15 MAY 1880, Page 12



SIR,—Several letters on these subjects in your last issue deserve notice. I must first apologise to your correspondent "H." for having too literally understood him. Reading his words, "All towns under 7,000 to be disfranchised," I turned to the census of Scotland, and found,—St. Andrew's, 6,113; Annan, 3,172; Burntisland, 3,265; Cambeltown, 6,628, and so on, bringing within the description more than forty towns. These, I now understand, were not intended to be included in the suggested rule, which I ought to have read as excepting from its operation towns that by the present electoral law are formed into com- bined groups. I must assure your correspondent that he is right in thinking that I could not reasonably be disposed in any degree to support the present system. It seems to me essen- tially vicious, promising, if not amended, to be the cause of still more serious infirmities in our constitutional government, than those, by no means trifling ones, which may at present be traced to it. Your correspondent asks why diminutive places should not be thrown into the counties? I should be unwilling to prevent the smallest town from conducting its own election, and making its own Parliamentary return, if it were willing to bear the necessary official expenses of such election.

The preference expressed by your correspondents, Mr. Mog- gridge and Mr. Collyns, for the caucus, as securing a more genuine expression of public opinion than is obtained by the cumulative system of voting, is, I fear, rather founded on the foregone conclusion that the opinions of the party to which we

attach ourselves are in truth that of the nation, and the only views which ought to prevail ; and that, therefore, all that is gained in representative power by those who differ is so much of mischief. Assuming that the opinions of all classes of the people, in proportion to their several numbers, are entitled to be represented in the deliberative council of the nation, it is impossible not to see that the cumulative vote accomplishes this object, if not perfectly, yet infinitely better than by leaving the nomination of the representative to the majority only, however certainly that majority is obtained by means of the preliminary caucus. If, as Mr. Collyns observes, 1,000 voters, by cumulat- ing their votes on a clergyman, succeed in placing him on the School Board, the first question that presents itself is,—Were these 1,000 voters entitled to a representative, or not ? Cer- tainly they could not have obtained one, unless their numbers were sufficient, or unless their adversaries, by abstention or by miscalculation of their force, failed to give so many votes as they might have given to the other candidates whom they desired to see returned. No doubt this may have arisen from the uncertainty of the more numerous party as to the votes on which they might reckon, and on their too wide dispersion, as in the first School Board election at Birmingham ; and it is against this that the Caucus system is designed and calculated to guard. As a method of party strategy, it is un- questionably of great effect; but whether it gives, as Mr. Moggridge says, to every elector of any party "the maximum of control in the choice of his representative," depends on whether the sacrifice of his personal preferences in favour of the candidates selected by the caucus can be looked upon as a measure of control really exercised by himself, or by somebody else. If three be finally chosen by the caucus, when there are five others, whom some of the minority would have preferred, they may yield to the majority, but they can scarcely be said to have had a maximum of control.

I will not further occupy your columns than by adding that the correction of the unfair distribution of power, whether according to the single or the cumulative vote, will be found in the proportional and preferential method, which I have now for nearly a quarter of a century endeavoured to bring to the consideration of my countrymen, whereby every equal quotient of votes may elect their representative. The majority of voters in every town will nominate from among the candidates obtain- ing the quotient the Member who shall represent their town ; and every elector may render his vote as far as possible effec- tual by directing on his voting-paper that it shall be given to the second, third, or other candidate he has named, if the first or preceding candidate does not need or cannot use it.—I am,