Representative system in such agitated times
as these?" Half the logic of misgovernment lies in this one
sophistical dilemma: If the people are turbulent, they are unfit
for liberty: if they are quiet, they do not want liberty.

I allow that hasty legislation is an evil. I allow that there
are great objections to legislating in troubled times. But
reformers are compelled to legislate fast, because bigots will
not legislate early. Reformers are compelled to legislate in
times of excitement, because bigots will not legislate in times
of tranquillity. If, ten years ago, nay, if only two years ago,
there had been at the head of affairs men who understood the
signs of the times and the temper of the nation, we should not
have been forced to hurry now. If we cannot take our time, it is
because we have to make up for their lost time. If they had
reformed gradually, we might have reformed gradually; but we are
compelled to move fast, because they would not move at all.

Though I admit, Sir, that this bill is in its details superior to
the former bill, I must say that the best parts of this bill,
those parts for the sake of which principally I support it, those
parts for the sake of which I would support it, however imperfect
its details might be, are parts which it has in common with the
former bill. It destroys nomination; it admits the great body of
the middle orders to a share in the government; and it contains
provisions which will, as I conceive, greatly diminish the
expense of elections.

Touching the expense of elections I will say a few words, because
that part of the subject has not, I think, received so much
attention as it deserves. Whenever the nomination boroughs are
attacked, the opponents of Reform produce a long list of eminent
men who have sate for those boroughs, and who, they tell us,
would never have taken any part in public affairs but for those
boroughs. Now, Sir, I suppose no person will maintain that a
large constituent body is likely to prefer ignorant and incapable
men to men of information and ability? Whatever objections there
may be to democratic institutions, it was never, I believe,
doubted that those institutions are favourable to the development
of talents. We may prefer the constitution of Sparta to that of
Athens, or the constitution of Venice to that of Florence: but
no person will deny that Athens produced more great men than
Sparta, or that Florence produced more great men than Venice.
But to come nearer home: the five largest English towns which
have now the right of returning two members each by popular
election, are Westminster, Southwark, Liverpool, Bristol, and
Norwich. Now let us see what members those places have sent to
Parliament. I will not speak of the living, though among the
living are some of the most distinguished ornaments of the House.
I will confine myself to the dead. Among many respectable and
useful members of Parliament, whom these towns have returned,
during the last half century, I find Mr Burke, Mr Fox, Mr
Sheridan, Mr Windham, Mr Tierney, Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr Canning,
Mr Huskisson. These were eight of the most illustrious
parliamentary leaders of the generation which is passing away
from the world. Mr Pitt was, perhaps, the only person worthy to
make a ninth with them. It is, surely, a remarkable circumstance
that, of the nine most distinguished Members of the House of
Commons who have died within the last forty years, eight should
have been returned to Parliament by the five largest represented
towns. I am, therefore, warranted in saying that great
constituent bodies are quite as competent to discern merit, and
quite as much disposed to reward merit, as the proprietors of
boroughs. It is true that some of the distinguished statesmen
whom I have mentioned would never have been known to large
constituent bodies if they had not first sate for nomination
boroughs. But why is this? Simply, because the expense of
contesting popular places, under the present system, is ruinously
great. A poor man cannot defray it; an untried man cannot expect
his constituents to defray it for him. And this is the way in
which our Representative system is defended. Corruption vouches
corruption. Every abuse is made the plea for another abuse. We
must have nomination at Gatton because we have profusion at
Liverpool. Sir, these arguments convince me, not that no Reform
is required, but that a very deep and searching Reform is
required. If two evils serve in some respects to counterbalance
each other, this is a reason, not for keeping both, but for
getting rid of both together. At present you close against men
of talents that broad, that noble entrance which belongs to them,
and which ought to stand wide open to them; and in exchange you
open to them a bye entrance, low and narrow, always obscure,
often filthy, through which, too often, they can pass only by
crawling on their hands and knees, and from which they too often
emerge sullied with stains never to be washed away. But take the
most favourable case. Suppose that the member who sits for a
nomination borough owes his seat to a man of virtue and honour,
to a man whose service is perfect freedom, to a man who would
think himself degraded by any proof of gratitude which might
degrade his nominee. Yet is it nothing that such a member comes
into this House wearing the badge, though not feeling the chain
of servitude? Is it nothing that he cannot speak of his
independence without exciting a smile? Is it nothing that he is
considered, not as a Representative, but as an adventurer? This
is what your system does for men of genius. It admits them to
political power, not as, under better institutions, they would be
admitted to power, erect, independent, unsullied; but by means
which corrupt the virtue of many, and in some degree diminish the
authority of all. Could any system be devised, better fitted to
pervert the principles and break the spirit of men formed to be
the glory of their country? And, can we mention no instance in
which this system has made such men useless, or worse than
useless, to the country of which their talents were the ornament,
and might, in happier circumstances, have been the salvation?
Ariel, the beautiful and kindly Ariel, doing the bidding of the
loathsome and malignant Sycorax, is but a faint type of genius
enslaved by the spells, and employed in the drudgery of

"A spirit too delicate
To act those earthy and abhorred commands."

We cannot do a greater service to men of real merit than by
destroying that which has been called their refuge, which is
their house of bondage; by taking from them the patronage of the
great, and giving to them in its stead the respect and confidence
of the people. The bill now before us will, I believe, produce
that happy effect. It facilitates the canvass; it reduces the
expense of legal agency; it shortens the poll; above all, it
disfranchises the outvoters. It is not easy to calculate the
precise extent to which these changes will diminish the cost of
elections. I have attempted, however, to obtain some information
on this subject. I have applied to a gentleman of great
experience in affairs of this kind, a gentleman who, at the last
three general elections, managed the finances of the popular
party in one of the largest boroughs in the kingdom. He tells
me, that at the general election of 1826, when that borough was
contested, the expenses of the popular candidate amounted to
eighteen thousand pounds; and that, by the best estimate which
can now be made, the borough may, under the reformed system, be
as effectually contested for one tenth part of that sum. In the
new constituent bodies there are no ancient rights reserved. In
those bodies, therefore, the expense of an election will be still
smaller. I firmly believe, that it will be possible to poll out
Manchester for less than the market price of Old Sarum.

Sir, I have, from the beginning of these discussions, supported
Reform on two grounds; first, because I believe it to be in
itself a good thing; and secondly, because I think the dangers of
withholding it so great that, even if it were an evil, it would
be the less of two evils. The dangers of the country have in no
wise diminished. I believe that they have greatly increased. It
is, I fear, impossible to deny that what has happened with
respect to almost every great question that ever divided mankind
has happened also with respect to the Reform Bill. Wherever
great interests are at stake there will be much excitement; and
wherever there is much excitement there will be some
extravagance. The same great stirring of the human mind which
produced the Reformation produced also the follies and crimes of
the Anabaptists. The same spirit which resisted the Ship-money,
and abolished the Star Chamber, produced the Levellers and the
Fifth Monarchy men. And so, it cannot be denied that bad men,
availing themselves of the agitation produced by the question of
Reform, have promulgated, and promulgated with some success,
doctrines incompatible with the existence, I do not say of
monarchy, or of aristocracy, but of all law, of all order, of all
property, of all civilisation, of all that makes us to differ
from Mohawks or Hottentots. I bring no accusation against that
portion of the working classes which has been imposed upon by
these doctrines. Those persons are what their situation has made
them, ignorant from want of leisure, irritable from the sense of
distress. That they should be deluded by impudent assertions and
gross sophisms; that, suffering cruel privations, they should
give ready credence to promises of relief; that, never having
investigated the nature and operation of government, they should
expect impossibilities from it, and should reproach it for not
performing impossibilities; all this is perfectly natural. No
errors which they may commit ought ever to make us forget that it
is in all probability owing solely to the accident of our
situation that we have not fallen into errors precisely similar.
There are few of us who do not know from experience that, even
with all our advantages of education, pain and sorrow can make us
very querulous and very unreasonable. We ought not, therefore,
to be surprised that, as the Scotch proverb says, "it should be
ill talking between a full man and a fasting;" that the logic of
the rich man who vindicates the rights of property, should seem
very inconclusive to the poor man who hears his children cry for
bread. I bring, I say, no accusation against the working
classes. I would withhold from them nothing which it might be
for their good to possess. I see with pleasure that, by the
provisions of the Reform Bill, the most industrious and
respectable of our labourers will be admitted to a share in the
government of the State. If I would refuse to the working people
that larger share of power which some of them have demanded, I
would refuse it, because I am convinced that, by giving it, I
should only increase their distress. I admit that the end of
government is their happiness. But, that they may be governed
for their happiness, they must not be governed according to the
doctrines which they have learned from their illiterate,
incapable, low-minded flatterers.

