Front Page Titles (by Subject) 116.: Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections  14 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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116.: Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections  14 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. 1166–8, 1169, 1176–7, 1177, 1178. Reported in The Times, 15 July, pp. 6–7. For the Bill, see No. 89. Mill spoke in Committee on discussion of Clause 17
(see No. 115).
the addition which I propose to this clause is one of great importance, since it raises the question of providing better security against corrupt practices in municipal, as well as Parliamentary elections. No one is likely to deny that bribery in municipal elections deserves repression as much, and is as unfit to be tolerated or indulged, as bribery in Parliamentary elections; and the special reason why it should be dealt with in this Bill is that, as we are told by all who know anything about the matter, municipal bribery is the great school of Parliamentary bribery. Honourable Members of this House have on a former occasion testified to this fact from their personal knowledge, and I shall quote only two authorities for it. One is that eminent Conservative solicitor, Mr. Philip Rose, formerly as intimately known to honourable Gentlemen opposite as his partner, Mr. Spofforth, now is.1 Mr. Rose, before the Select Committee of this House on Corrupt Practices, in 1860, expressed himself in these words—
My strong opinion is, that all the efforts which are now being made to check bribery at Parliamentary elections will fail, for this reason, that you do not attempt to strike at the root of the offence. The real nursery for the evil is the municipal contests; and those oft-recurring contests have led to the establishment of what I might almost term an organized system of corruption in the municipal boroughs throughout the kingdom, which provides a machinery ready made to hand, available when the Parliamentary contest arrives.2
My next authority is the Committee itself, before whom this evidence was given, and who reported—
That it has been proved to the satisfaction of your Committee, that an intimate connection exists between bribery at municipal and Parliamentary elections, and it is expedient that the provisions as to punishments and forfeitures for the offences of bribery at each such election should be assimilated as far as possible.3
Notwithstanding this recommendation of the Select Committee, which I hope that the next House of Commons will see the propriety of adopting in its integrity, I have not ventured to propose that the present Bill should provide a machinery for the investigation and punishment of corrupt practices at municipal elections. But I do propose, by the present Amendment, and by an additional clause which will follow in due course,4 that when the machinery which the Bill does provide for the investigation of corrupt practices at Parliamentary elections is actually set in motion, the inquiry may extend to municipal as well as to Parliamentary corruption. If the House adopt my Amendment, the Special Commission, which is already empowered to inquire into Parliamentary elections previous to that which caused the issue of the Commission, will have the power conferred on it of inquiring, to exactly the same extent, into previous municipal elections. By the additional clause, the Judge who tries an Election Petition, may take evidence to prove that an elector who voted at the Parliamentary election had been guilty of corrupt practices at any municipal election within two years previous, for the purpose, of course, of showing that his vote was corruptly influenced at the Parliamentary election. The period of two years is selected with reference to the term fixed by the 56th clause of the Municipal Corporations Act;5 and I confidently claim, both for the Amendment and for the new clause, the support of all honourable Members who really desire to lay the axe at the root of electoral corruption. The honourable Member moved to add at the end of the clause the following words—
And it shall be competent for any such Commission to inquire into corrupt practices at previous municipal Elections within the county or borough as fully as into corrupt practices at previous Parliamentary Elections.
[John George Dodson, Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, expressed opinion that the amendment, because it dealt with municipal elections, was not sufficiently relevant to be considered (col. 1168).]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill observed that he had so altered his Amendment as to obviate the difficulty started by the Chairman. He proposed it should run thus—
And it shall be competent for any such Commission to inquire how far corrupt practices at any previous municipal Election may have conduced to corrupt practices at the Parliamentary Election.
[Even in this form, the Chairman said, the amendment went beyond the proper limits of the Bill, and suggested that, at the Report stage, Mill bring up a clause to that effect (col. 1169).]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, he would avail himself of that suggestion.
[The amendment was withdrawn.]
[Mill’s third intervention came at the beginning of discussion of Clause 43, which was designed to throw costs of a petition fully on the petitioner or petitioners.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill proposed, in page 14, line 11, to insert after “on the whole successful” the words—
And in the case of any such Petition where any corrupt practice is charged to have taken place, and where the court or judge has decided that any corrupt practice has been proved, the court or judge shall have power to order any portion or the whole of the costs, charges, and expenses to be defrayed by any party or parties who may have been proved guilty of corrupt practices, or by the county or borough, in the same manner as expenses incurred in the registration of voters for the county or borough, regard being had to the importance of securing the best efforts of the county or borough for repression of corrupt practices.
In the case of any Petition complaining of general or extensive prevalence of corrupt practices, if the court or judge shall be of opinion that there was reasonable and probable ground for its allegations, the petitioner or petitioners shall be relieved of all costs, charges, and expenses incurred in and about the inquiry, and it shall be in the power of the court or judge to distribute the said costs, charges, and expenses in such proportions as it or he may think fit between parties who shall have been found guilty of corrupt practices, or who shall have caused expense by vexatious conduct, unfounded allegations, or unfounded objections, and the county or borough, as the case may be, the expenses charged on the county or borough to be defrayed in the same manner as expenses incurred in the registration of voters for the county or borough.
The principle of this Amendment is that to bring to light, and prosecute to conviction, acts of bribery, or other corruption at elections, is a public service; and that, being a public service, those who are judicially decided to have performed that service ought not to be required to pay the expenses of it from their private purse. It is enough that they take upon themselves the risk of failing to establish the charge, which, we all know, may easily, and does frequently, happen when it is perfectly notorious that the charge is true. But when it has been proved true, and is judicially declared to be so proved, I maintain that the Petitioners have a clear moral right to be indemnified for the expense. Their first claim, no doubt, is upon the parties who, through their instrumentality, have been found guilty; but the Judge may not always think fit to inflict even upon proved corruption, so heavy a penalty as the entire expenses of the Petition; and it will often happen that the parties have not the means of paying it. I propose, therefore, that the Judge should have the power of apportioning the expense in whatever manner he deems most just, between the persons convicted of corrupt practices, and the county or borough.
[After some objections, Karslake, the Attorney General, asserted that the amendment would allow anyone to assert that a bribe had been offered, without the person accused having a chance of defence (col. 1177).]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill asked, whether since Judges could be trusted to decide cases of political importance, the Attorney General believed they could not be trusted to exercise proper caution in awarding costs?
[The amendment was defeated, and the clause agreed.]
[Mill proposed his last amendment to Clause 45, dealing with punishment of candidates found guilty of bribery: their election would be declared void, and they would be ineligible for reelection for seven years.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill moved, in page 14, line 35, to leave out the word “bribery,” in order to insert the words “corrupt practice” in its stead. “Corrupt practice” were the words used generally throughout the Bill as a description of the offence with which the measure dealt. His object was to extend the operation of the clause to persons guilty of treating or of intimidation.
[It was argued that the amendment would place too heavy a punishment on mere treating or intimidation, and the amendment was lost (col. 1178).]
[1 ]For Philip Rose, see No. 89. Markham Spofforth (b. ca. 1824), a lawyer, assisted Rose as a Conservative party agent, and then took over the position of Principal Agent in 1859.
[2 ]“Evidence Taken before the Select Committee on the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act,” PP, 1860, X, 112.
[3 ]“Report from the Select Committee on the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act,” ibid., p. 6.
[4 ]See No. 123.
[5 ]5 & 6 William IV, c. 76 (1835).