Front Page Titles (by Subject) CATECHISM OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM; OR, OUTLINE OF A PLAN OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM; IN THE FORM OF QUESTION AND ANSWER; WITH REASONS TO EACH ARTICLE. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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CATECHISM OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM; OR, OUTLINE OF A PLAN OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM; IN THE FORM OF QUESTION AND ANSWER; WITH REASONS TO EACH ARTICLE. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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CATECHISM OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM;
ENDS TO BE AIMED AT ON THE OCCASION OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.
Question 1. What are the ends, to the attainment of which a system of parliamentary representation and parliamentary practice ought to be directed?
Answer. Many might here be mentioned. But, whatever be their number, they may be brought, all of them, under one or another of three expressions, viz.—
1. Securing, in the highest possible degree, on the part of members (that is to say, on the part of the greatest possible proportion of the whole number,) the several endowments or elements of aptitude, necessary to fit them for the due discharge of such their trust.
2. Removing, or reducing to the smallest possible amount, the inconveniences attendant on elections.
3. Removing, or reducing to the smallest possible amount, the inconveniences attendant on election judicature.
Question 2. What are these endowments or elements of aptitude?
Answer. They may be comprehended, all of them, under one or other of three expressions: viz. 1. Appropriate probity; 2. Appropriate intellectual aptitude; 3. Appropriate active talent.
Question 3. What is to be understood by appropriate, applied as here to endowments?
Answer. In the case of each such endowment, that modification of it, which is, in a particular manner, suitable to the particular situation here in question, to wit, that of a representative of the people,—deputed by a part, to fill, in the character of a trustee or agent for the whole,—a seat in that assembly, to which belongs one out of three shares in the legislative department of government, together with the right and duty of watching over the exercise of the two others, viz. the administrative and the judicial.
Question 4. What is to be understood of appropriate, as applied to probity?
Answer. On each occasion, whether in speaking or delivering his vote,—on the part of a representative of the people, appropriate probity consists in his pursuing that line of conduct, which, in his own sincere opinion, being not inconsistent with the rules of morality or the law of the land, is most conducive to the general good of the whole community for which he serves; that is to say, of the whole of the British empire:—forbearing, on each occasion, at the expense either of such general good, or of his duty in any shape, either to accept, or to seek to obtain, or preserve, in any shape whatsoever, for himself, or for any person or persons particularly connected with him, any advantage whatsoever, from whatsoever hands obtainable; and in particular from those hands in which, by the very frame of the constitution, the greatest mass of the matter of temptation is necessarily and unavoidably lodged, viz. those of the King, and the other members of the executive branch of the government,—the King’s Ministers.
Question 5. What is to be understood here by appropriate, as applied to the endowment of intellectual aptitude.
Answer. Forming a right judgment on the several propositions, which, either in parliament or out of parliament, but if out of parliament, with a view to parliament, are liable to come before him: and, to that end, in parliament forming a right conception, as well of the nature of each proposition, considered in itself, as of the evidence adduced or capable of being adduced, whether in support of it or in opposition to it, and the observations thereon made, or capable of being made, in the way of argument for it or against it, as above.
Question 6. What is to be understood here by appropriate, as applied to active talent?
Answer. Talents suited to the due performance of the several operations which, in the course of his service, in or out of the House, but more particularly in the House, it may happen to a member to be duly called upon to perform, or bear a part in:—for example, introducing, or endeavouring to introduce, by way of motion, any proposed law or measure which he approves: delivering a speech in support of any proposition which he altogether approves; or in opposition to one which he altogether disapproves: proposing an amendment to any proposed law or measure which he approves in part only: drawing up, or helping to draw up, a report, concerning such or such matters of fact, for the inquiring into which it has happened to him to have been appointed to act as chairman, or other member, of a committee: putting relevant questions, concerning matters of fact, to persons examined before the House, or any committee of the House, in the character of witnesses.
MEANS, CONDUCIVE TOWARDS THESE ENDS.
Question 7. What are the means that promise to be most effectually conducive to the accomplishment of the above several ends?
Answer I. In the first place come those which have for their end or object, the securing, in the highest degree of perfection, the several endowments or elements of aptitude, requisite on the part of members, as above.
1. Exclusion of placemen in general from the right of sitting in the House, in the quality of members entitled to vote.
2. Seating in the House official persons, named by the king, from each department, without right of voting, but with right of speech and motion, subject at all times to restriction or interdiction by the House.
3. Elections, frequently, viz. annually renewed: with power to the king to ordain a fresh election at any time.
4. Speeches (made in the House) correctly, completely, and authentically, taken down, and regularly and promptly published.
5. Constancy, punctuality, and universality of attendance, secured.
Answer II. Next comes the means, which have for their end the removing, or reducing to their least possible dimensions, the inconveniences attendant on elections, and election judicature.
For shortness, that which is proposed, let it be stated as done.
6. In each electoral district, the number of the voters is uniformly large.
7. Each elector’s title, payment made to a certain amount to certain taxes:—the evidence of such title, a duplicate of the collector’s receipt: the paper (call it the voting-paper,) delivered, or else transmitted (for example, by post,) to the returning officer; in case of transmission, the elector having first written upon it, according to directions printed on the voting-paper itself, the name of the candidate for whom he means to vote.
8. When performed by delivery, the voting is secret.
To establish the genuineness of the collector’s signature, and the sufficiency of the same, the voter presents his voting-paper to the returning officer, in presence of the agents of the candidates. The shortest glance suffices. Its admission is signified by marking it with a stamp. The voter is thereupon presented with a ticket, which, out of the sight of every person, he drops through a slit into a box, marked with the name of the candidate for whom he means to give his vote. Penalty on forging the signature of a collector, or personating a voter: to enforce it, each voting-paper is retained. Delivery not to be performed by proxy: for in that case a known friend of one of the candidates might require to be the proxy, and thus the design of secresy would be frustrated.
9. To insure secresy, as well in the case where the voting is performed by transmission (viz. by post) as where it is performed by delivery, the voting-paper contains a promise of secresy, signed by the voter, and conceived in terms of such strength, that without offering an affront to him, neither a candidate, nor any one on his behalf, can request the breach of it. Not that even by this means the assurance of secresy can be rendered altogether so perfect in the case of transmission, as in the case of delivery as above.
Marks in lieu of names are not admitted. They would be incompatible with secresy. A vote is of little value to him, who, not being as yet able to write, grudges the trouble necessary to the learning to write his name.
10. Members’ seats, say, for example  whereof, for example, two-thirds—say —seats for territory: and the remainder—say —seats for population.
11. To form the territorial electoral districts, the whole soil of Great Britain and Ireland is divided into, say  districts, as nearly equal as is consistent with convenience resulting from local circumstances. One member is chosen for each. Not that, with reference to the end in view, if by accident, here and there, one should be found not above half the size of an average district, and, here and there another as much as twice the size, the inequality would be material. Parishes compose the elementary portions. No parish is divided.
12. The population electoral districts are composed of certain towns, the population of which amounts to a certain number of souls or upwards. Say, merely for illustration, 10,000:—precision might be given, on examination of the population returns. Each of these towns fills one or more seats, in proportion to its numbers; but in such sort, that the whole number of seats thus filled does not exceed the 200. Such inequalities as in this case would be unavoidable, would here also be, to every practical purpose, immaterial. But such as they are, once every 50 or 25 years they might receive their correction.
The principle of equality has not any claim to anxious regard, any otherwise than in as far as, by a departure from it, the degree of perfection with which the grand end in view is attained,—viz. appropriate aptitude on the part of such portion of the House as carries with it the power of the whole,—would, on this or that occasion, receive a sensible diminution. For local interests, the provision made is on this occasion sufficient, if whatever inequality has place, to the prejudice of any such particular interest, is the result,—not of design, but accident.
The three capitals, London, Dublin, and Edinburgh, would thus possess that ascendency which is their due: due to them, not merely on the score of population, but also on the score of appropriate information and intelligence.
13. For the seats corresponding to these population electoral districts, voting, otherwise than in the most surely secret mode—viz. delivery—need not be admitted.
14. On the part of persons possessing the one qualification required as above, such circumstances as would be apt to present themselves in the character of grounds of disqualification, need not be regarded. Aliens, for example, would be admitted: but to such a degree would they be out-numbered, that though they were all enemies, no sensible practical mischief could ensue. Females might even be admitted; and perhaps with as little impropriety or danger as they are in the election of directors for the government of the 30 or 40 millions of souls in British India.
By all the inequalities and other untoward results put together that could have place in the above plan, no practical mischief could be produced, equal to that which, on the present plan, a single pocket borough is sufficient to produce.
