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from the Company to the Crown, in conformity with the provisions of the act which had been passed for that purpose; and very shortly after, the commander-in-chief of the Indian army, Sir Colin Campbell, who had been raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Clyde, was able officially to announce to the governor-general that the last vestiges of the rebellion had been trampled out, and that the last bands of the insurgents had been driven across the frontiers of our possessions into the kingdom of Nepaul.
The desire for parliamentary reform had never ceased to exist; but the agitation of the question had been to a great extent suspended during the years that had passed between the collapse of Chartism in 1848 and the period we have now reached. The attention of the legislature and the country had been engrossed by the Great Exhibition, by the Crimean, Chinese, Persian, and Indian wars, and by other events of less importance. The consequence was that the consideration of this question had, with general consent, been postponed to a more convenient season. Now, however, the state of parties favoured the revival of its agitation; and towards the close of this year several large and important meetings were held for the purpose of mani. festing the feeling. In this agitation Mr. Bright took the lead. He had now recovered from the very serious illness under which he had been suffering, and which for nearly two years had prevented him from transacting any kind of business. He attended very large and important meetings at Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow; and at the earnest request of the parties who were engaged in this agitation, he reluctantly consented to prepare a measure. Accordingly he drew up a bill conferring the borough franchise on all persons rated to the relief of the poor, and on all lodgers who paid a rent of ten pounds, reducing the franchise in the counties to a ten-pound rental, laying the expenses of the returning officer on the county or borough rate, prescribing that votes should be taken by ballot, wholly disfranchising eighty-six boroughs, taking away one member from thirty-four other boroughs, and transferring the seats thus obtained to the larger towns, counties, and divisions of counties. The measure was one that very happily and exactly met the wishes and aspirations of the really-earnest reformers throughout the
REFORM AGITATION RENEWED.
country, and obtained a very decided support from them. It is true that the feeling exhibited in favour of it was far inferior in intensity to that which had prevailed in 1831 and 1832. For this there were many reasons. The abuses of our representative system were not rearly so glaring as those which existed before the passing of the first reform bill; the influence of public opinion was much more powerful than it had been ; class-legislation was on the wane; the number of those who constituted the electoral body was proportionately much larger, the number of those excluded from it was proportionably smaller; the condition of the country was very different, for instead of the suffering that prevailed in 1831, and affected almost every class and description of persons, there was in 1858 general prosperity and contentment. All these circumstances tended to abate the eagerness with which a reform of our electoral system was demanded.
Nevertheless a strong feeling in favour of such a reform existed at this time, and its existence is proved by the fact that not only Lord J. Russell and Lord Palmerston were prepared to deal with the question, but that even Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli, knowing as they did the perils they would have to encounter not only from their political opponents, but also, and perhaps even more formidably, from the more extreme section of their political supporters, felt that the only course open to them was that of boldly braving these dangers, and staking the existence of their government on the success of a measure for the reform of parliament. Their intention to do this, though not known, was suspected; and it was generally believed at the end of this year that a measure of parliamentary reform would be announced in the Queen's speech, and introduced at an early period of the approaching session. Both parties were therefore looking forward, not indeed with strongly-excited feelings such as the question had formerly raised, but still with a certain anxious and feverish curiosity, for the introduction of the bill which the cabinet of Lord Derby was understood to be engaged in framing, and to the struggle for which it would be sure to be the signal in the next parliamentary session.
THE FRENCH TREATY.
