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gether. Meanwhile another Minister, knocking, it is said, at the Cabinet door—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—was disburdening himself of much perilous stuff in opposition alike to Mr Bright and the Leeds Conference, and the Carnarvon Liberals. Mr Courtney actually ridiculed the Leeds programme, pronounced it impracticable, and combated nearly all Mr Bright's conclusions. Indeed the variety of views on the subject of reform, and on the place it should occupy in the Radical programme, is so great, that, up to Lord Mayor's Day, every suggestion made on one Liberal platform was answered from another, and the only point on which they all agreed was the omission of Ireland from their conflicting schemes. Some simple - minded people, reading that Sir Henry James had paid a visit to Hawarden Castle on his way to Dumfries, entertained a hope that light from headquarters would be thrown by him on the reform darkness; but the Attorney-General confined his observations on the burning question of reform to a repetition of his utterances last year at Taunton in condemnation not only of fagot votes, but also of a property qualification, and to a mild repudiation of equal electoral divisions. Close upon his heels came Sir Charles Dilke at Glasgow; but though he spoke at inordinate length, and devoted many sentences to reform, his hearers must have failed to discover from his discursive remarks what position Scotland is to occupy in the coming electoral earthquake. They must have felt, as he pleaded for a large addition to metropolitan representation, that it was to the member for Chelsea rather than the Cabinet Minister they were listening; and the trite denunciation of small boroughs like Woodstock and Eye fell flat on the ears
of Scotchmen, who possess no similar electoral peculiarities to attack or defend. Indeed it is easy to read, between the lines of the Glasgow resolutions, the indifference really felt in Scotland on the subject of reform. Scotchmen who have mastered and agree with Mr Duncan M'Laren's combined statistics, think a certain number of additional seats should be granted to Scotland at the expense of Ireland, and Glasgow Radicals would like to be secured in their monopoly of the three, or whatever larger number of seats may hereafter be assigned to their city, by the abolition of the minority clause; but of genuine enthusiasm for household franchise in the counties, and consequent equal electoral divisions, there was none — and the only speaker who enlarged on the former topic was, oddly enough, an Englishman, whose claim to be heard was that he is a candidate for an English county constituency! Of one thing our English readers may feel certain, the Scotch Liberal tenant-farmers are in no hurry to hand over the electoral power they now possess to their labourers—for such, disguise it as they may, would be the undoubted result of the assimilation of the franchise, which is now being so glibly and lightly discussed by Liberal orators. In saying this, we assume that it is really intended to place the power of voting in the hands of every householder dwelling in a county; but, looking at the penal provisions of the Corrupt Practices Act, it is impossible not to entertain serious doubts whether it is really intended to allow the purely agricultural and pastoral voters to exercise their nominal right. A remarkable note of warning on this head appeared in the papers immediately after the late Manchester election, in which the practical disfranchisement of a large number of working men under the operation of that Act in that great urban constituency was pointed out; but if it be so in the suburbs of Manchester and other great towns, how will it be in the scattered populations of many of the English, Scotch, and Welsh counties 1 The law forbids the carriage of voters to the poll, the polling-places are necessarily in more or less populous centres, votingpapers are not permitted, the peasant cannot afford to lose a day's pay in order to trudge many miles to record his vote, and the result will be the concentration of electoral power in the small towns and villages which are polling - places. The only method, short of pollingpapers, by which this disfranchisement can be prevented—the sufficient multiplication of pollingplaces—would so largely increase the expense of elections as to exclude all but rich men from the costly honour of county representation. Possibly it may be attempted to throw this burden on the rates. No such attempt in the present condition of the ratepaying mind has a chance of success; and we commend this difficulty to the consideration of those Conservatives who are disposed to think favourably of adopting household franchise in the counties. But having thus broken ground on the question of reform, we will venture in a few sentences to express our general view upon it. What, then, is the ideal representation of a State 1 for upon its attainment is based the present demand for a subversion of the settlement of 1867. The reformers of to-day answer, "The equal vote of every householder," or "of every sane man unconvicted of crime," according to the school to which they belong. The reformers of