On such occasions as the demarcation of the territorial districts, and the fixation of the population districts, or their respective numbers of seats,—human reason would, in many instances, have no application. In those instances, the decision might be made by lot.
MEANS—THEIR USES, WITH REFERENCE TO THEIR RESPECTIVE ENDS.
Question 8. These several means, in what way are they conducive to their respective ends?
Answer. For greater distinctness,—in the instance of each one of these means, ask rather, in the first place, to which of those ends it is conducive, and then in what way or ways it tends to be productive of that effect.
By understanding, in the instance of each means, in what way or ways it is conducive to this or that end, it will be understood in what way or ways it is of use with reference to such end, and thus far what are the uses or good effects of the particular arrangement thus operating in relation to that end in the character of a means.
Question 9. So, then, the several arrangements in question have, each of them, for its object, neither more nor less than this, viz. the being, in the character of a means, conducive, in some way or ways, to the accomplishment of one or more of those ends?
Answer. Such is indeed, in every instance, their direct and primary object, and their principal use. But, in the instance of most of them, further—and, as they may be termed, collateral—uses or good effects, and those of no mean importance, may be seen resulting from them, as of course.
Question 10. What are these collateral uses or good effects?
Answer. For greater clearness, it seems better to defer this statement till after the principal and direct uses of these same means have been brought to view.
Question 11. And so, to be satisfied, and justly satisfied, with the several proposed arrangements, nothing more is necessary, than to see, in the instance of each, in what way or ways it is conducive to this or that one of those ends?
Answer. Assuredly: unless from the employment given to each or any of them, such or such bad effects should be shown to be likely to take place; bad effects, the amount of which, taken all together, would be so great as to outweigh the sum total of the good effects above spoken of.
MEANS CONDUCIVE TO APTITUDE IN MEMBERS: I. PLACEMEN NOT TO VOTE, NOR TO BE SEATED BY ELECTION.
Question 12. The exclusion proposed to be put upon the votes of placemen,—to which of the above ends does it promise to be conducive?
Answer. To probity,—appropriate probity.
Question 13. In what way?
Answer. In this way. By keeping the right of voting out of the hands of persons possessing other situations, to which,—in the shape of money, power, reputation, and in other shapes,—advantage in large masses is attached,—together with expectation of further and further advantage, in the same and other shapes,—all liable to be taken from them, without reason assigned, and at the king’s pleasure:—persons thereby so situated, that, speaking of the generality of them, it is not in the nature of man that they should not, on all ordinary occasions, be in the habit of sacrificing, and continue disposed to sacrifice, in so far as depends upon each man’s vote, the general interest of the empire and their public duty in every shape, to the desire of preserving such advantageous situations: to that desire, and thence to the desire and necessity of conforming themselves to the will of the person or persons, be they who they may, on whom their continuance in such situations depends.
Nor should any such disposition appear wonderful, when it is considered, that even the worst king and the worst minister having, on many points, the same interest with the body of the people, it is not in the nature of man, that they should harbour any such intention, or any such wish, as that of doing, on any occasion any act, that may be in any degree productive of injury to the general interest, except in so far as it may happen to this or that particular interest of their own to be served by such act: and that,—so long as they content themselves with doing no other sort of mischief than what has been commonly done already,—they stand assured of support, not only from each other, but from the multitude of those, in whose eyes the standard of right and wrong is composed of nothing more than the practice of “great characters,” that is, of any characters whatsoever, in “high situations.”
MEANS, &C. CONTINUED.—II. PLACEMEN SEATED BY THE KING, WITH SPEECH AND MOTION, WITHOUT VOTE.
Question 14. Seating official persons, from the official departments, without votes, but with the right of speech and motion, subject to restriction or interdiction by the House,—to which of the ends does this arrangement promise to be conducive?
Answer. To intellectual aptitude—appropriate intellectual aptitude.
Question 15. In what way?
Answer. In this way. On the part of the King and his Ministers, it being all along matter of necessity to secure for their measures, either the co-operation, or at least the acquiescence of the House, it will be all along their interest, and therefore naturally their endeavour, to find out and station in the House such persons, as, being furnished with the requisite degree of obsequiousness as towards his will, are in an eminent degree distinguished by the talent of persuasion, including that sort and degree of appropriate intellectual aptitude which is necessary to it. This intelligence, be it what it may, the House may at all times be thus made to have the full benefit of, and at the same time, without having its decisions perpetually exposed to be turned aside into a sinister course, by the weight of so many dependent votes, expressive—not of any will of the voters, guided by any opinion of their own concerning the general interest, but of the will, guided by the particular and thence sinister interest, of the king, or of some minister, or of some private and unknown favourite of the king’s.
By this means the King and his Ministers would possess at all times what, at least in their own view of the matter, is the best chance for obtaining, and maintaining, in the House, the only honest kind of influence, viz. the influence of understanding on understanding: and that purified, viz. by the preceding and following proposed arrangements taken together, from that dishonest kind of influence,—the exercise of which is on both sides, in the relative situations in question, inconsistent with appropriate probity,—viz. the influence of will over will.
Question 16. But, is it not necessary, that every man, who proposes a law or measure in the House, should have a vote to give in support of it?
Answer. No more than that every advocate who makes a motion in the court of King’s Bench should have a vote to give in support of it on the bench.
In the business of judicature, to the giving to the justice of the case the benefit of such appropriate intelligence and active talent as may be afforded by the advocates on both sides, it has never yet been thought necessary, or so much as conducive, that the advocates on either side should take their seats on the bench, each of them with a vote equal in its effect to that of any of the judges.
MEANS, &C. CONTINUED.—III. ELECTIONS FREQUENT—ANNUAL.
Question 17. The proposed frequent renewal of elections,—to which of the above ends does it promise to be conducive?
Answer. To all three: and in the first place to probity.
Question 18. In what way?
Answer. In divers ways:—
1. On the part of each member taken individually: viz. in case of transgression, by the prospect of eventual exclusion; and that speedy, to wit, at the next election—at furthest within a twelvemonth:
2. On the part of the whole House, taken collectively: viz. by reducing, to so small a quantity, the length of sinister service which it would be in the power of the king or his ministers to purchase at the hands of any one member: and increasing at the same time the number of such lengths of service, as, ere they could secure the commencement or continuance of any sinister course of government, they would find themselves under the continually recurring necessity of purchasing, out of the whole number of members.
3. By reducing, in so great a degree, whatever inducement a candidate would have, on the occasion of a contest, to launch out into any such expense, as, by straitening his circumstances, might, in the hope of obtaining an indemnification, engage him to place himself in a state of dependence on the king, or this or that set of ministers: whether ministers in possession or ministers in expectancy, making in this respect no difference.
Question 19. In what way does this means promise to be conducive to intellectual aptitude and active talent?
Answer. By perpetually holding up to the view of each successful candidate, now become a member, the near prospect of a fresh election, on the occasion of which it may happen to his constituents to have the choice of the same or any additional number of rival candidates: for all whom the encouragement will be greater and greater, in proportion as, on his part, any feature of unfitness, absolute or comparative, has, in either of these two shapes, been manifested; viz. whether by discourses indicative of ignorance or weakness, by constant silence and inactivity, or by absentation or slackness of attendance.*
MEANS, &C. CONTINUED.—IV. SPEECHES AUTHENTICALLY AND PROMPTLY PUBLISHED.
Question 20. To which of the above ends does the correct, complete, authentic, and constant taking down, and regular publication, of all speeches made in the House, promise to be conducive?
Answer. To all three.
Question 21. In what way does it promise to be conducive to probity?
Answer 1. By impressing upon each man’s mind the assurance, that by the public in general, and by his own constituents in particular, he will, thenceforward, and then for the first time, be judged of, and in the only way in which, in his situation, a man can be rightly and justly judged of, according to his works: held up, according to his deserts, to esteem or disesteem, for everything which he has said, and not, as happens but too often at present, for saying that which he had not said.
2. In so far as concerns veracity and sincerity, by operating as a check upon those misrepresentations, which, for the purpose of the moment, are so apt to be hazarded, under favour of the at present indispensable rule, which precludes reference to anterior debates: misrepresentations respecting the speaker’s own opinion; misrepresentation respecting facts at large; misrepresentations respecting the speeches of other members; misrepresentations, sometimes resulting from carelessness and temerity, sometimes accompanied with insincerity, or in other words, with wilful falsehood.
Question 22. In what way does it promise to be conducive to intellectual aptitude?
Answer. In the several ways following, viz.
1. By furnishing to each member, on the occasion of each motion, a correct and complete view, of whatsoever evidences and arguments have, on the occasion of the same motion,—or any other past motion so connected with it as to afford either evidences or arguments justly applicable to it,—been brought forward: thereby, so far as they go, furnishing him with better and safer grounds on which to found his opinion, his speeches, if any, and his vote, than can be furnished by any other means.
