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LECTURE 16 - François Guizot, The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe 
The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe, trans. Andrew R. Scoble, Introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Subject of the lecture. ~ Continuation of the philosophical examination of the electoral system in England in the fourteenth century. ~ Characteristics of the elections. ~ Examination of the principle of direct or indirect election.
I now pass to the second of the great questions to which every electoral system gives rise. What are the proceedings and forms of the election? In this question many others are comprised. These may be divided into two classes: the one class relating to the manner of assembling the electors; the other, to their mode of operation when assembled.
The close union of the electoral system with the exercise of other rights and political powers, has been productive in England of extensive and very beneficial consequences with regard to the mode of collecting the electors together.
Originally the election of county representatives required no special and extraordinary convocation of the electors. At appointed times, they repaired to the county-court to fulfil the functions with which they were charged, and on these occasions they elected their representatives. The first writs addressed to the sheriffs set forth: Quod eligi facias in proximo comitatu, “you will elect in the next county-court.”
When the importance of the House of Commons had imparted a corresponding importance to the election of its members, and the necessity of preventing the abuses arising from elections made, so to speak, by chance, and without any one receiving special notice thereof, had become felt, the election was announced throughout the country by a proclamation summoning the attendance of all the electors and indicating the time and place of the convocation of Parliament. The election thus became a special and solemn act; but was always conducted in the county-court, and at one of its periodic meetings.
Ultimately, by the lapse of time, the changes of the judicial system, and the development of every institution, the county-courts ceased to retain in England that position which they anciently occupied. Their jurisdiction is now rare and very limited; the greater part of the freeholders never attend them; nor are they of any considerable political importance. At the present day the sole important object of any assembly of freeholders in these courts is the election of representatives, but the circumscriptions remain the same: frequent relations still exist among the freeholders of the county; the county-court is still their centre: it is now the electoral college, and that is its sole important character; but the electoral college is still the ancient county-court.
The great political result of all these facts is this, that the election of representatives has always been, and still is, not the work of an assembly of men extraordinarily and arbitrarily convened for that purpose, among whom no other tie subsists, and who possess no regular and habitual common interests, but the fruit of ancient relations, of constant and tried influences among men otherwise united in the transaction and possession of common affairs, functions, rights, and interests. In examining the question in itself, we shall very soon become convinced that this is the only way to insure veracity in elections, and suitableness and authority in the elected representatives.
The object of election is evidently to obtain the most capable and best accredited men in the country. It is a plan for discovering and bringing to light the true, the legitimate aristocracy, which is freely accepted by the masses over whom its power is to be exercised. To attain this end it is not sufficient to summon the electors together and to say to them, “Choose whom you will”; but they should have the opportunity of understanding thoroughly what they are about, and of concerting together how to do it. If they do not know each other, and are equally unacquainted with the men who solicit their suffrages, the object is evidently defeated. You will have elections which will result neither from the free choice nor the actual wishes of the electors.
Election in its nature is a sudden act which does not leave much room for deliberation. If this act is not linked with the habits and previous doings of the electors, if it is not in some sort the result of long anterior deliberation, and the expression of their habitual opinion, it will be too easy to take the real wish of the electors by surprise, or to induce them to listen only to the passion of the moment; and the election will thus be deficient either in sincerity or in nationality. If, on the contrary, the men who have met to elect a representative have long been united by common interests; if they are accustomed to conduct their affairs among themselves; if the election, instead of taking them out of the habitual sphere in which their lives are passed, their activity displayed, and their thoughts exchanged, only assembles them at the centre of that sphere, to obtain the manifestation, the summary of their opinions, their wishes and the natural influence which they exercise over each other; then the election can, and generally will be, both rational and sincere.
The whole of that part of the electoral system which relates to the assembling of the electors ought, then, to be founded upon respect for natural in-fluences and relations. The election should assemble the electors together at that centre towards which they are habitually attracted by their other interests. Well-tried and freely accepted influences constitute true and legitimate society among men. Far from dreading them, in them alone should the real desire of society be sought. Every method of uniting electors which annuls or destroys these influences, falsifies the elections, and makes them run counter to their intended object: the less the electoral assembly is extraordinary, the more will it be adapted to the regular and constant existence of those who compose it, and the better will it attain its legitimate end. On these terms only can there be electoral colleges that do what they wish, and know what they are doing; on these terms only can there be representatives who exercise over the electors a solid and salutary influence.
