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Lately published, handsomely printed in royal octavo, price in boards 31s. 6d., or half-bound with russia backs and corners and lettered, 35s., the Twenty-first Volume of


TRIALS, and Proceedings for High Treason and other Crimes and Misdemeanors, from the earliest Period to the present Time; with Notes and other Illustrations, by T. B. HOWELL, Esq. F. R. S. F. S. A.

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Parliamentary History.

26 GEORGE THE THIRD, A. D. 1786.


[Continued from Vol. XXV.] DEBATE in the Commons on the County Election Bill.] May 15, 1786. On the order of the day for going into a Committee on the Bill for the better securing the Rights of Voters at County Elections,

Mr. W. W. Grenville observed, that could he have conceived the Bill would in the least facilitate any one of those objects which the noble framer (earl Stanhope) had in view, he should certainly have given it his support; but being perfectly convinced that it tended to a very different effect, he must object to its being proceeded in any farther. So far from securing the rights of election to freeholders, the Bill tended rather to annihilate their existing rights, and to deprive them of their votes. A Bill similar to the present had been passed in the parliament of Ireland in the course of the last session; and such had appeared likely to have been its operation and effect, that had any vacancy for a county member happened, there would not have been a single voter quali-half of them think of entering their freefied to have voted for the candidate who holds, and thus they would, on an election offered to fill the vacancy. He under- taking place, find themselves unexpectedly stood, therefore, that the very first act of disqualified. The operation of the Bill the Irish Parliament in the present session, consequently would be, that the great and had been to pass a Bill to suspend the ope- overbearing county interests must prove ration of their act of the preceding session. strengthened, and all the other interest's He spoke of this fact under some degree weakened, so that instead of encouraging of doubt; but he believed it would, upon men of moderate fortunes to stand the [VOL. XXVI.] [B]

inquiry, be found to be as he had stated. Certain he was, that if the present Bill passed into a law, there could not happen a vacancy in which, in all human probability, a great many of the freeholders would not find themselves disqualified. The Bill enacted, that no freeholder should have a right to vote who did not enter his freehold in a register to be kept for that purpose; and that a certain, but, he was ready to admit, a very moderate expense was to be incurred by so doing. To both of these regulations he strongly objected, because he was persuaded few of the free and independent mass of freeholders, whom undoubtedly that House must look to as the properest description of freeholders to send representatives to parliament, would be sufficiently careful to enter their freeholds in the register, and because any expense whatever was in his mind exceedingly wrong to be imposed on the poorer part of freeholders. If the Bill passed, in all probability those freeholders only who were in the interest of some great and overbearing power which in fluenced the county, would be taken care of to make them enter their freeholds, while the freeholders in the interest of favourite characters, and the larger description of independent freeholders in no particular interest, but who consulted their own judgment as to who was the fittest person to represent them, would not one






chance of an election, they would be deterred from it, and the returns would lay where undoubtedly they ought least to rest. The votes of freeholders appeared much better secured as the law stood at present, by being assessed by the landtax assessors, and appearing upon their returns. He must, therefore, object, to the Speaker's leaving the chair.

Debate in the Commons on the Bill

Mr. Pitt remarked, that were he not convinced of the excellence of the Bill, the opinion of his right hon. friend would weigh very considerably with him against it, and his argument still more; he was however decided in his sentiments, that so far from having the tendency of excluding from the power of voting those who were entitled to vote, and of increasing the expense of elections, it would operate in a directly opposite way. It would confine the election to those only who were entitled to vote, except such as by their negligence in registering their freeholds shewed themselves unworthy of that privilege, and would, in his opinion, very much diminish the expense of the election. Thus, all the faults to be found in the most unobjectionable part of the constitution of the House of Commons (the county representation) would be effectually remedied; a blessing which he hoped the country would one time or other be able to obtain in every other department of the repre


Mr. Duncombe said, that he deemed it a very good bill; and being persuaded that it would have an excellent effect in large counties, he should certainly give it his support. A former Bill of this nature has by no means answered the purpose which the hon. gentleman (Mr. Powys) had doubtless meant to effect by it.


the Speaker's leaving the chair; but if the hon. gentleman intended to go into a committee, with a view to the passing the Bill into a law that session, he certainly would oppose the motion.

Sir Joseph Mawbey commended the Bill, and said, that in Surrey he was per suaded its operation would be extremely beneficial.

Mr. Powys entered into a few observations to mark the distinction between his Bill and that under consideration. His Bill was meant as a mere index to the votes of freeholders, by obliging the land-tax assessors to return the freeholds in their respective districts; whereas the noble earl's Bill professed to register them, and contained some very complicated provisions for the purpose, making each voter his own scrutineer. He thought the Bill extremely inadequate to its effect; but if the hon. gentleman who had now taken the charge of it, would say, that he meant no more by going into the committee than to amend it as much as possible, and then let it go forth to the consideration of the country at large, he would not object to

Mr. Bastard described the Bill as a collection of clauses, each of which alternately contradicted the principle laid down in the clause preceding it; indeed, it contained so much extraordinary matter, that he could not imagine its operation would be attended with any beneficial consequences.

