CHAPTER XX. This chapter covers from February, 1849, when Josh was elected M.P. for Bolton, through to the spring of 1852. The family had left Ranton Abbey and were definitely in London by 1851. The census shows Josh and Adeline, with the two youngest girls living at 101 Westbourne Terrace, in Bayswater, just north of the park. It was a grand address, in a newly-built terrace. According to the History of the County of Middlesex. ” The most spacious and dignified avenue is Westbourne Terrace, begun c. 1840 and ‘unrivalled in its class in London or even Great Britain’. The houses form long stuccoed terraces of four storeys and attic over a basement, with pillared porches, many of them designed by T. Marsh Nelson. They face carriage drives and were separated on either side from the tree-shaded roadway by screen walls surmounted by railings. ” The family had six servants, including 32 year-old scouser Thomas Randdes who was presumably a butler. Adeline had a French ladies maid. Next door to Radical Reform M.P. Sir Josh was Radical Reform M.P. Richard Cobden who was scraping by with only three servants.
The Papal aggression, and the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill are fairly easily explained. The ” aggression ” was the restoration of the Catholic diocesan hierarchy by Pius IX in 1850, and the Bill was the government response to it, which made it a criminal offence ” for anyone outside the Church of England to use any episcopal title “of any city, town or place, or of any territory or district (under any designation or description whatsoever), in the United Kingdom. ” It was almost a dead-letter from the start, and was repealed twenty years later.
Sir Joshua now contested the borough of Bolton, for which he was returned in 1849. Though not an eloquent speaker, he possessed much ready tact. The town seemed divided into two factions, nick- named ” Broadcloths “ and ” Fustians.” At the close of a meeting, some person requested that they might hear their representative on Mr. Hume’s scheme of reform. The following evening was fixed for the purpose, and the hall overflowed with Fustian Jackets.
They listened with intelligent attention, and seemed to understand and approve of the scheme. Suddenly the unanimity of the proceedings was threatened. One of the Fustian Jackets rose, and in a speech full of dry humour and mother wit, criticised incisively the whole project. Each period wound up with the words : ” But I have a question to ask of our esteemed representative. “ This was spoken in a drawling tone, and each time provoked cheers and roars of laughter.
At last the query was put : “ Where, sir, are your Broadcloths to-night? “ This was pregnant with danger, pointing, as it did, to the smouldering enmity between classes, which kept the upper absent from a workmen’s meeting. Sir Joshua rose. Complimenting the speaker on his ability, he continued : ” I must also ask him a question. Does he remember Queen Elizabeth’s reply when asked a similar one at a very important meeting. ‘ Where were her guards ? ’ was the query. The Queen points to the masses before her : ‘ There are my guards,’ she replied. In the same language I would reply : ‘ There are my Broadcloths.’ The meeting proved a very successful one, and for years afterwards a very ragged jacket was always called in Bolton ‘ Walmsley Broadcloth ‘ . ”
In that year the National Reform Association, under his presidency, began its labours, and soon spread like a network over the country. Mr. Fox, Colonel Thompson, Osborne, Roebuck, Slack, and many others joined heartily in the movement, and became speakers or lecturers.
In the House, Sir Joshua never missed an opportunity to bring the question forward. No sooner were his parliamentary duties over than he scoured the country from Southampton to Aberdeen, addressing crowded audiences.
During the year 1850 alone, the Association held upwards of two hundred and twenty public meetings, and published one hundred and twenty thousand tracts. Conferences in London, Manchester, and the larger towns were held. Branch associations were fostered ; freehold land societies founded ; and in London, Drury Lane Theatre was engaged as a place of meeting. “ During the life of the Association,” says Sir Joshua, ” upwards of six hundred large meetings were held, and in no instance did we fail to obtain a vote in favour of our programme. “ Early in October, 1849, Mr. Hume, Mr. Fox, and Sir Joshua visited Norwich. St. Andrew’s Hall was crowded; the reception was enthusiastic, and filled them with hope.
Here is Mr. Cobden’s view of the matter :
” October 6th, 1849.