The maintenance of natural influences, and thereby the sincerity of elections, has not been the only good effect of the primitive identity of the electoral assemblies and the county-courts.
These courts being the centre of a multitude of administrative, judicial, or other interests, presided over by the interested persons themselves, it was impossible that the boundaries of the district to which they related could be very extensive; as much inconvenience would thereby have resulted to the men who frequently repaired thither. The division of England into counties was not a systematic performance, and it presents some striking irregularities. But the force of events prevented most of the counties from including a very extended territory. This advantage is retained in the electoral system. The connections and ideas of the great majority of citizens do not stretch beyond a certain material sphere: and it is only within the limits of this sphere that they are really conversant with affairs and act upon their own knowledge. If the election is at too great a distance from them, they cease to be enlightened and free agents, and become tools. Now, since it is of the will and judgment of the citizens that the choice is required, it is absurd to withhold from them, at the same time the necessary conditions of reason and liberty. There is always, then, a limit beyond which the extent of an electoral convocation should not be carried, and this limit is itself a fact, which results from the manner in which men and interests are grouped together, in the divisions and subdivisions of the country. It ought to be large enough for the election to produce representatives capable of fulfilling their public mission, and contracted enough to insure that the greater number of the citizens who take part in the election may act with discernment and freedom. If the elections were conducted in England according to hundreds they would yield, perhaps, obscure and ignorant representatives; if by episcopal dioceses, they would in fact annul a great part of the electoral body. The material circumstance of the necessity of a distant removal is of least consequence. The moral disorder which would result from too widely extended boundaries is much more serious.
Further; the extension of political rights is no less interested in this than the excellence of the results of the election. It is desirable to enlarge the sphere of their rights, as far as it is admitted by the imperious condition of capacity. Now, capacity depends upon a multitude of causes. A man perfectly capable of prudent choice within a radius of five miles from his dwelling, becomes absolutely incapable of doing so if the radius be extended to twenty miles: in the first case, he had the full use of his reason and freedom; in the second, he loses it. If, then, you would judiciously multiply the number of the electors, do not place the electoral centre too far from the points of circumference from whence some will have to repair thither. In all this we must proceed to some extent upon supposition, and general results alone are sought; but the principle is invariably the same. The election must be made by electors capable of choosing wisely, and must supply in those who are elected, men capable of thoroughly comprehending the interests upon which they will have to administrate. These are the two requirements, between which the limits of electoral boundaries should be sought, subject always to the condition of never determining these boundaries in an arbitrary way, so as to break through the habits, and destroy the natural and permanent state of society. Generally speaking, the division into counties formerly attained this twofold object in England.
The boundaries being defined, in accordance with the natural grouping of the citizens, and the electors being assembled, what is required of them?
Custom, and no standard derived from population, wealth, or any other cause, has ordained in England, that two members only should be returned from each district, with the exception of a very few places. This custom probably derives its origin from the impossibility which formerly existed of finding in the boroughs, and even in the counties, a greater number of men able and willing to undertake a mission then very little sought after. It has been seen that on several occasions three or four knights were required from the county-courts. The number was very soon reduced to two, and this fact has become the general law. Whatever may be its historic principle, this fact contains a rational principle, viz., that the election is neither sound nor good, except when the number required to be elected is very small.
