Infomotions, Inc.Representative Government / Mill, John Stuart

Author: Mill, John Stuart
Title: Representative Government
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                           REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT

                              by John Stuart Mill


  THOSE who have done me the honour of reading my previous writings
will probably receive no strong impression of novelty from the present
volume; for the principles are those to which I have been working up
during the greater part of my life, and most of the practical
suggestions have been anticipated by others or by myself. There is
novelty, however, in the fact of bringing them together, and
exhibiting them in their connection; and also, I believe, in much that
is brought forward in their support. Several of the opinions at all
events, if not new, are for the present as little likely to meet
with general acceptance as if they were.

  It seems to me, however, from various indications, and from none
more than the recent debates on Reform of Parliament, that both
Conservatives and Liberals (if I may continue to call them what they
still call themselves) have lost confidence in the political creeds
which they nominally profess, while neither side appears to have
made any progress in providing itself with a better. Yet such a better
doctrine must be possible; not a mere compromise, by splitting the
difference between the two, but something wider than either, which, in
virtue of its superior comprehensiveness, might be adopted by either
Liberal or Conservative without renouncing anything which he really
feels to be valuable in his own creed. When so many feel obscurely the
want of such a doctrine, and so few even flatter themselves that
they have attained it, any one may without presumption offer what
his own thoughts, and the best that he knows of those of others, are
able to contribute towards its formation.

                             Chapter 1

       To what extent Forms of Government are a Matter of Choice.

  ALL SPECULATIONS concerning forms of government bear the impress,
more or less exclusive, of two conflicting theories respecting
political institutions; or, to speak more properly, conflicting
conceptions of what political institutions are.

  By some minds, government is conceived as strictly a practical
art, giving rise to no questions but those of means and an end.
Forms of government are assimilated to any other expedients for the
attainment of human objects. They are regarded as wholly an affair
of invention and contrivance. Being made by man, it is assumed that
man has the choice either to make them or not, and how or on what
pattern they shall be made. Government, according to this
conception, is a problem, to be worked like any other question of
business. The first step is to define the purposes which governments
are required to promote. The next, is to inquire what form of
government is best fitted to fulfil those purposes. Having satisfied
ourselves on these two points, and ascertained the form of
government which combines the greatest amount of good with the least
of evil, what further remains is to obtain the concurrence of our
countrymen, or those for whom the institutions are intended, in the
opinion which we have privately arrived at. To find the best form of
government; to persuade others that it is the best; and having done
so, to stir them up to insist on having it, is the order of ideas in
the minds of those who adopt this view of political philosophy. They
look upon a constitution in the same light (difference of scale
being allowed for) as they would upon a steam plough, or a threshing

  To these stand opposed another kind of political reasoners, who
are so far from assimilating a form of government to a machine, that
they regard it as a sort of spontaneous product, and the science of
government as a branch (so to speak) of natural history. According
to them, forms of government are not a matter of choice. We must
take them, in the main, as we find them. Governments cannot be
constructed by premeditated design. They "are not made, but grow." Our
business with them, as with the other facts of the universe, is to
acquaint ourselves with their natural properties, and adapt
ourselves to them. The fundamental political institutions of a
people are considered by this school as a sort of organic growth
from the nature and life of that people: a product of their habits,
instincts, and unconscious wants and desires, scarcely at all of their
deliberate purposes. Their will has had no part in the matter but that
of meeting the necessities of the moment by the contrivances of the
moment, which contrivances, if in sufficient conformity to the
national feelings and character, commonly last, and by successive
aggregation constitute a polity, suited to the people who possess
it, but which it would be vain to attempt to superduce upon any people
whose nature and circumstances had not spontaneously evolved it.

  It is difficult to decide which of these doctrines would be the most
absurd, if we could suppose either of them held as an exclusive
theory. But the principles which men profess, on any controverted
subject, are usually a very incomplete exponent of the opinions they
really hold. No one believes that every people is capable of working
every sort of institutions. Carry the analogy of mechanical
contrivances as far as we will, a man does not choose even an
instrument of timber and iron on the sole ground that it is in
itself the best. He considers whether he possesses the other
requisites which must be combined with it to render its employment
advantageous, and in particular whether those by whom it will have
to be worked possess the knowledge and skill necessary for its
management. On the other hand, neither are those who speak of
institutions as if they were a kind of living organisms really the
political fatalists they give themselves out to be. They do not
pretend that mankind have absolutely no range of choice as to the
government they will live under, or that a consideration of the
consequences which flow from different forms of polity is no element
at all in deciding which of them should be preferred. But though
each side greatly exaggerates its own theory, out of opposition to the
other, and no one holds without modification to either, the two
doctrines correspond to a deep-seated difference between two modes
of thought; and though it is evident that neither of these is entirely
in the right, yet it being equally evident that neither is wholly in
the wrong, we must endeavour to get down to what is at the root of
each, and avail ourselves of the amount of truth which exists in

  Let us remember, then, in the first place, that political
institutions (however the proposition may be at times ignored) are the
work of men; owe their origin and their whole existence to human will.
Men did not wake on a summer morning and find them sprung up.
Neither do they resemble trees, which, once planted, "are aye growing"
while men "are sleeping." In every stage of their existence they are
made what they are by human voluntary agency. Like all things,
therefore, which are made by men, they may be either well or ill made;
judgment and skill may have been exercised in their production, or the
reverse of these. And again, if a people have omitted, or from outward
pressure have not had it in their power, to give themselves a
constitution by the tentative process of applying a corrective to each
evil as it arose, or as the sufferers gained strength to resist it,
this retardation of political progress is no doubt a great
disadvantage to them, but it does not prove that what has been found
good for others would not have been good also for them, and will not
be so still when they think fit to adopt it.

  On the other hand, it is also to be borne in mind that political
machinery does not act of itself. As it is first made, so it has to be
worked, by men, and even by ordinary men. It needs, not their simple
acquiescence, but their active participation; and must be adjusted
to the capacities and qualities of such men as are available. This
implies three conditions. The people for whom the form of government
is intended must be willing to accept it; or at least not so unwilling
as to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to its establishment. They
must be willing and able to do what is necessary to keep it
standing. And they must be willing and able to do what it requires
of them to enable it to fulfil its purposes. The word "do" is to be
understood as including forbearances as well as acts. They must be
capable of fulfilling the conditions of action, and the conditions
of self-restraint, which are necessary either for keeping the
established polity in existence, or for enabling it to achieve the
ends, its conduciveness to which forms its recommendation.

  The failure of any of these conditions renders a form of government,
whatever favourable promise it may otherwise hold out, unsuitable to
the particular case.

  The first obstacle, the repugnance of the people to the particular
form of government, needs little illustration, because it never can in
theory have been overlooked. The case is of perpetual occurrence.
Nothing but foreign force would induce a tribe of North American
Indians to submit to the restraints of a regular and civilised
government. The same might have been said, though somewhat less
absolutely, of the barbarians who overran the Roman Empire. It
required centuries of time, and an entire change of circumstances,
to discipline them into regular obedience even to their own leaders,
when not actually serving under their banner. There are nations who
will not voluntarily submit to any government but that of certain
families, which have from time immemorial had the privilege of
supplying them with chiefs. Some nations could not, except by
foreign conquest, be made to endure a monarchy; others are equally
averse to a republic. The hindrance often amounts, for the time being,
to impracticability.

  But there are also cases in which, though not averse to a form of
government- possibly even desiring it- a people may be unwilling or
unable to fulfil its conditions. They may be incapable of fulfilling
such of them as are necessary to keep the government even in nominal
existence. Thus a people may prefer a free government, but if, from
indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice, or want of public spirit,
they are unequal to the exertions necessary for preserving it; if they
will not fight for it when it is directly attacked; if they can be
deluded by the artifices used to cheat them out of it; if by momentary
discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an
individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet
even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to
subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less
unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had
it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it. Again, a
people may be unwilling or unable to fulfil the duties which a
particular form of government requires of them. A rude people,
though in some degree alive to the benefits of civilised society,
may be unable to practise the forbearance which it demands: their
passions may be too violent, or their personal pride too exacting,
to forego private conflict, and leave to the laws the avenging of
their real or supposed wrongs. In such a case, a civilised government,
to be really advantageous to them, will require to be in a
considerable degree despotic: to be one over which they do not
themselves exercise control, and which imposes a great amount of
forcible restraint upon their actions.

  Again, a people must be considered unfit for more than a limited and
qualified freedom, who will not co-operate actively with the law and
the public authorities in the repression of evil-doers. A people who
are more disposed to shelter a criminal than to apprehend him; who,
like the Hindoos, will perjure themselves to screen the man who has
robbed them, rather than take trouble or expose themselves to
vindictiveness by giving evidence against him; who, like some
nations of Europe down to a recent date, if a man poniards another
in the public street, pass by on the other side, because it is the
business of the police to look to the matter, and it is safer not to
interfere in what does not concern them; a people who are revolted
by an execution, but not shocked at an assassination- require that
the public authorities should be armed with much sterner powers of
repression than elsewhere, since the first indispensable requisites of
civilised life have nothing else to rest on. These deplorable states
of feeling, in any people who have emerged from savage life, are, no
doubt, usually the consequence of previous bad government, which has
taught them to regard the law as made for other ends than their
good, and its administrators as worse enemies than those who openly
violate it. But however little blame may be due to those in whom these
mental habits have grown up, and however the habits may be
ultimately conquerable by better government, yet while they exist a
people so disposed cannot be governed with as little power exercised
over them as a people whose sympathies are on the side of the law, and
who are willing to give active assistance in its enforcement. Again,
representative institutions are of little value, and may be a mere
instrument of tyranny or intrigue, when the generality of electors are
not sufficiently interested in their own government to give their
vote, or, if they vote at all, do not bestow their suffrages on public
grounds, but sell them for money, or vote at the beck of some one
who has control over them, or whom for private reasons they desire
to propitiate. Popular election thus practised, instead of a
security against misgovernment, is but an additional wheel in its

  Besides these moral hindrances, mechanical difficulties are often an
insuperable impediment to forms of government. In the ancient world,
though there might be, and often was, great individual or local
independence, there could be nothing like a regulated popular
government beyond the bounds of a single city-community; because there
did not exist the physical conditions for the formation and
propagation of a public opinion, except among those who could be
brought together to discuss public matters in the same agora. This
obstacle is generally thought to have ceased by the adoption of the
representative system. But to surmount it completely, required the
press, and even the newspaper press, the real equivalent, though not
in all respects an adequate one, of the Pnyx and the Forum. There have
been states of society in which even a monarchy of any great
territorial extent could not subsist, but unavoidably broke up into
petty principalities, either mutually independent, or held together by
a loose tie like the feudal: because the machinery of authority was
not perfect enough to carry orders into effect at a great distance
from the person of the ruler. He depended mainly upon voluntary
fidelity for the obedience even of his army, nor did there exist the
means of making the people pay an amount of taxes sufficient for
keeping up the force necessary to compel obedience throughout a
large territory. In these and all similar cases, it must be understood
that the amount of the hindrance may be either greater or less. It may
be so great as to make the form of government work very ill, without
absolutely precluding its existence, or hindering it from being
practically preferable to any other which can be had. This last
question mainly depends upon a consideration which we have not yet
arrived at- the tendencies of different forms of government to
promote Progress.

  We have now examined the three fundamental conditions of the
adaptation of forms of government to the people who are to be governed
by them. If the supporters of what may be termed the naturalistic
theory of politics, mean but to insist on the necessity of these three
conditions; if they only mean that no government can permanently exist
which does not fulfil the first and second conditions, and, in some
considerable measure, the third; their doctrine, thus limited, is
incontestable. Whatever they mean more than this appears to me
untenable. All that we are told about the necessity of an historical
basis for institutions, of their being in harmony with the national
usages and character, and the like, means either this, or nothing to
the purpose. There is a great quantity of mere sentimentality
connected with these and similar phrases, over and above the amount of
rational meaning contained in them. But, considered practically, these
alleged requisites of political institutions are merely so many
facilities for realising the three conditions. When an institution, or
a set of institutions, has the way prepared for it by the opinions,
tastes, and habits of the people, they are not only more easily
induced to accept it, but will more easily learn, and will be, from
the beginning, better disposed, to do what is required of them both
for the preservation of the institutions, and for bringing them into
such action as enables them to produce their best results. It would be
a great mistake in any legislator not to shape his measures so as to
take advantage of such pre-existing habits and feelings when
available. On the other hand, it is an exaggeration to elevate these
mere aids and facilities into necessary conditions. People are more
easily induced to do, and do more easily, what they are already used
to; but people also learn to do things new to them. Familiarity is a
great help; but much dwelling on an idea will make it familiar, even
when strange at first. There are abundant instances in which a whole
people have been eager for untried things. The amount of capacity
which a people possess for doing new things, and adapting themselves
to new circumstances; is itself one of the elements of the question.
It is a quality in which different nations, and different stages of
civilisation, differ much from one another. The capability of any
given people for fulfilling the conditions of a given form of
government cannot be pronounced on by any sweeping rule. Knowledge
of the particular people, and general practical judgment and sagacity,
must be the guides.

  There is also another consideration not to be lost sight of. A
people may be unprepared for good institutions; but to kindle a desire
for them is a necessary part of the preparation. To recommend and
advocate a particular institution or form of government, and set its
advantages in the strongest light, is one of the modes, often the only
mode within reach, of educating the mind of the nation not only for
accepting or claiming, but also for working, the institution. What
means had Italian patriots, during the last and present generation, of
preparing the Italian people for freedom in unity, but by inciting
them to demand it? Those, however, who undertake such a task, need
to be duly impressed, not solely with the benefits of the
institution or polity which they recommend, but also with the
capacities, moral, intellectual, and active, required for working
it; that they may avoid, if possible, stirring up a desire too much in
advance of the capacity.

  The result of what has been said is, that, within the limits set
by the three conditions so often adverted to, institutions and forms
of government are a matter of choice. To inquire into the best form of
government in the abstract (as it is called) is not a chimerical,
but a highly practical employment of scientific intellect; and to
introduce into any country the best institutions which, in the
existing state of that country, are capable of, in any tolerable
degree, fulfilling the conditions, is one of the most rational objects
to which practical effort can address itself. Everything which can
be said by way of disparaging the efficacy of human will and purpose
in matters of government might be said of it in every other of its
applications. In all things there are very strict limits to human
power. It can only act by wielding some one or more of the forces of
nature. Forces, therefore, that can be applied to the desired use must
exist; and will only act according to their own laws. We cannot make
the river run backwards; but we do not therefore say that watermills
"are not made, but grow." In politics, as in mechanics, the power
which is to keep the engine going must be sought for outside the
machinery; and if it is not forthcoming, or is insufficient to
surmount the obstacles which may reasonably be expected, the
contrivance will fail. This is no peculiarity of the political art;
and amounts only to saying that it is subject to the same
limitations and conditions as all other arts.

  At this point we are met by another objection, or the same objection
in a different form. The forces, it is contended, on which the greater
political phenomena depend, are not amenable to the direction of
politicians or philosophers. The government of a country, it is
affirmed, is, in all substantial respects, fixed and determined
beforehand by the state of the country in regard to the distribution
of the elements of social power. Whatever is the strongest power in
society will obtain the governing authority; and a change in the
political constitution cannot be durable unless preceded or
accompanied by an altered distribution of power in society itself. A
nation, therefore, cannot choose its form of government. The mere
details, and practical organisation, it may choose; but the essence of
the whole, the seat of the supreme power, is determined for it by
social circumstances.

  That there is a portion of truth in this doctrine I at once admit;
but to make it of any use, it must be reduced to a distinct expression
and proper limits. When it is said that the strongest power in society
will make itself strongest in the government, what is meant by
power? Not thews and sinews; otherwise pure democracy would be the
only form of polity that could exist. To mere muscular strength, add
two other elements, property and intelligence, and we are nearer the
truth, but far from having yet reached it. Not only is a greater
number often kept down by a less, but the greater number may have a
preponderance in property, and individually in intelligence, and may
yet be held in subjection, forcibly or otherwise, by a minority in
both respects inferior to it. To make these various elements of
power politically influential they must be organised; and the
advantage in organisation is necessarily with those who are in
possession of the government. A much weaker party in all other
elements of power may greatly preponderate when the powers of
government are thrown into the scale; and may long retain its
predominance through this alone: though, no doubt, a government so
situated is in the condition called in mechanics unstable equilibrium,
like a thing balanced on its smaller end, which, if once disturbed,
tends more and more to depart from, instead of reverting to, its
previous state.

  But there are still stronger objections to this theory of government
in the terms in which it is usually stated. The power in society which
has any tendency to convert itself into political power is not power
quiescent, power merely passive, but active power; in other words,
power actually exerted; that is to say, a very small portion of all
the power in existence. Politically speaking, a great part of all
power consists in will. How is it possible, then, to compute the
elements of political power, while we omit from the computation
anything which acts on the will? To think that because those who wield
the power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it
is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the
government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself
one of the greatest active social forces. One person with a belief
is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests. They
who can succeed in creating a general persuasion that a certain form
of government, or social fact of any kind, deserves to be preferred,
have made nearly the most important step which can possibly be taken
towards ranging the powers of society on its side. On the day when the
proto-martyr was stoned to death at Jerusalem, while he who was to
be the Apostle of the Gentiles stood by "consenting unto his death,"
would any one have supposed that the party of that stoned man were
then and there the strongest power in society? And has not the event
proved that they were so? Because theirs was the most powerful of then
existing beliefs. The same element made a monk of Wittenberg, at the
meeting of the Diet of Worms, a more powerful social force than the
Emperor Charles the Fifth, and all the princes there assembled. But
these, it may be said, are cases in which religion was concerned,
and religious convictions are something peculiar in their strength.
Then let us take a case purely political, where religion, so far as
concerned at all, was chiefly on the losing side. If any one
requires to be convinced that speculative thought is one of the
chief elements of social power, let him bethink himself of the age
in which there was scarcely a throne in Europe which was not filled by
a liberal and reforming king, a liberal and reforming emperor, or,
strangest of all, a liberal and reforming pope; the age of Frederic
the Great, of Catherine the Second, of Joseph the Second, of Peter
Leopold, of Benedict XIV., of Ganganelli, of Pombal, of Aranda; when
the very Bourbons of Naples were liberals and reformers, and all the
active minds among the noblesse of France were filled with the ideas
which were soon after to cost them so dear. Surely a conclusive
example how far mere physical and economic power is from being the
whole of social power.

  It was not by any change in the distribution of material
interests, but by the spread of moral convictions, that negro
slavery has been put an end to in the British Empire and elsewhere.
The serfs in Russia owe their emancipation, if not to a sentiment of
duty, at least to the growth of a more enlightened opinion
respecting the true interest of the State. It is what men think that
determines how they act; and though the persuasions and convictions of
average men are in a much greater degree determined by their
personal position than by reason, no little power is exercised over
them by the persuasions and convictions of those whose personal
position is different, and by the united authority of the
instructed. When, therefore, the instructed in general can be
brought to recognise one social arrangement, or political or other
institution, as good, and another as bad, one as desirable, another as
condemnable, very much has been done towards giving to the one, or
withdrawing from the other, that preponderance of social force which
enables it to subsist. And the maxim, that the government of a country
is what the social forces in existence compel it to be, is true only
in the sense in which it favours, instead of discouraging, the attempt
to exercise, among all forms of government practicable in the existing
condition of society, a rational choice.

                             Chapter 2

             The Criterion of a Good Form of Government.

  THE FORM of government for any given country being (within certain
definite conditions) amenable to choice, it is now to be considered by
what test the choice should be directed; what are the distinctive
characteristics of the form of government best fitted to promote the
interests of any given society.

  Before entering into this inquiry, it may seem necessary to decide
what are the proper functions of government; for, government
altogether being only a means, the eligibility of the means must
depend on their adaptation to the end. But this mode of stating the
problem gives less aid to its investigation than might be supposed,
and does not even bring the whole of the question into view. For, in
the first place, the proper functions of a government are not a
fixed thing, but different in different states of society; much more
extensive in a backward than in an advanced state. And, secondly,
the character of a government or set of political institutions
cannot be sufficiently estimated while we confine our attention to the
legitimate sphere of governmental functions. For though the goodness
of a government is necessarily circumscribed within that sphere, its
badness unhappily is not. Every kind and degree of evil of which
mankind are susceptible may be inflicted on them by their
government; and none of the good which social existence is capable
of can be any further realised than as the constitution of the
government is compatible with, and allows scope for, its attainment.
Not to speak of indirect effects, the direct meddling of the public
authorities has no necessary limits but those of human existence;
and the influence of government on the well-being of society can be
considered or estimated in reference to nothing less than the whole of
the interests of humanity.

  Being thus obliged to place before ourselves, as the test of good
and bad government, so complex an object as the aggregate interests of
society, we would willingly attempt some kind of classification of
those interests, which, bringing them before the mind in definite
groups, might give indication of the qualities by which a form of
government is fitted to promote those various interests
respectively. It would be a great facility if we could say the good of
society consists of such and such elements; one of these elements
requires such conditions, another such others; the government, then,
which unites in the greatest degree all these conditions, must be
the best. The theory of government would thus be built up from the
separate theorems of the elements which compose a good state of

  Unfortunately, to enumerate and classify the constituents of
social well-being, so as to admit of the formation of such theorems,
is no easy task. Most of those who, in the last or present generation,
have applied themselves to the philosophy of politics in any
comprehensive spirit, have felt the importance of such a
classification; but the attempts which have been made towards it are
as yet limited, so far as I am aware, to a single step. The
classification begins and ends with a partition of the exigencies of
society between the two heads of Order and Progress (in the
phraseology of French thinkers); Permanence and Progression in the
words of Coleridge. This division is plausible and seductive, from the
apparently clean-cut opposition between its two members, and the
remarkable difference between the sentiments to which they appeal. But
I apprehend that (however admissible for purposes of popular
discourse) the distinction between Order, or Permanence, and Progress,
employed to define the qualities necessary in a government, is
unscientific and incorrect.

  For, first, what are Order and Progress? Concerning Progress there
is no difficulty, or none which is apparent at first sight. When
Progress is spoken of as one of the wants of human society, it may
be supposed to mean Improvement. That is a tolerably distinct idea.
But what is Order? Sometimes it means more, sometimes less, but hardly
ever the whole of what human society needs except improvement.

  In its narrowest acceptation Order means Obedience. A government
is said to preserve order if it succeeds in getting itself obeyed. But
there are different degrees of obedience, and it is not every degree
that is commendable. Only an unmitigated despotism demands that the
individual citizen shall obey unconditionally every mandate of persons
in authority. We must at least limit the definition to such mandates
as are general and issued in the deliberate form of laws. Order,
thus understood, expresses, doubtless, an indispensable attribute of
government. Those who are unable to make their ordinances obeyed,
cannot be said to govern. But though a necessary condition, this is
not the object of government. That it should make itself obeyed is
requisite, in order that it may accomplish some other purpose. We
are still to seek what is this other purpose, which government ought
to fulfil, abstractedly from the idea of improvement, and which has to
be fulfilled in every society, whether stationary or progressive.

  In a sense somewhat more enlarged, Order means the preservation of
peace by the cessation of private violence. Order is said to exist
where the people of the country have, as a general rule, ceased to
prosecute their quarrels by private force, and acquired the habit of
referring the decision of their disputes and the redress of their
injuries to the public authorities. But in this larger use of the
term, as well as in the former narrow one, Order expresses rather
one of the conditions of government, than either its purpose or the
criterion of its excellence. For the habit may be well established
of submitting to the government, and referring all disputed matters to
its authority, and yet the manner in which the government deals with
those disputed matters, and with the other things about which it
concerns itself, may differ by the whole interval which divides the
best from the worst possible.

  If we intend to comprise in the idea of Order all that society
requires from its government which is not included in the idea of
Progress, we must define Order as the preservation of all kinds and
amounts of good which already exist, and Progress as consisting in the
increase of them. This distinction does comprehend in one or the other
section everything which a government can be required to promote. But,
thus understood, it affords no basis for a philosophy of government.
We cannot say that, in constituting a polity, certain provisions ought
to be made for Order and certain others for Progress; since the
conditions of Order, in the sense now indicated, and those of
Progress, are not opposite, but the same. The agencies which tend to
preserve the social good which already exists are the very same
which promote the increase of it, and vice versa: the sole
difference being, that a greater degree of those agencies is
required for the latter purpose than for the former.

  What, for example, are the qualities in the citizens individually
which conduce most to keep up the amount of good conduct, of good
management, of success and prosperity, which already exist in society?
Everybody will agree that those qualities are industry, integrity,
justice, and prudence. But are not these, of all qualities, the most
conducive to improvement? and is not any growth of these virtues in
the community in itself the greatest of improvements? If so,
whatever qualities in the government are promotive of industry,
integrity, justice, and prudence, conduce alike to permanence and to
progression; only there is needed more of those qualities to make
the society decidedly progressive than merely to keep it permanent.

  What, again, are the particular attributes in human beings which
seem to have a more especial reference to Progress, and do not so
directly suggest the ideas of Order and Preservation? They are chiefly
the qualities of mental activity, enterprise, and courage. But are not
all these qualities fully as much required for preserving the good
we have, as for adding to it? If there is anything certain in human
affairs, it is that valuable acquisitions are only to be retained by
the continuation of the same energies which gained them. Things left
to take care of themselves inevitably decay. Those whom success
induces to relax their habits of care and thoughtfulness, and their
willingness to encounter disagreeables, seldom long retain their
good fortune at its height. The mental attribute which seems
exclusively dedicated to Progress, and is the culmination of the
tendencies to it, is Originality, or Invention. Yet this is no less
necessary for Permanence; since, in the inevitable changes of human
affairs, new inconveniences and dangers continually grow up, which
must be encountered by new resources and contrivances, in order to
keep things going on even only as well as they did before. Whatever
qualities, therefore, in a government, tend to encourage activity,
energy, courage, originality, are requisites of Permanence as well
as of Progress; only a somewhat less degree of them will on the
average suffice for the former purpose than for the latter.

  To pass now from the mental to the outward and objective
requisites of society; it is impossible to point out any contrivance
in politics, or arrangement of social affairs, which conduces to Order
only, or to Progress only; whatever tends to either promotes both.
Take, for instance, the common institution of a police. Order is the
object which seems most immediately interested in the efficiency of
this part of the social organisation. Yet if it is effectual to
promote Order, that is, if it represses crime, and enables every one
to feel his person and property secure, can any state of things be
more conducive to Progress? The greater security of property is one of
the main conditions and causes of greater production, which is
Progress in its most familiar and vulgarest aspect. The better
repression of crime represses the dispositions which tend to crime,
and this is Progress in a somewhat higher sense. The release of the
individual from the cares and anxieties of a state of imperfect
protection, sets his faculties free to be employed in any new effort
for improving his own state and that of others: while the same
cause, by attaching him to social existence, and making him no
longer see present or prospective enemies in his fellow creatures,
fosters all those feelings of kindness and fellowship towards
others, and interest in the general well-being of the community, which
are such important parts of social improvement.

  Take, again, such a familiar case as that of a good system of
taxation and finance. This would generally be classed as belonging
to the province of Order. Yet what can be more conducive to
Progress? A financial system which promotes the one, conduces, by
the very same excellences, to the other. Economy, for example, equally
preserves the existing stock of national wealth, and favours the
creation of more. A just distribution of burthens, by holding up to
every citizen an example of morality and good conscience applied to
difficult adjustments, and an evidence of the value which the
highest authorities attach to them, tends in an eminent degree to
educate the moral sentiments of the community, both in respect of
strength and of discrimination. Such a mode of levying the taxes as
does not impede the industry, or unnecessarily interfere with the
liberty, of the citizen, promotes, not the preservation only, but
the increase of the national wealth, and encourages a more active
use of the individual faculties. And vice versa, all errors in finance
and taxation which obstruct the improvement of the people in wealth
and morals tend also, if of sufficiently serious amount, positively to
impoverish and demoralise them. It holds, in short, universally,
that when Order and Permanence are taken in their widest sense, for
the stability of existing advantages, the requisites of Progress are
but the requisites of Order in a greater degree; those of Permanence
merely those of Progress in a somewhat smaller measure.

