XI: WESTMINSTER REFORM DINNER123 May 1823 - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence 1815-1823.
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WESTMINSTER REFORM DINNER
23 May 1823
‘The Anniversary Dinner of the Electors of Westminster, in commemoration of the establishment of their Independence in the Election of Sir F. Burdett, took place at the Crown and Anchor Tavern. At five o’clock upwards of 400 persons sat down to a very substantial dinner.’ Mr. J. C. Hobhouse took the chair, in the absence of Sir F. Burdett who was prevented from attending by illness.
The first toast proposed was, ‘The People, the only source of legitimate power’ (applause).
The next was ‘The King, and may he always recollect his declaration, that he holds the Crown in trust and for the benefit of the people’ (with three times cheers).
Mr. Ricardo next rose and said, a toast had been put into his hands, which he should give with the greatest pleasure— ‘The only remedy for the national grievances, a full, fair, free, and equal Representation of the People in the Commons’ House of Parliament.’ To him it appeared that such a representation of the people was absolutely necessary, as a check and security against misgovernment. It was absolutely necessary that we should have a House of Commons which should represent the people fully and efficiently, instead of representing only a small portion of the people of England. Great difference of opinion existed and might very fairly exist as to the extent to which the Elective Franchise should be carried. A numerous class of persons in this country thought that it should be extended to the whole of the people; others thought it would be sufficiently extensive if given only to householders. Between these two opinions there was much debateable ground; he did not think this a point of such essential importance, as some appeared to consider it, and in his opinion there would be sufficient security for good government if the Elective Franchise was extended no farther than to those who paid direct taxes, or who were fairly called householders. What he considered a point of much greater importance was, that to whatever classes the elective franchise might be given, the privilege should be fairly exercised by those classes (applause). They ought not to be in any degree influenced by those who were superior to them in rank or fortune. He did not deny to the higher classes the fair influence arising from talents, property and good offices, but he did deny to them the privilege of dictating to Electors in the exercise of the elective franchise. He did think it of the utmost importance that the elective franchise should be exercised in such a manner as to give the most complete security, that the votes given should be the real votes of the people. It was said by Mr. Fox in the House of Commons, that he should be a friend to Universal suffrage if he knew any mode by which the real votes of the people could be effectually obtained under such a system, but he objected to Universal Suffrage because he was satisfied that it would in reality give a greater power to the Aristocracy than it at present possessed. In that opinion of Mr. Fox, he (Mr. R.) should entirely concur, if he did not think that there was an easy and practicable mode of securing to the people the free choice of their Representatives. The mode he alluded to was that of secret suffrage, or what was commonly called voting by ballot (applause). By the establishment of such a system he was fully persuaded, that we should have a House of Commons which would fairly express the opinions of the people; and that no measures would originate in such a House of Commons which had not the good of the people for their object. It was to him a subject of congratulation that so small a change as this would secure to the people of this country all the blessings of good government. We were not in the situation of other countries, which in order to obtain those blessings were compelled to go through all the horrors of a revolution. We were so happily situated that nothing but a rational and practicable Reform was wanting to put us in possession of all the blessings we could desire. He knew, it was objected to them, that if they had such a House of Commons as this the Crown and the Aristocracy could no longer exist. He believed no such thing; he believed the people of this country were attached to their institutions. Let them have no motive for changing those institutions, and that attachment would remain. Englishmen were not naturally fond of change; they were not a fickle people; on the contrary, they rather endured abuses too long (applause). There was another security for good government, which he should have been sorry to have forgotten on this occasion. Our Parliaments should be frequently chosen (applause). Without frequent Parliaments there was no security for liberty. It could not be denied that we possessed in this country a good deal of practical liberty, though it was not administered in the way which would contribute most effectively to the happiness of the people. While a free press, and the privilege of meeting to discuss their grievances remained, even shackled as those privileges now were, this country could never be said to be entirely without liberty. The perseverance of the Electors of Westminster had set a great example to the rest of the country, and he trusted the time was not far distant when their firm, consistent, and persevering efforts in the cause of Reform would be crowned with success. The Honourable Gentleman concluded by giving ‘A full, fair and free Representation of the People in the Commons’ House of Parliament.’
TWO PAPERS ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORM