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DURING the contest which followed the dissolution of the late Whig parliament, there was no section of the country in which party feeling ran higher, in which the elements of family influence and local capital were more equally divided and more vehemently aroused, than in the West Riding of Yorkshire. There was one spot, however, within its precincts, to which the surrounding agitation had not reached. The late Duke of Leeds had stood aloof from the contest through the exhaustion which accompanied old age and sickness; and it was not till the period of his death, which occurred when the battle had waxed warm around, that his tenantry were let into the knowledge that they were to be required to emerge from the moderate whiggery into which their landlord's apathy had allowed them to take rank, and to throw the weight of their numbers upon the one or the other side of the nicely-balanced scale. A short parenthesis of time, of course, was allowed to run by in quiet, as a mark of decent respect to the memory of the late proprietor, but good care was taken that before the critical moment should arrive, the young duke, who before his father's death was himself
engaged in the contest for Sheffield, should make known his sentiments. He was walking one evening with one of his supporters in the neighborhood of that town, when he was met by a farmer on horseback, a strong, burlylooking man, and one who from his bearing seemed as little likely to subside into the serf as the most imperious of her majesty's subjects. "How is it to go this time ?" was the question addressed to him by his new master; and the answer followed: "Your Grace's orders have come; we are all true yellow." In a few days the showing of hands took place, and the tenantry of the Duke of Leeds, though in their own hearts they were true blue, and through the kind indifference of their late landlord their outward liveries had corresponded to their inward hues, became yellow to the back-bone. We do not know whether, had they been thrown into the market as independent, selfregulating voters, they would not have been bought up and disposed of by the agents of the Carlton Club; but it was pretty well understood that by the critical death of the Duke of Leeds, by the rapid and complete change thereby wo.ked in the coloring of his tenantry,
• Hansarl's Parliamentary Debates, Vol. LXIII. LXIV. London: Thomas
Curson Hansard, Paternoster-row, 1842.
Lord Milton and Lord Morpeth were defeated. The late report of Mr. Roebuck's committee, under which the proceedings to which we are about to advert were developed, classified the tenantry of Great Britian into those who were packed up into manors and bought in the gross, and those who were let loose and were bought individually. With out an exception, said Mr. Ward, in a late speech in the House of Commons,* the tenants are regarded as a portion of the chattels of the estate; a country gentleman would as soon think of robbing the deer-parks, or of poaching the fish of his neighbor, as of canvassing his tenants. Election districts in the agricultural sections are estimated, not according to the sentiments of the voters, but according to the decrees of the land-owners on whose estates they reside. Maps might be drawn, analogous in appearance to those used for geological investigations, in which the political complexion of the different precints of the country might be drawn, covered with the same uniform hue that was adopted as the color of the families to which they respectively belonged. If an estate changed hands, and fell into the possession of an owner whose politics differed from those of his predecessor, the whole mass of the tenantry were picked up and dropped down on one side of the account with as great unanimity as they formerly exhibited when forming part of the other. In the Wigtonshire election, where parties were equally balanced, an estate was offered for sale, a short time before the late election, in which there was a pack of thirty voters. Upon the ownership of the estate, the result of the election depended; and when Captain Dalrymple, the whig candidate, was chosen by a majority of six, it was very clear that it was owing to the pack of thirty voters having been bought by a whig nobleman, Lord Stair. From the complaints of Mr. Murray, who is stated to be one of the greatest landed proprietors in the county, it appears, however, that the packing of voters into estates, and selling them by the acre, was not confined to the whig ranks. In a vehement philippic against his tory antagonists, read at the hustings during the Wigtonshire election, after apologizing for his absence on the
ground of his necessary employment on another field, he said:
"It was my intention, but for this unlucky coincidence, to have proposed Captain Dalrymple. I should have done so, because I consider him eminently fitted by his station and character to represent the county; but still more, because I know he regards with disgust and abhorrence that odious system of intimidation and tyranny by which so many of the Wigtonshire proprietors have attempted to stifle the honest voice of the electors. I consider these attempts to coerce the voters, and to force them to do violence to their conscience, as quite as bad, if not worse, than the proceedings of the slavedealers on the coast of Africa."-Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, LXIV. 1388.
