CHOICE OF EVILS.
SIR—In your remarks on Mr. Lingen's letter, in your paper of July 24, you say that " no consideration couldjustify the votes of electors against their own political convictions." May I ask whether you mean that an elector is never justified in voting for a candidate of different polities from himself ? I sm anxious to know, because I had rather not run counter to a dictum of yours if I can help it, and if that is your meaning, I am afraid I have been doing so.
When there is a candidate whom you approve, your course is clear ; so I, as well as your Cambridge correspondent " A Whig," think it is when the personal eminence of a candidate, even though you differ from his views, renders it positively desirable that he should be in Parliament. My case is, when you have simply a choice of evils—when you have no candidate either whom you approve or who is of any personal eminence, but where, all being bad, some are much worse than others. This was my position just now in West Gloucestershire : we had three candidates, all of whom I thought objectionable, but of whom I thought one so much more objectionable than the other two as to make them by comparison positively desirable. I, who call myself a cross between .a "Liberal Conservative" and a "philosophical Radical," was solicited by two Protectionists and a Whig, none of them of the Macaulay or even the Walpole calibre. I had thus no candidate with whom I agreed on the whole; but with one there was an important individual point of agreement on the question of Free-trade. Nevertheless, I voted for the Protectionists; and I think not without reason. We had to choose be- tween Mr. Hale, a Protectionist squire, very slow and respectable ; Mr. Grantley Berkeley, who is somewhat better known to fame, and whom both his friends and his enemies persist in considering as a Protectionist in his own despite ; finally, the " Liberal" candidate, a young gentleman rejoicing in the name of Robert Nigel Fitzhardinge Kingscote, whose chief qualifies- tions seemed to be a handsome face, a long pedigree, the respectable patron- age indicated by his third name, and an entire ignorance of all political questions. He brought nothing with him but a few claptrap phrases about Free-trade and Liberal principles, combined with a miserable sectarian cry against Popery and Puseyism, most unscrupulously employed when neither of the other candidates could be accused of any leanings of the kind. On being questioned on several important points, local, colonial, ecclesiasti. cal, and general, he stood mute : there was nothing about them in the speech which had been made for him. Again, he was the nominee of two noble earls and a rich ironma-ter, who between them command many hundred votes, and who exercised their power most unscrupulously on his behalf. In fact, I could find nothing to agree with in him except the one question of Free-trade ; on other points, I could only make out that he represented religious intolerance and intimidation of electors. Did I not then do right, under these circumstances, in voting for Messrs. Hale and Berkeley, who, Derbyites though they were, did represent the main principle of all liberty, the right of Englishmen to exercise their elective franchise es they please, without reference either to the Tarquin of the castle or to the meaner tyrant of the pit ? In fact, though my vision may have been some- what obscured, I certainly saw in Mr. Berkeley's steed Beacon the very White Horse of Hengist, and in his rider nothing short of the embodiment of the laws of Sing Edward, the Great Charter, and the Petition of Right.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
A WEST GLOUCESTERSHIRE FREEHOLDER.
N.B.—Can you tell me if Mr. S. Laing, the new Member for Wick, is the same as Mr. S. Laing the distinguished author of "Notes of a Traveller" ? If so, we may congratulate the new House of Commons on the accession of one of the clearest and soundest thinkers of the day.
[The Mr. S. Laing who is returned for Wick is not " the distinguished author of Note., of a Traveller," " one of the clearest and soundest thinkers of the day," but is the active and able Chairman of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, author of that speech on railway acci- dents whioh we have been induced to notice for its very peculiar train of thinking. As to the larger question put by our correspondent, he appears to us to have taken exactly the course which we indicated at first, when the discus- sion into which we have been drawn was prospective and practical and not abstract or retrospective. An elector has the choice of voting or not, as he pleases. If the candidates be all too bad, he may withhold his vote. If he wait for absolute and perfect concurrence, perhaps there could only be one candidate for whom he would vote, and it would he with himself to deter- mine whether that candidate should come forward. On rare occasions, the election may be for one paramount object : the Member then is a pledged delegate ; and absolute agreement with him, on a specific point, is the thing for the elector to ascertain. In the vast majority of cases, the object is to make as good.a Parliament as possible, and then the elector will give his vote according to the balance of qualifications in the candidates; as the Gloucestershire Freeholder appears to have done. In some cases, as rare perhaps as the one mentioned above, it may be possible .that a constituency should elect a man differing from it on most specific points : we could, for instance, imagine a Radical constituency so struck with the disgrace that would have been entailed upon the country were a man like Gladstone ex- cluded from Parliament, that it would set aside an honest nobody of Radical opinions, to give the excluded statesman a seat. The question, then, to be determined by the time and circumstances, would be, Is it worse that one private of the Radical ranks should be lost, or that a Gladstone should be excluded from the Great Council of the Nation ?—En.]