25 DECEMBER 1830, Page 11


- THE doctrine of the ballot is assuming everyday a new importance. Many of the most respectable members of the House of Commons —and among them, if we may believe report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord ALTHORP—have become its advocates; and among the people, its friends increase in number and in strength daily. That it should be the subject of keen controversy, was to be expected : all public demands become so before they are con- ceded ; and, in general, it may be remarked, that the dispute waxes hotter as the hour of concession approaches. The Ex- aminer and the Standard have been especially employed in dis- cussing the question—the former pro and the latter con—for several weeks, with much interchange of compliments. We shall give a summary of the argument on both sides, accompanied by our own opinion ; which is altogether in favour of the ballot, as far as we can trace its workings. The first argument against the ballot is, that it is a novelty. When its advocates appeal to America or France, they are., told that the circumstances of these countries are essentially different from those of Great Britain, and no rule drawn from the practice there can be applied here. And when the general argument is offered, that the objection to novelty is equally applicable to Mr. GURNEY'S steam-coach as to the vote by ballot, the Standard makes answer by a series of observations gleaned from a field where we should hardly have expected to find our contemporary wandering—the Edinburgh Review—on the distinction between matter and mind, and on the progressive nature of physical and the stationary nature of metaphysical science. Now, granting all that the Review, and our very ingenious contemporary after the Review, have said on this rather obvious truth, what do they gain? The question concerns the science of government—and will th9 Standard affirm that it was as well known to the antediluvians as to the people of Europe in the year 1830? The same objection might have been made to the representative system itself—and probably was ; and yet the science of government, under that no- velty, has made more progress in five hundred years than it did from Adam down to the wra of its introduction.

The next objection is, that though the ballot be good for a small community, it is not good for a large community. This is an ar- gument that we do not understand. In the first place, we do not see clearly what is meant by small and great, so applied. Great Britain is a small community in comparison of France, France in comparison of Russia, Russia of China. The Standard, in the same breath, asserts, that mind is the same at all times ; that Adam knew as much about ita operations as DUGALD STEWART; and that the feelings and modes of thinking of mankind depeud. essentially, on their numbers—that one, million has one set of wishasand desires, five millions another, and tenlaillians a Writ?' There has been a good deal of playing upon words in this Con- troversy. The pro-ballot writer says—it is the highest interest of

the community to have a good and cheap government, and the

ballot will enable the community to consult this its highest in- terest. • The-anti-ballot writer answers, that mankind are more in- fluenced by'passitin (impulse is what he means) than interest.

Now, all that the advocates of ballot contend for -is, that by that system voters will be free to consult their highest-interest. They

do not enter into any discussion of the springs of human action ; they do not expect that the secret vote will alter or modify them ; they lay down the truth—indeed the truism—that it is the interest of the community to be governed well.; and they say the ballot will give to the community the power of consulting its interest, if it so incline; Under the present system, the personal interest of the voter and 'the interest of the community 4re not in one, but, in 'al- most every ease, opposed to each other, Atpresentethe voter does

not act from impulse, but from the narrowest and most sordid conSideraf ions of interest. The impulses of humanity are com- monly honest, and almost always obeyed when it is safe to obey them ; it is the object of the ballot to make it safe.

It is next urged, that if we remove the check of :public opinion, the most infamous of mankind may be elected to Parliament—the man whom no person durst openly name Without calling down re- probation On his head. When we are told of the check of public opinion, it would be well at the same time to let us know • some- thing of its power in its present operation. The town of Liver- pool-is large, wealthy, intelligent ; it has newspapers, news-rooms, exchanges—all the instruments, all the workshops for manufactur- ing and-publishing this omnipotent opinion ; and how do the elec; boos at Liverpool go on ? Look at the last election ! Look at -the seilling, guttling; brazen-faced ruffians who made up the mass of the voters for each candidate ! Look at the tens of- thousands spent in the open; Unblushing purchase of their suffrages—and

then talk about public opinion! •

IaLinerpool singular? Is not the same game played, on a great kale or a small; in every town of the kingdom ? ' Listen to the " cannie " patriots of Beverley, who would have an upright arid' independent and frugal • Meinber 'of: P.arliament—a man of Mn, HUME'S recorninendation—and would eleot him at the rate of four pounds a head for a split vate,-nr six pounds for 'a plumper, which- ever be chose. The only -public 'opinion to which the-anti-ballot *titers would appenlAs,that winch comes . to the htistin-gs: in the gtile of k Mike ora 11,far9uis;determined " tO•do what he pleases,

with Compel the trembling voter into a .surrender of his conscience under the,terror of an ejectment., •

