National Political Union. On Pledges to be given by
54. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 144-7. Printed.]
National Political Union. ON Pledges to be given by
candidates (By Francis Place) (fn. 1)
To the Electors of the United Kingdom.
The Council of the National Political Union consider it their duty to
state in the shortest and clearest way they can, the opinions they entertain,
and the reasons on which they are founded, respecting the pledges which,
under present circumstances, should be given by those who may become
candidates for seats in the ensuing parliament.
It is well known, that, under the rotten borough system, the people had
no real choice of representatives—a majority of the House of Commons
was nominated and placed there by the Lords and a few rich Commoners,
and indeed, with few exceptions, they who sought to be members were men
whom the people, if left to themselves, would not have chosen. Men
properly qualified for the office and worthy of public confidence very
generally shrunk from election contests: the toil, the expense, the degradation necessary to obtain a seat for any but a pocket borough, was such as
an honest man could seldom be found willing to encounter and submit to;
and very few such men were therefore at any time to be found in the House
The Reform Bill has, to a considerable extent, abridged the power of
those who have hitherto had the composition of the House of Commons in
their hands, and has given to the people in many places the right of choosing for themselves, and on that choice may depend the well being of the
nation. The power to choose representatives will, however, be of little value,
unless it be honestly exercised. To be useful, electors must not so much
consider what may at the moment seem most likely to promote some
particular interest—what may be most gratifying to some particular feeling,
moral, religious, or political; but what, under the circumstances in which
the country is placed, will be most likely to be beneficial to the whole of the
people: they may safely believe that, in promoting the great interests of all,
they cannot but promote in the best possible way, and to the greatest possible extent, the interests of individuals. Laying aside, then, such local and
particular feelings as may interfere injuriously with the interests of all, they
will seek for and accept, as candidates, none but men whose characters
are good; whose particular interests are not at variance with those of the
public, and on whose integrity they can satisfy themselves reliance may
be placed. Much better is it that a man should refuse to vote at all, than
that he should vote for any one of whose untrustworthiness he entertains
It will in many cases happen, that the person who is put forward, or who
puts himself forward, as a candidate, will be unknown to the electors. In
other cases, he will be known to many, but not to all. In other cases again,
he will be known to all, either by his public conduct, or by public report of
his conduct. In the last of these cases, a man's merits may, perchance, be
known to an extent which may make it unnecessary to require pledges;
but such a man will never hesitate to give them. Pledges may then be taken
from all. Every elector should recollect that his representative is elected for
the unreasonably long period of SEVEN YEARS, and that he may therefore
set his constituents at defiance for that period.
It is then indispensably necessary, that the conduct, as well private as
public, of every candidate should be scrutinized, and the result made
known, and that pledges should be given by him to the electors in the most
The duties of electors may be summed up in very few words.
1. Relinquishment of all petty interests and feeling for the public good.
2. Strict inquiry into the characters, public and private, of candidates.
3. Demand of pledges, under the hands of candidates.
There is no intermediate course—there can be no compromising with
these duties, without dishonestly betraying the sacred trust each elector
ought to exercise for the public good.
The consequences of any compromising, or paltering, must be a betrayal
of the public interests, and the return to parliament of political adventurers
who speculate on a seat in the House of Commons to promote their own
sinister interests, and those of their confederates, to enable them to plunder
and debase the people.
The House of Commons has but too generally been composed of three
descriptions of persons, viz:—[this section is almost identical to the wording of Place's suggested address for the Parliamentary Candidate Society
The whole of the numerous body of persons who compose these three
classes may be designated adventurers, no one of whom ought to find a seat
in the new parliament. Against every such person electors should resolutely
guard themselves, and this can only be done by careful inquiries as to their
characters, public and private, and by taking such pledges as no one can
violate without shewing himself to be a villain.
