A LONG LIATER OF MANY FACTS.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SPECTATOR.
Upper Gloucester Street, Wednesday, 12th January.
Stn—A pretty exhibition you have made of that body called the Commons House ! You have, by its Anatomy, clearly demonstrated that it is any thing but what it ought to be, and what it pretends to be ; you have mathematically proved that it is what it ought not to be; - you have now furnished what has been so long required ; and you have done it ably and most successfully—there existed no such document . before. You have eclipsed the representation so ably made of the imperfections of the constitution of the House in the celebrated petition presented by the distinguished patriot CHARLES GREY ; and you have happily done it at a period when that person, as Earl GREY; is the Prime Minister of the country, and having boldly declared, as Minister, that a Reform is necessary to the vital interests of the country, is now engaged to carry that reform into execution. The country fully expects, that in this promised reform of the pre- sent Government, this momentous question, now for the first time made a Cabinet measure, will be considered as one on which the existence of our future happiness depends ; that it is not a mere palliative—an ex-
pedient for the moment, to allay the present and still increasing discon- tent.The people expect more, and will not now be content with the mere infusion of some feWcommercial and manufacturing representatives into the common mass of impurity. The period is gone by for the milk- and-water reform of extending the franchise to Manchester, Birming- ham, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, or the City parishes,' or rather the cities of the Tower Hamlets, St. Marylebene, and St. Pancras. The people now look to a radical cure of the present corruption of the mis-
named House of Commons—to the total annihilation of the rotten bo- roughs, and Without compensation for of what the people have been de- spoiled they will not now repurchase—to the opening of the present co ;e corporations—to a great extension of the elective franchise—to a cheaper and more efficient mode of taking the votes—to the security of the ballot, a security which is felt to be absolutely requisite by every tradesman throughout the empire to enable him to exercise his fran- Oise, and without which security the greater body are indifferent to the possession of the elective franchise at all—to the return to triennial Par- liaments, and simultaneous elections. I am really persuaded it is the intention of Government to do much more, to go to greater lengths, than what they have generally credit given to them for ; but to enable them to go so s'ar, they must 1;e supported by the people ; and if the people are in earnest as to obtaining reform and overcoming its opponents, they must agitate the question more boldly, more zealously, than they have yet done. Scotland has set an example to England. If the landed in- terest will not move—if the merchant, the banker, ;' ._. trader, the ma- nufacturer, will not come forward and take the lead—let the smaller tradesman, the mechanic, the artisan, step out and do so ; their intelli- gence is quite equal to the effort ; and as it is this class which generally is most unrepresented, let them do their duty by themselves and their country, and cover with shame and disgrace those classes who ought to take the lead.
The decisions of the various Election Committees of the present consti- tuted misnamed House of the Representatives of the People, are not very cheering ; and little hope can be expected at its hands, unless, when the general question of Reform shall be submitted to them by Ministers, the manly and open declaration of Sir JAMES GRAHAM shall operate upon their dread of' a dissolution—being more attached to their purses than to their principles, or, as it rather should be said, to their prejudices. As the Marquis of LANSDOWN is the only Minister who is the patron of a borough, and he has returned as one of his members a subordinate Minister, Sir JAMES Illscnos:Acn, a member of the Board of Control, &c., it is to be hoped that this borough will stand first upon the list to be opened. Caine, like all the other towns of Wiltshire, has, from the ig- norance, indolence, and obstinacy of the master manufacturers, lost its manufactures, which have been transferred to Yorkshire. Though Caine contains three thousand inhabitants, the right of election is limited to twenty-six persons. The command of this boroughs was obtained by the present Lord's father ; the seat of Bowood being within two Miles of the town. He found it in the bands of a Mr. Bum., a great country attorney, who had made a considerable fortune, and who had become the proprietor and resident of the great house of the town, called the Castle House. This gentleman Earl SMELB II RN E gained by his courtesy, and always induced him to return the candidate whom he recommended. Mr. BULL was the friend of old GEOB GE R os E, and strongly recommended him to Earl SHELBURNE, who, on his becoming Minister, made him his se- cretary ; and to this protection did that extraordinary, plausible place- hunting, and place.gaining man, owe his fortunes. Mr. BILL r. died with- out children, leaving his property to be divided amongst nephews and nieces. At his death, Lord LAN SHOWN bought the Castle House at a great sacrifice, to prevent its occupation by any one but a friend: he also bought at a high price every spot of land within the borough that he could obtain. The recent attempt to open this borough, upon the peti- tion brought against the return of the present members, the nominees of the present Marquis, failed, from the most extraordinary conduct on the part of Mr. Wysrsie, now the Secretary of War. 'Mr. W YNNE at once stopped all proceedings, by the assertion that the last decision of a. Committee was final—that there was no ambiguity as to the right of franchise—yet declaring that the allegations of the sitting members wertt not correct, and also that the allegations of the petitioners were incor- rect—there was no ambiguity, and yet both parties were in error. And Mr. WYNNE being a great Parliamentary authority, looking forwarcl to the Speaker's chair, the Committee implicitly adopted his opinions, and the counsel of the petitioners were not allowed to open their case.