” My dear Walmsley,
” I was much interested in reading the accounts of your proceedings. As an old hack in these matters, however, let me warn you against relying on the influence of these demonstrations. If such a meeting could be got up without the attendance of Hume, yourself, and other stars, it would have been a sign of spontaneous feeling. As it is, people can conclude that the meeting assembled to hear and stare at certain public men ; and, let me tell you, it is perfectly understood that with a moderate time for giving due notice in advance, the attraction of the names of those who figured in St. Andrew’s Hall would fill the largest room in the country.
Then comes the question, how such a demonstration can be turned to good ? Be assured it is only by impressing on your friends the benefits of organisation and steady work at the registration and at the forty- shilling freeholds, that any impression will be made.
Old Sir Thomas Potter used to wind up all his agitating speeches by these words, accompanying them with a heavy thump of his fist on the table : ‘Work, work, work!’ Try to impress the same on your friends. The Daily News to-day has an admirable article on your meeting, contrasting well with the rhodomontade [vain and empty boasting] of The Times, which shirks the question as usual.
” Believe me, faithfully yours,
The same friendly greeting everywhere met the deputants of the Association. The Liberal London papers occasionally drew attention to the reports of crowded public meetings in provincial towns, and local papers reported the proceedings of branch societies, where the principles of the mother Association were discussed by the labouring and manufacturing classes. Yet, on the whole, this Reform movement attracted little public attention. One important result from it, after awhile, however, became manifest. The antagonism between the industrial and middle classes was declining. Meetings were held, at which a spirit of conciliation prevailed.
For example: “ At Aberdeen,” says Sir Joshua, ” where it was reputed that Chartism was rife, on the eve of the great meeting held by the Association, a committee of working-men was formed, where all agreed to renounce extreme views, in order to avoid giving offence to the middle classes. At the meeting, two thousand artisans, weavers, and mechanics attended, and cheered the speeches of the members of the Association. At Southampton, reputed another hot-bed of Chartism, the largest building in the town did not suffice to hold the crowd assembled to greet the suffrage reformers. A deputation of workmen attended. After my speech, the leader of the band stepped on the platform, and holding out his hand to me in the name of his fellow- workers, gave their adhesion to the principles of the National Reform Association. Up to that period, it had been impossible for the middle-class Reformers to hold public meetings, without interruption from the operatives, but now the two classes meet in every part of the kingdom. ”
Mr. Cobden acknowledged this important and beneficial result, at a Reform gathering held in Manchester, in 1851. ” By holding public meetings, “ he said, ” in the spirit of Mr. Hume’s motion. Sir Joshua Walmsley has conciliated large masses of the working-classes, and after many difficulties, he has enabled us to hold others in the same spirit. ”
Two absorbing interests filled the public mind, when Parliament met in February, 1851 —indignation at the Papal brief issued from the Vatican in the previous October, constituting an episcopal hierarchy in England and Wales ; and pleasant anticipations of the forthcoming great Exhibition. The feebleness of the ministry was admitted by all ; but the nation, looking forward to its holiday, hoped that when the measure for defeating the Papal aggression was passed, all needful work being accomplished, the ministry might yet get through the remaining labours of the session.
In the first week of the meeting of Parliament, the Premier brought forward the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, the scope of which we need not now enter upon. The anticipations, however, of a calm session, devoted to the accomplishment of a single enactment, were not realised. During the first lull in the discussion of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, Sir Joshua Walmsley asked Lord John Russell if it was the intention of ministers during this session to extend the franchise, and amend the deficiencies of the Reform Act of 1832.