2. By impressing upon each man’s mind that assurance of being judged of according to his words, which has just been brought to view, in the character of a security for appropriate probity. For, the more correct the judgment which he is assured will be passed upon that part of his works, the stronger the motive which he has for making whatsoever exertions shall appear to him to be necessary, to save him from the dishonour of being found wanting in point of appropriate intellectual aptitude.
3. By furnishing the only completely efficient means for detecting and pointing out the existence, and successfully counteracting the influence, as well of the misrepresentations above mentioned, as of those rhetorical fallacies and devices, the efficiency of which depends partly on the irremediable uncertainty—in which, in the case of word-of-mouth discourse, the identity of the words in which they are conveyed, remains involved—partly on the want of the time requisite for searching out and bringing to light the errors and false judgments which they serve to propagate and inculcate.*
4. By keeping out of the house such persons as, on the ground of experience, shall, either in their own judgment, or that of their constitutional judges, have been found unable to abide this test.
MEANS, &c. CONTINUED.—V. ATTENDANCE, PUNCTUAL AND GENERAL, SECURED.
Question 23. Constancy and punctuality of attendance, on the part of each Member, and thence of the whole House,—to which of the ends does it promise to be conducive?
Answer. To all three ends.
Question 24. In what way to probity?
Answer. In sundry ways, as follows, viz.—
1. In relation to this point, whatsoever indication can be afforded, by the correct and complete taking down and publishing a man’s speeches, as above, it is only through the medium of his attendance, and in proportion to the constancy of his attendance,—to wit, in the only place in which they can be spoken,—that any such speeches are, or can be afforded.
2. When, on this head, such is the state of law and custom, as, on each occasion (with the exception of such of the members, whose constant obsequiousness to the will of the arch-tempter,—not to say the C—G—, together with the whole of their support on every occasion, is secured by the dependence of their situations) leaves it altogether at a man’s option whether he will attend or not: in this case, by simply forbearing to attend at the place where, in point of moral duty, his attendance is due, it is, on every occasion, in the power of any man, and every man, to afford to the arch-tempter, and that without either shame or danger, exactly half the support which, without such shame and danger as he could not perhaps have brought himself to expose himself to, he could not have afforded, by attending and voting on that side:—and so in the case of any particular improper and pernicious measure, to which, on the score of any particular sinister interest, whether of a party or altogether private nature, he finds himself exposed to the temptation of showing undue favour: thus, whether it be by leaving unopposed what he ought to have opposed, or by leaving unsupported what he ought to have supported—doing effectually by his absence, exactly half the mischief, which, howsoever desirous, he durst not have done in case of his presence.
Question 25. In what way to intellectual aptitude?
Answer. The more frequent a man’s attendance, the greater his experience; and the greater his experience, the more perfect is that branch of his intellectual aptitude which consists in an acquaintance with the nature of his business, whatsoever it may be.
Question 26. In what way to active talent?
Answer. The more frequent a man’s attendance, the greater will be his experience: and be the business what it may, the greater his experience in the examination and management of it is, the greater will be his expertness at it:—that expertness, which is, at the same time, the effect of active talent, and the cause of it.
Question 27. Considering how thin, except on extraordinary occasions, the attendance is at present, what reasonable expectation can there be of anything like an habitually universal attendance, and by what means can it be secured?
Answer. On the part of a trustee or an agent, whose duty cannot be performed but at a certain place, absentation from that place is a neglect which involves in it every other, and against which forfeiture of the trust is, as soon as it takes place, an effectual as well as gentle remedy. Let but the operation of election recur with the proposed degree of frequency, it brings with it of course this remedy, together with a time of trial, sure to recur at a stated and never long distant period. For insuring the efficacy of this remedy, in the instance of every such member to whom the continuance in his seat is an object of desire,—and thereby for securing in every such instance a degree of constancy and punctuality of attendance, equal at least to what is seen in any of the offices, there can need but one thing more, which is—an equally sure and effectual notification of every such act of transgression, as it takes place.
To this purpose, a regular and authentic publication, of two Tables of the following descriptions, would obviously suffice:—
Table I. Daily-General-Attendance Table: exhibiting, for each day, the name of every member present at any time of the sitting, together with the part taken by each, on each question on which there has been a division.
N. B.—If, to the present tedious, inconvenient, and inadequate mode of division, were substituted the prompt, convenient, adequate, and obvious mode of giving in names, each man giving in his name, for instance, on a card, without stirring from his place, divisions would of course be much more frequent than at present, and the knowledge obtained by the constituent, of the political conduct and character of his representative, proportionally more complete.
Table II. Annual-Individual-Attendance Table: exhibiting, on every day of sitting throughout the year, for the instruction of his constituents, the conduct of each representative, in respect of attendance, vote, and speech: with the grounds of excuse, if any, for each default, in case of non-attendance.
N. B.—On extraordinary occasions, for party purposes, instances have now and then been known, on which tables, of the nature of the above-mentioned General-Attendance Table, have, without authority, been printed and disseminated by individual hands.
If the security thus afforded were found not sufficient,—punishment, in the pecuniary shape, combinable with reward in the same shape, might, in the most simple and effectual manner, without need of prosecution, or intervention of lawyers and lawyercraft, be employed to strengthen it: employed,—viz. by a law framed upon the principle of that class of laws which are said to execute themselves.
On his election, each member deposits with the clerk a sum of money: say (merely for illustration) £400.
A computation is made of the greatest number of days in the year during which it is probable the House will sit; say, as before, 200. Each day of attendance, on entrance, the member receives back, from the hands of a clerk appointed for that purpose, £2: and, at the end of the year, if the number of days of sitting has fallen short of the computed number, £2 is returned for each day whereby it has so fallen short.
If the aggregate of the sums thus forfeited on each day were divided among the members attendant on that day, the force of reward would thus be added to that of punishment.
Of the many opulent, and thence idle incapables, who at present, while the House is left empty, crowd the list, some would probably, even on the proposed plan of representation, obtain, by means of the illustration shed around them by their opulence, a probationary year, with little or no intention, or at any rate without any persevering habit, of regular attendance. The superfluity of these idle favourites of fortune would, in this way, afford a not altogether unwilling supply to the exigencies of the more assiduous and less opulent. And here would be emolument without corruption: pay, for, and in proportion to, honest service.
In this way, the penalty for non-attendance, with or without the reward for attendance, might, by the light of experience, be increased or reduced at pleasure.
Question 28. The arrangements above proposed,—are they to be considered as being, when taken together, sufficient to insure, on the part of the population of the House, a degree of probity—appropriate probity,—sufficient for all occasions?
Answer. Against so vast and perpetually-increasing a mass of the matter of temptation and corruption, constantly and indispensably lodged in a single hand, no remedy that promises to act as a preservative can safely be considered as superfluous.
Suppose the plan established, and that to its utmost extent, it would still be necessary to watch over the matter of corruption, in whatsoever part of the system it is lodged,—to purge the system of it, where it is useless and needless, by the whole amount of it,—and to restrict the quantity of it, in cases where,—although, in a certain quantity, it may for such and such a specific purpose be found necessary,—yet, in any greater quantity, not being necessary, it is purely and simply mischievous.
Whatsoever is either good in itself, or thought to be so, is capable of being employed in the character of matter of reward: and whatsoever is employed in the character of matter of reward, becomes matter of corruption when applied to a sinister purpose: when applied to a man, in such manner as to direct his endeavours to the doing good to the one or to the few, at the expense of preponderant evil to the many.
Of the matter of reward, with or without title to reward, nothing ever is or can be bestowed by the king, that is not bestowed at the expense of the people.
Title to reward is—adequate service rendered, or in some shape or other about to be rendered, to the public: and of the matter of reward, whatsoever is bestowed without such title, established by such proof of title as the nature of the service is susceptible of, is bestowed as matter of favour: and, besides being bestowed in waste, whatever is bestowed as matter of mere favour operates as matter of corruption, by the expectation of it.
Of the matter of corruption applied to the purpose of corruption,—peerages, bestowed not only without extraordinary public service, but without public service in any shape, or so much as the pretence for it, constitute a conspicuous example.
In the shape of a peerage, the matter of corruption is capable of being employed to the corrupting of those, whose opulence suffices to preserve them from being corrupted by it in any other shape. County members and borough members together,—the occupiers of no inconsiderable part of the whole number of seats, are held by the king in a state of—invisible, perhaps, but not the less corrupt, less constant, or less efficient—dependence. In one House by peerages, in the other by advancements in the peerage, the pretended independence of judges is converted into dependence.