The attempt to open St. Mawes, a little miserable Cornish fishing town, where the electors are the creatures or servants of the Duke of Buckingham, has failed; and so has that at Hastings, a Treasury borough. Mr. MIL WARD, by whose means the Treasury influence is exercised, is an attorney: his father came into the town a poor boy to enter a solicitor's office, but finally became its lord ; his son being well provided for in the Excise Office—nearly a sinecure, as he is enabled per- sonally to direct the management of very large farms in the vicinity of the town, purchased of Sir GODFREY WEBSTER. As the suffrage is given only to those who may become paupers, their votes are nullified, and the return is confined to a few trusty magnates.
The failure of the attempt to open Rye is a most disgraceful event. A former Committee, some six months since, had taken it out of the
hands of Dr. LAMBE, a clergyman ; but the recent Committee has thrown it back again ; and so the Reverend Doctor may now carry into the market for sale the two seats—unless Ministers wisely withdraw from him, by a general measure, the power of doing so.
The dismissal of the late Government caused the affair of Queen-
borough, an Ordnance borough, to be abandoned. Sir ROBERT Peat having been on that Committee, it may be fairly suspected that there
was a dread of a sad exposure of intimidation and corruption on the
part of the agents of Government. Mr. Wir.s.xAss Holmes is content to Sit for Haslemere, as the nominee of the Earl of LONSDALE; and Sir PHILIP DuanAm still wants the privilege of franking; their opponents, Mr. CAPEL and Mr. GLADSTONE, beingallowed to retain quiet possessibn of their conquest, the counsel of the Ordnance candidates not having re,-
ceived his brief. It is to be hoped that the shameful conduct exhibited
at that election will yet be made the subject of Parliamentary inquiry ; and that the disgraceful language which was used to Mr. CAPEL at the Treasury, and in the presence of Mr. PLANTA; the late Secretary, will
be as well known to the public as it is to individuals. The late Govern- ment so much feared an exposure, that they made offers to Mr. Ceres.
of a seat Without expense, provided he would withdraw his pretensions.
to Queenborough, and abandon his friend Mr. GLADSTONE. I speak ad- visedly in this matter, as my authority is Mr. CAPRI. himself, both as to the offer of the 'seat and of the transaction at the Treasury. It is to he hoped, that Lords °REV, ALTHORP, and DURHAM; Sir JAMES GaAnAu, and Mr. GRANT, will at least, by the removal of the elective franchise. from the miserable town of Queenborough; prevent for ever any future Government from allowing its agents to behave as did those of the last. Viscount GODERICH will be expected to make no opposition to the- opening of the close borough of Ripon, though it be the property of Ills relation Miss LA.WRENCE, and at her decease may pass into his own hands, or those of his brother, Lord GRANTHAM.
It is not only the close boroughs—such as Gatton, Old Sarum, Bram- ber, Midhurst, Wendover, Haslemere, Steyning, Boroughbridge, Aid- burgh, Aldborough, Hindon, Tregony, Higham Ferrers, Banbury, Bletchingly, Tralee, Portarlington, Dundalk, the three boroughs of the Isle of Wight, Beeralston, Newport, and Launceston, and the long list -of similar ones in the possession of Peers, Commoners, Bankers, &c. ; but there must be a complete alteration made in those boroughs that are termed open—such as Liverpool, Canterbury, Norwich, Bristol, New- castle-under-Line, &c. It is very doubtful whether the system of close boroughs is not preferable to that which regulates these places. What can be more abominable than the corruption generally exhibited there—where votes are openly sold—where the elections are managed by committees or by agents ? The instance of Liverpool is sufficiently no- torious ; but there is one anecdote connected with the history of its re- presentation, which deserves to be generally known. You have truly
stated that Mr. CANNING found the " honour " scarcely supportable.
On one occasion, an application being made to him for a Commissioner- ship of Bankrupts, when he was not qaite as well pleased to ask the favour of Lord ELnosr, then Chancellor, he tried to avoid it, but could not. He observed—" It is damned hard ! however, I must ask for it, and I shall have it ; but I would willingly not be member for Liverpool, to be so punished." He asked the favour, and obtained it.