Lord John answered that it was not the intention of ministers to do so during the present session, but promised certain amendments of the Reform Act, when the proper time came. This vague answer did not secure peace for the Government. Mr. Locke King followed a few nights after, on the 20th February, with the request for leave to bring in a bill to make the franchise in counties in England and Wales the same as in boroughs, i.e. the occupation of a tenement value ten pounds a-year. In the course of his speech, opposing Mr. Locke King’s motion, Lord John Russell gave a distinct pledge to bring in a new Reform Bill, should he be in office in the course of the ensuing session. He admitted that his views would not ” altogether meet with the approbation of the hon. member for Montrose and other gentlemen who agree with him; but, “ he continued, ” considering that by next session twenty years would have passed since the passing of the Reform Bill, I think it desirable to consider whether there are not great numbers of our fellow-countrymen not possessed of the franchise, who are fully qualified to exercise the suffrage, and whose exercise of the suffrage would tend to the improvement of the House. ”
Mr. Cobden attended the first meeting of the Association, at the London Tavern, after Lord John Russell’s declaration. His presence at this meeting testified to the altered position of the reform question. In simple and magnanimous language, Mr. Cobden now rendered homage to the work done by Sir Joshua and his council. ” I may say that I was a subscriber from the first to his National Reform Association. Sir Joshua Walmsley knows how I have sympathised with him, and at the same time how I frankly told him I could not boast of working as he had done. I have taken no prominent or active part in the agitation conducted under his auspices, but I feel no less warmly thankful to those who have done so; those who have kept the lamp of reform burning, and have trimmed it at a time when it was very likely to be neglected by the great body of the people. I feel grateful to all who have done so, under circumstances of neglect from myself and others. ”
He declared the question the Association had in hand the most practical one that politicians had to deal with ; and distinguishing, as Sir Joshua had always done, the reform of the suffrage from the reform of every other interest, he called upon the people ” to throw themselves into the question of parliamentary reform, in a way that would prove to the world that the English people had not lost that old attribute of their nation, that they knew how to seize the proper time for doing their own work in their own way. ”
After a short trip on the Continent to recruit his health. Sir Joshua returned and once more took his place at the head of the movement. Always unsparing in energy to attain whatever object he had set before himself, his labours during the recess of 1851-52 were excessive. As president of the Association, he took upon himself the management of its organisation, and bore the whole anxiety of its economical arrangements. His correspondence was a weighty item in his day’s work, for he adhered during this busy period to his invariable custom of answering by return of post every communication that called for a reply. As president, where fellow-workers were not called upon to attend, he was present at every meeting held by the Association, and these meetings were now held in every town, often with only interval enough to allow him to travel from place to place. Refusals to help in the work of stirring up an inert people came from the stanchest and oldest friends of progress.
The following letter from Mr. Hume accounts for his refusal, and gives also an interesting account of a recognition of his services by his native place :
” Glen Quart, 2nd October, 1851.
“ It is my anxious desire to forward the cause of reform in the most efficient manner, and consistent with the views and intentions on the subject of onward movement and the state of my health.
” I am much better, but always tired and done up at night, which proves to me that the stamina is not quite sound as yet, and that I must take care of my health. That is one reason. But the chief one is, that it is not consistent with my views for strangers to take the lead in any public measure affecting all classes, such as reform in Parliament, where the inhabitants of the place do not move and act in chief.
” There is no reason whatever why I should force myself, uncalled-for, by the people of Liverpool ! I could not avoid attending my own boroughs, as there I was on my own dunghill, but I declined to appear at Aberdeen, as I should have done at Inverness if asked. But, unknown to me, the magistrates and council met, and voted me the freedom of their borough and placed me next on their list to Lord Gough and Prince Albert. I had only been two hours in the borough (and without seeing one of that body) on my route to Red Castle, seven miles off, when the compliment was paid, and I declined to a deputation of magistrates who came the seven miles at 8 A. M. to invite me to a public dinner, but consented to drive in next day, Saturday, the 29th, at one o’clock, to receive the freedom. I desired that to be a meeting of the magistrates and council alone, but the anxiety of the inhabitants generally that I should pay the town a visit, induced me to agree to the meeting. I send you a newspaper and you will see what I have said, and as far as I can learn, all classes are satisfied. Now, it is impossible for me to get to Liverpool or any other place in England merely to make a speech (Scotland is my own field) as you propose to me.
“ If I had to receive the freedom, or any other fair and reasonable excuse, I would with pleasure meet your views when you consider that the cause we have at heart must thereby be promoted, and I hope that explanation will meet your approbation, though against your wishes.