But, Sir, the fact that such doctrines have been promulgated
among the multitude is a strong argument for a speedy and
effectual reform. That government is attacked is a reason for
making the foundations of government broader, and deeper, and
more solid. That property is attacked is a reason for binding
together all proprietors in the firmest union. That the
agitation of the question of Reform has enabled worthless
demagogues to propagate their notions with some success is a
reason for speedily settling the question in the only way in
which it can be settled. It is difficult, Sir, to conceive any
spectacle more alarming than that which presents itself to us,
when we look at the two extreme parties in this country; a narrow
oligarchy above; an infuriated multitude below; on the one side
the vices engendered by power; on the other side the vices
engendered by distress; one party blindly averse to improvement;
the other party blindly clamouring for destruction; one party
ascribing to political abuses the sanctity of property; the other
party crying out against property as a political abuse. Both
these parties are alike ignorant of their true interest. God
forbid that the state should ever be at the mercy of either, or
should ever experience the calamities which must result from a
collision between them! I anticipate no such horrible event.
For, between those two parties stands a third party, infinitely
more powerful than both the others put together, attacked by
both, vilified by both, but destined, I trust, to save both from
the fatal effects of their own folly. To that party I have never
ceased, through all the vicissitudes of public affairs, to look
with confidence and with good a hope. I speak of that great
party which zealously and steadily supported the first Reform
Bill, and which will, I have no doubt, support the second Reform
Bill with equal steadiness and equal zeal. That party is the
middle class of England, with the flower of the aristocracy at
its head, and the flower of the working classes bringing up its
rear. That great party has taken its immovable stand between the
enemies of all order and the enemies of all liberty. It will
have Reform: it will not have revolution: it will destroy
political abuses: it will not suffer the rights of property to
be assailed: it will preserve, in spite of themselves, those who
are assailing it, from the right and from the left, with
contradictory accusations: it will be a daysman between them:
it will lay its hand upon them both: it will not suffer them to
tear each other in pieces. While that great party continues
unbroken, as it now is unbroken, I shall not relinquish the hope
that this great contest may be conducted, by lawful means, to a
happy termination. But, of this I am assured, that by means,
lawful or unlawful, to a termination, happy or unhappy, this
contest must speedily come. All that I know of the history of
past times, all the observations that I have been able to make on
the present state of the country, have convinced me that the time
has arrived when a great concession must be made to the democracy
of England; that the question, whether the change be in itself
good or bad, has become a question of secondary importance; that,
good or bad, the thing must be done; that a law as strong as the
laws of attraction and motion has decreed it.

I well know that history, when we look at it in small portions,
may be so construed as to mean anything, that it may be
interpreted in as many ways as a Delphic oracle. "The French
Revolution," says one expositor, "was the effect of concession."
"Not so," cries another: "The French Revolution was produced by
the obstinacy of an arbitrary government." "If the French
nobles," says the first, "had refused to sit with the Third
Estate, they would never have been driven from their country."
"They would never have been driven from their country," answers
the other, "if they had agreed to the reforms proposed by M.
Turgot." These controversies can never be brought to any
decisive test, or to any satisfactory conclusion. But, as I
believe that history, when we look at it in small fragments,
proves anything, or nothing, so I believe that it is full of
useful and precious instruction when we contemplate it in large
portions, when we take in, at one view, the whole lifetime of
great societies. I believe that it is possible to obtain some
insight into the law which regulates the growth of communities,
and some knowledge of the effects which that growth produces.
They history of England, in particular, is the history of a
government constantly giving way, sometimes peaceably, sometimes
after a violent struggle, but constantly giving way before a
nation which has been constantly advancing. The forest laws, the
laws of villenage, the oppressive power of the Roman Catholic
Church, the power, scarcely less oppressive, which, during some
time after the Reformation, was exercised by the Protestant
Establishment, the prerogatives of the Crown, the censorship of
the Press, successively yielded. The abuses of the
representative system are now yielding to the same irresistible
force. It was impossible for the Stuarts, and it would have been
impossible for them if they had possessed all the energy of
Richelieu, and all the craft of Mazarin, to govern England as
England had been governed by the Tudors. It was impossible for
the princes of the House of Hanover to govern England as England
had been governed by the Stuarts. And so it is impossible that
England should be any longer governed as it was governed under
the four first princes of the House of Hanover. I say
impossible. I believe that over the great changes of the moral
world we possess as little power as over the great changes of the
physical world. We can no more prevent time from changing the
distribution of property and of intelligence, we can no more
prevent property and intelligence from aspiring to political
power, than we can change the courses of the seasons and of the
tides. In peace or in tumult, by means of old institutions,
where those institutions are flexible, over the ruins of old
institutions, where those institutions oppose an unbending
resistance, the great march of society proceeds, and must
proceed. The feeble efforts of individuals to bear back are lost
and swept away in the mighty rush with which the species goes
onward. Those who appear to lead the movement are, in fact, only
whirled along before it; those who attempt to resist it, are
beaten down and crushed beneath it.

It is because rulers do not pay sufficient attention to the
stages of this great movement, because they underrate its force,
because they are ignorant of its law, that so many violent and
fearful revolutions have changed the face of society. We have
heard it said a hundred times during these discussions, we have
heard it said repeatedly in the course of this very debate, that
the people of England are more free than ever they were, that the
Government is more democratic than ever it was; and this is urged
as an argument against Reform. I admit the fact; but I deny the
inference. It is a principle never to be forgotten, in
discussions like this, that it is not by absolute, but by
relative misgovernment that nations are roused to madness. It is
not sufficient to look merely at the form of government. We must
look also to the state of the public mind. The worst tyrant that
ever had his neck wrung in modern Europe might have passed for a
paragon of clemency in Persia or Morocco. Our Indian subjects
submit patiently to a monopoly of salt. We tried a stamp duty, a
duty so light as to be scarcely perceptible, on the fierce breed
of the old Puritans; and we lost an empire. The Government of
Louis the Sixteenth was certainly a much better and milder
Government than that of Louis the Fourteenth; yet Louis the
Fourteenth was admired, and even loved, by his people. Louis the
Sixteenth died on the scaffold. Why? Because, though the
Government had made many steps in the career of improvement, it
had not advanced so rapidly as the nation. Look at our own
history. The liberties of the people were at least as much
respected by Charles the First as by Henry the Eighth, by James
the Second as by Edward the Sixth. But did this save the crown
of James the Second? Did this save the head of Charles the
First? Every person who knows the history of our civil
dissensions knows that all those arguments which are now employed
by the opponents of the Reform Bill might have been employed, and
were actually employed, by the unfortunate Stuarts. The
reasoning of Charles, and of all his apologists, runs thus:--
"What new grievance does the nation suffer? What has the King
done more than what Henry did? more than what Elizabeth did? Did
the people ever enjoy more freedom than at present? Did they
ever enjoy so much freedom?" But what would a wise and honest
counsellor, if Charles had been so happy as to possess such a
counsellor, have replied to arguments like these? He would have
said, "Sir, I acknowledge that the people were never more free
than under your government. I acknowledge that those who talk of
restoring the old Constitution of England use an improper
expression. I acknowledge that there has been a constant
improvement during those very years during which many persons
imagine that there has been a constant deterioration. But,
though there has been no change in the government for the worse,
there has been a change in the public mind which produces exactly
the same effect which would be produced by a change in the
government for the worse. Perhaps this change in the public mind
is to be regretted. But no matter; you cannot reverse it. You
cannot undo all that eighty eventful years have done. You cannot
transform the Englishmen of 1640 into the Englishmen of 1560. It
may be that the simple loyalty of our fathers was preferable to
that inquiring, censuring, resisting spirit which is now abroad.
It may be that the times when men paid their benevolences
cheerfully were better times than these, when a gentleman goes
before the Exchequer Chamber to resist an assessment of twenty
shillings. And so it may be that infancy is a happier time than
manhood, and manhood than old age. But God has decreed that old
age shall succeed to manhood, and manhood to infancy. Even so
have societies their law of growth. As their strength becomes
greater, as their experience becomes more extensive, you can no
longer confine them within the swaddling bands, or lull them in
the cradles, or amuse them with the rattles, or terrify them with
the bugbears of their infancy. I do not say that they are better
or happier than they were; but this I say, that they are
different from what they were, that you cannot again make them
what they were, and that you cannot safely treat them as if they
continued to be what they were." This was the advice which a
wise and honest Minister would have given to Charles the First.
These were the principles on which that unhappy prince should
have acted. But no. He would govern, I do not say ill, I do not
say tyrannically; I only say this; he would govern the men of the
seventeenth century as if they had been the men of the sixteenth
century; and therefore it was, that all his talents and all his
virtues did not save him from unpopularity, from civil war, from
a prison, from a bar, from a scaffold. These things are written
for our instruction. Another great intellectual revolution has
taken place; our lot has been cast on a time analogous, in many
respects, to the time which immediately preceded the meeting of
the Long Parliament. There is a change in society. There must
be a corresponding change in the government. We are not, we
cannot, in the nature of things, be, what our fathers were. We
are no more like the men of the American war, or the men of the
gagging bills, than the men who cried "privilege" round the coach
of Charles the First were like the men who changed their religion
once a year at the bidding of Henry the Eighth. That there is
such a change, I can no more doubt than I can doubt that we have
more power looms, more steam engines, more gas lights, than our
ancestors. That there is such a change, the Minister will surely
find who shall attempt to fit the yoke of Mr Pitt to the necks of
the Englishmen of the nineteenth century. What then can you do
to bring back those times when the constitution of this House was
an object of veneration to the people? Even as much as Strafford
and Laud could do to bring back the days of the Tudors; as much
as Bonner and Gardiner could do to bring back the days of
Hildebrand; as much as Villele and Polignac could do to bring
back the days of Louis the Fourteenth. You may make the change
tedious; you may make it violent; you may--God in his mercy
forbid!--you may make it bloody; but avert it you cannot.
Agitations of the public mind, so deep and so long continued as
those which we have witnessed, do not end in nothing. In peace
or in convulsion, by the law, or in spite of the law, through the
Parliament, or over the Parliament, Reform must be carried.
Therefore be content to guide that movement which you cannot
stop. Fling wide the gates to that force which else will enter
through the breach. Then will it still be, as it has hitherto
been, the peculiar glory of our Constitution that, though not
exempt from the decay which is wrought by the vicissitudes of
fortune, and the lapse of time, in all the proudest works of
human power and wisdom, it yet contains within it the means of
self-reparation. Then will England add to her manifold titles of
glory this, the noblest and the purest of all; that every
blessing which other nations have been forced to seek, and have
too often sought in vain, by means of violent and bloody
revolutions, she will have attained by a peaceful and a lawful