Sir W. Dolben contended, that the present Bill went to a great object, the attainment of which must be extremely desirable; for what could be more so than the securing the rights of voters, and the putting a stop to the ruinous expense of county elections? He admitted that the Bill, as it stood at present, was incorrect; but when he saw the great abilities which were likely to be exerted upon amending it, he had no doubt but that if it was suffered to go into a committee, it would come out so improved, that all the objections to it would be done away.

Sir G. P. Turner observed, that he had formerly supported the Bill; but having heard two of his friends, the representatives of large counties, who must be the best judges of the subject, declare it would not answer the end, he had so much confidence in their superior knowledge, that he would vote against the Speaker's leaving the chair.

The Earl of Surrey declared, he rose with a full conviction of the necessity of the Bill going into the committee, that gentlemen who had started objections might be apprised of the checks and guards against the operation of those objections that were meant to be put in the Bill. He appealed to the candour and liberality of the House, whether, if means could be hit upon to prevent gentlemen, of large fortunes even, from wasting those fortunes in county elections, those means ought not to be resorted to, and those elections placed upon that footing of freedom and small expenditure which would encourage men of moderate fortunes, but independent principles, to stand for counties without risk of ruin.

The House divided on the question, that the Speaker do now leave the chair.

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* Commons on the Bill to Hers and Pedlars Act.] order of the day being read reading of the Bill to exand the Act of the last sesHawkers and Pedlars, reminded the House, that ad last year been imposed on

d that at the time it had

t to them that the hawkers
uld be abolished; but that
at measure was changed, and
ad thought that, as hawkers
vere men liable to no local
zar contributing in any pro-
degree to the exigencies of
were fair objects of taxation

Upon this the House
ed in their Act of the last
therefore the faith of Parlia-
edged, that the hawkers and
d remain under the restric-
ped. He concluded by
the second reading be put
y three months.
Brane described the hawk-
kar as an honest, industrious,
scription of people. There

and acres of the county
ich the hawkers and pedlars
S and converted from a

pot to a rich and fertile there given the strongest Ser industry, their peaceable and their aptness for civil sotherefore, should so laudable en be singled out for severity?

and nothing urged against them wanted suspicions, upon which Legslature surely ought not to

res of an injurious tendency. reason why it should be imaarkers and pedlars were more sagging than shopkeepers. old surely better conceal pode in their shops and houses

who carried all his goods He denied that the faith of e had been pledged to the shopthe Act of the last year in full force, and asked,


where would be the justice of inflicting
unmerited restrictions on one set of men
by way of douceur to another? He par-
ticularly adverted to the two clauses which
the Bill went to repeal; and said, that
only three or four counties had enforced

Sir W. W. Grenville -
Mr. Powys .


The House then went into the Com- the clause empowering magistrates to mittee.

Debate in the Commons on the Bill to explain the Hawkers and Pedlars Act.] May 16. The order of the day being read for the second reading of the Bill to explain and amend the Act of the last session relative to Hawkers and Pedlars,

suppress hawkers and pedlars, and to oblige them to keep without the district of the county. It was fair, therefore, to conclude, that as thirty-six or thirty-seven counties had forborne to put that severe clause in execution, the extreme arbitrari. ness of it had carried conviction to them, that it ought not to be enforced. An honest employment was as much a man's property as his estate; and competition was the heart and soul of trade. It was universally admitted to be true policy to encourage competition as much as possible; upon that principle, therefore, it would be wise to let the present Bill pass into a law.

Mr. Popham reminded the House, that a heavy tax had last year been imposed on shopkeepers, and that at the time it had been held out to them that the hawkers and pedlars should be abolished; but that afterwards that measure was changed, and the House had thought that, as hawkers and pedlars were men liable to no local assessments, nor contributing in any proportionable degree to the exigencies of the state, they were fair objects of taxation and restriction. Upon this the House had proceeded in their Act of the last session, and therefore the faith of Parliament was pledged, that the hawkers and pedlars should remain under the restrictions then imposed. He concluded by moving, That the second reading be put off until that day three months.

Mr. J. H. Browne described the hawkers and pedlars as an honest, industrious, and useful description of people. There were some thousand acres of the county of Stafford, which the hawkers and pedlars had cultivated, and converted from a barren and wild spot to a rich and fertile circuit. They had there given the strongest proofs of their industry, their peaceable disposition, and their aptness for civil society; why, therefore, should so laudable a set of men be singled out for severity? He had heard nothing urged against them but ungrounded suspicions, upon which alone the Legislature surely ought not to rest any measures of an injurious tendency. He saw no reason why it should be imagined that hawkers and pedlars were more addicted to smuggling than shopkeepers. The latter could surely better conceal smuggled goods in their shops and houses than a pedlar, who carried all his goods on his back. He denied that the faith of Parliament had been pledged to the shop-gentlemen had been induced to support keepers, that the Act of the last year the shop tax, and though the House had should remain in full force, and asked, not acted up to the extent of that sugges-

