OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter XXIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 7

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 <7>

In the end, four important amendments were proposed by the Lords, who showed a very different attitude from that which their fathers had shown in 1832. There was throughout the whole of the speeches of the peers a note of sadness and dissatisfaction; but none thought seriously of rejecting the bill altogether. And the amendments, important in themselves, did not touch the household suffrage, which was the bugbear of the bill, and did not even attempt to restore the compound householder for the purpose of robbing household suffrage of its sting. The important amendments were: - (1) To raise the qualification for lodgers to £15, instead of £10 - proposed by Lord Cairns; (2) To restore £10, instead of £5, as the copyhold qualification in counties - proposed by Lord Harrowby; (3) To secure a representation of minorities in the " three-cornered constituencies" - proposed by Lord Cairns; (4) To allow the employment of voting-papers at elections - proposed by the Marquis of Salisbury. Of these, the first was passed by a majority of 121 to 89; the second by a majority of 119 to 56. Both these decisions were, however, finally reversed by the Commons by large majorities; nor was the amendment allowing the use of voting-papers any more successful. The Lords, with a good grace, submitted to the correction, and the bill remained, in those respects, the same as it had been when it originally passed the House of Commons.

With regard to Lord Cairns's more successful amendment relating to the rights of minorities, a little more may be said. It was not a new idea; the claims of minorities to a voice in affairs had long been felt to be a serious question by political theorists, especially Mr. Mill and Mr. Thomas Hare; and Mr. Lowe had attempted, earlier in the session, to get those claims recognised in the bill by the introduction of some clauses resembling those of Lord Cairns. Lord Cairns proposed, " That at a contested election for any county or borough, no person shall vote for more than two candidates " - adding, a short time afterwards, that in elections for the City of London, where four members are returned, no one should vote for more than three candidates. This amendment, the object of which was to enable the minority in the boroughs of Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, in the City of London, and in certain counties, to " lump " their votes on one candidate, and so secure his return, was carried by a large majority - 142 to 91. When the amendment came down to the Commons, after the amended bill had been read a third time in the House of Lords, it was warmly debated. Mr. Lowe's previous motion, to allow any elector to have as many votes as there were vacant seats, and to give all his votes to one candidate if lie chose, had been rejected by a majority of 141; but now the opinion of many members had changed. The debate was carried on quite independently of the ordinary party divisions; instead, the division seemed to be between those who wished in all cases to follow the outlines of English political precedent, and those who believed that those precedents were sometimes clumsy and inconvenient. For once, the House enjoyed the unusual sight of Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Disraeli, and Mr. Bright all taking one side on a contested question; the principal supporters of the other side being Mr. Mill and Mr. Lowe. Strange to say, the accustomed leaders of the House failed to carry their views into effect. The amendment was passed by a majority of 253 to 204.

It is enough to add, that on the Report being presented to the Lords, that House agreed to the corrections of the House of Commons, and was content to have carried one of its four amendments. On August 15, 1867, the Royal Assent was given to the " Representation of the People Act; " and for a time at least the Reform question was settled.

Lord Derby ushered the bill out of the House on the third reading with words which immediately became famous: " No doubt we are making a great experiment, and talcing a leap in the dark." That, indeed, was the feeling of many of the Conservatives, and even of many of the moderate Liberals; and few of the cartoons of Punch have been more effective than that which, illustrāt- ing the Prime Minister's words, represented him as a steeple-chaser, charging with shut eyes at a fence of portentous thickness, beyond which lay an unknown country. But another of Punch's cartoons gave the honour of the bill to its real author. On the walls of the Royal Academy had hung in that year's exhibition a wonderful picture by a new artist - Mr. Poynter's " Israel in Egypt." It showed the mighty form of the Sphinx, the mysterious Egyptian monster which still remains half buried in sand in the Theban Desert, dragged upon a car to its place by a thousand toiling Israelitish slaves. The spectator, as he gazed upon the picture, could almost hear the crack of the slavedriver's whip, and the groan of the miserable wretch who fell under the wheels; the crowd of bending forms seemed alive, the car seemed moving. This was the picture which Punch parodied. To a place in the Temple of Success and Fame a car was moving, dragged by straining multitudes; the multitudes bore the well- known likeness of the members of the English House of Commons, and the figure on the car wore the mysterious, Sphinx-like, Oriental features of Mr. Disraeli! " Israel in Egypt " became " Disraeli in Triumph; " the slaves bending beneath the weight, and torn by the merciless lash of necessity, were Her Majesty's Ministers and the blind, dazed, unwilling, but yet obedient members of the Conservative party.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 <7>

Pictures for Chapter XXIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 7

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About