In a speech by Mr. T. Duncombe, a schedule of the method of operation is given in an instance where, since no great party was in danger, no great political energies were called into
"I spent £4,000 in Pontefract. I have no hesitation in saying that that money was spent in gross bribery treating and corruption; I was defeated. My Lord Pollington and an honorable gentleman's father assisted in defeating me; and I shall not believe, until the honorable gentleman opposite rises and says so, that any one is ever returned for Pontefract without bribery. Unfortunately I have also stood contested elections for Hartford, and in five contested elections I
three times succeeded and was twice defeated; and I must state to this House, as I am now impeaching the conduct of its members generally, both in their individual and collective capacity, that I left behind me at Hartford considerably above £30,000. I had to contend with very great aristocratic influence in that neighborhood, and I believe it cost them more money. I had to contend with seven days' leases. Those poor tenants who held under seven days' leases were turned out when they disobliged their landlords. The great landlord there was my Lord Salisbury. These tenants were discharged unless they fulfilled the wishes of their landlord; when they were turned out, I had to furnish them with houses. I built or bought sixty-three houses for them; a great portion of the money went in that way, and a considerable portion was spent in treating and bribery."-Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, LXIII. 495–6.
Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, LXIV. 1386.
If Mr. Duncombe was really as bad as he said he was, his expulsion from Parliament would have made his example more beneficial to his country than his continuance in his seat. We have heard of a pickpocket who had fallen into the same room with a Quaker at a tavern, and who endeavored to lull his companion's suspicions, as to his character, by a long penitential confession, cloaked in that form which of all others should be held most sacred, of sins the actual flagrancy of whose guilt was only equalled by the apparent earnestness of their abandonment. The Quaker doubted, but came at last to the more prudent conclusion, "If thou art really as wicked as thou sayst thou hast been, I must call the master of the house to put thee out;" and we think if an analogous determination had been brought to bear upon Mr. Duncombe, the pockets of the members would have been more likely to have been spared the contributions to which the demands of future contested elections will subject them.
We said that the buying and selling was carried on in two great divisions, comprising, in the first place, the transfer of a whole tenantry in the mass, and, in the second place, the purchasing of individual voters. Which of the two is most degrading to the voter, there can be but little doubt. The tenant who goes with his estate, who is caught and cooped up into a cage, and carried to the market, and who there votes as the representative of the soil on which he lives, may resolve himself back into the days of feudal vassalage, and may invest the relations of lord and vassal with the romance of chivalric drapery. He has not been bought himself, he has received no bribe, and has suffered no corruption, and he may reason himself into the belief, that not only do his private interests require that he should support the proprietor of the soil on which he lives, but that the loyalty which as a vassal he should feel, should reconcile him to a sacrifice of personal partialities. But the voter who comes to the hustings as independent, and when there sells his vote for as much as he can get for it, is in a condition below slavery. how great an extent the bribery of individual voters has been carried, is generally known; and yet, there are few to whom surprise will not be
caused, on learning that in influencing the comparatively small constituency of the British House of Commons, a million of pounds, according to the reluctant estimate of a gentleman whose advocacy of the system we shall presently notice, is spent at each general election. At the Nottingham election, one hundred pounds a vote was often paid; and when the excessive poverty among the lower classes, and the desperateness of morals which the poor-house atmosphere creates, are taken into consideration, it will be concluded that the extent of the corruption is commensurate with the corrupting power. It is to be feared that the decomposing element, instead of being most jealously watched against and guarded, has been taken into consideration among the more unthinking of the English politicians, as a necessary and just ingredient in the public economy. In a late pamphlet by a gentleman whose position alone, as a member of the House of Commons, gives him a claim to attention, the malleability of the vote-selling elector is thus justified:
"That in the limitation of his views, and in the weakness of his reason, the candidate who discharges his arrears, who places him in a happy and easy state of mind, seems his best friend, and obtains the support of his vote."-Hansard, LXIV. 1384.
