Front Page Titles (by Subject) The QUALIFICATION of CANDIDATES. - A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts
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The QUALIFICATION of CANDIDATES. - Josiah Tucker, A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts 
A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts (London: T. Cadell, 1781).
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The QUALIFICATION of CANDIDATES.
Respecting the Gentlemen to be elected Representatives, their Interest, it is presumed, would best be connected with that of the Public in general, and of their Constituents in particular, by the following Arrangement.
1st.Let the Person offering himself a Candidate for a County, cause to be delivered to the Sheriff, or returning Officer, ten Days at least before the Commencement of the Poll, a List, or Schedule of his landed Qualification:—Shewing, that he has not less than 1,000 Acres of Land in such a Parish, or Parishes, according as the Lands may lie contiguous, or dispersed, within the said County; on which are erected ten Dwelling Houses at least, which are, and which have been for 12 Months last past inhabited by ten distinct Families; and that he himself hath enjoyed the said Estate in his own full Right, and hath been the Landlord of the said Tenants for at least twelve Months preceding, having paid, either by himself, or by them, every Kind of Tax, which hath been legally charged upon the same. Moreover, he should be obliged to cause a printed Copy of the said List or Schedule to be affixed on the Market-House, Sessions-House, Town-Hall, Church Doors, and every other public Building of, and in every Market-Town within the said County:—And should also cause Duplicates of the same to be inserted twice, or oftener, in the Journals or News-Papers of the said County, if any such shall be published;—if not, of some neighbouring County or City, the most read by, and circulated among the Electors.
2dly.The Candidates for Cities, or Boroughs, should be obliged to deliver similar Lists, or Schedules, and to give equally long Notice to their respective returning Officers, and indeed to all the Inhabitants of such Cities, or Boroughs, by causing printed Copies to be affixed on the Market-Houses, and on every public Building whatsoever, ten Days at least before the Poll begins: Nor should the Insertion of such List or Schedules in the public Papers (as related in the former Article) ever be omitted; in order that Freeholders at a Distance, as well as Freemen on the Spot, may be made perfectly well acquainted with the Pretensions, and landed Qualifications of each intended Candidate:—Only respecting the Quantum of the Qualification, it may be necessary, [in order to approach nearer to the present Law] that no more Acres should be required than 500,—and five Dwelling Houses, occupied or inhabited by five distinct Families. But nevertheless, that this Qualification may be a real one, and not pretended, or a borrowed, [which alas! is too often the Case at present] it may be necessary to insist, that no Part of this landed Estate should be thirty Miles distant from the City, or Borough, for which he offers himself a Candidate, so that many of the Inhabitants might be able to detect the Cheats if any should be attempted:—The Miles to be measured along the King’s Highway, and public Roads, and not as the Crow flies. But it is immaterial in what County or Counties the Estate itself should happen to be situated, the Vicinity being the main Point to be regarded.
3dly.The Penalties or Forfeitures for contravening, or not duly performing any of the above Rules and Conditions, should be the following.
[1st.] Thouch it would not be right to debar the accused, before his Guilt is legally proved, the Liberty of standing a Candidate;—yet as soon as the Election was ended, and for nine Months afterwards, it might be lawful for any Person whatever to prosecute him in the King’s-Bench for the [supposed] Breach of this intended Law;—provided, that the Plaintiff previously gave Security for paying 1000l. Damages in the Case of a County Election, and 500l. in that of a City or Borough, to the Defendant, if he did not, according to the Verdict of a Jury, make good his Charge:—But in Case he did, then the Defendant should forfeit the Sum of 1000l. for a County, and 500l. for a City or Borough, with treble Costs to the Plaintiff; and the Onus probandi, that he was actually and bone Fide possessed of such an Estate, and that he had performed all the Conditions required by this intended Law, should rest on the Defendant, because it would always be in his Power to prove his Innocence, if he was falsely accused.
[2dly.] In Case the Defendant should be cast, then, if he was returned Member, his Seat should be declared vacant, ipso facto, and a Writ be made out for a new Election:—But he himself should be rendered incapable of standing a Candidate for that, or for any other County, or Place, for at least three Years to come.
