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ushing direct taxation further than at present would be most indubitably to augment its pressure on the working classes; -that (what would astonish them more than all) there is good reason for believing, and would be no great difficulty in proving, that the rich the enfranchised, electoral classes at least, who are supposed to shift their burdens on the unenfranchised — do actually pay not only their fair share,' but, in all probability, considerably more; - and lastly, that while the taxation which the poor impose upon themselves is enormously heavy, the amount of that which they are compelled to contribute to the State is beyond example light.*

We recur then to our first position that a new measure of Parliamentary Reform is demanded, rather in the name of theoretical propriety than of practical advantage. This, however, is much, though less to the English than to most other nations. We are no admirers of the French turn of mind, which loves to arrange political institutions according to a scientific and harmonious plan, which frames constitutions of most rectangular perfection on paper, but fated to prompt shipwreck as soon as they are launched on the rough waters of the actual world. Still we are far from saying that general principles are to be neglected, or lightly set at nought. We could go nearly as far as Mr. Carlyle in denouncing shams. An institution should be as much as possible what it professes to be. It should perform its promises. It should work out its original, or at least its actual purposes. It should be true to its own idea. It should correspond with its theory, as far as difficulties of practical action will permit. It should be brought into harmony with itself, as far as this can be done without incurring from change greater evils than those consequent upon inaction.

But is our present representation so untrue to its theory as the democratic party are wont to allege? Inconsistent with the democratic theory now put forth it unquestionably is: is it so inconsistent with the genuine theory of the British Constitution? We think not. Parliament may be viewed in two lights, as the embodiment of one or other of two ideas. It may be conceived either to comprise the collective wisdom of the nation, or to represent the collective opinions and feelings of the nation. Whichever of these be the true theory or whether the genuine conception be not a modification of the two-the democratic proposals are equally wide of carrying it out. If the object of the representative system be to collect into one body the élite of

* See Porter on the Self-imposed Taxation of the Working Classes. Also North British Review, vol. xxxi., Principles of Taxation.'


1852. True Theory of our Representative System.


the nation, the best, the wisest, the most experienced men it contains, then assuredly a widely extended suffrage would be a most strange and clumsy devise for attaining such an end.. Its successful working would demand a discernment, a selfknowledge, a self-denying virtue which no history warrants us in regarding as the characteristics of popular and imperfectly educated masses. The wisest men are often the most retiring, and would not seek popular suffrages; they are always the. most diffident and moderate, and would not command them; they are often the most unbending, and would not conciliate them; they are habitually the most far-seeing, and would soar out of the region of their sympathy. The best men are the most quick to feel and the sternest to reprove the wrong desires,. the selfish passions, the unhallowed means, so often paramount among popular masses, and they would disgust and repel the very people whose suffrages the theory requires them to: unite. The most experienced statesmen-those who have been longest at the helm-are often less likely than newer and more untried men to be selected by the popular voice. They will have inevitably disappointed many unreasonable expectations, offended many senseless prejudices, rebuked many unwarrantable. claims. They must often have imposed salutary, but galling restraints. They must have repressed with wholesome severity, dangerous, though perhaps excusable excesses. They must:



often have sown precious seed for future harvests, which seed, to visions less profound and prophetic than their own, will seem to have been wastefully thrown away. They must often have imposed present burdens of a most onerous pressure for the sake of a distant good not yet achieved, and only dimly seen. the course of their strict duty as wise and conscientious men, they must infallibly have cooled the zeal of many friends, and heated the animosities of many enemies. Yet the theory requires that the most numerous and least cultivated classes in the community shall have discernment, faith, and forbearance to. select them, in spite of all these repulsive antecedents, from among rivals undamaged by a trial. If the best and wisest men are to be chosen, the good and wise of the nation should be the choosers. If the Parliament is to be the élite, you must have something like the élite for your electors.

If, on the other hand, as democratic orators allege, the intention of the representative system is, that Parliament should consist of men specially acquainted with the wants, conversant with the interests, sympathising in the feelings of the nation,— that it should be a faithful reflex of the sentiments, opinions, and wishes of the whole community,-then complete suffrage' would appear to offer the surest means of failing of the end

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desired. For what is a Nation, in a highly advanced and complicated state of civilisation like ours? Not a mere aggregation of millions; not a homogeneous mass of units; but a congress of ranks and classes, bound together in an ancient and timecemented union; having, it is true, one common real ultimate interest, but varying in their characters, occupations, and immediate aims; called to special duties, discharging separate functions, guided by peculiar tastes and desires, representing different phases of intellect and opinion, and considering questions of government and social policy from widely divergent points of view. Some are by nature attached to the old, the venerable, and the stationary; others are by temperament impatient of stagnation, and eager for novelty and change. Some conceive that the true evolution of our destiny lies in progress; others would dwell for ever in the ancestral homes of wisdom and content. Some represent that element of restless enterprise which has subdued continents and traversed seas; which has stimulated the wonderful achievements of art, and has robbed science of her secrets; and which has laid every other land under contribution to enhance the amenities of our own. Others, again, embody the tastes and characteristics proper to the placid and plodding occupations of keepers of sheep and tillers of the soil. Some have the ideas of government which are natural to the leisure and refinement of aristocracy; others embrace those of an impetuous, energetic, unreflective democracy. And the proposed project for obtaining a fair representation-a faithful reflex of all these varieties of the conservative and the progressive, the religious and the reckless, the submissive and the turbulent, the noble and the plebeian-is to adopt such a system of election by numbers, as, if really operative, would virtually throw the whole representation into the hands of one class only-the class assuredly the most numerous, the most mobile, the most easily misled; but neither the most various, the most catholic, nor the most competent.