” I think, at my age, I ought not to run the risk of being considered and called an itinerant agitator. As president of the Reform Association, you can appear anywhere the Association is wanted, but I cannot do so with propriety.
“ I hope to be in London by the 10th, as Mrs. Hume has only given me leave to the 14th to be at Somerton, where I am much wanted.
” My daughter has been enjoying the scenery here, which is really stupendous, and grander than any I had thought was in Scotland, and if the (time ?) admitted my friends in this part of the country would detain us longer.
” I remain, yours sincerely,
The Free Trade Hall, Manchester, peopled with memories of the Anti-Corn League, was held to be the fittest place in which to inaugurate the new series of the society’s meetings. Mr. Cobden was unable to attend. While still on the Continent, Sir Joshua had received the following letter, declining to do so :
” Midhurst, September 10, 1851.
” My dear Walmsley,
” We are glad to learn that you have carried off Lady Walmsley and your family to the other side of the Channel, and hope to hear that they are deriving great benefit from the change of air and scene. I am leading the life of a hermit here, entirely out of the world, without any companions or acquaintances beyond my own family circle. We are in a thriving way, the children are as wild as young lambs in April. I got a letter from the secretary of the Reform Meeting, but I found it absolutely necessary in self-defence to decline the invitation. If I go to the North on the 24th, I can’t come back again. Already there are several engagements hanging over me for Yorkshire and Lancashire, and my only chance of escaping for a time from the platform treadmill is by declining to break corn at all. I don’t exactly understand the object or character of your intended meeting. If it be a gathering of Chartists offering the right hand to those who advocate Hume’s four points, the more it preserves the form of a working-class assembly the better. But, if it be intended for a Manchester demonstration in favour of a new Reform Bill, you must take care to secure the attendance of the influential men of all classes. Whatever may be the nature of your gathering, I do not doubt that it will be abundantly satisfactory in point of numbers.
” The difficulty will be in forming and sustaining an organisation for permanent action. There never was much enthusiasm in favour of political reform in the manufacturing districts whilst trade was prosperous, employment good, and bread cheap, which you will be glad to find is the case now. And the present glorious harvest weather for the North of England seems to place all danger of any reverses out of the question for next year. Now, this is the safe time for making reforms, and if men acted from calm reflection and sober reasoning, instead of wild and sudden impulse, this is the time we should choose for amending representation. Let us hope that after the Exhibition closes the nation will consider its holiday ended, and begin to occupy itself with serious business. I shall look with interest to your proceedings in Manchester as the opening of the campaign and with kind regards to all your circle.
The meeting took place on September 24th, Mr. Wilson being in the chair. It principally consisted of working-men, who crowded every comer of the hall. This meeting was the first of a series held in every large town in the kingdom. Sir Joshua Walmsley’s speeches delivered during this time were the careful exposition and vigorous advocacy of Mr. Hume’s scheme of reform. We may sum up their tenor thus : Abridged duration of Parliaments, in order to preserve identity of opinion and purpose between representatives and their constituents. Extension of the suffrage, in order to bring within the pale of the constitution the interests and opinions of the unrepresented masses. Equality amongst constituencies, in order to insure a real and fair representation of national electors. The ballot as an indispensable requisite to honest elections.
