THE GENERAL ELECTION — HINTS TO ELECTORS. • ADVICE to electors, like
other advice, is more frequently tendered than accepted. We have no reason to suppose, that amidst the din and hustle that will be spread over the land in a few days, our voice will be better heard than the still and small cry of reason and justice usually is ; but it is our duty to raise it nevertheless, let them listen who will. We have exceedingly little faith in Mr. HUME.S dac- tribe that the electors of England can return an independent House of Commons if they will. In this case, the honourable gentle- man will find that " two its. scarce make one possibility.' The mass of the electors will do in the present as they have done on every former occasion—look to their patrons' pleasure and their own interests, and let the kingdom and its concerns jog on as they best may. But there must be a few of those in whom the highest privilege of freemen is vested, who are honestly desirous of doing their duty well and truly ; and to such, an observation or two on the description of men which the nation at present requires, will not appear out of season. The task of an elector, in consequence of the laws which have been passed by the Parliament now hastening to its great account, has been at once simplified and complicated. It has been simplified, inasmuch as extrinsic qualifications, of great weight and value in former elections, have been removed ; and it 'has been com- plicated, inasmuch as men who would judge just judgment must now direct their scrutiny to many particulars which were formerly considered of small importance. The badge of " Church and King" no longer forms a sign by which an elector can discern whom to choose or whom to reject. He has no longer an uner- ring shibboleth by which to distinguish the true man from the false. If he would be an honest watchman of the fords of our political Jordan, he must extend his investigation I o numerous and minute particulars, which his ancient test enabled him to pass lightly over. On the subject of that test, to which some of the candidates who have no other qualification would fain revert, we have but one word to say—Whoever, in the present election, puts himself forward as a defender of the Church, is an impostor ; whoever puts himself forward as a defender of the Dissenters, is an impostor. There is no distinction in matters political between Churchmen and Dissenters. He who would attempt to make one, acts no longer unreasonably, but illegally. To all persons who come to them in the Church interest, as it is called, let the electors put this plain question- " Will you vote for the re-enactment of the Test Laws and Catho- lic Penal Acts ?" If they answer " Yes," they are fools ; if "No," they are hypocrites ; and in either case they are quite unworthy of an honest and sensible elector's support.
The men who now put themselves on their country, are partly untried, and their characters must in some measure be guessed at—partly persons who haVe already sat in Parliament, and whose conduct there will furnish the electors with materials by which to judge of their fitness. Now, although, as we said, the task of an elector has been complicated by the events of the last two years, it is by no means so difficult that a very small share of intel- lect may not enable him to perform it rightly. Let any man, when he sets about voting, think for a few minutes of the requisites which he would seek in an agent to whom he meant to intrust the management of his private fortunes, and he will be at no loss about those of the man to whom he is about to in- trust the fortunes of the state.
That he should be honest, is so very obvious, that it would be a waste of words to attempt to prove it. And by honesty, we do not mean mere legal justice. No bad father, bad son, husband, or neighbour, no tyrannous magistrate, no griping landlord, cart ever be a fit person to make laws for the regulation of fathers and sons and husbands, much less of magistrates and landlords. But honesty is not the only requisite, though the first—a member of Parliament ought to be a man of sound information. He may have as many of the greater lights as God shall see fit to bless him with, but he ought ever to possess along with them the every- day light of common sense, and the capacity of applying it to every-day topics. All candidates for his notice, which a plain witted elector shall find deficient in such knowledge as lies within the reach of an ordinary understanding, whatever be their claims to genius and talents, and so forth, he may unhesitatingly set down as fitter for a.common than a House of Commons. Next to sound sense andgeneml information, the great qualifi- cation in a member of Parliament is, habits of activity and perse- verance. It is not mile-long-speech men, who go down to the House once in three months to make a display and interrupt bug siness by mooting questions of no earthly importance—by cumber- ing the Votes with strings of resolutions of no earthly application, . and during the interval leave the machine of government to go backward or fOrward as chance may happen to direct,—it is not such that the nation at present wants. A member of Parliament ought to make his public duties the subject of his constant study. The opportunities of shining, in Parliament as out of it, are com- paratively rare ; but there is not a single night of the session, or a single hour of the night, in which an opportunity to be useful does not occur. Whether for the purpose of expediting .what is really good, or 'of checking what is really evil, business men are most essential. It matters not how many talents a man have, if he allow pleasure or vanity or indolence to wrap a napkin round them. He who stays away when an important tax is to be voted or an important bill to be forwarded, because he has a race or a party to attend—because he is lazy or disinclined—is in one sense more criminal than he who stays away for a direct bribe. A celebrated political writer once said that a good patriot must be a good hater. A hater of men, no good patriot ever was, or in- deed can be ; but he will and must be a sturdy and persevering hater of every thing in the shape of cant and commonplace—he must seek the truth, and earnestly pursue after it, unchecked by the trumpery of form, and the conventional slang which those who would turn him from it may attempt to interpose between him and his object. An honest and intelligent legislator will neither be wheedled nor bullied out of his opposition to an improper measure. He knows that he has but to go straight to the root of an evil, to strike boldly and vigorously, and that the shadows which knaves have conjured up to frighten fools will disappear the instant that it falls.