'But if there be any well-grounded fear that by the system; of bal- lot a person may be introduced into Parliament, who, from uOto- ziety of hide:needy; Ought not under . any system to sit there, no- thing is more easy and obvious than the prevention—let the nomi- nations be open. There never can be wanting in any borough ender a Reformed Parliament, a sufficient number of independent voters for that purpose..

It has been said of the ballot, that it would make a man's whole life a lie. This was Lord BROUGHAM'S argument. The Small Beer Knight Of Southwark was frothing away on the same objection last week and the week before, as furiously as a cask of the newest and best of the vapid liquor to whose diffusion his labours, as he' boasts, have so essentially contributed. The meaning of the objection seems to be, that common honesty and the keeping of a secret can not exist together ; thathe who does not babble to every echo he meets the history of his political life, can neither possess his conscience nor his quiet. The ancient Persians, it is said, taught their youth "to tell the truth, and to keep a secret ;': but, according to Lord BROUGHAM'S ideas, no two things can be more incompatible. This is the reason why diploma- tists, and statesmen generally, are by common consent so addicted to lying—they have secrets to keep—lying with them is a condi- tion of 'office.

But then come a another objection, also Lord BROUGHAM'S— the voter by ballot will not keep his secret! It will ooze out ; he

• will tell it to his crony over his cups ; or whisper it to ,his wife ; or, like the barber of Midas, if he can find no other method of un- burthening his,soul, he will tell it to the reeds, rather than keep it to himself. We need hardly remark on .the value of two argu- ments, the affirming of either of which necessarily involves the negation of the other. If, in consequence of the ballot, a man -keep his secret, lie will be secure, however false ; if he do not keep it, he will be honest, however insecure, even on Lord BROUGHAM'S showing. Besides, it is not enough, even were the assertion as sound as it is nonsensical, to assert that a man who keeps the secret, of a political vote to himself is a liar or worse ; it must be shown that he who votes from any motive other than the unbiassed impulse of his own mind; is not, under every system of. voting, false to truth And conscience.. The difference 'between the open and secret systems is this—the .timorous- and 'dependent Toter, under the prasent system, votes for and :advocates the cause which he abhers ; under the ballot, he votes against and advocates the cause which he abhors. In the latter case, he is true YO his country, and false to his conscience; in the former, he is true to neither. The dependent voter, under the open system, is a liar and an evil-doer; under the ballot system, he may be a liar, but bin acts are honest.

With respect to voters under the ballot system blabbing, we may just remark, that the case of Midas is not in point. Midas, though he was an ass, had sense enough to keep his own secret—

it was let out by another. And do not those who argue in this way, perceive, that the. point of honour would interfere to prevent a voter from telling how he voted ? • For what purpose should he tell it ?7—to .get a reward-e-that is, to secure, if poSsible, a post- election bribe—to lay himself open to the imputation of corrup-

tion, with the least possible chance:of seeming its 'fruits. A man Who let out such -a secret, would pass with his • companions and the world not as an-honest, but as a vain or a sycophantic fellow.