We have mentioned incidentally the attempts made by the more violent Chartists, known as ” Physical Force Chartists, “ to obstruct the movements of the Association. ” On one occasion,” says Sir Joshua, “it happened that a large hall had been taken by the Association, where deputies from various parts of England, who had attended the congress for the consideration of the reform question, were to assemble; the hall, with the exception of the places reserved for the deputies, was as usual left free to the public. When the evening came, the delegates found to their consternation that every corner of the hall was packed with Chartists. At the first resolution proposed by Mr. Hume, who occupied the chair, Mr. Ernest Jones, who evidently possessed the confidence of the assembled crowd, rose, and moved a counter-resolution of adhesion to the people’s Charter, amidst tremendous cheering. I took the situation in at a glance, and saw the error we had committed in giving free admission to the hall. “
” Instead of discussing the reform question, I asked the chairman’s permission for this evening to debate with Mr. Ernest Jones the people’s Charter. Permission being granted, Mr. Ernest Jones was invited to say his say on the platform. His speech was fluent, plausible, and was received with storms of applause from the assembly, who did not perceive now utterly it had drifted from the question in hand. The subject of the Charter was scarcely touched upon. He launched into superficial platitudes connected with the intricacies of capital and labour. “
” When the loud cheers had partly subsided, I rose, and asking for fair-play and a quiet hearing, at once proceeded to answer Mr. Ernest Jones. It was a difficult task. The sympathies of the crowd were against me, and were fully roused. In a few words I pointed out that Mr. Jones had wandered from the question. The principles of the Charter had been the subject proposed. Little discussion, I showed, was necessary on this point, for on the Charter as a declaration of principles, there was no difference amongst us. The real object of Mr. Jones’s speech was to bring into antagonism, instead of into co-operation of mutual interests, the working classes and their employers. ‘ This cry of capital as being opposed to labour. ’ I said, ‘ is a miserable fallacy, and an unworthy attempt to create ill-will and inflame the passions rather than to convince the reason of the masses. I shall dispose of it by asking this simple question of the working-men around me : What would be the position of labour in the present state of society without capital? ‘ “
” I concluded by making it clear how much Mr. Jones had underrated the value of the extension of the suffrage, for which the Association was agitating. At the close of my address, there was a division, and from the lately hostile assembly less than one hundred hands were held up for Mr. Jones’s views. This is not the only occasion in which we have met with opposition from the more violent Chartists, but on none were our objects or our propositions defeated. With a just cause, the good sense and truthfulness of the masses may be successfully appealed to. ”
Some slight division of opinion still existed between the leaders of the Association and a few of the Liberal members of the House of Commons. On the general principle of Mr. Hume’s scheme they were united; on some minor points they differed. To argue out these points, it was decided to call a conference at Manchester. The invitation came from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Liberals.
Here let us insert an amusing letter from Mr. Hume, giving a hint how to treat a rival’s opposition :
” Burnley Hall, 20th November, 1851.
“My dear Sir Joshua,
“ I have yours of the 14th, and I am pleased that you are to be here soon, as the time approaches for the movement in favour of reform. It is impossible for me to leave this place, on many grounds, and therefore you must not think of it.
” I take a different view from you as to your course in the council of the R. and F. Association. Your address in the first place is too long to be read, in the second place it is throughout complaining, as if you were fearful the demonstration at Manchester were to oppose your parliamentary reform movements, and I consider that bad tactics. I believe there is great jealousy of you and of your movement, and that some of the parties would, if they could, throw you overboard and take the lead, as if they and they only were the parties to head and to urge on the movement.
“I would do as we did in 1810-11 with the education movement. I was on the committee of the Lancastrian move, and on behalf of the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, kept their movements right. At a time when Churchmen opposed the education of the masses, they at first took no notice of our progress ; then when they found we had made and were making progress, they resolved to establish their own association (known as the Baldwin Court Association) for the Church alone, limiting the teaching to Church-men’s children or such as would read the Bible alone.
” At a public meeting at the Freemasons’ Hall, the Duke of Kent in the chair, I moved resolutions that we considered education (as you have done reform in the manifesto or address — I don’t like manifesto — at Manchester) essential for the future welfare of the people, and we congratulated the country on the establishment of the Baldwin Court Association in aid of the cause of education. We hailed them as coadjutors in the great cause, and we urged them to do their best to promote it, though limited to their own Churches, whilst ours was education for all.
