On Tuesday the Attorney-General delivered a most interest- ing and
instructive speech at Egham, at a meeting held to pro- mote the return, at the next general election, of Liberals for West Surrey, on the structure and history of the Franchise Bill. SirHenry James showed how completely the freehold franchise was identified with the history of the most popular movements in the country for centuries back,—with the patriotism of Ramp. den, with the administration of Pitt, with the victory of the Anti-Corn Law League; and how in our own day it had enfranchised, in the counties, not merely the rich, but also not a few of the working-classes themselves. Sir Henry James showed conclusively that under the name of an enfranchising measure, it would have been most dangerous to disfranchise the county freeholder, and he excited much amusement by re- counting the way in which even the condition of residence, which a statute of Henry VI. had imposed, was set aside by the House of Commons, under the advice of Sir Edward Coke, in James L's reign, as entirely irrelevant and impertinent, though the statute itself was not repealed till a century later. Cruder these circumstances it had been impossible for the Govern- ment either to abolish the freehold qualification or to insist on the condition of residence ; but they would make the free- hold qualification relatively insignificant, —first, by enfranchising 2,000,000 new voters, chiefly as householders ; next, by striking off all the faggot voters and all those who voted in virtue of rent-charge qualifications ; and lastly, by rendering it, as they had already done, illegal for the candidate to pay travelling expenses, which would enormously diminish the number of non-
resident voters. The Attorney-General's exposition of the history and of the law affecting the franchise, excited the greatest interest; and his vindication of the extension of the Franchise Bill to Ireland was enthusiastically received.