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another person from coming into Parliament who had an opportunity of so doing, Mr. Goulburn was violating the understanding upon which the Committee had proceeded. And it was a mistake to suppose that the refusal of the Chiltern Hundreds would defeat the terms of the compromise. One result of that refusal would be, that in consequence of the agreement entered into by Lord Chelsea, he would have to forfeit 2,000l. It might be assumed, that the same rule would be followed in the cases of Harwich and Falmouth ; but to those cases his objections would equally apply. By the practice of centuries, it had been an ordinary rule, that when any Member, whatever his motives might be, or to whatever party he might belong, wished to withdraw from the House of Commons, he should be enabled to do so on application to the Government of the day, by having the appointment of the Chiltern Hundreds conferred on him. If, when a Member of Parliament wished to retire from his seat, Government were to take upon itself to inquire into his motives, an entirely new principle would be introduced, and one that would give the Government a most inconvenient control over public men. An Opposition leader might, for instance, have been defeated at a general election, and another Member might be willing to vacate his seat, that his friend might be elected in his place: suppose, then, the Government chose to say, “We will not be parties to such an arrangement; and to prevent its being carried out, we will refuse the Chiltern I Hundreds.” The Chancellor of the Exchequer seconded the motion: he said –
“When he was applied to for the Chiltern Hundreds, he felt that he was the individual who had it in his power to grant or withhold the appointment ; and he felt that he was bound to consider how far, by complying with the application, heshould be making himself a party to transactions which the House of Commons had declared to be of an improper character. He had felt, after what had passed, that it was his duty to discourage such compromises; and he had thought that the knowledge beforehand that such compromises could not be carried out, would be the most effectual check to them. The noble Lord justly concluded that the course pursued in this case must also necessarily be pursued in the other two cases, those of Harwich and Falmouth.” Mr. Hume entirely concurred with Mr. Goulburn. Mr. Vernon Smith thought that some better means should be devised than the barbarous fiction of the Chiltern Hundreds, to enable Members of Parliament to vacate their seats. Sir R. Peel said, that it had been the unanimous opinion of all his colleagues, that the application should not be granted. The decision had been formed without any special reference to Lord Chelsea; on the contrary, when the matter was under discussion, the expectation was that Lord Chelsea would not be the first to apply for the appointment. Mr. R. Yorke approved of the course that the Government had taken in the particular instance. Captain Plumridge said, that when he had publicly applied for the Chiltern Hundreds in that House, he had done so in perfect sincerity. After what had taken place, of course it would be useless to renew the application. The motion was then agreed to. Thus ended the proceedings arising out of the appointment of the Select Committee on Election Compromises. With respect to those boroughs where the constituencies had been extensively implicated in charges of bribery by the reports of Committees, much incidental discussion took place. The writs for filling up vacancies created by the unseating or collusive resignation of Members at Ipswich, Southampton, Nottingham, Newcastleunder-Lyne, and Sudbury, were suspended for a considerable time, and a motion was made by Mr. Wynn, that the Attorney-General should be instructed to prosecute the parties implicated by the Reports of the Committees in the two first-mentioned cases. The motion, however, did not meet with the concurrence of the House, and was withdrawn. Eventually, the writs were all ordered to be issued with the exception of that for Sudbury, where the general and systematic corruptness of the constituency, as evidenced by the disclosures before the Committee, induced Mr. Redington, the Chairman, to bring in a Bill for the disfranchisement of the borough. This Bill was supported by the Government, and passed through the House of Commons, though not without some slight opposition; and the second reading was carried in the House of Lords; but owing to the late period at which it was sent up, it was found impossible to carry it through before the termination of the Session. The writ, however, was suspended wine die. It only remains in connection
with this subject, to give some account of a measure introduced in the House of Commons by Lord John Russell for the prevention of bribery, and remedying some of the abuses to which election proceedings were liable. The main object of this Bill, as described by the noble Mover in introducing it, was not so much to impose additional penalties on bribery, as to endeavour to bring to light by more efficacious means than had hitherto been proposed, bribery which had been actually committed—instead of leaving it, as before, to the chance of exposure afforded by the proceedings of parties, who were only concerned in the pursuit of a private right, and could not be expected to carry on the investigation for public objects when that end was obtained. By the following provisions, he proposed to secure the further prosecution of such cases:— “The first part of the Bill was
intended to facilitate disclosures of actual bribery before Committees. It was proposed that parties making a charge of bribery, should give in lists of the alleged bribers; the voters, not being able satisfactorily to defend their votes, to be disfranchised on the report of the Committee to that effect. Witnesses would be indemnified against the usual penalties, on making a full disclosure of acts of bribery. It was also provided that the Members, the candidates, and their agents, should be examined by the Committee. The next part of the Bill was to prevent corrupt compromises. The Committee, on being satisfied that a compromise had been made, that the proceedings had consequently come to a premature close, or that the pe. tition had been withdrawn by a compromise, might report to the House that such was their belief; and the House might give them authority to proceed with the case. As the private parties could not be called upon to pursue the inquiry at that stage, he proposed that the complaint should be prosecuted by a solicitor or agent, appointed by the Speaker or by the General Committee nominated b