last century, headed by Lord Chatham, defined it to be "the representation not of person, but of property"; and enlarging on this text, the great Commoner declared "that the knights of the shire "— then elected by the freeholders exclusively — " approach nearest to the Constitutional representation of the country, because they represent the soil." * What may be termed the modern Constitutional view is a combination of both, and is found fairly exemplified and effective in the present system. In the boroughs person in the shape of householders, in the counties property in the shape of £12 ratepayers and 40s. freeholders, are roughly, and in the main satisfactorily, represented. Nor is this all: under those two great heads, intelligence, education, thrift, and other qualifications, which justly find favour with the more philosophical Radicals of the school of Bentham and John Stuart Mill, have at any rate a chance of asserting themselves— a chance greatly increased by the varied character of the existing constituencies. Thus, taking the present system as we find it, with all its roughness, inequalities, and anomalies, we are prepared to defend it as approaching nearer to an ideal representation of a civilised community than any system which has preceded, or is likely to supplant it. This view, indeed, must have been shared by Mr Bright and his colleagues only three short years ago, when they proclaimed the present outcome of the system, the actual House of Commons, to be the best and wisest ever elected. If, then, so much of agreement exists as to the theoretical and practical merits of the existing system, why is it to he subverted? On account, we are told, of its anomalies. In what sense, we would ask, are its anomalies greater or more grievous than the civilisation of which it is the outcome and the exponent 1 Is it more anomalous that one man in a village should have a vote and his neighbour not have one, than that one man should have £1000 per week and his neighbour only 10s. 1 The destruction of anomalies in an ancient civilisation means the destruction of all social and material as well as political diferences between man and man; and must we take Robespierre or the International as our guide and lawgiver in this matter of reform, instead of Mr Chamberlain and conferences at Leeds or Glasgow? But what are these anomalies, the burden of which is so grievous as to necessitate their immediate removal at all hazards and at all risks 1 As defined by the leaders of the movement, they are two: 1st, that men living in houses under £12 rated value just outside parliamentary boroughs have no vote, while those living inside the boundaries have one; and 2d, that the agricultural labourers, as a class, are deprived of the franchise. It is perhaps worth noting that both these anomalies existed under every electoral dispensation previous to 1867, and were not created by that Act: nay, more, not only did they exist previous to and under the Reform Act of 1832, but were proposed to be perpetuated by every Reform Bill brought forward by Lord John Russell, Lord Palmerston, Mr Gladstone, or Mr Bright. In one scheme of reform, and in one alone, that of 1858, did they disappear, and with them disappeared the Government which proposed their abolition. We are not concerned to defend that luckless measure, which fell beneath the combined attacks of Tories like Mr Henley and Mr Walpole, and the united forces of Whigs and
1 See Lecky's History, vol. iii. p. 178.
Radicals; but it is material to point out that although the county qualification would have been by it reduced from £50 to £10, the representation of property would, down to that limit, have been maintained, and the number of county voters would not have been increased beyond the representative capacity of rearranged county divisions. But the experience gained on that occasion was not lost on Lord Derby, Mr Disraeli, and their colleagues; and when, nine years afterwards, they were called upon again to deal practically with the question of reform, they maintained in principle the distinction between the two suffrages; and nothing ever fell from Lord Beaconsfield in subsequent debates to show that he was dissatisfied with the arrangement then made, or in any way inclined to repeat in a more hazardous fashion the doubtful experiment he had on a limited scale proposed or sanctioned in 1858. On the con-' trary, his speech in 1874 is a repertory of facts, figures, and arguments against any further lowering of the county franchise—though he was far too wise, too just, and too appreciative of the sterling merits and worth of our peasantry to defend their exclusion from the franchise, as a class, by the odious imputation of ignorance and unfitness urged against them by Lord Randolph Churchill. Do you recommend then, we may be asked, that no attempt should be made, if not to remove, at least to mitigate, the anomalies you admit to exist 1 By no means. It was well pointed out last year by Sir Richard Cross in Lancashire, that by the creation of a few new boroughs, and the rearrangement of the boundaries of a few more, the most salient of those anomalies in the manufacturing districts could be satisfactorily dealt with. One of the alleged anomalies of the present system which was proposed to be removed by the Leeds, is recommended to be retained and consequently intensified by the Glasgow, Conference— the exclusion of female ratepayers. Without expressing any positive opinion on the question itself, it stands to reason that if in the counties many thousands of female ratepayers under the £12 franchise are deprived of the vote, their number will be greatly increased, probably doubled, when household suffrage is established in the counties. Thus, in attempting to cure one anomaly, the Glasgow reformers, who claimed to speak the mind of the Government, would magnify and exasperate another.
