TOPICS OF THE DAY.
LORD STANLEY'S REGISTRATION BILL.
Two leading Conservative journals, the Times and the Morning Post, protest against our describing Lord STANLEY'S Bill as " prac-
tically a disfranchising measure." "'Phis sort of misnomer," says
the Times, " ought to be met at once by a remonstrance at its utter disregard of truth. Lord STANLEY'S bill is no measure of
disfranchisement. It seeks to disfranchise no man in Ireland who
has a legal right to vote." The Morning Post denies flint Lord STANLEY'S measure is a disfranchising measure " in any honest meaning of the words." A brief examination of the leading pro- visions of the bill will show that we did adhere to truth in our description of it, and that "in the /rosiest meaning of the words" it is a " disfranchising measure. The first clause enacts, that, " notwithstanding any law now in force in Ireland, no person whatsoever shall, on or after the first
day of November in the present year, be entitled or permitted to vote for Members of Parliament, unless such person shall have been duly registered according to the provisions of this act." Observe, the operation is not to be gradual ; no reservation of ex- isting is is made ; at one blow the present constituency of Ire- land s demolished. Now this to us looks very like disfranchise- ment: but we admit, that if the bill provided for the reacquisition of the franchise by a simple and inexpensive process, no good ob- jection would lie to the abrogation of rights obtained under the
existing law; which, all admit, greatly requires amendment. The chief ikult of Lord STANLEY'S Bill, in our estimation, is that it throws many difficulties and obstacles in the way of substantiating a just claim to vote ; and that, consequently, it will deter many qualified persons from attempting to acquire the franchise. That part of the measure which would assimilate in one respect the Irish to the English system of registration, and which is put forward by its apologists as it principal recommendation—we mean the annual revision of the lists—would have this bad effect. Great as is the influence of the landlord in England, in Ireland it is more potent ; because, owing to the general practice of demanding more rent than the tenant can pay, or is expected to pay, the arrears are generally heavy, and the landlosd continually menaces the occu- pier with ejectment. Yet Lord STANLEY'S Bill would compel te- nants, opposed to a landlord's politics, to undergo annually the ordeal of defying him in the Assistant Barristers Courts. It would substitute eight registrations for the one now required. Annual revision is excessively amtoying even in England, but in Ireland it would be intolerable with the additional regulations Lord STANLEY proposes ; and which we proceed to state.
Claimants of the franchise must serve a notice on the Clerk of the Peace; and the 9th clause of the Registration Bill provides, that in every such notice,
"The Christian and surname of the claimant shall be written at full length, together with the particular nature of his qualification, and the name of the parish or place, together with the name of the street, lane, or other proper description of the situation within such parish or place, of such claimant's place of abode ; and where any person shall be entitled to vote in respect of his estate and interest in any property, and the holding or occupation, or resi- dence in and inhabitancy and occupation of any premises, then the name of the street, lane, local, or other description of the place where such property or premises may be situate, and the name of the occupying tenant or tenants, if' other than the claimant, shall he specified ; and where any person shall claim, in respect of any lease or leases, air life or lives, or for any number of years, whether determinable on any life or lives, or otherwise, the date of every itch lease, and the respective names of the lessor or lessors, Lune or lessees, therein ; and if the same be for a lire or any number of lives, then the name or names of the life or lives for which the Sallie is or was granted or renewed, and which of them, if any, are then dead, or if the said lease be for any number of years, absolute or determinable on any life or lives, then the number of years and the name or names of the life or lives, if any, for which the same is or was granted, or renewed, or made determinable, as the case may be; and which, if any of the said last-mentioned life or liven is or are then dead ; and in whatever right the claimant claim to be entitled, his calling, or profession, if any, shall be specified in such claim • and in case the property in respect of which any per- son shall so claim shall be situate in more than one barony or half-barony, or in more than one parish, he shall specify in his notice in which barony, half- barony, or parish, he desires that Its name shall be placed as a voter, and his name shall be so inserted, accordingly, by the Clerk of the Peace in tanking out his list as hereinafter directed."