In the reign of George I., a bill for restraining the employment of the matter of corruption in this shape, passed the House of Lords. Since that time, the quantity thus employed has received a prodigious increase. The reign in which the bill was thrown out of the Commons, was the same, in which a set of representatives who had been elected by their constituents for three years, were engaged and enabled to elect themselves for seven years; thus vitiating the constitution by a poison of new invention, under the effects of which it has been labouring and lingering ever since.
INCONVENIENCES INCIDENT TO ELECTIONS, AND ELECTION JUDICATURE.
Question 29. What are the inconveniences attendant on elections?
Answer. They are so various,—and dependent, many of them, on such various contingencies,—that it seems scarce possible to make a complete enumeration of them. The principal of them will, however, it is supposed, be found comprehended under two heads:—viz. 1. To candidates, expense and vexation; 2. On the part of electors and persons at large, loss of time (a loss which is of itself equivalent to so much expense,) idleness, drunkenness, quarrels, mischief to person and property on the occasion of riots.
Question 30. What are the sources of the expense?
Answer. These will vary, according as the expenditure of money in such or such a way is permitted or prohibited by law, and in case of prohibition, according as the prohibition is followed or not followed by compliance.
Here follow some of the principal items—
1. Given, with a view to the election, though antecedently to a vacancy, and thence penalty-proof,—entertainments: instruments of corruption defying all limitation, as well in point of number as in point of expense.
2. Previously to the election, expense of drawing up and publishing advertisements, in newspapers and handbills.
3. At previous meetings,—and on the election day at the place of election,—expense of engaging persons to attend as clerks, and make minutes of proceedings.
4. In the case of distant votes, expense of conveyance, with or without refreshment, during the journey, to and from the place of election.
5. Money, or money’s worth, given for votes; whether directly, in the way of bribery to the voters themselves, or indirectly to other persons having the command of votes in the way of influence.
6. In the case of a scrutiny, expenses of counsel, attorneys, and other agents employed in the attack and defence of the disputed votes.
7. Occasional lawsuits; produced by the uncertainties which, to so great an extent, hang over the titles to election right, and the intrigues employed for the creation, preservation, or destruction of such rights.
Question 31. What are the inconveniences attendant on election judicature?
Answer. Expenses, vexations, and delays.
Question 32. Wherein consist the expenses?
Answer 1. In fees to counsel,—viz. for opinions, and, in case of a trial before an election-committee of the House of Commons, for attendances, day after day, at the committee.
2. In money paid to witnesses for expense of journeys and loss of time.
3. In fees to attorneys and other agents, for carrying on the cause, as above.
4. Occasionally, in the expenses of suits at law, concerning such offices as, in the case of seats for boroughs, confer the right of voting on the election of members, or, in some way or other, the means of influencing such elections.
Question 33. Wherein consist the vexations?
Answer 1. In that burthen of attendance which falls upon the members (fifteen in number,) of whom the judicatory is composed;—2. In those vexations which, on that occasion, in the shape of anxiety, candidates experience, or are liable to experience;—3. And in those which fall upon such witnesses, in whose instance such compensation money as happens to be allowed to them, as above, is, or is thought to be, more or less inadequate.
Question 34. Wherein consist the delays?
Answer. In the stop so frequently put to the business of the House, by the anxiety of members to avoid serving on these judicatories. On the occasion of the sort of lottery, by which the fifteen* who are to serve on each cause are determined,—to avoid being thus impounded, they have frequently been known to absent themselves, in such numbers, as not to leave in attendance the number necessary to constitute a House.
2. In the length of time, during which, in case of an undue return, the electors, instead of the person who in their eyes is most fit, see their share of power exercised by one who in their eyes may be to any degree unfit, and the candidate, whose right it was to be returned, loses the benefit of that right.
ELECTION INCONVENIENCES—MEANS FOR THEIR REMOVAL.
Question 35. In what way do the above-mentioned means promise to be conducive to the removal of the inconveniences attendant, as above, on elections and election-judicature?
Answer. As to expense,—by striking off at one stroke all expenses whatsoever; except such as are comparatively inconsiderable,—such as those incurred in the publication of advertisements by the candidates, and those incurred incidentally on the occasion of previous meetings.
To render this effect apparent, the slightest glance at the above-mentioned sources of expense will suffice.
1. Loss of time, idleness, drunkenness, and riots, have for their cause large concourses of people, with entertainments given to electors by candidates, or their friends. But any such large concourse of people will have no object: nor (votes being secret) will any man be at any such expense in giving entertainments, the receivers of which may, for aught he can know, be composed, in as large a proportion, of his adversaries, as of his friends.
2. The expense of conveyance and refreshment, in the case of distant voters, will be struck off altogether. For, there cannot be any pretence either for offering or receiving money on that score, when the utmost effect that could be expected from the longest journey may equally be produced by a paper put into the post.
3. As to lawyers, clerks, and other agents, neither on the occasion of the collecting the votes at the place of election, nor on any such occasion as that of an election-committee of the House, can there be any use or room for any such assistance. All that the returning officer will have to do, is—out of the boxes denominated from the several candidates, to count the number of voting-papers that have been put into each box: observing only whether the sum mentioned by the collector as received, be really in each instance either equal to, or greater than, the minimum required by the law to constitute a qualification.
As to vexations,—such as those from the obligation of serving on election judicatories, and from the delays attendant on such judicature,—there would be no such vexation, because there would be no such judicature: and there would be no such judicature, because there could be nothing to try:—unless, by possibility, and that without probability, any such offence should be committed, as, by the collector, a refusal to sign and deliver the duplicate receipt on the voting-paper;—or, by a postmaster, a suppression of a multitude of such papers at the post-office; or, by a returning officer, a false return,—respecting this or that one out of a small number of matters of fact, all of them simple, and in their nature either of themselves notorious, or easily made notorious.
For the purpose of punishment, prosecutions for any such offences would of course be left to the established dilatoriness of the technical mode of procedure pursued in the ordinary courts. But, for the purpose of applying an immediate parliamentary remedy to a false return, a single day’s sitting of a Grenville-Act committee of the House of Commons, would suffice.
Question 36. If, in the instance of each elector, the disposition made by him of his vote were thus to be placed altogether out of the reach of the public eye,—so that a vote may be refused to the most worthy, given to the most unworthy of all candidates, and that without danger, and consequently without fear of shame,—might there not be too much reason to apprehend, that considerations of a purely selfish nature would become generally predominant?
Answer. No: not to any such effect as that of seating a candidate really and generally deemed less worthy, to the exclusion of a candidate really and generally deemed more worthy: which effect is the only practical bad effect the case admits of.
If, indeed, matters were so circumstanced, that, by voting in favour of a candidate deemed by themselves comparatively unworthy,—or, to cut the matter short, in favour of any candidate whatsoever,—it were possible for the majority of the electors in any district to obtain, each of them for himself, any considerable private advantage, which, by the open mode of voting, he would be deterred from aiming at:—were this really the case, it were certainly too much to expect, that they should, the greater part of them, commonly forego any such advantage: and,—if such sacrifice of public interest to private were accordingly repeated in a considerable proportion of the whole number of electoral district,—the inconvenience to the public service might be found sensible and considerable.
But when, by the shortness of a man’s time in his seat, and the multitude of the persons, to each of whom, at the hazard of being betrayed by any one of them, and this without any tolerable assurance of his giving his vote in favour of the briber, the bribe would be to be offered,—when by all these means together, the obtainment of a seat by bribery is rendered, as it would be, to so unprecedented a degree improbable,—it does not seem possible to divine by what means a candidate, generally deemed the less worthy, should obtain an effectual preference, to the exclusion of one generally deemed the more worthy.
On the other hand, in the case of the open method hitherto in use, the effect of it is, on every occasion, to force electors,—and that in a number to which there are no limits,—to give their vote in favour of the less worthy, to the exclusion of the more worthy, candidate,—on pain of suffering, each of them, some personal inconvenience, to the magnitude of which there are no limits.
And this power,—which, by means of some such relation as those between landlord and tenant, between customer and dealer, between employer and person employed, in a word, between patron and dependent, men of overswaying opulence possess and exercise over men less favoured by the gifts of fortune,—this power of forcing men to vote against their consciences, has been termed “the legitimate influence of property,” and spoken of as that foundation-stone, by the removal of which, “the subversion of the constitution” would be effected.
If, in the event of his voting in favour of him who, in his estimation, is the less worthy candidate, in preference to him who in his opinion is the more worthy candidate, a man sees no prospect of advantage to himself, nor of disadvantage in the contrary event,—it seems not too much to hope and expect, that his vote will most commonly be in favour of that candidate who, in his opinion, is the more worthy candidate.
If conscience will not do this, it will do nothing. But assuredly, the less deeply men are led, or lead themselves, into temptation, the more likely they will be to be delivered, or to deliver themselves, from evil.