[3dly.] If any Thing else can be supposed yet to be wanting towards putting a total End to the numerous Frauds and Forgeries of unqualified Candidates, [now, alas! so very common] and of their Adherents, Co-adjutors, or Abettors,—It may be thus supplied:—Let every Person who can be proved to have been an Accomplice, or Assistant in making up false Accounts, or publishing the same, (knowing them to be false) respecting the Property of, or Title to the Lands,—the Quantity of Acres which they contain,—the Number of Dwelling Houses erected on them,—the Families actually inhabiting them,—the Length of Time, in which the Candidate may have been in the Possession of them in his own Right;—I say, let every such convicted Accomplice, Agent, or Assistant, be judged by this intended Law to have incurred the same Guilt as a Principal, and be subject to the like Penalties, and Disqualifications in every Respect whatever.
Having laid down these several Regulations for ascertaining the Qualifications both of those, who are to elect, and of the Candidates to be elected; it is humbly conceived, that, were they duly executed, they would prove such a sufficient Guard to the Freedom of Elections, and such a preventive Remedy against almost every Kind of Fraud and Imposition, that more, or greater need not be required. Indeed, it may be questioned, whether in the present State of Things, more or greater would not embarrass the main Design, instead of promoting it. Let us therefore take a View of the whole Plan, as it lies before us.—Supposing, that it was fairly set in Motion, and when all the Parts are co-operating with each other.
But in order to do this, I must premise, that such an important Bill ought not to be attempted to be introduced into Parliament, at or near the Dissolution of an old one, but about the beginning of a new one. Those, who know any Thing of the Spirit of Electioneering, which is ready to burst forth, as a Flood, when a Parliament is drawing near the Time of its Dissolution, and of the vile Arts and Stratagems usually practised on such Occasions, to inflame the Populace with Names, and Noise, and Nonsense, can easily comprehend my Meaning.
This being premised, I am therefore to observe,
First of all, That when such a regulating Bill shall have passed into a Law,—even the lowest of the People, and those, who perhaps might be deprived thereby of their present Privilege of voting [a Privilege alas! which is now their greatest Misfortune] would soon find, that they would be Gainers by it in Reality, instead of Losers;—Gainers, I say, unless the Removal of the Power of doing Mischief to others, and of ruining themselves, can be called a Loss. In fact, all the great Blessings of Society, Life, Liberty, and Property, would be as much ensured to them under this Circumstance, as to any Set of Men whatever.
Nay 2dly, They would also soon find, that the Honor or Privilege of becoming a Britih Voter [it would then indeed be a real Honour, and a great Privilege] lay within their own Reach to obtain;—provided they were so much their own Friends, as to live a Life of Industry, Sobriety, and Frugality for a few Years;—I say, for a few Years; it being almost demonstrable that any common Day-Labourer, or common Mechanic, acting uniformly on a Plan of Industry, and Œconomy, might raise himself [unless particularly unfortunate] to the Degree of a Voter, before he arrived at the middle Stage of Life;—Yes, he might raise himself to it by his own good Conduct, without applying to any one for Interest, or using any Sort of Solicitations.—Now, when the Road to public Prosperity, and to private Happiness, to external Honours, and to internal Virtue, is thus made straight and easy, without any Turnings or Labyrinths whatsoever.—What can any People upon Earth reasonably desire more?
3dly.Those, who should feel themselves either elevated to, or confirmed in the Rank of Voters, by Means of these new Regulations, would prize this Privilege so much the more, and contend for it with the greater Zeal, in Proportion, as they found that it would be an honourable Distinction, not conferred indiseriminately, as at present, on the very Dregs of the People, or the most worthless of Mankind; but bestowed on the more deserving, both as a Reward for their own exemplary Conduct, and also as an Incitement held forth to others to copy after. Men in such a Situation will value that Constitution, which distinguishes them from others, so much to their Credit and Reputation, for the same Reason that they love and value themselves. And the Lockian Doctrine of unalienable Rights will necessarily fall to the Ground.
4thly.When the Time of electing Representatives shall draw near, the Electors for Cities and Towns, as well as for Counties, will be tolerably well secured by these new Regulations from the Solicitations of those bribing Mushroom Candidates, who always mean to sell, having no Chance to succeed, unless they buy. Therefore, generally speaking, neither the Plunderers of the East, nor the Slave-Drivers of the West, nor the Privateering, trading Buccancers of the American Continent, nor our English Newmarket Jockeys, nor London Gamblers, nor Change-Alley Bulls and Bears, &c. &c. will be able to shew their Heads, when such terra firma Qualifications shall be required, before they offer themselves as Candidates. Yet these landed Qualifications are so low and moderate in themselves, and the Time required to be in Possession of them so very reasonable, that no Man in the Neighbourhood, who has any Title to the Character of a Gentleman, would be excluded from being a Candidate, if he pleased.
