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single county does not exceed 300; and in some, they are we believe less than thirty. This is not the Constitution of England. The English representation is a combination of Aristocracy and Democracy, in almost all their possible forms and degrees to which the Scotch mode of election is as opposite as Universal Suffrage itself. The freedom of England is the security for the good government of Scotland; but the English Constitution, in its highest sense, has not been communicated to the Scotish nation. We are not so sunk in Toryism as to imagine that it is possible to have the English Constitution without popular election. Of all the practical irregularities in our Government, perhaps, the condition of the people of Scotland is the most striking. The most timid reasoners have generally confessed, that political privileges may be diffused in proportion to the diffusion of morality and knowledge: Yet the body of the people of Scotland, celebrated throughout Europe for intelligence, for virtue, for a sober and considerate character, are rigorously excluded from all direct influence on the National Councils.
The right of election in Scotch counties is so foreign to the present usages of England, that it may be difficult to give an account of it, in few words, to an English reader. It is confined to those who hold land to a certain extent directly of the King. Hence,' says Mr Wight, whose work is an authority on Scotch Election Law, many persons are possessed of large estates, who are incapable to elect or be elected commissioners to Parliament, because they only hold them of subjects superiors; while, on the other hand, many, by holding immediately of the Crown, are entitled to that privilege, although their estates (consisting of a bare superiority) do not perhaps yield them a penny in the year. * By the original constitution of the Scotish Parliament, no landholders were required to be present, except those who were called by the ancient statutes Freeholders of the King;' that is, tenants in chief of the Crown. When the representation of counties was introduced by James the First in 1427, the right to elect representatives was of course confined to these tenants in chief, who, amidst all successive changes of the law, have continued exclusively to possess it. If A, being a tenant of the Crown in capite, conveys all his land to B, to be holden of himself; A remains the tenant of the Crown, and retains, as such, a right to vote for the land, though the use and profit of it be completely transferred to B. B, the proprietor, has no vote; while A, who continues to be his
* Wight on Parliament, Book III. ch. 2.
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 almost 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
ried to an excess. The great expenses of county elections, which deter men of moderate fortune from competition for a seat, are justly complained of. Something might be done to abate this inconvenience, by authorizing the Sheriff, in the greatest counties, to take the poll at different places in succession. The laws against treating, and the payment of expenses, have hitherto been always either inactive or vexatious. They have in general been disregarded; and in the few instances in which they have been enforced, it has been either as an election manoeuvre, or for the gratification of personal malice.
After all, however, the power of great wealth in counties, exercised quietly in the form of permanent influence, and blended with feelings of respect and attachment towards the hereditary owners of the soil, is not to be regarded as altogether an unmixed evil. It is in the elections for towns, that the action of wealth is most undisguised and odious: and the most inconvenient instances of it arise, perhaps, from the right of non-resident freemen to vote for great towns. These non-residents, now spread in great numbers over the country, are in general of the lowest condition, unable to defray the charge of going to the place of election, and willing to vote for any candidate who will pay for the pleasures of their journey. They are often numerous enough to decide the election; so that the chance of success may be exactly determined, by knowing how much each candidate can afford to spend. Venality has here no decent disguise. The power of wealth is not purified by association with better. feelings. There are not here, as in cases of the permanent influence of property, any long habits of respect for superiority, or any sentiments of gratitude for kindness. The effect of this is an undisguised triumph of money alone over every sort of natural influence. The manufacturer, the trader, the landholder of the neighbouring county, are put to flight by an adventurer, who need not possess even wealth, if he can dispose of a sum large enough to purchase the votes of non-resident voters. The obvious remedy for this grievance would be, to require every freeman to be resident in the borough for which he claims to vote, for six months previous to the day of election,-according to the present law, in those rights of voting which depend on inhabitancy.