The less it is that the law expects from every man, the less it will expose itself to disappointment. Less than the disposition to do good,—so far as it is to be done by serving the public, in such cases, and in such cases only, in which it can be done without an atom of loss or other inconvenience to himself,—cannot surely from any man be expected.
Question 37. Any such mode of voting by a mixture of writing and printing,—is it not—in comparison of the good old mode of voting, practised by the wisdom of our ancestors, viz. voting by word of mouth—an innovation, and that a signal one?
Answer. In one point of view, it is an innovation—in another, not. Considered as an art in general use, the art of writing must,—to whatsoever purpose applied, and consequently when applied to any such purpose as this,—be acknowledged to be an innovation, and that a very signal one: then comes the art of printing, which, especially when considered as an art in general use, is a still more sweeping one. These arts being innovations, it cannot but be an innovation to apply them—whether to the purpose in question or to any other purpose. But if these be innovations, they will not, it is hoped, be placed in the class of mischievous ones.
On the other hand,—if in this, as in other matters, the wisdom of our ancestors be considered as consisting in the employing, for each purpose, at each point of time, the best and most convenient method in their time known and practicable,—there is not, in the mode of voting here proposed, any innovation at all, much less a mischievous one.
Our ancestors employed the most convenient mode practicable, in employing the word-of-mouth mode: we, their posterity, employ the most convenient mode practicable, in employing the written and printed mode.
Thus doing, we may therefore be said, and with truth, to take the wisdom of our ancestors for our guide.
COLLATERAL ADVANTAGES, REFERABLE TO THE SITUATIONS OF ELECTORS, PLACEMEN, LORDS, &c.
Question 38. These that have been mentioned,—are they all the advantages resulting, or all the uses derivable, from the means above proposed to be employed, for securing the several elements of aptitude on the part of members?
Answer. Far from it. Various collateral advantages may be seen resulting, in case of the employing of these means.
Question 39. What are the classes of persons, by or through whom these collateral advantages would be received?
Answer. They are various: and in particular, five descriptions of persons may be mentioned in this view; viz.—
1. Parliamentary electors, by whom, under whatsoever denomination, viz. by their votes, members of the House of Commons would be seated.
2. Members of the House of Lords.
3. King’s men, whether in or out of the House; that is to say, the persons occupying, under the king, the principal public offices.
4. The higher classes of the people, taken at large.
5. The lower classes of the people, taken at large.
Question 40. In what particular ways does the employment of these means promise to be serviceable, in the instance of these several descriptions of persons?
Answer 1. To parliamentary electors, as such, it promises increase of appropriate intellectual aptitude;—2. To king’s men in the House, and to their respective subordinates in or out of the House, increase of appropriate aptitude in all the several points of aptitude, viz. probity, intellectual aptitude, and active talent;—3. To members of the House of Lords, increase of intellectual aptitude, and at the same time increased security for probity;—4. To the higher classes at large, increase of probity and intellectual aptitude;—5. To the lower classes at large, increase of comfort, viz. by increase of kindness and courtesy towards them, on the part of the higher classes;—and on their own part, increase of appropriate intellectual aptitude from the habit of appropriate discussion.
Question 41. What are the several parts of the plan by which those several advantages promise to be produced?
Answer 1. That which seats placemen in the House from the several departments, with every right but that of voting;—2. That which provides for the correct and complete taking down, and immediate and regular publication, of all speeches made in the House;—3. And that which gives uniformly extended numbers to the voters in the several electoral districts,—liberty to all their votes,—and regularly frequent recurrence to the elections.
Question 42. In the case of electors, in what way do the promised collateral advantages promise to take place, and from what means?
Answer. From the correct and complete publication of all speeches made in the House, the electors would, as well as the member, be gainers, by so much as each man pleased—as many of them as pleased—in the article of intellectual aptitude—appropriate intellectual aptitude.
Of the probity of his representative, so far as indicated by his attendance,—and, in case of his attendance, of his probity and intellectual aptitude, in so far as indicated by his vote,—and, in case of his speaking, of his probity, intellectual aptitude, and active talent, so far as indicated by his speeches,—every elector that pleased would, on every occasion on which he pleased, possess the most complete and correct evidence that the nature of the case admitted of.
Question 43. In the case of placemen,—in what shapes, and by what means, do the promised collateral advantages promise to take place?
Answer. By the tendency which such a situation would have to raise to a maximum, in their respective breasts, the several endowments, or elements of aptitude above mentioned, relation being had to the business of their respective offices.
The beneficial influence of the arrangement would not confine itself to the case of those superordinates in office, who, in virtue of it, would be seated in the House: it would extend to their respective subordinates out of the House.
Take first the case of the superordinates,—seated in the House, and by official duty, and the proposed attendance-tables, rendered constant in their attendance there.
1. Probity, appropriate probity, will, in their instance, have for its aid the continual scrutiny, actual or impending, to which they will remain subject—subject, with full power of giving, to themselves and to one another, whatsoever support can be afforded by speeches—that is, by evidence and by argument,—but without that power of self-support, deserved or undeserved, which a confederated body of men—linked together by one common interest, and that a sinister one,—afford to themselves and one another by their votes: men who, while they are co-partners and co-defendants by their offices, are fellow-judges over each other by their votes.
2. To intellectual aptitude,—appropriate intellectual aptitude,—on the part of official persons of the same descriptions, the arrangement promises increase;—viz. by rendering it to them matter of increased necessity, to obtain and retain correct and complete information, respecting the whole mass of business habitually transacted in their respective offices; lest,—by want of correctness, completeness, or promptness, in the answers given by them to questions put to them in the House, from time to time, in relation to such business,—any deficiency on their part, in point of appropriate official intellectual aptitude, should stand exposed.
Take next the case of the several subordinates, not having seats in the House.
Probity—appropriate probity: increase in this endowment will in their instance have, as will be seen, for its immediate cause, the increase of both endowments, viz. probity and intellectual aptitude, as above, on the part of their respective superordinates, having seats in the House.
1. As to probity,—be the office what it may, the more correctly, completely, and generally, the business of it is understood, the more difficult will it be for improbity, in any shape, on the part of a subordinate, to profit by any undue protection, which any superordinate in the office might happen to be disposed to give to it: and, the more correct and complete the information is, which the superordinate possesses in relation to the business of his subordinates, the more effectual will be the degree of vigilance, be it what it may, with which it may happen to him to be disposed to look into their conduct in this view.
2. Again, as to intellectual aptitude—appropriate intellectual aptitude,—be the species of information what it may, the more frequently any such superordinate in office is liable to be called upon in the House to furnish it, the more frequently will he thereby be obliged to address himself to this or that subordinate, for information, in relation to such parts of the business as happen to be more immediately within the sphere of action of such subordinate: and the more frequently and suddenly any such subordinate is liable to be thus called upon, the more cogent will be the motives, by which he will find himself urged to obtain and retain the most complete mastery, which it is in his power to possess, of the business in question: lest, in respect of this element of official aptitude, any deficiency should eventually come to be exposed.
3. As to active talent,—appropriate active talent,—by whatsoever means, in these several situations, the arrangement in question promises to be conducive to the increase of appropriate intellectual aptitude,—by the same means, and in the same proportion, it promises to be conducive to this more immediately efficient element of official aptitude.
On the part of official men of both descriptions, it moreover promises to secure, in another way, a more and more ample measure of appropriate active talent, as well as intellectual aptitude;—viz. by keeping out of the respective offices all such unfit persons, as,—either in their own opinion, or in the opinion of those to whom it belongs to judge,—are unable to abide such close, and continually impending, scrutiny.
Question 44. In the present state of things, are not the business and conduct of official men, in the several departments, open in this same way to this same sort of scrutiny?—and, such information as comes to be wanted, is it not continually called for, and obtained from them, in and by the House?
Answer. To a certain degree, yes: but not upon a plan approaching in any degree to the character of a complete and adequate one.
In the superior departments,—such as the treasury,—the several offices of principal secretary of state for home affairs,—of ditto for colonial and foreign affairs,—and of ditto for the conduct of the war,—in the military department, the admiralty, and the ordnance,—it is matter of accident whether the persons responsible in the first instance shall be in the House of Commons, in the House of Lords, or in neither: while, in several of the subordinate departments,—such as the excise and customs, the stamp office, the assessed tax office, the navy office, the victualling office, and others,—so it is that, in pursuance of the partial, insincere, and reluctant system of purification that has been employed,—it has, by positive law, been made impossible for any person, acquainted with any part of the business, to occupy a seat in the only House of Parliament that would otherwise have been accessible to him: as if there were anything either pernicious, or inconvenient, or so much as unusual, in a man’s having a seat in an assembly in which he has not a vote.