We have heard it objected to ballot, that it would-put an end to discussion on the political merits of candidates. We think it

Would not. It might•or might not put an end to huStings.speeches; but Whatever gives a man a real and substantial interest in the doings of the government, must increase his -desire to in- ' quire into " them. The Americans are a thousand times more inquisitive respecting their Ooziness than we are respecting our Parliament, because there is hardly a- man ire America whose opinions do not, in some degree, influence the opinions of Con- gress.' Give the people', of England a greater share in the forma- tion of their Parliamentand they will feel a stronger interest in it. The Standard asserts that the ballot must prove 'destructive of the Aristocracy ; and it has complained that this objection has not been met. We really cannot see how 'a mere assertion, unSupported by one shadow of proof, can be met but by a counter assertion.. To say that a good master of a family, a good friend, a good neighbour, a good member of society, will be rejected by the community, notwithstanding these essential claims to its respect, because of the accidental and, superadded claims of a good estate and an ancient and well-merited title, seems to us more absurd than to say, that a werthless master of a family, a- worthless friend, a 'worthless :neighbour, a worthless member of society, ought, Merely on account-of his estate and. title, to be -accepted by the community, as, Under the present system of voting, he very often is. But granting that. the voters, 'under the system of ballot, should invariably prefer untitled men, what is the force of the ob- jection? When we ask the .people to elect a member, do we ask them to vote for the man they like, or the man they don't like ? Is the appeal to the sense of the . electors, or to that of their lords ? If the Standard says that the electors should not vote for whom they please, why not propose at once to • abolish.•the septen- nial farce of election altogether? This would be a consistent way of Putting the case ; but it is a way which the advocates for ballot are not called on to travel—they 49,.on the • assumption that the

people shOtild elect thein'epreseKatives. •, ---

There is one further, objection, which we shall notice, although this article be already long—for it is our wish to exhaust the sub- ject. Lord ACHESON, the member for Armagh, in opposing the vote by ballot in the House of Con-Miens, observed, that ...though it excluded individual bribery,- it did not•eiclude bribery 'in the mass. A man might still say to the worthy and independent electors 'ofLiverpool, for example,-" I'll give you twenty thousand pounds if you return me or my friendr—hecould not chill the affections of a voter by cold brandy and, water, nor warm his heart by hot punch, but he could give him' the' essential in the way of a post-election reward. Mr. O'CoNNEee remarked that this was a possible bat not a probable case—that a reformed Par- liament would present no sufficient inducement for such wholesale bribery—that money, which is now but prudently invested in such political speculations, would, under a system in which Sinecures and monopolies were abolished,.be thrown away. • There is a good deal in this answer, but it does not meet the whole case. The question is not as to the prudence or propriety of such a purchase; but whether the vote by ballot would exclude it. We think it would—from.the impossibility of satisfactorily arranging the terms of the bargain. How could this supposed scheme of universal bribery be compassed, unless by the candidate's putting himself in the power of every elector of the borough or county, friend or foe, honest .or. knave ? How would it be pessiblelo con- ceal suCh a scheme? Would not the necessary consequence be the reduction of any election so conducted—the loss et the seat, and the loss ofthe purchase-money ? But granting the possibility of Lord ACHESON'S case, to what does it amount ?—that vote by ballot is a human invention, and imperfect. It must be admitted that in large towns it would render bribery wholly ruinous ; in small towns infinitely more difficult than under_the present system; and ivhat more is required to recommend-it to our adceptance ? it has been asked, if the ballot be good for the electors, Whether it mtist not be equally good for the elected ?—if used at the hust- ings, whether it ought not also to be used in the -senate ? Those who put this question forget that the electors vote for themselves— the representatives for the . electors. If the deputy's vote were secret, how could those who deputed him know whether he ful- filled his trust or betrayed it? . It might as well be argued, that because,a man does not see fit consult' the parish at large when he signs a power of attorney, he to whom it is.granted Should be entitled to observe the same secrecy to his client that his client does to his neighbours.

We have but one word to add—we would for the present effect, if possible, a compromise between the friends and the enemies of the ballot We are about to extend the franchise to several places that do not now enjoy it—that, having never known the advantages

of open voting, cannot regret its loss • let the ballot be tried there in the first instance. led work well, let it be extended; if ill, it will only add one to the thousand contradictions and irregularities

of a representative system, out of which its admirers 'mould per-

suade us arise all the order and consistency of our constitution.