The pledges to be given by candidates should be as general as possible;
the understanding as to their execution as particular as possible. No man
should be expected to attempt any thing at such an unseasonable time as
would subject him to the imputation of folly;—no one should bind himself
in such a way as would compel him to perform such acts to save his pledges,
as would make him a hypocrite: much must be left to the judgment of the
representative, who, if he be, honest, will seize every opportunity to promote the good of his country, and convince his constituents that he has not
given pledges without intending to perform them. He will, therefore, on all
proper occasions originate motions, and will support every measure which
can in any way tend to promote the great reforms of which the Reform Bill
may be taken as the basis.
The pledges then that candidates should be required to give seem to be
I. Parliamentary Reform
1. Shortening the duration of Parliaments.
2. Voting by Ballot.
If the whole nation were divided into electoral districts, and the votes
were taken by ballot, parliaments could not be too short, nor the right of
voting too extensive.
At present, the duration of parliament should be limited to three years.
The advantages of voting by ballot have been ably and conclusively
shown in the 25th number of the Westminster Review. A careful abridgment of the article has been made, and may be had of the secretary, at the
Union Rooms, Saville House, Leicester Square, at 7s. a hundred for distribution.
II. Law Reform
This includes a thorough revision of all laws—common, statute, civil,
criminal, ecclesiastical, local, parliamentary, and municipal; the abolition
of all arbitrary jurisdictions; the abridgment, as much as may be possible,
of vexation, delay, and expense; the detection of crimes, and the certainty
of speedy punishment; abolition of barbarous and cruel punishments, and
the adoption of such punishments only as are commensurate with offences.
III. Financial Reform
This includes reduction of taxes to the greatest possible extent; reduction of all over-paid salaries and pensions, as well as payment of every kind,
from the highest office in the state to the lowest; the total abolition of all
sinecures, all useless offices, and all unearned pensions.
It is advisable that indirect taxes, and especially those which press
heaviest on trade, manufactures, commerce, and the comforts of the people
should be repealed in preference to direct taxes. Had there been none but
direct taxes, the public never would have submitted to be taxed to one half
the amount they are at present taxed.
IV. Trade Reform
This includes the abolition of ALL monopolies, and more especially the
Corn Law monopoly; the free admission of all sorts of produce for manufacturers, and indeed of free trade in every respect, that the greater number
may no longer be compelled to purchase any thing at an advanced price
that the profits of a very small comparative number may be unduly increased.
V. Church Reform
1. Equalization to a great extent of the church establishment. Every
dignitary of the church preaches poverty and wallows in wealth. Great
wealth being condemned as incompatible with the true religion, none of its
ministers should therefore be wealthy.
2. Ceasing to compel any one to pay for the maintenance of any particular doctrine he does not approve.
3. Abolition of tithes in the fairest way and in the shortest time possible.
VI. Abolition of Slavery
This includes the freedom of every person, of every colour, and every
shade of colour; holding of persons in slavery is UNJUST, atrocious, and
cruel; abolition of slavery without compensation to slave holders is also
UNJUST, but it is inevitable, and therefore less unjust than retaining them
as slaves. It becomes then the duty of the legislature to emancipate all
slaves, with the least injustice, as well to slave holders as to slaves themselves, and in as little time as possible, compatible with the smallest amount
VII. Taxes on Knowledge
These are the stamp duty on newspapers, the excise duty on paper, and
the duty on advertisements.
The National Political Union have published the Debate on Mr Bulwer's
motion on this subject, with notes.
These seven pledges, occupying as many lines, appear to the council to
be sufficiently comprehensive and exact; such as no honest man can refuse
to give, and every elector should demand.
July 11, 1832 Secretary
55. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 316-18]
On the 23rd of July a meeting of the [National] Union [of the Working
Classes] was held. Mr Benbow in the Chair. Mr Duffey proposed the
That the members of this union in town and country, be requested to
urge on all the necessity of demanding pledges from the candidates who
offer themselves to their notice including all the great principles laid down
in our, 'Objects and Laws'.
56. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 321-2. Place's comments on the above proceedings of the National Union of the Working Classes.]