In the counties, from the nature of their local government, the recess has afforded hardly any opportunities of testing the prevalent feeling as to reform. The only contested county election since Parliament rose—that of Rutland—is noticeable as expressing the opinion of the most exclusively rural constituency in England, and its verdict was decidedly hostile to the threatened reform. With respect to the boroughs, it is different. In their annual municipal elections it is possible to trace the predominant current of urban opinion. A few days after those pretentious conferences had issued their discordant commands to a perplexed Ministry, the municipal elections took place in England, — and no one will pretend that their result indicated the slightest desire for further political reform. Even Leeds itself turned its back on the Conference, and helped to swell the Tory triumph. It should be remembered that last year a similar result occurred, and that consequently it may now be fairly assumed that the settled bias of urban
opinion is favourable to Conservatism—that is, to the maintenance of existing institutions in Church and State. While, then, we do not quarrel with the reticence of our leaders, we earnestly deprecate random admissions of the principle of identity of franchise, such as appeared in Mr Houldsworth's address to the electors of Manchester. In his case, it is true, some qualifying words followed; but the public notes the admission of the principle in vital questions of this kind, and properly disregards the qualifying expressions, which may be satisfied by some slight concessions in Committee on the Bill: and we earnestly trust that, when Parliament meets, the Conservative party will find itself able and willing to maintain, in substance, the liberal settlement of 1867.
Before leaving this subject, a few words are due to Mr Goschen's deliverances upon it at Edinburgh last month. He appeared as a Liberal of the Liberals. His opening sentences were of scatho and contempt for Tories and Toryism, and his peroration was an almost fulsome eulogium of Mr Gladstone. Yet, on the merits of this great test question, as it is called, not the late Mr Croker, nor the present Lord Sherbrooke, could have expressed more fervent alarm, or uttered words of more solemn warning. Mr Goschen's deliberate opinion is expressed in the following words: "I see a measure before me which, in my judgment, clenches the supremacy of one class at the poll, and makes it irrevocably the arbiter of all interests and all classes."i Any one hearing or reading this weighty judgment, unless he had carefully studied Mr Goschen's parliamentary career during the last three years, would exclaim, "Well, here the alarmed and recalcitrant Whigs have found not only a mouthpiece but a leader! The Fitzwilliams, the Russells, the Ramsdens, and the Lambtons will no longer be "like dumb driven cattle," but will, under such distinguished leadership, strike a bold blow in defence of the existing Constitution." Alas! if they do, it must be under some other leader. Mr Goschen possesses all the qualifications of leadership—but one; he has no backbone: and so, having denounced the contemplated measure of reform, he hastened to assure his audience that he meant nothing by his vigorous words—that the country had made up its mind on the subject, and "there's an end on't." Those who witnessed Mr Goschen's interference at the end of one of the most important discussions in Committee on the Irish Arrears Bill last year, will not feel surprised at this lame and impotent conclusion. White with apprehension lest the amendment he approved should be carried, and wringing his hands in the extremity of his terror lest the Government he condemned, yet supported, should be defeated, he abjectly entreated the Committee to vote, not on the merits of the amendment, but in support of the Minister. The Whigs, if they wish, as they probably do, to emerge from the uncomfortable, not to say discreditable, thraldom so pungently described by the author of "Disintegration," must enlist under the banner of some other leader than Mr Goschen, or follow the example of the Duke of Norfolk, Lords Zetland, Scarborough, Bury, and other hereditary Whigs, and take their place in the Conservative ranks.
1 'Timea,' November 1, 1883.
Having referred to the recent municipal elections in England as indicative of a salutary change in urban politics across the Border, it is gratifying to be able to point to the result of the Edinburgh Uni
versity Rectorial contest as a proof of the growing power of Conservative opinions among the educated youth of Scotland. Without unduly magnifying Sir Stafford Northcote's triumph over Mr Trevelyan, we may at least draw from it the conclusion that the majority of the future ministers, doctors, lawyers, and professional men of Scotland, so far as they are subjected to the influences of the University of Edinburgh, will belong to the Constitutional party; and the manner in which the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen are represented in Parliament, leaves no doubt as to the political convictions of the graduates of those learned bodies. In spite of Lord Hartington's dictum, the majority of the cultured classes in Scotland adhere to the "stupid party "; and we are bold to add our conviction, that in no part of the United Kingdom is the Conservative reaction stronger than in Scotland. At the next election, we confidently anticipate that the sturdy band of patriots who now so well represent the Constitutional Toryism of Scotland will be at least doubled in number; and to this result the admirable addresses delivered during the recess by Mr Gibson at Glasgow and Inverness, Sir Richard Cross at Aberdeen and Paisley, Mr Stanhope at Perth and Edinburgh, will have not a little contributed. The complimentary yet just terms in which the Liberal Provost of Aberdeen, on the occasion of conferring the freedom of that ancient city on the late Home Secretary, referred to his legislative labours on the great question of improving the dwellings of the working classes in our large towns, show that honest work in the cause of social reform will be properly appreciated by the public at large; and we do not doubt that Sir Richard's outspoken language on this subject at Aberdeen and