No one has ever denied that the fundamental law of all election is this, that the electors should do what they desire, and understand what they are doing. In practice, however, this is often forgotten. It is forgotten when electors, meeting together but for a short space of time, are required to make choice of more than one or two. The great merit of election is, that it should proceed from the elector, that on his part it is a true choice, an act both of judgment and will. Beyond doubt, no extraneous will or judgment may in any case be rightfully imposed upon him; though he may always accept or reject that which is proposed to him: but this is not sufficient; the elector must be placed in such a position that his personal judgment, his own will, shall be not only free, but stimulated to display themselves in their actual character. Their exercise must be not only possible, but must not be too difficult. Now, this error is fallen into when, instead of one or two names, a whole list of names is demanded. The elector, almost always incapable of completing this list of himself and by the help of his own discernment, falls under the dominion of combinations which he suffers rather than accepts; for he does not possess the knowledge necessary for judging correctly of their whole aim and effect. Who does not know that almost every elector in such a case cannot include in his list more than one or two names that are truly known to him, and which he really desires? The choice of the remainder is made for him, and he writes them in confidence or out of complaisance. And who makes this choice? The party to which the elector belongs. Now, party in-fluence, like every other influence, is good only so far as it is exercised upon those who can form a just opinion of it, and not submit to it blindly. The despotism of party spirit is no better than any other despotism, and all good legislation should tend to preserve citizens from its sway. Into elections, as into every other act, levity, inconsiderateness, or passion may enter: but to these dispositions the law is not bound to show respect and afford facility. It should, on the contrary, strive to prevent their having any effect; and by the process of the election itself, it should, as far as possible, secure to the citizen the exercise of his judgment as well as the independence of his will. It is not requisite to repel all influences, or to declare them illegitimate beforehand. Every election is the result of influences, and it would be folly to pretend to isolate the elector under the pretext of obtaining his unbiassed opinion and desire. This would be to forget that man is a reasonable and free being; and that reason is called to debate, and liberty to choose. The soundness of election arises precisely from the con-flict of influences. The law must allow them to reach the elector, and grant them all natural means of acting upon his judgment; but it ought not to deliver him up to them defenceless. It should take certain precautions against human weakness, and the most efficacious of these precautions will be, to require nothing of the elector that he cannot perform with true spontaneity of action. The citizen being thus left to himself, all influences may act upon him: they may perhaps induce him to abandon the name that he loved for one with which he was previously unacquainted; but they will need at least to exert greater efforts to conquer his reason or to subdue his will. Now, it is right that they should be condemned to make such efforts, and that they should not be able to obtain from levity, precipitation, or ignorance alone, an assent, the effect of which is to give to the whole country an exponent whom the elector himself would not have desired had he been able, in nominating him, to make a full use of his reason.
When we investigate the causes which have introduced into certain countries, in the matter of election, a custom so opposed to the true interests of liberty, and which is never met with where liberty has really been introduced into the practice of political life, we perceive that it is derived, in part at least, from the evil principle on which the whole electoral system has been founded. Electoral rights have been isolated from other rights, and separately constituted; electoral assemblies have been in no way connected with other public affairs, with local administration, or with common and permanent interests. They have been made extraordinary and solemn assemblies of very brief duration. The electoral boundaries have in general been too widely extended: hence has arisen the necessity of suddenly assembling together the whole body of electors, of dismissing them almost immediately, and at the same time, of requiring from them the choice of too many representatives. In England, the poll remains open at least fifteen days for the election of one or two members. Every one gives his vote when it bests suits him. In America, the other forms are yet more mild and free. In the system which has prevailed with us, on the contrary, all is sudden and precipitate: everything is done en masse, and by masses of people whose reason and liberty are in a great measure disabled from acting, by the haste and extent of the operation. Hence also is derived the scheme of the ballot, and of an absolute majority, consequences inevitablyflowing from a rapid and numerous election; whilst elsewhere, the system of a relative and long-contested plurality affords public opinion leisure to select, and freedom to manifest its choice. And hence, finally, arises the necessity of an elected bureau, which entrusts beforehand to the majority the inspection of all the electoral operations, thus casting suspicion upon the authenticity of the results. When liberty is everywhere to be found, when all rights are bound together and mutually sustained, when publicity is real and universally present, there will always be independent magistrates to whom the direction and superintendence of elections may be confided; and there is then no necessity for placing them under the influence of party spirit, in order to withdraw them from the always-suspected influence of superior authority.
These details relate to the forms of electoral operations; but as their vicesflow from the general principles which regulate them, it was necessary to point out this connection.
Direct election has been the constant practice of England; and America has adopted the same system. It has been otherwise in most of the European States in which representative government has been established in our own times. This is one of the most important facts presented to our view by the British electoral system. In this system, direct election has been the natural consequence of the idea that was then entertained regarding political rights. Not only were these rights unshared by all, but they were not even distributed systematically, or upon one general plan. They were recognized wherever the capacity of exercising them was actually to be met with. The importance of freeholders and citizens had entailed upon them the right of interference in public affairs. This intervention was their right when these affairs related to themselves. Being unable to exercise this right personally, they elected representatives. In the spirit of the time, this right of election corresponded exactly to the right that the powerful barons exercised of being represented in Parliament by delegated agents. The individual importance of a powerful baron being very great, his proxy was individual. The freeholders and citizens also possessed an individual right, but not the same importance, and they therefore had one proxy to represent many of them. But, fundamentally, the representation was founded on the same principle—the individual rights of the electors to debate on and consent to such matters as interested them.
In this point of view, it is easy of comprehension that direct election prevailed, and that no other idea presented itself to the public mind. All indirect election, every new medium placed between Parliament and the elector, would have appeared, and would in fact have been, a diminution of the right, a weakening of the importance and political intervention of the electors.
Direct election, then, is the simple idea, the primitive and natural electoral system of representative government, when representative government is itself the spontaneous produce of its true principle—that is to say, when political rights are derived from capacity.
In considering this mode of election under a purely philosophical point of view, and as it respects not merely the electors alone, but society in general, does it remain equally preferable to every other more artificial combination?
It is necessary to examine it first in its relation to the rational principle of representative government; and, in the second place, in its practical results.
We have in a previous lecture laid down the rational principle of representative government. In right, this principle asserts, that true sovereignty is that of justice; and that no law is legitimate if it is not conformable to justice and to truth, that is to say, to the divine law. In fact, this principle recognizes, that no man or assembly of men, in a word, no terrestrial force, is fully conscious and constantly desirous of reason, justice, and truth—the true law. Connecting this right and fact together, the inference is, that the public powers which actually exercise sovereignty ought to be constantly required and constrained on every occasion to seek after the true law, the sole source of legitimate authority.
The object of the representative system, in its general elements as well as in all the details of its organization, is, then, to collect and concentrate all the scattered elements of reason which exist in society, and to apply it to its government.
From thence it necessarily follows that representatives ought to be the men most capable: 1. To discover, by means of their united deliberation, the law of reason, the truth which, on all occasions, the least as well as the greatest, exists, and ought to be the ground of decision; and 2. To enforce the recognition and observance, by the citizens in general, of this law when once discovered and expressed.
In order to discover and secure the men most capable of fulfilling this mission, that is to say, good representatives, it is necessary to compel those who think or profess themselves to be such, to prove their capacity, and to obtain its recognition and assertion from the men who, in their turn, are capable of forming a judgment upon it, that is to say, upon the individual capacity of any man who aspires to become a representative. Thus does legitimate power evidence itself, and it is thus that, in the fact of election, philosophically considered, this power is exercised by those who possess it, and accepted by those who recognize it.
Now, there is a certain relation, a certain tie, between the capacity of being [a good representative or otherwise], and the capacity of recognizing the man who possesses the capacity of being. This is a fact which is continually illustrated in the world. The brave man excites those to follow him who can associate themselves with his bravery. The skilful man obtains obedience from those who are capable of comprehending his skill. The wise man engages the belief of those who are capable of appreciating his knowledge. Every superiority has a certain sphere of attraction in which it acts, and gathers around itself real inferiorities, which are, however, in a condition to feel and to accept its action.
This sphere is by no means boundless. This also is a simple, self-evident fact. The relation which connects a superiority with the inferiorities by which it is recognized, being a purely intellectual relation, cannot exist where there does not also exist a sufficient degree of knowledge and intelligence to form the connection. A man, though very fit to recognize the superiority capable of deliberating on the affairs of his commune, may be quite unfit to distinguish and point out by his vote a person who shall be capable of deliberating on the affairs of the State. There are, then, some inferiorities, destitute of all true relation with certain superiorities, and which, if they were called upon to distinguish between them, would be either unable to do so, or would arrive at a most incorrect conclusion.