These proceedings shewed nothing but pure imbecility, circumstanced as
the working classes were they had no power, no influence, they could neither
intimidate their landlords with whom they lodged as had been proposed,
nor even set about, much less persuade those who had votes; as had been
recommended to vote as they wished, nor to obtain pledges from candidates, yet most of the leaders and perhaps nearly all their auditors entertained a vague notion that they could operate in all these ways. The
leaders, like other fanatics imagined they had great power, and also like
other fanatics, altho' they never had the most remote chance of carrying
any one of their resolutions into effect, they proceeded as if they were continually effecting some of their purposes and progressing in all of them.
This was the character of the Union during the remainder of its existence
and hence the history of them and other such bodies might be closed, but
as that history which to some extent marks the temper of the active part of
the working people, as it afterwards caused some uneasiness in London in
consequence of an attempt at a public meeting, as well as of the assistance
it gave to Trades Unions and to an immense meeting and procession of
working people, which caused the government, to assemble a large body of
troops in the Metropolis I have deemed it advisable to continue the
57. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 80-2]
While the English Reform Bill was before parliament it was not possible
for me to persuade any member of Parliament with whom I was acquainted
that in consequence of certain clauses in the bill, a very large portion of the
electors in the Scot and Lot Boroughs would be disfranchised and that the
number in each of the Boroughs would be a much smaller one than could be
supposed by the returns made to parliament of the number of persons
returned as eligible to vote. This being the case no one would interfere to
prevent the mischief, now however when the bill had become law and the
agitation, and enthusiasm to have the bill without taking the trouble to
understand its operation, had subsided; I was able to explain to several of
them what really was the condition in which the bill had placed the Borough
voters. After much labour I induced Colonel Evans the member for Rye to
move for certain returns which would officially prove that the representations I had made were correct. Colonel Evans therefore made his motion
and two returns were obtained.
I also succeeded in convincing Mr Warburton, Mr Hume, Sir John
Hobhouse and several other members that the defects in the Bill were of
great importance and that the character of the new parliament might be
decided against the reformers by the state into which the Boroughs had
been put by the Bill. They conversed with other members and thus caused
considerable uneasiness among many of them, and put ministers in an
58. [Add. Ms. 27796, f. 103]
Apprehension of the consequences, of the rate paying clause and the
mode of registration directed by the bill, did not cease with the passing of
the bill, nor the prorogation of the parliament. These apprehensions, and
the necessity of doing whatever might be necessary relative to the forthcoming elections aroused the activity of the Political Unions, which would
otherwise have subsided, and they continued in this state for some time.
There was also some disposition among the people in the Boroughs to
agitate the matter, but after the long continued efforts the people had made
and the energy with which they made it, the loss of time and expense of
money it had occasioned, no very considerable effort on the present
occasion was possible.
Some leading men in the Parish of St John finding that a small proportion of the householders in their parish were qualified to vote at the expected general election even by the payment of rates, without reference to
taxes, drew up a case and sent it to Mr Chitty, who returned a long seesawing opinion, from which nothing could be learned, beyond a leaning to
a beleif [sic], that they who had not paid all rates and assessed taxes due on
the 5 of April before the 31st of July would be disfranchised.
This induced them to call a meeting of the Parishioners, and an application to me to draw an Address to the King, explaining their case and praying
for a remedy.
A very numerous meeting of the householders was held on the 23rd of
August, when several parishioners made speeches very much to the purpose, in which it was clearly shewn that it was not possible for the electors
to conform to the directions of the act.
1st. Because they could not clearly comprehend the meaning of some of
2nd Because they could not know what rates and taxes ought to be paid
under the act to enable them to be legally put upon the register.
59. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 164-5]
Great care and much pains were taken to ascertain the state of the
several parishes which compose the City and Liberty of Westminster and a
Table made therefrom was printed in the Morning Chronicle on the 22 of
August 1832. The table which follows is more accurate than it was possible
to make one at the time of publication.
|Names of the Parishes
||Number of Rate Payers
||Number polled in 1818
||Number qualified to vote 31 July 1832|
|St Clement etc.
|St Paul etc.
It will be observed that more than half the number of persons who had
paid the rate, and were so far qualified, were in the Parish of St Martin.