On Monday, the twenty-seventh of February, 1832, the House took
into consideration the report of the Committee on Mr Warburton's
Anatomy Bill. Mr Henry Hunt attacked that bill with great
asperity. In reply to him the following Speech was made.

Sir, I cannot, even at this late hour of the night, refrain from
saying two or three words. Most of the observations of the
honourable Member for Preston I pass by, as undeserving of any
answer before an audience like this. But on one part of his
speech I must make a few remarks. We are, he says, making a law
to benefit the rich, at the expense of the poor. Sir, the fact
is the direct reverse. This is a bill which tends especially to
the benefit of the poor. What are the evils against which we are
attempting to make provision? Two especially; that is to say,
the practice of Burking, and bad surgery. Now to both these the
poor alone are exposed. What man, in our rank of life, runs the
smallest risk of being Burked? That a man has property, that he
has connections, that he is likely to be missed and sought for,
are circumstances which secure him against the Burker. It is
curious to observe the difference between murders of this kind
and other murders. An ordinary murder hides the body, and
disposes of the property. Bishop and Williams dig holes and bury
the property, and expose the body to sale. The more wretched,
the more lonely, any human being may be, the more desirable prey
is he to these wretches. It is the man, the mere naked man, that
they pursue. Again, as to bad surgery; this is, of all evils,
the evil by which the rich suffer least, and the poor most. If
we could do all that in the opinion of the Member for Preston
ought to be done, if we could destroy the English school of
anatomy, if we could force every student of medical science to go
to the expense of a foreign education, on whom would the bad
consequences fall? On the rich? Not at all. As long as there
is in France, in Italy, in Germany, a single surgeon of eminent
skill, a single surgeon who is, to use the phrase of the member
for Preston, addicted to dissection, that surgeon will be in
attendance whenever an English nobleman is to be cut for the
stone. The higher orders in England will always be able to
procure the best medical assistance. Who suffers by the bad
state of the Russian school of surgery? The Emperor Nicholas?
By no means. The whole evil falls on the peasantry. If the
education of a surgeon should become very extensive, if the fees
of surgeons should consequently rise, if the supply of regular
surgeons should diminish, the sufferers would be, not the rich,
but the poor in our country villages, who would again be left to
mountebanks, and barbers, and old women, and charms and quack
medicines. The honourable gentleman talks of sacrificing the
interests of humanity to the interests of science, as if this
were a question about the squaring of the circle, or the transit
of Venus. This is not a mere question of science: it is not the
unprofitable exercise of an ingenious mind: it is a question
between health and sickness, between ease and torment, between
life and death. Does the honourable gentleman know from what
cruel sufferings the improvement of surgical science has rescued
our species? I will tell him one story, the first that comes
into my head. He may have heard of Leopold, Duke of Austria, the
same who imprisoned our Richard Coeur-de-Lion. Leopold's horse
fell under him, and crushed his leg. The surgeons said that the
limb must be amputated; but none of them knew how to amputate it.
Leopold, in his agony, laid a hatchet on his thigh, and ordered
his servant to strike with a mallet. The leg was cut off, and
the Duke died of the gush of blood. Such was the end of that
powerful prince. Why, there is not now a bricklayer who falls
from a ladder in England, who cannot obtain surgical assistance,
infinitely superior to that which the sovereign of Austria could
command in the twelfth century. I think this a bill which tends
to the good of the people, and which tends especially to the good
of the poor. Therefore I support it. If it is unpopular, I am
sorry for it. But I shall cheerfully take my share of its
unpopularity. For such, I am convinced, ought to be the conduct
of one whose object it is, not to flatter the people, but to
serve them.




On Tuesday, the twenty-eighth of February, 1832, in the Committee
on the Bill to amend the representation of the people in England
and Wales, the question was put, "That the Tower Hamlets,
Middlesex, stand part of Schedule C." The opponents of the Bill
mustered their whole strength on this occasion, and were joined
by some members who had voted with the Government on the second
reading. The question was carried, however, by 316 votes to 236.
The following Speech was made in reply to the Marquess of Chandos
and Sir Edward Sugden, who, on very different grounds, objected
to any increase in the number of metropolitan members.

Mr Bernal,--I have spoken so often on the question of
Parliamentary Reform, that I am very unwilling to occupy the time
of the Committee. But the importance of the amendment proposed
by the noble Marquess, and the peculiar circumstances in which we
are placed to-night, make me so anxious that I cannot remain

In this debate, as in every other debate, our first object should
be to ascertain on which side the burden of the proof lies. Now,
it seems to me quite clear that the burden of the proof lies on
those who support the amendment. I am entitled to take it for
granted that it is right and wise to give representatives to some
wealthy and populous places which have hitherto been
unrepresented. To this extent, at least, we all, with scarcely
an exception, now profess ourselves Reformers. There is, indeed,
a great party which still objects to the disfranchising even of
the smallest boroughs. But all the most distinguished chiefs of
that party have, here and elsewhere, admitted that the elective
franchise ought to be given to some great towns which have risen
into importance since our representative system took its present
form. If this be so, on what ground can it be contended that
these metropolitan districts ought not to be represented? Are
they inferior in importance to the other places to which we are
all prepared to give members? I use the word importance with
perfect confidence: for, though in our recent debates there has
been some dispute as to the standard by which the importance of
towns is to be measured, there is no room for dispute here.
Here, take what standard you will, the result will be the same.
Take population: take the rental: take the number of ten pound
houses: take the amount of the assessed taxes: take any test in
short: take any number of tests, and combine those tests in any
of the ingenious ways which men of science have suggested:
multiply: divide: subtract: add: try squares or cubes: try
square roots or cube roots: you will never be able to find a
pretext for excluding these districts from Schedule C. If, then,
it be acknowledged that the franchise ought to be given to
important places which are at present unrepresented, and if it be
acknowledged that these districts are in importance not inferior
to any place which is at present unrepresented, you are bound to
give us strong reasons for withholding the franchise from these