Question 45. In the instance of any one of these departments, is there then ever any ultimate deficiency in respect of such information, as, in the judgment of the House, is proper to be collected and brought to view?
Answer. Not much perhaps, if compared with that which is actually called for: but much, if compared with that which ought to be called for, and would be called for, if the means of obtaining and calling for it were thus prompt, easy, and complete,—in the degree in which, on the proposed plan, they would be.
In this or that department that might be mentioned,—the navy-office for instance,—the business of the office is a chaos, inclosed in a dark laybrinth, of which no clear and comprehensive view has ever yet been taken, so much as by any of the persons habitually at work in it.
And, even in the case of such information as, on such points on which it is called for, comes to be actually given, the degree of promptitude, with which it is at present furnished, is apt to fall very short of that with which it might and would be furnished, if the persons, by whom or under whose direction it were to be furnished, were constantly under the eye, and at the command, of the House: and many are the instances, in which that, which does not come promptly, and almost at the moment at which it is called for, might, for any use that is or can be made of it, as well not have come at all.
And though, to answer its proper and intended purposes, it is altogether necessary that the matter of such information should be put in a written form,—yet, to every one to whom jury-trial is known, it is manifest how uninstructive and unsatisfactory a dead mass of written evidence frequently is, in comparison of what it would be, if the import of it were upon occasion explained and elucidated, and the correctness and completeness of it secured, by apposite questions put on the spot by word of mouth, followed by immediate and unpremeditated answers, and with further questions, in case of need, suggested by those answers; and so on till every obscure point were made clear:—exactly in the same way as, for the conducting of his own private business, in the bosom of his own family, every head of a family obtains such information as he happens to stand in need of, from his own children or his own servants.
Question 46. In the case of the House of Lords, by what means do the promised advantages promise to take place?
Answer. By means of that article which provides for the correct and complete taking down, and immediate publishing, of all speeches made in the House of Commons.
Question 47. In what way does it promise to be productive of those advantages?
Answer 1. In case of a bill, or other measure, sent up from the Commons to the Lords’ House,—it promises to be productive of a degree of appropriate intellectual aptitude as yet unexampled, by furnishing the members of that House,—upon whose decision the fate of every proposed law (not to speak of other incidental and miscellaneous measures) depends,—a correct, complete, and authentic representation of the several arguments, by which it has been supported and opposed.
2. In the same way it tends to secure, in the same superior quarter, an increased degree of appropriate probity;—for, when all the several arguments, which, in the case, for example, of a proposed law, have been adduced in favour of it,—when all these arguments have been consigned to determinate words, and those words committed to writing, together with all the arguments that could be found capable of being urged against it on the other side,—in this case, the more satisfactory and cogent the arguments in favour of it appear, the more difficult will it be for any member of the Upper House to find out and set in opposition to it, any arguments that will bear the test of the public eye; or for the whole House, without any warrant afforded on the ground of reason, to venture, howsoever uncongenial it may be to particular interests or favourite prejudices, to reject it.
Question 48. In the case of the higher classes at large, by what means do the promised advantages promise to take place?
Answer. By means of that article which provides for the frequent recurrence of elections,—in conjunction with that which prescribes, in relation to the several seats, an increased and nearly uniform extent to the numbers of the persons sharing in the election franchise.
Question 49. In what way?
Answer. In both ways;—viz. in the way of intellectual aptitude, and in the way of probity.
1. In the way of intellectual aptitude—appropriate intellectual aptitude, it promises to improve the texture of their minds, by bringing within the reach of a much greater number of them than at present, the prospect of a place in the most efficient seat of government: such place being at the same time tenable, not absolutely, but only upon such terms, as, after the first year, will leave to each man little hope of his being continued in it, in any other event than that of his having made manifestation of distinguished active talent, or at least intellectual aptitude: and, by thus giving increase to the number of competitors, giving proportional increase to the exertions made by each, in the hope of manifesting his superiority over the rest.
2. In the way of probity—appropriate probity,—by rendering it the interest of every man—who sets before his eyes any such prospect, at whatsoever period of his life it may be his hope to see it realized—to lay a foundation for such hope, by an uniform and constant course of kindness and courtesy, as well as of justice, towards all persons on whom the success of his exertions may be in any degree dependent: and, in particular, as towards the lower classes, which, of necessity, are everywhere the most populous ones.
In the present state of things,—a borough-holder, or a man of first-rate opulence, who, by weight of metal, is looked upon as able to sink every bark that should dare to steer the same course, commands the seat, without need of paying any such price for it.
Question 50. In the case of the lower classes, by what means do the promised advantages promise to take place?
Answer. By means of the article last above mentioned. It being, to so considerable an additional extent, as above, the interest of the higher classes, to maintain, in their intercourse with the lower classes, an uniform and constant course of justice, kindness, and courtesy,—hence, by each individual of those higher classes, in proportion as his conduct is fashioned by that interest, the feelings of the lower classes will be respected, and their interest consulted, and treated with regard.
Out of the virtue of the higher classes, thus cometh forth the comfort of the lower.
Question 51. These collateral advantages—are they all that can be stated as likely to result from the plan, in case of its being adopted, and in proportion as it is adopted?
Answer. If the question be confined to the plan itself, meaning the arrangements of which it is composed,—then so it is, that to one or other of the above five heads, whatsoever beneficial results can be stated as likely to be produced by the plan, would, it is supposed, be found referable.
But, if the principles, by which these have been suggested, are found to be those which belong to the nature of the case—if, in the list of objects brought to view in the character of ends proper to be aimed at, none are included but such as have a just title to a place in it, and all are included that have any such just title:—let this be supposed, and by means of these principles, the plan will, in this case, be found capable of being applied to an additional and perfectly distinguishable use;—to wit, the serving as a test or touchstone, by which the eligibility of every other plan, that has been, or that can ever be, brought forward, may be tried.
In the persons of members—in the persons of the representatives of the people,—is it conducive—and if so, by which of the several arrangements contained in it, is it conducive—to probity, to intelligence, to active talent?
By all of them put together, is it thus conducive in a sufficient degree?
The same questions, with regard to the several classes of placemen belonging to the executive branch of government.
The same questions, with regard to the Lords—without whose concurrence nothing, in the way of legislation, can, on any occasion, be done.
The same questions, with regard to the several inconveniences attached, in the existing state of things, to elections and election judicature.
Such are the questions, by the application of which the eligibility, absolute and comparative, of any and every other plan, would, it is supposed, be rendered pretty clearly apparent.
Strong and sound may that plan be pronounced, that shall have stood examination upon these interrogatories: self-convicted of insufficiency, the plan that shall have shrunk from the test which they afford.
The arrangements themselves can no farther be of use, than in proportion as they are adopted. But,—although they should not, any one of them, be adopted,—yet the principles on which they are grounded, and by which they were suggested, might still, in this way, be found to be not altogether without their use.
A SKETCH OF THE VARIOUS PROPOSALS FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM IN THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE, INTRODUCED INTO THE PARLIAMENT OF GREAT BRITAIN, FROM 1770 TO 1812.
The information contained in the ensuing paper is in so high a degree apposite and instructive, that the temptation to reprint it in this place could not be resisted. The hand by which it was drawn up was that of Mr. Mcadly, author of the Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Paley, and other works. To the favour of that gentleman, the author of the present tract was some years ago indebted for a few copies: and, by the want of acquaintance with his present address, is precluded from the faculty of requesting his consent. No bookseller’s name being in the title-page, it could not have been intended for sale: and in proportion as this reprint may have the effect of giving increase to its publicity, the generous designs, which gave birth to so much well-applied labour, cannot but be promoted.
1.*House of Lords,Monday, May 14th, 1770.—The Earl of Chatham, in moving an Address to the King, to desire he would dissolve the present Parliament, stated, that, “instead of depriving a county of its representative,” alluding to the case of Mr. Wilkes, “one or more members ought to be added to the representation of the counties, in order to operate as a balance against the weight of several corrupt and venal boroughs, which perhaps could not be lopped off entirely, without the hazard of a public convulsion.”
[“Purity of parliaments,” said his Lordship, in answer to an address of thanks from the city of London for the above declaration, June 1st, 1770, “is the corner-stone of the commonwealth: and as one obvious means towards this necessary end, to strengthen and extend the natural relation between the constitution and the elected, I have publicly expressed my earnest wishes for a more full and equal representation, by the addition of one knight of the shire in the county, as a farther balance to the mercenary boroughs. I have thrown out this idea with the just diffidence of a private man, when he presumes to suggest anything new in a high matter. Animated by your approbation, I shall continue humbly to submit it to the public wisdom, as an object to be most deliberately weighed, accurately examined, and maturely digested.”