There was a dispute going on in this parish and a temporary rate of very
small amount had been laid to raise money for present emergencies, and it
was the collection of this rate which caused the number to be so high.
N.B. This table has no reference to the payment of Taxes.
Abstract of the Registration for Westminster as printed by the High
Bailiff previous to the General Election in December 1832.
|Names of the Parishes
||Scot & Lot Holders
| Mary le Strand
|Number of Rate payers
Number registered as voters
|No. less than Rate Payers 8,752|
|Electors polled in
These were all the contested elections from 1807 to 1832
Very few more than 4,000 voted in 1832, and consequently only about
half as many as polled at any one of the above elections—and not half as
many as at any one of the other three Elections.
What rule the overseers went by in making the distinction between £10
householders and Scot and Lot voters, could not be learned by me but I
conclude those who appear as Scot and Lot voters were favoured persons
who were in arrears for rates.
N.B. There are no rated houses paying a less rent than £10 per annum.
60. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 177-9]
Parliament was expected to be dissolved as soon as preparations could
be made for carrying the enactments of the bill, and especially those which
respected registration into practice.
The few and feeble efforts which had been made to procure such amendments in the English reform bill as have been mentioned, (fn. 2) had been met by
a wilful misrepresentation and perversion of the law, and a scheme had
been put in practice by which a considerable number of unqualified persons
in the Boroughs might be fraudulently put upon the register instead of the
small number who were legally qualified.
The attention of the people had taken a new direction, in consequence
of the numerous addresses of candidates for seats in the house of commons,
and the necessity there was in most places for the peoples endeavours to
find men whom they thought qualified to represent them.
There was great scarcity of properly qualified candidates, and this caused
many applications to every public man to be made to find if they could
such persons as would suit the enquirers. It was difficult to procure any,
and utterly impossible to find many men properly qualified and having the
appropriate aptitude for the office of legislators. Very few such men would
consent to become candidates.
The reasons were many. Some were engaged in pursuits or occupied with
business which in justice to their families they could not abandon and to
whom, under such circumstances a seat was not at all desirable. Others
were not rich enough to pay the expenses of Election contests and the
people had not virtue enough to put them into parliament free from expense; some very [few] instances alone excepted.
Others again who might have been willing to pay the election expences [sic], were satisfied that they could not do their duty to their country
without incurring expenses, either wholly beyond their means, or to an
extent which they were not justified in incurring.
Another class of persons, those who were by no means so well qualified
for the office of representatives of the people were similarly circumstanced,
and thus the difficulties of the people were greatly increased.
An instance occurred in my own case as it did in the case of several,
probably many others. A deputation of respectable persons from one of the
new Boroughs came to invite me to become a candidate on the assurance
that the electors would themselves pay all the election expenses, and all
expences I might incur in travelling, and they assured me that if I consented
my election would be certain.
I was not at all ambitious of a seat in the house of Commons, but I
should hardly have considered myself at liberty to refuse compliance with
the request had not other circumstances made my acceptance altogether
indiscreet, probably ruinous to me. From my connection with the working
classes in various places and the intercourse I occasionally had with manufacturers, a very large portion of the parliamentary business of these classes
and probably the whole in relation to the working people would have been
put upon me. Others too would have reasonably expected my cooperation
and assistance in consequence of the amendments I had proposed in the
reform bill (England) and in every kind of reformation in Church and
It was therefore clear to me that if I attempted to do my duty as undoubtedly I should have done would have consumed every hour of my
time, and occasioned an expense of money which I could not afford. I
estimated this expense at £500 a year, and I knew that unless that sum was
expended in the rent etc. of a place appropriated for business, in the salary
etc. of a secretary and probably an assistant to him, in extra postage,
stationary [sic] and various incidental expenses, that I should be an inefficient member which I was not willing to consent to become. These matters
I stated, and fully explained to the deputation, and told them that whatever
expenses as a member of parliament I was compelled to incur must either
be paid by the persons who elected me or I could not consent to become a
candidate for a seat in the house of commons. This necessarily put an end
to the business.
61. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 195-6. Printed.]
National Political Union, Saville House, Leicester
Square, October 26, 1832, Extension Of The Objects OF The
Union, 'Knowledge is Power'.
The Council of the National Political Union, anxious to redeem the
pledge given by them, to 'assist in the diffusion of sound moral and political
information,' have made arrangements to promote this object at the cheapest possible rate. The expense will be so moderate, as to place the contemplated advantages within the reach of almost every man in the community;
and if the support given to the Council in their endeavours to extend the
blessings of knowledge should enable them, they intend to reduce the sum
now fixed to a still lower rate.
They call on the industrious classes to avail themselves of the advantages
thus offered—advantages which, on such terms, cannot be secured but by
means of UNION.
They call on the wealthier classes to co-operate with them in the noble
cause of the 'diffusion of knowledge'. By their subscriptions, they may give
greater efficiency to a plan which presents means of instruction to those
whose circumstances have hitherto necessarily excluded them from most
intellectual enjoyments; and by their donations of books, which will be
extensively circulated amongst the members of the Union, they may enable
hundreds to store their minds with really useful knowledge.
They call on all well-wishers to social improvement, of whatever station,
sect, or class, to assist in bettering the intellectual and moral condition of
the people. 'There has never been any object in the history of nations which
more amply merited, or could be more efficiently served, by the co-operation of all good citizens and honest men.'
The means by which it is proposed to attain these important purposes,
1st.—By the delivery of Lectures on political and other useful subjects,
including natural and experimental philosophy, literature, and the arts.
2d.—By Discussions amongst the members on questions of general
3d.—By a Library of circulation, in addition to the present Reading
It is further proposed to establish classes and elementary schools, for the
study of languages, etc. as soon as the funds will permit.
The members only of the National Political Union will be admitted to
the Lectures and Discussions, on the payment of one shilling per quarter, in
addition to the present subscription, and one penny admission to each
Lecture or Discussion.
The members only will be admitted to the use of the Circulating Library,
on the payment of one shilling quarterly.
Donations in money, books, and apparatus, are earnestly requested.
62. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 200-2]
The plan proposed by the committee, adopted and ordered to be carried
into effect by the Council, communicated to the members of the Union and
intended to be made public in every way likely to be useful, did not suit the
views of those whose selfish purposes extended no further than their own
accomodation [sic] at the expense of others. These men therefore associated
with themselves every ill-conditioned member whom they could persuade
to concur with them, and every silly one whom they could delude, and of
whom they made a bad use. They quarelleled [sic] with the servants of the
Union, turned the quiet reading room into a debating room, in which full
swing was given to the worst passions, the most disgraceful language and
most reprehensible conduct. Efforts were at first made to appease, and to
conciliate, and these failing, to suppress their proceedings, these also failed.
They proceeded in their course ill used the servants, and then made formal
complaints against them to the Council. They disgusted and drove away
every respectable member who came to the reading room,—they injured the
Union in every possible way. The consequence of their conduct in addition
to the quiet state into which the people had sunk after their long continued
and vehement excitement tended rapidly to the destruction of the Union.
So small was the number who at once renewed their tickets, and paid their
shillings, that it became evident, to the Council they could not maintain the
ordinary expenses much less carry out the enlargements of the objects of the
Union which they had persuaded themselves would be supported by the
members and the public, and that any attempt to do so would speedily bring
ruin on the Union and involve it [in] debts for which a portion of the
Committee would be ultimately responsible.
The violence of these disorderly people increased daily, and no probable
termination of their conduct could be anticipated; the Council were
therefore called upon to consider all the circumstances in which they were
placed and to take such measures as might enable them to avoid the
Under these circumstances the usual weekly meeting of Council was
held. On the 7 November, Mr Millard in the Chair and ten Councillors.
The conduct of the persons alluded to was exceedingly annoying. On
this occasion they and a number of misled members occupied a considerable portion of the seats, and interrupted the Council, which after some
time adjourned without having done any business.
A special meeting of the Council was held on 10th, Mr Rainford in the
Chair and 19 Councillors.