Fifthly, It is to be observed, that a repeal of the disabilities which affect the Catholics, may, in one point of view, be considered as a measure of Reform. It is in itself just and wise: the
*St. 26 G. III. c. 100.
majority of its friends are not reformers; and its necessity is demonstrated by arguments which are wholly unconnected with any change in the frame of Parliament. But it is also a consequence from the principles of representation which we have been endeavouring to establish. The English Catholics are a large and respectable body of men, who do not possess the elective franchise. The class is unrepresented, and possesses no political security for its common interest, which is the enjoyment of religious liberty. The Irish Catholics, indeed, possess the elective franchise; but they are inadequately represented, because they cannot chuse members who, being of the same faith with themselves, have a like interest in defending the free exercise of their religious worship. The Catholics probably form a fifth part of the inhabitants of the British islands. That so great a body should be left without representatives, or restricted from chusing those who are best qualified to guard their highest interest, is not a casual or trivial irregularity, but a great practical evil, and a gross departure from all our ancient principles of representation.
The only matter which remains for consideration, is, whether any change should be made in the Duration of Parliaments. It is here placed last, because it seems to be the Reform which ought to be last in the order of time. As long as every other part of the elective system continues, it is doubtful whether more frequent elections would not rather increase, than diminish, both the power of wealth and the influence of the Crown. It is true that, on the eve of a general election, a septennial Parliament has commonly shown more deference for the opinions of their constituents, than on other occasions. But, on the other hand, the more frequent occurrence of a ruinous expense, would deter prudent and respectable men from offering themselves; and might thus throw a greater number of seats into the hands of adventurers, or of the Court. When the expense of elections, however, is reduced, and the basis of representation widened, we are clearly of opinion that it will be also proper to shorten the duration of Parliament.
The principle of short Parliaments was solemnly declared at the Revolution. On the 29th of January 1689, seven days after the Convention was assembled, the following Resolution was adopted by the House of Commons. Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to bring in general heads of such things as are absolutely necessary to be considered, for the better securing our Religion, Laws, and Liberties.' Of this Committee Mr Somers was one. On the 2d of February, Sir George
Treby, from the Committee thus appointed, reported the general heads on which they had agreed. The 11th article of these general heads was as follows. "That the too long continuance of the same Parliament be prevented.' On the 4th of February it was ordered, That it be referred to the Committee to distinguish such general heads as are introductive of new laws, from those that are declaratory of ancient rights. On the 7th of the same month, the Committee made their Second Report; and, after going through the declaratory part, which constitutes the Bill of Rights as it now stands, proposed the following, among other clauses, relating to the introduction of new laws. And towards the making a more firm and perfect settlement of the said Religion, Laws, and Liberties, and for remedying several defects and inconveniences; It is proposed and advised by * Commons, that there be provision, by new laws, made in such manner, and with such limitations, as by the wisdom and justice of Parliament shall be considered and ordained in the particulars; and in particular, and to the purposes following, viz. for preventing and for preventing the too long continuance of the same Parliament.' The articles which required new laws being thus distinguished, It was resolved on the following day, on the motion of Mr Somers, That it be an instruction to the said Committee, to connect, to the vote of the Lords, such part of the heads passed this House yesterday as are declaratory of ancient rights; leaving out such parts as are introductory of new laws.' The declaratory articles were accordingly formed into the Declaration of Rights; and in that state were, by both Houses, presented to the Prince and Princess of Orange, and accepted by them, with the Crown of England. But the articles introductive of new laws, though necessarily omitted in a Declaration of Rights, had been adopted without a division by the House of Commons; who thus, at the very moment of the Revolution, determined, that a firm and perfect settlement of the Religion, Laws, and Liberties,' required provision by a new law, for preventing the too long continuance of the same Parliament.'
But though the principle of New Parliaments was thus solemnly recognised at the Revolution, the time of introducing the new law, the means by which its object was to be attained, and the precise term to be fixed for the Duration of Parliament, were reserved for subsequent deliberation. Attempts were made to give effect to the principle in 1692 and 1693, by a Triennial
*This blank is left for the Lords,' in case of the concurrence of that House.
VOL. XXXIV. NO. 68.