Front Page Titles (by Subject) 111.: Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections  6 JULY, 1868 - 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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111.: Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections  6 JULY, 1868 - 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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Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections 
PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 193, cols. 734–5, 742, 744, 746. Reported in The Times, 7 July, p. 7, from which the responses are taken. For the Bill, see No. 89. Mill spoke in Committee again on Clause 5 (see No. 109), following a proposal by Bouverie (cols. 722–8) that jurisdiction be given to tribunals of Members of Parliament presided over by Judges from the Superior Courts. Writing to W.D. Christie on 7 July, Mill says: “When you read the Bribery debate of last night, do not suppose that I have abandoned, even temporarily, the advocacy of our plan of a jurisdiction. I told the House (though this is not reported) that I should bring that forward before Clause 10 is disposed of: and it will come on at the beginning of the next discussion.”
(CW, Vol. XVI, p. 1421.)
mr. j. stuart mill said, he thought it was desirable that the discussion should not be complicated by a reference to all the various plans which had been suggested; and he should therefore address himself to the Amendment of his right honourable Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) as compared with the provisions of the Bill. His right honourable Friend contended that Committees of the House, as at present constituted, gave their decisions in Election cases with great impartiality, and he was not prepared to deny that such was the fact as far as the decision with respect to the seat and the existence of corrupt practices was concerned. Did a Committee of that House, however, he should like to know, ever find a Member guilty of bribery? (Cries of Yes.) Not once in fifty years. But if it were proved that a candidate had deposited a large sum at his bankers, that he made no inquiry as to how it was expended, and that his recognized agents had laid out portions of it in bribing, would not any tribunal, except one composed of Members of the same class as himself, and who were liable to the same temptations, find him guilty of some kind of corruption? (Hear, hear.) What he desired to see was a tribunal which would consider bribery which was tolerated by a candidate as if it had been committed by him, and that would not be done, he believed, so long as the decision rested with the House itself. The Amendment of his right honourable Friend would be an improvement on the existing state of things, but it failed in the essential condition of providing a local inquiry, and one that could be pursued when Parliament was not sitting. By means of a local inquiry the commission of offences could be much more easily detected than if the investigation were conducted at a distance. If local inquiry was of no advantage, what was the use of the Judges going circuit? The cases were precisely analogous. Although he thought that the plan of the Government possessed a great advantage over that of his right honourable Friend, yet he was far from being disposed to place implicit confidence in the Judges. He could not forget that they had been politicians, and that they were sometimes thought to be politicians still. There was reason to believe that a recent charge in the Court of Queen’s Bench would cost the Government several votes on the present Bill, though it would not cost them his.1 If, however, the Bill were passed as it stood, it would not be in the power of the House—as they had been reminded at an earlier stage of the debate by the right honourable Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley)2 —after trying the experiment, to discontinue it without the consent of the other branch of the Legislature. Now, he thought it very important that the House should be able to put a stop to the experiment without any consent but its own, and he should therefore suggest that the operation of the Act be limited to two years. Under ordinary circumstances he should say five years, but having regard to the experience which they would at once have of the working of the Act, he thought two years sufficient. In the meantime we should have a most important General Election, and there would, in all probability, be a sufficient number of Election Petitions to give an ample trial of the experiment. (Hear, hear.)
[The Clause was agreed, and discussion turned to Clause 6, dealing with regulations as to presentation of petitions. Karslake, the Attorney General, announced that he would introduce a clause (col. 741) which would meet all the objections made.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill stated that as his three Amendments on this clause had been virtually disposed of, he did not propose to move them.3
[Clause 6 was agreed (col. 744). In the discussion of Clause 7, dealing with the manner in which a recognizance might be objected to, Mill proposed an amendment to add,] “And the respondent making any such objection shall be required to serve notice of it, precisely describing the ground of it, on the Petitioner, or on all the Petitioners, if more than one, within the said prescribed time, not exceeding five days.”
They ought not to discourage, but rather to facilitate the presentation of Petitions, and petitioners ought to have such warning of any objection taken to their sureties as would enable them, if any mistakes had been made, to rectify them.
[The Attorney General said, the present practice in that matter worked very well, and he thought the use of the word precisely in the Amendment would not add much to its efficacy, while it might raise numerous questions in regard to every one of the notices served.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, he had no objection to omit from his Amendment the words “precisely describing the ground of it,” but he thought that notice of objection ought to be given.
[George Denman (1819–96), the chief commentator on Mill’s amendment, remarked on the number of vexatious petitioners who preyed on honest candidates (col. 745).]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, he was fully aware of the evil to which his honourable and learned Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) referred. He believed that there were nearly as many dishonest Petitions as there were corrupt elections. But the remedy for this evil must be taught independently, and not by rendering bonâ fide Petitions expensive and difficult.
[The amendment was lost, and the Clause agreed (col. 746).]
[1 ]Colin Blackburn (1813–96), Charge to the Westminster Grand Jury in the Case of Governor Eyre, in “Ex-Governor Eyre,” The Times, 3 June, 1868, pp. 9–10. Blackburn’s Charge found that the proclamation of martial law in Jamaica by Governor Eyre had been consistent with statutes previously adopted by the Jamaican assembly. Mill’s allusion implies that the response of several anti-Eyre members of the House to the central provisions of the Elections Bill might be adversely affected by Blackburn’s handling of the case.
[2 ]Henley, Speech on the Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill (13 Feb., 1868), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 190, cols. 714–15.
[3 ]For Mill’s amendments, notice of which was given on 7 May, see Notices of Motions, and Orders of the Day, 1868, p. 739.