The honourable and learned gentleman (Sir E. Sugden.) has tried
to give such reasons; and, in doing so, he has completely refuted
the whole speech of the noble Marquess, with whom he means to
divide. (The Marquess of Chandos.) The truth is that the noble
Marquess and the honourable and learned gentleman, though they
agree in their votes, do not at all agree in their forebodings or
in their ulterior intentions. The honourable and learned
gentleman thinks it dangerous to increase the number of
metropolitan voters. The noble Lord is perfectly willing to
increase the number of metropolitan voters, and objects only to
any increase in the number of metropolitan members. "Will you,"
says the honourable and learned gentleman, "be so rash, so
insane, as to create constituent bodies of twenty or thirty
thousand electors?" "Yes," says the noble Marquess, "and much
more than that. I will create constituent bodies of forty
thousand, sixty thousand, a hundred thousand. I will add
Marylebone to Westminster. I will add Lambeth to Southwark. I
will add Finsbury and the Tower Hamlets to the City." The noble
Marquess, it is clear, is not afraid of the excitement which may
be produced by the polling of immense multitudes. Of what then
is he afraid? Simply of eight members: nay, of six members:
for he is willing, he tells us, to add two members to the two who
already sit for Middlesex, and who may be considered as
metropolitan members. Are six members, then, so formidable? I
could mention a single peer who now sends more than six members
to the House. But, says the noble Marquess, the members for the
metropolitan districts will be called to a strict account by
their constituents: they will be mere delegates: they will be
forced to speak, not their own sense, but the sense of the
capital. I will answer for it, Sir, that they will not be called
to a stricter account than those gentlemen who are nominated by
some great proprietors of boroughs. Is it not notorious that
those who represent it as in the highest degree pernicious and
degrading that a public man should be called to account by a
great city which has intrusted its dearest interests to his care,
do nevertheless think that he is bound by the most sacred ties of
honour to vote according to the wishes of his patron or to apply
for the Chiltern Hundreds? It is a bad thing, I fully admit,
that a Member of Parliament should be a mere delegate. But it is
not worse that he should be the delegate of a hundred thousand
people than of one too powerful individual. What a perverse,
what an inconsistent spirit is this; too proud to bend to the
wishes of a nation, yet ready to lick the dust at the feet of a
patron! And how is it proved that a member for Lambeth or
Finsbury will be under a more servile awe of his constituents
than a member for Leicester, or a member for Leicestershire, or a
member for the University of Oxford? Is it not perfectly
notorious that many members voted, year after year, against
Catholic Emancipation, simply because they knew that, if they
voted otherwise, they would lose their seats? No doubt this is
an evil. But it is an evil which will exist in some form or
other as long as human nature is the same, as long as there are
men so low-minded as to prefer the gratification of a vulgar
ambition to the approbation of their conscience and the welfare
of their country. Construct your representative system as you
will, these men will always be sycophants. If you give power to
Marylebone, they will fawn on the householders of Marylebone. If
you leave power to Gatton, they will fawn on the proprietor of
Gatton. I can see no reason for believing that their baseness
will be more mischievous in the former case than in the latter.

But, it is said, the power of this huge capital is even now
dangerously great; and will you increase that power? Now, Sir, I
am far from denying that the power of London is, in some sense,
dangerously great; but I altogether deny that the danger will be
increased by this bill. It has always been found that a hundred
thousand people congregated close to the seat of government
exercise a greater influence on public affairs than five hundred
thousand dispersed over a remote province. But this influence is
not proportioned to the number of representatives chosen by the
capital. This influence is felt at present, though the greater
part of the capital is unrepresented. This influence is felt in
countries where there is no representative system at all.
Indeed, this influence is nowhere so great as under despotic
governments. I need not remind the Committee that the Caesars,
while ruling by the sword, while putting to death without a trial
every senator, every magistrate, who incurred their displeasure,
yet found it necessary to keep the populace of the imperial city
in good humour by distributions of corn and shows of wild beasts.
Every country, from Britain to Egypt, was squeezed for the means
of filling the granaries and adorning the theatres of Rome. On
more than one occasion, long after the Cortes of Castile had
become a mere name, the rabble of Madrid assembled before the
royal palace, forced their King, their absolute King, to appear
in the balcony, and exacted from him a promise that he would
dismiss an obnoxious minister. It was in this way that Charles
the Second was forced to part with Oropesa, and that Charles the
Third was forced to part with Squillaci. If there is any country
in the world where pure despotism exists, that country is Turkey;
and yet there is no country in the world where the inhabitants of
the capital are so much dreaded by the government. The Sultan,
who stands in awe of nothing else, stands in awe of the turbulent
populace, which may, at any moment, besiege him in his Seraglio.
As soon as Constantinople is up, everything is conceded. The
unpopular edict is recalled. The unpopular vizier is beheaded.
This sort of power has nothing to do with representation. It
depends on physical force and on vicinity. You do not propose to
take this sort of power away from London. Indeed, you cannot
take it away. Nothing can take it away but an earthquake more
terrible than that of Lisbon, or a fire more destructive than
that of 1666. Law can do nothing against this description of
power; for it is a power which is formidable only when law has
ceased to exist. While the reign of law continues, eight votes
in a House of six hundred and fifty-eight Members will hardly do
much harm. When the reign of law is at an end, and the reign of
violence commences, the importance of a million and a half of
people, all collected within a walk of the Palace, of the
Parliament House, of the Bank, of the Courts of Justice, will not
be measured by eight or by eighty votes. See, then, what you are
doing. That power which is not dangerous you refuse to London.
That power which is dangerous you leave undiminished; nay, you
make it more dangerous still. For by refusing to let eight or
nine hundred thousand people express their opinions and wishes in
a legal and constitutional way, you increase the risk of
disaffection and of tumult. It is not necessary to have recourse
to the speeches or writings of democrats to show that a
represented district is far more likely to be turbulent than an
unrepresented district. Mr Burke, surely not a rash innovator,
not a flatterer of the multitude, described long ago in this
place with admirable eloquence the effect produced by the law
which gave representative institutions to the rebellious
mountaineers of Wales. That law, he said, had been to an
agitated nation what the twin stars celebrated by Horace were to
a stormy sea; the wind had fallen; the clouds had dispersed; the
threatening waves had sunk to rest. I have mentioned the
commotions of Madrid and Constantinople. Why is it that the
population of unrepresented London, though physically far more
powerful than the population of Madrid or of Constantinople, has
been far more peaceable? Why have we never seen the inhabitants
of the metropolis besiege St James's, or force their way
riotously into this House? Why, but because they have other
means of giving vent to their feelings, because they enjoy the
liberty of unlicensed printing, and the liberty of holding public
meetings. Just as the people of unrepresented London are more
orderly than the people of Constantinople and Madrid, so will the
people of represented London be more orderly than the people of
unrepresented London.

