10 NOVEMBER 1860, Page 11


WE have a festering sore in our 'body politic now growing so dan- gerous as to create an apprehension of mortification to the cake constitution. The political history of Ilerwiek is the history and gradual development of electoral corruption. There the art and mystery of bribery has been studied and carried out with almost scientific accuracy. A portion of the voters are like the horse- leech and " give, give," embraces their political ereed. For half a century or more, a notion descending from sire to son, causes the voters to look upon largesses in the form of "head money" as their imprescriptive right. It is no matter to them that Reform Bills and Corrupt Practices Prevention Bills pima ; Berwick stands on its ancient ways, and walks in its old paths. Isolated geogra- phically from theeivilization of two nations, Berwick stands a monu- ment in ruins, reminding us of, a dark and almost forgotten past in constitutional history.

. TheoxaMple of Berwick is dangerous, and its marvellous escapes from disfranchisement have, contributed to carry the practice of corruption elsewhere. At the present moment two oonstituencies, one old like Berwick, the other young and active, are suspended from the exercise of their constitutional functions. Berwick, with that ancient luck which sometimes attends the children of darkness, at the present moment has two representatives in the halls of legislation. Sold and bought over and over again, it now stands confessed as the worst constituency that ever figured in our annals. Sixty-two persons out of no great number are stated to have been bribed by payment of forty pieces of silver on one aide, and as to the Other, we know that one active elector was con- victed in the penalty of 100/. for attempting bribery. But the disease of Berwick spreads ; formerly, it was content with vulgar payments ; lately, it has aspired to influence Governments and make contracts for military occupation where schoolmasters were more wanted. Nay, its corruption is so notorious, that politicians on both sides are reciprocally afraid of the discoveries, and so they barter seats by contracts of exchange, rather than let the naked- ness of the land appear.

Captain Gordon, one of the .present Members, was a defeated candidate in lt35'7. But Captain Gordon was wealthy ; and Ber- wick loves wealthy men. Wealth is the Juggernaut before which it politically bends. So"Captain Gordon, with appropriate but deli cate irony, built a church. Nay, he did more : the Vicar told him there were poor people in Berwick, and so the Captain appointed a certain Mi. William M'Ciall his almoner in the dispensation of his charity. Considerable sums were intrusted to M‘Gall, who happened to be known also as the local Conservative agent in

humble attendance upon the orders of Berwick Tory magnates. So valuable were M`Gall's services to Captain Gordon, that he was rewarded first with 50/. and then with 100/. for his mere trouble. What with M'Gall's distributive talent and the trans- eendental political merits of Captain Gordon, the result of the elec tion of 1859 was, that the Captaih came in at the top of the poll, Mr. Earle, his brother Tory, being a good second. But there was a petition, and ugly facts behind it. Instead of fighting it out, Mr. Majoribanks assented to a sickly compromise

of the position ; Mr. Earle accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, and Mr. Majoribanks came in after another contest with Mr. Hodgson by a majority of one. This single contest provoked inquiry ; and

a very nasty inquiry it was, for it involved both sides in an examination of bad votes before a Committee. We owe it to that Committee that we have Berwick misdeeds dragged into the light of day. The lesson may be salutary if' we dare to use the sur- geon's knife, and deprive Berwick of the power to do further mis- chief; if we hesitate at amputation, we may pay a heavy penalty forour mistaken leniency, We ‘.‘ must be cruel tohe lurid."

The very existence of, such a constituency is an incentive to corruption elsewhere. Berwick besought its candidate to get its barracks restored ; the candidate was private secretary to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer.. The Secretary wrote a letter; his chief sent the letter to the War Office; the War Office of course did not promise anything, because the secretary asked it, but be- cause, the office happened to have a report at hand from an in- spector who thought Berwick might cheaply. accommodate 192 men, The men, were not sent, but commissioners it was said were at work, and of that statement Mr. Earle made good use. He gave out that he had done something which would restore Berwick rign military, station. A delusive impression was created on the minds of the people, and in. gratitude for favours to come, they rotnrued Mr. Earle to Parliament. An authority as high as Mr. Disraeli calls this "a, venial offence." Many such venial offences would destroy the entire superstructure of our constitution in the moment of operation by vote. . _Even Mr. Disraeli himself is_ affected, and is compelled to come befOrd the Berwick Election Conimission to clear up doubts created by a certain Sergeant Brodie, who, because he was befriended by Mr. Disraeli, sought to betray him. We entirely believe Mr. Disraeli's Version of the interviews with the late sergeant-saddler. Brodie imagined he could do Mr. gtirle good at Berwick, at least, he said:so. Mr. Disraeli gave Brodie a letter of introduction to Mr. Rose the Conservative agent in electionS. Mr. Rose,, with sharp professional experience, soon detected his man, and refused to see ,him again. But there was some talk about, money and BerWick. If Berwick were not so bad, agents like Brodie would not dare to speak of terms for its electors. The very fact of ihere being so corrupt a body of electors, is enough to set agents at work for the purchase of " their most sweet voices." Berwick is cledaying ; its glory and :pride, if ever it had any,' departed with stage-coaches, and its virtues -are absorbed by larger and more active populations, North and South. Commercially behind the age, the mind of the borough has become stagnant, and it is only in the event of an election_ that it has a chance of "a transac- tion." Meanwhile, the United Eingdern is relieved of the pre- sence of Mr. M`Gall. lIe was ordered to prepare a list of persons to whom he had given Captain Gordon'.; charitable donations. He produced a list that the hard-hearted Commisaionere refused to receive, and Ordered another to be ready by, Tuesday. Mr. M`Gall writes to his own solicitor from Dover in "a tone of injured innocence : he cannot rec011eot the names of the persons to whom

he gave mosey, except th i

e names he had handed in. As eight of these. were dead, and seven had left the bormigh out of the seven,: teen named, it cannot be thought that the list was a coninrehni: she document. But Mr. M`Gall is wearied of indictments for perjury, imprisonments for Contempt, and the browberitings of the Chief CoMmissioner, who has destroyed the raenaory. Mr. M'Gall once bad, and so he retires from a country which ungratefully re= fuses reCognize his political virtues. ..Berwick has lost its best friend ; it will never look upon his like again, for few men. are prepared to fage bonds, imprisonment, and exile, even fin. a poli- tical martyr's grown.