the Speaker: if it should be found that bribery had been committed by the sitting Member or Members, the Committee should have the power of declaring the election void, as at present. If the sitting Members be convicted of bribery, the costs of the petition should be borne by them; in other cases, by the petitioners. He now came to another class of cases, which did not come regularly before Election Committees—those in which petitions generally alleged extensive bribery, though there might be no person inclined to take the risk of prosecuting an opposing petition. In some oldboroughs, asitting Member might be at once sacrificed ; or it might be agreed, that some particular candidate should be allowed to take his seat at the next election. In such cases, the petition making the allegation might be tried by order of the House, in the same way as an election petition; and in the same way the election might be declared void. The effect intended was, that candidates should not in future expect by large payments of four or five thousand pounds, to secure a seat in the House. It would be a great check on bribery by candidates, if it could be proved to them, that they would lose the very seat which they coveted. With the persons bribed the case was different; their object was immediate reward in
the shape of money, and the appropriate punishment was disfranchisement. The next case to be dealt with was, that of an entire borough convicted of bribery; it might be disfranchised — which would be a complete remedy in the case of small boroughs returning Members only by right of prescription; but in the case of the larger boroughs, as Liverpool or Birmingham, they could not be deprived of the right to return Members. The Bill for the disfranchisement of the Liverpool freemen, who had been convicted of bribery, was a step in the right direction.” Another important feature in the Bill would be the establishment of a new machinery for the disfranchisementofentireboroughs, in which he had copied some alterations made in a Bill of his own by the House of Lords, in 1834:— “I should propose, in adopting generally the principle of that Bill, that there should be either five Peers and four Commoners, or four Peers and five Members of the House of Commons, constituting a commission of nine Members; and that this Commission, instead of a judge as proposed by the Lords, should be presided over by one of the Peers, who should be mamed by the Crown for that purpose. I should propose that all the Members be named by the Crown; thinking it better that Her Majesty, by her responsible advisers, should choose the persons for this sort of inquiry, than. that either House should, by a majority, or any other mode, select Members for this purpose. However, this is a point for future consideration.” “I should propose to give to this Commission the power of seeking the assistance of a judge, as the House of Lords now has in cases of impeachment. I propose that the result of the inquiries instituted by this Commission should be merely this, that the House should have a report laid before it, and should then legislate according to circumstances, and according to the population and importance of the city or borough with which it might have to deal.” Another principal provision of the Bill was directed against the practice of treating, declaring within what bounds it should be considered illegal, and subjected to the same penalties as bribery. The
Bill met with a favourable reception in the House; and the leading Members of both parties declared their anxious desire to cooperate in carrying a remedy into execution for the prevailing evil.
When it came before the Committee, however, several Members took exception to the nature of the mixed Commission proposed by it for the disfranchisement of boroughs; and, at the suggestion of Sir Robert Peel, that part of the measure was abandoned.
Thus modified, the Bill passed with little discussion in the House of Lords, and received the Royal Assent.
Lan Reforms—The Lord Chancellor gives notice of Bills relating to Bankruptcy, Lunacy, and County Courts—His Speech on the Second Reading—They pass the House of Lords—County Courts' Bill is postponed till the folloning Session—The other two Bills carried—Lord Campbell proposes Bills to aller the constitution of Courts of Appeal—They are rejected in the House of LordsMarriage Lany—Motion of Lord F. Egerton, for leave to bring in a Bill to legalise Marriages contracted nith deceased Wise's Sister— Speech of Sir R. Inglis against the Motion—It is supported by Mr. Milnes, Mr. Borthnick, Mr. C. Buller, and Mr. C. Wood; and opposed by Mr. Goulburn, Lord Ashley, the Solicitor-General, and Mr. O'Connell—On a Division it is negatived by 123 to 100—Bill for the better Protection of the Royal Person, introduced by Sir Robert Peel, in consequence of the outrages of Bean and Francis— It is carried immediately in both Houses—Church Rates ; Sir John Easthope's Bill for their Abolition—It is opposed by Sir R. Inglis and Mr. Goulburn, and rejected by 162 to 82—Grant to Maynooth College—Mr. Plumptre, Mr. Bateson, Sir H. Smith, Colonel Werner, and other Members speak against it—Speech of Lord Eliot —It is affirmed by a Majority of 47–Poor Lan Amendment Bill, introduced by Sir James Graham—Principal Objects and Provisions of the Measure—A few of the Clauses are carried, and the rest postponed—Mr. Escott makes a Motion against the principle of excluding Out-door Relief—Sir James Graham opposes it, and it is rejected after a Discussion, by 90 to 55—Review of the Session— Lord Palmerston moves for IReturns to show the number of Bills brought into the House of Commons, and the Result as to each—He reviews the Domestic and Foreign Policy of the Government at great length, and nith much sarcasm—He is ably ansnered by Sir Robert Peel, who retorts severely on the Whig party—Prorogation of Parliament by the Queen, on the 12th of August–Her Majesty's Speech—Concluding Remarks.
IN the early part of the session, related respectively to the admithe Lord Chancellor had an- nistration of the Law of Banknounced to the House of Lords ruptcy, to proceedings in cases of
three important measures of legal reform, which he proposed to introduce and discuss together. They
lunacy, and to the establishment of a system of Local Courts throughout the country.