The last requisite in a member of Parliament—and it is the safeguard of all the rest —is the possession of the means of independence. Not that an overgrown fortune is necessary for a legislator ; but, in his industry, or in his estate, every man who enters the House of Commons ought to have the means of supporting himself and his family. It is not that the honesty of a poor man might give way under the temptation which a Minister can always offer, but a poor man has too many cares without the House to be burdened with the cares within it. There is, however, a character much more dangerous than the honest poor man, and that is the profligate rich. It is not for necessities or conveniences that men sell their souls—these are, and ever have been, within the reach of economy and industry. The alieni cupidi, all over the world, are the profusi sui ; it is " the lust of the eye and the pride of life," the cravings of vanity and vice, that sends the low ruffian to the road to rob the indivi- dual, and the high ruffian to Parliament to plunder the com- munity. Such are the general tests by which any elector may try the candidate for Parliamentary honour; and we are not without hopes that by- some few they will be judiciously applied. Let them but ask (not the candidate, but themselves) before they go to the poll—" Is the man for whom I am about to vote honest ? is he a man of sound judgment ? of business habits ? has he boldness enough to do his duty in defiance of power and prejudice, honestly, wisely, steadily ? With the desire, has he the means of maintain- ing independence ?" Let but the electors vote on the affirmative of these simple interrogatories, and we shall, as Mr. HUME says we may, have an honest, intelligent, and upright House of Commons.
There is a particular test much dwelt upon by the Times, which, for its simplicity, may recommend itself to many,—the Corn Laws. " Ask every candidate," says that journal, " if he will vote for the repeal of the Corn Laws, and treat him accordine-b to his answer." The Corn Laws are a great nuisance : they have offended many and benefited few. Their object was to plunder the eaters of bread, in order to keep up the profits of the growers. They were well-meant, but hitherto the laws of Nature have con- tended with the laws of the land. The Aristocrats have been foiled by Radicals of whom they thought not —the radical heat and the radical moisture. Still, the Corn Laws are bad laws, and ought to be repealed. We would, however, extend the ques- tion proposed by the Tunes. We would ask candidates, not " Will you vote for the repeal of the Corn Laws?" but " Will you vote against all monopolies, agricultural or commercial Will you vote against the laws that compel us to pay 50 per cent. more for our bread than we ought, to fill the pockets of the landlords, and against those which compel us to pay 70 per cent, more for our tea than we. ought, to fill the pockets of the East India Company ?" In short, we would ask them, would they vote against every law that prevents an Englishman from carrying his goods to the dearest, and his money to the cheapest market he can find—that makes plunder of any portion, small or great, of the community, for the sake of enriching any other portion ? This is the form of the question which we would submit,—first, because it is more just, and secondly, because the test it supplies is more certain, and its application far more extensive. It is a mighty easy thing for him that battens on the people by one monopoly, to cry down another in which he has no share. According to our way of view- ing justice, it consists in something else than attacking our neigh- bour's dishonesty—it includes the relinquishment of our own..- .. There is a still wider test than that which we have pro- posed, for it includes, in its proper and legitimate sense, the sub- stance of all that .the honest politician can require in his represen- tative—we mean Reform. The word is of bad odour with some— we wish we had another, but we have not. We shall make but one remark upon that test. For what does Parliament meet ? Is it not to make laws ? Ought not the legislators, in reputation and reality, to occupy the highest intellectual rank among the inhabitants of the country ? Does the House of Commons hold that rank ? Let any man compare the condition of England in 1789 with its condition now, and calculate the progress which the people have made during the lapse of forty years. Let him next turn to the House of Commons of 1780 and to the House of Commons of 1830, arid estimate the progress which the represen- tatives of the people have made during the lapse of forty years. ' And then let him ask himself—he needs no other counsellor— whether it be possible, in the nature of things, that those who rule should always linger behind thoSe that are ruled—that law- makers should be stationary, while society is advancing as it has done during the period to which his survey has been directed. We rest the whole question of reform on the reply.