  In support of the position that Order is intrinsically different
from Progress, and that preservation of existing and acquisition of
additional good are sufficiently distinct to afford the basis of a
fundamental classification, we shall perhaps be reminded that Progress
may be at the expense of Order; that while we are acquiring, or
striving to acquire, good of one kind, we may be losing ground in
respect to others: thus there may be progress in wealth, while there
is deterioration in virtue. Granting this, what it proves is not
that Progress is generically a different thing from Permanence, but
that wealth is a different thing from virtue. Progress is permanence
and something more; and it is no answer to this to say that Progress
in one thing does not imply Permanence in everything. No more does
Progress in one thing imply Progress in everything. Progress of any
kind includes Permanence in that same kind; whenever Permanence is
sacrificed to some particular kind of Progress, other Progress is
still more sacrificed to it; and if it be not worth the sacrifice, not
the interest of Permanence alone has been disregarded, but the general
interest of Progress has been mistaken.

  If these improperly contrasted ideas are to be used at all in the
attempt to give a first commencement of scientific precision to the
notion of good government, it would be more philosophically correct to
leave out of the definition the word Order, and to say that the best
government is that which is most conducive to Progress. For Progress
includes Order, but Order does not include Progress. Progress is a
greater degree of that of which Order is a less. Order, in any other
sense, stands only for a part of the pre-requisites of good
government, not for its idea and essence. Order would find a more
suitable place among the conditions of Progress; since, if we would
increase our sum of good, nothing is more indispensable than to take
due care of what we already have. If we are endeavouring after more
riches, our very first rule should be not to squander uselessly our
existing means. Order, thus considered, is not an additional end to be
reconciled with Progress, but a part and means of Progress itself.
If a gain in one respect is purchased by a more than equivalent loss
in the same or in any other, there is not Progress. Conduciveness to
Progress, thus understood, includes the whole excellence of a

  But, though metaphysically defensible, this definition of the
criterion of good government is not appropriate, because, though it
contains the whole of the truth, it recalls only a part. What is
suggested by the term Progress is the idea of moving onward, whereas
the meaning of it here is quite as much the prevention of falling
back. The very same social causes- the same beliefs, feelings,
institutions, and practices- are as much required to prevent society
from retrograding, as to produce a further advance. Were there no
improvement to be hoped for, life would not be the less an unceasing
struggle against causes of deterioration; as it even now is. Politics,
as conceived by the ancients, consisted wholly in this. The natural
tendency of men and their works was to degenerate, which tendency,
however, by good institutions virtuously administered, it might be
possible for an indefinite length of time to counteract. Though we
no longer hold this opinion; though most men in the present age
profess the contrary creed, believing that the tendency of things,
on the whole, is towards improvement; we ought not to forget that
there is an incessant and ever-flowing current of human affairs
towards the worse, consisting of all the follies, all the vices, all
the negligences, indolences, and supinenesses of mankind; which is
only controlled, and kept from sweeping all before it, by the
exertions which some persons constantly, and others by fits, put forth
in the direction of good and worthy objects. It gives a very
insufficient idea of the importance of the strivings which take
place to improve and elevate human nature and life, to suppose that
their chief value consists in the amount of actual improvement
realised by their means, and that the consequence of their cessation
would merely be that we should remain as we are. A very small
diminution of those exertions would not only put a stop to
improvement, but would turn the general tendency of things towards
deterioration; which, once begun, would proceed with increasingly
rapidity, and become more and more difficult to check, until it
reached a state often seen in history, and in which many large
portions of mankind even now grovel; when hardly anything short of
superhuman power seems sufficient to turn the tide, and give a fresh
commencement to the upward movement.

  These reasons make the word Progress as unapt as the terms Order and
Permanence to become the basis for a classification of the
requisites of a form of government. The fundamental antithesis which
these words express does not lie in the things themselves, so much
as in the types of human character which answer to them. There are, we
know, some minds in which caution, and others in which boldness,
predominates: in some, the desire to avoid imperilling what is already
possessed is a stronger sentiment than that which prompts to improve
the old and acquire new advantages; while there are others who lean
the contrary way, and are more eager for future than careful of
present good. The road to the ends of both is the same; but they are
liable to wander from it in opposite directions. This consideration is
of importance in composing the personnel of any political body:
persons of both types ought to be included in it, that the
tendencies of each may be tempered, in so far as they are excessive,
by a due proportion of the other. There needs no express provision
to ensure this object, provided care is taken to admit nothing
inconsistent with it. The natural and spontaneous admixture of the old
and the young, of those whose position and reputation are made and
those who have them still to make, will in general sufficiently answer
the purpose, if only this natural balance is not disturbed by
artificial regulation.

  Since the distinction most commonly adopted for the classification
of social exigencies does not possess the properties needful for
that use, we have to seek for some other leading distinction better
adapted to the purpose. Such a distinction would seem to be
indicated by the considerations to which I now proceed.

  If we ask ourselves on what causes and conditions good government in
all its senses, from the humblest to the most exalted, depends, we
find that the principal of them, the one which transcends all
others, is the qualities of the human beings composing the society
over which the government is exercised.

  We may take, as a first instance, the administration of justice;
with the more propriety, since there is no part of public business
in which the mere machinery, the rules and contrivances for conducting
the details of the operation, are of such vital consequence. Yet
even these yield in importance to the qualities of the human agents
employed. Of what efficacy are rules of procedure in securing the ends
of justice, if the moral condition of the people is such that the
witnesses generally lie, and the judges and their subordinates take
bribes? Again, how can institutions provide a good municipal
administration if there exists such indifference to the subject that
those who would administer honestly and capably cannot be induced to
serve, and the duties are left to those who undertake them because
they have some private interest to be promoted? Of what avail is the
most broadly popular representative system if the electors do not care
to choose the best member of parliament, but choose him who will spend
most money to be elected? How can a representative assembly work for
good if its members can be bought, or if their excitability of
temperament, uncorrected by public discipline or private self-control,
makes them incapable of calm deliberation, and they resort to manual
violence on the floor of the House, or shoot at one another with
rifles? How, again, can government, or any joint concern, be carried
on in a tolerable manner by people so envious that, if one among
them seems likely to succeed in anything, those who ought to cooperate
with him form a tacit combination to make him fail? Whenever the
general disposition of the people is such that each individual regards
those only of his interests which are selfish, and does not dwell
on, or concern himself for, his share of the general interest, in such
a state of things good government is impossible. The influence of
defects of intelligence in obstructing all the elements of good
government requires no illustration. Government consists of acts
done by human beings; and if the agents, or those who choose the
agents, or those to whom the agents are responsible, or the lookers-on
whose opinion ought to influence and check all these, are mere
masses of ignorance, stupidity, and baleful prejudice, every operation
of government will go wrong; while, in proportion as the men rise
above this standard, so will the government improve in quality; up
to the point of excellence, attainable but nowhere attained, where the
officers of government, themselves persons of superior virtue and
intellect, are surrounded by the atmosphere of a virtuous and
enlightened public opinion.

  The first element of good government, therefore, being the virtue
and intelligence of the human beings composing the community, the most
important point of excellence which any form of government can possess
is to promote the virtue and intelligence of the people themselves.
The first question in respect to any political institutions is, how
far they tend to foster in the members of the community the various
desirable qualities, moral and intellectual; or rather (following
Bentham's more complete classification) moral, intellectual, and
active. The government which does this the best has every likelihood
of being the best in all other respects, since it is on these
qualities, so far as they exist in the people, that all possibility of
goodness in the practical operations of the government depends.

  We may consider, then, as one criterion of the goodness of a
government, the degree in which it tends to increase the sum of good
qualities in the governed, collectively and individually; since,
besides that their well-being is the sole object of government,
their good qualities supply the moving force which works the
machinery. This leaves, as the other constituent element of the
merit of a government, the quality of the machinery itself; that is,
the degree in which it is adapted to take advantage of the amount of
good qualities which may at any time exist, and make them instrumental
to the right purposes. Let us again take the subject of judicature
as an example and illustration. The judicial system being given, the
goodness of the administration of justice is in the compound ratio
of the worth of the men composing the tribunals, and the worth of
the public opinion which influences or controls them. But all the
difference between a good and a bad system of judicature lies in the
contrivances adopted for bringing whatever moral and intellectual
worth exists in the community to bear upon the administration of
justice, and making it duly operative on the result. The
arrangements for rendering the choice of the judges such as to
obtain the highest average of virtue and intelligence; the salutary
forms of procedure; the publicity which allows observation and
criticism of whatever is amiss; the liberty of discussion and
censure through the press; the mode of taking evidence, according as
it is well or ill adapted to elicit truth; the facilities, whatever be
their amount, for obtaining access to the tribunals; the
arrangements for detecting crimes and apprehending offenders;- all
these things are not the power, but the machinery for bringing the
power into contact with the obstacle: and the machinery has no
action of itself, but without it the power, let it be ever so ample,
would be wasted and of no effect.

  A similar distinction exists in regard to the constitution of the
executive departments of administration. Their machinery is good, when
the proper tests are prescribed for the qualifications of officers,
the proper rules for their promotion; when the business is
conveniently distributed among those who are to transact it, a
convenient and methodical order established for its transaction, a
correct and intelligible record kept of it after being transacted;
when each individual knows for what he is responsible, and is known to
others as responsible for it; when the best-contrived checks are
provided against negligence, favouritism, or jobbery, in any of the
acts of the department. But political checks will no more act of
themselves than a bridle will direct a horse without a rider. If the
checking functionaries are as corrupt or as negligent as those whom
they ought to check, and if the public, the mainspring of the whole
checking machinery, are too ignorant, too passive, or too careless and
inattentive, to do their part, little benefit will be derived from the
best administrative apparatus. Yet a good apparatus is always
preferable to a bad. It enables such insufficient moving or checking
power as exists to act at the greatest advantage; and without it, no
amount of moving or checking power would be sufficient. Publicity, for
instance, is no impediment to evil nor stimulus to good if the
public will not look at what is done; but without publicity, how could
they either check or encourage what they were not permitted to see?
The ideally perfect constitution of a public office is that in which
the interest of the functionary is entirely coincident with his
duty. No mere system will make it so, but still less can it be made so
without a system, aptly devised for the purpose.

  What we have said of the arrangements for the detailed
administration of the government is still more evidently true of its
general constitution. All government which aims at being good is an
organisation of some part of the good qualities existing in the
individual members of the community for the conduct of its
collective affairs. A representative constitution is a means of
bringing the general standard of intelligence and honesty existing
in the community, and the individual intellect and virtue of its
wisest members, more directly to bear upon the government, and
investing them with greater influence in it, than they would in
general have under any other mode of organisation; though, under
any, such influence as they do have is the source of all good that
there is in the government, and the hindrance of every evil that there
is not. The greater the amount of these good qualities which the
institutions of a country succeed in organising, and the better the
mode of organisation, the better will be the government.

  We have now, therefore, obtained a foundation for a twofold division
of the merit which any set of political institutions can possess. It
consists partly of the degree in which they promote the general mental
advancement of the community, including under that phrase
advancement in intellect, in virtue, and in practical activity and
efficiency; and partly of the degree of perfection with which they
organise the moral, intellectual, and active worth already existing,
so as to operate with the greatest effect on public affairs. A
government is to be judged by its action upon men, and by its action
upon things; by what it makes of the citizens, and what it does with
them; its tendency to improve or deteriorate the people themselves,
and the goodness or badness of the work it performs for them, and by
means of them. Government is at once a great influence acting on the
human mind, and a set of organised arrangements for public business:
in the first capacity its beneficial action is chiefly indirect, but
not therefore less vital, while its mischievous action may be direct.

  The difference between these two functions of a government is not,
like that between Order and Progress, a difference merely in degree,
but in kind. We must not, however, suppose that they have no
intimate connection with one another. The institutions which ensure
the best management of public affairs practicable in the existing
state of cultivation tend by this alone to the further improvement
of that state. A people which had the most just laws, the purest and
most efficient judicature, the most enlightened administration, the
most equitable and least onerous system of finance, compatible with
the stage it had attained in moral and intellectual advancement, would
be in a fair way to pass rapidly into a higher stage. Nor is there any
mode in which political institutions can contribute more effectually
to the improvement of the people than by doing their more direct
work well. And, reversely, if their machinery is so badly
constructed that they do their own particular business ill, the effect
is felt in a thousand ways in lowering the morality and deadening
the intelligence and activity of the people. But the distinction is
nevertheless real, because this is only one of the means by which
political institutions improve or deteriorate the human mind, and
the causes and modes of that beneficial or injurious influence
remain a distinct and much wider subject of study.

  Of the two modes of operation by which a form of government or set
of political institutions affects the welfare of the community- its
operation as an agency of national education, and its arrangements for
conducting the collective affairs of the community in the state of
education in which they already are; the last evidently varies much
less, from difference of country and state of civilisation, than the
first. It has also much less to do with the fundamental constitution
of the government. The mode of conducting the practical business of
government, which is best under a free constitution, would generally
be best also in an absolute monarchy: only an absolute monarchy is not
so likely to practise it. The laws of property, for example; the
principles of evidence and judicial procedure; the system of
taxation and of financial administration, need not necessarily be
different in different forms of government. Each of these matters
has principles and rules of its own, which are a subject of separate
study. General jurisprudence, civil and penal legislation, financial
and commercial policy, are sciences in themselves, or rather, separate
members of the comprehensive science or art of government: and the
most enlightened doctrines on all these subjects, though not equally
likely to be understood, or acted on under all forms of government,
yet, if understood and acted on, would in general be equally
beneficial under them all. It is true that these doctrines could not
be applied without some modifications to all states of society and
of the human mind: nevertheless, by far the greater number of them
would require modifications solely of details, to adapt them to any
state of society sufficiently advanced to possess rulers capable of
understanding them. A government to which they would be wholly
unsuitable must be one so bad in itself, or so opposed to public
feeling, as to be unable to maintain itself in existence by honest

  It is otherwise with that portion of the interests of the
community which relate to the better or worse training of the people
themselves. Considered as instrumental to this, institutions need to
be radically different, according to the stage of advancement
already reached. The recognition of this truth, though for the most
part empirically rather than philosophically, may be regarded as the
main point of superiority in the political theories of the present
above those of the last age; in which it customary to claim
representative democracy for England or France by arguments which
would equally have proved it the only fit form of government for
Bedouins or Malays. The state of different communities, in point of
culture and development, ranges downwards to a condition very little
above the highest of the beasts. The upward range, too, is
considerable, and the future possible extension vastly greater. A
community can only be developed out of one of these states into a
higher by a concourse of influences, among the principal of which is
the government to which they are subject. In all states of human
improvement ever yet attained, the nature and degree of authority
exercised over individuals, the distribution of power, and the
conditions of command and obedience, are the most powerful of the
influences, except their religious belief, which make them what they
are, and enable them to become what they can be. They may be stopped
short at any point in their progress by defective adaptation of
their government to that particular stage of advancement. And the
one indispensable merit of a government, in favour of which it may
be forgiven almost any amount of other demerit compatible with
progress, is that its operation on the people is favourable, or not
unfavourable, to the next step which it is necessary for them to take,
in order to raise themselves to a higher level.

  Thus (to repeat a former example), a people in a state of savage
independence, in which every one lives for himself, exempt, unless
by fits, from any external control, is practically incapable of making
any progress in civilisation until it has learnt to obey. The
indispensable virtue, therefore, in a government which establishes
itself over a people of this sort is, that it make itself obeyed. To
enable it to do this, the constitution of the government must be
nearly, or quite, despotic. A constitution in any degree popular,
dependent on the voluntary surrender by the different members of the
community of their individual freedom of action, would fail to enforce
the first lesson which the pupils, in this stage of their progress,
require. Accordingly, the civilisation of such tribes, when not the
result of juxtaposition with others already civilised, is almost
always the work of an absolute ruler, deriving his power either from
religion or military prowess; very often from foreign arms.

  Again, uncivilised races, and the bravest and most energetic still
more than the rest, are averse to continuous labour of an unexciting
kind. Yet all real civilisation is at this price; without such labour,
neither can the mind be disciplined into the habits required by
civilised society, nor the material world prepared to receive it.
There needs a rare concurrence of circumstances, and for that reason
often a vast length of time, to reconcile such a people to industry,
unless they are for a while compelled to it. Hence even personal
slavery, by giving a commencement to industrial life, and enforcing it
as the exclusive occupation of the most numerous portion of the
community, may accelerate the transition to a better freedom than that
of fighting and rapine. It is almost needless to say that this
excuse for slavery is only available in a very early state of society.
A civilised people have far other means of imparting civilisation to
those under their influence; and slavery is, in all its details, so
repugnant to that government of law, which is the foundation of all
modern life, and so corrupting to the master-class when they have once
come under civilised influences, that its adoption under any
circumstances whatever in modern society is a relapse into worse
than barbarism.

  At some period, however, of their history, almost every people,
now civilised, have consisted, in majority, of slaves. A people in
that condition require to raise them out of it a very different polity
from a nation of savages. If they are energetic by nature, and
especially if there be associated with them in. the same community
an industrious class who are neither slaves nor slave-owners (as was
the case in Greece), they need, probably, no more to ensure their
improvement than to make them free: when freed, they may often be fit,
like Roman freedmen, to be admitted at once to the full rights of
citizenship. This, however, is not the normal condition of slavery,
and is generally a sign that it is becoming obsolete. A slave,
properly so called, is a being who has not learnt to help himself.
He is, no doubt, one step in advance of a savage. He has not the first
lesson of political society still to acquire. He has learnt to obey.
But what he obeys is only a direct command. It is the characteristic
of born slaves to be incapable of conforming their conduct to a
rule, or law. They can only do what they are ordered, and only when
they are ordered to do it. If a man whom they fear is standing over
them and threatening them with punishment, they obey; but when his
back is turned, the work remains undone. The motive determining them
must appeal not to their interests, but to their instincts;
immediate hope or immediate terror. A despotism, which may tame the
savage, will, in so far as it is a despotism, only confirm the
slaves in their incapacities. Yet a government under their own control
would be entirely unmanageable by them. Their improvement cannot
come from themselves, but must be superinduced from without. The
step which they have to take, and their only path to improvement, is
to be raised from a government of will to one of law. They have to
be taught self-government, and this, in its initial stage, means the
capacity to act on general instructions. What they require is not a
government of force, but one of guidance. Being, however, in too low a
state to yield to the guidance of any but those to whom they look up
as the possessors of force, the sort of government fittest for them is
one which possesses force, but seldom uses it: a parental despotism or
aristocracy, resembling the St. Simonian form of Socialism;
maintaining a general superintendence over all the operations of
society, so as to keep before each the sense of a present force
sufficient to compel his obedience to the rule laid down, but which,
owing to the impossibility of descending to regulate all the minutae
of industry and life, necessarily leaves and induces individuals to do
much of themselves. This, which may be termed the government of
leading-strings, seems to be the one required to carry such a people
the most rapidly through the next necessary step in social progress.
Such appears to have been the idea of the government of the Incas of
Peru; and such was that of the Jesuits of Paraguay. I need scarcely
remark that leading-strings are only admissible as a means of
gradually training the people to walk alone.

  It would be out of place to carry the illustration further. To
attempt to investigate what kind of government is suited to every
known state of society would be to compose a treatise, not on
representative government, but on political science at large. For
our more limited purpose we borrow from political philosophy only
its general principles. To determine the form of government most
suited to any particular people, we must be able, among the defects
and shortcomings which belong to that people, to distinguish those
that are the immediate impediment to progress; to discover what it
is which (as it were) stops the way. The best government for them is
the one which tends most to give them that for want of which they
cannot advance, or advance only in a lame and lopsided manner. We must
not, however, forget the reservation necessary in all things which
have for their object improvement, or Progress; namely, that in
seeking the good which is needed, no damage, or as little as possible,
be done to that already possessed. A people of savages should be
taught obedience but not in such a manner as to convert them into a
people of slaves. And (to give the observation a higher generality)
the form of government which is most effectual for carrying a people
through the next stage of progress will still be very improper for
them if it does this in such a manner as to obstruct, or positively
unfit them for, the step next beyond. Such cases are frequent, and are
among the most melancholy facts in history. The Egyptian hierarchy,
the paternal despotism of China, were very fit instruments for
carrying those nations up to the point of civilisation which they
attained. But having reached that point, they were brought to a
permanent halt for want of mental liberty and individuality;
requisites of improvement which the institutions that had carried them
thus far entirely incapacitated them from acquiring; and as the
institutions did not break down and give place to others, further
improvement stopped.

  In contrast with these nations, let us consider the example of an
opposite character afforded by another and a comparatively
insignificant Oriental people- the Jews. They, too, had an absolute
monarchy and a hierarchy, their organised institutions were as
obviously of sacerdotal origin as those of the Hindoos. These did
for them what was done for other Oriental races by their
institutions- subdued them to industry and order, and gave them a
national life. But neither their kings nor their priests ever
obtained, as in those other countries, the exclusive moulding of their
character. Their religion, which enabled persons of genius and a
high religious tone to be regarded and to regard themselves as
inspired from heaven, gave existence to an inestimably precious
unorganised institution- the Order (if it may be so termed) of
Prophets. Under the protection, generally though not always effectual,
of their sacred character, the Prophets were a power in the nation,
often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept up, in that
little corner of the earth, the antagonism of influences which is
the only real security for continued progress. Religion consequently
was not there what it has been in so many other places- a
consecration of all that was once established, and a barrier against
further improvement. The remark of a distinguished Hebrew, M.
Salvador, that the Prophets were, in Church and State, the
equivalent of the modern liberty of the press, gives a just but not an
adequate conception of the part fulfilled in national and universal
history by this great element of Jewish life; by means of which, the
canon of inspiration never being complete, the persons most eminent in
genius and moral feeling could not only denounce and reprobate, with
the direct authority of the Almighty, whatever appeared to them
deserving of such treatment, but could give forth better and higher
interpretations of the national religion, which thenceforth became
part of the religion. Accordingly, whoever can divest himself of the
habit of reading the Bible as if it was one book, which until lately
was equally inveterate in Christians and in unbelievers, sees with
admiration the vast interval between the morality and religion of
the Pentateuch, or even of the historical books (the unmistakable work
of Hebrew Conservatives of the sacerdotal order), and the morality and
religion of the Prophecies: a distance as wide as between these last
and the Gospels. Conditions more favourable to Progress could not
easily exist: accordingly, the Jews, instead of being stationary
like other Asiatics, were, next to the Greeks, the most progressive
people of antiquity, and, jointly with them, have been the
starting-point and main propelling agency of modern cultivation.

  It is, then, impossible to understand the question of the adaptation
of forms of government to states of society without taking into
account not only the next step, but all the steps which society has
yet to make; both those which can be foreseen, and the far wider
indefinite range which is at present out of sight. It follows, that to
judge of the merits of forms of government, an ideal must be
constructed of the form of government most eligible in itself, that
is, which, if the necessary conditions existed for giving effect to
its beneficial tendencies, would, more than all others, favour and
promote not some one improvement, but all forms and degrees of it.
This having been done, we must consider what are the mental conditions
of all sorts, necessary to enable this government to realise its
tendencies, and what, therefore, are the various defects by which a
people is made incapable of reaping its benefits. It would then be
possible to construct a theorem of the circumstances in which that
form of government may wisely be introduced; and also to judge, in
cases in which it had better not be introduced, what inferior forms of
polity will best carry those communities through the intermediate
stages which they must traverse before they can become fit for the
best form of government.

  Of these inquiries, the last does not concern us here; but the first
is an essential part of our subject: for we may, without rashness,
at once enunciate a proposition, the proofs and illustrations of which
will present themselves in the ensuing pages; that this ideally best
form of government will be found in some one or other variety of the
Representative System.

                              Chapter 3

  That the ideally best Form of Government is Representative

 IT HAS long (perhaps throughout the entire duration of British
freedom) been a common saying, that if a good despot could be ensured,
despotic monarchy would be the best form of government. I look upon
this as a radical and most pernicious misconception of what good
government is; which, until it can be got rid of, will fatally vitiate
all our speculations on government.

  The supposition is, that absolute power, in the hands of an
eminent individual, would ensure a virtuous and intelligent
performance of all the duties of government. Good laws would be
established and enforced, bad laws would be reformed; the best men
would be placed in all situations of trust; justice would be as well
administered, the public burthens would be as light and as judiciously
imposed, every branch of administration would be as purely and as
intelligently conducted, as the circumstances of the country and its
degree of intellectual and moral cultivation would admit. I am
willing, for the sake of the argument, to concede all this; but I must
point out how great the concession is; how much more is needed to
produce even an approximation to these results than is conveyed in the
simple expression, a good despot. Their realisation would in fact
imply, not merely a good monarch, but an all-seeing one. He must be at
all times informed correctly, in considerable detail, of the conduct
and working of every branch of administration, in every district of
the country, and must be able, in the twenty-four hours per day
which are all that is granted to a king as to the humblest labourer,
to give an effective share of attention and superintendence to all
parts of this vast field; or he must at least be capable of discerning
and choosing out, from among the mass of his subjects, not only a
large abundance of honest and able men, fit to conduct every branch of
public administration under supervision and control, but also the
small number of men of eminent virtues and talents who can be
trusted not only to do without that supervision, but to exercise it
themselves over others. So extraordinary are the faculties and
energies required for performing this task in any supportable
manner, that the good despot whom we are supposing can hardly be
imagined as consenting to undertake it, unless as a refuge from
intolerable evils, and a transitional preparation for something
beyond. But the argument can do without even this immense item in
the account. Suppose the difficulty vanquished. What should we then
have? One man of superhuman mental activity managing the entire
affairs of a mentally passive people. Their passivity is implied in
the very idea of absolute power. The nation as a whole, and every
individual composing it, are without any potential voice in their
own destiny. They exercise no will in respect to their collective
interests. All is decided for them by a will not their own, which it
is legally a crime for them to disobey.

  What sort of human beings can be formed under such a regimen? What
development can either their thinking or their active faculties attain
under it? On matters of pure theory they might perhaps be allowed to
speculate, so long as their speculations either did not approach
politics, or had not the remotest connection with its practice. On
practical affairs they could at most be only suffered to suggest;
and even under the most moderate of despots, none but persons of
already admitted or reputed superiority could hope that their
suggestions would be known to, much less regarded by, those who had
the management of affairs. A person must have a very unusual taste for
intellectual exercise in and for itself, who will put himself to the
trouble of thought when it is to have no outward effect, or qualify
himself for functions which he has no chance of being allowed to
exercise. The only sufficient incitement to mental exertion, in any
but a few minds in a generation, is the prospect of some practical use
to be made of its results. It does not follow that the nation will
be wholly destitute of intellectual power. The common business of
life, which must necessarily be performed by each individual or family
for themselves, will call forth some amount of intelligence and
practical ability, within a certain narrow range of ideas. There may
be a select class of savants, who cultivate science with a view to its
physical uses, or for the pleasure of the pursuit. There will be a
bureaucracy, and persons in training for the bureaucracy, who will
be taught at least some empirical maxims of government and public
administration. There may be, and often has been, a systematic
organisation of the best mental power in the country in some special
direction (commonly military) to promote the grandeur of the despot.
But the public at large remain without information and without
interest on all greater matters of practice; or, if they have any
knowledge of them, it is but a dilettante knowledge, like that which
people have of the mechanical arts who have never handled a tool.

  Nor is it only in their intelligence that they suffer. Their moral
capacities are equally stunted. Wherever the sphere of action of human
beings is artificially circumscribed, their sentiments are narrowed
and dwarfed in the same proportion. The food of feeling is action:
even domestic affection lives upon voluntary good offices. Let a
person have nothing to do for his country, and he will not care for
it. It has been said of old, that in a despotism there is at most
but one patriot, the despot himself; and the saying rests on a just
appreciation of the effects of absolute subjection, even to a good and
wise master. Religion remains: and here at least, it may be thought,
is an agency that may be relied on for lifting men's eyes and minds
above the dust at their feet. But religion, even supposing it to
escape perversion for the purposes of despotism, ceases in these
circumstances to be a social concern, and narrows into a personal
affair between an individual and his Maker, in which the issue at
stake is but his private salvation. Religion in this shape is quite
consistent with the most selfish and contracted egoism, and identifies
the votary as little in feeling with the rest of his kind as
sensuality itself.