Hence therefore 5thly, it is very apparent that all Candidates for Boroughs, answering to this Description, would have a real Interest in the Welfare of the Neighbourhood of the Place they intended to represent. A Circumstance this, in which our present System is too often very defective: For when an Adventurer of the former Stamp, (as mentioned in the 3d. Article) whose Wealth lies in far distant Countries, or in the Funds (if indeed it is any where) happens to be elected, he has no personal Motive to concern himself at all in the Prosperity of the Borough, or in the Improvement of the Estates, situated in its Neighbourhood. Nay, indeed it may so happen, that his own private Interest as a Planter, a Monopolizer, a Jobber, or Contractor, &c. &c. may be directly opposite to the true Interest of that Place, or District, which he represents in Parliament: And therefore, if he can attach to his electioneering Views two, or three leading Men of the Borough, either by pecuniary Bribes, or by the Promise of Places to them, their Relations, or Dependents,—his End is answered, and he looks no farther;—unless it be to assist these dirty Tools to oppress and harrass those, their fellow Burgesses, who should dare to oppose them.
5thly. When the general and particular Interest both of the Electors, and Elected, of the Constituents, and of their Representatives, are thus made to con-center, Parliament-Men become in fact, what they are always supposed to be in Theory, and Speculation, both Guardians, and Guarantees: Guardians of the Rights of the People, and of their own Property against the Encroachments or Innovations either of the Crown, or of the Aristocracy—if any should be attempted;—and Guarantees to both the Crown and the Nobility, that the People shall not abuse the Liberty they enjoy, by aiming at too much, so as to overturn the Constitutional Balance; which indeed would sooner or later prove their own Ruin:—For a turbulent, factious Democracy is quickly, and easily converted into the Tyranny of a single Despot.
It has been often said by certain Writers on Politics, that Wealth and Power naturally, and even necessarily infer each other. In a qualified Sense this may prove true, but not universally. It would be true, were none but Persons of some Property in Counties, Cities, and in Borough-Towns, [that is, were substantial Freeholders, and all Persons paying Scot and Lot, and not the lowest of Mankind, though frequently a Majority as to Numbers] were those, I say, and none but these to elect their own Representatives, and to empower them to act in their Stead. In such a Case the Wealth of Individuals thus consederated together under proper Heads to direct and govern the whole, would become its Strength;—And Strength so circumstanced would be only another Name for Wealth.—Suppose, therefore, that in the Vicissitudes of human Affairs, our Body Politic should be threatened with such a violent Shock as would greatly disorder it:—As soon as the Danger was perceived, every Voter or Elector, every Freeman and Freeholder, would immediately unite with their respective Representatives to guard against the approaching Evils, and repel the Blow. All little Divisions and Animosities would then be forgot: The general Solicitude would swallow up every inferior Consideration, and unite all Parties in the common Cause. Suppose again, that thro’ Want of Attention in some, and from a much worse Cause in others, the Blow was actually given; and that the Wound was almost mortal;—yet even then, as long as Life remained, and any Hopes were left, the whole Mass of the [voting] People, as well as their Representatives, would struggle hard to get the better of this dangerous Convulsion, and to restore the Body-Politic to its antient Vigour. These Efforts they would certainly make, because they would then directly feel, that the Loss of such a Constitution as ours, would be their own Loss, and that they themselves could never be of so much Importance, either in their private, or their public Capacity, under any other Form of Government, as they are under the present.