The limit at which the faculty ceases of recognizing and accepting the superiority which constitutes the capacity of being a good deputy, is that at which the right of election ought to cease; for it is here that the capacity ceases of being a good elector.
Above this limit, the right of election exists only because of the actual existence of the capacity of recognizing the superior capacity that is sought. Below it, there is no right.
From thence, the necessity of direct election philosophically results. Evidently it is desired to obtain that which is sought. Now, that which is sought, is a good representative. Superior capacity, that of the representative, is necessarily, therefore, the dominant condition, the starting-point of the whole operation. You will obtain this superior capacity by requiring its recognition by all those capacities which, although inferior, stand in natural relation with it. If, on the contrary, you begin by electing the electors, what will be the result? you have to accomplish an operation analogous to the preceding, but the point of departure is altered, and the general condition is lowered. You take as your foundation the capacity of the elector, that is to say, a capacity inferior to that which you wish definitively to obtain; and you necessarily address yourself to capacities still more inferior and quite unfit to conduct you, even under this form, to the more elevated result at which you aim; for the capacity of the elector being only the ability to select a good representative, it would be necessary to be in a position to comprehend the latter condition in order to comprehend the former, which can never happen.
Indirect election, therefore, considered in itself, derogates from the primitive principle as well as from the ultimate object of representative government, and debases its nature. Considered in its practical results, in facts, and independently of every general principle, this system appears equally unsatisfactory.
In the first place, we regard it as admitted, that it is desirable that the election of representatives should not be in general the work of a very small number of electors. When electoral assemblies are very limited, not only is the election deficient in that action and energy which sustain political life in society, and afterwards contribute in great measure to the power of the representative himself, but general interests, expansive ideas, and public opinions cease to be the motive and regulating power. Coteries form themselves—in the place of political parties, personal intrigues spring up; and a struggle is established between interests, opinions, and relations, which are almost individual in their nature. The election is no less disputed, but it is less national, and its results possess the same fault.
Starting, then, from this point, that electoral assemblies ought to be sufficiently numerous to prevent individualities from obtaining such easy dominion, I seek to discover how, by indirect election, this end can reasonably be attained.
Two hypotheses alone are possible: either the territorial boundaries, within which the assembly will be formed, charged with the nomination of the electors, will be very narrow, or will be of considerable extent. In England, for example, the electors would be required from the tithings or the hundreds, which correspond very nearly to our communes and cantons. If these boundaries are very narrow, and only a very small number are required to be selected from each—two electors for example—very probably some of these electors will be of a very inferior order.
True electoral capacities are by no means equally divided among communes; one commune may possess twenty or thirty, while another contains only a few, or perhaps none at all; and this is the case with the majority. If each district is required to furnish the same, or nearly the same number of electors, great violence will be done to realities. Many of the incapable will be summoned; many who are capable will be excluded; and, finally, an electoral assembly will be constituted, but little adapted for the wise choice of representatives. If, on the contrary, each district is required to designate a number of electors proportioned to its importance, its population, and the wealth and intelligence that are concentrated in it, then, wherever the number to be chosen is considerable, there will no longer be any true choice.
It has already been shown, that elections, when they are numerous and simultaneous, lose their character. There will be lists of electors prepared by the external influence either of parties or of power, which will be adopted or rejected without discernment or freedom. In this respect experience has everywhere confirmed the previsions of reason.
If the districts summoned to name the electors possess any great extent, another alternative presents itself. Either each will be required to choose only a small number, and then the object will be defeated, for the assembly whose duty it will be to elect the representatives will be very innumerous: or a large number of electors will be required from each district, and then the inconvenience which has been already pointed out will be incurred.
Let all the possible combinations of indirect election be exhausted, and there will not be found one which can finally supply, for the election of representatives, an assembly sufficiently numerous, and formed at the same time with discernment and liberty. In this system these two results mutually exclude each other.