  A good despotism means a government in which, so far as depends on
the despot, there is no positive oppression by officers of state,
but in which all the collective interests of the people are managed
for them, all the thinking that has relation to collective interests
done for them, and in which their minds are formed by, and
consenting to, this abdication of their own energies. Leaving things
to the Government, like leaving them to Providence, is synonymous with
caring nothing about them, and accepting their results, when
disagreeable, as visitations of Nature. With the exception, therefore,
of a few studious men who take an intellectual interest in speculation
for its own sake, the intelligence and sentiments of the whole
people are given up to the material interests, and, when these are
provided for, to the amusement and ornamentation, of private life. But
to say this is to say, if the whole testimony of history is worth
anything, that the era of national decline has arrived: that is, if
the nation had ever attained anything to decline from. If it has never
risen above the condition of an Oriental people, in that condition
it continues to stagnate. But if, like Greece or Rome, it had realised
anything higher, through the energy, patriotism, and enlargement of
mind, which as national qualities are the fruits solely of freedom, it
relapses in a few generations into the Oriental state. And that
state does not mean stupid tranquillity, with security against
change for the worse; it often means being overrun, conquered, and
reduced to domestic slavery, either by a stronger despot, or by the
nearest barbarous people who retain along with their savage rudeness
the energies of freedom.

  Such are not merely the natural tendencies, but the inherent
necessities of despotic government; from which there is no outlet,
unless in so far as the despotism consents not to be despotism; in
so far as the supposed good despot abstains from exercising his power,
and, though holding it in reserve, allows the general business of
government to go on as if the people really governed themselves.
However little probable it may be, we may imagine a despot observing
many of the rules and restraints of constitutional government. He
might allow such freedom of the press and of discussion as would
enable a public opinion to form and express itself on national
affairs. He might suffer local interests to be managed, without the
interference of authority, by the people themselves. He might even
surround himself with a council or councils of government, freely
chosen by the whole or some portion of the nation; retaining in his
own hands the power of taxation, and the supreme legislative as well
as executive authority. Were he to act thus, and so far abdicate as
a despot, he would do away with a considerable part of the evils
characteristic of despotism. Political activity and capacity for
public affairs would no longer be prevented from growing up in the
body of the nation; and a public opinion would form itself not the
mere echo of the government. But such improvement would be the
beginning of new difficulties. This public opinion, independent of the
monarch's dictation, must be either with him or against him; if not
the one, it will be the other. All governments must displease many
persons, and these having now regular organs, and being able to
express their sentiments, opinions adverse to the measures of
government would often be expressed. What is the monarch to do when
these unfavourable opinions happen to be in the majority? Is he to
alter his course? Is he to defer to the nation? If so, he is no longer
a despot, but a constitutional king; an organ or first minister of the
people, distinguished only by being irremovable. If not, he must
either put down opposition by his despotic power, or there will
arise a permanent antagonism between the people and one man, which can
have but one possible ending. Not even a religious principle of
passive obedience and "right divine" would long ward off the natural
consequences of such a position. The monarch would have to succumb,
and conform to the conditions of constitutional royalty, or give place
to some one who would. The despotism, being thus chiefly nominal,
would possess few of the advantages supposed to belong to absolute
monarchy; while it would realise in a very imperfect degree those of a
free government; since however great an amount of liberty the citizens
might practically enjoy, they could never forget that they held it
on sufferance, and by a concession which under the existing
constitution of the state might at any moment be resumed; that they
were legally slaves, though of a prudent, or indulgent, master.

  It is not much to be wondered at if impatient or disappointed
reformers, groaning under the impediments opposed to the most salutary
public improvements by the ignorance, the indifference, the
intractableness, the perverse obstinacy of a people, and the corrupt
combinations of selfish private interests armed with the powerful
weapons afforded by free institutions, should at times sigh for a
strong hand to bear down all these obstacles, and compel a
recalcitrant people to be better governed. But (setting aside the
fact, that for one despot who now and then reforms an abuse, there are
ninety-nine who do nothing but create them) those who look in any such
direction for the realisation of their hopes leave out of the idea
of good government its principal element, the improvement of the
people themselves. One of the benefits of freedom is that under it the
ruler cannot pass by the people's minds, and amend their affairs for
them without amending them. If it were possible for the people to be
well governed in spite of themselves, their good government would last
no longer than the freedom of a people usually lasts who have been
liberated by foreign arms without their own co-operation. It is
true, a despot may educate the people; and to do so really, would be
the best apology for his despotism. But any education which aims at
making human beings other than machines, in the long run makes them
claim to have the control of their own actions. The leaders of
French philosophy in the eighteenth century had been educated by the
Jesuits. Even Jesuit education, it seems, was sufficiently real to
call forth the appetite for freedom. Whatever invigorates the
faculties, in however small a measure, creates an increased desire for
their more unimpeded exercise; and a popular education is a failure,
if it educates the people for any state but that which it will
certainly induce them to desire, and most probably to demand.

  I am far from condemning, in cases of extreme exigency, the
assumption of absolute power in the form of a temporary
dictatorship. Free nations have, in times of old, conferred such power
by their own choice, as a necessary medicine for diseases of the
body politic which could not be got rid of by less violent means.
But its acceptance, even for a time strictly limited, can only be
excused, if, like Solon or Pittacus, the dictator employs the whole
power he assumes in removing the obstacles which debar the nation from
the enjoyment of freedom. A good despotism is an altogether false
ideal, which practically (except as a means to some temporary purpose)
becomes the most senseless and dangerous of chimeras. Evil for evil, a
good despotism, in a country at all advanced in civilisation, is
more noxious than a bad one; for it is far more relaxing and
enervating to the thoughts, feelings, and energies of the people.
The despotism of Augustus prepared the Romans for Tiberius. If the
whole tone of their character had not first been prostrated by
nearly two generations of that mild slavery, they would probably
have had spirit enough left to rebel against the more odious one.

  There is no difficulty in showing that the ideally best form of
government is that in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling
power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the
community; every citizen not only having a voice in the exercise of
that ultimate sovereignty, but being, at least occasionally, called on
to take an actual part in the government, by the personal discharge of
some public function, local or general.

  To test this proposition, it has to be examined in reference to
the two branches into which, as pointed out in the last chapter, the
inquiry into the goodness of a government conveniently divides itself,
namely, how far it promotes the good management of the affairs of
society by means of the existing faculties, moral, intellectual, and
active, of its various members, and what is its effect in improving or
deteriorating those faculties.

  The ideally best form of government, it is scarcely necessary to
say, does not mean one which is practicable or eligible in all
states of civilisation, but the one which, in the circumstances in
which it is practicable and eligible, is attended with the greatest
amount of beneficial consequences, immediate and prospective. A
completely popular government is the only polity which can make out
any claim to this character. It is pre-eminent in both the departments
between which the excellence of a political constitution is divided.
It is both more favourable to present good government, and promotes
a better and higher form of national character, than any other
polity whatsoever.

  Its superiority in reference to present well-being rests upon two
principles, of as universal truth and applicability as any general
propositions which can be laid down respecting human affairs. The
first is, that the rights and interests of every or any person are
only secure from being disregarded when the person interested is
himself able, and habitually disposed, to stand up for them. The
second is, that the general prosperity attains a greater height, and
is more widely diffused, in proportion to the amount and variety of
the personal energies enlisted in promoting it.

  Putting these two propositions into a shape more special to their
present application; human beings are only secure from evil at the
hands of others in proportion as they have the power of being, and
are, self-protecting; and they only achieve a high degree of success
in their struggle with Nature in proportion as they are
self-dependent, relying on what they themselves can do, either
separately or in concert, rather than on what others do for them.

  The former proposition- that each is the only safe guardian of his
own rights and interests- is one of those elementary maxims of
prudence, which every person, capable of conducting his own affairs,
implicitly acts upon, wherever he himself is interested. Many, indeed,
have a great dislike to it as a political doctrine, and are fond of
holding it up to obloquy, as a doctrine of universal selfishness. To
which we may answer, that whenever it ceases to be true that
mankind, as a rule, prefer themselves to others, and those nearest
to them to those more remote, from that moment Communism is not only
practicable, but the only defensible form of society; and will, when
that time arrives, be assuredly carried into effect. For my own
part, not believing in universal selfishness, I have no difficulty
in admitting that Communism would even now be practicable among the
elite of mankind, and may become so among the rest. But as this
opinion is anything but popular with those defenders of existing
institutions who find fault with the doctrine of the general
predominance of self-interest, I am inclined to think they do in
reality believe that most men consider themselves before other people.
It is not, however, necessary to affirm even thus much in order to
support the claim of all to participate in the sovereign power. We
need not suppose that when power resides in an exclusive class, that
class will knowingly and deliberately sacrifice the other classes to
themselves: it suffices that, in the absence of its natural defenders,
the interest of the excluded is always in danger of being
overlooked; and, when looked at, is seen with very different eyes from
those of the persons whom it directly concerns.

  In this country, for example, what are called the working classes
may be considered as excluded from all direct participation in the
government. I do not believe that the classes who do participate in it
have in general any intention of sacrificing the working classes to
themselves. They once had that intention; witness the persevering
attempts so long made to keep down wages by law. But in the present
day their ordinary disposition is the very opposite: they willingly
make considerable sacrifices, especially of their pecuniary
interest, for the benefit of the working classes, and err rather by
too lavish and indiscriminating beneficence; nor do I believe that any
rulers in history have been actuated by a more sincere desire to do
their duty towards the poorer portion of their countrymen. Yet does
Parliament, or almost any of the members composing it, ever for an
instant look at any question with the eyes of a working man? When a
subject arises in which the labourers as such have an interest, is
it regarded from any point of view but that of the employers of
labour? I do not say that the working men's view of these questions is
in general nearer to the truth than the other: but it is sometimes
quite as near; and in any case it ought to be respectfully listened
to, instead of being, as it is, not merely turned away from, but
ignored. On the question of strikes, for instance, it is doubtful if
there is so much as one among the leading members of either House
who is not firmly convinced that the reason of the matter is
unqualifiedly on the side of the masters, and that the men's view of
it is simply absurd. Those who have studied the question know well how
far this is from being the case; and in how different, and how
infinitely less superficial a manner the point would have to be
argued, if the classes who strike were able to make themselves heard
in Parliament.

  It is an adherent condition of human affairs that no intention,
however sincere, of protecting the interests of others can make it
safe or salutary to tie up their own hands. Still more obviously
true is it, that by their own hands only can any positive and
durable improvement of their circumstances in life be worked out.
Through the joint influence of these two principles, all free
communities have both been more exempt from social injustice and
crime, and have attained more brilliant prosperity, than any others,
or than they themselves after they lost their freedom. Contrast the
free states of the world, while their freedom lasted, with the
cotemporary subjects of monarchical or oligarchical despotism: the
Greek cities with the Persian satrapies; the Italian republics and the
free towns of Flanders and Germany, with the feudal monarchies of
Europe; Switzerland, Holland, and England, with Austria or
anterevolutionary France. Their superior prosperity was too obvious
ever to have been gainsaid: while their superiority in good government
and social relations is proved by the prosperity, and is manifest
besides in every page of history. If we compare, not one age with
another, but the different governments which co-existed in the same
age, no amount of disorder which exaggeration itself can pretend to
have existed amidst the publicity of the free states can be compared
for a moment with the contemptuous trampling upon the mass of the
people which pervaded the whole life of the monarchical countries,
or the disgusting individual tyranny which was of more than daily
occurrence under the systems of plunder which they called fiscal
arrangements, and in the secrecy of their frightful courts of justice.

  It must be acknowledged that the benefits of freedom, so far as they
have hitherto been enjoyed, were obtained by the extension of its
privileges to a part only of the community; and that a government in
which they are extended impartially to all is a desideratum still
unrealised. But though every approach to this has an independent
value, and in many cases more than an approach could not, in the
existing state of general improvement, be made, the participation of
all in these benefits is the ideally perfect conception of free
government. In proportion as any, no matter who, are excluded from it,
the interests of the excluded are left without the guarantee
accorded to the rest, and they themselves have less scope and
encouragement than they might otherwise have to that exertion of their
energies for the good of themselves and of the community, to which the
general prosperity is always proportioned.

  Thus stands the case as regards present well-being; the good
management of the affairs of the existing generation. If we now pass
to the influence of the form of government upon character, we shall
find the superiority of popular government over every other to be,
if possible, still more decided and indisputable.

  This question really depends upon a still more fundamental one,
viz., which of two common types of character, for the general good
of humanity, it is most desirable should predominate- the active, or
the passive type; that which struggles against evils, or that which
endures them; that which bends to circumstances, or that which
endeavours to make circumstances bend to itself.

  The commonplaces of moralists, and the general sympathies of
mankind, are in favour of the passive type. Energetic characters may
be admired, but the acquiescent and submissive are those which most
men personally prefer. The passiveness of our neighbours increases our
sense of security, and plays into the hands of our wilfulness. Passive
characters, if we do not happen to need their activity, seem an
obstruction the less in our own path. A contented character is not a
dangerous rival. Yet nothing is more certain than that improvement
in human affairs is wholly the work of the uncontented characters;
and, moreover, that it is much easier for an active mind to acquire
the virtues of patience than for a passive one to assume those of

  Of the three varieties of mental excellence, intellectual,
practical, and moral, there never could be any doubt in regard to
the first two which side had the advantage. All intellectual
superiority is the fruit of active effort. Enterprise, the desire to
keep moving, to be trying and accomplishing new things for our own
benefit or that of others, is the parent even of speculative, and much
more of practical, talent. The intellectual culture compatible with
the other type is of that feeble and vague description which belongs
to a mind that stops at amusement, or at simple contemplation. The
test of real and vigourous thinking, the thinking which ascertains
truths instead of dreaming dreams, is successful application to
practice. Where that purpose does not exist, to give definiteness,
precision, and an intelligible meaning to thought, it generates
nothing better than the mystical metaphysics of the Pythagoreans or
the Vedas. With respect to practical improvement, the case is still
more evident. The character which improves human life is that which
struggles with natural powers and tendencies, not that which gives way
to them. The self-benefiting qualities are all on the side of the
active and energetic character: and the habits and conduct which
promote the advantage of each individual member of the community
must be at least a part of those which conduce most in the end to
the advancement of the community as a whole.

  But on the point of moral preferability, there seems at first
sight to be room for doubt. I am not referring to the religious
feeling which has so generally existed in favour of the inactive
character, as being more in harmony with the submission due to the
divine will. Christianity as well as other religions has fostered this
sentiment; but it is the prerogative of Christianity, as regards
this and many other perversions, that it is able to throw them off.
Abstractedly from religious considerations, a passive character, which
yields to obstacles instead of striving to overcome them, may not
indeed be very useful to others, no more than to itself, but it
might be expected to be at least inoffensive. Contentment is always
counted among the moral virtues. But it is a complete error to suppose
that contentment is necessarily or naturally attendant on passivity of
character; and useless it is, the moral consequences are
mischievous. Where there exists a desire for advantages not possessed,
the mind which does not potentially possess them by means of its own
energies is apt to look with hatred and malice on those who do. The
person bestirring himself with hopeful prospects to improve his
circumstances is the one who feels good-will towards others engaged
in, or who have succeeded in, the same pursuit. And where the majority
are so engaged, those who do not attain the object have had the tone
given to their feelings by the general habit of the country, and
ascribe their failure to want of effort or opportunity, or to their
personal ill luck. But those who, while desiring what others
possess, put no energy into striving for it, are either incessantly
grumbling that fortune does not do for them what they do not attempt
to do for themselves, or overflowing with envy and ill-will towards
those who possess what they would like to have.

  In proportion as success in life is seen or believed to be the fruit
of fatality or accident, and not of exertion, in that same ratio
does envy develop itself as a point of national character. The most
envious of all mankind are the Orientals. In Oriental moralists, in
Oriental tales, the envious man is remarkably prominent. In real life,
he is the terror of all who possess anything desirable, be it a
palace, a handsome child, or even good health and spirits: the
supposed effect of his mere look constitutes the all-pervading
superstition of the evil eye. Next to Orientals in envy, as in
activity, are some of the Southern Europeans. The Spaniards pursued
all their great men with it, embittered their lives, and generally
succeeded in putting an early stop to their successes.* With the
French, who are essentially a southern people, the double education of
despotism and Catholicism has, in spite of their impulsive
temperament, made submission and endurance the common character of the
people, and their most received notion of wisdom and excellence: and
if envy of one another, and of all superiority, is not more rife among
them than it is, the circumstance must be ascribed to the many
valuable counteracting elements in the French character, and most of
all to the great individual energy which, though less persistent and
more intermittent than in the self-helping and struggling
Anglo-Saxons, has nevertheless manifested itself among the French in
nearly every direction in which the operation of their institutions
has been favourable to it.

  * I limit the expression to past time, because I would say nothing
derogatory of a great, and now at last a free, people, who are
entering into the general movement of European progress with a
vigour which bids fair to make up rapidly the ground they have lost.
No one can doubt what Spanish intellect and energy are capable of; and
their faults as a people are chiefly those for which freedom and
industrial ardour are a real specific.

  There are, no doubt, in all countries, really contented
characters, who not merely do not seek, but do not desire, what they
do not already possess, and these naturally bear no ill-will towards
such as have apparently a more favoured lot. But the great mass of
seeming contentment is real discontent, combined with indolence or
self-indulgence, which, while taking no legitimate means of raising
itself, delights in bringing others down to its own level. And if we
look narrowly even at the cases of innocent contentment, we perceive
that they only win our admiration when the indifference is solely to
improvement in outward circumstances, and there is a striving for
perpetual advancement in spiritual worth, or at least a
disinterested zeal to benefit others. The contented man, or the
contented family, who have no ambition to make any one else happier,
to promote the good of their country or their neighbourhood, or to
improve themselves in moral excellence, excite in us neither
admiration nor approval. We rightly ascribe this sort of contentment
to mere unmanliness and want of spirit. The content which we approve
is an ability to do cheerfully without what cannot be had, a just
appreciation of the comparative value of different objects of
desire, and a willing renunciation of the less when incompatible
with the greater. These, however, are excellences more natural to
the character, in proportion as it is actively engaged in the
attempt to improve its own or some other lot. He who is continually
measuring his energy against difficulties learns what are the
difficulties insuperable to him, and what are those which, though he
might overcome, the success is not worth the cost. He whose thoughts
and activities are all needed for, and habitually employed in,
practicable and useful enterprises, is the person of all others
least likely to let his mind dwell with brooding discontent upon
things either not worth attaining, or which are not so to him. Thus
the active, self-helping character is not only intrinsically the best,
but is the likeliest to acquire all that is really excellent or
desirable in the opposite type.

  The striving, go-ahead character of England and the United States is
only a fit subject of disapproving criticism on account of the very
secondary objects on which it commonly expends its strength. In itself
it is the foundation of the best hopes for the general improvement
of mankind. It has been acutely remarked that whenever anything goes
amiss the habitual impulse of French people is to say, "ll faut de
la patience"; and of English people, "What a shame." The people who
think it a shame when anything goes wrong- who rush to the conclusion
that the evil could and ought to have been prevented, are those who,
in the long run, do most to make the world better. If the desires
are low placed, if they extend to little beyond physical comfort,
and the show of riches, the immediate results of the energy will not
be much more than the continual extension of man's power over material
objects; but even this makes room, and prepares the mechanical
appliances, for the greatest intellectual and social achievements; and
while the energy is there, some persons will apply it, and it will
be applied more and more, to the perfecting not of outward
circumstances alone, but of man's inward nature. Inactivity,
unaspiringness, absence of desire, are a more fatal hindrance to
improvement than any misdirection of energy; and are that through
which alone, when existing in the mass, any very formidable
misdirection by an energetic few becomes possible. It is this, mainly,
which retains in a savage or semi-savage state the great majority of
the human race.

  Now there can be no kind of doubt that the passive type of character
is favoured by the government of one or a few, and the active
self-helping type by that of the Many. Irresponsible rulers need the
quiescence of the ruled more than they need any activity but that
which they can compel. Submissiveness to the prescriptions of men as
necessities of nature is the lesson inculcated by all governments upon
those who are wholly without participation in them. The will of
superiors, and the law as the will of superiors, must be passively
yielded to. But no men are mere instruments or materials in the
hands of their rulers who have will or spirit or a spring of
internal activity in the rest of their proceedings: and any
manifestation of these qualities, instead of receiving encouragement
from despots, has to get itself forgiven by them. Even when
irresponsible rulers are not sufficiently conscious of danger from the
mental activity of their subjects to be desirous of repressing it, the
position itself is a repression. Endeavour is even more effectually
restrained by the certainty of its impotence than by any positive
discouragement. Between subjection to the will of others, and the
virtues of self-help and self-government, there is a natural
incompatibility. This is more or less complete, according as the
bondage is strained or relaxed. Rulers differ very much in the
length to which they carry the control of the free agency of their
subjects, or the supersession of it by managing their business for
them. But the difference is in degree, not in principle; and the
best despots often go the greatest lengths in chaining up the free
agency of their subjects. A bad despot, when his own personal
indulgences have been provided for, may sometimes be willing to let
the people alone; but a good despot insists on doing them good, by
making them do their own business in a better way than they themselves
know of. The regulations which restricted to fixed processes all the
leading branches of French manufactures were the work of the great

  Very different is the state of the human faculties where a human
being feels himself under no other external restraint than the
necessities of nature, or mandates of society which he has his share
in imposing, and which it is open to him, if he thinks them wrong,
publicly to dissent from, and exert himself actively to get altered.
No doubt, under a government partially popular, this freedom may be
exercised even by those who are not partakers in the full privileges
of citizenship. But it is a great additional stimulus to any one's
self-help and self-reliance when he starts from even ground, and has
not to feel that his success depends on the impression he can make
upon the sentiments and dispositions of a body of whom he is not
one. It is a great discouragement to an individual, and a still
greater one to a class, to be left out of the constitution; to be
reduced to plead from outside the door to the arbiters of their
destiny, not taken into consultation within. The maximum of the
invigorating effect of freedom upon the character is only obtained
when the person acted on either is, or is looking forward to becoming,
a citizen as fully privileged as any other.

  What is still more important than even this matter of feeling is the
practical discipline which the character obtains from the occasional
demand made upon the citizens to exercise, for a time and in their
turn, some social function. It is not sufficiently considered how
little there is in most men's ordinary life to give any largeness
either to their conceptions or to their sentiments. Their work is a
routine; not a labour of love, but of self-interest in the most
elementary form, the satisfaction of daily wants; neither the thing
done, nor the process of doing it, introduces the mind to thoughts
or feelings extending beyond individuals; if instructive books are
within their reach, there is no stimulus to read them; and in most
cases the individual has no access to any person of cultivation much
superior to his own. Giving him something to do for the public,
supplies, in a measure, all these deficiencies. If circumstances allow
the amount of public duty assigned him to be considerable, it makes
him an educated man. Notwithstanding the defects of the social
system and moral ideas of antiquity, the practice of the dicastery and
the ecclesia raised the intellectual standard of an average Athenian
citizen far beyond anything of which there is yet an example in any
other mass of men, ancient or modern. The proofs of this are
apparent in every page of our great historian of Greece; but we need
scarcely look further than to the high quality of the addresses
which their great orators deemed best calculated to act with effect on
their understanding and will. A benefit of the same kind, though far
less in degree, is produced on Englishmen of the lower middle class by
their liability to be placed on juries and to serve parish offices;
which, though it does not occur to so many, nor is so continuous,
nor introduces them to so great a variety of elevated
considerations, as to admit of comparison with the public education
which every citizen of Athens obtained from her democratic
institutions, must make them nevertheless very different beings, in
range of ideas and development of faculties, from those who have
done nothing in their lives but drive a quill, or sell goods over a

  Still more salutary is the moral part of the instruction afforded by
the participation of the private citizen, if even rarely, in public
functions. He is called upon, while so engaged, to weigh interests not
his own; to be guided, in case of conflicting claims, by another
rule than his private partialities; to apply, at every turn,
principles and maxims which have for their reason of existence the
common good: and he usually finds associated with him in the same work
minds more familiarised than his own with these ideas and
operations, whose study it will be to supply reasons to his
understanding, and stimulation to his feeling for the general
interest. He is made to feel himself one of the public, and whatever
is for their benefit to be for his benefit. Where this school of
public spirit does not exist, scarcely any sense is entertained that
private persons, in no eminent social situation, owe any duties to
society, except to obey the laws and submit to the government. There
is no unselfish sentiment of identification with the public. Every
thought or feeling, either of interest or of duty, is absorbed in
the individual and in the family. The man never thinks of any
collective interest, of any objects to be pursued jointly with others,
but only in competition with them, and in some measure at their
expense. A neighbour, not being an ally or an associate, since he is
never engaged in any common undertaking for joint benefit, is
therefore only a rival. Thus even private morality suffers, while
public is actually extinct. Were this the universal and only
possible state of things, the utmost aspirations of the lawgiver or
the moralist could only stretch to make the bulk of the community a
flock of sheep innocently nibbling the grass side by side.

  From these accumulated considerations it is evident that the only
government which can fully satisfy all the exigencies of the social
state is one in which the whole people participate; that any
participation, even in the smallest public function, is useful; that
the participation should everywhere be as great as the general
degree of improvement of the community will allow; and that nothing
less can be ultimately desirable than the admission of all to a
share in the sovereign power of the state. But since all cannot, in
a community exceeding a single small town, participate personally in
any but some very minor portions of the public business, it follows
that the ideal type of a perfect government must be representative.

                                 Chapter 4

  Under what Social Conditions Representative Government is

  WE HAVE recognised in representative government the ideal type of
the most perfect polity, for which, in consequence, any portion of
mankind are better adapted in proportion to their degree of general
improvement. As they range lower and lower in development, that form
of government will be, generally speaking, less suitable to them;
though this is not true universally: for the adaptation of a people to
representative government does not depend so much upon the place
they occupy in the general scale of humanity as upon the degree in
which they possess certain special requisites; requisites, however, so
closely connected with their degree of general advancement, that any
variation between the two is rather the exception than the rule. Let
us examine at what point in the descending series representative
government ceases altogether to be admissible, either through its
own unfitness, or the superior fitness of some other regimen.

  First, then, representative, like any other government, must be
unsuitable in any case in which it cannot permanently subsist- i.e.
in which it does not fulfil the three fundamental conditions
enumerated in the first chapter. These were- 1. That the people
should be willing to receive it. 2. That they should be willing and
able to do what is necessary for its preservation. 3. That they should
be willing and able to fulfil the duties and discharge the functions
which it imposes on them.

  The willingness of the people to accept representative government
only becomes a practical question when an enlightened ruler, or a
foreign nation or nations who have gained power over the country,
are disposed to offer it the boon. To individual reformers the
question is almost irrelevant, since, if no other objection can be
made to their enterprise than that the opinion of the nation is not
yet on their side, they have the ready and proper answer, that to
bring it over to their side is the very end they aim at. When
opinion is really adverse, its hostility is usually to the fact of
change, rather than to representative government in itself. The
contrary case is not indeed unexampled; there has sometimes been a
religious repugnance to any limitation of the power of a particular
line of rulers; but, in general, the doctrine of passive obedience
meant only submission to the will of the powers that be, whether
monarchical or popular. In any case in which the attempt to
introduce representative government is at all likely to be made,
indifference to it, and inability to understand its processes and
requirements, rather than positive opposition, are the obstacles to be
expected. These, however, are as fatal, and may be as hard to be got
rid of, as actual aversion; it being easier, in most cases, to
change the direction of an active feeling, than to create one in a
state previously passive. When a people have no sufficient value
for, and attachment to, a representative constitution, they have
next to no chance of retaining it. In every country, the executive
is the branch of the government which wields the immediate power,
and is in direct contact with the public; to it, principally, the
hopes and fears of individuals are directed, and by it both the
benefits, and the terrors and prestige, of government are mainly
represented to the public eye. Unless, therefore, the authorities
whose office it is to check the executive are backed by an effective
opinion and feeling in the country, the executive has always the means
of setting them aside, or compelling them to subservience, and is sure
to be well supported in doing so. Representative institutions
necessarily depend for permanence upon the readiness of the people
to fight for them in case of their being endangered. If too little
valued for this, they seldom obtain a footing at all, and if they
do, are almost sure to be overthrown, as soon as the head of the
government, or any party leader who can muster force for a coup de
main, is willing to run some small risk for absolute power.

