Front Page Titles (by Subject) 3.: Corruption at Elections 4 APRIL, 1864 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
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3.: Corruption at Elections 4 APRIL, 1864 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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Corruption at Elections
In Frederick D. Maurice, Corruption at Elections (London: Faithful, 1864), pp. 14–16. Briefly noted in the Daily Telegraph, 5 April, 1864 (copied in the Beehive, 9 April, p. 2), and the Law Times, 16 April, p. 277. The Department of Jurisprudence and Amendment of the Law, a section of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, met at its offices, 3 Waterloo Place, Edwin Chadwick (1800–91) in the Chair, to consider the standing committee’s report on the paper by William Dougal Christie (1816–74), which is included, with Chadwick’s speech, in the pamphlet and was issued as Suggestions for an Organization for the Restraint of Corruption at Elections (London: N.A.P.S.S., 1864). After mention by G.W. Hastings of registration in Ireland, letters were read in support of the report, and then Mill spoke.
it is unnecessary here, though it might be necessary in some other places, to insist upon the magnitude of the evil to which this report relates. What is at stake is nothing less than the vitality of representative government. If the majority or a preponderant portion of the House of Commons represented only their own pockets, we should, indeed, have what Mr. Disraeli called a Venetian Constitution,1 and that in a very bad form. It would be a great mistake to suppose that we have seen the worst of this evil. I am persuaded that we are only in the beginning of it. When we consider the rapid growth of manufacture and commerce, and the number of persons that are constantly becoming wealthy, whose sole ambition is to obtain what wealth alone has not yet given them, namely, position, we see what a rapidly increasing number of persons there is to whom it is worth any money to acquire the only thing purchaseable by money, which will give them the grand object of their desire. I have been told by one who has filled a distinguished position in Australia2 that there were within his knowledge five or six persons, Australians, who were only waiting for a general election to offer themselves to English constituencies, with the object I have mentioned. I mean nothing uncomplimentary to Australians. I believe them to be a very intelligent community. But the instance suggests the class of persons who make this evil an increasing one—the vulgar rich, to whom it is worth while to spend any amount of money for the sake of station in society. Persons of established position are often wishing to spend money corruptly, but there is a limit to the amount they will spend. They can gain comparatively little in importance by lavish expenditure. Their position is made, and they may even impair instead of advancing it if they spend too lavishly. But to a person of the other kind a seat in Parliament may be worth half his fortune. Now I think the Society must feel that, saving exceptions (admirable exceptions there are sure to be,) this class of persons, whether they act the part of flunkies, crouching at the feet of the aristocracy, or of envious demagogues anxious to bring them down, or, as will often be the case, are ready to turn from either of these parts to the other, according to convenience, are about the most undesirable and the most dangerous class of persons who can obtain admission to Parliament. It may be thought that the only evils to be apprehended from them are those of what may be called plutocracy; but, in reality, we should have those of democracy too, for if the costliness of elections limited the choice to such men, the electors, finding no one to vote for whom they could trust to act according to his own judgment and conscience, if they themselves have any regard to their own particular opinions, will bind them strictly by pledges to abide by subjects which the electors care about. The House of Commons would be an assembly of delegates, while on other subjects the member would vote according to his own interests or caprice, or according to the questions in which he desired to curry favour. Now as to the remedying of this, I am not one of those who think that legal means would necessarily be insufficient. I think there are legal measures which could be made effectual, but only if backed by a moral demonstration of a sufficient number of honest men, who would league themselves together against the political crime, expressly or virtually pledging themselves both to abstain from it personally, and to use all their influence to prevent it. They would probably be able to obtain from the Legislature any such enactments as may be desirable, while they would supply the only powers which could enable those enactments to be enforced. Great credit is due to Mr. Christie for having, as it seems to me, “hit the right nail on the head.” As to the persons who should take this in hand, I think there is none so fit as this Society. aNo individual, and no self-elected committee could address themselves to the leaders of parties, and to influential politicians throughout the country, nor would they be listened to if they did. But this Association, not to mention the larger society of which it now forms a part, could address itself to anyone.a
[Mill concluded by moving the reception and adoption of the report; the motion was seconded by Frederick Hill, and adopted after discussion. A report on Walter Crofton’s paper on the convict question was read, received, and adopted, and the meeting adjourned.]
[1 ]See Vindication of the English Constitution, in a Letter to a Noble and Learned Lord (London: Saunders and Otley, 1835), pp. 139, 168, 173, and 176, and Coningsby; or, The New Generation, 3 vols. (London: Colburn, 1844), Vol. II, pp. 229–31, and Vol. III, pp. 128–30, by Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81), Conservative statesman and author.
[2 ]Possibly Charles Gavan Duffy (1816–1903), Irish nationalist, a correspondent of Mill’s, who emigrated to Australia in 1855, and had served in the Victoria government as Minister of Land and Works; or perhaps Henry Samuel Chapman (1803–81), another correspondent, who had been a politician and lawyer in Australia since 1851.
[a-a]DT,B The Law Amendment Society had the power of aiding this, not being a self-elected body, but deriving authority from the eminence of its members.