There is a little fable, called the spider and the fly, not unknown to the children of our common schools, which exhibits in some degree the moral of the conversation between the canvasser "Walk into my and the canvassed. parlor," is the language of the wealthy candidate to the poor voter; "it is the prettiest little parlor that you ever did spy ;" and it is not until the voter is caught and made use of, that he discovers that the bribe he has received, is overbalanced by the price he is made to pay for it. It is not until he finds that by corn-laws and poor-laws his substance is eaten up, that he discovers that the promise to "discharge him from his arrears," and "to place him in a happy and easy state of mind," was not wholly disinterested.
Since the passage of the Reform Bill, the retro-active effect of corruption upon legislation has been clearly
exhibited. Under the old system, the great majority of members came in from close boroughs, in which they were obliged to secure the title-deeds of the estate, instead of the votes of the freeholders. Since, however, the comparative enlargement of the elective franchise has thrown into the market freeholders whose limited number makes their votes easily bought, and who under the viva voce system can be held true to their promises, a new element has sprung up, which has produced a marked change in the sphere of parliamentary management. The legislator, from the habit of employing largely the brute force of riches, has learned to place an undue and dangerous value upon a lever which he may have persuaded himself is conversative and salutary in its bearing. The trouble of being virtuous, intelligent, and active, to quote a high authority, has been dispensed with just in proportion as intelligence, virtue, and activity, when unsupported by wealth, have lost their power. The most matchless abilities would fail to weigh a feather in the scale against a few thousand pounds to be spent in bribery, or a few more thousand to be invested in an estate. For a man who can obtain the seat he seeks for by the mere transfer of the exuberance of his income from his banker to his election agent, to take the trouble of thought, to endeavor to cultivate that popularity which is obtained by the benevolent employment of great wealth or of superior intellect, would be an unprofitable waste of time and of energy. It is a melancholy truth, which every year confirms, that nothing tends so far to make men honest, as that it should be their interest to be so; and we believe that nothing has gone so far to preserve our own national legislature from the dangerous influences with which it is beset, as the constant regulating pressure of a constituency, the greatness of whose numbers and the secresy of whose votes guard it from general corruption.
acter of the House will be let down before the country; and if the minister's prudence had allowed him to have gone farther, he could have added, that by the allowance of such practices the character of the House had been already let down before itself. We are struck with see the increased recurrence, during the last two Parliaments, of scenes which, even when told in the courtly language of the governmental reporter, prove that the brute force which buys seats, too often continues in operation when the seats have been bought. Every one knows the story of the cat, who, though exalted to the human form, could not be checked by the most solemn restraints from betraying her original propensities at the slightest temptation; and those who pay attention to the extraordinary scenes which take place at the English hustings, who observe the means taken to buy votes, and the exertion used to cajole voters,-will not be surprised that the spirit which animated the candidate, should animate the member.
The few last volumes of the reports whose title we have placed at the head of this article, display the effect which the increased corruption of the constituency has produced. If such proceedings continue, said Sir Robert Peel, when addressing the House on the Belfast election question, the char
Of the more inarticulate noises made during the course of debate, it is not necessary to speak, notwithstanding that they are indicative of the temper as well as of the demeanor of a good portion of the House; because it would be difficult, except on the Pythagorean basis, to trace back the cat-calls, the crowings, the barkings, the shouts of tally-ho, the imitations of most of the inferior sounds of nature, to any established principles of interpretation. From the extracts, however, which we make very much at random from the volume before us, it will be observed that the self-respect which is lost at the hustings, is not regained in the house :
"Violent diseases require violent remedies. were beyond reach. They could not either The parties making the attack be got out by law or opinion. He, (Mr. Roebuck) wanted to know whether they could not be got out otherwise; and if any hon. members were attacked by the Times, and did not wish for a repetition of the attack, he would suggest to them at once to horsewhip the proprietor, Mr. Walter, (then member for Nottingham,) and they might depend upon it, the attack would not be repeated."-Hansard's Debates, LXIV. 636.