And again, in a LETTER to Earl Temple, April 17th, 1771, he said,—“Allow a speculator in a great chair, to add, that a plan for a more equal representation, by additional knights of the shire, seems highly seasonable; and to shorten the duration of parliament not less so.”]†
2. House of Commons,Thursday, March 21st, 1776.—Alderman Wilkes moved, “That leave be given to bring in a bill for a just and equal representation of the people of England in parliament;” which being seconded by Alderman Bull, was opposed by Lord North, and lost without a division.
[“My idea,” said Mr. Wilkes, “in this case, as to the wretched and depopulated towns and boroughs in general, I freely own, is amputation. I say with Horace, Inutiles ramos amputans, feliciores inserit. I will at this time, Sir, only throw out general ideas, that every free agent in this kingdom should in my wish be represented in parliament; that the metropolis, which contains in itself a ninth part of the people, and the counties of Middlesex, York, and others, which so greatly abound with inhabitants, should receive an increase in their representation; that the mean and insiguificant boroughs, so emphatically styled the rotten part of our constitution, should be lopped off, and the electors in them thrown into the counties; and the rich, populous, trading towns, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, and others, be permitted to send deputies to the great council of the nation.”]*
3. House of Lords,Friday, June 2d, 1780.—The Duke of Richmond was introducing his bill to restore annual parliaments, to procure a more equal representation, and to regulate the election of Scotch peers, when he was prevented from proceeding by the alarming riots in Palace-yard.
[By his Grace’s bill it was intended to enact and declare, “That every commoner of this realm, excepting infants, persons of insane mind, and criminals incapacitated by law, hath a natural, unalienable, and equal right, to vote in the election of his representative in parliament. That the election of members to serve in the House of Commons ought to be annual. That the manner of electing the Commons in parliament, and all matters and things respecting the same, be new-modelled according to the present state of the kingdom, and the ancient unalienable rights of the people. That the number of members in the House of Commons being 558, the total number of electors should be divided by that, to give the average number of those, having a right to elect one member.”
“My sentiments on the subject of parliamentary reform,” said his Grace, in a LETTER to the High Sheriff of Sussex, Jan. 17, 1783, “are formed on the experience of twenty-six years, which, whether in or out of government, has equally convinced me, that the restoration of a genuine House of Commons, by a renovation of the rights of the people, is the only remedy against that system of corruption, which has brought the nation to disgrace and poverty, and threatens it with the loss of liberty.”]†
4. House of Commons,Tuesday, May 7th, 1782.—The Hon. William Pitt moved, “That a committee be appointed to inquire into the state of the representation in parliament, and to report to the House their observations thereon.” He was seconded by Alderman Sawbridge; but Sir Horace Mann moving the order of the day, it was carried by a majority of twenty,—Ayes, 161—Noes, 141;—and the original motion lost.
[Mr. Pitt said, “He would not, in the present instance, call to their view or endeavour to discuss the question, whether this species of reform or that; whether this suggestion or that, was the best; and which would most completely tally and square with the original frame of the constitution;—it was simply his purpose to move for the institution of an inquiry composed of such men as the House should, in their wisdom, select as the most proper and best qualified for investigating this subject, and making a report to the House of the best means of carrying into execution a moderate and substantial reform in the representation of the people.”]‡
5. House of Commons,Wednesday, May 7th, 1783.—The Hon. William Pitt moved, 1. “That the most effectual and practicable measures ought to be taken for the better preventing both bribery and expense in the election of members to serve in parliament.
2. “That whenever it shall be proved before a select committee of the House of Commons, duly appointed to try and determine the merits of any election or return for any place in the kingdom, that the majority of the electors had been guilty of corrupt practices in such election, it will be proper in all such cases, that such place shall from thenceforth be disabled from sending representatives to parliament; and that such electors as shall not (by due course of law) be convicted of any such corrupt practices, shall be enabled to vote at the election of the knights of the shire in which such place shall be situated.
3. “That in order to give further security to the independence of parliament, and to strengthen the community of interest between the people and their representatives, which is essential to the preservation of our excellent constitution on its true principles, it is proper that an addition should be made to that part of the representation which consists of members chosen by the counties and the metropolis.” Mr. Henry Duncombe seconded the motion, but the order of the day being moved by Mr. Powys, was carried,—Ayes 293—Noes 149;—Majority 144.
[Mr. Pitt gave notice to the House, that if the above resolutions were carried, he should then move for leave to bring in, a bill to provide for the disabling of such places from sending members to parliament, in which the majority of electors shall have been proved guilty of corrupt practices, and a bill for the better securing the independence of parliament.]*
6. House of Commons,Wednesday, June 16th, 1784.—Alderman Sawbridge moved, “That a committee be appointed to inquire into the present state of the representation of the Commons of Great Britain in parliament.” He was seconded by Alderman Newnham; but Lord Mulgrave moving the previous question, it was carried,—Ayes 199—Noes 125;—Majority 74.
[Mr. Sawbridge went at large into the state of the representation in various parts of the country, and asked, “Whether such a system as that which at present prevailed could be called a fair, an equitable, or a satisfactory one? His object would consequently be to have all the light which could be thrown upon the subject collected under the inspection and cognizance of the House, that they might see whether anything farther ought to be done or not, and then what the specific remedy ought to be. His motion bound the House to no species of reform, but merely put the matter in progress, and would serve to convince the people of their sincerity, on a subject where so much expectation had been raised.” A similar motion of the Alderman’s, on the 12th of March preceding, had been rejected by the former parliament—141 against 93.]†
7. House of Commons,Monday, April 18th, 1785.—The Right Hon. William Pitt moved, “That leave be given to bring in a bill to amend the representation of the people of England in parliament;” which being seconded by Mr. Henry Duncombe, the House divided,—Ayes 174—Noes 248;—Majority 74.
[“His plan,” Mr. Pitt observed, “consisted of two parts: the first was more immediate than the other, but they were both gradual. The first was calculated to produce an early, if not an immediate, change in the constitution of the boroughs; and the second was intended to establish a rule by which the representation should change with the changes of the country. It was, therefore, his intention to provide, in the first instance, that the representation of thirty-six of the most decayed boroughs, which should be disfranchised on their voluntary application to parliament for an adequate consideration, should be distributed among the counties, and that afterwards any which might still remain of a similar description, should have the power of surrendering their franchise, and the right of sending members be transferred to such large and populous towns as should desire it.”]‡
8. House of Commons,Thursday, March 4th, 1790.—The Right Hon. Henry Flood moved “for leave to bring in a bill to amend the representation of the people in parliament,” and was seconded by Mr. Grigby; but Mr. Pitt threatening to move an adjournment, the motion was withdrawn.
[“My proposition,” said Mr. Flood, “is, that one hundred members should be added, and that they should be elected by a numerous and responsible body of electors; the resident householders in every county:—resident, because such persons must be best acquainted with every local circumstance, and can attend at the place of election with the least inconvenience or expense to themselves or the candidate; and householders, because, being masters or fathers of families, they must be sufficiently responsible to be entitled to the franchise. They are the natural guardians of popular liberty in its first stages,—without them it cannot be retained.]∥
9. House of Commons,Monday, April 30th, 1792.—Mr. Grey gave notice of his intention of moving, in the next session of parliament, for a reform in the representation of the people; when Mr. Pitt declared his decided hostility to the measure, and was supported in it by several members who were usually hostile to his administration.
[At a general meeting of the Friends of the People, associated for the purpose of obtaining a parliamentary reform, April 26th, after approving of and adopting unanimously an address to the people of Great Britain, on the objects of their association, it was resolved—
“That a motion be made in the House of Commons, at an early period in the next session of parliament, for introducing a parliamentary reform.
“That Charles Grey, Esq. be requested to make, and the Hon. Thomas Erskine to second the above motion.
“Signed by the unanimous order of the meeting, W. H. Lambton, Chairman.]§
10. House of Commons,Monday, May 6th, 1793.—Mr. Grey presented a petition from certain persons, members of the Society of “Friends of the People,” stating, with great propriety and distinctness, the defects which at present exist in the representation of the people in parliament, which they declared themselves ready to prove at the bar; urging the necessity and importance of applying an immediate remedy; and praying the House to take the same into their serious consideration. Mr. Grey declined bringing forward any specific plan of reform, and moved “for the appointment of a committee to take the petition into consideration, and report such mode of remedy as shall appear to them proper.” The Hon. Thomas Erskine seconded the motion, and, after two days’ debate, the House divided,—Ayes 41—Noes 282;—Majority 241.
[The petitioners, in concluding, thus forcibly recapitulated the objects of their prayer.