  These considerations relate to the first two causes of failure in
a representative government. The third is, when the people want either
the will or the capacity to fulfil the part which belongs to them in a
representative constitution. When nobody, or only some small fraction,
feels the degree of interest in the general affairs of the State
necessary to the formation of a public opinion, the electors will
seldom make any use of the right of suffrage but to serve their
private interest, or the interest of their locality, or of some one
with whom they are connected as adherents or dependents. The small
class who, in this state of public feeling, gain the command of the
representative body, for the most part use it solely as a means of
seeking their fortune. if the executive is weak, the country is
distracted by mere struggles for place; if strong, it makes itself
despotic, at the cheap price of appeasing the representatives, or such
of them as are capable of giving trouble, by a share of the spoil; and
the only fruit produced by national representation is, that in
addition to those who really govern, there is an assembly quartered on
the public, and no abuse in which a portion of the assembly are
interested is at all likely to be removed. When, however, the evil
stops here, the price may be worth paying, for the publicity and
discussion which, though not an invariable, are a natural
accompaniment of any, even nominal, representation. In the modern
Kingdom of Greece, for example,* it can hardly be doubted, that the
placehunters who chiefly compose the representative assembly, though
they contribute little or nothing directly to good government, nor
even much temper the arbitrary power of the executive, yet keep up the
idea of popular rights, and conduce greatly to the real liberty of the
press which exists in that country. This benefit, however, is entirely
dependent on the co-existence with the popular body of an hereditary
king. If, instead of struggling for the favours of the chief ruler,
these selfish and sordid factions struggled for the chief place
itself, they would certainly, as in Spanish America, keep the
country in a state of chronic revolution and civil war. A despotism,
not even legal, but of illegal violence, would be alternately
exercised by a succession of political adventurers, and the name and
forms of representation would have no effect but to prevent
despotism from attaining the stability and security by which alone its
evils can be mitigated, or its few advantages realised.

 * Written before the salutary revolution of 1862, which, provoked
by popular disgust at the system of governing by corruption, and the
general demoralisation of political men, has opened to that rapidly
improving people a new and hopeful chance of real constitutional

  The preceding are the cases in which representative government
cannot permanently exist. There are others in which it possibly
might exist, but in which some other form of government would be
preferable. These are principally when the people, in order to advance
in civilisation, have some lesson to learn, some habit not yet
acquired, to the acquisition of which representative government is
likely to be an impediment.

  The most obvious of these cases is the one already considered, in
which the people have still to learn the first lesson of civilisation,
that of obedience. A race who have been trained in energy and
courage by struggles with Nature and their neighbours, but who have
not yet settled down into permanent obedience to any common
superior, would be little likely to acquire this habit under the
collective government of their own body. A representative assembly
drawn from among themselves would simply reflect their own turbulent
insubordination. It would refuse its authority to all proceedings
which would impose, on their savage independence, any improving
restraint. The mode in which such tribes are usually brought to submit
to the primary conditions of civilised society is through the
necessities of warfare, and the despotic authority indispensable to
military command. A military leader is the only superior to whom
they will submit, except occasionally some prophet supposed to be
inspired from above, or conjurer regarded as possessing miraculous
power. These may exercise a temporary ascendancy, but as it is
merely personal, it rarely effects any change in the general habits of
the people, unless the prophet, like Mahomet, is also a military
chief, and goes forth the armed apostle of a new religion; or unless
the military chiefs ally themselves with his influence, and turn it
into a prop for their own government.

  A people are no less unfitted for representative government by the
contrary fault to that last specified; by extreme passiveness, and
ready submission to tyranny. If a people thus prostrated by
character and circumstances could obtain representative
institutions, they would inevitably choose their tyrants as their
representatives, and the yoke would be made heavier on them by the
contrivance which prima facie might be expected to lighten it. On
the contrary, many a people has gradually emerged from this
condition by the aid of a central authority, whose position has made
it the rival, and has ended by making it the master, of the local
despots, and which, above all, has been single. French history, from
Hugh Capet to Richelieu and Louis XIV., is a continued example of this
course of things. Even when the King was scarcely so powerful as
many of his chief feudatories, the great advantage which he derived
from being but one has been recognised by French historians. To him
the eyes of all the locally oppressed were turned; he was the object
of hope and reliance throughout the kingdom; while each local
potentate was only powerful within a more or less confined space. At
his hands, refuge and protection were sought from every part of the
country, against first one, then another, of the immediate oppressors.
His progress to ascendancy was slow; but it resulted from successively
taking advantage of opportunities which offered themselves only to
him. It was, therefore, sure; and, in proportion as it was
accomplished, it abated, in the oppressed portion of the community,
the habit of submitting to oppression. The king's interest lay in
encouraging all partial attempts on the part of the serfs to
emancipate themselves from their masters, and place themselves in
immediate subordination to himself. Under his protection numerous
communities were formed which knew no one above them but the King.
Obedience to a distant monarch is liberty itself compared with the
dominion of the lord of the neighbouring castle: and the monarch was
long compelled by necessities of position to exert his authority as
the ally, rather than the master, of the classes whom he had aided
in affecting their liberation. In this manner a central power,
despotic in principle though generally much restricted in practice,
was mainly instrumental in carrying the people through a necessary
stage of improvement, which representative government, if real,
would most likely have prevented them from entering upon. Nothing
short of despotic rule, or a general massacre, could have effected the
emancipation of the serfs in the Russian Empire.

  The same passages of history forcibly illustrate another mode in
which unlimited monarchy overcomes obstacles to the progress of
civilisation which representative government would have had a
decided tendency to aggravate. One of the strongest hindrances to
improvement, up to a rather advanced stage, is an inveterate spirit of
locality. Portions of mankind, in many other respects capable of,
and prepared for, freedom, may be unqualified for amalgamating into
even the smallest nation. Not only may jealousies and antipathies
repel them from one another, and bar all possibility of voluntary
union, but they may not yet have acquired any of the feelings or
habits which would make the union real, supposing it to be nominally
accomplished. They may, like the citizens of an ancient community,
or those of an Asiatic village, have had considerable practice in
exercising their faculties on village or town interests, and have even
realised a tolerably effective popular government on that restricted
scale, and may yet have but slender sympathies with anything beyond,
and no habit or capacity of dealing with interests common to many such

  I am not aware that history furnishes any example in which a
number of these political atoms or corpuscles have coalesced into a
body, and learnt to feel themselves one people, except through
previous subjection to a central authority common to all.* It is
through the habit of deferring to that authority, entering into its
plans and subserving its purposes, that a people such as we have
supposed receive into their minds the conception of large interests,
common to a considerable geographical extent. Such interests, on the
contrary, are necessarily the predominant consideration in the mind of
the central ruler; and through the relations, more or less intimate,
which he progressively establishes with the localities, they become
familiar to the general mind. The most favourable concurrence of
circumstances under which this step in improvement could be made,
would be one which should raise up representative institutions without
representative government; a representative body, or bodies, drawn
from the localities, making itself the auxiliary and instrument of the
central power, but seldom attempting to thwart or control it. The
people being thus taken, as it were, into council, though not
sharing the supreme power, the political education given by the
central authority is carried home, much more effectually than it could
otherwise be, to the local chiefs and to the population generally;
while, at the same time, a tradition is kept up of government by
general consent, or at least, the sanction of tradition is not given
to government without it, which, when consecrated by custom, has so
often put a bad end to a good beginning, and is one of the most
frequent causes of the sad fatality which in most countries has
stopped improvement in so early a stage, because the work of some
one period has been so done as to bar the needful work of the ages
following. Meanwhile, it may be laid down as a political truth, that
by irresponsible monarchy rather than by representative government can
a multitude of insignificant political units be welded into a
people, with common feelings of cohesion, power enough to protect
itself against conquest or foreign aggression, and affairs
sufficiently various and considerable of its own to occupy worthily
and expand to fit proportions the social and political intelligence of
the population.

  * Italy, which alone can be quoted as an exception, is only so in
regard to the final stage of its transformation. The more difficult
previous advance from the city isolation of Florence, Pisa, or
Milan, to the provincial unity of Tuscany or Lombardy, took place in
the usual manner.

  For these several reasons, kingly government, free from the
control (though perhaps strengthened by the support) of representative
institutions, is the most suitable form of polity for the earliest
stages of any community, not excepting a city-community like those
of ancient Greece: where, accordingly, the government of kings,
under some real but no ostensible or constitutional control by
public opinion, did historically precede by an unknown and probably
great duration all free institutions, and gave place at last, during a
considerable lapse of time, to oligarchies of a few families.

  A hundred other infirmities or short-comings in a people might be
pointed out, which pro tanto disqualify them from making the best
use of representative government; but in regard to these it is not
equally obvious that the government of One or a Few would have any
tendency to cure or alleviate the evil. Strong prejudices of any kind;
obstinate adherence to old habits; positive defects of national
character, or mere ignorance, and deficiency of mental cultivation, if
prevalent in a people, will be in general faithfully reflected in
their representative assemblies: and should it happen that the
executive administration, the direct management of public affairs,
is in the hands of persons comparatively free from these defects, more
good would frequently be done by them when not hampered by the
necessity of carrying with them the voluntary assent of such bodies.
But the mere position of the rulers does not in these, as it does in
the other cases which we have examined, of itself invest them with
interests and tendencies operating in the beneficial direction. From
the general weaknesses of the people or of the state of
civilisation, the One and his counsellors, or the Few, are not
likely to be habitually exempt; except in the case of their being
foreigners, belonging to a superior people or a more advanced state of
society. Then, indeed, the rulers may be, to almost any extent,
superior in civilisation to those over whom they rule; and
subjection to a foreign government of this description,
notwithstanding its inevitable evils, is of ten of the greatest
advantage to a people, carrying them rapidly through several stages of
progress, and clearing away obstacles to improvement which might
have lasted indefinitely if the subject population had been left
unassisted to its native tendencies and chances. In a country not
under the dominion of foreigners, the only cause adequate to producing
similar benefits is the rare accident of a monarch of extraordinary
genius. There have been in history a few of these, who, happily for
humanity, have reigned long enough to render some of their
improvements permanent, by leaving them under the guardianship of a
generation which had grown up under their influence. Charlemagne may
be cited as one instance; Peter the Great is another. Such examples
however are so unfrequent that they can only be classed with the happy
accidents which have so often decided at a critical moment whether
some leading portion of humanity should make a sudden start, or sink
back towards barbarism: chances like the existence of Themistocles
at the time of the Persian invasion, or of the first or third
William of Orange.

  It would be absurd to construct institutions for the mere purpose of
taking advantage of such possibilities; especially as men of this
calibre, in any distinguished position, do not require despotic
power to enable them to exert great influence, as is evidenced by
the three last mentioned. The case most requiring consideration in
reference to institutions is the not very uncommon one in which a
small but leading portion of the population, from difference of
race, more civilised origin, or other peculiarities of circumstance,
are markedly superior in civilisation and general character to the
remainder. Under those conditions, government by the representatives
of the mass would stand a chance of depriving them of much of the
benefit they might derive from the greater civilisation of the
superior ranks; while government by the representatives of those ranks
would probably rivet the degradation of the multitude, and leave
them no hope of decent treatment except by ridding themselves of one
of the most valuable elements of future advancement. The best prospect
of improvement for a people thus composed lies in the existence of a
constitutionally unlimited, or at least a practically preponderant,
authority in the chief ruler of the dominant class. He alone has by
his position an interest in raising and improving the mass of whom
he is not jealous, as a counterpoise to his associates of whom he
is. And if fortunate circumstances place beside him, not as
controllers but as subordinates, a body representative of the superior
caste, which by its objections and questionings, and by its occasional
outbreaks of spirit, keeps alive habits of collective resistance,
and may admit of being, in time and by degrees, expanded into a really
national representation (which is in substance the history of the
English Parliament), the nation has then the most favourable prospects
of improvement which can well occur to a community thus
circumstanced and constituted.

  Among the tendencies which, without absolutely rendering a people
unfit for representative government, seriously incapacitate them
from reaping the full benefit of it, one deserves particular notice.
There are two states of the inclinations, intrinsically very
different, but which have something in common, by virtue of which they
often coincide in the direction they give to the efforts of
individuals and of nations: one is, the desire to exercise power
over others; the other is disinclination to have power exercised
over themselves.

  The difference between different portions of mankind in the relative
strength of these two dispositions is one of the most important
elements in their history. There are nations in whom the passion for
governing others is so much stronger than the desire of personal
independence, that for the mere shadow of the one they are found ready
to sacrifice the whole of the other. Each one of their number is
willing, like the private soldier in an army, to abdicate his personal
freedom of action into the hands of his general, provided the army
is triumphant and victorious, and he is able to flatter himself that
he is one of a conquering host, though the notion that he has
himself any share in the domination exercised over the conquered is an
illusion. A government strictly limited in its powers and
attributions, required to hold its hands from over-meddling, and to
let most things go on without its assuming the part of guardian or
director, is not to the taste of such a people. In their eyes the
possessors of authority can hardly take too much upon themselves,
provided the authority itself is open to general competition. An
average individual among them prefers the chance, however distant or
improbable, of wielding some share of power over his fellow
citizens, above the certainty, to himself and others, of having no
unnecessary power exercised over them. These are the elements of a
people of place-hunters; in whom the course of politics is mainly
determined by place-hunting; where equality alone is cared for, but
not liberty; where the contests of political parties are but struggles
to decide whether the power of meddling in everything shall belong
to one class or another, perhaps merely to one knot of public men or
another; where the idea entertained of democracy is merely that of
opening offices to the competition of all instead of a few; where, the
more popular the institutions, the more innumerable are the places
created, and the more monstrous the over-government exercised by all
over each, and by the executive over all. It would be as unjust as
it would be ungenerous to offer this, or anything approaching to it,
as an unexaggerated picture of the French people; yet the degree in
which they do participate in this type of character has caused
representative government by a limited class to break down by excess
of corruption, and the attempt at representative government by the
whole male population to end in giving one man the power of consigning
any number of the rest, without trial, to Lambessa or Cayenne,
provided he allows all of them to think themselves not excluded from
the possibility of sharing his favours.

  The point of character which, beyond any other, fits the people of
this country for representative government is that they have almost
universally the contrary characteristic. They are very jealous of
any attempt to exercise power over them not sanctioned by long usage
and by their own opinion of right; but they in general care very
little for the exercise of power over others. Not having the
smallest sympathy with the passion for governing, while they are but
too well acquainted with the motives of private interest from which
that office is sought, they prefer that it should be performed by
those to whom it comes without seeking, as a consequence of social
position. If foreigners understood this, it would account to them
for some of the apparent contradictions in the political feelings of
Englishmen; their unhesitating readiness to let themselves be governed
by the higher classes, coupled with so little personal subservience to
them, that no people are so fond of resisting authority when it
oversteps certain prescribed limits, or so determined to make their
rulers always remember that they will only be governed in the way they
themselves like best. Place-hunting, accordingly, is a form of
ambition to which the English, considered nationally, are almost
strangers. If we except the few families or connections of whom
official employment lies directly in the way, Englishmen's views of
advancement in life take an altogether different direction- that of
success in business, or in a profession. They have the strongest
distaste for any mere struggle for office by political parties or
individuals: and there are few things to which they have a greater
aversion than to the multiplication of public employments: a thing, on
the contrary, always popular with the bureaucracy-ridden nations of
the Continent, who would rather pay higher taxes than diminish by
the smallest fraction their individual chances of a place for
themselves or their relatives, and among whom a cry for retrenchment
never means abolition of offices, but the reduction of the salaries of
those which are too considerable for the ordinary citizen to have
any chance of being appointed to them.

                               Chapter 5

             Of the Proper Functions of Representative Bodies.

  IN TREATING of representative government, it is above all
necessary to keep in view the distinction between its idea or essence,
and the particular forms in which the idea has been clothed by
accidental historical developments, or by the notions current at
some particular period.

  The meaning of representative government is, that the whole
people, or some numerous portion of them, exercise through deputies
periodically elected by themselves the ultimate controlling power,
which, in every constitution, must reside somewhere. This ultimate
power they must possess in all its completeness. They must be masters,
whenever they please, of all the operations of government. There is no
need that the constitutional law should itself give them this mastery.
It does not in the British Constitution. But what it does give
practically amounts to this. The power of final control is as
essentially single, in a mixed and balanced government, as in a pure
monarchy or democracy. This is the portion of truth in the opinion
of the ancients, revived by great authorities in our own time, that
a balanced constitution is impossible. There is almost always a
balance, but the scales never hang exactly even. Which of them
preponderates is not always apparent on the face of the political
institutions. In the British Constitution, each of the three
co-ordinate members of the sovereignty is invested with powers
which, if fully exercised, would enable it to stop all the machinery
of government. Nominally, therefore, each is invested with equal power
of thwarting and obstructing the others: and if, by exerting that
power, any of the three could hope to better its position, the
ordinary course of human affairs forbids us to doubt that the power
would be exercised. There can be no question that the full powers of
each would be employed defensively if it found itself assailed by
one or both of the others. What then prevents the same powers from
being exerted aggressively? The unwritten maxims of the
Constitution- in other words, the positive political morality of the
country: and this positive political morality is what we must look to,
if we would know in whom the really supreme power in the
Constitution resides.

  By constitutional law, the Crown can refuse its assent to any Act of
Parliament, and can appoint to office and maintain in it any Minister,
in opposition to the remonstrances of Parliament. But the
constitutional morality of the country nullifies these powers,
preventing them from being ever used; and, by requiring that the
head of the Administration should always be virtually appointed by the
House of Commons, makes that body the real sovereign of the State.
These unwritten rules, which limit the use of lawful powers, are,
however, only effectual, and maintain themselves in existence, on
condition of harmonising with the actual distribution of real
political strength. There is in every constitution a strongest
power- one which would gain the victory if the compromises by which
the Constitution habitually works were suspended and there came a
trial of strength. Constitutional maxims are adhered to, and are
practically operative, so long as they give the predominance in the
Constitution to that one of the powers which has the preponderance of
active power out of doors. This, in England, is the popular power.
If, therefore, the legal provisions of the British Constitution,
together with the unwritten maxims by which the conduct of the
different political authorities is in fact regulated, did not give
to the popular element in the Constitution that substantial
supremacy over every department of the government which corresponds to
its real power in the country, the Constitution would not possess
the stability which characterises it; either the laws or the unwritten
maxims would soon have to be changed. The British government is thus a
representative government in the correct sense of the term: and the
powers which it leaves in hands not directly accountable to the people
can only be considered as precautions which the ruling power is
willing should be taken against its own errors. Such precautions
have existed in all well-constructed democracies. The Athenian
Constitution had many such provisions; and so has that of the United

  But while it is essential to representative government that the
practical supremacy in the state should reside in the
representatives of the people, it is an open question what actual
functions, what precise part in the machinery of government, shall
be directly and personally discharged by the representative body.
Great varieties in this respect are compatible with the essence of
representative government, provided the functions are such as secure
to the representative body the control of everything in the last

  There is a radical distinction between controlling the business of
government and actually doing it. The same person or body may be
able to control everything, but cannot possibly do everything; and
in many cases its control over everything will be more perfect the
less it personally attempts to do. The commander of an army could
not direct its movements effectually if he himself fought in the
ranks, or led an assault. It is the same with bodies of men. Some
things cannot be done except by bodies; other things cannot be well
done by them. It is one question, therefore, what a popular assembly
should control, another what it should itself do. It should, as we
have already seen, control all the operations of government. But in
order to determine through what channel this general control may
most expediently be exercised, and what portion of the business of
government the representative assembly should hold in its own hands,
it is necessary to consider what kinds of business a numerous body
is competent to perform properly. That alone which it can do well it
ought to take personally upon itself. With regard to the rest, its
proper province is not to do it, but to take means for having it
well done by others.

  For example, the duty which is considered as belonging more
peculiarly than any other to an assembly representative of the people,
is that of voting the taxes. Nevertheless, in no country does the
representative body undertake, by itself or its delegated officers, to
prepare the estimates. Though the supplies can only be voted by the
House of Commons, and though the sanction of the House is also
required for the appropriation of the revenues to the different
items of the public expenditure, it is the maxim and the uniform
practice of the Constitution that money can be granted only on the
proposition of the Crown. It has, no doubt, been felt, that moderation
as to the amount, and care and judgment in the detail of its
application, can only be expected when the executive government,
through whose hands it is to pass, is made responsible for the plans
and calculations on which the disbursements are grounded.
Parliament, accordingly, is not expected, nor even permitted, to
originate directly either taxation or expenditure. All it is asked for
is its consent, and the sole power it possesses is that of refusal.

  The principles which are involved and recognised in this
constitutional doctrine, if followed as far as they will go, are a
guide to the limitation and definition of the general functions of
representative assemblies. In the first place, it is admitted in all
countries in which the representative system is practically
understood, that numerous representative bodies ought not to
administer. The maxim is grounded not only on the most essential
principles of good government, but on those of the successful
conduct of business of any description. No body of men, unless
organised and under command, is fit for action, in the proper sense.
Even a select board, composed of few members, and these specially
conversant with the business to be done, is always an inferior
instrument to some one individual who could be found among them, and
would be improved in character if that one person were made the chief,
and all the others reduced to subordinates. What can be done better by
a body than by any individual is deliberation. When it is necessary or
important to secure hearing and consideration to many conflicting
opinions, a deliberative body is indispensable. Those bodies,
therefore, are frequently useful, even for administrative business,
but in general only as advisers; such business being, as a rule,
better conducted under the responsibility of one. Even a joint-stock
company has always in practice, if not in theory, a managing director;
its good or bad management depends essentially on some one person's
qualifications, and the remaining directors, when of any use, are so
by their suggestions to him, or by the power they possess of
watching him, and restraining or removing him in case of misconduct.
That they are ostensibly equal shares with him in the management is no
advantage, but a considerable set-off against any good which they
are capable of doing: it weakens greatly the sense in his own mind,
and in those of other people, of that individual responsibility in
which he should stand forth personally and undividedly.

  But a popular assembly is still less fitted to administer, or to
dictate in detail to those who have the charge of administration. Even
when honestly meant, the interference is almost always injurious.
Every branch of public administration is a skilled business, which has
its own peculiar principles and traditional rules, many of them not
even known, in any effectual way, except to those who have at some
time had a hand in carrying on the business, and none of them likely
to be duly appreciated by persons not practically acquainted with
the department. I do not mean that the transaction of public
business has esoteric mysteries, only to be understood by the
initiated. Its principles are all intelligible to any person of good
sense, who has in his mind a true picture of the circumstances and
conditions to be dealt with: but to have this he must know those
circumstances and conditions; and the knowledge does not come by
intuition. There are many rules of the greatest importance in every
branch of public business (as there are in every private
occupation), of which a person fresh to the subject neither knows
the reason or even suspects the existence, because they are intended
to meet dangers or provide against inconveniences which never
entered into his thoughts. I have known public men, ministers, of more
than ordinary natural capacity, who on their first introduction to a
department of business new to them, have excited the mirth of their
inferiors by the air with which they announced as a truth hitherto set
at nought, and brought to light by themselves, something which was
probably the first thought of everybody who ever looked at the
subject, given up as soon as he had got on to a second. It is true
that a great statesman is he who knows when to depart from traditions,
as well as when to adhere to them. But it is a great mistake to
suppose that he will do this better for being ignorant of the
traditions. No one who does not thoroughly know the modes of action
which common experience has sanctioned is capable of judging of the
circumstances which require a departure from those ordinary modes of
action. The interests dependent on the acts done by a public
department, the consequences liable to follow from any particular mode
of conducting it, require for weighing and estimating them a kind of
knowledge, and of specially exercised judgment, almost as rarely found
in those not bred to it, as the capacity to reform the law in those
who have not professionally studied it.

  All these difficulties are sure to be ignored by a representative
assembly which attempts to decide on special acts of administration.
At its best, it is inexperience sitting in judgment on experience,
ignorance on knowledge: ignorance which never suspecting the existence
of what it does not know, is equally careless and supercilious, making
light of, if not resenting, all pretensions to have a judgment
better worth attending to than its own. Thus it is when no
interested motives intervene: but when they do, the result is
jobbery more unblushing and audacious than the worst corruption
which can well take place in a public office under a government of
publicity. It is not necessary that the interested bias should
extend to the majority of the assembly. In any particular case it is
of ten enough that it affects two or three of their number. Those
two or three will have a greater interest in misleading the body, than
any other of its members are likely to have in putting it right. The
bulk of the assembly may keep their hands clean, but they cannot
keep their minds vigilant or their judgments discerning in matters
they know nothing about; and an indolent majority, like an indolent
individual, belongs to the person who takes most pains with it. The
bad measures or bad appointments of a minister may be checked by
Parliament; and the interest of ministers in defending, and of rival
partisans in attacking, secures a tolerably equal discussion: but quis
custodiet custodes? who shall check the Parliament? A minister, a head
of an office, feels himself under some responsibility. An assembly
in such cases feels under no responsibility at all: for when did any
member of Parliament lose his seat for the vote he gave on any
detail of administration? To a minister, or the head of an office,
it is of more importance what will be thought of his proceedings
some time hence than what is thought of them at the instant: but an
assembly, if the cry of the moment goes with it, however hastily
raised or artificially stirred up, thinks itself and is thought by
everybody to be completely exculpated however disastrous may be the
consequences. Besides, an assembly never personally experiences the
inconveniences of its bad measures until they have reached the
dimensions of national evils. Ministers and administrators see them
approaching, and have to bear all the annoyance and trouble of
attempting to ward them off.

  The proper duty of a representative assembly in regard to matters of
administration is not to decide them by its own vote, but to take care
that the persons who have to decide them shall be the proper
persons. Even this they cannot advantageously do by nominating the
individuals. There is no act which more imperatively requires to be
performed under a strong sense of individual responsibility than the
nomination to employments. The experience of every person conversant
with public affairs bears out the assertion, that there is scarcely
any act respecting which the conscience of an average man is less
sensitive; scarcely any case in which less consideration is paid to
qualifications, partly because men do not know, and partly because
they do not care for, the difference in qualifications between one
person and another. When a minister makes what is meant to be an
honest appointment, that is when he does not actually job it for his
personal connections or his party, an ignorant person might suppose
that he would try to give it to the person best qualified. No such
thing. An ordinary minister thinks himself a miracle of virtue if he
gives it to a person of merit, or who has a claim on the public on any
account, though the claim or the merit may be of the most opposite
description to that required. Il fallait un calculateur, ce fut un
danseur qui l'obtint, is hardly more of a caricature than in the
days of Figaro; and the minister doubtless thinks himself not only
blameless but meritorious if the man dances well. Besides, the
qualifications which fit special individuals for special duties can
only be recognised by those who know the individuals, or who make it
their business to examine and judge of persons from what they have
done, or from the evidence of those who are in a position to judge.
When these conscientious obligations are so little regarded by great
public officers who can be made responsible for their appointments,
how must it be with assemblies who cannot? Even now, the worst
appointments are those which are made for the sake of gaining
support or disarming opposition in the representative body: what might
we expect if they were made by the body itself? Numerous bodies
never regard special qualifications at all. Unless a man is fit for
the gallows, he is thought to be about as fit as other people for
almost anything for which he can offer himself as a candidate. When
appointments made by a public body are not decided, as they almost
always are, by party connection or private jobbing, a man is appointed
either because he has a reputation, often quite undeserved, for
general ability, or frequently for no better reason than that he is
personally popular.