Surely, Sir, nothing can be more absurd than to withhold legal
power from a portion of the community because that portion of the
community possesses natural power. Yet that is precisely what
the noble Marquess would have us do. In all ages a chief cause
of the intestine disorders of states has been that the natural
distribution of power and the legal distribution of power have
not corresponded with each other. This is no newly discovered
truth. It was well known to Aristotle more than two thousand
years ago. It is illustrated by every part of ancient and of
modern history, and eminently by the history of England during
the last few months. Our country has been in serious danger; and
why? Because a representative system, framed to suit the England
of the thirteenth century, did not suit the England of the
nineteenth century; because an old wall, the last relique of a
departed city, retained the privileges of that city, while great
towns, celebrated all over the world for wealth and intelligence,
had no more share in the government than when they were still
hamlets. The object of this bill is to correct those monstrous
disproportions, and to bring the legal order of society into
something like harmony with the natural order. What, then, can
be more inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the bill
than to exclude any district from a share in the representation,
for no reason but because that district is, and must always be,
one of great importance? This bill was meant to reconcile and
unite. Will you frame it in such a manner that it must
inevitably produce irritation and discord? This bill was meant
to be final in the only rational sense of the word final. Will
you frame it in such a way that it must inevitably be shortlived?
Is it to be the first business of the first reformed House of
Commons to pass a new Reform Bill? Gentlemen opposite have often
predicted that the settlement which we are making will not be
permanent; and they are now taking the surest way to accomplish
their own prediction. I agree with them in disliking change
merely as change. I would bear with many things which are
indefensible in theory, nay, with some things which are grievous
in practice, rather than venture on a change in the composition
of Parliament. But when such a change is necessary,--and that
such a change is now necessary is admitted by men of all
parties,--then I hold that it ought to be full and effectual. A
great crisis may be followed by the complete restoration of
health. But no constitution will bear perpetual tampering. If
the noble Marquess's amendment should unhappily be carried, it is
morally certain that the immense population of Finsbury, of
Marylebone, of Lambeth, of the Tower Hamlets, will, importunately
and clamorously, demand redress from the reformed Parliament.
That Parliament, you tell us, will be much more democratically
inclined than the Parliaments of past times. If so, how can you
expect that it will resist the urgent demands of a million of
people close to its door? These eight seats will be given. More
than eight seats will be given. The whole question of Reform
will be opened again; and the blame will rest on those who will,
by mutilating this great law in an essential part, cause hundreds
of thousands who now regard it as a boon to regard it as an

Sir, our word is pledged. Let us remember the solemn promise
which we gave to the nation last October at a perilous
conjuncture. That promise was that we would stand firmly by the
principles and leading provisions of the Reform Bill. Our
sincerity is now brought to the test. One of the leading
provisions of the bill is in danger. The question is, not merely
whether these districts shall be represented, but whether we will
keep the faith which we plighted to our countrymen. Let us be
firm. Let us make no concession to those who, having in vain
tried to throw the bill out, are now trying to fritter it away.
An attempt has been made to induce the Irish members to vote
against the government. It has been hinted that, perhaps, some
of the seats taken from the metropolis may be given to Ireland.
Our Irish friends will, I doubt not, remember that the very
persons who offer this bribe exerted themselves not long ago to
raise a cry against the proposition to give additional members to
Belfast, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway. The truth is that our
enemies wish only to divide us, and care not by what means. One
day they try to excite jealousy among the English by asserting
that the plan of the government is too favourable to Ireland.
Next day they try to bribe the Irish to desert us, by promising
to give something to Ireland at the expense of England. Let us
disappoint these cunning men. Let us, from whatever part of the
United Kingdom we come, be true to each other and to the good
cause. We have the confidence of our country. We have justly
earned it. For God's sake let us not throw it away. Other
occasions may arise on which honest Reformers may fairly take
different sides. But to-night he that is not with us is against




On the twenty-ninth of January 1833, the first Parliament elected
under the Reform Act of 1832 met at Westminster. On the fifth of
February, King William the Fourth made a speech from the throne,
in which he expressed his hope that the Houses would entrust him
with such powers as might be necessary for maintaining order in
Ireland and for preserving and strengthening the union between
that country and Great Britain. An Address, assuring His Majesty
of the concurrence and support of the Commons, was moved by Lord
Ormelie and seconded by Mr John Marshall. Mr O'Connell opposed
the Address, and moved, as an amendment, that the House should
resolve itself into a Committee. After a discussion of four
nights the amendment was rejected by 428 votes to 40. On the
second night of the debate the following Speech was made.

Last night, Sir, I thought that it would not be necessary for me
to take any part in the present debate: but the appeal which has
this evening been made to me by my honourable friend the Member
for Lincoln (Mr Edward Lytton Bulwer.) has forced me to rise. I
will, however, postpone the few words which I have to say in
defence of my own consistency, till I have expressed my opinion
on the much more important subject which is before the House.

My honourable friend tells us that we are now called upon to make
a choice between two modes of pacifying Ireland; that the
government recommends coercion; that the honourable and learned
Member for Dublin (Mr O'Connell.) recommends redress; and that it
is our duty to try the effect of redress before we have recourse
to coercion. The antithesis is framed with all the ingenuity
which is characteristic of my honourable friend's style; but I
cannot help thinking that, on this occasion, his ingenuity has
imposed on himself, and that he has not sufficiently considered
the meaning of the pointed phrase which he used with so much
effect. Redress is no doubt a very well sounding word. What can
be more reasonable than to ask for redress? What more unjust
than to refuse redress? But my honourable friend will perceive,
on reflection, that, though he and the honourable and learned
Member for Dublin agree in pronouncing the word redress, they
agree in nothing else. They utter the same sound; but they
attach to it two diametrically opposite meanings. The honourable
and learned Member for Dublin means by redress simply the Repeal
of the Union. Now, to the Repeal of the Union my honourable
friend the Member for Lincoln is decidedly adverse. When we get
at his real meaning, we find that he is just as unwilling as we
are to give the redress which the honourable and learned Member
for Dublin demands. Only a small minority of the House will, I
hope, and believe, vote with that honourable and learned member;
but the minority which thinks with him will be very much smaller.

We have, indeed, been told by some gentlemen, who are not
themselves repealers, that the question of Repeal deserves a much
more serious consideration than it has yet received. Repeal,
they say, is an object on which millions have, however unwisely,
set their hearts; and men who speak in the name of millions are
not to be coughed down or sneered down. That which a suffering
nation regards, rightly or wrongly, as the sole cure for all its
distempers, ought not to be treated with levity, but to be the
subject of full and solemn debate. All this, Sir, is most true:
but I am surprised that this lecture should have been read to us
who sit on your right. It would, I apprehend, have been with
more propriety addressed to a different quarter. Whose fault is
it that we have not yet had, and that there is no prospect of our
having, this full and solemn debate? Is it the fault of His
Majesty's Ministers? Have not they framed the Speech which their
Royal Master delivered from the throne, in such a manner as to
invite the grave and searching discussion of the question of
Repeal? and has not the invitation been declined? Is it not
fresh in our recollection that the honourable and learned Member
for Dublin spoke two hours, perhaps three hours,--nobody keeps
accurate account of time while he speaks,--but two or three hours
without venturing to join issue with us on this subject? In
truth, he suffered judgment to go against him by default. We, on
this side of the House, did our best to provoke him to the
conflict. We called on him to maintain here those doctrines
which he had proclaimed elsewhere with so much vehemence, and, I
am sorry to be forced to add, with a scurrility unworthy of his
parts and eloquence. Never was a challenge more fairly given:
but it was not accepted. The great champion of Repeal would not
lift our glove. He shrank back; he skulked away; not, assuredly,
from distrust of his powers, which have never been more
vigorously exerted than in this debate, but evidently from
distrust of his cause. I have seldom heard so able a speech as
his: I certainly never heard a speech so evasive. From the
beginning to the end he studiously avoided saying a single word
tending to raise a discussion about that Repeal which, in other
places, he constantly affirms to be the sole panacea for all the
evils by which his country is afflicted. Nor is this all.
Yesterday night he placed on our order-book not less than
fourteen notices; and of those notices not a single one had any
reference to the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. It is
therefore evident to me, not only that the honourable and learned
gentleman is not now prepared to debate the question in this
House, but that he has no intention of debating it in this House
at all. He keeps it, and prudently keeps it, for audiences of a
very different kind. I am therefore, I repeat, surprised to hear
the Government accused of avoiding the discussion of this
subject. Why should we avoid a battle in which the bold and
skilful captain of the enemy evidently knows that we must be

One gentleman, though not a repealer, has begged us not to
declare ourselves decidedly adverse to repeal till we have
studied the petitions which are coming in from Ireland. Really,
Sir, this is not a subject on which any public man ought to be
now making up his mind. My mind is made up. My reasons are such
as, I am certain, no petition from Ireland will confute. Those
reasons have long been ready to be produced; and, since we are
accused of flinching, I will at once produce them. I am prepared
to show that the Repeal of the Union would not remove the
political and social evils which afflict Ireland, nay, that it
would aggravate almost every one of those evils.