” I did the same when King’s College was set up, in opposition to Gower Street University ; we held the King’s as an assistant and coadjutor, etc
” We never showed any symptoms of jealousy, as 4 if they intended to injure us. Now, if you take the same course, make the corrections of the address on the 27th, as far as I have sent you, leave out all the rest. Congratulate the country, or rather the friends and advocates of reform, that so influential a body as the Yorkshire and Lancashire proprietors and manufacturers were at length awake to the importance of the question ; and as Cobden, Bright, and others have subscribed to my motion, you take care to assume that their advocacy of these four points (as set forth in my motion, which should be copied verbatim) will do great good, and convince Lord John that nothing less than what I ask for can be proposed ; take it for granted that those who meet at Manchester (especially as Mr. Wilson, who was your chairman, will be in all probability their chairman) must at the least support all we had advocated.
” Indeed, they should advocate, as the first move, the abolition of sixty or seventy places like St Alban’s (into Schedule A), and then take my motion (or your address) as their problem.
“Treat every meeting as in aid of you, and as arising from your late efforts, and show not one breath of fear or alarm at the conduct of the cotton lords, although there is reason to believe they do not mean us well.
” I hope these few words will be enough to indicate to you the course I would take.
” When you fix the day for your public meeting, I will send you a letter of excuse to read, and will take the course I have chalked out, which I feel confident is the true one to take. The more slippery the point you have to deal with, the more my plan is recommended
” Yours sincerely,
On Wednesday, 3rd of December, the conference was held at the Spread Eagle Inn. In the evening, a meeting of seven thousand people assembled in the Free Trade Hall. Mr. Bright, in a speech of massive and luminous eloquence, set forth the resolution agreed to at the morning conference.
On the ballot, triennial Parliaments, and a redistribution of the electoral franchise, the delegates were all agreed.
On the question of the suffrage, some dissent existed ; the more advanced Liberals opposing the insertion of a rate-paying clause as a condition of the exercise of the franchise. There had been some debating also on the necessary length of residence.
These were minor points of divergence, and the leaders of the Reform movement agreed to overlook them. Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, Mr. Hume, and Sir Joshua Walmsley laboured strenuously to preserve unanimity amongst their followers. There was in truth no practical difference between them; but some amongst them could not be made to see that, and imprudent speeches were sometimes made at public meetings.
” If there is a difference between us, “ writes Mr. Cobden, ” it is only in details, and not such as should induce reformers to place themselves as wranglers and quibblers amongst themselves in the face of their enemies. ”
Again he writes on the same subject :
” Midhurst, 15th January, 1852.
“My dear Walmsley,
” In reply to your inquiry about the mode of uniting the Metropolitan and Northern movement, I repeat I can see no differences to adjust; at least not in your programmes. There have been personal causes of alienation, almost exclusively arising from the class remarks of our friend Thompson, levelled at the large employers, who constitute the money strength of the Liberal party in Lancashire and Yorkshire. He seems unfortunately to have spoken under the influence of soured feelings, which have left a sting that will not easily be cured. I stick to my often-repeated doctrine, that the Northern capitalists, with all their imperfections, are the most liberal of their order in this United Kingdom. I speak particularly of the mill-owners and manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire. They stand almost alone of their class, for even in Staffordshire and the other iron districts, you rarely find men of their wealth with the same disposition to share political power with the people. I foresee a complete deadlock and jumble of political parties in the House in the approaching session. If the Irish members should be faithful to their mission, they may knock the Whigs about like ninepins ; nor can any party govern until the country is prepared to recognise the principle of religious liberty as thoroughly as it does that of Free Trade, and repudiates as completely all interference by Parliament with Catholics as with corn. But what will your flaming Liberals of The M. D. Advertiser and The Daily News say to that ?
I hope to be in London next week, and we can then talk over matters. Meantime,
“I remain, very truly yours,
” RICHARD COBDEN. ”
Mr. Hume also wrote :
” Burnley Hall, 26th January, 1852.
“My dear Sir Joshua,
” In respect to the threatened extension of the parliamentary reform beyond what was agreed upon as a fair and wise compromise in 1849, at the meetings previous to the wording of the motion that should comprehend what we had agreed upon, I can only remark that the advocacy, at the coming conference, of such extreme principles would be very unwise, and tend to shake the ranks of reformers throughout the country.
“I observe that the principles comprehended in our motion have been very generally approved of by the mass of the working classes (who are the parties chiefly excluded), and whoever disturbs that feeling is not a friend to progress.
