10 DECEMBER 1859, Page 2


A Reform Committee' ' sitting in London held a conference on Wed- nesday at the Guildhall Coffee-house, Mr. William Hargreaves in the chair. Four Members of the House of Commons, Mr. Bright, Mr. Clay, Mr. Kershaw, Mr. Bristow, were present, and one peer, Lord Teynhiun. The chairman said the action of the conference is more difficult than it was last year, for it had to deal with a Whig-Radical-Conservative Government, on which it must look with suspicion. The Premier is not friendly to reform and the Old Whigs are lukewarm. Mr. Hargreaves seemed to regard reform, Rifle movement as a false scent, and he looked on it with apprehension because—it is strongly supported by the Tories. It is to be watched with jealously, lest it be used as a pretext for the false cry that nobody wants reform ! The secretary read a preliminary statement, giving a history of the operations of reformers during the past year. Mr. Jansen moved a reso- lution of welcome acknowledgment to Mr. Bright, and Mr. Bristow seconded it, expressing a hope that the ballot will be made a sine qua non. This resolution being carried, Mr. P. A. Taylor moved- " That, in the judgment of this conference, no measure will be regarded as a settlement which does not include a large extension of the suffrage both in counties and in boroughs ; an equitable redistribution of seats in pro- portion to the population and property of the constituencies ; an assimi- lation of electoral laws for England, Scotland, and Ireland ; the repeal of the Septennial Act ; and such protection to the voter, by means of the ballot, as may arrest that corruption and intimidation which have been so fearfully prevalent in the late election, and which threaten to undermine the political institutions of the country."

Seconded by Lord Teynham, it was spoken to by Serjeant Parry and Mr. Clay. Then came Mr. Bright. He thanked the meeting for the first resolution. The bill he had prepared at their request last year could not be brought in because Parliament was dissolved. Lord John Russell had since declared in favour of a 10/. county and 6/. borough franchise, and the wiping off of some thirty seats. Lord John Russell's proposal is an improvement on the bill of 1832, from which the working classes were deliberately "'eluded. It will leave out numbers who out to be included, but 1141 include many. " That tieing so, the object of representation would baso far accomplished, and' iVanuabe neither frank nor honest to say that the Government pro- position—tiasurning, as he had a right to do, that it would be that which • Lord John Russell indicated many months ago he should be prepared, if he were a member of the Cabinet, to introduce—was unworthy of the accep- tance of men like himself and others who bad been for so many years . labouring for the advance, if not for the final settlement of this great ques- tion of Parliamentary Reform." (Cheers.) Mr. Bright seemed to think that if the working classes were enfranchised there would be no strikes. So far ii13 he knew there are no strikes in the United States. akt present we are divided into two nations. The working classes take no interest in politics. "As an employer of labour he held that every man who had capital so invested had the greatest possible, as he believed, the most direct in- terest, in extending the elective franchise to the largest possible number of those who were employed by him. Let them once feel that they were not supported by those injudicious and unwholesome divisions which the law had created among them, and he had no doubt that in this strike in London, or any strike in Lancashire or elsewhere, the more the men could feel that in the law and the constitution they were upon an equality with their employers and all other classes, the leas would they be dis- posed to combine in narrow sections and trades to wage war, not against their enemies, but against the greatest friends they had in the world—the capitalists by whom labour was maintained. When Lord John Russell's proposition was made last summer there was a general feeling in the country that it was the sort of offer that would be likely to be received as being a long way from the absurdity of the Reform Bill of Lord Derby's Government, while it also left at a considerable dis- tance the advanced scheme which the Reform Association had laid before the country. And although many wished that it had gone farther yet, looking at the result of the late elections and at the discussions which had taken place in Parliament and out of Parliament, he believed he was justi- fied in saying that great numbers of all classes of reformers were willing to acquiesce in the fairness of Lord John Russell's proposed measure. He spoke of the fairness of it taken from that noble lord'e point of view, sur- rounded by his associations, and knowing the insuperable difficulties by which legislatiorr was beset at every step in such a question—knowing the state of the public mind—a state not of perfect satisfaction, but yet of what he might eall toleration or acquiescence, he thought they had a right to urge on the Government that there should be no departure in an adverse sense from the terms which Lord John Russell offered, upon which the elections took place, upon the faith of which the present Government came into office, and upon which alone bethought the Liberal party could be justified in giving to the Government all the support in their 'rower lathe event of such a measure being introduced. At all events such a measure would be an honest one. It might not be the best, but so far as the Government were concerned, it would be fairly carrying out that which they offered before they were a Govern- ment, and would at all events exonerate them from any charge of treachery or feebleness. Upon these grounds, therefore, he felt that he and those who acted with him would be bound in honour to give to the Government all the support in their power in promoting the enactment of such a law. If it were a measure introduced in good faith, as in that case it would be, he should feel that he was not doing his duty to the hundreds and thou- sands who would be included under Erlich a bill, but who were now ex- cluded, if he placed himself as a difficulty in the' wayof the Government in their endeavours to pass it. He wished the Government success with all his heart, and the great element of their success would be their adherence to what they had already offered, and a firm resolve to rely on the good sense of the country at large, believing that even those of their countiymen who might consider that there were some short-comings in the bill, but who being anxious for reform, would be prepared to extend to them a gene- rous and a hearty support. But it would be an unhappy thing and fatal to the Government if they receded from the 61. borough franchise." The resolution was carried ; several other persons spoke; and another resolution was adopted calling upon the reformers to pronounce promptly on the bill of the Government when it appears.