« PreviousContinue »
of known legal denomination; and no part of any such division less than the whole is to be taken in.
"When the city or borough has 300 such inhabitants, as aforesaid, or more, then the inquiry will relate to the proper boundary to be assigned for such city or borough. In fixing such boundary it will be proper, as far as possible, to take the known limits of parishes, wards, townships, or chapelries, or other divisions of known denomination. But if any such division or divisions, in which any city or borough 'having an ample constituency' is situated, extends considerably beyond the portion covered or nearly covered with houses, the boundaries must be assigned as nearly as possible, comprising the city or borough, and little or no portion of the country. In assigning these boundaries, regard must be had as far as possible to fixed objects not likely to be removed, as points of land, lines of trees, bridges, milestones, or roads running from given points.
“The same rules are applicable to assigning the boundaries of cities and places which contain less than 300 inhabitants of L.10 houses, and the districts to be added in order to increase the number of such inhabitants.
“For the purpose of carrying these instructions into effect, you will form the gentlemen hereinbefore named into six boards of two each, and assign to them the places which they are to visit. If necessary, you will repair to the spot where they are carrying on their inquiries. You will collect and preserve their reports, and the documents or other matters accompanying the same, and you will confer and correspond with them from time to time, and give them such suggestions and information as they may desire, and as you may judge useful.
“If you find a greater number of boards necessary after the first week of this operation, you will report the same to me.I have the honour to remain, sir, your very faithful and obedient servant,
It is understood that Mr Drummond had been recommended to the Government for this employment by his friend, as he had by this time become, Lord Chancellor Brougham. After the dinner at Mr Ker's, Drummond frequently met, and he improved his acquaintance with the Chancellor at the council meetings of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, of which he was a member. Mr Ker is said to have suggested the appointment; if so, he was almost singular among Drummond's friends in desiring that he should enter public life ; by most of them Drummond was urged to decline the proposal of the Government, lest he should be diverted from the pursuit of science. He had no hesitation himself in undertaking the task. The cause of Reform was one in which he was eager to be useful ; and to be put at the head of this Commission, at his age, was a high distinction. The commissioners, “the gentlemen named in the margin,” were all men of ability. Among them were Mr E. J. Littleton, M.P., who, after being Chief Secretary of State for Ireland, became Lord Hatherton ; Captain Beaumont, R.N., Hydrographer to the Admiralty ; Messrs Bellenden Ker, Romilly, Drinkwater, and Sheepshanks, all eminent either in science or in law and literature. Drummond accepted the appointment, and entered at once upon the arduous duties of the Commission.
The next ten months were among the busiest and most exciting of his life. His first task was to prepare instructions for the guidance of the commissioners. These he was able to issue by the 23d of August. Then followed numerous further preliminary arrangements. On the 3d September 1831 he wrote to his mother, telling her briefly of his appointment. “I am driven from post to pillar,” he says, “and so occupied with the preliminary arrangements I have barely time to sleep or eat.” On the 9th September he went more
into detail. The inquiry was being performed by eightteen commissioners (the number was afterwards increased to twenty-four), with about thirty surveyors and draftsmen, expending about L.80 per day.
“For the money I am of course responsible. I have to examine and criticise the daily reports [of the commissioners), and supply all their wants in the way of plans and documents. The situation is highly honourable and confidential, and I have been treated with great attention by the Lord Chancellor, by Lord Althorp, and by Lord John Russell, with whom I have had, and now have, frequent communications and interviews. I give them my full service in return; am at the office, which is about three miles distant (he was living at Park Road] by ten o'clock ; never move till the post leaves at seven, and have seldom got home to dinner till near eight, after which I am not very able for much more exertion; yet sometimes I have documents to prepare for next day. I cannot enter further into detail, for I am tired, and it is near one, and the morning brings another long day's work.
I hope the Government will be satisfied. Dawson was sent for on my recommendation, and is of the greatest service to me. He takes the whole charge of the surveyors off my hands, and makes admirable arrangments in the country. word, if you please, of this inquiry, or of my superintending it."
A first report of this Commission was ready, and ordered to be printed, on the 20th January. The final report was sent in on the 10th February 1832, on the 16th of which month the Boundaries Bill was introduced in the House of Commons. It was June, however, before the commissioners were fairly off duty, as the calls for further evidence on questions regarding the boundaries were constantly occurring. The reports and relative returns, accompanied by elaborately-drawn maps, indicating the proposed divisions of counties and boundaries of boroughs, as parliamentary districts,
form a large folio blue-book.* The instructions framed by. Mr Drummond for the guidance of the Commissioners and surveyors are printed with the reports. They are at once an illustration of his powers of organisation, and a proof of the wisdom of the Government in appointing him to superintend the Commission.
While this work was in progress, another and more delicate task was confided to Mr Drummond, as will appear from the following letter addressed to him by Lord Melbourne:
“WHITEHALL, 24th Nov. 1831. “SIR,—The Government having determined to found the Reform Bill on a new basis, I request your assistance to enable them to ascertain the relative importance of the smaller boroughs in England and Wales.
· It is proposed to take the number of houses and the amount of assessed taxes for the year ending April 1831 together as the test of disfranchisement. The inquiries of which you have had the direction, and the information obtained in answer to circular letters sent from this office, will put you in possession of the data from which such a calculation can be made.
“You will have the goodness, therefore, to make a scale, containing, in addition to ninety-seven boroughs (the number comprised in Schedules (A) and (B) of the former Bill), the ten or fifteen immediately above them in size and importance. You will arrange these boroughs in such a manner that the lowest may be the first, and the highest the last on the list. I shall be obliged to you to send me, at the same time, an account of the manner in which the calculation has been made.--I have the honour to be, &c.,
MELBOURNE." “ Lieut. Drummond, R.E., &c. &c."
* “XI. Part I. Parliamentary Representation. Further return to an address to his Majesty dated 12th December 1831 :—For copies of instructions given by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to Parliamentary Representation; likewise copies of letters and reports received by the Secretary of State for the Home Department in answer to such instructions."
Drummond sent in a first report in execution of this commission on the 12th of December 1831, and the final report on the 16th of January following. The report was accompanied by a list of the boroughs arranged in the order of their relative importance, by the evidence, and a statement of the principle on which that order depended.“
The "new basis for the Reform Bill” was far from being distinctly set forth in the instructions which he had received. Let us see what he made of it. The basis was that the number of houses and the amount of assessed taxes should be the test of disfranchisement. Presumably, it was intended, in estimating the relative importance of a borough, to allow weights to the houses which it contained, and to the assessed taxes which it paid, proportional to their respective numbers, and such that the whole weight of all the houses should be equal to the whole weight of all the taxes in the mass of boroughs considered. On this, as the unexpressed meaning of his instructions, Drummond proceeded. “The method adopted for carrying this principle into effect,” he says, “may be stated in the following words :
"1st, Take the average number of houses contained in the boroughs to be arranged; divide the number of houses in each borough by this average number, and a series of numbers will be obtained denoting the relative importance of the different boroughs with respect to houses.
“2d, Take the average amount of the assessed taxes paid by the same boroughs, and proceed in the same manner as described with respect to the houses ; a series of numbers will re
* The Report is a considerable blue-book, “Returns relative to the 120 smallest Boroughs at present returning Members to Parliament. 1832.”