  It has never been thought desirable that Parliament should itself
nominate even the members of a Cabinet. It is enough that it virtually
decides who shall be prime minister, or who shall be the two or
three individuals from whom the prime minister shall be chosen. In
doing this it merely recognises the fact that a certain person is
the candidate of the party whose general policy commands its
support. In reality, the only thing which Parliament decides is, which
of two, or at most three, parties or bodies of men, shall furnish
the executive government: the opinion of the party itself decides
which of its members is fittest to be placed at the head. According to
the existing practice of the British Constitution, these things seem
to be on as good a footing as they can be. Parliament does not
nominate any minister, but the Crown appoints the head of the
administration in conformity to the general wishes and inclinations
manifested by Parliament, and the other ministers on the
recommendation of the chief; while every minister has the undivided
moral responsibility of appointing fit persons to the other offices of
administration which are not permanent. In a republic, some other
arrangement would be necessary: but the nearer it approached in
practice to that which has long existed in England, the more likely it
would be to work well. Either, as in the American republic, the head
of the Executive must be elected by some agency entirely independent
of the representative body; or the body must content itself with
naming the prime minister, and making him responsible for the choice
of his associates and subordinates. To all these considerations, at
least theoretically, I fully anticipate a general assent: though,
practically, the tendency is strong in representative bodies to
interfere more and more in the details of administration, by virtue of
the general law, that whoever has the strongest power is more and more
tempted to make an excessive use of it; and this is one of the
practical dangers to which the futurity of representative
governments will be exposed.

  But it is equally true, though only of late and slowly beginning
to be acknowledged, that a numerous assembly is as little fitted for
the direct business of legislation as for that of administration.
There is hardly any kind of intellectual work which so much needs to
be done, not only by experienced and exercised minds, but by minds
trained to the task through long and laborious study, as the
business of making laws. This is a sufficient reason, were there no
other, why they can never be well made but by a committee of very
few persons. A reason no less conclusive is, that every provision of a
law requires to be framed with the most accurate and long-sighted
perception of its effect on all the other provisions; and the law when
made should be capable of fitting into a consistent whole with the
previously existing laws. It is impossible that these conditions
should be in any degree fulfilled when laws are voted clause by clause
in a miscellaneous assembly. The incongruity of such a mode of
legislating would strike all minds, were it not that our laws are
already, as to form and construction, such a chaos, that the confusion
and contradiction seem incapable of being made greater by any addition
to the mass.

  Yet even now, the utter unfitness of our legislative machinery for
its purpose is making itself practically felt every year more and
more. The mere time necessarily occupied in getting through Bills
renders Parliament more and more incapable of passing any, except on
detached and narrow points. If a Bill is prepared which even
attempts to deal with the whole of any subject (and it is impossible
to legislate properly on any part without having the whole present
to the mind), it hangs over from session to session through sheer
impossibility of finding time to dispose of it. It matters not
though the Bill may have been deliberately drawn up by the authority
deemed the best qualified, with all appliances and means to boot; or
by a select commission, chosen for their conversancy with the subject,
and having employed years in considering and digesting the
particular measure; it cannot be passed, because the House of
Commons will not forego the precious privilege of tinkering it with
their clumsy hands. The custom has of late been to some extent
introduced, when the principle of a Bill has been affirmed on the
second reading, of referring it for consideration in detail to a
Select Committee: but it has not been found that this practice
causes much less time to be lost afterwards in carrying it through the
Committee of the whole House: the opinions or private crotchets
which have been overruled by knowledge always insist on giving
themselves a second chance before the tribunal of ignorance. Indeed,
the practice itself has been adopted principally by the House of
Lords, the members of which are less busy and fond of meddling, and
less jealous of the importance of their individual voices, than
those of the elective House. And when a Bill of many clauses does
succeed in getting itself discussed in detail, what can depict the
state in which it comes out of Committee! Clauses omitted which are
essential to the working of the rest; incongruous ones inserted to
conciliate some private interest, or some crotchety member who
threatens to delay the Bill; articles foisted in on the motion of some
sciolist with a mere smattering of the subject, leading to
consequences which the member who introduced or those who supported
the Bill did not at the moment foresee, and which need an amending Act
in the next session to correct their mischiefs.

  It is one of the evils of the present mode of managing these
things that the explaining and defending of a Bill, and of its various
provisions, is scarcely ever performed by the person from whose mind
they emanated, who probably has not a seat in the House. Their defence
rests upon some minister or member of Parliament who did not frame
them, who is dependent on cramming for all his arguments but those
which are perfectly obvious, who does not know the full strength of
his case, nor the best reasons by which to support it, and is wholly
incapable of meeting unforeseen objections. This evil, as far as
Government bills are concerned, admits of remedy, and has been
remedied in some representative constitutions, by allowing the
Government to be represented in either House by persons in its
confidence, having a right to speak, though not to vote.

  If that, as yet considerable, majority of the House of Commons who
never desire to move an amendment or make a speech would no longer
leave the whole regulation of business to those who do; if they
would bethink themselves that better qualifications for legislation
exist, and may be found if sought for, than a fluent tongue and the
faculty of getting elected by a constituency; it would soon be
recognised that, in legislation as well as administration, the only
task to which a representative assembly can possibly be competent is
not that of doing the work, but of causing it to be done; of
determining to whom or to what sort of people it shall be confided,
and giving or withholding the national sanction to it when
performed. Any government fit for a high state of civilisation would
have as one of its fundamental elements a small body, not exceeding in
number the members of a Cabinet, who should act as a Commission of
legislation, having for its appointed office to make the laws. If
the laws of this country were, as surely they will soon be, revised
and put into a connected form, the Commission of Codification by which
this is effected should remain as a permanent institution, to watch
over the work, protect it from deterioration, and make further
improvements as often as required. No one would wish that this body
should of itself have any power of enacting laws: the Commission would
only embody the element of intelligence in their construction;
Parliament would represent that of will. No measure would become a law
until expressly sanctioned by Parliament: and Parliament, or either
House, would have the power not only of rejecting but of sending
back a Bill to the Commission for reconsideration or improvement.
Either House might also exercise its initiative, by referring any
subject to the Commission, with directions to prepare a law. The
Commission, of course, would have no power of refusing its
instrumentality to any legislation which the country desired.
Instructions, concurred in by both Houses, to draw up a Bill which
should effect a particular purpose, would be imperative on the
Commissioners, unless they preferred to resign their office. Once
framed, however, Parliament should have no power to alter the measure,
but solely to pass or reject it; or, if partially disapproved of,
remit it to the Commission for reconsideration. The Commissioners
should be appointed by the Crown, but should hold their offices for
a time certain, say five years, unless removed on an address from
the two Houses of Parliament, grounded either on personal misconduct
(as in the case of judges), or on refusal to draw up a Bill in
obedience to the demands of Parliament. At the expiration of the
five years a member should cease to hold office unless reappointed, in
order to provide a convenient mode of getting rid of those who had not
been found equal to their duties, and of infusing new and younger
blood into the body.

  The necessity of some provision corresponding to this was felt
even in the Athenian Democracy, where, in the time of its most
complete ascendancy, the popular Ecclesia could pass Psephisms (mostly
decrees on single matters of policy), but laws, so called, could
only be made or altered by a different and less numerous body, renewed
annually, called the Nomothetae, whose duty it also was to revise
the whole of the laws, and keep them consistent with one another. In
the English Constitution there is great difficulty in introducing
any arrangement which is new both in form and in substance, but
comparatively little repugnance is felt to the attainment of new
purposes by an adaptation of existing forms and traditions.

  It appears to me that the means might be devised of enriching the
Constitution with this great improvement through the machinery of
the House of Lords. A Commission for preparing Bills would in itself
be no more an innovation on the Constitution than the Board for the
administration of the Poor Laws, or the Inclosure Commission. If, in
consideration of the great importance and dignity of the trust, it
were made a rule that every person appointed a member of the
Legislative Commission, unless removed from office on an address
from Parliament, should be a Peer for life, it is probable that the
same good sense and taste which leave the judicial functions of the
Peerage practically to the exclusive care of the law lords, would
leave the business of legislation, except on questions involving
political principles and interests, to the professional legislators;
that Bills originating in the Upper House would always be drawn up
by them; that the Government would devolve on them the framing of
all its Bills; and that private members of the House of Commons
would gradually find it convenient, and likely to facilitate the
passing of their measures through the two Houses, if instead of
bringing in a Bill and submitting it directly to the House, they
obtained leave to introduce it and have it referred to the Legislative
Commission. For it would, of course, be open to the House to refer for
the consideration of that body not a subject merely, but any
specific proposal, or a Draft of a Bill in extenso, when any member
thought himself capable of preparing one such as ought to pass; and
the House would doubtless refer every such draft to the Commission, if
only as materials, and for the benefit of the suggestions it might
contain: as they would, in like manner, refer every amendment or
objection which might be proposed in writing by any member of the
House after a measure had left the Commissioners' hands. The
alteration of Bills by a Committee of the whole House would cease, not
by formal abolition, but by desuetude; the right not being
abandoned, but laid up in the same armoury with the royal veto, the
right of withholding the supplies, and other ancient instruments of
political warfare, which no one desires to see used, but no one
likes to part with, lest they should any time be found to be still
needed in an extraordinary emergency. By such arrangements as these,
legislation would assume its proper place as a work of skilled
labour and special study and experience; while the most important
liberty of the nation, that of being governed only by laws assented to
by its elected representatives, would be fully preserved, and made
more valuable by being detached from the serious, but by no means
unavoidable, drawbacks which now accompany it in the form of
ignorant and ill-considered legislation.

  Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically
unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch
and control the government: to throw the light of publicity on its
acts: to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them
which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found
condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their
trust, or fulfil it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate
sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly
or virtually appoint their successors. This is surely ample power, and
security enough for the liberty of the nation. In addition to this,
the Parliament has an office, not inferior even to this in importance;
to be at once the nation's Committee of Grievances, and its Congress
of Opinions; an arena in which not only the general opinion of the
nation, but that of every section of it, and as far as possible of
every eminent individual whom it contains, can produce itself in
full light and challenge discussion; where every person in the country
may count upon finding somebody who speaks his mind, as well or better
than he could speak it himself- not to friends and partisans
exclusively, but in the face of opponents, to be tested by adverse
controversy; where those whose opinion is overruled, feel satisfied
that it is heard, and set aside not by a mere act of will, but for
what are thought superior reasons, and commend themselves as such to
the representatives of the majority of the nation; where every party
or opinion in the country can muster its strength, and be cured of any
illusion concerning the number or power of its adherents; where the
opinion which prevails in the nation makes itself manifest as
prevailing, and marshals its hosts in the presence of the
government, which is thus enabled and compelled to give way to it on
the mere manifestation, without the actual employment, of its
strength; where statesmen can assure themselves, far more certainly
than by any other signs, what elements of opinion and power are
growing, and what declining, and are enabled to shape their measures
with some regard not solely to present exigencies, but to tendencies
in progress.

  Representative assemblies are often taunted by their enemies with
being places of mere talk and bavardage. There has seldom been more
misplaced derision. I know not how a representative assembly can
more usefully employ itself than in talk, when the subject of talk
is the great public interests of the country, and every sentence of it
represents the opinion either of some important body of persons in the
nation, or of an individual in whom some such body have reposed
their confidence. A place where every interest and shade of opinion in
the country can have its cause even passionately pleaded, in the
face of the government and of all other interests and opinions, can
compel them to listen, and either comply, or state clearly why they do
not, is in itself, if it answered no other purpose, one of the most
important political institutions that can exist anywhere, and one of
the foremost benefits of free government. Such "talking" would never
be looked upon with disparagement if it were not allowed to stop
"doing"; which it never would, if assemblies knew and acknowledged
that talking and discussion are their proper business, while doing, as
the result of discussion, is the task not of a miscellaneous body, but
of individuals specially trained to it; that the fit office of an
assembly is to see that those individuals are honestly and
intelligently chosen, and to interfere no further with them, except by
unlimited latitude of suggestion and criticism, and by applying or
withholding the final seal of national assent. It is for want of
this judicious reserve that popular assemblies attempt to do what they
cannot do well- to govern and legislate- and provide no machinery but
their own for much of it, when of course every hour spent in talk is
an hour withdrawn from actual business.

  But the very fact which most unfits such bodies for a Council of
Legislation qualifies them the more for their other office- namely,
that they are not a selection of the greatest political minds in the
country, from whose opinions little could with certainty be inferred
concerning those of the nation, but are, when properly constituted,
a fair sample of every grade of intellect among the people which is at
all entitled to a voice in public affairs. Their part is to indicate
wants, to be an organ for popular demands, and a place of adverse
discussion for all opinions relating to public matters, both great and
small; and, along with this, to check by criticism, and eventually
by withdrawing their support, those high public officers who really
conduct the public business, or who appoint those by whom it is
conducted. Nothing but the restriction of the function of
representative bodies within these rational limits will enable the
benefits of popular control to be enjoyed in conjunction with the no
less important requisites (growing ever more important as human
affairs increase in scale and in complexity) of skilled legislation
and administration. There are no means of combining these benefits
except by separating the functions which guarantee the one from
those which essentially require the other; by disjoining the office of
control and criticism from the actual conduct of affairs, and
devolving the former on the representatives of the Many, while
securing for the latter, under strict responsibility to the nation,
the acquired knowledge and practised intelligence of a specially
trained and experienced Few.

  The preceding discussion of the functions which ought to devolve
on the sovereign representative assembly of the nation would require
to be followed by an inquiry into those properly vested in the minor
representative bodies, which ought to exist for purposes that regard
only localities. And such an inquiry forms an essential part of the
present treatise; but many reasons require its postponement, until
we have considered the most proper composition of the great
representative body, destined to control as sovereign the enactment of
laws and the administration of the general affairs of the nation.

                             Chapter 6

  Of the Infirmities and Dangers to which Representative Government is

  THE DEFECTS of any form of government may be either negative or
positive. It is negatively defective if it does not concentrate in the
hands of the authorities power sufficient to fulfil the necessary
offices of a government; or if it does not sufficiently develop by
exercise the active capacities and social feelings of the individual
citizens. On neither of these points is it necessary that much
should be said at this stage of our inquiry.

  The want of an amount power in the government, adequate to
preserve order and allow of progress in the people, is incident rather
to a wild and rude state of society generally, than to any
particular form of political union. When the people are too much
attached to savage independence to be tolerant of the amount of
power to which it is for their good that they should be subject, the
state of society (as already observed) is not yet ripe for
representative government. When the time for that government has
arrived, sufficient power for all needful purposes is sure to reside
in the sovereign assembly; and if enough of it is not entrusted to the
executive, this can only arise from a jealous feeling on the part of
the assembly towards the administration, never likely to exist but
where the constitutional power of the assembly to turn them out of
office has not yet sufficiently established itself. Wherever that
constitutional right is admitted in principle, and fully operative
in practice, there is no fear that the assembly will not be willing to
trust its own ministers with any amount of power really desirable; the
danger is, on the contrary, lest they should grant it too
ungrudgingly, and too indefinite in extent, since the power of the
minister is the power of the body who make and who keep him so. It is,
however, very likely, and is one of the dangers of a controlling
assembly, that it may be lavish of powers, but afterwards interfere
with their exercise; may give power by wholesale, and take it back
in detail, by multiplied single acts of interference in the business
of administration. The evils arising from this assumption of the
actual function of governing, in lieu of that of criticising and
checking those who govern, have been sufficiently dwelt upon in the
preceding chapter. No safeguard can in the nature of things be
provided against this improper meddling, except a strong and general
conviction of its injurious character.

  The other negative defect which may reside in a government, that
of not bringing into sufficient exercise the individual faculties,
moral, intellectual, and active, of the people, has been exhibited
generally in setting forth the distinctive mischiefs of despotism.
As between one form of popular government and another, the advantage
in this respect lies with that which most widely diffuses the exercise
of public functions; on the one hand, by excluding fewest from the
suffrage; on the other, by opening to all classes of private citizens,
so far as is consistent with other equally important objects, the
widest participation in the details of judicial and administrative
business; as by jury trial, admission to municipal offices, and
above all by the utmost possible publicity and liberty of
discussion, whereby not merely a few individuals in succession, but
the whole public, are made, to a certain extent, participants in the
government, and sharers in the instruction and mental exercise
derivable from it. The further illustration of these benefits, as well
as of the limitations under which they must be aimed at, will be
better deferred until we come to speak of the details of

  The positive evils and dangers of the representative, as of every
other form of government, may be reduced to two heads: first,
general ignorance and incapacity, or, to speak more moderately,
insufficient mental qualifications, in the controlling body; secondly,
the danger of its being under the influence of interests not identical
with the general welfare of the community.

  The former of these evils, deficiency in high mental qualifications,
is one to which it is generally supposed that popular government is
liable in a greater degree than any other. The energy of a monarch,
the steadiness and prudence of an aristocracy, are thought to contrast
most favourably with the vacillation and shortsightedness of even a
qualified democracy. These propositions, however, are not by any means
so well founded as they at first sight appear.

  Compared with simple monarchy, representative government is in these
respects at no disadvantage. Except in a rude age, hereditary
monarchy, when it is really such, and not aristocracy in disguise, far
surpasses democracy in all the forms of incapacity supposed to be
characteristic of the last. I say, except in a rude age, because in
a really rude state of society there is a considerable guarantee for
the intellectual and active capacities of the sovereign. His
personal will is constantly encountering obstacles from the wilfulness
of his subjects, and of powerful individuals among their number. The
circumstances of society do not afford him much temptation to mere
luxurious self-indulgence; mental and bodily activity, especially
political and military, are his principal excitements; and among
turbulent chiefs and lawless followers he has little authority, and is
seldom long secure even of his throne, unless he possesses a
considerable amount of personal daring, dexterity, and energy. The
reason why the average of talent is so high among the Henries and
Edwards of our history may be read in the tragical fate of the
second Edward and the second Richard, and the civil wars and
disturbances of the reigns of John and his incapable successor. The
troubled period of the Reformation also produced several eminent
hereditary monarchs, Elizabeth, Henri Quatre, Gustavus Adolphus; but
they were mostly bred up in adversity, succeeded to the throne by
the unexpected failure of nearer heirs, or had to contend with great
difficulties in the commencement of their reign. Since European life
assumed a settled aspect, anything above mediocrity in an hereditary
king has become extremely rare, while the general average has been
even below mediocrity, both in talent and in vigour of character. A
monarchy constitutionally absolute now only maintains itself in
existence (except temporarily in the hands of some active-minded
usurper) through the mental qualifications of a permanent bureaucracy.
The Russian and Austrian Governments, and even the French Government
in its normal condition, are oligarchies of officials, of whom the
head of the State does little more than select the chiefs. I am
speaking of the regular course of their administration; for the will
of the master of course determines many of their particular acts.

  The governments which have been remarkable in history for
sustained mental ability and vigour in the conduct of affairs have
generally been aristocracies. But they have been, without any
exception, aristocracies of public functionaries. The ruling bodies
have been so narrow, that each member, or at least each influential
member, of the body, was able to make and did make, public business an
active profession, and the principal occupation of his life. The
only aristocracies which have manifested high governing capacities,
and acted on steady maxims of policy, through many generations, are
those of Rome and Venice. But, at Venice, though the privileged
order was numerous, the actual management of affairs was rigidly
concentrated in a small oligarchy within the oligarchy, whose whole
lives were devoted to the study and conduct of the affairs of the
state. The Roman government partook more of the character of an open
aristocracy like our own. But the really governing body, the Senate,
was in general exclusively composed of persons who had exercised
public functions, and had either already filled or were looking
forward to fill the higher offices of the state, at the peril of a
severe responsibility in case of incapacity and failure. When once
members of the Senate, their lives were pledged to the conduct of
public affairs; they were not permitted even to leave Italy except
in the discharge of some public trust; and unless turned out of the
Senate by the censors for character or conduct deemed disgraceful,
they retained their powers and responsibilities to the end of life. In
an aristocracy thus constituted, every member felt his personal
importance entirely bound up with the dignity and estimation of the
commonwealth which he administered, and with the part he was able to
play in its councils. This dignity and estimation were quite different
things from the prosperity or happiness of the general body of the
citizens, and were often wholly incompatible with it. But they were
closely linked with the external success and aggrandisement of the
State: and it was, consequently, in the pursuit of that object
almost exclusively that either the Roman or the Venetian aristocracies
manifested the systematically wise collective policy, and the great
individual capacities for government, for which history has deservedly
given them credit.

  It thus appears that the only governments, not representative, in
which high political skill and ability have been other than
exceptional, whether under monarchical or aristocratic forms, have
been essentially bureaucracies. The work of government has been in the
hands of governors by profession; which is the essence and meaning
of bureaucracy. Whether the work is done by them because they have
been trained to it, or they are trained to it because it is to be done
by them, makes a great difference in many respects, but none at all as
to the essential character of the rule. Aristocracies, on the other
hand, like that of England, in which the class who possessed the power
derived it merely from their social position, without being
specially trained or devoting themselves exclusively to it (and in
which, therefore, the power was not exercised directly, but through
representative institutions oligarchically constituted) have been,
in respect to intellectual endowments, much on a par with democracies;
that is, they have manifested such qualities in any considerable
degree only during the temporary ascendancy which great and popular
talents, united with a distinguished position, have given to some
one man. Themistocles and Pericles, Washington and Jefferson, were not
more completely exceptions in their several democracies, and were
assuredly much more splendid exceptions, than the Chathams and Peels
of the representative aristocracy of Great Britain, or even the Sullys
and Colberts of the aristocratic monarchy of France. A great minister,
in the aristocratic governments of modern Europe, is almost as rare
a phenomenon as a great king.

  The comparison, therefore, as to the intellectual attributes of a
government, has to be made between a representative democracy and a
bureaucracy; all other governments may be left out of the account. And
here it must be acknowledged that a bureaucratic government has, in
some important respects, greatly the advantage. It accumulates
experience, acquires well-tried and well-considered traditional
maxims, and makes provision for appropriate practical knowledge in
those who have the actual conduct of affairs. But it is not equally
favourable to individual energy of mind. The disease which afflicts
bureaucratic governments, and which they usually die of, is routine.
They perish by the immutability of their maxims; and, still more, by
the universal law that whatever becomes a routine loses its vital
principle, and having no longer a mind acting within it, goes on
revolving mechanically though the work it is intended to do remains
undone. A bureaucracy always tends to become a pedantocracy. When
the bureaucracy is the real government, the spirit of the corps (as
with the Jesuits) bears down the individuality of its more
distinguished members. In the profession of government, as in other
professions, the sole idea of the majority is to do what they have
been taught; and it requires a popular government to enable the
conceptions of the man of original genius among them to prevail over
the obstructive spirit of trained mediocrity. Only in a popular
government (setting apart the accident of a highly intelligent despot)
could Sir Rowland Hill have been victorious over the Post Office. A
popular government installed him in the Post Office, and made the
body, in spite of itself, obey the impulse given by the man who united
special knowledge with individual vigour and originality. That the
Roman aristocracy escaped this characteristic disease of a bureaucracy
was evidently owing to its popular element. All special offices,
both those which gave a seat in the Senate and those which were sought
by senators, were conferred by popular election. The Russian
government is a characteristic exemplification of both the good and
bad side of bureaucracy; its fixed maxims, directed with Roman
perseverance to the same unflinchingly-pursued ends from age to age;
the remarkable skill with which those ends are generally pursued;
the frightful internal corruption, and the permanent organised
hostility to improvements from without, which even the autocratic
power of a vigorous-minded Emperor is seldom or never sufficient to
overcome; the patient obstructiveness of the body being in the long
run more than a match for the fitful energy of one man. The Chinese
Government, a bureaucracy of Mandarins, is, as far as known to us,
another apparent example of the same qualities and defects.

  In all human affairs conflicting influences are required to keep one
another alive and efficient even for their own proper uses; and the
exclusive pursuit of one good object, apart from some other which
should accompany it, ends not in excess of one and defect of the
other, but in the decay and loss even of that which has been
exclusively cared for. Government by trained officials cannot do,
for a country, the things which can be done by a free government;
but it might be supposed capable of doing some things which free
government, of itself, cannot do. We find, however, that an outside
element of freedom is necessary to enable it to do effectually or
permanently even its own business. And so, also, freedom cannot
produce its best effects, and often breaks down altogether, unless
means can be found of combining it with trained and skilled
administration. There could not be a moment's hesitation between
representative government, among a people in any degree ripe for it,
and the most perfect imaginable bureaucracy. But it is, at the same
time, one of the most important ends of political institutions, to
attain as many of the qualities of the one as are consistent with
the other; to secure, as far as they can be made compatible, the great
advantage of the conduct of affairs by skilled persons, bred to it
as an intellectual profession, along with that of a general control
vested in, and seriously exercised by, bodies representative of the
entire people. Much would be done towards this end by recognising
the line of separation, discussed in the preceding chapter, between
the work of government properly so called, which can only be well
performed after special cultivation, and that of selecting,
watching, and, when needful, controlling the governors, which in
this case, as in others, properly devolves, not on those who do the
work, but on those for whose benefit it ought to be done. No
progress at all can be made towards obtaining a skilled democracy
unless the democracy are willing that the work which requires skill
should be done by those who possess it. A democracy has enough to do
in providing itself with an amount of mental competency sufficient for
its own proper work, that of superintendence and check.

  How to obtain and secure this amount is one of the questions to
taken into consideration in judging of the proper constitution of a
representative body. In proportion as its composition fails to
secure this amount, the assembly will encroach, by special acts, on
the province of the executive; it will expel a good, or elevate and
uphold a bad, ministry; it will connive at, or overlook in them,
abuses of trust, will be deluded by their false pretences, or will
withhold support from those who endeavour to fulfil their trust
conscientiously; it will countenance, or impose, a selfish, a
capricious and impulsive, a short-sighted, ignorant, and prejudiced
general policy, foreign and domestic; it will abrogate good laws, or
enact bad ones, let in new evils, or cling with perverse obstinacy
to old; it will even, perhaps, under misleading impulses, momentary or
permanent, emanating from itself or from its constituents, tolerate or
connive at proceedings which set law aside altogether, in cases
where equal justice would not be agreeable to popular feeling. Such
are among the dangers of representative government, arising from a
constitution of the representation which does not secure an adequate
amount of intelligence and knowledge in the representative assembly.

  We next proceed to the evils arising from the prevalence of modes of
action in the representative body, dictated by sinister interests
(to employ the useful phrase introduced by Bentham), that is,
interests conflicting more or less with the general good of the

  It is universally admitted that, of the evils incident to
monarchical and aristocratic governments, a large proportion arise
from this cause. The interest of the monarch, or the interest of the
aristocracy, either collective or that of its individual members, is
promoted, or they themselves think that it will be promoted, by
conduct opposed to that which the general interest of the community
requires. The interest, for example, of the government is to tax
heavily: that of the community is to be as little taxed as the
necessary expenses of good government permit. The interest of the
king, and of the governing aristocracy, is to possess, and exercise,
unlimited power over the people; to enforce, on their part, complete
conformity to the will and preferences of the rulers. The interest
of the people is to have as little control exercised over them in
any respect as is consistent with attaining the legitimate ends of
government. The interest, or apparent and supposed interest, of the
king or aristocracy is to permit no censure of themselves, at least in
any form which they may consider either to threaten their power, or
seriously to interfere with their free agency. The interest of the
people is that there should be full liberty of censure on every public
officer, and on every public act or measure. The interest of a
ruling class, whether in an aristocracy or an aristocratic monarchy,
is to assume to themselves an endless variety of unjust privileges,
sometimes benefiting their pockets at the expense of the people,
sometimes merely tending to exalt them above others, or, what is the
same thing in different words, to degrade others below themselves.
If the people are disaffected, which under such a government they
are very likely to be, it is the interest of the king or aristocracy
to keep them at a low level of intelligence and education, foment
dissensions among them, and even prevent them from being too well off,
lest they should "wax fat, and kick"; agreeably to the maxim of
Cardinal Richelieu in his celebrated Testament Politique. All these
things are for the interest of a king or aristocracy, in a purely
selfish point of view, unless a sufficiently strong counter-interest
is created by the fear of provoking resistance. All these evils have
been, and many of them still are, produced by the sinister interests
of kings and aristocracies, where their power is sufficient to raise
them above the opinion of the rest of the community; nor is it
rational to expect, as a consequence of such a position, any other

  These things are superabundantly evident in the case of a monarchy
or an aristocracy; but it is sometimes rather gratuitously assumed
that the same kind of injurious influences do not operate in a
democracy. Looking at democracy in the way in which it is commonly
conceived, as the rule of the numerical majority, it is surely
possible that the ruling power may be under the dominion of
sectional or class interests, pointing to conduct different from
that which would be dictated by impartial regard for the interest of
all. Suppose the majority to be whites, the minority negroes, or
vice versa: is it likely that the majority would allow equal justice
to the minority? Suppose the majority Catholics, the minority
Protestants, or the reverse; will there not be the same danger? Or let
the majority be English, the minority Irish, or the contrary: is there
not a great probability of similar evil? In all countries there is a
majority of poor, a minority who, in contradistinction, may be
called rich. Between these two classes, on many questions, there is
complete opposition of apparent interest. We will suppose the majority
sufficiently intelligent to be aware that it is not for their
advantage to weaken the security of property, and that it would be
weakened by any act of arbitrary spoliation. But is there not a
considerable danger lest they should throw upon the possessors of what
is called realised property, and upon the larger incomes, an unfair
share, or even the whole, of the burden of taxation; and having done
so, add to the amount without scruple, expending the proceeds in modes
supposed to conduce to the profit and advantage of the labouring
class? Suppose, again, a minority of skilled labourers, a majority
of unskilled: the experience of many trade unions, unless they are
greatly calumniated, justifies the apprehension that equality of
earnings might be imposed as an obligation, and that piecework,
payment by the hour, and all practices which enable superior
industry or abilities to gain a superior reward might be put down.
Legislative attempts to raise wages, limitation of competition in
the labour market, taxes or restrictions on machinery, and on
improvements of all kinds tending to dispense with any of the existing
labour- even, perhaps, protection of the home producer against
foreign industry are very natural (I do not venture to say whether
probable) results of a feeling of class interest in a governing
majority of manual labourers.

