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this real or apparent evil. As the nation grew more populous, more opulent, and confequently as individuals grew more intriguing and ambitious, the effects of popular elections became more hurtful to the fobriety, peace, and industry of the community; the multiplication of such elections was an evident extension of the evil already felt and complained of; now if it be considered, that the number of representatives in parliament has been more than doubled since Sir John Fortescue rested our security for none but good laws being enacted upon the number of the members of parliament, who consented to them on behalf of the community, and that
the population of the kingdom is certainly not against the in- proportionably increased since that time, it will
be reasonable to infer, that as, including presentation.
peers, there are about eight hundred members of parliament quorum affenfu the statutes are now formed, there can be no deviation from the ancient constitutional intention and fpirit of parliaments, unless the increase of the numerical proportion of the representatives to the represented shall be thought a violation or abuse of the constitution. In order therefore to do away every idea of unequal representation between two boroughs very unequal in population and opu
The conftitutional remedy
adequacy of re
Jence, from the moment of the return of their respective members one becomes as much as the other a representative for the whole people or community of Great Britain. * “ Every member, though chosen by one particular district, when elected and returned serves for the whole realm ; for the end of his coming thither is not particular, but general ; not barely to advantage his constituents, but the commonwealth ; to advise his majesty (as The duties of appears from the writ of summons) de com- tives when once muni confilio super negotiis quibusdam arduis et urgentibus, regem, ftatum, et defensionem regni Angliæ et ecclefiæ Anglicana concernentibus ; and therefore he is not bound, like a deputy in the United Provinces, to consult with or take the advice of his constituents upon any particular point, unless he himself thinks it proper or prudent so to do.", Upon this principle therefore it must be allowed, that eight millions of individuals (supposing this to be the population of England) are more fully represented by eight hundred + than
• Blak. Com. b. i. c. 2.
+ Some people doubt whether the actual population of the kingdom be at all increased since that time; it certainly is not increased in the proportion of eight to three.
effects of bria bery.
by three hundred representatives, or personis consenting to the acts of the legislature.
It is certain, that the practice of every human institution must in some degree fall short of the perfection of its theory; bribery and corruption are old hacknied themes of popular declamation, and it will ever increase and be louder in proportion to the disap
pointment, envy, and malice of the difThe source and contented party. Less vociferous and less
frequent would be the complaints againft bribery, if the complainants did but recollect, that the root of the evil lay less in the offer, than in the acceptance of the bribe. It argues more corruption and depravity in a district, to find a hundred men ready to sacrifice their freedom and integrity for a triling bribe, than to find one man impelled by his ambition to offer it. No punishment can be too severe upon
those, who hold out the bait to the multitude; but until the corrupt disposition of electors be rectified, they will take care to render ineffectual the most vigilant and rigorous laws against the bribing offers of the elected. Ill therefore does it become those to complain of encroachments upon the conftitutional freedom of elections, whose voluntary and reflexed corruption completes the
guilt guilt of the act, by which the constitution is so feverely wounded. I wish not to extenuate the guilt of bribery, nor shall I endeavour to justify any design or attempt to deprive a voter of the freedom of his choice; but as the evil is 'absolutely effected by the elector, who under every circumstance of influence, fear, hope, or temptation, actually retains the freedom of his action, and therefore of his election, I must necessarily conclude, that the only effectual prevention of the evil will be the correction of the corrupt disposition of the electors; without this, every attempt or exertion of the magistrate will be futile and ineffectual.
It is not my intention to enter into the Qualifications minute and particular qualifications of each of ele&ors. elector for a representative in parliament; suffice it to say, that the constitution supposes him to be so independent in life, as not to be under the bias, controul, or influence of any one; therefore every elector for the knight of the shire must have bona fide freehold lands in the shire at least of the annual value of
405. which at the time of Hen. VI. when this qualification was first required, was equivalent to 201. in the present reduced value of money. By not accommodating this qualification to the present value of money, the constitution very much enlarges the rights of electors beyond
et the elected.
the original intention.
Almost every city and borough has its peculiar qualification for voting. Every voter must be of full age, a
natural-born subject, and re&tus in curia. Qualifications These three last qualifications are also re
quired in every person to be elected. No clergyman, judge, nor sheriff can be elected; nor indeed, generally speaking, can any person be elected, who holds a place or pension under the crown, by which the freedom of his conduct may be supposed to be biaffed. And if any member of parliament accepts an office under the crown, he thereby vacates his seat, and must return to his constituents, if he wish to be re-elected, that they may have the liberty of rejecting him, if they think, that the acceptance of such office will affect the freedom of his parliamentary conduct. A knight of the shire must have a qualification of bool. per ann. bona fide freehold landed property; and every citizen and burgess at least 300l. per ann. of like bona
fide freehold landed property. Means of pre
The great and constant attention, which serving the freedom of the elec- the constitution shews to the freedom of elec
tions appears through every stage of the process. After issuing the writs for chusing the members, every precaution is taken, that human foresight can suggest, to remove even