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the principles of utility: But it is very useful to a free commonwealth to adhere to its fundamental institutions; and whenever a substantial reform can be effected agreeably to their principles, it is generally unwise, for the sake of quicker reformation, to act on maxims hitherto untried. The Reform here proposed is limited by the practice of the English Constitution. It proposes nothing unauthorized by that practice; and it offers that security to all who adopt it against its leading to consequences which cannot be foreseen or conjectured. The more extensive plan, on the other hand, quits the solid ground of the practice of the Constitution, and ventures on the slippery path of general speculation. It necessarily appeals to principles, which, in the hands of other men, may become instruments of farther, and of boundless alteration. Secondly, We doubt whether the caution, hitherto observed in this respect, be not founded on true wisdom. It is the policy of a free state to keep up the importance and dignity of popular privileges. The right of election, the first of them all, ought to be held high. The Body of Electors ought to be considered as a sort of nobility, from which the members are not to be too easily degraded. As a Monarchy and Aristocracy have their splendour, so Democracy has its own peculiar dignity, which is chiefly displayed in the exercise of this great right. There is something, in our opinion, truly republican in the policy which places the elective franchise and the royal dignity on the same footing—which secures bath from being destroyed on mere speculations of general convenience, and which pronounces the forfeiture of both, only where there is a gross and flagrant violation of the trust from which they are derived. Thirdly, It must be observed, that the power of disfranchisement is capable of great and dangerous abuse. The majority of a legislative body might employ it to perpetuate their own superiority, and to destroy every power that could withstand them. If the example were once set, of using it on mere grounds of convenience, it would be easy to find, on every occasion, plausible pretexts of that nature. As long as it is confined to cases of delinquency, it cannot be so abused; but if it were once freed from that restraint, it would become unlimited, or, in other words, despotic,
The transfer of forfeited franchise to populous communities affords a most convenient means of quietly widening the basis of Representation. It bestows the privilege on every numerous body, in proportion as they are ambitious to acquire it, and well qualified to exercise it. Political power is thus made to follow in the train of knowledge and wealth ; and the Constitution perpetually, but insensibly, adapts itself to the progress of sivilzation. A representative system thus restored to its origi,
nal flexibility, may, like the works of nature, perpetuate itself by constant change, and always yield some ground to progressive opinion without struggle or conflict, without humiliation or defeat.
Besides these great ends, it might, in process of time, be subservient to other purposes. A Colonial Representation may one day be considered as a probable means of preserving the unity of the empire.-Such a representation, combined with other means, might also open honourable seats for the monied interest, if measures of reform should be found to have too much narrowed their access to Parliament. If some representatives were in time to be allowed to learned societies, it would not be a greater novelty than the grant of that privilege to the two Universities by James I. If occasion were taken to give an additional member to the University of Dublin, one member to that of Edinburgh, and one to the other Scotch Universities, (the votes of each being proportioned to the number of students), the direct share of science in the national representation would not be enormous. It would be easy to show, by other examples, the use to which the ample fund of forfeited franchise might in time be turned; but the above are perhaps more than enough, where the object is to suggest illustrations of a principle, not parts of a plan.
Our Third head will comprehend a few observations on the representation of Scotland; which, being of a nature quite unlike that of England, requires a separate consideration. The reader will observe, that this question is perfectly distinct from that of a Reform of the Scotch Boroughs, which has been prosecuted by Lord Archibald Hamilton with so much ability and perseverance. The object of the latter is only such an improvement in the election of the Magistrates and Town Councils of the boroughs, as may ensure a right administration of their revenue and police, in which scandalous abuses have been proved to be generally prevalent. It would be a strange objection to such an alteration to say, that it may incidentally, and in a small degree, affect the election of the fifteen Commissioners for Scotch Boroughs. That man must indeed be a sturdy zealot on the side of abuse, who should object to the correction of such acknowledged corruptions, merely because it gave a little influence to the people of these towns in the choice of their members.
In Scotland, there is no popular election : All the Boroughs are in the hands of what would in England be called Close Corpovations. The whole number of voters for the thirty-three Counties of Scotland is about 2700; the greatest number in any
which the collected opinion of an enlightened nation must possess over a legislative assembly of sufficient numbers, deliberating in public, and originating in any degree from the people, is no doubt a considerable substitute for popular election. It may be added, that opinion is a flexible instrument, which ascertains the real value of the sentiments of each class, according to the nature of the question, and the circumstances of the time, with an exactness and delicacy not to be attained by any permanent distribution of representatives.
These observations are sufficient to show, that the members of a legislative assembly ought not to consider themselves, as delegates from districts, bound by the instructions of their own constituents
. They show also the convenience of so framing, the election of a certain portion of the members, as to render them less susceptible of local influence, more impartial, more in fact, what all are in law, the representatives of the whole people.