“No man will stand on strict principle more than I will, when any good object is to be gained. But as I really desire to see the scheme of reform we proposed carried out, I hope we shall keep true to the compromise.
” In a free government like England, where every man is a politician, I may say with truth that every act of the Legislature is an act of compromise ; and he is the wise man that compromises to carry out good measures. Let us therefore act with consistency and wisdom, in that respect ; and I hope your council will well consider what I have stated as the course we can take in the coming contest. I shall not listen to a ten-pound or a five-pound franchise, but hold to the constitutional principles as set forth in the motion.
“I shall be up on Monday evening, and if you have anything to communicate to me before then, write to me here.
“ It is a delightful day, after a stormy night of wind and rain.
” Yours sincerely,
” Joseph Hume. ”
On the 3rd February, 1852, Parliament was opened by the Queen in person. The royal speech recommended an amendment of the representative system. On the 9th, Lord John Russell brought forward the measure that was expected would be the finishing touch, given by the author himself, to his own Reform Bill of 1832. The liberal spirit and bold handling that had marked Lord John’s work twenty years before, were nowhere visible in this supplement which he now laid before the House.
It was a superficial measure without the backbone of principle, that timidly dealt with details, without going to the root of any of the existing anomalies, or removing any of tHe evils which the first measure had left standing. To extend the franchise, and yet leave undisturbed the existing adjustment of interests and classes, was the problem Lord John set to himself.
He prepared to give the borough franchise to five- pound householders, the county franchise to be rated at twenty pounds a-year. There was to be some reduction of long leaseholds and copyholds, and a vote given to all who paid two pounds a-year in assessed taxes. The property qualification, also, for Members of Parliament was to be abolished.
The characteristic feature of the Bill was the manner in which Lord John proposed dealing with the small dependent boroughs. One principle the Premier rigidly maintained — that there must be no disfranchisement. Some anomalies were to be patched up. Small constituencies were to be enlarged by annexing adjacent towns to the existing boroughs. The scheme seemed fair enough at first sight, but on examination its glaring incongruities became manifest- Towns were to be harnessed together that had no link of common interest ; and large cities, that could not thus be yoked, were to be left still unrepresented.
The Reform League, headed by Mr. Hume, accepted the measure as a step in advance, but unanimously expressed disappointment at its narrow scope and unphilosophical spirit. Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright deplored especially the omission of the ballot. Sir Joshua Walmsley attacked the Bill for countenancing the evils left standing by the Reform Bill — the pocket-boroughs.
” There are fifty or sixty boroughs, “ he said, in the course of his speech, ” having less than five hundred voters, returning two representatives to Parliament. There are six hundred and twenty-seven towns, assessed to the income-tax to the amount of fifteen millions three hundred thousand pounds, that are totally unrepresented. Does Lord John suppose that such places will be satisfied to remain unrepresented, except such representation as they find through county constituencies ? ”
After some discussion, leave was given by a large majority to bring in Lord John’s Bill. The Times had prophesied that in the second Reform Bill, and in its history, “ we shall probably find the old parallel of the Iliad and the Odyssey “ But Lord John was not to write his Odyssey yet.
A ministerial crisis was at hand. On the 16th of February the Government, following in the wake of the panic out-of-doors, brought forward its Militia Bill On the 23rd of February, owing to a majority of eleven in favour of Lord Palmerston’s amendment. Lord John resigned. The Tories now came into power, and with their advent expired for the present all hopes of parliamentary reform. The National Reform Association, undaunted by failure, continued its labours, sending forth lecturers into all parts of the country, supervising the registration, organising freehold land societies.
On the 25th of March, undismayed by the triumph of his opponents, Mr. Hume, who for forty years had never been deterred by ridicule or unwearied labour from advocating the people’s cause, launched forth another protest against the existing corruption and abuses of the representative system. Sir Joshua seconded the quadruple resolution. After a lengthy, but somewhat abstract debate on Reform, the motion was lost, only eighty-nine members having voted for Mr. Hume’s four points.