  It will be said that none of these things are for the real
interest of the most numerous class: to which I answer, that if the
conduct of human beings was determined by no other interested
considerations than those which constitute their "real" interest,
neither monarchy nor oligarchy would be such bad governments as they
are; for assuredly very strong arguments may be, and often have
been, adduced to show that either a king or a governing senate are
in much the most enviable position, when ruling justly and
vigilantly over an active, wealthy, enlightened, and high-minded
people. But a king only now and then, and an oligarchy in no known
instance, have taken this exalted view of their self-interest: and why
should we expect a loftier mode of thinking from the labouring
classes? It is not what their interest is, but what they suppose it to
be, that is the important consideration with respect to their conduct:
and it is quite conclusive against any theory of government that it
assumes the numerical majority to do habitually what is never done,
nor expected to be done, save in very exceptional cases, by any
other depositaries of power- namely, to direct their conduct by their
real ultimate interest, in opposition to their immediate and
apparent interest. No one, surely, can doubt that many of the
pernicious measures above enumerated, and many others as bad, would be
for the immediate interest of the general body of unskilled labourers.
It is quite possible that they would be for the selfish interest of
the whole existing generation of the class. The relaxation of industry
and activity, and diminished encouragement to saving which would be
their ultimate consequence, might perhaps be little felt by the
class of unskilled labourers in the space of a single lifetime.

  Some of the most fatal changes in human affairs have been, as to
their more manifest immediate effects, beneficial. The establishment
of the despotism of the Caesars was a great benefit to the entire
generation in which it took place. It put a stop to civil war,
abated a vast amount of malversation and tyranny by praetors and
proconsuls; it fostered many of the graces of life, and intellectual
cultivation in all departments not political; it produced monuments of
literary genius dazzling to the imaginations of shallow readers of
history, who do not reflect that the men to whom the despotism of
Augustus (as well as of Lorenzo de' Medici and of Louis XIV.) owes its
brilliancy, were all formed in the generation preceding. The
accumulated riches, and the mental energy and activity, produced by
centuries of freedom, remained for the benefit of the first generation
of slaves. Yet this was the commencement of a regime by whose
gradual operation all the civilisation which had been gained
insensibly faded away, until the Empire, which had conquered and
embraced the world in its grasp, so completely lost even its
military efficiency, that invaders whom three or four legions had
always sufficed to coerce were able to overrun and occupy nearly the
whole of its vast territory. The fresh impulse given by Christianity
came but just in time to save arts and letters from perishing, and the
human race from sinking back into perhaps endless night.

  When we talk of the interest of a body of men, or even of an
individual man, as a principle determining their actions, the question
what would be considered their interest by an unprejudiced observer is
one of the least important parts of the whole matter. As Coleridge
observes, the man makes the motive, not the motive the man. What it is
the man's interest to do or refrain from depends less on any outward
circumstances than upon what sort of man he is. If you wish to know
what is practically a man's interest, you must know the cast of his
habitual feelings and thoughts. Everybody has two kinds of
interests, interests which he cares for, and interests which he does
not care for. Everybody has selfish and unselfish interests, and a
selfish man has cultivated the habit of caring for the former, and not
caring for the latter. Every one has present and distant interests,
and the improvident man is he who cares for the present interests
and does not care for the distant. It matters little that on any
correct calculation the latter may be the more considerable, if the
habits of his mind lead him to fix his thoughts and wishes solely on
the former. It would be vain to attempt to persuade a man who beats
his wife and ill-treats his children that he would be happier if he
lived in love and kindness with them. He would be happier if he were
the kind of person who could so live; but he is not, and it is
probably too late for him to become, that kind of person. Being what
he is, the gratification of his love of domineering, and the
indulgence of his ferocious temper, are to his perceptions a greater
good to himself than he would be capable of deriving from the pleasure
and affection of those dependent on him. He has no pleasure in their
pleasure, and does not care for their affection. His neighbour, who
does, is probably a happier man than he; but could he be persuaded
of this, the persuasion would, most likely, only still further
exasperate his malignity or his irritability. On the average, a person
who cares for other people, for his country, or for mankind, is a
happier man than one who does not; but of what use is it to preach
this doctrine to a man who cares for nothing but his own ease, or
his own pocket? He cannot care for other people if he would. It is
like preaching to the worm who crawls on the ground how much better it
would be for him if he were an eagle.

  Now it is a universally observed fact that the two evil dispositions
in question, the disposition to prefer a man's selfish interests to
those which he shares with other people, and his immediate and
direct interests to those which are indirect and remote, are
characteristics most especially called forth and fostered by the
possession of power. The moment a man, or a class of men, find
themselves with power in their hands, the man's individual interest,
or the class's separate interest, acquires an entirely new degree of
importance in their eyes. Finding themselves worshipped by others,
they become worshippers of themselves, and think themselves entitled
to be counted at a hundred times the value of other people; while
the facility they acquire of doing as they like without regard to
consequences insensibly weakens the habits which make men look forward
even to such consequences as affect themselves. This is the meaning of
the universal tradition, grounded on universal experience, of men's
being corrupted by power. Every one knows how absurd it would be to
infer from what a man is or does when in a private station, that he
will be and do exactly the like when a despot on a throne; where the
bad parts of his human nature, instead of being restrained and kept in
subordination by every circumstance of his life and by every person
surrounding him, are courted by all persons, and ministered to by
all circumstances. It would be quite as absurd to entertain a
similar expectation in regard to a class of men; the Demos, or any
other. Let them be ever so modest and amenable to reason while there
is a power over them stronger than they, we ought to expect a total
change in this respect when they themselves become the strongest

  Governments must be made for human beings as they are, or as they
are capable of speedily becoming: and in any state of cultivation
which mankind, or any class among them, have yet attained, or are
likely soon to attain, the interests by which they will be led, when
they are thinking only of self-interest, will be almost exclusively
those which are obvious at first sight, and which operate on their
present condition. It is only a disinterested regard for others, and
especially for what comes after them, for the idea of posterity, of
their country, or of mankind, whether grounded on sympathy or on a
conscientious feeling, which ever directs the minds and purposes of
classes or bodies of men towards distant or unobvious interests. And
it cannot be maintained that any form of government would be
rational which required as a condition that these exalted principles
of action should be the guiding and master motives in the conduct of
average human beings. A certain amount of conscience, and, of
disinterested public spirit, may fairly be calculated on in the
citizens of any community ripe for representative government. But it
would be ridiculous to expect such a degree of it, combined with
such intellectual discernment, as would be proof against any plausible
fallacy tending to make that which was for their class interest appear
the dictate of justice and of the general good.

  We all know what specious fallacies may be urged in defence of every
act of injustice yet proposed for the imaginary benefit of the mass.
We know how many, not otherwise fools or bad men, have thought it
justifiable to repudiate the national debt. We know how many, not
destitute of ability, and of considerable popular influence, think
it fair to throw the whole burthen of taxation upon savings, under the
name of realised property, allowing those whose progenitors and
themselves have always spent all they received to remain, as a
reward for such exemplary conduct, wholly untaxed. We know what
powerful arguments, the more dangerous because there is a portion of
truth in them, may be brought against all inheritance, against the
power of bequest, against every advantage which one person seems to
have over another. We know how easily the uselessness of almost
every branch of knowledge may be proved, to the complete
satisfaction of those who do not possess it. How many, not
altogether stupid men, think the scientific study of languages
useless, think ancient literature useless, all erudition useless,
logic and metaphysics useless, poetry and the fine arts idle and
frivolous, political economy purely mischievous? Even history has been
pronounced useless and mischievous by able men. Nothing but that
acquaintance with external nature, empirically acquired, which
serves directly for the production of objects necessary to existence
or agreeable to the senses, would get its utility recognised if people
had the least encouragement to disbelieve it. Is it reasonable to
think that even much more cultivated minds than those of the numerical
majority can be expected to be will have so delicate a conscience, and
so just an appreciation of what is against their own apparent
interest, that they will reject these and the innumerable other
fallacies which will press in upon them from all quarters as soon as
they come into power, to induce them to follow their own selfish
inclinations and short-sighted notions of their own good, in
opposition to justice, at the expense of all other classes and of

  One of the greatest dangers, therefore, of democracy, as of all
other forms of government, lies in the sinister interest of the
holders of power: it is the danger of class legislation; of government
intended for (whether really effecting it or not) the immediate
benefit of the dominant class, to the lasting detriment of the
whole. And one of the most important questions demanding
consideration, in determining the best constitution of a
representative government, is how to provide efficacious securities
against this evil.

  If we consider as a class, politically speaking, any number of
persons who have the same sinister interest- that is, whose direct
and apparent interest points towards the same description of bad
measures; the desirable object would be that no class, and no
combination of classes likely to combine, should be able to exercise a
preponderant influence in the government. A modern community, not
divided within itself by strong antipathies of race, language, or
nationality, may be considered as in the main divisible into two
sections, which, in spite of partial variations, correspond on the
whole with two divergent directions of apparent interest. Let us
call them (in brief general terms) labourers on the one hand,
employers of labour on the other: including however along with
employers of labour, not only retired capitalists, and the
possessors of inherited wealth, but all that highly paid description
of labourers (such as the professions) whose education and way of life
assimilate them with the rich, and whose prospect and ambition it is
to raise themselves into that class. With the labourers, on the
other hand, may be ranked those smaller employers of labour, who by
interests, habits, and educational impressions are assimilated in
wishes, tastes, and objects to the labouring classes; comprehending
a large proportion of petty tradesmen. In a state of society thus
composed, if the representative system could be made ideally
perfect, and if it were possible to maintain it in that state, its
organisation must be such that these two classes, manual labourers and
their affinities on one side, employers of labour and their affinities
on the other, should be, in the arrangement of the representative
system, equally balanced, each influencing about an equal number of
votes in Parliament: since, assuming that the majority of each
class, in any difference between them, would be mainly governed by
their class interests, there would be a minority of each in whom
that consideration would be subordinate to reason, justice, and the
good of the whole; and this minority of either, joining with the whole
of the other, would turn the scale against any demands of their own
majority which were not such as ought to prevail.

  The reason why, in any tolerable constituted society, justice and
the general interest mostly in the end carry their point, is that
the separate and selfish interests of mankind are almost always
divided; some are interested in what is wrong, but some, also, have
their private interest on the side of what is right: and those who are
governed by higher considerations, though too few and weak to
prevail against the whole of the others, usually after sufficient
discussion and agitation become strong enough to turn the balance in
favour of the body of private interests which is on the same side with
them. The representative system ought to be so constituted as to
maintain this state of things: it ought not to allow any of the
various sectional interests to be so powerful as to be capable of
prevailing against truth and justice and the other sectional interests
combined. There ought always to be such a balance preserved among
personal interests as may render any one of them dependent for its
successes on carrying with it at least a large proportion of those who
act on higher motives and more comprehensive and distant views.

                             Chapter 7

     Of True and False Democracy; Representation of All, and
Representation of the Majority only.

  IT HAS been seen that the dangers incident to a representative
democracy are of two kinds: danger of a low grade of intelligence in
the representative body, and in the popular opinion which controls it;
and danger of class legislation on the part of the numerical majority,
these being all composed of the same class. We have next to consider
how far it is possible so to organise the democracy as, without
interfering materially with the characteristic benefits of
democratic government, to do away with these two great evils, or at
least to abate them, in the utmost degree attainable by human

  The common mode of attempting this is by limiting the democratic
character of the representation, through a more or less restricted
suffrage. But there is a previous consideration which, duly kept in
view, considerably modifies the circumstances which are supposed to
render such a restriction necessary. A completely equal democracy,
in a nation in which a single class composes the numerical majority,
cannot be divested of certain evils; but those evils are greatly
aggravated by the fact that the democracies which at present exist are
not equal, but systematically unequal in favour of the predominant
class. Two very different ideas are usually confounded under the
name democracy. The pure idea of democracy, according to its
definition, is the government of the whole people by the whole people,
equally represented. Democracy as commonly conceived and hitherto
practised is the government of the whole people by a mere majority
of the people, exclusively represented. The former is synonymous
with the equality of all citizens; the latter, strangely confounded
with it, is a government of privilege, in favour of the numerical
majority, who alone possess practically any voice in the State. This
is the inevitable consequence of the manner in which the votes are now
taken, to the complete disfranchisement of minorities.

  The confusion of ideas here is great, but it is so easily cleared up
that one would suppose the slightest indication would be sufficient to
place the matter in its true light before any mind of average
intelligence. It would be so, but for the power of habit; owing to
which the simplest idea, if unfamiliar, has as great difficulty in
making its way to the mind as a far more complicated one. That the
minority must yield to the majority, the smaller number to the
greater, is a familiar idea; and accordingly men think there is no
necessity for using their minds any further, and it does not occur
to them that there is any medium between allowing the smaller number
to be equally powerful with the greater, and blotting out the
smaller number altogether. In a representative body actually
deliberating, the minority must of course be overruled; and in an
equal democracy (since the opinions of the constituents, when they
insist on them, determine those of the representative body) the
majority of the people, through their representatives, will outvote
and prevail over the minority and their representatives. But does it
follow that the minority should have no representatives at all?
Because the majority ought to prevail over the minority, must the
majority have all the votes, the minority none? Is it necessary that
the minority should not even be heard? Nothing but habit and old
association can reconcile any reasonable being to the needless
injustice. In a really equal democracy, every or any section would
be represented, not disproportionately, but proportionately. A
majority of the electors would always have a majority of the
representatives; but a minority of the electors would always have a
minority of the representatives. Man for man they would be as fully
represented as the majority. Unless they are, there is not equal
government, but a government of inequality and privilege: one part
of the people rule over the rest: there is a part whose fair and equal
share of influence in the representation is withheld from them;
contrary to all just government, but, above all, contrary to the
principle of democracy, which professes equality as its very root
and foundation.

  The injustice and violation of principle are not less flagrant
because those who suffer by them are a minority; for there is not
equal suffrage where every single individual does not count for as
much as any other single individual in the community. But it is not
only a minority who suffer. Democracy, thus constituted, does not even
attain its ostensible object, that of giving the powers of
government in all cases to the numerical majority. It does something
very different: it gives them to a majority of the majority; who may
be, and often are, but a minority of the whole. All principles are
most effectually tested by extreme cases. Suppose then, that, in a
country governed by equal and universal suffrage, there is a contested
election in every constituency, and every election is carried by a
small majority. The Parliament thus brought together represents little
more than a bare majority of the people. This Parliament proceeds to
legislate, and adopts important measures by a bare majority of itself.
What guarantee is there that these measures accord with the wishes
of a majority of the people? Nearly half the electors, having been
outvoted at the hustings, have had no influence at all in the
decision; and the whole of these may be, a majority of them probably
are, hostile to the measures, having voted against those by whom
they have been carried. Of the remaining electors, nearly half have
chosen representatives who, by supposition, have voted against the
measures. It is possible, therefore, and not at all improbable, that
the opinion which has prevailed was agreeable only to a minority of
the nation, though a majority of that portion of it whom the
institutions of the country have erected into a ruling class. If
democracy means the certain ascendancy of the majority, there are no
means of insuring that but by allowing every individual figure to tell
equally in the summing up. Any minority left out, either purposely
or by the play of the machinery, gives the power not to the
majority, but to a minority in some other part of the scale.

  The only answer which can possibly be made to this reasoning is,
that as different opinions predominate in different localities, the
opinion which is in a minority in some places has a majority in
others, and on the whole every opinion which exists in the
constituencies obtains its fair share of voices in the representation.
And this is roughly true in the present state of the constituency;
if it were not, the discordance of the House with the general
sentiment of the country would soon become evident. But it would be no
longer true if the present constituency were much enlarged; still
less, if made co-extensive with the whole population; for in that case
the majority in every locality would consist of manual labourers;
and when there was any question pending, on which these classes were
at issue with the rest of the community, no other class could
succeed in getting represented anywhere. Even now, is it not a great
grievance that in every Parliament a very numerous portion of the
electors, willing and anxious to be represented, have no member in the
House for whom they have voted? Is it just that every elector of
Marylebone is obliged to be represented by two nominees of the
vestries, every elector of Finsbury or Lambeth by those (as is
generally believed) of the publicans? The constituencies to which most
of the highly educated and public spirited persons in the country
belong, those of the large towns, are now, in great part, either
unrepresented or misrepresented. The electors who are on a different
side in party politics from the local majority are unrepresented. Of
those who are on the same side, a large proportion are misrepresented;
having been obliged to accept the man who had the greatest number of
supporters in their political party, though his opinions may differ
from theirs on every other point. The state of things is, in some
respects, even worse than if the minority were not allowed to vote
at all; for then, at least, the majority might have a member who would
represent their own best mind: while now, the necessity of not
dividing the party, for fear of letting in its opponents, induces
all to vote either for the first person who presents himself wearing
their colours, or for the one brought forward by their local
leaders; and these, if we pay them the compliment, which they very
seldom deserve, of supposing their choice to be unbiassed by their
personal interests, are compelled, that they may be sure of
mustering their whole strength, to bring forward a candidate whom none
of the party will strongly object to- that is, a man without any
distinctive peculiarity, any known opinions except the shibboleth of
the party.

  This is strikingly exemplified in the United States; where, at the
election of President, the strongest party never dares put forward any
of its strongest men, because every one of these, from the mere fact
that he has been long in the public eye, has made himself
objectionable to some portion or other of the party, and is
therefore not so sure a card for rallying all their votes as a
person who has never been heard of by the public at all until he is
produced as the candidate. Thus, the man who is chosen, even by the
strongest party, represents perhaps the real wishes only of the narrow
margin by which that party outnumbers the other. Any section whose
support is necessary to success possesses a veto on the candidate. Any
section which holds out more obstinately than the rest can compel
all the others to adopt its nominee; and this superior pertinacity
is unhappily more likely to be found among those who are holding out
for their own interest than for that of the public. The choice of
the majority is therefore very likely to be determined by that portion
of the body who are the most timid, the most narrow-minded and
prejudiced, or who cling most tenaciously to the exclusive
class-interest; in which case the electoral rights of the minority,
while useless for the purposes for which votes are given, serve only
for compelling the majority to accept the candidate of the weakest
or worst portion of themselves.

  That, while recognising these evils, many should consider them as
the necessary price paid for a free government is in no way
surprising: it was the opinion of all the friends of freedom up to a
recent period. But the habit of passing them over as irremediable
has become so inveterate that many persons seem to have lost the
capacity of looking at them as things which they would be glad to
remedy if they could. From despairing of a cure, there is too often
but one step to denying the disease; and from this follows dislike
to having a remedy proposed, as if the proposer were creating a
mischief instead of offering relief from one. People are so inured
to the evils that they feel as if it were unreasonable, if not
wrong, to complain of them. Yet, avoidable or not, he must be a
purblind lover of liberty on whose mind they do not weigh; who would
not rejoice at the discovery that they could be dispensed with. Now,
nothing is more certain than that the virtual blotting-out of the
minority is no necessary or natural consequence of freedom; that,
far from having any connection with democracy, it is diametrically
opposed to the first principle of democracy, representation in
proportion to numbers. It is an essential part of democracy that
minorities should be adequately represented. No real democracy,
nothing but a false show of democracy, is possible without it.

  Those who have seen and felt, in some degree, the force of these
considerations, have proposed various expedients by which the evil may
be, in a greater or less degree, mitigated. Lord John Russell, in
one of his Reform Bills, introduced a provision, that certain
constituencies should return three members, and that in these each
elector should be allowed to vote only for two; and Mr. Disraeli, in
the recent debates, revived the memory of the fact by reproaching
him for it; being of opinion, apparently, that it befits a
Conservative statesman to regard only means, and to disown
scornfully all fellow-feeling with any one who is betrayed, even once,
into thinking of ends.* Others have proposed that each elector
should be allowed to vote only for one. By either of these plans, a
minority equalling or exceeding a third of the local constituency,
would be able, if it attempted no more, to return one out of three
members. The same result might be attained in a still better way if,
as proposed in an able pamphlet by Mr. James Garth Marshall, the
elector retained his three votes, but was at liberty to bestow them
all upon the same candidate. These schemes, though infinitely better
than none at all, are yet but makeshifts, and attain the end in a very
imperfect manner; since all local minorities of less than a third, and
all minorities, however numerous, which are made up from several
constituencies, would remain unrepresented. It is much to be lamented,
however, that none of these plans have been carried into effect, as
any of them would have recognised the right principle, and prepared
the way for its more complete application. But real equality of
representation is not obtained unless any set of electors amounting to
the average number of a constituency, wherever in the country they
happen to reside, have the power of combining with one another to
return a representative. This degree of perfection in
representation, appeared impracticable until a man of great
capacity, fitted alike for large general views and for the contrivance
of practical details- Mr. Thomas Hare- had proved its possibility by
drawing up a scheme for its accomplishment, embodied in a Draft of
an Act of Parliament: a scheme which has the almost unparalleled merit
of carrying out a great principle of government in a manner
approaching to ideal perfection as regards the special object in view,
while it attains incidentally several other ends of scarcely
inferior importance.

  * This blunder of Mr. Disraeli (from which, greatly to his credit,
Sir John Pakington took an opportunity, soon after, of separating
himself) is a speaking instance among many, how little the
Conservative leaders understand Conservative principles. Without
presuming to require from political Parties such an amount of virtue
and discernment as that they should comprehend, and know when to
apply, the principles of their opponents, we may yet say that it would
be a great improvement if each party understood and acted upon its
own. Well would it be for England if Conservatives voted
consistently for everything conservative, and Liberals for
everything liberal. We should not then have to wait long for things
which, like the present and many other great measures, are eminently
both the one and the other. The Conservatives, as being by the law
of their existence the stupidest party, have much the greatest sins of
this description to answer for: and it is a melancholy truth, that
if any measure were proposed, on any subject, truly, largely, and
far-sightedly conservative, even if Liberals were willing to vote
for it, the great bulk of the Conservative party would rush blindly in
and prevent it from being carried.

  According to this plan, the unit of representation, the quota of
electors who would be entitled to have a member to themselves, would
be ascertained by the ordinary process of taking averages, the
number of voters being divided by the number of seats in the House:
and every candidate who obtained that quota would be returned, from
however great a number of local constituencies it might be gathered.
The votes would, as at present, be given locally; but any elector
would be at liberty to vote for any candidate in whatever part of
the country he might offer himself. Those electors, therefore, who did
not wish to be represented by any of the local candidates, might aid
by their vote in the return of the person they liked best among all
those throughout the country who had expressed a willingness to be
chosen. This would, so far, give reality to the electoral rights of
the otherwise virtually disfranchised minority. But it is important
that not those alone who refuse to vote for any of the local
candidates, but those also who vote for one of them and are
defeated, should be enabled to find elsewhere the representation which
they have not succeeded in obtaining in their own district. It is
therefore provided that an elector may deliver a voting paper,
containing other names in addition to the one which stands foremost in
his preference. His vote would only be counted for one candidate;
but if the object of his first choice failed to be returned, from
not having obtained the quota, his second perhaps might be more
fortunate. He may extend his list to a greater number, in the order of
his preference, so that if the names which stand near the top of the
list either cannot make up the quota, or are able to make it up
without his vote, the vote may still be used for some one whom it
may assist in returning. To obtain the full number of members required
to complete the House, as well as to prevent very popular candidates
from engrossing nearly all the suffrages, it is necessary, however
many votes a candidate may obtain, that no more of them than the quota
should be counted for his return: the remainder of those who voted for
him would have their votes counted for the next person on their
respective lists who needed them, and could by their aid complete
the quota. To determine which of a candidate's votes should be used
for his return, and which set free for others, several methods are
proposed, into which we shall not here enter. He would of course
retain the votes of all those who would not otherwise be
represented; and for the remainder, drawing lots, in default of
better, would be an unobjectionable expedient. The voting papers would
be conveyed to a central office; where the votes would be counted, the
number of first, second, third, and other votes given for each
candidate ascertained, and the quota would be allotted to every one
who could make it up, until the number of the House was complete:
first votes being preferred to second, second to third, and so
forth. The voting papers, and all the elements of the calculation,
would be placed in public repositories, accessible to all whom they
concerned; and if any one who had obtained the quota was not duly
returned it would be in his power easily to prove it.

  These are the main provisions of the scheme. For a more minute
knowledge of its very simple machinery, I must refer to Mr. Hare's
Treatise on the Election of Representatives (a small volume
Published in 1859),* and to a pamphlet by Mr. Henry Fawcett (now
Professor of Political Economy in the University, of Cambridge),
published in 1860, and entitled Mr. Hare's Reform Bill simplified
and explained. This last is a very clear and concise exposition of the
plan, reduced to its simplest elements, by the omission of some of Mr.
Hare's original provisions, which, though in themselves beneficial,
we're thought to take more from the simplicity of the scheme than they
added to its practical usefulness. The more these works are studied
the stronger, I venture to predict, will be the impression of the
perfect feasibility of the scheme, and its transcendant advantages.
Such and so numerous are these, that, in my conviction, they place Mr.
Hare's plan among the very greatest improvements yet made in the
theory and practice of government.

  * In a second edition, published recently, Mr. Hare has made
important improvements in some of the detailed provisions.

  In the first place, it secures a representation, in proportion to
numbers, of every division of the electoral body: not two great
parties alone, with perhaps a few large sectional minorities in
particular places, but every minority in the whole nation,
consisting of a sufficiently large number to be, on principles of
equal justice, entitled to a representative. Secondly, no elector
would, as at present, be nominally represented by some one whom he had
not chosen. Every member of the House would be the representative of a
unanimous constituency. He would represent a thousand electors, or two
thousand, or five thousand, or ten thousand, as the quota might be,
every one of whom would have not only voted for him, but selected
him from the whole country; not merely from the assortment of two or
three perhaps rotten oranges, which may be the only choice offered
to him in his local market. Under this relation the tie between the
elector and the representative would be of a strength, and a value, of
which at present we have no experience. Every one of the electors
would be personally identified with his representative, and the
representative with his constituents. Every elector who voted for
him would have done so either because, among all the candidates for
Parliament who are favourably known to a certain number of electors,
he is the one who best expresses the voter's own opinions, because
he is one of those whose abilities and character the voter most
respects, and whom he most willingly trusts to think for him. The
member would represent persons, not the mere bricks and mortar of
the town- the voters themselves, not a few vestrymen or parish
notabilities merely. All however, that is worth preserving in the
representation of places would be preserved. Though the Parliament
of the nation ought to have as little as possible to do with purely
local affairs, yet, while it has to do with them, there ought to be
members specially commissioned to look after the interests of every
important locality: and these there would still be. In every
locality which could make up the quota within itself, the majority
would generally prefer to be represented by one of themselves; by a
person of local knowledge, and residing in the locality, if there is
any such person to be found among the candidates, who is otherwise
well qualified to be their representative. It would be the
minorities chiefly, who being unable to return the local member, would
look out elsewhere for a candidate likely to obtain other votes in
addition to their own.

