WE lay before our readers this week, the first part of the corrected tables of our" Anatomy of the House of Commons." Since the first publication of the tables, we have been much employed in arranging and condensing the mass of information which numerous correspondents from every quarter of the United Kingdom have poured in ; and to whom we must take this one opportunity—for to do it in detail would far exceed our limits—of expressing our grateful acknowledgments. We now submit to the public, as the result of their labours and ours, what we shall probably be thought entitled to call the most correct, complete, and interesting document on the state of our political representation, that has ever been published in England; a document which may certainly challenge, for the number and variety of the facts it exhibits, a comparison with the elaborate works of the most investigating of our statists, and to which no parallel, we believe, has appeared in the pages of any miscellaneous journal since the commencement of newspaper history. The form of the present tables is consider- ably different from that of the last ; and in their substance, so many additions and alterations have been made, that the second edition will be found in nearly all but the name a new work. The first table shows in one view the names of the places, alpha- betically arranged, the sitting members, the influence to which they owe their seats, the nature of the franchise, the reputed number of the electors. The last column is still open, and must remain open, to correction. It has indeed been admitted in the House of Commons, that neither has the House, nor the return- ing officer, nor, we may add, has any one else, the means of ascer- taining the actual number. The exact nature of the franchise, in many of the boroughs, is another difficulty which the House of Commons has yet made no serious attempt to solve. In the case of Rye, there have been two contradictory decisions in the course of the last twelve months, and in neither was the legislative defi- nition and the borough definition the same. It is, however, to the third column that the attention of our readers will be most naturally directed. It contains the influences which fill our senate with members ; and it is saddening to notice how small, how in- significant is the amount of the moral power which alone can give dignity to any legislature, that enters into the formation of ours. We find in it many rich—many noble—place—rank—money—all principles at work but the principles of patriotic honesty and pub- lic spirit.
The third table is a modification of the first ; it presents the patrons arranged in alphabetical order, with the names and num- bers of the places and members under their care. The remaining tables show in the plainest and most compact form the various members of the House of Commons, as distinguished into County members, members for Open (that is buyable) Boroughs, and No- minees, whether of relatives or of strangers, of individuals or public bodies. To the Anatomy we have added a mass of information in the shape of Notes, chiefly derived from private communica- tions, of a nature which did not admit of its being easily conveyed in the short and simple form of that to which it forms a valuable appendix. Our readers will find in these notes many curious aned- dotes, not hitherto previously collected, and many of them not previously published. It is not unworthy of notice, that only one borough which can be called rotten belongs to the present Cabinet. No Ministry for many long years has had so little to lose and so much to gain by reform in this the most noxious and corrupt part of our represen- tative system.
Twelve littleAonthst.ago, such tables as we now offer might have been a s4jedind-eunous contemplation to a few political
statists ; a few more, for mirth or for musing, might have glanced at our notes. We should have expected, and we should have re- ceived, the praise of laborious investigators of the particulars of a burden which had been borne 'so long, that many men have been found to assert that the nation could not move steadily without it. But now that the necessity of a change in our system is conceded in high places as well as in low, the information which we supply assumes a new character of importance. The first step, un9ues-
tionably, to a safe and perfect remedy of our political evils, is an accurate knowledge of their peculiarities and extent. It is in the light of a guide to those who seek, and to those whose task it will be to grant reform, that we most desire these tables to be ac- cepted; and it is for that object that they have been framed.
The necessity of putting an end to all boroughs, whether by the extension or abolition of their privileges, where the number
of electors renders an honest and impartial exercise of the franchise a matter of moral impossibility, is so obvious, that it would be an insult to the understandings of the readers of the SPECTATOR to waste a word in attempting to prove it. Some weak but well- meaning persons have hinted—we can hardly say suggested—the propriety of compensation in such cases. .Compensation for what?
for loss of the profits of bribeiy—of the reward of dishonour —of the wages of prostitution ? We would as soon tack a clause of compensation to the thief to an act against picking and steal- ing. When the right honourable and honourable patrons of the close boroughs have surrendered to the nation the amount, with interest, of all the places, pensions, and sinecures which they and their relatives and friends have enjoyed for the last hundred years, by consequence of their borough influence, then, and not until then, they may ask compensation for the loss of it.
The expense of an election may be, and must be diminished. The out-voters, or " foreigners," as they are called, are nearly as great a nuisance as the rotten boroughs. The expense attendant on the conveyance of non-residents is enormous. Even where there is no contest, these unblushing vagabonds are in the habit of requiring the members to indulge them in a quinquennial visit to the green spots of their early corruption. Where there is the shadow of a contest—and nothing is more common than to get one up for the express purpose—they must of course be indulged. This bribery (for what else is it ?) comes in a delicate shape. A substantial shopkeeper, who would spurn the offer of fifty pounds for his vote, has not the slightest reluctance to eat his way from London to Berwick-upon-Tweed, and back again, though his pud- ding and post-chaise cost a hundred : it is all in the way of busi- ness. The cutting off of all non-residents whatever, whether of borough, city, or county, is imperatively called for.
There is another point of great importance, which any scheme of reform that claims to be a rational one will of course settle. The qualification of voters is at present an endless source of diffi- culty. In the present Parliament, there have been, if we recollect rightly, about seventy contested returns ; that is, in one case out of nine, it has been found impossible by the returning officer to de- termine satisfactorily who was and who was not the member. The last ballot for a committee stands for the 22nd'of March next ; and before the last false member is unseated, he will probably have assisted in passing some of the gravest laws ever offered to Parliament. Surely, since the object of the franchise is one, the nature of the franchise may be one also. We do not suppose that disputes will cease under any system ; but were the qualification of electors uniform all over the •kingdom, and were there, as unquestionably there ought to be, a regular re- gistry of electors kept by a person appointed by the electors them- selves, we venture tolpredict, that instead of seventy, there would not in future be seven contested returns. The advantage of a uniform qualification is seen in the counties, where contested re- turns are so rare. In the counties, however, there are peculiar evils, which call for redress as much as those of the rotten and open boroughs. In the first place, the expense consequent on the extent of a large county renders a contest almost impossible. Yorkshire has been contested at the cost of a quarter of a million, but it was after all but a contest in name—all the electors of Yorkshire never have been, and, under the present system, never will be polled. The Duke of WELLINGTON was censured for calling county meetings farces, but small blame would be due to him who should so denominate county elections. Much more rea- sonable would it be to raise the franchise in England, as it has been done in Ireland, from forty shillings to ten pounds—much more reasonable would it be to narrow the constituency, and at the same time to elevate its character—than to keep it nominally ex- tensive, but really limited, and thus confer in most cases a local monopoly on the lowest and most dependent of the electors, those who crowd the outskirts of a few large towns. It is of little im- portance to be in possession of a power which requires a yet greater power to bring it into operation. There is, indeed, another expedient—district voting—but without the ballot district voting would be injurious rather than beneficial. If hardly in a county can improper influence be kept within moderate bounds, much less can that be effected in a hundred or parish. If England be at length to have a reform—if the promises of the Ministers, the prayers of the people, and the desires of the King, be not equally vain—we have given to our country the mea- sure of information required for carrying reform into effect : but if the bad system is still to be persisted in, animam liberavimus nnstram—we have performed our duty by putting its iniquities on. record.