I understand, though I do not approve, the proceedings of poor
Wolfe Tone and his confederates. They wished to make a complete
separation between Great Britain and Ireland. They wished to
establish a Hibernian republic. Their plan was a very bad one;
but, to do them justice, it was perfectly consistent; and an
ingenious man might defend it by some plausible arguments. But
that is not the plan of the honourable and learned Member for
Dublin. He assures us that he wishes the connection between the
islands to be perpetual. He is for a complete separation between
the two Parliaments; but he is for indissoluble union between the
two Crowns. Nor does the honourable and learned gentleman mean,
by an union between the Crowns, such an union as exists between
the Crown of this kingdom and the Crown of Hanover. For I need
not say that, though the same person is king of Great Britain and
of Hanover, there is no more political connection between Great
Britain and Hanover than between Great Britain and Hesse, or
between Great Britain and Bavaria. Hanover may be at peace with
a state with which Great Britain is at war. Nay, Hanover may, as
a member of the Germanic body, send a contingent of troops to
cross bayonets with the King's English footguards. This is not
the relation in which the honourable and learned gentleman
proposes that Great Britain and Ireland should stand to each
other. His plan is, that each of the two countries shall have an
independent legislature, but that both shall have the same
executive government. Now, is it possible that a mind so acute
and so well informed as his should not at once perceive that this
plan involves an absurdity, a downright contradiction. Two
independent legislatures! One executive government! How can the
thing be? No doubt, if the legislative power were quite distinct
from the executive power, England and Ireland might as easily
have two legislatures as two Chancellors and two Courts of King's
Bench. But though, in books written by theorists, the executive
power and the legislative power may be treated as things quite
distinct, every man acquainted with the real working of our
constitution knows that the two powers are most closely
connected, nay, intermingled with each other. During several
generations, the whole administration of affairs has been
conducted in conformity with the sense of Parliament. About
every exercise of the prerogative of the Crown it is the
privilege of Parliament to offer advice; and that advice no wise
king will ever slight. It is the prerogative of the Sovereign to
choose his own servants; but it is impossible for him to maintain
them in office unless Parliament will support them. It is the
prerogative of the Sovereign to treat with other princes; but it
is impossible for him to persist in any scheme of foreign policy
which is disagreeable to Parliament. It is the prerogative of
the Sovereign to make war; but he cannot raise a battalion or man
a frigate without the help of Parliament. The repealers may
therefore be refuted out of their own mouths. They say that
Great Britain and Ireland ought to have one executive power. But
the legislature has a most important share of the executive
power. Therefore, by the confession of the repealers themselves,
Great Britain and Ireland ought to have one legislature.

Consider for one moment in what a situation the executive
government will be placed if you have two independent
legislatures, and if those legislatures should differ, as all
bodies which are independent of each other will sometimes differ.
Suppose the case of a commercial treaty which is unpopular in
England and popular in Ireland. The Irish Parliament expresses
its approbation of the terms, and passes a vote of thanks to the
negotiator. We at Westminster censure the terms and impeach the
negotiator. Or are we to have two foreign offices, one in
Downing Street and one in Dublin Castle? Is His Majesty to send
to every court in Christendom two diplomatic agents, to thwart
each other, and to be spies upon each other? It is inconceivable
but that, in a very few years, disputes such as can be terminated
only by arms must arise between communities so absurdly united
and so absurdly disunited. All history confirms this reasoning.
Superficial observers have fancied that they had found cases on
the other side. But as soon as you examine those cases you will
see either that they bear no analogy to the case with which we
have to deal, or that they corroborate my argument. The case of
Ireland herself has been cited. Ireland, it has been said, had
an independent legislature from 1782 to 1800: during eighteen
years there were two coequal parliaments under one Crown; and yet
there was no collision. Sir, the reason that there was not
perpetual collision was, as we all know, that the Irish
parliament, though nominally independent, was generally kept in
real dependence by means of the foulest corruption that ever
existed in any assembly. But it is not true that there was no
collision. Before the Irish legislature had been six years
independent, a collision did take place, a collision such as
might well have produced a civil war. In the year 1788, George
the Third was incapacitated by illness from discharging his regal
functions. According to the constitution, the duty of making
provision for the discharge of those functions devolved on the
parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland. Between the government
of Great Britain and the government of Ireland there was, during
the interregnum, no connection whatever. The sovereign who was
the common head of both governments had virtually ceased to
exist: and the two legislatures were no more to each other than
this House and the Chamber of Deputies at Paris. What followed?
The Parliament of Great Britain resolved to offer the Regency to
the Prince of Wales under many important restrictions. The
Parliament of Ireland made him an offer of the Regency without
any restrictions whatever. By the same right by which the Irish
Lords and Commons made that offer, they might, if Mr Pitt's
doctrine be the constitutional doctrine, as I believe it to be,
have made the Duke of York or the Duke of Leinster Regent. To
this Regent they might have given all the prerogatives of the
King. Suppose,--no extravagant supposition,--that George the
Third had not recovered, that the rest of his long life had been
passed in seclusion, Great Britain and Ireland would then have
been, during thirty-two years, as completely separated as Great
Britain and Spain. There would have been nothing in common
between the governments, neither executive power nor legislative
power. It is plain, therefore, that a total separation between
the two islands might, in the natural course of things, and
without the smallest violation of the constitution on either
side, be the effect of the arrangement recommended by the
honourable and learned gentleman, who solemnly declares that he
should consider such a separation as the greatest of calamities.

No doubt, Sir, in several continental kingdoms there have been
two legislatures, and indeed more than two legislatures, under
the same Crown. But the explanation is simple. Those
legislatures were of no real weight in the government. Under
Louis the Fourteenth Brittany had its States; Burgundy had its
States; and yet there was no collision between the States of
Brittany and the States of Burgundy. But why? Because neither
the States of Brittany nor the States of Burgundy imposed any
real restraint on the arbitrary power of the monarch. So, in the
dominions of the House of Hapsburg, there is the semblance of a
legislature in Hungary and the semblance of a legislature in the
Tyrol: but all the real power is with the Emperor. I do not say
that you cannot have one executive power and two mock
parliaments, two parliaments which merely transact parish
business, two parliaments which exercise no more influence on
great affairs of state than the vestry of St Pancras or the
vestry of Marylebone. What I do say, and what common sense
teaches, and what all history teaches, is this, that you cannot
have one executive power and two real parliaments, two
parliaments possessing such powers as the parliament of this
country has possessed ever since the Revolution, two parliaments
to the deliberate sense of which the Sovereign must conform. If
they differ, how can he conform to the sense of both? The thing
is as plain as a proposition in Euclid.

It is impossible for me to believe that considerations so obvious
and so important should not have occurred to the honourable and
learned Member for Dublin. Doubtless they have occurred to him;
and therefore it is that he shrinks from arguing the question
here. Nay, even when he harangues more credulous assemblies on
the subject, he carefully avoids precise explanations; and the
hints which sometimes escape him are not easily to be reconciled
with each other. On one occasion, if the newspapers are to be
trusted, he declared that his object was to establish a federal
union between Great Britain and Ireland. A local parliament, it
seems, is to sit at Dublin, and to send deputies to an imperial
parliament which is to sit at Westminster. The honourable and
learned gentleman thinks, I suppose, that in this way he evades
the difficulties which I have pointed out. But he deceives
himself. If, indeed, his local legislature is to be subject to
his imperial legislature, if his local legislature is to be
merely what the Assembly of Antigua or Barbadoes is, or what the
Irish Parliament was before 1782, the danger of collision is no
doubt removed: but what, on the honourable and learned
gentleman's own principles, would Ireland gain by such an
arrangement? If, on the other hand, his local legislature is to
be for certain purposes independent, you have again the risk of
collision. Suppose that a difference of opinion should arise
between the Imperial Parliament and the Irish Parliament as to
the limits of their powers, who is to decide between them? A
dispute between the House of Commons and the House of Lords is
bad enough. Yet in that case, the Sovereign can, by a high
exercise of his prerogative, produce harmony. He can send us
back to our constituents; and, if that expedient fails, he can
create more lords. When, in 1705, the dispute between the Houses
about the Aylesbury men ran high, Queen Anne restored concord by
dismissing the Parliament. Seven years later she put an end to
another conflict between the Houses by making twelve peers in one
day. But who is to arbitrate between two representative bodies
chosen by different constituent bodies? Look at what is now
passing in America. Of all federal constitutions that of the
United States is the best. It was framed by a convention which
contained many wise and experienced men, and over which
Washington presided. Yet there is a debateable ground on the
frontier which separates the functions of Congress from those of
the state legislatures. A dispute as to the exact boundary has
lately arisen. Neither party seems disposed to yield: and, if
both persist, there can be no umpire but the sword.

