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individual right to vote at Parliamentary elections accompanies either (1) a liability to be taxed, or (2) a liability to serve in any public office, or (3) the mere ownership of any kind of property, or, least of all, (4) general amenability to the laws of the land. The fact is that in England the idea of representation, indefinite as it is at the best, has from the earliest times so diffusively penetrated the Constitution, that individual voters seem at the first, and for long afterwards, to bave been almost lost sight of, in view of the fact that some among their number attended at election-time on behalf of all members of the class. It was never doubted that the classinterest, if separable from the national interest, would be as exactly appreciated and as competently protected by one member of the class as by another. The clearlyconceived notion of individual as contrasted with class
This word, individual,' disposes of all the misleading analogies which have been deduced from the case of the American colonies as advocated by Edmund Burke, and the cases of existing dependencies of England, the claims of which to share in the counsels of the Imperial Legislature are sometimes urged by an appeal to such maxims (rightly or wrongly construed) as “No taxation without representation.'
? If minute proofs are wanted of any historical allegations here made or conclusions drawn, reference is made to the late comprehensive and exhaustive researches of Professor Stubbs, in his Constitutional History of England. It is quite useless, in treating of Constitutional History, to cite isolated historical facts, or even indiscriminately to accumulate authorities. The merit of Professor Stubbs's book is, that for every critical epoch in the development of the Constitution, he recites, year by year or even month by month, every one of the relevant events that occurred, sifting the autho. rities to the utmost, and rather leaving the reader to draw his own inevitable conclusions, than forcing upon him any foregone opinions or favourite views. In some of these respects he contrasts most favourably with every one of his predecessors, including Mr. Hallam, and of his contemporaries, including Mr. Freeman,
Individual or Class Representation.
representation, which is in fact a growth of the present reign, is one among a variety of important political consequences which are the result of a series of social and economical changes which have rapidly been brought about during very recent times. These changes express themselves in a high differentiation of labour, in a novel distribution of employments and occupations of all sorts, perhaps even in an increased domesticity and privacy in the conduct of life, and in the vast variety of pursuits, tastes, desires, and dispositions, which modern inventions and contact with foreign countries are increasingly bringing about. Such a progressive transfer of political importance from the class to the individual person, is a typical instance of the more general phenomena now recognised as characterising the history of all the parts of an advancing community. It is useless, . then, to seek, as is often done, by strained interpretations of history, to find an explanation of Mr. Disraeli’s Reform Bill of 1867 in any broad principles of representation which really prevailed before 1832. All that is in common between the notions of the past and the notions of the present is, that the House of Commons is and continues, in theory at the least, a representative Assembly; that freehold property in land continues to be the most conspicuous of all bases of the franchise; and that, both now and of old, the weight of the land interest and the municipal corporations taken together far overbalances, in fact, any aggregate force which might be presented by a combination proceeding from any other represented class. What is of moment here is, not so much the political alteration which has been brought about, as the new starting-point from which all future reforms of the House of Commons will proceed. These
reforms will ever keep primarily in view the claims of citizens as individually excluded from the exercise of the suffrage; and whatever tests may be taken of the electoral capacity of the voter, those tests must theoretically be regarded as applied to the members of the excluded body one by one, and not to the body as a whole. There may always remain vast numbers of persons who, for some reason or other, will be without a vote; but these persons will be less and less capable of description, for purposes of political inclusion, by reference to any group, body, class, profession, occupation, or sex to which they belong. To make this more clearly understood, it is only necessary to refer to the debates which take place, session after session, on proposed alterations of the franchise. In discussing, for instance, the claims of farm-labourers to the franchise, little attention has been paid by the advocates of change or their opponents to supposed interests or rights of the general body of farm-labourers as an aggregate mass distinct from other groups of the population. The argument almost invariably turns upon the grounds of distinction between the political situation of a typical farm-labourer, taken as an individual specimen of the class and viewed amidst all his surroundings, domestic, social, and educational, and other persons in the community,—as, for example, lodgers and workmen in towns, -to whom the franchise has been already conceded. It is a particular and personal contrast, man by man, and not class by class. Of course, the numbers of the class, the general depression or elevation of its members in the social scale, and even its comparative worth when placed side by side with other classes, are always beld relevant to the inquiry; but the argument always re
Characteristics of the Transition.
solves itself at the last into the question whether it is for the good of the community (or, in other persons' mouths, whether it is a normal development of the Constitution) to allow persons to be registered as voters, who are generically described as fulfilling certain conditions of competency, and not as belonging to any more or less clearly determined class or group in the community.
It is an inquiry of the utmost importance whether the notion of representation itself, and of the representative character of the House of Commons, has undergone, or is undergoing, any changes arising from the altered aspect in which it is thus seen that the constituencies throughout the country are being regarded. This inquiry, however, will be more conveniently deferred till after certain distinct changes have been adverted to, which are the direct consequence of the new and strong light cast of late years upon individual political claims and responsibilities, as contrasted with the interests and claims of broad but ill-determined classes. These changes have expressed themselves in the Parliamentary Elections Act (constituting electionjudges) of 1868, and the Ballot Act of 1872.
With respect to both these Acts it may be noticed that the extravagant growth of bribery and corruption which it was their chief object to arrest or punish was a natural consequence of a lengthened process of transition from the older theory of representation by classes to the modern theory of the representation of individual persons. It was not unnatural, nor out of harmony with other historical vicissitudes through which the country has passed, that a period should intervene during which the class unity of interest and of political conviction had lost its reality, and yet the conscience of individual voters had not yet been sufficiently informed and roused into healthy and independent activity. This was a period at which it might be expected that all sorts of narrow and indirect influences, sometimes under the most specious titles, might dispute for the ascendency over the minds of dependent or indigent voters. Even where these influences have not taken the scandalously immoral form of direct bribery, a variety of social relationships, at times and in some parts of the country preserving much of a feudal shape, have annihilated the individual voter, without compensating him, as in the older time, by upholding the corporate interests in which he was concerned. Indeed, even immediately after the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, when the great blow had been struck at the supremacy of the aristocracy over the borough constituencies, the theoretic legitimacy of the indirect influence of property was still openly maintained in the House of Commons by so conscientious and cautious an authority as Sir Robert Peel. In opposing the introduction of the ballot in 1833 he said: “It has been said
that the ballot would destroy the influence of property. • I will confidently assert that if the influence of property in elections were destroyed, the security of all property and the stability of all government would be • destroyed with it. It is surely absurd to say that a
man with ten thousand pounds a year should not have 6 more influence over the legislature of the country than ' a man with ten pounds a year. Yet each is only entitled to a single vote. How could this injustice,
this glaring inequality, be practically redressed exceptoing by the exercise of influence ? How could the