  Of all modes in which a national representation can possibly be
constituted, this one affords the best, security for the
intellectual qualifications desirable in the representatives. At
present, by universal admission, it is becoming more and more
difficult for any one who has only talents and character to gain
admission into the House of Commons. The only persons who can get
elected are those who possess local influence, or make their way by
lavish expenditure, or who, on the invitation of three or four
tradesmen or attorneys, are sent down by one of the two great
parties from their London clubs, as men whose votes the party can
depend on under all circumstances. On Mr. Hare's system, those who did
not like the local candidates, or who could not succeed in carrying
the local candidate they preferred, would have the power to fill up
their voting papers by a selection from all the persons of national
reputation, on the list of candidates, with whose general political
principles they were in sympathy. Almost every person, therefore,
who had made himself in any way honourably distinguished, though
devoid of local influence, and having sworn allegiance to no political
party, would have a fair chance of making up the quota; and with
this encouragement such persons might be expected to offer themselves,
in numbers hitherto undreamt of. Hundreds of able men of independent
thought, who would have no chance whatever of being chosen by the
majority of any existing constituency, have by their writings, or
their exertions in some field of public usefulness, made themselves
known and approved by a few persons in almost every district of the
kingdom; and if every vote that would be given for them in every place
could be counted for their election, they might be able to complete
the number of the quota. In no other way which it seems possible to
suggest would Parliament be so certain of containing the very elite of
the country.

  And it is not solely through the votes of minorities that this
system of election would raise the intellectual standard of the
House of Commons. Majorities would be compelled to look out for
members of a much higher calibre. When the individuals composing the
majority would no longer be reduced to Hobson's choice, of either
voting for the person brought forward by their local leaders or not
voting at all; when the nominee of the leaders would have to encounter
the competition not solely of the candidate of the minority, but of
all the men of established reputation in the country who were
willing to serve; it would be impossible any longer to foist upon
the electors the first person who presents himself with the catchwords
of the party in his mouth and three or four thousand pounds in his
pocket. The majority would insist on having a candidate worthy of
their choice, or they would carry their votes somewhere else, and
the minority would prevail. The slavery of the majority to the least
estimable portion of their number would be at an end: the very best
and most capable of the local notabilities would be put forward by
preference; if possible, such as were known in some advantageous way
beyond the locality, that their local strength might have a chance
of being fortified by stray votes from elsewhere. Constituencies would
become competitors for the best candidates, and would vie with one
another in selecting from among the men of local knowledge and
connections those who were most distinguished in every other respect.

  The natural tendency of representative government, as of modern
civilisation, is towards collective mediocrity: and this tendency is
increased by all reductions and extensions of the franchise, their
effect being to place the principal power in the hands of classes more
and more below the highest level of instruction in the community.
But though the superior intellects and characters will necessarily
be outnumbered, it makes a great difference whether or not they are
heard. In the false democracy which, instead of giving
representation to all gives it only to the local majorities, the voice
of the instructed minority may have no organs at all in the
representative body. It is an admitted fact that in the American
democracy, which is constructed on this faulty model, the
highly-cultivated members of the community, except such of them as are
willing to sacrifice their own opinions and modes of judgment, and
become the servile mouthpieces of their inferiors in knowledge, seldom
even offer themselves for Congress or the State Legislatures, so
little likelihood have they of being returned.

  Had a plan like Mr. Hare's by good fortune suggested itself to the
enlightened and patriotic founders of the American Republic, the
Federal and State Assemblies would have contained many of these
distinguished men, and democracy would have been spared its greatest
reproach and one of its most formidable evils. Against this evil the
system of personal representation, proposed by Mr. Hare, is almost a
specific. The minority of instructed minds scattered through the local
constituencies would unite to return a number, proportioned to their
own numbers, of the very ablest men the country contains. They would
be under the strongest inducement to choose such men, since in no
other mode could they make their small numerical strength tell for
anything considerable. The representatives of the majority, besides
that they would themselves be improved in quality by the operation
of the system, would no longer have the whole field to themselves.
They would indeed outnumber the others, as much as the one class of
electors outnumbers the other in the country: they could always out
vote them, but they would speak and vote in their presence, and
subject to their criticism. When any difference arose, they would have
to meet the arguments of the instructed few by reasons, at least
apparently, as cogent; and since they could not, as those do who are
speaking to persons already unanimous, simply assume that they are
in the right, it would occasionally happen to them to become convinced
that they were in the wrong. As they would in general be
well-meaning (for thus much may reasonably be expected from a
fairly-chosen national representation), their own minds would be
insensibly raised by the influence of the minds with which they were
in contact, or even in conflict. The champions of unpopular
doctrines would not put forth their arguments merely in books and
periodicals, read only by their own side; the opposing ranks would
meet face to face and hand to hand, and there would be a fair
comparison of their intellectual strength in the presence of the
country. It would then be found out whether the opinion which
prevailed by counting votes would also prevail if the votes were
weighed as well as counted.

  The multitude have often a true instinct for distinguishing an
able man, when he has the means of displaying his ability in a fair
field before them. If such a man fails to obtain at least some portion
of his just weight, it is through institutions or usages which keep
him out of sight. In the old democracies there were no means of
keeping out of sight any able man: the bema was open to him; he needed
nobody's consent to become a public adviser. It is not so in a
representative government; and the best friends of representative
democracy can hardly be without misgivings that the Themistocles or
Demosthenes, whose counsels would have saved the nation, might be
unable during his whole life ever to obtain a seat. But if the
presence in the representative assembly can be insured of even a few
of the first minds in the country, though the remainder consist only
of average minds, the influence of these leading spirits is sure to
make itself sensibly felt in the general deliberations, even though
they be known to be, in many respects, opposed to the tone of
popular opinion and feeling. I am unable to conceive any mode by which
the presence of such minds can be so positively insured as by that
proposed by Mr. Hare.

  This portion of the Assembly would also be the appropriate organ
of a great social function, for which there is no provision in any
existing democracy, but which in no government can remain
permanently unfulfilled without condemning that government to
infallible degeneracy and decay. This may be called the function of
Antagonism. In every government there is some power stronger than
all the rest; and the power which is strongest tends perpetually to
become the sole power. Partly by intention, and partly
unconsciously, it is ever striving to make all other things bend to
itself; and is not content while there is anything which makes
permanent head against it, any influence not in agreement with its
spirit. Yet if it succeeds in suppressing all rival influences, and
moulding everything after its own model, improvement, in that country,
is at an end, and decline commences. Human improvement is a product of
many factors, and no power ever yet constituted among mankind includes
them all: even the most beneficent power only contains in itself
some of the requisites of good, and the remainder, if progress is to
continue, must be derived from some other source. No community has
ever long continued progressive, but while a conflict was going on
between the strongest power in the community and some rival power;
between the spiritual and temporal authorities; the military or
territorial and the industrious classes; the king and the people;
the orthodox and religious reformers. When the victory on either
side was so complete as to put an end to the strife, and no other
conflict took its place, first stagnation followed, and then decay.
The ascendancy of the numerical majority is less unjust, and on the
whole less mischievous, than many others, but it is attended with
the very same kind of dangers, and even more certainly; for when the
government is in the hands of One or a Few, the Many are always
existent as a rival power, which may not be strong enough ever to
control the other, but whose opinion and sentiment are a moral, and
even a social, support to all who, either from conviction or
contrariety of interest, are opposed to any of the tendencies of the
ruling authority. But when the Democracy is supreme, there is no One
or Few strong enough for dissentient opinions and injured or menaced
interests to lean upon. The great difficulty of democratic
government has hitherto seemed to be, how to provide, in a
democratic society, what circumstances have provided hitherto in all
the societies which have maintained themselves ahead of others- a
social support, a point d'appui, for individual resistance to the
tendencies of the ruling power; a protection, a rallying point, for
opinions and interests which the ascendant public opinion views with
disfavour. For want of such a point d'appui, the older societies,
and all but a few modern ones, either fell into dissolution or
became stationary (which means slow deterioration) through the
exclusive predominance of a part only of the conditions of social
and mental well-being.

  Now, this great want the system of Personal Representation is fitted
to supply in the most perfect manner which the circumstances of modern
society admit of. The only quarter in which to look for a
supplement, or completing corrective, to the instincts of a democratic
majority, is the instructed minority: but, in the ordinary mode of
constituting democracy, this minority has no organ: Mr. Hare's
system provides one. The representatives who would be returned to
Parliament by the aggregate of minorities would afford that organ in
its greatest perfection. A separate organisation of the instructed
classes, even if practicable, would be invidious, and could only
escape from being offensive by being totally without influence. But if
the elite of these classes formed part of the Parliament, by the
same title as any other of its members- by representing the same
number of citizens, the same numerical fraction of the national will-
their presence could give umbrage to nobody, while they would be in
the position of highest vantage, both for making their opinions and
counsels heard on all important subjects, and for taking an active
part in public business. Their abilities would probably draw to them
more than their numerical share of the actual administration of
government; as the Athenians did not confide responsible public
functions to Cleon or Hyperbolus (the employment of Cleon at Pylos and
Amphipolis was purely exceptional), but Nicias, and Theramenes, and
Alcibiades, were in constant employment both at home and abroad,
though known to sympathise more with oligarchy than with democracy.
The instructed minority would, in the actual voting, count only for
their numbers, but as a moral power they would count for much more, in
virtue of their knowledge, and of the influence it would give them
over the rest. An arrangement better adapted to keep popular opinion
within reason and justice, and to guard it from the various
deteriorating influences which assail the weak side of democracy,
could scarcely by human ingenuity be devised. A democratic people
would in this way be provided with what in any other way it would
almost certainly miss-leaders of a higher grade of intellect and
character than itself. Modern democracy would have its occasional
Pericles, and its habitual group of superior and guiding minds.

  With all this array of reasons, of the most fundamental character,
on the affirmative side of the question, what is there on the
negative? Nothing that will sustain examination, when people can
once be induced to bestow any real examination upon a new thing. Those
indeed, if any such there be, who, under pretence of equal justice,
aim only at substituting the class ascendancy of the poor for that
of the rich, will of course be unfavourable to a scheme which places
both on a level. But I do not believe that any such wish exists at
present among the working classes of this country, though I would
not answer for the effect which opportunity and demagogic artifices
may hereafter have in exciting it. In the United States, where the
numerical majority have long been in full possession of collective
despotism, they would probably be as unwilling to part with it as a
single despot or an aristocracy. But I believe that the English
democracy would as yet be content with protection against the class
legislation of others, without claiming the power to exercise it in
their turn.

  Among the ostensible objectors to Mr. Hare's scheme, some profess to
think the plan unworkable; but these, it will be found, are
generally people who have barely heard of it, or have given it a
very slight and cursory examination. Others are unable to reconcile
themselves to the loss of what they term the local character of the
representation. A nation does not seem to them to consist of
persons, but of artificial units, the creation of geography and
statistics. Parliament must represent towns and counties, not human
beings. But no one seeks to annihilate towns and counties. Towns and
counties, it may be presumed, are represented when the human beings
who inhabit them are represented. Local feelings cannot exist
without somebody who feels them; nor local interests without
somebody interested in them. If the human beings whose feelings and
interests these are have their proper share of representation, these
feelings and interests are represented in common with all other
feelings and interests of those persons. But I cannot see why the
feelings and interests which arrange mankind according to localities
should be the only one thought worthy of being represented; or why
people who have other feelings and interests, which they value more
than they do their geographical ones, should be restricted to these as
the sole principle of their political classification. The notion
that Yorkshire and Middlesex have rights apart from those of their
inhabitants, or that Liverpool and Exeter are the proper objects of
the legislator's care, in contradistinction the population of those
places, is a curious specimen of delusion produced by words.

  In general, however, objectors cut the matter short by affirming
that the people of England will never consent to such a system. What
the people of England are likely to think of those who pass such a
summary sentence on their capacity of understanding and judgment,
deeming it superfluous to consider whether a thing is right or wrong
before affirming that they are certain to reject it, I will not
undertake to say. For my own part, I do not think that the people of
England have deserved to be, without trial, stigmatised as
insurmountably prejudiced against anything which can be proved to be
good either for themselves or for others. It also appears to me that
when prejudices persist obstinately, it is the fault of nobody so much
as of those who make a point of proclaiming them insuperable, as an
excuse to themselves for never joining in an attempt to remove them.
Any prejudice whatever will be insurmountable if those who do not
share it themselves truckle to it, and flatter it, and accept it as
a law of nature. I believe, however, that in this case there is in
general, among those who have yet heard of the proposition, no other
hostility to it than the natural and healthy distrust attaching to all
novelties which have not been sufficiently canvassed to make generally
manifest all the pros and cons of the question. The only serious
obstacle is the unfamiliarity: this indeed is a formidable one, for
the imagination much more easily reconciles itself to a great
alteration in substance, than to a very small one in names and
forms. But unfamiliarity is a disadvantage which, when there is any
real value in an idea, it only requires time to remove. And in these
days of discussion, and generally awakened interest in improvement,
what formerly was the work of centuries, often requires only years.

  Since the first publication of this Treatise, several adverse
criticisms have been made on Mr. Hare's plan, which indicate at
least a careful examination of it, and a more intelligent
consideration than had previously been given to its pretensions.
This is the natural progress of the discussion of great
improvements. They are at first met by a blind prejudice, and by
arguments to which only blind prejudice could attach any value. As the
prejudice weakens, the arguments it employs for some time increase
in strength; since, the plan being better understood, its inevitable
inconveniences, and the circumstances which militate against its at
once producing all the benefits it is intrinsically capable of, come
to light along with its merits. But of all the objections, having
any semblance of reason, which have come under my notice, there is not
one which had not been foreseen, considered, and canvassed by the
supporters of the plan, and found either unreal or easily

  The most serious, in appearance, of the objections may be the most
briefly answered; the assumed impossibility of guarding against fraud,
or suspicion of fraud, in the operations of the Central Office.
Publicity, and complete liberty of inspecting the voting papers
after the election, were the securities provided; but these, it is
maintained, would be unavailing; because, to check the returns, a
voter would have to go over all the work that had been done by the
staff of clerks. This would be a very weighty objection, if there were
any necessity that the returns should be verified individually by
every voter. All that a simple voter could be expected to do in the
way of verification would be to check the use made of his own voting
paper; for which purpose every paper would be returned, after a proper
interval, to the place from whence it came. But what he could not do
would be done for him by the unsuccessful candidates and their agents.
Those among the defeated who thought that they ought to have been
returned would, singly or a number together, employ an agency for
verifying the process of the election; and if they detected material
error, the documents would be referred to a Committee of the House
of Commons, by whom the entire electoral operations of the nation
would be examined and verified, at a tenth part the expense of time
and money necessary for the scrutiny of a single return before an
Election Committee under the system now in force.

  Assuming the plan to be workable, two modes have been alleged in
which its benefits might be frustrated, and injurious consequences
produced in lieu of them. First, it is said that undue power would
be given to knots or cliques; sectarian combinations; associations for
special objects, such as the Maine Law League, the Ballot or
Liberation Society; or bodies united by class interests or community
of religious persuasion. It is in the second place objected that the
system would admit of being worked for party purposes. A central organ
of each political party would send its list of 658 candidates all
through the country, to be voted for by the whole of its supporters in
every constituency. Their votes would far outnumber those which
could ever be obtained by any independent candidate. The "ticket"
system, it is contended, would, as it does in America, operate
solely in favour of the great organised parties, whose tickets would
be accepted blindly, and voted for in their integrity; and would
hardly ever be outvoted, except occasionally, by the sectarian groups,
or knots of men bound together by a common crotchet who have been
already spoken of.

  The answer to this appears to be conclusive. No one pretends that
under Mr. Hare's or any other plan organisation would cease to be an
advantage. Scattered elements are always at a disadvantage compared
with organised bodies. As Mr. Hare's plan cannot alter the nature of
things, we must expect that all parties or sections, great or small,
which possess organisation, would avail themselves of it to the utmost
to strengthen their influence. But under the existing system those
influences are everything. The scattered elements are absolutely
nothing. The voters who are neither bound to the great political nor
to any of the little sectarian divisions have no means of making their
votes available. Mr. Hare's plan gives them the means. They might be
more, or less, dexterous in using it. They might obtain their share of
influence, or much less than their share. But whatever they did
acquire would be clear gain. And when it is assumed that every petty
interest, or combination for a petty object, would give itself an
organisation, why should we suppose that the great interest of
national intellect and character would alone remain unorganised? If
there would be Temperance tickets, and Ragged School tickets, and
the like, would not one public-spirited person in a constituency be
sufficient to put forth a "personal merit" ticket, and circulate it
through a whole neighbourhood? And might not a few such persons,
meeting in London, select from the list of candidates the most
distinguished names, without regard to technical divisions of opinion,
and publish them at a trifling expense through all the constituencies?
It must be remembered that the influence of the two great parties,
under the present mode of election, is unlimited: in Mr. Hare's scheme
it would be great, but confined within bounds. Neither they, nor any
of the smaller knots, would be able to elect more members than in
proportion to the relative number of their adherents. The ticket
system in America operates under conditions the reverse of this. In
America electors vote for the party ticket, because the election
goes by a mere majority, and a vote for any one who is certain not
to obtain the majority is thrown away. But, on Mr. Hare's system, a
vote given to a person of known worth has almost as much chance of
obtaining its object as one given to a party candidate. It might be
hoped, therefore, that every Liberal or Conservative, who was anything
besides a Liberal or a Conservative- who had any preferences of his
own in addition to those of his party- would scratch through the names
of the more obscure and insignificant party candidates, and inscribe
in their stead some of the men who are an honour to the nation. And
the probability of this fact would operate as a strong inducement
with those who drew up the party lists not to confine themselves to
pledged party men, but to include along with these, in their
respective tickets, such of the national notabilities as were more in
sympathy with their side than with the opposite.

  The real difficulty, for it is not to be dissembled that there is
a difficulty, is that the independent voters, those who are desirous
of voting for unpatronised persons of merit, would be apt to put
down the names of a few such persons, and to fill up the remainder
of their list with mere party candidates, thus helping to swell the
numbers against those by whom they would prefer to be represented.
There would be an easy remedy for this, should it be necessary to
resort to it, namely, to impose a limit to the number of secondary
or contingent votes. No voter is likely to have an independent
preference, grounded on knowledge, for 658, or even for 100
candidates. There would be little objection to his being limited to
twenty, fifty, or whatever might be the number in the selection of
whom there was some probability that his own choice would be
exercised-that he would vote as an individual, and not as one of the
mere rank and file of a party. But even without this restriction,
the evil would be likely to cure itself as soon as the system came
to be well understood. To counteract it would become a paramount
object with all the knots and cliques whose influence is so much
deprecated. From these, each in itself a small minority, the word
would go forth, "Vote for your special candidates only; or at least
put their names foremost, so as to give them the full chance which
your numerical strength warrants, of obtaining the quota by means of
first votes, or without descending low in the scale." And those voters
who did not belong to any clique would profit by the lesson.

  The minor groups would have precisely the amount of power which they
ought to have. The influence they could exercise would be exactly that
which their number of voters entitled them to; not a particle more;
while to ensure even that, they would have a motive to put up, as
representatives of their special objects, candidates whose other
recommendations would enable them to obtain the suffrages of voters
not of the sect or clique. It is curious to observe how the popular
line of argument in defence of existing systems veers round, according
to the nature of the attack made upon them. Not many years ago it
was the favourite argument in support of the then existing system of
representation, that under it all "interests" or "classes" were
represented. And certainly, all interests or classes of any importance
ought to be represented, that is, ought to have spokesmen, or
advocates, in Parliament. But from thence it was argued that a
system ought to be supported which gave to the partial interests not
advocates merely, but the tribunal itself. Now behold the change.
Mr. Hare's system makes it impossible for partial interests to have
the command of the tribunal, but it ensures them advocates, and for
doing even this it is reproached. Because it unites the good points of
class representation and the good points of numerical
representation, it is attacked from both sides at once.

  But it is not such objections as these that are the real
difficulty in getting the system accepted; it is the exaggerated
notion entertained of its complexity, and the consequent doubt whether
it is capable of being carried into effect. The only complete answer
to this objection would be actual trial. When the merits of the plan
shall have become more generally known, and shall have gained for it a
wider support among impartial thinkers, an effort should be made to
obtain its introduction experimentally in some limited field, such
as the municipal election of some great town. An opportunity was
lost when the decision was taken to divide the West Riding of
Yorkshire for the purpose of giving it four members; instead of trying
the new principle, by leaving the constituency undivided, and allowing
a candidate to be returned on obtaining either in first or secondary
votes a fourth part of the whole number of votes given. Such
experiments, would be a very imperfect test of the worth of the
plan: but they would be an exemplification of its mode of working;
they would enable people to convince themselves that it is not
impracticable; would familiarise them with its machinery, and afford
some materials for judging whether the difficulties which are
thought to be so formidable are real or imaginary. The day when such a
partial trial shall be sanctioned by Parliament will, I believe,
inaugurate a new era of Parliamentary Reform; destined to give to
Representative Government a shape fitted to its mature and
triumphant period, when it shall have passed through the militant
stage in which alone the world has yet seen it.*

  * In the interval between the last and present editions of this
treatise, it has become known that the experiment here suggested has
actually been made on a larger than any municipal or provincial scale,
and has been in course of trial for several years. In the Danish
Constitution (not that of Denmark proper, but the Constitution
framed for the entire Danish kingdom) the equal representation of
minorities was provided for on a plan so nearly identical with Mr.
Hare's, as to add another to the examples how the ideas which
resolve difficulties arising out of a general situation of the human
mind or of society, present themselves, without communication, to
several superior minds at once. This feature of the Danish electoral
law has been brought fully and clearly before the British public in an
able paper by Mr. Robert Lytton, forming one of the valuable reports
by Secretaries of Legation, printed by order of the House of Commons
in 1864, Mr. Hare's plan, which may now be also called M. Andrae's,
has thus advanced from the position of a simple project to that of a
realised political fact.

  Though Denmark is as yet the only country in which Personal
Representation has become an institution, the progress of the idea
among thinking minds has been very rapid. In almost all the
countries in which universal suffrage is now regarded as a
necessity, the scheme is rapidly making its way: with the friends of
democracy, as a logical consequence of their principle; with those who
rather accept than prefer democratic government, as indispensable
corrective of its inconveniences. The political thinkers of
Switzerland led the way. Those of France followed. To mention no
others, within a very recent period two of the most influential and
authoritative writers in France, one belonging to the moderate liberal
and the other to the extreme democratic school, have given in a public
adhesion to the plan. Among its German supporters is numbered one of
the most eminent political thinkers in Germany, who is also a
distinguished member of the liberal Cabinet of the Grand Duke of
Baden. This subject, among others, has its share in the important
awakening of thought in the American republic, which is already one of
the fruits of the great pending contest for human freedom. In the
two principal of our Australian colonies Mr. Hare's plan has been
brought under the consideration of their respective legislatures,
and though not yet adopted, has already a strong party in its
favour; while the clear and complete understanding of its
principles, shown by the majority of the speakers both on the
Conservative and on the Radical side of general politics, shows how
unfounded is the notion of its being too complicated to be capable
of being generally comprehended and acted on. Nothing is required to
make both the plan and its advantages intelligible to all, except that
the time should have come when they will think it worth their while to
take the trouble of really attending to it.

                           Chapter 8

                Of the Extension of the Suffrage.

  SUCH A representative democracy as has now been sketched,
representative of all, and not solely of the majority- in which the
interests the opinions, the grades of intellect which are
outnumbered would nevertheless be heard, and would have a chance of
obtaining by weight of character and strength of argument an influence
which would not belong to their numerical force- this democracy,
which is alone equal, alone impartial, alone the government of all
by all, the only true type of democracy- would be free from the
greatest evils of the falsely-called democracies which now prevail,
and from which the current idea of democracy is exclusively derived.
But even in this democracy, absolute power, if they chose to
exercise it, would rest with the numerical majority; and these would
be composed exclusively of a single class, alike in biasses,
prepossessions, and general modes of thinking, and a class, to say
no more, not the most highly cultivated. The constitution would
therefore still be liable to the characteristic evils of class
government: in a far less degree, assuredly, than that exclusive
government by a class, which now usurps the name of democracy; but
still, under no effective restraint, except what might be found in the
good sense, moderation, and forbearance of the class itself. If checks
of this description are sufficient, the philosophy of constitutional
government is but solemn trifling. All trust in constitutions is
grounded on the assurance they may afford, not that the depositaries
of power will not, but that they cannot, misemploy it. Democracy is
not the ideally best form of government unless this weak side of it
can be strengthened; unless it can be so organised that no class,
not even the most numerous, shall be able to reduce all but itself
to political insignificance, and direct the course of legislation
and administration by its exclusive class interest. The problem is, to
find the means of preventing this abuse, without sacrificing the
characteristic advantages of popular government.

  These twofold requisites are not fulfilled by the expedient of a
limitation of the suffrage, involving the compulsory exclusion of
any portion of the citizens from a voice in the representation.
Among the foremost benefits of free government is that education of
the intelligence and of the sentiments which is carried down to the
very lowest ranks of the people when they are called to take a part in
acts which directly affect the great interests of their country. On
this topic I have already dwelt so emphatically that I only return
to it because there are few who seem to attach to this effect of
popular institutions all the importance to which it is entitled.
People think it fanciful to expect so much from what seems so slight a
cause- to recognise a potent instrument of mental improvement in the
exercise of political franchises by manual labourers. Yet unless
substantial mental cultivation in the mass of mankind is to be a
mere vision, this is the road by which it must come. If any one
supposes that this road will not bring it, I call to witness the
entire contents of M. de Tocqueville's great work; and especially
his estimate of the Americans. Almost all travellers are struck by the
fact that every American is in some sense both a patriot, and a person
of cultivated intelligence; and M. de Tocqueville has shown how
close the connection is between these qualities and their democratic
institutions. No such wide diffusion of the ideas, tastes, and
sentiments of educated minds has ever been seen elsewhere, or even
conceived as attainable.*

  * The following "extract from the Report of the English
Commissioner to the New York Exhibition," which I quote from Mr.
Carey's Principles of Social Science bears striking testimony to one
part, at least, of the assertion in the text:-

  "We have a few great engineers and mechanics, and a large body of
clever workmen; but the Americans seem likely to become a whole nation
of such people. Already, their rivers swarm with steamboats; their
valleys are becoming crowded with factories; their towns, surpassing
those of every state of Europe, except Belgium, Holland, and
England, are the abodes of all the skill which now distinguishes a
town population; and there is scarcely an art in Europe not carried on
in America with equal or greater skill than in Europe, though it has
been here cultivated and improved through ages. A whole nation of
Franklins, Stephensons, and Watts in prospect, is something
wonderful for other nations to contemplate. In contrast with the
comparative inertness and ignorance of the bulk of the people of
Europe, whatever may be the superiority of a few well-instructed and
gifted persons, the America is the circumstance most worthy of
public attention."

