Front Page Titles (by Subject) 123.: Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections  22 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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123.: Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections  22 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. 1623, 1639, 1640–1, 1643, 1646, 1647–8, 1650. Reported in The Times, 23 July, p. 4. For the Bill, see No. 89. Consideration was being given to the Bill as amended, with indignation being expressed at the Government’s now introducing new amendments and wishing to reconsider the Clause Fawcett had successfully moved on 18 July
(see No. 120).
mr. j. stuart mill said, the Solicitor General had misunderstood what it was the Opposition considered unfair conduct on the part of the Government.1 No one dreamt of imputing unfairness to the Government in proposing to re-consider the decision of Saturday last;2 but what was complained of was that so short a Notice should have been given of their intention to rescind that decision. It was utterly impossible, when it became known long after post hour, to communicate with absent Members in time for them to attend in their places. He thought, after the indignant display of virtue on the part of the right honourable Gentleman at the Head of the Government, when the question of his honourable Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W.E. Forster) was asked on Monday,3 they had a right to complain of the unfairness of the Notice given by the Government.
[After several amendments and new clauses were considered, Mill brought in his first motion.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill moved the following clause:
At the trial of an Election Petition under this Act the judge shall have power to receive evidence of corrupt practices which any elector who shall have voted at the Parliamentary Election to which the Petition refers may have committed at any Municipal Election within the same county or borough within two years before the presentation of the Petition, with the object of proving that the voter was corruptly influenced in voting at the said Parliamentary Election; and any special Commission appointed to inquire into the existence of corrupt practices shall have power to inquire into corrupt practices at Municipal Elections to the same extent and in the same manner as into corrupt practices at Parliamentary Elections.
As he had expressed his sentiments on the subject of the clause on a former occasion he would not again trouble the House with any observations upon it.4
[The Solicitor General objected, as he and others had to Mill’s earlier amendments involving municipal elections (see Nos. 116 and 118), that they were a separate matter. The Clause was rejected.]
[Mill then introduced his second motion.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill: Sir, I rise to move a clause declaring illegal the employment of paid canvassers, or paid agents other than the one appointed under the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act.5 The clause is directed against the greatest of all the sources of undue expense at elections, especially in counties and large towns. It is well-known that when a candidate presents himself to a large constituency, determined to carry all before him by dint of money, a great part of his outlay consists in hiring canvassers, and they are hired by hundreds, very often without any real intention that they should canvass, and many of them never do canvass. Up to last year, under pretence of payment for canvassing, any number of electors might, without any breach of law, be paid for their votes. A clause, however, in the Reform Act, which the country is indebted to an honourable Member near me for proposing, and to the Government for accepting, has struck a blow at this mode of bribery, by enacting that no one in the actual pay of a candidate shall be allowed to vote.6 Hereafter, therefore, a man can no longer be paid in this manner for his own vote. But he can still be paid for the vote of his father, or his brother, or his wife’s father or brother; and, besides, there is such a thing as collective bribery—bribery of a whole constituency, by spending money freely in the place. Every petty tradesman in the town is virtually bribed by a man who flings money about lavishly on all sides, most of which comes back almost immediately to be spent at their shops. All expenditure by which electors profit is a kind of bribery; and, though it may not be feasible to put a stop to all forms of it, still, if there be a form which answers no useful purpose whatever—unless confining the representation to millionaires be a useful purpose—this at least ought surely to be put a stop to. Now, what useful purpose, at this time of day, is promoted by personal canvassing? A seat in this House ought no more to be obtained by private solicitation than by money payment. The use of canvassing, when there was a use, was to make the candidate and his pretensions known to the constituency; but this is now done by addressing them in a body, through the Press or at public meetings. It is from the candidate’s public addresses, or from the newspapers, that the electors even now learn all that they ever do learn about the candidate; they do not want canvassers to tell them. If there is to be canvassing, it ought to be done by volunteers. Everybody who has any business to be a candidate has a sufficient number of zealous supporters to do all the canvassing that can be needful. Acquaintances may talk to acquaintances, and neighbours to neighbours, and win them over by persuasion and moral influence; but what moral influence has a man who is paid for his persuasiveness? And what would the electors lose if they could only be talked to by somebody who believes what he says, and cares enough about it to say it gratis?