On reference to the schedule B, in which the form of notice of claim is set forth, we find that no fewer than twenty points are required to be stated under the 9th clause ; and any mistake or omission is made fatal to the claim, by the 25th clause. Now let it be remem- bered, how very diffiallt it is to frame descriptions embracing so many minute particulars without error, and then see the immense advantage given to objectors. And this is not all. Although the claimant is compelled to describe his qualification with such puzzling formality and completeness, the objector needs only give notice, in general terms, that " he objects to the name being re- tained on the list and register of voters." Thus he leaves the claimant in the dark, till the day of registration, as to which of the twenty points lie will be called upon for his defence. Suppose the claim substantiated in the Assistant Barristers Court : the ob- jector may appeal to the Judge of Assize, (see clause 31st,) and bring the unfortunate claimant to the county-town, perhaps fifty miles distant from his residence, to undergo another harassing scrutiny. Though successful before the Barrister, he may happen to fail before the Judge; and then what is his fate ? He is absolutely • The terms of abuse which any of the journals bestow upon us, we will not ACM notice in any way : nothing shall turn us from the single purpose of stating dispassionately what we believe to be the exact truth of the case. liable, under the 34th chaise, to pay, in addition to his own costs, the sum of ten pounds Ar the costs qf his objector! This is the penalty
of defending his title to " have been retained or inserted in any list or register" by the Assistant Barrister. If the wording of the clause were not precise, and incapable of a different construction, we should with difficulty believe that any thing so monstrously un- just could have tbund its way even into this bill.
Here then we have, in the first place, a notice of claim, eel- ciliated, if not ;lactated, to insure success to objections by its
complicity and the multitude of minute points to be correctly stated ; next, a scrutiny before the Assistant Barrister; thirdly, an appeal from that functionary to the Judge of Assize. A lawyer's assistance is needed at every step of the process ; and it is easy to conceive that it may test hundreds of pounds to maintain even a legal claim. There is, no doubt, a certain de- gree of protection against frivolous objections, in the 29th clause, which empowers the Assistant Barrister to award five pounds, and in the 34th clause, which empowers the Judge of Assize to award ten pounds, as costs to be paid by the objector to the successful defender of a cleim ; but, in a contest of this description, the over- whelming advantage on the side of the is manifest, even when by extraordinary care the defendant has managed to state
his claim with let-al accuracy. In a vast majority of cases, the elector will forego the franchise rather than subject himself to the expense and annoyance of establishing his right to it. Suppose it were the aim of a banded body of landowners and men of tbrtune to prevent the registration of the poorer class of claimants, Lord. STaNuty's Bill offers every facility for the successful prosecution of the design. Let them employ fluorides to make wholesale ob- jections, supply the means of paying penalties, and continue the operation for two or three successive registrations, and the effect in diminishing the constituency would no longer be problematical. It is a mere idle and perfectly groundless assertion, that the frau- dulent claimant only would lie prevented from gaining a place on the register. The honest and duly-qualified may be put to SO much trouble and such heavy cost in establishing his claim, as to make him recoil from the attempt. And that such is the cal- culation of a confederacy of Irish landlords, we see reason to believe. What said Mr. ROBERT NETTLES, the Honorary Secretary of a Cork Conservative Society ? " As our being able to return Conservative Members for the county, entirely depends on our pre- venting the reregistry of one' tenants," he., theretbre let us give them all the trouble we can under the present law. Such in effect was Mr. NETTLES' recommendation to his Conservative friends. Lord STANLEY'S Bill would powerfully second 11r. NETTLES in his
thm of preventing the registration of the Cork tenantry.
In dealing with Lord STANLEY'S Bill, we have thought it unne- cessary to discuss the point, whether his Lordship is guilty of in- consistency in proposing it, or his opponents—O'Coxisimt and the Ministers—in their determination to throw out a measure very similar in sonic respects to others, profrssing the same objects, which they have themselves brought forward in previous sessions Neither have we cared. to dwell upon the party consequences which would result from Lord STANLEY'S possible but most huprobable success. We have looked at the measure itself; and viewed it in connexion with the notorious design of the Conservative aristo- cracy to regain the supremacy in Ireland by preventing the humbler class of electors from registering their votes. We find the persons who are eager in the pursuit of this object also strenuously sup- porting Lord STA N Bill ; and on usamining the bill, we per- ceive that its provi.lons are admirably calculated to promote theie ends. Therefbre, as friendly to the extension, not contraction, of the elective franchise, and desirous of giving facilities to its acqui- sition by all who are entitled to it, we hope that Lord STAN LEY
will be defeated. The fact that many persons arc fraudulently re- gistered under the present law, is a good reason for amending the
law, but not fine passing a measure to hinder the honest claimant
from obtaining his rights of citizenship. liming fraud and de- spising simulation as sincerely as Lord STA s Ley or any Conserva-
tive in or out of Parliament can do, we would ■ et rather (alore whatever evil inn" arise from the votes of unqualified persons, that consent to a remedy whiell e:cries with it so much wrong.