For my part, Sir, I have no hesitation in saying that I should
very greatly prefer the total separation which the honourable and
learned gentleman professes to consider as a calamity, to the
partial separation which he has taught his countrymen to regard
as a blessing. If, on a fair trial, it be found that Great
Britain and Ireland cannot exist happily together as parts of one
empire, in God's name let them separate. I wish to see them
joined as the limbs of a well formed body are joined. In such a
body the members assist each other: they are nourished by the
same food: if one member suffer, all suffer with it: if one
member rejoice, all rejoice with it. But I do not wish to see
the countries united, like those wretched twins from Siam who
were exhibited here a little while ago, by an unnatural ligament
which made each the constant plague of the other, always in each
other's way, more helpless than others because they had twice as
many hands, slower than others because they had twice as many
legs, sympathising with each other only in evil, not feeling each
other's pleasures, not supported by each other's aliments, but
tormented by each other's infirmities, and certain to perish
miserably by each other's dissolution.

Ireland has undoubtedly just causes of complaint. We heard those
causes recapitulated last night by the honourable and learned
Member, who tells us that he represents not Dublin alone, but
Ireland, and that he stands between his country and civil war. I
do not deny that most of the grievances which he recounted exist,
that they are serious, and that they ought to be remedied as far
as it is in the power of legislation to remedy them. What I do
deny is that they were caused by the Union, and that the Repeal
of the Union would remove them. I listened attentively while the
honourable and learned gentleman went through that long and
melancholy list: and I am confident that he did not mention a
single evil which was not a subject of bitter complaint while
Ireland had a domestic parliament. Is it fair, is it reasonable
in the honourable gentleman to impute to the Union evils which,
as he knows better than any other man in this house, existed long
before the Union? Post hoc: ergo, propter hoc is not always
sound reasoning. But ante hoc: ergo, non propter hoc is
unanswerable. The old rustic who told Sir Thomas More that
Tenterden steeple was the cause of Godwin sands reasoned much
better than the honourable and learned gentleman. For it was not
till after Tenterden steeple was built that the frightful wrecks
on the Godwin sands were heard of. But the honourable and
learned gentleman would make Godwin sands the cause of Tenterden
steeple. Some of the Irish grievances which he ascribes to the
Union are not only older than the Union, but are not peculiarly
Irish. They are common to England, Scotland, and Ireland; and it
was in order to get rid of them that we, for the common benefit
of England, Scotland, and Ireland, passed the Reform Bill last
year. Other grievances which the honourable and learned
gentleman mentioned are doubtless local; but is there to be a
local legislature wherever there is a local grievance? Wales has
had local grievances. We all remember the complaints which were
made a few years ago about the Welsh judicial system; but did
anybody therefore propose that Wales should have a distinct
parliament? Cornwall has some local grievances; but does anybody
propose that Cornwall shall have its own House of Lords and its
own House of Commons? Leeds has local grievances. The majority
of my constituents distrust and dislike the municipal government
to which they are subject; they therefore call loudly on us for
corporation reform: but they do not ask us for a separate
legislature. Of this I am quite sure, that every argument which
has been urged for the purpose of showing that Great Britain and
Ireland ought to have two distinct parliaments may be urged with
far greater force for the purpose of showing that the north of
Ireland and the south of Ireland ought to have two distinct
parliaments. The House of Commons of the United Kingdom, it has
been said, is chiefly elected by Protestants, and therefore
cannot be trusted to legislate for Catholic Ireland. If this be
so, how can an Irish House of Commons, chiefly elected by
Catholics, be trusted to legislate for Protestant Ulster? It is
perfectly notorious that theological antipathies are stronger in
Ireland than here. I appeal to the honourable and learned
gentleman himself. He has often declared that it is impossible
for a Roman Catholic, whether prosecutor or culprit, to obtain
justice from a jury of Orangemen. It is indeed certain that, in
blood, religion, language, habits, character, the population of
some of the northern counties of Ireland has much more in common
with the population of England and Scotland than with the
population of Munster and Connaught. I defy the honourable and
learned Member, therefore, to find a reason for having a
parliament at Dublin which will not be just as good a reason for
having another parliament at Londonderry.

Sir, in showing, as I think I have shown, the absurdity of this
cry for Repeal, I have in a great measure vindicated myself from
the charge of inconsistency which has been brought against me by
my honourable friend the Member for Lincoln. It is very easy to
bring a volume of Hansard to the House, to read a few sentences
of a speech made in very different circumstances, and to say,
"Last year you were for pacifying England by concession: this
year you are for pacifying Ireland by coercion. How can you
vindicate your consistency?" Surely my honourable friend cannot
but know that nothing is easier than to write a theme for
severity, for clemency, for order, for liberty, for a
contemplative life, for a active life, and so on. It was a
common exercise in the ancient schools of rhetoric to take an
abstract question, and to harangue first on one side and then on
the other. The question, Ought popular discontents to be quieted
by concession or coercion? would have been a very good subject
for oratory of this kind. There is no lack of commonplaces on
either side. But when we come to the real business of life, the
value of these commonplaces depends entirely on the particular
circumstances of the case which we are discussing. Nothing is
easier than to write a treatise proving that it is lawful to
resist extreme tyranny. Nothing is easier than to write a
treatise setting forth the wickedness of wantonly bringing on a
great society the miseries inseparable from revolution, the
bloodshed, the spoliation, the anarchy. Both treatises may
contain much that is true; but neither will enable us to decide
whether a particular insurrection is or is not justifiable
without a close examination of the facts. There is surely no
inconsistency in speaking with respect of the memory of Lord
Russell and with horror of the crime of Thistlewood; and, in my
opinion, the conduct of Russell and the conduct of Thistlewood
did not differ more widely than the cry for Parliamentary Reform
and the cry for the Repeal of the Union. The Reform Bill I
believe to be a blessing to the nation. Repeal I know to be a
mere delusion. I know it to be impracticable: and I know that,
if it were practicable, it would be pernicious to every part of
the empire, and utterly ruinous to Ireland. Is it not then
absurd to say that, because I wished last year to quiet the
English people by giving them that which was beneficial to them,
I am therefore bound in consistency to quiet the Irish people
this year by giving them that which will be fatal to them? I
utterly deny, too, that, in consenting to arm the government with
extraordinary powers for the purpose of repressing disturbances
in Ireland, I am guilty of the smallest inconsistency. On what
occasion did I ever refuse to support any government in
repressing disturbances? It is perfectly true that, in the
debates on the Reform Bill, I imputed the tumults and outrages of
1830 to misrule. But did I ever say that those tumults and
outrages ought to be tolerated? I did attribute the Kentish
riots, the Hampshire riots, the burning of corn stacks, the
destruction of threshing machines, to the obstinacy with which
the Ministers of the Crown had refused to listen to the demands
of the people. But did I ever say that the rioters ought not to
be imprisoned, that the incendiaries ought not to be hanged? I
did ascribe the disorders of Nottingham and the fearful sacking
of Bristol to the unwise rejection of the Reform Bill by the
Lords. But did I ever say that such excesses as were committed
at Nottingham and Bristol ought not to be put down, if necessary,
by the sword?