I proceed now to another vicious practice connected with this system, which is no less serious than those just indicated.
The end of representative government is to bring publicly into proximity and contact the chief interests and various opinions which divide society, and dispute for supremacy, in the just confidence that from their debates will result the recognition and adoption of the laws and measures which are most suitable for the country in general. This end is only attained by the triumph of the true majority—the minority being constantly listened to with respect.
If the majority is displaced by artifice, there is falsity. If the minority is removed from the struggle beforehand, there is oppression. In either case representative government is corrupted.
All the constituent laws of this form of government have, then, two fundamental conditions to fulfil: first, to secure the manifestation and triumph of the true majority; and, secondly, to insure the intervention and unshackled endeavour of the minority.
These two conditions are as essential to the laws which regulate the mode of the election of representatives, as to those which preside over the debates of deliberative assemblies. In neither case ought there to be falsehood or tyranny.
An electoral system which would annul beforehand—with regard to the final result of the elections, that is to say, with regard to the formation of the deliberative assembly—the influence and participation of the minority, would destroy representative government, and would be as fatal to the majority itself as any law which, in the deliberative assembly, should condemn the minority to silence.
This, to a certain extent, is the result of indirect election.
By direct election, and supposing that the limit of electoral capacity has been reasonably fixed by law, that is to say, at the point at which true capacity actually ceases, all the citizens whose social position, fortune, or intelligence place them above this limit, are equally summoned to unite in the choice of representatives. No inquiry is made of them concerning the opinions or interests which they advocate. The result of the election will make known the true majority; but whatever that may be they will have no cause to complain: the trial will have been complete, and they will have taken their rightful part in it.
Indirect election, on the contrary, effects beforehand a thorough purgation of the electoral capacities, and eliminates a certain number, solely on account of the opinions or interests which they may hold. It intrudes into the sphere of these capacities in order to exclude a part of the minority, so as to give to the majority a factitious force, and thus to destroy the true expression of the general opinion. We should exclaim loudly against a law which should say, a priori: “All the men, or only the third or fourth part of the men, attached to such an interest or such an opinion, shall be excluded from all participation in the election of representatives, whatever may otherwise be their importance and social position.” This is precisely what is done, a posteriori, by indirect election; and thereby it introduces into representative government positive disorder, for it creates a means of tyranny for the benefit of the majority. It may even happen, and examples of this are not wanting, that indirect election, when thus employed to eliminate a portion of the natural electoral capacities, may result in turning against the majority itself, and putting it in the minority. A supposition will clearly explain this idea. If, in the fourteenth century, it had been decreed in England, that “the copyholders and villeins should unite in nominating the electors of the members of Parliament,” is it not evident that their choice would have fallen on the lords whose lands they rented or cultivated by any particular title; and that the inhabitants of the towns, the citizens, would have been almost absolutely excluded from the House of Commons? Thus, this part of the nation, which had already attained so much importance, would have seen themselves deprived of the exercise of political rights by a system which urged, as its sole specious pretext, the extension of these rights to a greater number of individuals.
This is, in fact, the true source of indirect election; it is derived from the sovereignty of numbers, and from universal suffrage: and as it is impossible to reduce these two principles to practice, it is attempted to retain some shadow of their existence. The principle of representative government is violated, its nature debased, and the right of election weakened, in order that consistent adherence to an erroneous doctrine may, to all appearance, be maintained. Who can fail to see that such a system must necessarily enervate election, and that reality and energy can be preserved by the system of direct election alone? Every action, the result of which is distant and uncertain, inspires little interest; and the same men who will unitedly display great discernment and animation in the choice of their municipal officers, would give their suffrage blindly and coldly to subsequent electors whom their thoughts never follow into the future in which they interfere so little. This pretended homage to wills not sufficiently enlightened to be trusted with a greater share of influence in the choice of representatives, is at the bottom nothing but miserable quackery and lying adulation; and under a simulated extension of political rights there is concealed the restriction, mutilation, and enfeebling of these rights in the sphere in which they really exist, and in which they might be exercised in all their fulness and with complete effect.
