PP/GC/LE/114 Letter from Sir G.C.Lewis to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, regarding the proposed electoral reform bill, and the politics of 1827-30, 11 December 1858
Letter from Sir George Cornewall Lewis, second Baronet, [Member of Parliament for Radnor], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: [Transcript] "I have lately received a letter from Lord Hatherton in answer to one which I wrote to him on a question having no reference to reform and I copy from it the following passage: `I predict that the Derby reform bill will be a reduction of the county franchise to 20 pounds, perhaps lower - an aggregation of towns to old boroughs, ostensibly to balance constituencies, really to appease the fears of their county members, and a measure to remedy the effect of the [f.1v] towns improvement rating clause, which makes the owners of 12 pound tenements pay the rates, and in Birmingham alone disqualifies 7,000 renters. One of Bright's men, ?Thise, his right hand man, tells me in a letter that for his part he could take relief on that head as alone a satisfactory measure.' He adds his relief that the aggregation of towns plan would not be acceptable and he desires that his prediction may be quoted, but ask me to communicate it to you. [f.2r] I had never heard of the operation of the clause in the towns improvement act, but its disfranchising effect was probably undesigned. The point seems a narrow one, for the numbers of towns which have adopted the act cannot be considerable and the law might be easily ratified without a general reform bill. With respect to the forming of contributory boroughs, in England, as in Wales and Scotland, it has merely to recommend it, but it would probably be hard to carry. If the county franchise is [f.2v] reduced to 10 pounds, the influence of the landed interest in the counties, would be preserved by anything which took the householders * and * of the larger towns out of the county, and gave them a borough franchise. Estcourt, I see, informs his friends that he has seen the sketch of the new reform bill. I have little doubt that it will deal pretty largely in the creation of new suffrages and in the reduction of the existing qualifications. I should not be surprised if they [f.3r] reduced the borough even more in proportion than the country franchise. They will probably be tender about disfranchisement and, as Hatherton says, are not unlikely to resort to the method of contributory boroughs, for the purpose of saving the smaller seats. The government will, I take for granted, give a general announcement in the Queen's speech, like that of last year, which can give rise to no difference of opinion, and the first practical question which will arise will be upon the second reading of the [f.3v] government bill. Judging from the experience of last session, one should expect that they will not press it unless they are sure of carrying it. If they expect to be out voted upon it, they will probably withdraw it. I do not yet know what Bright may have said yesterday at Manchester, but I have great doubts whether he will produce a bill after all. It is clear that we must have some reform bill and if the first edition of the government bill does not please they may try their hands on a second [f.4r] edition. I have been preparing for the EDINBURGH REVIEW a paper on the administration of Lord Liverpool and the 3 other ministers from 1827 to 1830. I find it stated that after Huskisson's death and before the session in October 1830, the Duke of Wellington made some offer to you and others of the Canningites to join his government, but that the offer was refused. I have ascertained through Goderich that no offer was made to his father, but he remembers being told by Mr Lamb (Lord Melbourne) that an offer was made to him, which was refused. Lord Glenelg writes me word that he has no recollection [f.4v] on the subject. Would you allow me to ask you whether you remember the circumstance and if so, would you have the kindness to tell me what passed. It is important as bearing upon the formation of the Canningite party with Lord Grey's ministry. Canning's death and the stubborn stationary \ policy / of the Duke of Wellington and Peel after the passing of the Catholic question were attended by most important consequences. I cannot admire the Duke of Wellington as a politician." 11 Dec 158 The letter is docketed: "Sir G.C.Lewis about reform and asking information as to offers made by Duke of Wellington to Canning party after Huskisson's death. 22 December answered it." PP/GC/LE/209 is Palmerston's reply.
Three papers
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Sir George Cornewall Lewis, second Baronet, Member of Parliament for Radnor: article in the EDINBURGH REVIEW volume CX p. 60-98
Edward Littleton, first Baron Hatherton, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Edward Smith-Stanley, twenty third Earl of Derby, Prime Minister
John Bright, Member of Parliament for Birmingham
Thomas Sutton Sotherton-Estcourt, Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire, President of the Poor Law Board
Newspapers and the press
Charles Jenkinson, first Earl Liverpool, former Prime Minister, deceased
William Huskisson, former Member of Parliament, deceased
Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, former Prime Minister, deceased
Frederick John Robinson, first Viscount Goderich, first Earl of Ripon, former Prime Minister, deceased
George Frederick Samuel Robinson, second Viscount Goderich, later second Earl of Ripon, Member of Parliament for the West Riding of Yorkshire
Frederick James Lamb, third Viscount Melbourne, deceased
Lord ?Glenelg
George Canning, deceased
Charles Grey, second Viscount Grey, former Prime Minister, deceased
Sir Robert Peel, second Baronet, deceased
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