As for Canterbury, both the resident and non-resident voters are only moved by interested motives—the Blues and Reds equally alike. At the last election, there were three candidates, and what with the opening ag the public-houses—what with the dinners and suppers in London— .what with the carriage of the out-voters, and the claims of agents—there was not less than four thousand pounds expended by each candidate ; and the statement which you have given, both in your letter to the Times and in your observations on the 'S Canterbury Cataract," is, I can personally avow, most correct. I shall beg, in addition, to recommend
Mr. SGUTHEE to apply to my friend Mr. ROYLE, for information rela- tive to the corruption of his native city ; whose representation Mr. ROYLE has abandoned, on account of its great expense, and well
aware of the sums of money it had cost his friends, Mr. &sun
and Alderman SYMONDS, though repeatedly urged to accept of it. The Alderman was once returned upon principles totally con-
trary to his own—those of the Tories—but declined a second re-
turn, to avoid ruin. I beg also to refer Mr. SOUTHEE to the Alder- men FRIENDS, to Mr. K tale, and to the two most active and disinte- rested supporters of Lord Foanwicu, Mr. MASTERS and Mr. CLARIS,
4—young men distinguished for their integrity, and by their superior in- telligence. From my long connexion with the city of Canterbury as
the intimate friend of Mr. ROYLE, I should myself have solicited the
suffrages of the voters of Canterbury, had not that friend prevented me, solely on the ground of the large sum of money which I should have been called upon to expend—refusing even to give me his own vote, that I might not be led to commit an act of folly. You have therefore most correctly classed the city of Canterbury under the head" Money." The good city of Norwich, which boasts of its patriotic feelings and principles, is a most costly representation. At the last election, a gen- tleman of high character, and a very good Reformer, connected with Norwich, came into the Committee-room of the Middlesex election, stating that some high independent person was wanted at Norwich to
turn out Colonel PEEL. He was asked what would be the expense.
The reply was "Somewhat about four thousand pounds—it might be a little more, but certainly not less." It was added, that a person of Liberal principles, and talented, would be secure of his return for life. It was then asked, "But what will be the common expenses of an election, supposing an opposition ?" "Why, from twelve to fifteen hundred pounds." The out-voters always expect to pay their friends a visit at an election, and you must oblige a great number, or they will get up a third man. Besides, the Liberal candidates have established the bad custom of always giving half-a-guinea to the poor voters after an election.
The expenses at Bristol, where the franchise is most extensive, are frightful ; and the corruption, debauchery, and violence, most flagrant. The right of voting in Bristol is in freeholders (the city being a county), and in freemen. The freedom is obtained by birth, apprenticeship, and marriage with a freeman's daughter, born within the city, when the father was free, or by admission from the Common-council, usually granted for a sum of money, fixed by that body (but which power of admission never appears to have been abused). At the last election, the leading feature was the paramount power of the banking and trading in-
fluence, opposed to popular feeling. The old member, Mr. HART DAVIS, was not opposed, in consideration of his long services, and was
honourably returned free of expense. The other successful candidate is supposed to have spent 25,000/., of which nearly 5000/. may have been ex- pended on out-voters ; the whole expense of the unsuccessful candidate, amounting to between 6000/. and 70004, which was defrayed by his
independent supporters. The bill introduced by Colonel DAVIS, of Worcester, does not appear to have answered his views of facilitating the
taking of votes and thereby diminishing expense. The great conveni- ence of numerous polling-places, under the provisions of that act, was counterbalanced in some degree by the facility that was afforded to persons polling several times at different booths upon the same freehold, and by the certainty of passing pauper votes tendered at booth after booth ; while the old abuse of polling from dead men's copies and from the copies of absent persons, was practised to a very great extent. It is therefore almost impracticable to amend the present odious system— the whole thing must be abrogated, and created anew.