The true way to diffuse political life in all directions, and to interest as great a number of citizens as possible in the concerns of the State, is not to make them all combine in the same acts, although they may not all be equally capable of performing them; but to confer upon them all those rights which they are capable of exercising. Rights are worth nothing unless they are full, direct, and efficacious. In place of perverting political rights by weakening them, under the pretext of giving them diffusion, let local liberties everywhere exist, guaranteed by real rights. The electoral system itself will thus become much more powerful than it could possibly be under a pretended system of universal suffrage.
The last important fact to be noticed in the electoral system of England in the fourteenth century, is open voting. Some have attempted to regard this as an absolute principle capable of constant application; but we think it ought not so to be considered. The only absolute principle in this matter is, that election should be free, and should truly display the true thoughts and real wishes of the electors. If open voting puts a serious restraint on liberty of elections and perverts their results, it ought to be abolished. Doubtless such a condition argues infirmity of liberty and timidity of morals, and proves that a portion of society is in conflict with influences which it is afraid to shake off, though it ardently desires to be rid of them. This is a melancholy fact, but it is one which liberty, rendered fruitful by time, can alone destroy. It is very true that open voting in elections, as well as in the debates of deliberative assemblies, is the natural consequence of representative government. It is quite true that there is a degree of shame attached to liberty if it claim secresy for itself while imposing publicity on power. That liberty which can only attack is still very feeble; for the true power of freedom consists in its bold defence and avowal of its rights. Certainly there is an ill grace in the complaints of the niggardliness and delay with which power grants rights, when concealment is necessary for the exercise of rights already possessed. But when reason is applied to practice, it regards, for some time at least, nothing besides facts; and the most imperious of all principles is necessity. To impose open voting when it would injure freedom of election would be to compromise general liberty itself, which, ere long, must necessarily establish open voting.
To sum up what I have said. Nearly all the fundamental principles of a free and reasonable electoral system may be discovered in the electoral system of England in the fourteenth century. Bestowal of electoral rights upon capacity; close union of electoral rights with all other rights; regard to natural influences and relations; absence of all arbitrary and factitious combinations in the formation and proceedings of electoral assemblies; prudent limitation in the number to be chosen by each assembly; direct election, and open voting; all are to be met with. These are entirely due to the decisive circumstance that the electoral system and representative government itself were in England the simple and natural result of facts, the consequence and development of real and powerful anterior liberties, which served as their basis, and guarded and nourished in their bosom the roots of the tree which is indebted to them for its growth.1
By another equally decisive circumstance, this system, though so national and spontaneous in its origin, became corrupted, at least in part, and appears at the present day to require correction. Perhaps it is owing to its very power that it remains inflexible: it has only followed at a distance the vicissitudes and progress of social conditions. It now protects the remnants of those abuses against which, at first, and for a long time, it was directed; and yet the reform of these abuses, by whatever means and at whatever period it may be effected, will be the fruit of the institutions, habits, principles, and sentiments which this system has established.
[1. ]This is a clear statement of Guizot’s views on what good government requires: union of electoral right with all other rights; inclusion of “natural superiorities” in the direction of political affairs; political prudence in promoting reforms; direct elections; bestowal of electoral rights according to political capacity. This was, in fact, Guizot’s juste milieu theory, a cautious middle ground between the ideal of Revolution and Reaction. As he wrote in his Mémoirs: “Ce fut à ce mélange d’élévation philosophique et de modération politique, à ce respect rationnel des droits et des faits divers, à ces doctrines à la fois nouvelles et conservatrices, antirévolutionnaires sans être rétrogrades et modestes au fond, quoique souvent hautaines dans leur langage, que les doctrinaires dûrent leur importance comme leur nom.... Les doctrinaires répondaient à un besoin réel et profond quoique obscurément senti des esprits en France, ils avaient à coeur l’honneur intel-lectuel comme le bon ordre de la société, leurs idées se présentaient comme propres à régénerer en même temps qu’à clore la Révolution. (Guizot, Mémoires, Vol. 1, pp. 157‒58).