“That your Honourable House will be pleased to take such measures, as to your wisdom may seem meet, to remove the evils arising from the unequal manner in which the different parts of the kingdom are admitted to participate in the representation.
“To correct the partial distribution of the elective franchise, which commits the choice of representatives to select bodies of men of such limited numbers as renders them an easy prey to the artful, or a ready purchase to the wealthy.
“To regulate the right of voting upon an uniform and equitable principle.
“And finally, to shorten the duration of parliaments, and, by removing the causes of that confusion, litigation, and expense, with which they are at this day conducted, to render frequent and new elections, what our ancestors at the revolution asserted them to be, the means of a happy union and good agreement between the king and people.”]*
11. House of Commons,Friday, May 26th, 1797.—Mr. Grey moved for “leave to bring in a bill to reform the representation of the people in the House of Commons,” and was seconded by the Hon. Thomas Erskine. On a division there appeared,—Ayes 93—Noes 258;—Majority 165.
[Mr. Grey proposed, that “instead of 92 county members, as at present, there should be 113: instead of two for the county of York, for instance,—two for each riding, and so in other counties, where the representation is not proportionate to the extent of soil and population: that each county or riding should be divided into grand divisions, each of which should return one representative, and that the right of election should be extended to copyholders and to leaseholders, for a certain number of years. That the other members should be returned by householders; that great towns should require a greater number of electors to one representative; that the country should be divided into districts, and no person permitted to vote for more than one member; that the poll should be taken through the whole kingdom in one day; and that the duration of parliament should be limited to three years.]†
12. House of Commons,Friday, April 25th, 1800.—Mr. Grey moved, “That it be an instruction to the committee appointed to consider of his Majesty’s most gracious message respecting the union between Great Britain and Ireland, to take into their consideration the most effectual means of providing for, and securing the independence of parliament.” Mr. Tierney seconded the motion, which was rejected on a division,—Ayes 34—Noes 176;—Majority 142.
[After objecting to the increased influence of the crown, which might arise from the introduction of 100 Irish members, in the present state of the representation, Mr. Grey said, “Although I do not agree that it is necessary for those who disapprove of any specific plan, to propose a substitute, I am ready to state what I consider calculated to remove some part of the inconveniences which we apprehend. I would suggest, that 40 of the most decayed boroughs should be struck off, which would leave a vacancy of 80 members. I should then propose that the ratio, on which Ireland is to have 100 representatives, should be preserved: and the proportion to the remainder 478 would give us 85 members for that country. The county elections would give 69 members, and 16 remain to be chosen by a popular election, by the principal towns. By this motion it is only intended to keep parliament in its present state—to prevent it from becoming worse.”]‡
13. House of Commons,Thursday, June 15th, 1809.—Sir Francis Burdett moved, “That this House will, early in the next session of parliament, take into consideration the necessity of a reform in the representation.” Mr. Madocks seconded the motion, and the House divided,—Ayes 15—Noes 74;—Majority 59.
[“My plan,” said Sir Francis Burdett, “consists in a very few, and very simple regulations; and as the disease we labour under has been caused by the disunion of property and political right, which reason and the constitution say should never be separated, the remedy which I shall propose will consist in reuniting them again. For this purpose, I shall propose,—
∥ “That the freeholders, householders, and others subject to direct taxation, in support of the poor, the church, and the state, be required to elect members to serve in parliament.
“That each county be subdivided according to the taxed male population, and each subdivision required to elect one representative.
“That the votes be taken in each parish by the parish officers; and all elections finished in one and the same day.
“That the parish officers make the returns to the sheriff’s court, to be held for that purpose at stated periods; and
“That parliaments be brought back to a constitutional duration.”]*
14. House of Commons,Monday, May 21st, 1810.—The Hon. Thomas Brand moved, “That a committee be appointed to inquire into the state of the representation of the people in parliament, and of the most efficacious means of rendering it more complete, and to report the same, with their observations thereupon, to the House.” He was seconded by NA, and, on a division, there were,—Ayes 115—Noes 234;—Majority 119.
[Mr. Brand said, “that he did not mean to touch the right of voting for county members, except by letting in copyholders, and assimilating the mode of voting in Scotland to the practice of this country; but that, whilst he left the right of voting so far untouched, he should propose to disfranchise the boroughs, in which the members were returned upon the nomination of individuals, and, as the numbers of the House would be diminished in that proportion, to transfer the right of returning such members to populous towns, and to apply any surplus to the more populous counties; that he would recommend the duration of parliament to be made triennial, together with a concurrent arrangement for collecting the votes by districts and parishes. And that, with a view to the independence of parliament, persons holding offices without responsibility should not be suffered to have seats in that House.”]†
15. House of Commons,Friday, May 8th, 1812.—The Hon. Thomas Brand moved “for leave to bring in a bill to repeal the act 31 Geo. II. c. 14, and to entitle copyholders to vote for knights of the shire.” The Marquis of Tavistock seconded the motion, and the House divided,—Ayes 88—Noes 215;—Majority 127.
[Mr. Brand said, “he would also propose to get rid of nomination, and to throw the representation of the close boroughs into an enlarged representation of the more populous counties. One part, therefore, of the plan which he had in view, was to bring in a bill for the abolition of those boroughs, and the consequent appropriation of a more extensive suffrage to the more populous counties, from whence an equalization of members to the different parts of the empire would arise. He did not wish to make any innovation, but rather to restore to the constitution what the great innovator, Time, had taken from it.”]‡
[* ]The shorter the man’s continuance in the situation, the less the temptation to himself, his agents, and his friends, to spread false reports for the purpose of his obtaining it: false facts tending to prove on his part aptitude, or on the part of this or that rival inaptitude. For an additional chance of a possession not so long as a year, scarcely could it be worth a man’s while to expose himself to lasting infamy.—MS. note in Bentham’s copy.
[* ]On the subject of these fallacies, some loose papers were, at the writing of the above paragraph, lying on the author’s shelves. Not long ago,—to serve as a sort of appendix to some others, in which somewhat greater progress had been made, on the subject of the Tactics of Political Assemblies,. they were, by the author’s friend, Mr. Dumont, put into that French dress, in which, by the same able hand, so many other uncompleted works of the author’s have been made to appear so much to their advantage. Copies of this work are in London, probably some of them in the hands of the foreign booksellers: but, owing to some accident, none have yet been seen by the author of these pages:—1. Fallacies of the Ins; 2. Fallacies of the Outs; 3. Eitherside fallacies:—in the original, these were the general heads. One general character belongs to almost all of them; and that is irrelevancy, irrelevancy with relation to the particular subject, be it what it may, to which they are applied. It were truly curious to observe, in how large a proportion these are the materials of which parliamentary and other political speeches—not to speak of other political works—are composed. (See the Book of Fallacies in this Collection.)
[* ]Such was the number in an election committee previous to 9 Geo. IV. c. 22.
[* ]N. B.—In the original edition, a separate page is devoted to each proposal; in the present, the plan of numbering has been found necessary, to facilitate reference from the body of the work.
[† ]Almon’s Anecdotes of the Earl of Chatham, 8vo. II. p. 84; and Addresses from the Court of Common Council to the King, 1760-70, 167-8.
[* ]Wilkes’s Speeches, 1786, 8vo. pp. 54-71.—Parliamentary Register, 1776, III. 432-442.
[† ]Parl. Reg. 1780, XV. 359-366.—Authentic copy of the Duke of Richmond’s Bill.—LETTER to William Franklin, Esq.
[‡ ]Parl. Reg. 1782, VII. 120-141.—Wyvill’s Political Papers, I. 442-480.
[* ]Parl. Reg. 1783, IX. 688-736.—Wyvill’s Pol. Pap. 253-5, 636-675.
[† ]Parl. Reg. XV. 186-213. XIII. 295.
[‡ ]Parl. Reg. 1785, XVIII. 42-83.—Wyvill’s Pol. Pap. 372-442.
[∥ ]Parl. Reg. 1790, XXVII. 196-218.—Wyvill’s Pol. Pap. II. 536-563.
[§ ]Parl. Reg. 1792, XXXII. 449-498.—Proceedings of the Friends of the People, 19, 20.
[* ]Parl. Reg. 1793, XXXV. 375-522.
[† ]Parl. Reg. 1797, Vol. II. 577-657.
[‡ ]Parl. Reg. 1800, II. 347-377.
[* ]Cobbett’s Parl. Deb. XIV. 1041-1071.
[* ]Cobbett’s Parl. Deb. XIV. 1041-1071.
[† ]Cobbett’s Parl. Deb. XVII. 123-164.
[‡ ]Votes of the House of Commons, 1812, No. 80.—Morning Chronicle, 9th May 1812.—Cobbett’s Parl. Deb. XXII.