Front Page Titles (by Subject) 411.: ON HARE'S PLAN SPECTATOR, 29 APR., 1865, P. 467 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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411.: ON HARE’S PLAN SPECTATOR, 29 APR., 1865, P. 467 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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ON HARE’S PLAN
In his A Treatise on the Election of Representatives, Parliamentary and Municipal (1859), Thomas Hare (1806-91) put forward a scheme for proportional representation that Mill immediately adopted (see, e.g., CW, Vol XIX, pp. 358-70). Hare advanced particular proposals for applying the plan to Metropolitan elections in On an Organization of the Metropolitan Elections (London: National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1865), a paper read at the Association’s meeting in London on 10 Apr., 1865, at which Mill spoke (see “Metropolitan Elections,” Daily News, 11 Apr., p. 2). The issues were taken up in the article referred to in Mill’s first sentence, “Metropolitan Elections,” Spectator, 15 Apr., pp. 405-6. The letter, headed “Mr. John Stuart Mill on Mr. Hare’s Plan,” with subhead, “To the Editor of the ‘Spectator,’ ” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on Hare’s System in the Spectator of April 29th 1865”
(MacMinn, p. 96).
In your paper of Saturday, the 15th, while commenting on the proposal of Mr. Hare for the experimental adoption of his system of representation in the metropolitan constituencies, you give to that system the credit which it deserves of opening the representation of the capital to the eminent men of the whole empire; but you seem to think that it would exclude all others, and that local men, qualified and disposed to attend to the local interests of the constituency, would under that system no longer be elected.
Nothing can more strongly exemplify the need of discussion on the subject than the appearance of such a misconception in a paper like yours; for it seems to me evident that Mr. Hare’s plan could not have the effect which you apprehend, and that of all the objections which have been made to it this is one of the most untenable.
Mr. Hare’s plan would enable every person to be elected for the metropolis who was voted for by a twenty-second part of the whole number of votes given. Is it supposed that not so many as a twenty-second part of the metropolitan electors would desire a local representative? Were this so, it would be a clear proof that local representatives were not needed. But they are needed, and they would consequently be voted for, not by once or twice or three times, but by ten or twelve times the number of the quota. In Mr. Hare’s system, as in the present, the real danger would be lest local feelings and interests should predominate too much. They would certainly fill as great a place in the representation as they do in the minds of the represented; for Mr. Hare’s system does not swamp the real wishes of any portion of the electors, all other systems do.
The misapprehension is probably occasioned by a momentary forgetfulness of the main difference between Mr. Hare’s mode of election and the existing one. If the result of the poll were to be determined in the present way, by comparative majorities, it would be possible, though not probable, that men of national reputation, known to all, and voted for in every part of the metropolis, might obtain a majority over all the local candidates, each of whom might be known and supported only by the inhabitants of a particular district. But under Mr. Hare’s system, the man of general celebrity could not have an unlimited number of votes counted for him, but a certain number only; when he had obtained that number, he would be returned, and the remainder of his supporters would have their votes counted for some one else. The return of the useful and hardworking local candidate would not depend upon his obtaining more votes, for example, than Mr. Gladstone;1 he would be sure of his election if he obtained the 2,000 or 5,000 suffrages which might represent a twenty-second part of the total number of votes given. The clubs and political parties whose influence you dread, would be well aware of this, and as it would be their strongest interest that their list should be composed of such names as would conciliate every large section of the constituency, they would be sure to include in it a sufficient number of the most competent local men of their party.
The power which would undoubtedly be exercised by these clubs and managers of parties, is a consideration of greater moment, which deserves and requires a full discussion. Lord Stanley touched on it at the Social Science meeting, not as an objection, but as a difficulty; unfortunately towards the close of the discussion, when time did not admit of its receiving the prominence due to it.2 My answer would be, that party organization will always be a great power, but that the power is at present greater instead of less than it would be under the proposed system. As things now are, the party which can obtain the numerical majority returns all the members, and nobody else is represented. If neither party is confident of a majority the two parties, by an understanding with one another, can divide the representation without a contest between regular party men of both sides. And these party men, in the majority of cases, are not the best or ablest men of either party, but its landed or moneyed nullities. Under the proposed system, no party, however well organized, could engross all the representation, unless it embraced all the constituency: it could never be represented in a greater proportion than that of its numerical strength, and to thus much it is indisputably entitled. If the opposite party, or if independent electors, anxious only to elect the best man, could make up, not a half, or a third, or a tenth, but a bare twenty-second part of the number of actual voters, they would obtain one, at least, of the twenty-two representatives. Meanwhile the great parties, though they would of course strive for the election of their political friends, would be obliged to select from among their friends those who would do most credit to the proposers. It would not do for them to make up a list of less worthy or less distinguished names than the rival lists. They would have the strongest motives for proposing among party men those who were also something more than party men; who, besides the party support, might have a chance of obtaining by their personal merit votes which would have been refused to them as mere party organs. For the electors who care for things above party would not then, as now, have only a choice between party candidates; if the party names proposed did not satisfy them they would have the power of returning some candidates of their own.
Allow me, Sir, in conclusion, to entreat your more deliberate consideration of this great subject. Your paper is honourably distinguished from most others by looking forward to a perhaps distant future, which instead of deprecating, you desire, but because you are sufficiently interested in it to perceive in what direction its special difficulties and chances of failure lie, you are anxious to provide it in time with the appropriate correctives. I have the deepest conviction that no corrective ever yet thought of for the peculiar inconveniences of a commercial and industrial democracy approaches in efficacy to the system of Mr. Hare; while it is equally suitable to the state of things under which we now live, since it would at once assure to that minority in the constituencies which consists of the operative classes, the share in the representation which you demand for them, and which they cannot obtain in any other mode yet proposed except by extruding from the same privilege other large and important portions of the electoral body.—I am, &c.,
[1 ]William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98), M.P. since 1832, who was to lead the Liberals in the House of Commons during the parliament of 1865-68, when Mill supported him.
[2 ]Edward Henry Stanley (1826-93), Speech at the Meeting of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science (10 Apr., 1865), Daily News, 11 Apr., p. 2.