But the useful influence of public opinion, will not be weaker under the amended representation than it is at present. There will still remain many defects for it to supply, and many irregularities to correct. Can a prudent friend of the Establishment really think that it is consistent with wise policy, to exclude men from the appearance of power, because they have gained a great deal of the reality? Democratical ascendency exists in its most dangerous form, when numerous bodies have acquired great strength from circumstances, and derived no political power from the Constitution. The holder of a legal franchise becomes attached to the Government. A man who possesses importance, without a franchise, is apt to imagine that he has grown strong, in spite of adverse laws. Our ancient policy did not trust the preservation of order and liberty to those general pripciples of morality which, in all countries, influence the conduct of good citizens; it bound all classes, by ties of pride and attachment, to a system which bestowed important privileges on all. As every new class arose, it was fastened to the Government by these constitutional links. This policy left no class politically powerful, who did not visibly draw their power from the Constitution.
The elective franchise, when considered with respect to the whole community, is indeed chiefly valuable, as a security for good government. But, in relation to individuals, it may be regarded as an honorary distinction,—the object of their natural and legitimate ambition, which they pursue with eagerness, and exercise with pleasure. Its refusal without nécessity mortifies or irritates. Those feelings are still more natural, to intelligent
superior, is the voter. Superiority to which the right of suffrage is annexed, may be entirely separated from any beneficial interest in the land. Votes, in right of land, may thus be possessed by those who are not landholders. Many voters in most counties in Scotland are in this predicament; and there does not seem to be any legal impediment, except in the case of entailed estates, to the universal separation of the right of suffrage from the property of the soil. In proposing a remedy for this case, it would be wise to give no disturbance to established rights, and to allow the present Freeholders to retain their suffrage. It would be perhaps sufficient, in addition to them, to give the right of voting to all proprietors of land of a certain value, whatever their tenure might be. The present qualification of commissioners of supply, (i. e. commissioners of the land tax), which is about 10l. Sterling a year, might be adopted, in the case of the new freeholders.
In the boroughs, it might be sufficient, if the right of voting at the election of the town-council were, in towns above a certain population, to be vested in those burgesses who occupy tenements of a yearly rent to be specially fixed. In that case, the right of chusing delegates to elect the members, might continue as at present; and provision might be made to give that permanency to the power of the magistrates, which the duties of that office require. In those inconsiderable villages, which form the majority of the Scotch boroughs, it may be doubted whether the resident burgesses could be moulded into a good constituent body. In great cities, such for example as Edinburgh, where the more considerable inhabitants are seldom burgesses, some share of privilege might be bestowed on such householders as occupied tenements of double or treble the yearly rent, which should be fixed on as the qualification of burgesses.
In returning to English representation, the means of reducing the expense of elections, form a separate and very important branch of the subject. In all elections, great expense aids the natural power of the highest wealth; and in the same proportion, lessens both the importance of the smaller proprietors, and the efficacy of public opinion. The power of great property is indeed a principle of liberty, as well as of order. It opposes a sort of hereditary tribuneship to the Crown, and it furnishes a body of mild magistrates, whose natural and almosť unfelt authority often prevents the necessity of legal restraint, or military interference. But this useful power, which must always be strong, in proportion as liberty is secure, may be car
more important than numbers. Twen:y members, of popular talents and character, representing the most populous districts in England, and depending for their seats on popular favour, would greatly strengthen the democratical principles in the House of Commons. It would be a substantial addition to the power of the people. Whoever considers the talent, zeal and activity, which must belong to these new members, will soon discover that their number would form a most inadequate measure of their strength.
Those who would undervalue this concession, would do well to consider how much more they are likely to gain, without paying too high a price for it. Do they expect that much more will be granted, under the auspices of a constitutional administration,--with the acquiescence of the proprietory classes, -and by the lawful authority of Parliament? Can they hope to obtain more at the present time, consistently with public quiet, the maintenance of the Constitution, the execution of the Laws, and the security of Property and Life?
The Second part of our Plan, would be the adoption of more effectual means for the disfranchisement of delinquent boroughs. This is a part of the subject, on which the principles are very evident;
but the means of carrying them into effect are not so clear. The elective franchise is a political right, conferred on individuals for the public advantage: As such, it may be withdrawn for adequate reasons of general interest.. But it is also a privilege and advantage to the holder; of which, without strong reasons, he is not to be deprived. It holds a middle station between office and property: like the former, it is a trust; but it is one which ought not easily or often to be withdrawn. On the other hand, as the advantage of the holder is only one of its secondary objects, it has not the sacred and inviolable nature of Property. 'Ü'he supreme power which gave it, may withdraw it-not indeed on light grounds, but without either that degree of delinquency, or that sort of evidence, which might be required in the forfeiture of a purely private right. It is not, either in principle or prudence, variable at will; nor is the Legislature bound, in its abrogation, to observe the rules of courts of judicature.
The disfranchisement of those boroughs which have been proved to abuse their franchise, is therefore founded on constitutional principles, as well as warranted by modern practice. Where corruption has prevailed to such an extent, and under such circumstances, as to render it possible that its prevalence would be permanent, Parliament has in recent times adopted measures, which produced practical effects nearly similar to