Mr Harrison on the part of the Business committee communicated the
reason why the Special meeting had been called. He said that the excitement which had caused so large a number of persons to become members
of the Union had passed away and a large number had on that account
refrained from renewing their tickets. That the conduct of some of the
members had driven away a large number also, and the consequence was
an almost cesession [sic] of members and subscriptions. It therefore became
the duty of the Business Committee to invite the Council to the consideration of the present state and future prospects of the Union.
Mr Harrison then laid before the Council a statement of receipts and
expenditure since the last account, and a statement of the future expenses to
which the council as a body had made themselves liable.
The Council resolved itself into a committee and after some discussion it
was resolved. That a cheap room be taken in a central situation, to enable
the Council to make its expenditure correspond with its income.
A committee was appointed to carry the resolution into effect. It was
then resolved that the committee be instructed
1. To give notice to the proprietor of Saville House that we shall quit the
premises at the expiration of the ensuing week.
2. To give notice to the members that the money which has been paid by
them for lectures and the circulating library will be returned to each of
them upon demand.
3. That the newspapers be immediately discontinued.
4. That notice be given to the officers of the Union that their services
will not be required at the end of one month from the present time.
5. That all members for the present quarter requiring the return of their
subscriptions be repaid and their names erased from the books of the
63. [Place Collection, set 63, vol. 1, f. 200]
Special Meeting of Council
Saville House Leicester Square
Thursday 22 Nov. 1832
Present Mr Thomas Murphy in the Chair
|W. B. Hankin
J. D. Styles
G. G. Ward
D. W. Redman
W. D. Saull
G. S. Berkeley
C. Fox Smith
The following report was presented from the Standing Committee.
The Committee report that in consequence of a past resolution of
Council the reading room was closed on Saturday the 17th inst. & the
publications discontinued—the secretary and assistants have received a
months notice to leave—the different rooms occupied by the Union given
up to the Landlord last Tuesday, the tables, forms etc. removed to a room
for the present hired for the purpose & that the room occupied by the
Secretary has been re-engaged at ten shillings per week where the business
of the Union will continue to be transacted.
The Committee have specially summoned the Council in consequence
of some propositions received from a deputation of Members who being
desirous of perpetuating the Union have suggested that a room or rooms
should be engaged to be used as a reading room or for conversation, discussions & lectures, the estimated expense including rent, attendance,
candles, coals & newspapers would be about £50 per quarter this sum to be
raised by the Members without touching the funds of the Union excepting
that part subscribed this quarter and which was promised to be returned to
those who required it—the members engage to raise the remainder—but
before they do so they the deputation consider it necessary to ascertain
whether the Council will sanction this plan & also if they will allow the
management to remain in the hands of a committee one half Council & one
half Subscribers, other minor suggestions were made which will be found in
the annexed propositions.
Propositions presented to the Committee by a deputation of nine members of the Union viz Messrs Langley, Smith, Pearce, Mason, Baker, Gains,
Davis, Nyse, Scarfe.
1st To recommend the taking of premises suitable for our accommodation for reading, discussions & lectures as far as our means will allow.
2d That the Committee to manage the same be composed of members of
the Council & members of the Union in equal proportion.
3d The rules for the conduct of such rooms or room to be submitted to
& sanctioned by a general meeting to be called by the Council.
4 That as Sect'n 2 Clause 3 says 'that every species of concealment or
mystery is to be carefully avoided' will your committee allow extracts to be
made from the address book on a requisition signed by six members.
5 That Mr Langley be requested to deliver the above.
The Committee have only to add that upon a conference with the
deputation the Committee decided that they had no authority to accede to
the propositions but agreed to refer them to a Council to be specially
called for the purpose.
It was then after some discussion moved by Mr Savage, seconded by
That the means of defraying the expences [sic] of rooms for reading,
discussions & lectures not being sufficient and the probability of their being
raised not being evident to this Council they regret that they cannot accede
to the first recommendation.
64. [Add. Ms. 27796, ff. 205-8. Place on the extinction of the National