[The Solicitor General replied that there was nothing corrupt about employing ordinary paid canvassers. After some expressions of agreement with Mill, the Clause was lost (col. 1643).]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, it would be useless, after the division which had just been taken, for him to move the next clause of which he had given Notice, which was a supplement to the one just rejected.7
[Ayrton moved a new Clause to allow the Speaker to appoint attorneys for the House of Commons (cols. 1644–5).]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, that the only fault which he found with the Amendment of his honourable and learned Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) was, that it did not go far enough. His (Mr. Stuart Mill’s) opinion was, that if they desired to put an end to corrupt practices they must provide a public prosecutor, and not rely upon the private interest of candidates and their supporters for proceeding against suspected individuals. They would never get rid of corrupt practices, unless they made it the duty of some particular person to inquire, not into compromises only, but into all matters connected with corrupt practices, and to institute prosecutions where evidences of corruption were found to exist. The proposed clause, however, was a good one as far as it went, and he should therefore give it his support. He hoped the Government would accept the clause.
[Ayrton’s Clause was rejected.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, he rose to move the following clause:
(Provision for expenses of trials and inquiries.)
The expenses of all trials or inquiries held under the present Act, except such expenses as are hereinbefore provided for, and except such part as the court or judge shall impose by way of penalty upon either the Petitioner or the Respondent, shall be defrayed in the case of any county from the county rate, and in the case of any borough, out of the monies, and in the manner and proportions mentioned in the Act of the sixth year of the reign of Victoria, chapter eighteen, section fifty-five, with respect to the expenses of carrying into effect the provisions of that Act; and the account of such expenses shall be made, allowed, and paid in the manner provided in the said Act, unless the court or judge shall certify that there is reason to believe that corrupt practices do not generally or extensively prevail in the constituency, in which case the said expenses shall be charged upon the Consolidated Fund.
He desired to carry into effect what he considered was a true and sound principle—namely, to throw the expenses of all inquiries into corrupt practices upon the community who were implicated. He left to the tribunal to determine what portion of these expenses should in any case be laid, to the relief of the ratepayers, upon the persons who had been proved to be guilty of corrupt practices, or upon those who were shown to have brought frivolous and improper accusations.
[The Attorney General objected, saying that costs should fall on the defeated party. The Clause was lost.]
[After some further discussion, it was moved that the forthcoming municipal elections be postponed for a month, to prevent bribery during them from affecting the imminent parliamentary elections. It was argued that the motion would upset the extensive arrangements already made for the municipal elections, although it was admitted that municipal corruption sometimes affected parliamentary elections.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, he could conceive nothing more stultifying than for the House, after having passed stringent measures for putting down corruption at Parliamentary Elections, to allow perfect freedom of corruption in the case of municipal Elections. There could be no greater facility given to bribery at the Parliamentary Elections than to have the municipal Elections taking place just before them.
[The motion was lost (col. 1650).]
[1 ]Brett, cols. 1622–3.
[2 ]I.e., the approval of Fawcett’s amendment (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 193, col. 1554).
[3 ]For Forster’s question on 20 July, 1868, concerning the Government’s intentions with reference to Fawcett’s amendment, and Disraeli’s reply, see The Times, 21 July, p. 7 (PD does not report the exchange).
[4 ]See No. 116 (14 July, 1868).
[5 ]17 & 18 Victoria, c. 102 (1854).
[6 ]Sect. 11 of 30 & 31 Victoria, c. 102 (1867), proposed by John Candlish (1816–74), M.P. for Sunderland, on 1 July, 1867 (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 188, cols. 795–8), and accepted (ibid., col. 811).
[7 ]For the amendment, see Notices of Motions, and Orders of the Day, 1868, pp. 2089–90.