I would act towards Ireland on the same principles on which I
acted towards England. In Ireland, as in England, I would remove
every just cause of complaint; and in Ireland, as in England, I
would support the Government in preserving the public peace.
What is there inconsistent in this? My honourable friend seems
to think that no person who believes that disturbances have been
caused by maladministration can consistently lend his help to put
down those disturbances. If that be so, the honourable and
learned Member for Dublin is quite as inconsistent as I am;
indeed, much more so; for he thinks very much worse of the
Government than I do; and yet he declares himself willing to
assist the Government in quelling the tumults which, as he
assures us, its own misconduct is likely to produce. He told us
yesterday that our harsh policy might perhaps goad the unthinking
populace of Ireland into insurrection; and he added that, if
there should be insurrection, he should, while execrating us as
the authors of all the mischief, be found in our ranks, and
should be ready to support us in everything that might be
necessary for the restoration of order. As to this part of the
subject, there is no difference in principle between the
honourable and learned gentleman and myself. In his opinion, it
is probable that a time may soon come when vigorous coercion may
be necessary, and when it may be the duty of every friend of
Ireland to co-operate in the work of coercion. In my opinion,
that time has already come. The grievances of Ireland are
doubtless great, so great that I never would have connected
myself with a Government which I did not believe to be intent on
redressing those grievances. But am I, because the grievances of
Ireland are great, and ought to be redressed, to abstain from
redressing the worst grievance of all? Am I to look on quietly
while the laws are insulted by a furious rabble, while houses are
plundered and burned, while my peaceable fellow-subjects are
butchered? The distribution of Church property, you tell us, is
unjust. Perhaps I agree with you. But what then? To what
purpose is it to talk about the distribution of Church property,
while no property is secure? Then you try to deter us from
putting down robbery, arson, and murder, by telling us that if we
resort to coercion we shall raise a civil war. We are past that
fear. Recollect that, in one county alone, there have been
within a few weeks sixty murders or assaults with intent to
murder and six hundred burglaries. Since we parted last summer
the slaughter in Ireland has exceeded the slaughter of a pitched
battle: the destruction of property has been as great as would
have been caused by the storming of three or four towns. Civil
war, indeed! I would rather live in the midst of any civil war
that we have had in England during the last two hundred years
than in some parts of Ireland at the present moment. Rather,
much rather, would I have lived on the line of march of the
Pretender's army in 1745 than in Tipperary now. It is idle to
threaten us with civil war; for we have it already; and it is
because we are resolved to put an end to it that we are called
base, and brutal, and bloody. Such are the epithets which the
honourable and learned Member for Dublin thinks it becoming to
pour forth against the party to which he owes every political
privilege that he enjoys. He need not fear that any member of
that party will be provoked into a conflict of scurrility. Use
makes even sensitive minds callous to invective: and, copious as
his vocabulary is, he will not easily find in it any foul name
which has not been many times applied to those who sit around me,
on account of the zeal and steadiness with which they supported
the emancipation of the Roman Catholics. His reproaches are not
more stinging than the reproaches which, in times not very
remote, we endured unflinchingly in his cause. I can assure him
that men who faced the cry of No Popery are not likely to be
scared by the cry of Repeal. The time will come when history
will do justice to the Whigs of England, and will faithfully
relate how much they did and suffered for Ireland; how, for the
sake of Ireland, they quitted office in 1807; how, for the sake
of Ireland, they remained out of office more than twenty years,
braving the frowns of the Court, braving the hisses of the
multitude, renouncing power, and patronage, and salaries, and
peerages, and garters, and yet not obtaining in return even a
little fleeting popularity. I see on the benches near me men who
might, by uttering one word against Catholic Emancipation, nay,
by merely abstaining from uttering a word in favour of Catholic
Emancipation, have been returned to this House without difficulty
or expense, and who, rather than wrong their Irish fellow-
subjects, were content to relinquish all the objects of their
honourable ambition, and to retire into private life with
conscience and fame untarnished. As to one eminent person, who
seems to be regarded with especial malevolence by those who ought
never to mention his name without reverence and gratitude, I will
say only this: that the loudest clamour which the honourable and
learned gentleman can excite against Lord Grey will be trifling
when compared with the clamour which Lord Grey withstood in order
to place the honourable and learned gentleman where he now sits.
Though a young member of the Whig party, I will venture to speak
in the name of the whole body. I tell the honourable and learned
gentleman, that the same spirit which sustained us in a just
contest for him will sustain us in an equally just contest
against him. Calumny, abuse, royal displeasure, popular fury,
exclusion from office, exclusion from Parliament, we were ready
to endure them all, rather than that he should be less than a
British subject. We never will suffer him to be more.

I stand here, Sir, for the first time as the representative of a
new constituent body, one of the largest, most prosperous, and
most enlightened towns in the kingdom. The electors of Leeds,
believing that at this time the service of the people is not
incompatible with the service of the Crown, have sent me to this
House charged, in the language of His Majesty's writ, to do and
consent, in their name and in their behalf, to such things as
shall be proposed in the great Council of the nation. In the
name, then, and on the behalf of my constituents, I give my full
assent to that part of the Address wherein the House declares its
resolution to maintain inviolate, by the help of God, the
connection between Great Britain and Ireland, and to intrust to
the Sovereign such powers as shall be necessary to secure
property, to restore order, and to preserve the integrity of the




On the seventeenth of April, 1833, the House of Commons resolved
itself into a Committee to consider of the civil disabilities of
the Jews. Mr Warburton took the chair. Mr Robert Grant moved
the following resolution:--

"That it is the opinion of this Committee that it is expedient to
remove all civil disabilities at present existing with respect to
His Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion, with the
like exceptions as are provided with respect to His Majesty's
subjects professing the Roman Catholic religion."

The resolution passed without a division, after a warm debate, in
the course of which the following Speech was made.

Mr Warburton,--I recollect, and my honourable friend the Member
for the University of Oxford will recollect, that when this
subject was discussed three years ago, it was remarked, by one
whom we both loved and whom we both regret, that the strength of
the case of the Jews was a serious inconvenience to their
advocate, for that it was hardly possible to make a speech for
them without wearying the audience by repeating truths which were
universally admitted. If Sir James Mackintosh felt this
difficulty when the question was first brought forward in this
House, I may well despair of being able now to offer any
arguments which have a pretence to novelty.

My honourable friend, the Member for the University of Oxford,
began his speech by declaring that he had no intention of calling
in question the principles of religious liberty. He utterly
disclaims persecution, that is to say, persecution as defined by
himself. It would, in his opinion, be persecution to hang a Jew,
or to flay him, or to draw his teeth, or to imprison him, or to
fine him; for every man who conducts himself peaceably has a
right to his life and his limbs, to his personal liberty and his
property. But it is not persecution, says my honourable friend,
to exclude any individual or any class from office; for nobody
has a right to office: in every country official appointments
must be subject to such regulations as the supreme authority may
choose to make; nor can any such regulations be reasonably
complained of by any member of the society as unjust. He who
obtains an office obtains it, not as matter of right, but as
matter of favour. He who does not obtain an office is not
wronged; he is only in that situation in which the vast majority
of every community must necessarily be. There are in the United
Kingdom five and twenty million Christians without places; and,
if they do not complain, why should five and twenty thousand Jews
complain of being in the same case? In this way my honourable
friend has convinced himself that, as it would be most absurd in
him and me to say that we are wronged because we are not
Secretaries of State, so it is most absurd in the Jews to say
that they are wronged, because they are, as a people, excluded
from public employment.

Now, surely my honourable friend cannot have considered to what
conclusions his reasoning leads. Those conclusions are so
monstrous that he would, I am certain, shrink from them. Does he
really mean that it would not be wrong in the legislature to
enact that no man should be a judge unless he weighed twelve
stone, or that no man should sit in parliament unless he were six
feet high? We are about to bring in a bill for the government of
India. Suppose that we were to insert in that bill a clause
providing that no graduate of the University of Oxford should be
Governor General or Governor of any Presidency, would not my
honourable friend cry out against such a clause as most unjust to
the learned body which he represents? And would he think himself
sufficiently answered by being told, in his own words, that the
appointment to office is a mere matter of favour, and that to
exclude an individual or a class from office is no injury?
Surely, on consideration, he must admit that official
appointments ought not to be subject to regulations purely
arbitrary, to regulations for which no reason can be given but
mere caprice, and that those who would exclude any class from
public employment are bound to show some special reason for the

My honourable friend has appealed to us as Christians. Let me
then ask him how he understands that great commandment which
comprises the law and the prophets. Can we be said to do unto
others as we would that they should do unto us if we wantonly
inflict on them even the smallest pain? As Christians, surely we
are bound to consider, first, whether, by excluding the Jews from
all public trust, we give them pain; and, secondly, whether it be
necessary to give them that pain in order to avert some greater
evil. That by excluding them from public trust we inflict pain
on them my honourable friend will not dispute. As a Christian,
therefore, he is bound to relieve them from that pain, unless he
can show, what I am sure he has not yet shown, that it is
necessary to the general good that they should continue to

But where, he says, are you to stop, if once you admit into the
House of Commons people who deny the authority of the Gospels?
Will you let in a Mussulman? Will you let in a Parsee? Will you
let in a Hindoo, who worships a lump of stone with seven heads?
I will answer my honourable friend's question by another. Where
does he mean to stop? Is he ready to roast unbelievers at slow
fires? If not, let him tell us why: and I will engage to prove
that his reason is just as decisive against the intolerance which
he thinks a duty, as against the intolerance which he thinks a
crime. Once admit that we are bound to inflict pain on a man
because he is not of our religion; and where are you to stop?

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