On motion to censure Mr. O'Connell
for imputing fraud and perjury to the majority of the House of Commons, after a preliminary vote had been taken by which the house had declared the libel gross and scandalous, the following scene took place :
“Mr. Callaghan: I really feel strongly
On a matter of order, no man is less disposed than myself to show disrespect to the decision of the chair; but on a subject which involves the rights of individ uals, as this does, I do declare, and I claim to avow it, that I adopt to the utmost the language of the honorable and learned members from Dublin. (Great cheers and laughter.)
"Mr. Edmund Burke Roche: Representing as I do one of the largest constituencies in Ireland, and reflecting that this subject is one in which the Irish members of this house are deeply involved, I cannot refrain from saying, that I concur in the fullest degree in the senti
ments of the honorable member for Dublin.
"Mr. Gillan: Sir, I beg leave to reiterate all Mr. O'Connell has said.
"Mr. H. Grattan: This is a mere party vote against the honorable member for Dublin, a vote come to because he was hated by honorable gentlemen opposite. This was a most contemptible and wretched proceeding on the part of the noble lord opposite, and yet the noble lord did not reflect how far it would carry him if he had courage to pursue it to the end. No, the noble lord had not the courage to send M. O'Connell to Newgate. He
asked the noble lord to do it, if he dared. [Cheering-Order.]”—Hansard, XLI.
In the debate arising from the proposed grant of an appropriation to the Roman Catholic College at Maynooth, Mr. O'Connell, in reply to Mr. Shaw,
which the honorable and learned member has sworn not to subvert, and which he now attempts to subvert.'
"The honorable member has expressed his opinions in a manner which will do no service to this cause. There was a determination about him amounting almost to spiritual ferocity. He seems to think that the Protestant religion consists of pounds, shillings, and pence."
"Mr. Shaw, with great vehemence: 'I deny that I said the Protestant religion consists of pounds, shillings, and pence. But the church establishment of any country must be supported by money, and that church which the state endows with money becomes the established church. In such a situation stands the church
"Mr. O'Connell: 'I call the honorable
Recorder to order. He has made a false
assertion.' Here Mr. O'Connell's voice was drowned amidst the deafening cries of the opposition. It is impossible to describe order which proceeded from all parts of
the confusion of the scene. Mr. O'Connell
continued: The honorable men.ber has accused me of having sworn one thing and done another. It is quite out of order
in the member to utter falsehoods.'
the learned member for Dublin to be an "Mr. Finn: "I pronounce the words of atrocious calumny.'
has charged me with being acted on with "Mr. Shaw: The honorable member spiritual ferocity; but my ferocity is not of that description which takes for its symbol a death's head and cross bones.'
"Mr O'Connell, (addressing himself to Mr. Shaw personally, and not to the Chairman.) Yours is a calf's head and jaw bones.' (Deafening cheers and cries of Order.)"
The reporter from whom we have quoted, although possessing a semi-official authority to which no others can pretend, gives in most cases nothing more than the speeches made, as revised by the members themselves. The chorus, which in a Commons' debate is the most effective part of the proceedings, is left out, and the naked solos alone are given of such of the performers as are able to obtain uninterrupted possession of the floor. Mr. Babbage has assumed, that since the perception of sound is caused by vibrations communicated to the air by the motion of the organs of speech, machinery, built on the model of the drum of the ear, may be constructed, of sufficient delicacy to enable the observer to measure the force and volume of noises lately put in motion; and we have heard that calculations have been taken by which it is shown that by means of tests sufficiently sensitive, the sounds floating in the atmosphere at any one given time, may be arrested and transferred, by a process similar to that of the Daguerreotype, to the plates of the philosopher. Till such a process be perfected,-which we do not despair of, when we reflect on the exquisite delicacy with which the plastic material of the ear receives and models every sound presented to it, we must despair of an accurate account of scenes which, from