Newcastle-under-Line is probably now worse represented than when it was under the domination of the house of Trentham, and the corrup- tion and debauchery more decided. Its history is somewhat curious, and as I have a personal knowledge of it, I will enter into the details. Newcastle may have a population of eight or even nine thousand souls ; the number of electors may be about eight hundred. The town has a mayor and twenty-four aldermen and the franchise is vested in free-
men, obtained as the sons of freemen, or by servitude, or by presenta- tion by the corporation—a right questioned, but exercised, until the abuse of it corrected itself. No voter can be absent a whole year with- out losing his freedom ; so it is the custom for most of them to repair even from a distance once in the year to pay a visit to their native town, to secure their right, but particularly so on the eve of an approaching election. Formerly my Lord STAFFORD was the principal proprietor of the town ; and as he let his houses very much below their value, ha commanded the votes of the occupiers ; but a rebellion arose, at the in- stigation of a Mr. FLETCHER, a quondam linendraper in the town, who had succeeded to a considerable property. Lord STAFFORD overs came this rebellion, and, to gain the principal agitator, got him made a baronet. At the next election he was passive, but at the succeeding one he brought forward his son in opposition ; who was successful, and who afterwards turned out and triumphed for the county over the heir ati• parent, the present Earl GOWER. The defeat my Lord STAFFORD MIS.. tamed, enraged and chagrined the noble peer so much, that he at once determined to abandon his borough, and attend to his pecuniary bite.. rests. He at once raised the rents of his houses ; so those which only paid fifty shillings were advanced to ten or twelve pounds. He soon afterwards disposed of the property for upwards of 110,0004 The independents, called Blues, had :previously obtained a small plot of ground, on which they had built houses for their friends ; but the sale of Lord STAFFORD'S property being in lots, to produce the greatest amount, so subdivided the houses, that there then only remained the power of the corporation against the committee of the Independents ; but the corporation was backed by a powerful banker, who, in his turn, supported the corporation, and became the member, at a considerable sacrifice of his purse—for, if he did not give money, he had, whenever there was an opposition, or menace of one, to discount bills, and to make advances in the shape of loans. His party was designated the Reds : neither party was directed by any political prin. ciple, but only by the spirit of domination. By degrees, the corporation was weakened ; the rich banker, their member, dies ; the corporation was attacked by quo marrantos ; there was no purse to uphold them ; they gave way, and compromised with the Blues, and allowed them to return one member. The Blues select a miserable Tory and a bigot ; the Reds take a growing Liberal, a Canningite ; but his purse being pretty well drained, at the last election, retires : the old Blue member —an enemy to all improvement—is brought forward again, in conjunction with another Tory (or nearly so), upon the recommendation of a great borough hatter—the trade of Newcastle being principally in hats : a party, chiefly Reds, invite a brother of Sir ROBERT PEEL some Reds and some Blues, the most respectable and best-principled of the town, invite Mr. DENISON (the late candidate for Liverpool) as the best quail.. fled to be their representative : the old Blues adhere to their candidates witlicut any regard to their qualifications : Mr. CHRISTIE is deter. mined to carry his nephew, Mr. MILLER, and does carry him, at an expense, it is said, of eleven thousand pounds ; Mr. BORRODAILE is reported to have expended above four thousand ; Mr. PEEL some seven thousand ; and Mr. DENISON, who only' offered himself upon inde- pendent grounds, somewhat about fifteen hundred pounds, but then he was defeated. Thus, nearly twenty-five thousand pounds were thrown away in riot, drunkenness and bribery, in a few days—the election only lasted two. I am assured that twenty-five and thirty pounds were given for a vote. Having been actively engaged in two elections at Newcastle, I am fully apprized of the scenes exhibited at such periods —the profligacy exceeds belief. Ballot is as much required in such places, to prevent abuses and protect the voters, as in a close borough. Tiresome as I may appear, I trust to have assisted you, by these facts, in the exposure of the corruption of the House of Commons, and to have shown how imperative ii is in Earl GREY to go manfully, boldly, de- cidedly to work, as to the degree of Reform he must give. Of the ne. eessity of Reform, there is but one opinion ; but as there are many opinions entertained as to the degree of Reform, I beg to close my letter with proposing the following questions for public consideration. Though somewhat late, yet there is a sufficient time for many of your readers to express their sentiments, before the great measure shall be intro- duced into Parliament.
1. Would a high qualification of the elective franchise, with ballot, give more satisfaction than a lower and more extended right of suffrage without the ballot ?
2. Is it moi • desirable that one uniform principle of franchise should be established, embracing both property and population, by a fixed house. hold qualification, and which would disfranchise those who now possess the suffrage, being freemen from birth, servitude, or purchase ; or that the present various systems should continue, and that merely close cor- porate bodies should be thrown open to the resident householders, and that the present proprietary boroughs, or those which are nearly the sem!, known as nomination boroughs, should be adjoined to the neighbouring hundreds ?
3. What, then, should be the maximum or minimum of the qualifies. tions ?
4. Whether there should be any distinction preserved between coun- ties, cities, and towns ; or whether the suffrage should be uniform, and the empire—England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland—should be divided into districts, and these districts further divided into divisions, the poll to be taken in each division ?
5. If the suffrage for counties was equally given to copyholds and leaseholds, renewable upon fixed fines or lives renewable, as well as free- holds, would it counteract the influence of large property, which is now exercised over the forty-shilling freeholders ?
6. Would simultaneous elections throughout the empire sufficiently check the present system of bribery and ruinous expense attending elec- tions generally ?
7. Would it create complaint, that every person entitled to the elec. tive franchise should have had a six months' residence, previous to his being able to exercise it ; and that he must, in case of a change of domi. cile, declare to an officer, appointed for that purpose, for what locality, and by what right of suffrage, he proposes to vote ; so that no person should at any one election be enabled to vote for more than one set of representatives?
8. Would not triennial Parliaments be of sufficiently short duration to secure a faithful discharge of their duty from the members so elected? I am your obedient servant,
LESLIE GROVE Josrs.