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some time to come—a Member who votes on an important topic in contravention either of the opinions he was believed to hold at the time of his election, or of the predictions of his action which he held out to his constituents, will be held liable to discredit unless he returns his trust into their hands. Perhaps the earliest, and certainly the most discriminating and philosophic, attempt to exhibit in a systematic shape the kind of reconciliation that ought to be effected between the relations of a Member to his constituents and his relations to the country at large, if the true genius of the English Constitution is to be strictly conformed to, is found in Mr. Burke's speech at Bristol in 1774, already alluded to. 'Certainly, 'gentlemen,' says Mr. Burke, 'it ought to be the hap'piness and glory of a representative to live in the 'strictest union, the closest correspondence,' and the 'most unreserved communication with his constituents. 'Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; ; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted 'attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his 'pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, 'ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his 'own. But, his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, 'his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to 'you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he 'does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law 'and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, 'for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your 'representative owes you, not his industry only, but his 'judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if 'he sacrifices it to your opinion. My worthy colleague 'says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that
Burke on the Duty of a Member. 51
'be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a 'matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, 'ought to be superior. But government and legisla'tion are matters of reason and judgment, and not of * inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which 'the determination precedes the discussion; in which 'one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and 'where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three 'hundred miles distant from those who hear the argu'ment s? To deliver an opinion is the right of all men; 'that of constituents is a weighty and respectable 'opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice 'to hear; and which he ought always most sincerely to 'consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates 'issued, which the member is bound blindly and im'plicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though con'trary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and 'conscience; these are things utterly unknown to the 'laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental 'mistake of the whole order and tenor of our Constitu'tion. Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors 'from different and hostile interests; which interests 'each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against 'other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a 'deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, 'that of the whole; where not local purposes, not local 'prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, 'resulting from the general reason of the whole. You 'choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen 'him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member 'of Parliament. If the local constituent should have 'an interest, or should form a hasty opinion, evidently 'opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, 'the member for that place ought to be as far as any 'other from any endeavour to give it effect.'1
It is clear that if once the extreme notion of delegacy and of the legitimacy of pledges given by candidates tecomes prevalent, there are no bounds whatever to the amount of vulgar servility which may be the general consequence. Some very scrupulous candidates—like the late Mr. John Stuart Mill, in his candidature for Westminster—have shrunk even from taking the position of inviting election at the hands of the constituents on behalf of whom they allowed themselves to be put forward. They have held that no kind of personal obligation, even of the nature of gratitude for the conferring of a favour sought, ought to hamper the free action of an elected Member. Mr. Mill, indeed, took the amplest opportunity of acquainting the constituency with his opinions, and of answering questions addressed to him. There is little doubt that his freedom of speech, and his stem refusal to conform in the minutest degree with the known wishes of portions of the constituency, even in reference to indifferent topics, contributed much to his not being re-elected. The opinion held on the subject by Lord Macaulay, at the beginning of his political life, is so forcibly put in one of his lately published letters, that it is worth citing at full length.
'The practice of begging for votes is, as it seems to 'me, absurd, pernicious, and altogether at variance with 'the true principles of representative government. The 'suffrage of an elector ought not to be asked, or to be 'given, as a personal favour. It is as much for the
1 Mr. Burke's ' Speech to the Electors of Bristol, on his being declared by the Sheriffs duly elected one of the representatives in Parliament for that city.'
Macatilay on Canvassing. 53
'interest of constituents to choose well, as it can be for 'the interest of a candidate to be chosen. To request 'an honest man to vote according to his conscience is 'superfluous. To request him to vote against his con'science is an insult. The practice of canvassing is 'quite reasonable under a system in which men are 'sent to Parliament to serve themselves. It is the 'height of absurdity under a system under which men 'are sent to Parliament to serve the public.
'While we had only a mock representation, it was 'natural enough that this practice should be carried to 'a great extent. I trust it will soon perish with the 'abuses from which it sprang. I trust that the great 'and intelligent body of people who have obtained the 'elective franchise will see that seats in the House of 'Commons ought not to be given, like rooms in an 'almshouse, to urgency of solicitation; and that a man 'who surrenders his vote to caresses and supplications 'forgets his duty as much as if he sold it for a bank'note. I hope to see the day when an Englishman 'will think it as great an affront to be courted and 'fawned upon in his capacity of elector as in his capa'city of juryman. He would be shocked at the thought 'of finding an unjust verdict because the plaintiff or 'the defendant had been very civil and pressing; and, 'if he would reflect, he would, I think, be equally 'shocked at the thought of voting for a candidate for 'whose public character he felt no esteem, merely 'because that candidate had called upon him, and 'begged very hard, and had shaken his hand very 'warmly. My conduct is before the electors of Leeds. 'My opinions shall on all occasions be stated to them 'with perfect frankness. If they approve that conduct, 'if they concur in those opinions, they ought, not for 'my sake, but for their own, to choose me as their 'member. To be so chosen I should indeed consider as 'a high and enviable honour; but I should think it no 'honour to be returned to Parliament by persons who, 'thinking me destitute of the requisite qualifications, 'had yet been wrought upon by cajolery and importunity 'to poll for me in despite of their better judgment.
'I wish to add a few words touching a question 'which has lately been much canvassed; I mean the 'question of pledges. In this letter, and in every letter 'which I have written to my friends at Leeds, I have 'plainly declared my opinions. But I think it, at this 'conjuncture, my duty to declare that I will give no 'pledges. I will not bind myself to make or to sup'port any particular motion. I will state as shortly as 'I can some of the reasons which have induced me to 'form this determination. The great beauty of the 'representative system is that it unites the advantages 'of popular control with the advantages arising from a 'division of labour. Just as a physician understands 'medicine better than an ordinary man, just as a shoe'maker makes shoes better than an ordinary man, so a 'person whose life is passed in transacting affairs of 'State becomes a better statesman than an ordinary 'man. In politics, as well as every other department 'of life, the public ought to have the means of check'ing those who serve it. If a man finds that he derives 'no benefit from the prescription of his physician, he 'calls in another. If his shoes do not fit him, he 'changes his shoemaker. But when he has called in a 'physician of whom he hears a good report, and whose 'general practice he believes to be judicious, it would