Here therefore, it may be highly necessary to observe, that the democratical Branch of our Constitution has more to fear from its own internal Tendency, than from any external Cause whatever.—I have, I hope, already proved, that neither the Crown nor the Peerage, according to the present State of Things, could either attack or undermine the Liberties of the People, with any Prospect of Success. We may therefore consider ourselves as safe on that Side. But I own, I am not without Apprehensions, that the People themselves are strongly inclined to do those Things, which would in the Event prove a Felo de se. Too many among them are always disposed to think, that because Liberty is a good Thing, therefore they can never have too much of that good Thing.—This fatal Mistake has been the Ruin of every free Government, both in antient, and modern Times; and will, if persisted in, prove the Ruin of ours. The new Regulations here proposed, bid the fairest of any that I know of [consistently I mean, with the Spirit of our Constitution, and a due Regard to real Liberty] to check that strange Propensity so observable in our common People towards Levelling, and Licentiousness, and to give their Minds a better and more reasonable Turn. It is indeed a melancholy Reflection, that in most Cities, and Borough-Towns, and perhaps in Counties, the far greater Number of Voters are such, whose Circumstances lead them to wish for a new Division of Property, because they have little, or nothing to lose, but may have much to get in Times of Confusion, and by a general Scramble. Therefore every Rule of sound Policy, not to say Religion and Morality, suggests the Necessity of raising the Qualification of voting to such a Mediocrity of Condition, as would make it the Interest of the Majority of Electors, to assist in the Support and Preservation of Order and good Government, and not to wish their Overthrow.
7thly and lastly.The new Regulations here proposed, if carried into Execution, would cause every Part of the Kingdom, the Extremities, and intermediate Places. [as well as the Centre, or Seat of Government] to be better represented than they are at present. The Complaint usually brought against Cornwall and Wiltshire, is, that they return too many Members in Proportion to the rest of the Kingdom: Whereas these Counties might justly retort the Accusation, by saying, that though they have nominally more Members than London, Westminster, and Southwark, yet in Reality they have fewer. For most of the Members for the Cornish and Wiltshire Boroughs have their chief Residence in the Metropolis, with Country-Seats perhaps in its Environs:—None of which Villas, generally speaking, are at a greater Distance than 20 or 30 Miles from it:—And what is still worse, most of such Members have not a Foot of Land in, or any where near the Places for which they were elected: So that having no personal Interest in the Premises, they might with much greater Propriety, be stiled the Representatives of London, Westminster, and Southwark, and of the several Districts in that Neighbourhood [where their Estates and Fortunes are supposed to be] than the Representatives of the Boroughs in Wiltshire and Cornwall, where they have no Property at all.
When Men are determined to support a favourite Hypothesis, it is curious to observe, what Pains they take, to make every Thing, however discordant in its Nature, to bend and ply towards their beloved System. The Boroughs of the two Counties just mentioned return more Members to Parliament than any others: This is a Fact which cannot be denied. But how is it to be accounted for?—The Disciples of Mr. Locke, who maintain, that all Persons have an unalienable Right to choose their own Legislators, Governors, and Directors, gravely tell us, that these Boroughs, now fallen into Decay, were once very large, and extremely populous, and the Seats of various extensive Manufactures:—And then the short Inference is, that as the Trade is gone, and the Inhabitants become very few, the Right of sending Members to Parliament ought to be transferred to more populous and flourishing Towns. [Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Halifax, Stroud, Bradford, Trowbridge, and many such like Places, would not think themselves at all obliged to the Author of such a Proposal, and would certainly remonstrate strongly against it] But waving the Matter, let us, if we can, trace the real Origin of this Difference between the State of Representation of the Boroughs in the two Counties of Wilts and Cornwall, if compared with those of other Counties. *Wiltshire was long the Residence of the Kings of the West-Saxons, who in Process of Time conquered all the rest. Now where the Royal Residence was, there of Course would be the chief Domain: For the stated Revenue of our antient Princes, both Saxon and Norman, consisted chiefly in Landed Estates, that is, in Castles, with their Territories, Manors and Honours, and Towns and Villages, held by various Services, some of them military or noble, and others base and servile. Cornwall was in like Manner, and for the same Ends and Purposes the Domains of the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall. Hence therefore it naturally followed, that as the great Tenants of the Crown were obliged to attend in Person at the Courts of their Sovereign [thereby constituting an House of Peers] so the smaller Tenants, and inferior Vassals, were to do the same by, Deputation; which Circumstance gave the first Idea of an House of Commons. Indeed there was a stronger Reason for the Attendance of the Deputies from those Towns and Villages, which belonged to the Crown, if their Poverty did not prevent them;—I say, there was a stronger Reason for their Attendance in some Respects, than for that of others;—because the Quantum of those Acknowments, Services, and Quit-Rents, which they were to pay to their great Landlord, the Crown, as well as their Free-Gifts and Benevolences, if they are disposed to make any, were to be fixed and apportioned at such Meeting. Moreover, when the Duchy of Cornwall escheated to the King, the Tenants, and Borough-Towns, and Villages of the Duke became a Part of the Royal Patrimony; in consequence of which, they were obliged to do the same Suits and Services at the King’s Courts, which they had done before to their ducal Masters, or great feudal Lords. I own indeed, that several of the Cornish Boroughs were not chartered to send Members to the General Parliament of the Realm ’till the Reign of King James I.—But nevertheless they were such Places as were supposed to have sent Deputies to the Courts of the Earls, or Dukes of Cornwall, and therefore were considered as having a Kind of equitable Right to send Members to the General Council of the Nation, now that their own particular Courts were suppressed, or rather swallowed up. Therefore, to return:—
Surely there is nothing forced, or unnatural in this Account of the Matter;—nothing, but what is perfectly analogous to the Customs and Manners of antient Times, and correspondent to the Genius of the Gothic System. Why therefore should we have Recourse to an imaginary Hypothesis of the great Commerce, great Population, and extensive Manufactures of these two single Counties of Wilts and Cornwall, to the Prejudice of all the rest of England, without any Foundation in History for such a Supposition?—Why indeed, when it is farther considered, that such an Hypothesis can answer no other End, than to confirm, by forged Accounts, that false Notion of every Man having an unalienable Right to be self-governed;—a Notion which was not so much as dreamed of in those Times?
