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CHAPTER VI.

A ,

Bill on the Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Election.Bill for the better

Provision of Stipendiary Curates.Bill for the better Regulation of Ecclesiastical Courts in England.-Bill for the Relief of Persons impugning the Doctrine of the Trinity.

The Speaker suggested, that for of the parliamentary proceedthe sake of dispatch, only so much ings of this year, were those re of the minutes of the evidence as specting the election of represen- referred to the above resolution, tatives for the united boroughs of should be laid before the House ; Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, and the motion was modified actogether returning four members. cordingly. A select committee of the House A conversation ensued, in which of Commons having been appoint- some members considered it as a ed to try the merits of a petition suspicious circumstance that much complaining of an undue election anxiety was manifested to keep for these boroughs, Mr. Alderman back a part of the evidence; and Atkins, on Feb. 26, informed the strongly objected to leaving the House, that only one of the candi- minutes of evidence to be selected dates was duly elected, and that and garbled by a clerk ; and it was the committee had passed the fol- hinted, that the cause was, lowing resolution : “ That the ry improper interference has been right of voting in the said town exercised by an illustrious per. and borough appears to be, among sonage. After a long discussion others, in persons seised of free on the subject, the Speaker obholds in the said borough; that served, that there were two ways gross abuses have of late been of meeting the apparent wishes of practised within the said borough the House : either to get the enby persons claiming and exercising tire of the minutes and deliver a right to voté upon nominal re them immediately to the commitserved rents, arising out of free- tee, to enable them to amend their holds split and divided into the report; or to refer the report back most minute fractional parts, un to the committee, which should der wills either real or fictitious; be constituted a committee for that and that it further appears to the purpose, with power of sending for committee, that such evils can only persons; papers, &c. The latbe effectually remedied by the in ter mode, on a division, was aterposition of the legislature." He dopted. then moved, that the whole of the On March 30th, Mr. Alderman minutes of the evidence be laid Atkins having moved the second before the House.

reading of a bill for regulating the

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[ Weymouth elections, Mr. Wynn rent. It was not designed that the made some objections to it; on bill should deprive those of their which Mr. Bathurst observed, franchise who had previously exthat the thing complained of was ercised it without dispute, but a novel practice of splitting votes should provide against the abuse by will.

There was an art in ex in future. The bill was then read istence against the splitting of a second time. . votes, but it did not anticipate the On April 1, Lord A. Hamilton possibility of doing it by will; ac rose in pursuance of notice, to cording, however, to the spirit of move that the remainder of the that act, all devices for that pur- evidence taken before the Wey. pose ought to be null and void, in mouth committee be laid before the same manner as conveyances the House. Much of this evidence were rendered.

applied to a point not hitherto Sir John Newport said, he held openly noticed, the improper and in his hand a petition from the in- illegal interference of his royal habitants of Weymouth, praying highness the duke of Cumberthat the House would not inter, land. If the House wished to prefere with the independence of the serve its own purity, or to mainborough. He was advised that the tain the respect in which it was real operation of the bill would held by the people, it behoved it be, to lodge the power of returning very seriously to consider the prefour members in 30 or 40 persons. sent case.

Before he proceeded He was extremely anxious that the further, he should desire the clerk House should do nothing which to read the part of the petition of might produce an impression on the burgesses of Weymouth comthe public, that such was the anti- plaining of the interference of pathy of parliament to every princi- peers of parliament, and likewise ple of reform in the representation, ihe two resolutions entered into by that although they had uniformly.' the House at the commencement of resisted every extension of the each session relative to the illeelective franchise, they had no ob- gality of such interference. This jection to employ every plea of being done, the noble lord said, he convenience for narrowing it. should call upon the House to give

Mr. Alderman Atkins said, that him documents to bring home the it had appeared to the committee, fact to the persons charged with that the only remedy in this case, the offence. If their resolutions without disfranchising the inhabi. against the interference of peers in tants, was, to designate the value elections were never to be acted of the rents which in future should upon, he could only say that they be deemed a sufficient qualifica were calculated to form a snare to tion. There were now no votes himself and others bringing foracquired by device which were of .ward similar measures, and to be a higher value than five shillings · a subject of derision to the counannually,

of sixpence, try. He then read from a newsand one witness had been called paper a letter from his royal who enjoyed eight votes, altoge- highness to J. F. A. Stewart, and ther of the value of two-pence a part of the evidence, in which VOL. LV.

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it was proved that his royal high- had been for the convenience of ness had a private conference on the election; and that it had been the subject of the election with a forwarded with all possible discandidate. He would state one patch. more fact proving interference, Mr. Wynn said, that the duty which was, that the duke of Cum- of election committees was, to deberland had got into his possession cide concerning the seat, and with the writ for the election, and had that decision their judicature closed. paid the price for it. After some Any other resolution they might other observations, he concluded come to, it was not imperative on by moving, “ That there be laid the House to receive. They had before the House such parts of the in this instance received a further evidence given before the commit- report, and part of the evidence, tee of the Weymouth and Mel. and he was of opinion that the combe Regis election, as are not whole ought to have been proincluded in the special report of duced. With respect to obtaining the committee to which the report possession of the writ, though it was referred.”