It was certainly a bold stroke of policy on the part of the conservative administration to bring forward a reform bill; and if we regard politics merely in the light of a game, in which office is the prize of the most adroit or lucky player, we cannot but bestow unmixed praise on this move on the political chess-board, as being the one that was best calculated to check-mate the opponents of the government, and to afford it the best chance of converting the minority by which it was supported into a majority. But it was a move of great delicacy and danger. Two things which it was exceedingly difficult to combine were absolutely necessary to its success. The reform bill of the ministry must not too much alarm the ultra Tories, and at the same time must commend itself to the country as a bold and statesmanlike measure, which extended the franchise and improved the representative system of the country. And though it would have been very difficult, it perhaps might not have been impossible to unite these two seeming incompatibilities. For the Whig party bad dealt with this question in such a manner as to have forfeited the confidence of the country. Up to the year 1831 they had manifested marked indifference to the question ; then, indeed, they had given a warm support to the great reform bill; but they supported it not so much because they regarded it as a measure desirable on its own merits, as because it was vehemently demanded by the nation, and likely to give the party that carried it through both houses a long tenure of power and office. When that measure was passed, they relapsed into their former indifference, and in fact showed no more disposition to entertain the question than the Conservatives themselves; and there can be little doubt that one of the chief reasons why Lord Pal
THE REFORM BILL.
merston was preferred to Lord J. Russell was, that the hostility with which the former regarded reform was much more in accordance with the secret feelings of the leaders of the Whig party than the zeal which Lord J. Russell manifested in favour of it. If, therefore, the conservative ministry had brought forward a plain, decided, and courageous measure of reform, it is very probable that the Whigs would not have tried to outbid them; and in that case it is quite possible that they might have carried with them the sympathies of the people, wearied and disgusted at the manner in which the question had been played with for party purposes by the Whigs, and on an appeal to the nation might have obtained the support of many sincere reformers, and at the same time have succeeded in persuading the extreme men of their own party that, the question being one which must be settled soon, it was better that it should be dealt with by a conservative government rather than by their opponents. But instead of proposing a simple, straightforward measure, which would have been at once understood by the country, they framed one of a very complicated description, and which contained provisions so strong that Mr. Walpole could truly say with regard to it, 'It was one which we should all of us have stoutly opposed if either Lord Palmerston or Lord J. Russell had brought it forward ;' and yet, on the other hand, it was not calculated to excite any enthusiasm in its favour either in the country or in legislature.
Before parliament met, two of the most eminent members of the conservative government had retired from it, and that on the express ground of their disapproval of the reform bill, which the majority of their colleagues had determined to introduce. This defection was the more damaging because they were men of very high integrity, entertaining opinions with regard to the reform question shared by that large portion of the conservative party which viewed all reform with jealousy, and only acquiesced in the introduction of a measure on the subject by their own party as a means of preventing a still stronger measure from being carried by the party opposed to them. However, notwithstanding this ominous loss, the government determined to meet parliament, and to lay before
it the measure which had been carefully prepared during the vacation.
The session was opened on Thursday the 3rd of February by the Queen in person. The speech from the throne recommended the reconstruction of the navy; a point on which it was noticed that her Majesty, in her reading of the speech, dwelt with marked emphasis ; and it was expected from the terms employed that a very large demand would be made on the nation for the purpose. It was, therefore, an agreeable surprise to the legislature and the nation when it subsequently turned out that Sir J. Pakington asked no more than 1,000,0001. for the performance of the operation which had been so magniloquently announced. The sum required seemed to show either that the required reconstruction was not very extensive, or that it would be effected at a cheap rate.
The portion of the speech which naturally excited the greatest interest, although it only announced what was already generally known, was that which referred to the intended introduction of a reform bill. Accordingly, on the 28th of February, Mr. Disraeli explained the measure of the government, and asked leave to introduce it. The house was crowded in all its parts as it is only crowded when some question of grave and serious importance is to be brought forward.
The bill proposed to give a vote in boroughs to persons who had property to the amount of 101. a year in the funds, bank stock, or East Indian stock; to persons having 601. in a savings' bank; to the recipients of pensions in the naval, military, and civil services amounting to 201. a year; to the inhabitants of a portion of any house whose aggregate rent was 201. per annum ; to graduates, ministers of religion, members of the legal and medical professions, and, under certain defined circumstances, to schoolmasters. It proposed to remedy the working of the celebrated Chandos clause of the reform bill of 1832 by extending the 101. household franchise to the counties; an arrangement which it was calculated would add two hundred thousand to the number of the county electors. The bill was allowed to be brought in without opposition, but very strong objections were entertained against it by men of all parties in the house. The problem which its framers