There is but one Objection, as far as I can perceive, which can be made to the Account here given of the Reason, why a greater Number of Members are sent by the Wiltshire and Cornish Boroughs, than by the Towns and Villages of other Counties:—And that is this; “Were the Case as here stated, it would be natural to expect from the Analogy of the Thing, that the Dutchy of Lancaster, now united to the Crown, would have furnished Examples similar to those of the Dutchy of Cornwall:—But it doth not.”—This Objection, it must be owned, looks plausible at first Sight:—But the whole Force of it is built on a Mistake.—The Dutchy of Lancaster is, and ever was a scattered Thing, composed out of the forfeited Estates of four great Barons, besides other Accessions, which lay dispersed in almost every County both of England and of Wales. It was therefore impossible, that the same Phœnomenon could have occurred in the one Case, as in the other. Had indeed those forfeited Estates been situated altogether in Lancashire, or in any one single County, there is hardly a Doubt to be made, but that the same, or nearly the same Circumstance would have taken Place, on the Union of that Dutchy with the Crown.—And if it had, what ill Consequences would have ensued,—supposing, I mean, that the Regulations here proposed, had been adopted, as a Part of the System?—For my Part, I can see none:—Nay, I will not scruple to declare, that it would be a much more rational Plan, that the Deputies from Cornwall, or Westmoreland, Cumberland, or Northumberland,—or, if you please, from Sutherland and Caithness, (now these Kingdoms are united) should out-number those of London, Westminster, Southwark, and the adjacent Parts, than that these latter should be more numerous than the former:—Because the Centre and the Residence of the Legislative, and executive Powers;—or in one Word, the Metropolis will never fail to take Care of itself:—Not so, vice versa.
[* ]Somersetshire was originally much under the same Predicament with Wiltshire, being a Western County, where the Kings of the West Saxons had great Demesnes. William the Conqueror gave large Possessions in this County to some of his Favourites, and Followers, and particularly to William Malet, to whom he granted several Towns, which were called after the Name of Malet, such as Shipton-Malet, Curry-Malet, &c. The other Towns and Villages in Demesne, namely, Axbridge, Charde, Dunster, Langport, Monterate, Stoke-Curry, Watchet, and Were, sent their Deputies to Parliament in very early Times: But in Proportion, as these Estates were aliened from the Crown, or as the Inhabitants could get themselves excused from that heavy Burden and Expence, they sent no longer. The same Observation will extend to several Towns and Villages in Devonshire [and to some Places in other Counties] such as Lidford, Bradnick, Crediton, Fremington, Modbury, South-Moulton, and Torrington;—all which returned Members during the Reigns of one or more of the three first Edwards;—but not afterwards. Dr. Brady’s Rule for distinguishing Towns of antient Demesne from those which were not, is here worth inserting, “That wherever the Mayor, Bailiffs, or Burgesses are chosen by a Jury in a Court-Baron, or at the Leet; or what the Return of Parliament Members have been, or are now made, by the Lord or Lady of the Manor, or their Steward, such Towns are Towns in antient Demesne.”—For a further Confirmation of these Points, see Squire’sEnquiry into the Foundation of the English Constitution, &c. Dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle,London, 1753.