was no offence in a commoner, it Mr. Long treated the motion as was such in a peer. a dangerous novelty. When the Mr. Bathurst argued against the House referred a petition to an motion chiefly on the ground of election committee, they referred the discredit it would throw upon the whole matter connected with committees, acting on oath, if the it to its deliberation; and nothing practice were encouraged of recould be more obviously wise than forming their judgments upon that they ought as seldom as pos- their special reports. Even were sible to re-investigate the evidence the committee to be in an error, on which a determination had it would be better that it should be been made by those to whom they left so, than that by the interferhad delegated their authority. He ence of the House it should be then made some observations re- placed in so obnoxious a situation. specting a charge which had been Mr. Rose believed that there brought against himself on this oc was no one instance to be found in casión; and as that was utterly the records of parliament in which unfounded, he inferred that there that House had required the prowas probably misrepresentation or duction of any thing beyond that exaggeration in that brought which was submitted to them by against the duke of Cumberland. their committee; and it would be He therefore moved as an amend- highly inconvenient to have such ment to pass to the order of the 'a precedent established. The splitday.

ting of votes was an abuse which Mr. Alderman Atkins spoke in called for the interference of the justification of the committee for House; but he could not see what omitting to report on that part of that had to do with the concern the petition which charged the im- any peer might have taken in the proper interference of peers. With election. regard to the possession of the writ Mr. Whitbread said, that the by his royal highness, he said whole gist of one right hon. gen

tleman's reasoning was, that by the freedom of election, could they acceding to the motion, the com be deaf to such a charge ? mittee would be placed in an awk The Attorney-general opposed ward situation. But whose fault the motion, on the ground that it was that? Had they not done so would afford a precedent of the themselves by overlooking this fla- House's entertaining by way of apgrant invasion of the freedom of peal, matters which by an act of election? The royal duke had got parliament were referred to a comthe writ into his possession, inmittee. The act proved, that it breach of one of the annual reso was the intention of the legislature lutions of the House. He then to refer all matters concerning the informed the electors that he wish- election to the committee. By the ed them to vote for his frieod, and method attempted to be introduced to induce one of them to do so, he by this motion, every individual wrote to him that he had had some might be compelled to state bis communication with lord Liver. opinions as to the evidence before pool about a place which that the committee. elector wished to procure for a Mr. Ponsonby said, that the act relation. He had also written to of parliament was elaborate in its another, promising him his inter distinction between those matters est with Lord Liverpool to obtain on which the committee were callhim a place. It further appeared ed on their oaths to decide, and that the duke of Cumberland had those on which it was quite discregot connected with the borough tionary for them to report or not. by being trustee under a will, in As to the evils of an appellant juwhich trust three commoners were risdiction, it should be recollected partners with him, but that he that such jurisdiction already existtook upon himself the sole ma ed in every case where a committee nagement. Here was influence and reported specially. The report was interference of the most palpable not binding, and it remained with kind.

the House to say whether the comMr. Macdonald had no hesita- mittee was right or wrong. The tion in saying, that if the transac- present was. a question of propriety tion alluded to had been com 66 Was it fit that the House pleted, and it was completed as far should interfere ?" He conceived as depended on his royal high- that it was their imperative duty, ness, it would have amounted to where any peer meddled with the direct bribery; and he believed rights of election, but they were there was no doubt in the mind of more peculiarly called upon to act any member of the committee (of when the interference was not whom he was one) that the con, merely that of a peer, but of one duct of his royal highness was of the blood royal. He was conindecert and improper. The ques- vinced that unless the House now tion before the House was ex. expressed its sense of the transactremely narrow. When a member tion, they would soon have more of parliament stated that he was Hagrant instances of such interable to prove a gross violation of ferences. the privileges of the House, and of The House divided. For the mo

tion, 57; Against it, 105: Majo- 'appointed to take the petition into rity, 48.

consideration. On April 7th, the order of the Mr. Bathurst said, that the peday standing for receiving the re tition was founded upon a misconport of the Weymouth election ception of the measures to be bill, Mr. Macdonald presented a adopted on the subject of the Weypetition from the inhabitants of the month election; and he could see borough of Weymouth and Mel- no good from complying with the combe Regis. The general tenor prayer of the petitioners. of it was, to express their regret Mr. Abercromby supported the that none of the clauses introduced petition. He thought it became to the consideration of the House the House to inquire into the case, provided 'any adequate means to lest by the present bill they should abolish the existing abuses, but make the borough one of the closest rather to perpetuate and strengthen in England. The best way to opthem. It stated the means by pose those who called for a reform which the late sir W. Pulteney in that House, would be to show had appropriated to himself the themselves friends to the extenmajority of freeholds in the bo- sion of the elective franchise. rough, and the manner in which Several other members spoke on they were now fallen into the each side the question; those hands of the four trustees of the against the petition contending, will of the late sir J. L. Johnstone, that the bill having no other object the duke of Cumberland being than to correct the abuse of splitone, who has ever since nominated ting votes, it was unnecessary to members, and supported a system enter upon any other consideraof corruption in the borough ; and tion; while those who supported that it was for the purpose of coun it held that it would be unjust in teracting this overbearing influence parliament to remedy one species by enlarging the number of voters, of abuse, and refuse to hear evithat several individuals had devised dence respecting another. The their property among their rela- House at length divided. For the tions and friends; and that such motion 37; Against it 102: Maincrease of voters destroying the jority 65. power of the patron, an agent of The report on the Weymouth his had avowed, that at the pa- bill," with its amendments, was tron's desire, he had made wills brought up on April 8th, when its upon his own property, and frau- opposers objected to the novelty in dulently manufactured votes to the legislation established by it, of extent now complained of. They subjecting wills to the decision of concluded with requesting to be the House of Commons. Replies heard by their counsel, and pro were made to this objection, and duce evidence at the bar of the an order was inade for the third House in order to substantiate the reading of the bill. above facts.

It afterwards passed into a law Mr. Macdonald then moved, without further discussion. that a select committee should be

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