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REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT CONTINUED. BASIS
OF PROPERTY. DIRECT AND INDIRECT ELECTIONS.
28. The prominent points of a national representative government, considered as a guarantee of liberty, consist in the representative principle, that is the basis of representation and the right of voting for the representative, in the election laws, and in the organization of the representative legislature, with its own protection and liberties.
All that we can say Anglican liberty requires regarding the principle of representation is that it be a broad or popular one. Universal suffrage cannot be said to be an Anglican principle, whatever the American view, of which we shall treat by and by, may be. The principle of a wide popular representation, however, or an extensive right of voting, has constantly though slowly expanded in England, and continues to be expanding.
The English, not allowing universal suffrage or indeed a representation based upon numbers alone, require some limit beyond which the right of voting shall not go. This limit is, as a general rule, which has however its exceptions, indicated either by property or by a certain annual expense which usually indicates the amount of income over which man may dispose, namely house-rent. Hence it is often said that property is the basis of representation in Eng. land. This is not correct. Property, or the enjoy. ment of a certain revenue either from acquired property or from an industrial occupation, gives the right of voting, but it is not the basis of representation.
1 For the historic development of the English representative government it will hardly be necessary to refer the reader to Hallam's History of the English Constitution.
When it is maintained in modern times that property ought to be the basis of representation, or it is asserted that the English constitution is founded on property, an inappropriate term is used, which carries along with it erroneous associations, in almost all discussions on this subject. When we say that population is the basis of representation, we mean indeed that one representative is chosen for a distinct number of represented citizens, and that therefore a large population should have more representatives than a small one; but when it is said that property is or ought to be the basis of representation, we mean in almost all cases nothing more than that a certain amount of property or revenue is required to entitle a man to vote. The Roman constitution ascribed to Servius Tullius was really founded upon property, because the six classes of citizens actually took a share in the government of the state in proportion to the property they held. Thus likewise there is a partial representation of property prescribed by the constitution of South Carolina, for the composition of the state senate, inasmuch as the
small but wealthy divisions of the lower part of the state elect a number of senators disproportionately large compared to the number of senators sent from the upper districts of the state, which are very popu. lous and possessed of proportionately less property. This was at least the case when the constitution was adopted.
What is really meant when it is said that a constitution ought to be founded on property, is this : that a minimum amount of property ought to be adopted as the last line beyond which no suffrage ought to be granted, but not that a capital of a million or the possession of a thousand acres of land ought to be entitled to a greater share in government than the possession of a few thousand dollars. It is meant that we seek for a criterion which will enable us to distinguish those who have a fair stake in the welfare of the state from those who have not. But here occurs at once the question: Is this criterion in our age any longer safe, just, and natural, which it may be supposed to have been in former ages ? Are there not thousands of men without property who have quite as great a stake in the public welfare as those who may possess a house or enjoy a certain amount of revenue? This criterion becomes an actual absurdity when by property, landed property only is understood. It was indeed in the middle ages almost the exclusive property of lasting and extensive value; but nothing has since changed its character more than property itself. This whole question is one of the vastest extent, and emphatically belongs to the science of politics and
real statesmanship. In regard to the subject immediately in hand, we have only to repeat that an extensive basis of representation is doubtless a characteristic element of Anglican liberty.
29. As important as the basis of representationindeed, in many cases more important—is the ques. tion whether there shall be direct elections by the people, or whether there shall be double elections ; that is to say, elections of electors by the constituents, which electors elect the representative. It may be safely asserted that the Anglican people are distinctly in favor of simple elections. Elections by electing middle men deprive the representation of its directness in responsibility and temper; the first electors love their interest, because they do not know what their action may end in; no distinct candidates can be before the constituents, and be canvassed by them, and, inasmuch as the number of electors is a small one, intrigue is made easy.
The fact that a double or mediate election foils in a great degree the very object of a representative government, is so well known by the enemies of liberty, that despotic governments, unable to hold their absolute power any longer, have frequently struggled hard to establish universal suffrage with double election. An intention to deceive, or a want of acquaintance with the operation of the principle must explain the measure. I believe that neither American nor Englishman would think the franchise worth having were double elections introduced, and so decidedly is the simple election ingrained in the Anglican character, that in the only notable case in
which a mediate election is prescribed in America, namely the election of the president of the United States, the whole has naturally and of itself become a direct election. The constitution is obeyed, and electors are elected, but it is well known for which candidate the elector is going to vote, before the people elect him. There is but one case of old date in which an elector, elected to vote for a certain candidate for the presidency, voted for another, and his political character was gone for life.
It is curious to observe by what circuitous ways and multiplied elections it was frequently attempted in the middle ages, to insure an impartial or pure election. The master of the knights of Malta was elected by no less than seventeen consecutive elections of electors, each connected with oaths ;? and the doge of Venice was elected by nine different acts, namely five elections alternating with four acts of drawing lots, with the addition of collateral votings.
30. The representative principle farther requires that the management of the elections be in the hands of the voters, or of a popular character; that especially the government do not interfere with them, either in the election bureau itself, or by indecently proposing and urging certain candidates ; that the house for which the candidates are elected be the sole judge of the validity of the election, and
2 Vertol's History of the Knights of Malta, folio edition, London, 1728; vol. ii. Old and New Statutes.
3 Daru, Histoire de Venise, Paris, 1821, vol. i.