Lord Mulgrave was fully aware that competition was the soul of trade; but then he wished always for a fair and equal competition, and not to suffer a hawker and a pedlar, who was not liable to local assessment, and contributed little or nothing either to parochial or government taxes, to carry his goods to market under those advantages, to undersell the resident shopkeeper, who paid many very heavy taxes of both kinds. If the hawkers and pedlars deserved the high character given them for industry and knowledge of business, why could they not fix their abode, and take shops to sell their goods in as well as carry them about the country? With regard to a compact, undoubtedly no express compact had been made, so as to pledge that House to any specific line of conduct respecting hawkers and pedlars; but gentlemen must recollect that it had been suggested, when the shop tax was stated to the House, that shopkeepers would be relieved from the intrusion made upon them by hawkers and pedlars. Therefore, although the House were not pledged by any specific stipulation to abide by the act of the last session, they were bound in honour to do so.

Sir E. Astley contended, that when the shop tax had been proposed, the shopkeepers were given to understand from authority that the hawkers and pedlars were to be abolished. Under that promise and suggestion it was, that many


YEAS - {Sir J. Mawbey




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tion, yet the matter had been in a man- | and pedlars to remain under all the severe restrictions imposed by the Act of the last session so forcibly, that the collective authority of all their constituents put together should not induce him to support an act of injustice, and such he considered the Act of the last session. He had been a supporter of the shop tax; he still ap proved of that tax, and he should be extremely glad to hear it was cheerfully paid; but he would not purchase the consent of the shopkeepers at the expense of the oppression of the hawkers and pedlars. Competition, as an hon. gentleman had said, was the soul of trade. It was so undoubtedly; and therefore he wished to leave the hawkers and pedlars unfettered with restrictions calculated to support the most ardent wish of every shopkeeper, a monopoly.

ner compromised by the tax imposed on hawkers and pedlars, and the restrictions which accompanied it. In Norfolk the clause of the Act, authorizing magistrates to prevent hawkers and pedlars from entering or continuing within the county, had been enforced, and the shopkeepers considered their being so kept out as some douceur, and they the more cheerfully paid the tax on shops in consequence of it. He denied that hawkers and pedlars were generally considered so useful as had been represented, and declared that they carried about old-fashioned, and often smuggled goods; and being generally employed in travelling about, had no settled home, and consequently did not pay in any proportion to the taxes, to which the resident shopkeeper so largely contributed.

Mr. Alderman Hammet appealed to the recollection of the House, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not, when he first proposed the shop tax, mentioned his intention of suppressing the hawkers and pedlars, and whether many gentlemen had not been induced to vote for the shop tax in consequence of that proposition, and, in particular, influenced the hon. baronet, who now so consistently opposed the present Bill. If the Bill was in any view proper, it should have been accompanied with another for the repeal of the shop


Mr. Alderman Newnham said, that the shop tax was certainly an oppressive and partial tax, but he could not see how taxing hawkers and pedlars would render it less so. Hawkers and pedlars were, in his mind, a very honest, useful, and industrious set of people. If any body of men could be said to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, that body certainly consisted of hawkers and pedlars.

Mr. J. T. Ellis said:-The worthy alderman must have been particularly fortunate in his dealing with the hawkers and pedlars, to venture to speak so decidedly in declaring them to be a very honest set of people. I think so many of the late revenue burthens are laid on occupiers of houses, that they have a claim to protection against competitors, who do not equally contribute to the exigencies of the state. I wish to guard against the facility, which, as the clauses are now worded, they give to evasion. Such restrictions as the Legislature think it wise

Mr. Powys remarked, that he could not see any reason to refuse releasing the hawkers and pedlars from restrictions which bore hard upon them, and could not be supported upon any principle of expediency, necessity, or justice. The argument against the Bill, he understood to be, that a compact had been made between parliament and the shopkeepers, that the restrictions imposed on hawkers and ped-to continue should remain inviolable. lars by the Act of the last session should Shopkeepers submit to their burthens, not be repealed. He knew of no such relying on the stability of our proceedings, compact; nor indeed was it possible that and that we shall not suffer these invaders such a compact should have been made, of their rights to make farther encroachbecause the House would not bargain to ments on their means of subsistence; but oppress a harmless and innocent set of if to what the Legislature professes to people, for so that House had declared grant, they should be permitted, through hawkers and pedlars to be by tolerating our inattention, to carry their trade into them. If they were not fit people to be every market-town in the kingdom, they tolerated, let them be abolished altoge- would share the profits without propor ther; but the House surely would not act tionably sharing the burthens of the place. so unjustly as to pronounce them fit to I shall therefore give my vote for the exist, and then, in an indirect way, de- amendment. prive them of the means of existence. He felt the hardship of obliging the hawkers


Mr. Beaufoy. If I do not mistake the arguments of the hon. gentleman who

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