Such a scheme would clearly bring about at least as inequitable a distinction of political power, as is alleged by its critics to characterise the present system. Universal suffrage, manhood 'suffrage,' or any near approach to either, would be the most obvious and flagrant piece of class-legislation on record. It would hand over the entire power of the State to one section of the community. It would enable the working-classes to swamp and over-ride every other class, and, when they pleased, all other classes together.* The old unreformed franchise gave

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* In Leeds' (says Mr. Baines) if the parliamentary franchise were extended as far as the municipal franchise, it would more than


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Alleged Anomalies in the Representation.


preponderating influence to the aristocracy: the present system has transferred this to the middle ranks: the change demanded by the complete suffragists' would give it in overwhelming measure to the lower orders. Now systems which throw exclusive or overwhelming power into the hands of any class,whether that class be numerous or small,-commit an equal injustice, though it may not incur an equal danger. But in truth we are not left to the tyranny of the many or the tyranny of the few as our sole alternatives. Our whole Parliamentary theory is based upon a principle calculated, if faithfully adhered to, to preclude either. It professes to be a representation not of numbers, nor yet of property, but of CLASSES. If it were not so, it would be manifestly unfair, since it would then give to certain classes, not their due share in the national representation, but the monopoly of it. Considered from this point of view, the theory of our Constitution is unassailable, though it may not be adequately or consistently carried out. Considered from this point of view, the appalling incongruities charged upon it by the Chartists, constitute its peculiar merit. They cannot be denied: and from this position only can they be defended. If there were any foundation for the idea of the democratic party, that our object, or that of our forefathers, or the meaning of our Parliamentary Constitution, was to represent either individuals or pounds sterling,its present form would deserve all the ridicule that Mr. Carlyle has heaped upon it, and would require all the sweeping alterations which Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. O'Connor propose to introduce into it. Those who look at it in such a light, may well point with bitter derision to its monstrous and startling anomalies* ;-to the 37,000 electors of the West Riding return

double the present number of voters; we believe it would bestow the suffrage on a number of the working classes equal to all the other classes of voters together. If all householders were admitted to the franchise, the voters among the working classes would out-number those among all other classes put together in the proportion of three to one.'

Present Parliamentary electors, after deducting

Present Municipal electors

Estimated number of electors, if two years' resi-
dence were required

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5,200 15,700

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Ditto ditto if six months' residence ditto 30,000
Estimated number of occupants at a rental of 51.


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This is Mr. Baines' statement, in the 'Leeds Mercury' of Dec. 6. * National Reform Association Tracts.

ing the same number of members as the 2000 electors of Rutland; to 163,000 electors in one category returning the same number of members as 6600 electors in another;-to the vote of the member for Manchester, with a population of 250,000, neutralised by the vote of the member for Calne, with a population of 5000;-to the four members for the city of London, representing 20,250 electors, counterbalanced in the legislature by the four members for Harwich and Ludlow, representing 700 electors, and 9000 inhabitants;-to 21,000 electors here returning two members, and there one hundred and six. On their principles they may well be amazed and scandalised, that the rateable value of property represented by each member should in Rutland be 59,500l., while in Middlesex it is 520,000l.; that the rateable property of Sussex, which is 1,169,000l. should return 18 members, while that of Yorkshire, which is 5,446,0007. returns only 37;-that the two votes for Liverpool, representing assessments of the annual value of 845,000l., should be neutralised by the two votes for Honiton, representing an annual assessment of 98907.;-that the rateable property of Middlesex, amounting to 7,293,000Z., should return the same number of members (14) as seven small boroughs with a rateable property of only 85,000l. From the Chartist point of view, these incongruities must inevitably appear heinous and indefensible. From our point of view, the result of their proposed changes would seem at least equally so: and a system under which small towns as well as large, sparse districts as well as populous, poor places as well as rich, are represented, -appears indubitably wiser and fairer than either a representation according to numbers or a representation according to wealth.

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The franchise we regard as a machine, - imperfect and unscientific if you will, for the attainment of a twofold purpose; -first, for the selection of 658 reasonably competent legislators; secondly, for securing that the aggregate of these 658 chosen men shall, fairly and in due proportion, reflect and understand all those interests, feelings, opinions, and classes of character, which constitute the permanent elements of the nation. We desire that the slow intellects of the country should be represented, as well as the quick intellects of the city; the conservative sentiments of the sturdy drags on the movement, as well as the keen and impatient energy of the movement itself; the refined and philosophic, as well as the contentious and extreme; those who cherish pastoral delusions, as well as those who hug the scarce wider or more real hallucinations of bare utilitarianism; those who love peace, as well as those who

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