Twenty other towns of smaller size were to be represented each by one member. The metropolis itself was to have eight new members, two members each being given to the Tower Hamlets, Holborn, Finsbury, and Lambeth. Each of these metropolitan constituencies is now, and was even then, a big town in itself. The Government proposed to sweep away nearly all the complex franchises - the "fancy franchises," as they would have been called at a later day; franchises conferred in many instances by close corporations, often from selfish and corrupt motives, and some of which did not even carry with them as a qualification for the right to vote the condition that the voter must reside in the borough, whose representative he was privileged to join in electing. Lord John Russell proposed as far as possible to simplify the voting system, and to make it at least similar in principle for boroughs and for counties. In the boroughs a resident householder paying rates for a house of the yearly value of £10 and upwards was to be entitled to vote; in counties a copyholder to the value of ,£10 a year, who was also qualified to serve on juries, and a leaseholder for not less than twenty-one years, whose annual rent was not less than £50, were to become voters at once. Lord John Russell attempted to deal with the expenses of elections by an arrangement that the poll should be taken in separate districts, so that no voter should have to travel more than fifteen miles to record his vote; and also by limiting the duration of the poll to a period of not more than two days. It may be said at once that this part of the measure proved utterly inadequate to its purpose. Again and again have subsequent Governments been compelled to introduce new measures for the suppression and for the punishment of bribery. For more than forty years after the introduction of the first Reform Bill the question of bribery remained an open scandal, against which earnest reformers were never tired of declaiming. All that can be said of the Government of Earl Grey on this score is that they had an extraordinary piece of complicated work to undertake; and that to carry a really effective, measure for the extinction of bribery at such a time would have been an utter impossibility. Hogarth's sketches of English electioneering days were hardly in the slightest degree caricatures of the system which prevailed in the time of the first Reform Bill, and indeed for many long years after its introduction. It is well worthy of notice, is indeed a very interesting fact, that in the speech which Russell made when moving for leave to bring in the Bill he spoke for the first time of his own friends and sympathisers as the Reform party, and he awarded to his opponents the title of Conservatives.
Lord John Russell, as has been said, merely moved for leave to bring in the Bill. That is one of the parliamentary forms of the House of Commons which is dispensed with in the House of Lords. Every Bill in both Houses must have three readings; but in the House of Lords the first reading is accorded as a matter of right to the member who introduces any measure. In the House of Commons, the first reading is represented by a motion that leave be given to bring in the Bill; and although that motion is not much opposed or much debated, still it can be discussed and can be opposed. The moment Lord John Russell had closed his speech, the Opposition flamed out at once. Sir Robert Harry Inglis was the first man to rise on the part of the Tory Opposition. Now Sir Robert Harry Inglis was a curious sort of politician, whose peculiarities deserve notice all the more because he was the type and specimen of a class which is fast disappearing from the civilised countries of the world. Inglis represented in the House of Commons the great University of Oxford. He was a man of the highest personal and political integrity and honour; he was a man of education, a man of intellect, an effective speaker; but he was the very bond-slave of Tory prejudice and the bitter enemy of every measure, large or small, which made for political progress. His name is still well remembered in the House of Commons; some of us can even recall a recollection of the man himself, for his political career lasted a long time and he was a living, walking, speech-making embodiment of antique Toryism. His speech in reply to Lord John Russell was one which ought to have been preserved, if only as a specimen of the kind of argument which could still be employed in the House of Commons by an educated English gentleman who was not supposed to have any tendency to insanity. Indeed, the speech was exactly such a discourse as Sydney Smith might have prepared for the purpose of throwing ridicule on the arguments of the whole Tory Party.
Reform he declared to be only revolution under a feigned name. A measure like that introduced by Lord John Russell would root out all the benignant influences of education, property, and rank. Pass such a measure and there would be no more gentlemen and no more scholars in England, and everything in future would be governed there by the caprice of an ignorant and howling mob. He abandoned himself to the spirit of his argument so far as to deny in the most solemn manner that any English law or English custom had ever connected taxation and representation. He went even farther than this; for he insisted that the whole principle of representation was something utterly foreign and unknown to the British constitution. He scoffed at the idea that a place merely because it happened to be a large and prosperous town, with a great population, was any the better entitled to be represented in Parliament than the smallest country village; and he maintained that the principle of representation was that the Sovereign should invite whomsoever he pleased to represent any place, peopled or unpeopled, which the Sovereign graciously chose to designate; and that the man designated should thereupon have the right of going to Parliament, to confer with the Sovereign on the affairs of the country. He went even farther than this; he exceeded even the limits of anything like artistic caricature; for he openly defended and glorified the purchase of small boroughs, and triumphantly pointed out, that if such boroughs were not to be bought and sold then the noblemen of the country, the persons naturally fitted to govern the country, would have no representation whatever in the House of Commons.