  Yet this is nothing to what we might look for in a government
equally democratic in its unexclusiveness, but better organised in
other important points. For political life is indeed in America a most
valuable school, but it is a school from which the ablest teachers are
excluded; the first minds in the country being as effectually shut out
from the national representation, and from public functions generally,
as if they were under a formal disqualification. The Demos, too, being
in America the one source of power, all the selfish ambition of the
country gravitates towards it, as it does in despotic countries
towards the monarch: the people, like the despot, is pursued with
adulation and sycophancy, and the corrupting effects of power fully
keep pace with its improving and ennobling influences. If, even with
this alloy, democratic institutions produce so marked a superiority of
mental development in the lowest class of Americans, compared with the
corresponding classes in England and elsewhere, what would it be if
the good portion of the influence could be retained without the bad?
And this, to a certain extent, may be done; but not by excluding
that portion of the people who have fewest intellectual stimuli of
other kinds from so inestimable an introduction to large, distant, and
complicated interests as is afforded by the attention they may be
induced to bestow on political affairs. It is by political
discussion that the manual labourer, whose employment is a routine,
and whose way of life brings him in contact with no variety of
impressions, circumstances, or ideas, is taught that remote causes,
and events which take place far off, have a most sensible effect
even on his personal interests; and it is from political discussion,
and collective political action, that one whose daily occupations
concentrate his interests in a small circle round himself, learns to
feel for and with his fellow citizens, and becomes consciously a
member of a great community. But political discussions fly over the
heads of those who have no votes, and are not endeavouring to
acquire them. Their position, in comparison with the electors, is that
of the audience in a court of justice, compared with the twelve men in
the jury-box. It is not their suffrages that are asked, it is not
their opinion that is sought to be influenced; the appeals are made,
the arguments addressed, to others than them; nothing depends on the
decision they may arrive at, and there is no necessity and very little
inducement to them to come to any. Whoever, in an otherwise popular
government, has no vote, and no prospect of obtaining it, will
either be a permanent malcontent, or will feel as one whom the general
affairs of society do not concern; for whom they are to be managed
by others; who "has no business with the laws except to obey them,"
nor with public interests and concerns except as a looker-on. What
he will know or care about them from this position may partly be
measured by what an average woman of the middle class knows and
cares about politics, compared with her husband or brothers.

  Independently of all these considerations, it is a personal
injustice to withhold from any one, unless for the prevention of
greater evils, the ordinary privilege of having his voice reckoned
in the disposal of affairs in which he has the same interest as
other people. If he is compelled to pay, if he may be compelled to
fight, if he is required implicitly to obey, he should be legally
entitled to be told what for; to have his consent asked, and his
opinion counted at its worth, though not at more than its worth. There
ought to be no pariahs in a full-grown and civilised nation; no
persons disqualified, except through their own default. Every one is
degraded, whether aware of it or not, when other people, without
consulting him, take upon themselves unlimited power to regulate his
destiny. And even in a much more improved state than the human mind
has ever yet reached, it is not in nature that they who are thus
disposed of should meet with as fair play as those who have a voice.
Rulers and ruling classes are under a necessity of considering the
interests and wishes of those who have the suffrage; but of those
who are excluded, it is in their option whether they will do so or
not, and, however honestly disposed, they are in general too fully
occupied with things which they must attend to, to have much room in
their thoughts for anything which they can with impunity disregard. No
arrangement of the suffrage, therefore, can be permanently
satisfactory in which any person or class is peremptorily excluded; in
which the electoral privilege is not open to all persons of full age
who desire to obtain it.

  There are, however, certain exclusions, required by positive
reasons, which do not conflict with this principle, and which,
though an evil in themselves, are only to be got rid of by the
cessation of the state of things which requires them. I regard it as
wholly inadmissible that any person should participate in the suffrage
without being able to read, write, and, I will add, perform the common
operations of arithmetic. Justice demands, even when the suffrage does
not depend on it, that the means of attaining these elementary
acquirements should be within the reach of every person, either
gratuitously, or at an expense not exceeding what the poorest who earn
their own living can afford. If this were really the case, people
would no more think of giving the suffrage to a man who could not
read, than of giving it to a child who could not speak; and it would
not be society that would exclude him, but his own laziness. When
society has not performed its duty, by rendering this amount of
instruction accessible to all, there is some hardship in the case, but
it is a hardship that ought to be borne. If society has neglected to
discharge two solemn obligations, the more important and more
fundamental of the two must be fulfilled first: universal teaching
must precede universal enfranchisement. No one but those in whom an
a priori theory has silenced common sense will maintain that power
over others, over the whole community, should be imparted to people
who have not acquired the commonest and most essential requisities for
taking care of themselves; for pursuing intelligently their own
interests, and those of the persons most nearly allied to them. This
argument, doubtless, might be pressed further, and made to prove
much more. It would be eminently desirable that other things besides
reading, writing, and arithmetic could be made necessary to the
suffrage; that some knowledge of the conformation of the earth, its
natural and political divisions, the elements of general history,
and of the history and institutions of their own country, could be
required from all electors. But these kinds of knowledge, however
indispensable to an intelligent use of the suffrage, are not, in
this country, nor probably anywhere save in the Northern United
States, accessible to the whole people; nor does there exist any
trustworthy machinery for ascertaining whether they have been acquired
or not. The attempt, at present, would lead to partiality,
chicanery, and every kind of fraud. It is better that the suffrage
should be conferred indiscriminately, or even withheld
indiscriminately, than that it should be given to one and withheld
from another at the discretion of a public officer. In regard,
however, to reading, writing, and calculating, there need be no
difficulty. It would be easy to require from every one who presented
himself for registry that he should, in the presence of the registrar,
copy a sentence from an English book, and perform a sum in the rule of
three; and to secure, by fixed rules and complete publicity, the
honest application of so very simple a test. This condition,
therefore, should in all cases accompany universal suffrage; and it
would, after a few years, exclude none but those who cared so little
for the privilege, that their vote, if given, would not in general
be an indication of any real political opinion.

  It is also important, that the assembly which votes the taxes,
either general or local, should be elected exclusively by those who
pay something towards the taxes imposed. Those who pay no taxes,
disposing by their votes of other people's money, have every motive to
be lavish and none to economise. As far as money matters are
concerned, any power of voting possessed by them is a violation of the
fundamental principle of free government; a severance of the power
of control from the interest in its beneficial exercise. It amounts to
allowing them to put their hands into other people's pockets for any
purpose which they think fit to call a public one; which in some of
the great towns of the United States is known to have produced a scale
of local taxation onerous beyond example, and wholly borne by the
wealthier classes. That representation should be co-extensive with
taxation, not stopping short of it, but also not going beyond it, is
in accordance with the theory of British institutions. But to
reconcile this, as a condition annexed to the representation, with
universality, it is essential, as it is on many other accounts
desirable, that taxation, in a visible shape, should descend to the
poorest class. In this country, and in most others, there is
probably no labouring family which does not contribute to the indirect
taxes, by the purchase of tea, coffee, sugar, not to mention narcotics
or stimulants. But this mode of defraying a share of the public
expenses is hardly felt: the payer, unless a person of education and
reflection, does not identify his interest with a low scale of
public expenditure as closely as when money for its support is
demanded directly from himself; and even supposing him to do so, he
would doubtless take care that, however lavish an expenditure he
might, by his vote, assist in imposing upon the government, it
should not be defrayed by any additional taxes on the articles which
he himself consumes. It would be better that a direct tax, in the
simple form of a capitation, should be levied on every grown person in
the community; or that every such person should be admitted an elector
on allowing himself to be rated extra ordinem to the assessed taxes;
or that a small annual payment, rising and falling with the gross
expenditure of the country, should be required from every registered
elector; that so everyone might feel that the money which he
assisted in voting was partly his own, and that he was interested in
keeping down its amount.

  However this may be, I regard it as required by first principles,
that the receipt of parish relief should be a peremptory
disqualification for the franchise. He who cannot by his labour
suffice for his own support has no claim to the privilege of helping
himself to the money of others. By becoming dependent on the remaining
members of the community for actual subsistence, he abdicates his
claim to equal rights with them in other respects. Those to whom he is
indebted for the continuance of his very existence may justly claim
the exclusive management of those common concerns, to which he now
brings nothing, or less than he takes away. As a condition of the
franchise, a term should be fixed, say five years previous to the
registry, during which the applicant's name has not been on the parish
books as a recipient of relief. To be an uncertified bankrupt, or to
have taken the benefit of the Insolvent Act, should disqualify for the
franchise until the person has paid his debts, or at least proved that
he is not now, and has not for some long period been, dependent on
eleemosynary support. Non-payment of taxes, when so long persisted
in that it cannot have arisen from inadvertence, should disqualify
while it lasts. These exclusions are not in their nature permanent.
They exact such conditions only as all are able, or ought to be
able, to fulfil if they choose. They leave the suffrage accessible
to all who are in the normal condition of a human being: and if any
one has to forego it, he either does not care sufficiently for it to
do for its sake what he is already bound to do, or he is in a
general condition of depression and degradation in which this slight
addition, necessary for security of others, would be unfelt, and on
emerging from which, this mark of inferiority would disappear with the

  In the long run, therefore (supposing no restrictions to exist but
those of which we have now treated), we might expect that all,
except that (it is to be hoped) progressively diminishing class, the
recipients of parish relief, would be in possession of votes, so
that the suffrage would be, with that slight abatement, universal.
That it should be thus widely expanded is, as we have seen, absolutely
necessary to an enlarged and elevated conception of good government.
Yet in this state of things, the great majority of voters, in most
countries, and emphatically in this, would be manual labourers; and
the twofold danger, that of too low a standard of political
intelligence, and that of class legislation, would still exist in a
very perilous degree. It remains to be seen whether any means exist by
which these evils can be obviated.

  They are capable of being obviated, if men sincerely wish it; not by
any artificial contrivance, but by carrying out the natural order of
human life, which recommends itself to every one in things in which he
has no interest or traditional opinion running counter to it. In all
human affairs, every person directly interested, and not under
positive tutelage, has an admitted claim to a voice, and when his
exercise of it is not inconsistent with the safety of the whole,
cannot justly be excluded from it. But though every one ought to
have a voice- that every one should have an equal voice is a totally
different proposition. When two persons who have a joint interest in
any business differ in opinion, does justice require that both
opinions should be held of exactly equal value? If, with equal virtue,
one is superior to the other in knowledge and intelligence- or if,
with equal intelligence, one excels the other in virtue- the opinion,
the judgment, of the higher moral or intellectual being is worth more
than that of the inferior: and if the institutions of the country
virtually assert that they are of the same value, they assert a thing
which is not. One of the two, as the wiser or better man, has a claim
to superior weight: the difficulty is in ascertaining which of the two
it is; a thing impossible as between individuals, but, taking men in
bodies and in numbers, it can be done with a certain approach to
accuracy. There would be no pretence for applying this doctrine to any
case which could with reason be considered as one of individual and
private right. In an affair which concerns only one of two persons,
that one is entitled to follow his own opinion, however much wiser the
other may be than himself. But we are speaking of things which equally
concern them both; where, if the more ignorant does not yield his
share of the matter to the guidance of the wiser man, the wiser man
must resign his to that of the more ignorant. Which of these modes
of getting over the difficulty is most for the interest of both, and
most conformable to the general fitness of things? If it be deemed
unjust that either should have to give way, which injustice is
greatest? that the better judgment should give way to the worse, or
the worse to the better?

  Now, national affairs are exactly such a joint concern, with the
difference, that no one needs ever be called upon for a complete
sacrifice of his own opinion. It can always be taken into the
calculation, and counted at a certain figure, a higher figure being
assigned to the suffrages of those whose opinion is entitled to
greater weight. There is not, in this arrangement, anything
necessarily invidious to those to whom it assigns the lower degrees of
influence. Entire exclusion from a voice in the common concerns is one
thing: the concession to others of a more potential voice, on the
ground of greater capacity for the management of the joint
interests, is another. The two things are not merely different, they
are incommensurable. Every one has a right to feel insulted by being
made a nobody, and stamped as of no account at all. No one but a fool,
and only a fool of a peculiar description, feels offended by the
acknowledgment that there are others whose opinion, and even whose
wish, is entitled to a greater amount of consideration than his. To
have no voice in what are partly his own concerns is a thing which
nobody willingly submits to; but when what is partly his concern is
also partly another's, and he feels the other to understand the
subject better than himself, that the other's opinion should be
counted for more than his own accords with his expectations, and
with the course of things which in all other affairs of life he is
accustomed to acquiese in. It is only necessary that this superior
influence should be assigned on grounds which he can comprehend, and
of which he is able to perceive the justice.

  I hasten to say that I consider it entirely inadmissible, unless
as a temporary makeshift, that the superiority of influence should
be conferred in consideration of property. I do not deny that property
is a kind of test; education in most countries, though anything but
proportional to riches, is on the average better in the richer half of
society than in the poorer. But the criterion is so imperfect;
accident has so much more to do than merit with enabling men to rise
in the world; and it is so impossible for any one, by acquiring any
amount of instruction, to make sure of the corresponding rise in
station, that this foundation of electoral privilege is always, and
will continue to be, supremely odious. To connect plurality of votes
with any pecuniary qualification would be not only objectionable in
itself, but a sure mode of discrediting the principle, and making
its permanent maintenance impracticable. The Democracy, at least of
this country, are not at present jealous of personal superiority,
but they are naturally and must justly so of that which is grounded on
mere pecuniary circumstances. The only thing which can justify
reckoning one person's opinion as equivalent to more than one is
individual mental superiority; and what is wanted is some
approximate means of ascertaining that. If there existed such a
thing as a really national education or a trustworthy system of
general examination, education might be tested directly. In the
absence of these, the nature of a person's occupation is some test. An
employer of labour is on the average more intelligent than a labourer;
for he must labour with his head, and not solely with his hands. A
foreman is generally more intelligent than an ordinary labourer, and a
labourer in the skilled trades than in the unskilled. A banker,
merchant, or manufacturer is likely to be more intelligent than a
tradesman, because he has larger and more complicated interests to

  In all these cases it is not the having merely undertaken the
superior function, but the successful performance of it, that tests
the qualifications; for which reason, as well as to prevent persons
from engaging nominally in an occupation for the sake of the vote,
it would be proper to require that the occupation should have been
persevered in for some length of time (say three years). Subject to
some such condition, two or more votes might be allowed to every
person who exercises any of these superior functions. The liberal
professions, when really and not nominally practised, imply, of
course, a still higher degree of instruction; and wherever a
sufficient examination, or any serious conditions of education, are
required before entering on a profession, its members could be
admitted at once to a plurality of votes. The same rule might be
applied to graduates of universities; and even to those who bring
satisfactory certificates of having passed through the course of study
required by any school at which the higher branches of knowledge are
taught, under proper securities that the teaching is real, and not a
mere pretence. The "local" or "middle class" examination for the
degree of Associate, so laudably and public-spiritedly established
by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and any similar ones
which may be instituted by other competent bodies (provided they are
fairly open to all comers), afford a ground on which plurality of
votes might with great advantage be accorded to those who have
passed the test. All these suggestions are open to much discussion
in the detail, and to objections which it is of no use to
anticipate. The time is not come for giving to such plans a
practical shape, nor should I wish to be bound by the particular
proposals which I have made. But it is to me evident, that in this
direction lies the true ideal of representative government; and that
to work towards it, by the best practical contrivances which can be
found, is the path of real political improvement.

  If it be asked to what length the principle admits of being carried,
or how many votes might be accorded to an individual on the ground
of superior qualifications, I answer, that this is not in itself
very material, provided the distinctions and gradations are not made
arbitrarily, but are such as can be understood and accepted by the
general conscience and understanding. But it is an absolute
condition not to overpass the limit prescribed by the fundamental
principle laid down in a former chapter as the condition of excellence
in the constitution of a representative system. The plurality of votes
must on no account be carried so far that those who are privileged
by it, or the class (if any) to which they mainly belong, shall
outweigh by means of it all the rest of the community. The distinction
in favour of education, right in itself, is further and strongly
recommended by its preserving the educated from the class
legislation of the uneducated; but it must stop short of enabling them
to practise class legislation on their own account. Let me add, that I
consider it an absolutely necessary part of the plurality scheme
that it be open to the poorest individual in the community to claim
its privileges, if he can prove that, in spite of all difficulties and
obstacles, he is, in point of intelligence, entitled to them. There
ought to be voluntary examinations at which any person whatever
might present himself, might prove that he came up to the standard
of knowledge and ability laid down as sufficient, and be admitted,
in consequence, to the plurality of votes. A privilege which is not
refused to any one who can show that he has realised the conditions on
which in theory and principle it is dependent would not necessarily be
repugnant to any one's sentiment of justice: but it would certainly be
so, if, while conferred on general presumptions not always infallible,
it were denied to direct proof.

  Plural voting, though practised in vestry elections and those of
poor-law guardians, is so unfamiliar in elections to Parliament that
it is not likely to be soon or willingly adopted: but as the time will
certainly arrive when the only choice will be between this and equal
universal suffrage, whoever does not desire the last, cannot too
soon begin to reconcile himself to the former. In the meantime, though
the suggestion, for the present, may not be a practical one, it will
serve to mark what is best in principle, and enable us to judge of the
eligibility of any indirect means, either existing or capable of being
adopted, which may promote in a less perfect manner the same end. A
person may have a double vote by other means than that of tendering
two votes at the same hustings; he may have a vote in each of two
different constituencies: and though this exceptional privilege at
present belongs rather to superiority of means than of intelligence, I
would not abolish it where it exists, since until a truer test of
education is adopted it would be unwise to dispense with even so
imperfect a one as is afforded by pecuniary circumstances. Means might
be found of giving a further extension to the privilege, which would
connect it in a more direct manner with superior education. In any
future Reform Bill which lowers greatly the pecuniary conditions of
the suffrage, it might be a wise provision to allow all graduates of
universities, all persons who have passed creditably through the
higher schools, all members of the liberal professions, and perhaps
some others, to be registered specifically in those characters, and to
give their votes as such in any constituency in which they choose to
register; retaining, in addition, their votes as simple citizens in
the localities in which they reside.

  Until there shall have been devised, and until opinion is willing to
accept, some mode of plural voting which may assign to education, as
such, the degree of superior influence due to it, and sufficient as
a counterpoise to the numerical weight of the least educated class;
for so long the benefits of completely universal suffrage cannot be
obtained without bringing with them, as it appears to me, a chance
of more than equivalent evils. It is possible, indeed (and this is
perhaps one of the transitions through which we may have to pass in
our progress to a really good representative system), that the
barriers which restrict the suffrage might be entirely levelled in
some particular constituencies, whose members, consequently, would
be returned principally by manual labourers; the existing electoral
qualification being maintained elsewhere, or any alteration in it
being accompanied by such a grouping of the constituencies as to
prevent the labouring class from becoming preponderant in
Parliament. By such a compromise, the anomalies in the
representation would not only be retained, but augmented: this however
is not a conclusive objection; for if the country does not choose to
pursue the right ends by a regular system directly leading to them, it
must be content with an irregular makeshift, as being greatly
preferable to a system free from irregularities, but regularly adapted
to wrong ends, or in which some ends equally necessary with the others
have been left out. It is a far graver objection, that this adjustment
is incompatible with the intercommunity of local constituencies
which Mr. Hare's plan requires; that under it every voter would remain
imprisoned within the one or more constituencies in which his name
is registered, and unless willing to be represented by one of the
candidates for those localities, would not be represented at all.

  So much importance do I attach to the emancipation of those who
already have votes, but whose votes are useless, because always
outnumbered; so much should I hope from the natural influence of truth
and reason, if only secured a hearing and a competent advocacy that
I should not despair of the operation even of equal and universal
suffrage, if made real by the proportional representation of all
minorities, on Mr. Hare's principle. But if the best hopes which can
be formed on this subject were certainties, I should still contend for
the principle of plural voting. I do not propose the plurality as a
thing in itself undesirable, which, like the exclusion of part of
the community from the suffrage, may be temporarily tolerated while
necessary to prevent greater evils. I do not look upon equal voting as
among the things which are good in themselves, provided they can be
guarded against inconveniences. I look upon it as only relatively
good; less objectionable than inequality of privilege grounded on
irrelevant or adventitious circumstances, but in principle wrong,
because recognising a wrong standard, and exercising a bad influence
on the voter's mind. It is not useful, but hurtful, that the
constitution of the country should declare ignorance to be entitled to
as much political power as knowledge. The national institutions should
place all things that they are concerned with before the mind of the
citizen in the light in which it is for his good that he should regard
them: and as it is for his good that he should think that every one is
entitled to some influence, but the better and wiser to more than
others, it is important that this conviction should be professed by
the State, and embodied in the national institutions. Such things
constitute the spirit of the institutions of a country: that portion
of their influence which is least regarded by common, and especially
by English, thinkers; though the institutions of every country, not
under great positive oppression, produce more effect by their spirit
than by any of their direct provisions, since by it they shape the
national character. The American institutions have imprinted
strongly on the American mind that any one man (with a white skin)
is as good as any other; and it is felt that this false creed is
nearly connected with some of the more unfavourable points in American
character. It is not small mischief that the constitution of any
country should sanction this creed; for the belief in it, whether
express or tacit, is almost as detrimental to moral and intellectual
excellence any effect which most forms of government can produce.

  It may, perhaps, be said, that a constitution which gives equal
influence, man for man, to the most and to the least instructed, is
nevertheless conducive to progress, because the appeals constantly
made to the less instructed classes, the exercise given to their
mental powers, and the exertions which the more instructed are obliged
to make for enlightening their judgment and ridding them of errors and
prejudices, are powerful stimulants to their advance in
intelligence. That this most desirable effect really attends the
admission of the less educated classes to some, and even to a large
share of power, I admit, and have already strenuously maintained.
But theory and experience alike prove that a counter current sets in
when they are made the possessors of all power. Those who are
supreme over everything, whether they be One, or Few, or Many, have no
longer need of the arms of reason: they can make their mere will
prevail; and those who cannot be resisted are usually far too well
satisfied with their own opinion to be willing to change them, or
listen without impatience to any one who tells them that they are in
the wrong. The position which gives the strongest stimulus to the
growth of intelligence is that of rising into power, not that of
having achieved it; and of all resting-points, temporary or permanent,
in the way to ascendancy, the one which develops the best and
highest qualities is the position of those who are strong enough to
make reason prevail, but not strong enough to prevail against
reason. This is the position in which, according to the principles
we have laid down, the rich and the poor, the much and the little
educated, and all the other classes and denominations which divide
society between them, ought as far as practicable to be placed. And by
combining this principle with the otherwise just one of allowing
superiority of weight to superiority of mental qualities, a
political constitution would realise that kind of relative
perfection which is alone compatible with the complicated nature of
human affairs.

  In the preceding argument for universal, but graduated suffrage, I
have taken no account of difference of sex. I consider it to be as
entirely irrelevant to political rights as difference in height or
in the colour of the hair. All human beings have the same interest
in good government; the welfare of all is alike affected by it, and
they have equal need of a voice in it to secure their share of its
benefits. If there be any difference, women require it more than
men, since, being physically weaker, they are more dependent on law
and society for protection. Mankind have long since abandoned the only
premises which will support the conclusion that women ought not to
have votes. No one now holds that women should be in personal
servitude, that they should have no thought, wish, or occupation,
but to be the domestic drudges of husbands, fathers, or brothers. It
is allowed to unmarried, and wants but little of being conceded to
married women, to hold property, and have pecuniary and business
interests, in the same manner as men. It is considered suitable and
proper that women should think and write, and be teachers. As soon
as these things are admitted, the political disqualification has no
principle to rest on. The whole mode of thought of the modern world is
with increasing emphasis pronouncing against the claim of society to
decide for individuals what they are and are not fit for, and what
they shall and shall not be allowed to attempt. If the principles of
modern politics and political economy are good for anything, it is for
proving that these points can only be rightly judged of by the
individuals themselves and that, under complete freedom of choice,
wherever there are real diversities of aptitude, the great number will
apply themselves to the things for which they are on the average
fittest, and the exceptional course will only be taken by the
exceptions. Either the whole tendency of modern social improvements
has been wrong, or it ought to be carried out to the total abolition
of all exclusions and disabilities which close any honest employment
to a human being.

  But it is not even necessary to maintain so much in order to prove
that women should have the suffrage. Were it as right, as it is wrong,
that they should be a subordinate class, confined to domestic
occupations and subject to domestic authority, they would not the less
require the protection of the suffrage to secure them from the abuse
of that authority. Men, as well as women, do not need political rights
in order that they may govern, but in order that they may not be
misgoverned. The majority of the male sex are, and will be all their
lives, nothing else than labourers in cornfields or manufactories; but
this does not render the suffrage less desirable for them, nor their
claim to it less irresistible, when not likely to make a bad use of
it. Nobody pretends to think that woman would make a bad use of the
suffrage. The worst that is said is that they would vote as mere
dependents, the bidding of their male relations. If it be so, so let
it be. If they think for themselves, great good will be done, and if
they do not, no harm. It is a benefit to human beings to take off
their fetters, even if they do not desire to walk. It would already be
a great improvement in the moral position of women to be no longer
declared by law incapable of an opinion, and not entitled to a
preference, respecting the most important concerns of humanity.
There would be some benefit to them individually in having something
to bestow which their male relatives cannot exact, and are yet
desirous to have. It would also be no small benefit that the husband
would necessarily discuss the matter with his wife, and that the
vote would not be his exclusive affair, but a joint concern. People do
not sufficiently consider how markedly the fact that she is able to
have some action on the outward world independently of him raises
her dignity and value in a vulgar man's eyes, and makes her the object
of a respect which no personal qualities would ever obtain for one
whose social existence he can entirely appropriate.

  The vote itself, too, would be improved in quality. The man would
often be obliged to find honest reasons for his vote, such as might
induce a more upright and impartial character to serve with him
under the same banner. The wife's influence would often keep him
true to his own sincere opinion. Often, indeed, it would be used,
not on the side of public principle, but of the personal interest or
worldly vanity of the family. But wherever this would be the
tendency of the wife's influence, it is exerted to the full already in
that bad direction; and with the more certainty, since under the
present law and custom she is generally too utter a stranger to
politics in any sense in which they involve principle to be able to
realise to herself that there is a point of honour in them, and most
people have as little sympathy in the point of honour of others,
when their own is not placed in the same thing, as they have in the
religious feelings of those whose religion differs from theirs. Give
the woman a vote, and she comes under the operation of the political
point of honour. She learns to look on politics as a thing on which
she is allowed to have an opinion, and in which if one has an
opinion it ought to be acted upon; she acquires a sense of personal
accountability in the matter, and will no longer feel, as she does
at present, that whatever amount of bad influence she may exercise, if
the man can but be persuaded, all is right, and his responsibility
covers all. It is only by being herself encouraged to form an opinion,
and obtain an intelligent comprehension of the reasons which ought
to prevail with the conscience against the temptations of personal
or family interest, that she can ever cease to act as a disturbing
force on the political conscience of the man. Her indirect agency
can only be prevented from being politically mischievous by being
exchanged for direct.

  I have supposed the right of suffrage to depend, as in a good
state of things it would, on personal conditions. Where it depends, as
in this and most other countries, on conditions of property, the
contradiction is even more flagrant. There something more than
ordinarily irrational in the fact that when a woman can give all the
guarantees required from a male elector, independent circumstances,
the position of a householder and head of a family, payment of
taxes, or whatever may be the conditions imposed, the very principle
and system of a representation based on property is set aside, and
an exceptionally personal disqualification is created for the mere
purpose of excluding her. When it is added that in the country where
this is done a woman now reigns, and that the most glorious ruler whom
that country ever had was a woman, the picture of unreason, and
scarcely disguised injustice, is complete. Let us hope that as the
work proceeds of pulling down, one after another, the remains of the
mouldering fabric of monopoly and tyranny, this one will not be the
last to disappear; that the opinion of Bentham, of Mr. Samuel
Bailey, of Mr. Hare, and many other of the most powerful political
thinkers of this age and country (not to speak of others), will make
its way to all minds not rendered obdurate by selfishness or
inveterate prejudice; and that, before the lapse another generation,
the accident of sex, no more than the accident of skin, will be deemed
a sufficient justification for depriving its possessor of the equal
protection and just privileges of a citizen.

                             Chapter 9

                 Should there be Two Stages of Election?

  IN SOME representative constitutions the plan has been adopted of
choosing the members of the representative body by a double process,
the primary electors only choosing other electors, and these
electing the member of parliament. This contrivance was probably
intended as a slight impediment to the full sweep of popular
feeling; giving the suffrage, and with it the complete ultimate power,
to the Many, but compelling them to exercise it through the agency
of a comparatively few, who, it was supposed, would be less moved than
the Demos by the gusts of popular passion; and as the electors,
being already a select body, might be expected to exceed in
intellect and character the common level of their constituents, the
choice made by them was thought likely to be more careful and
enlightened, and would in any case be made under a greater feeling
of responsibility, than election by the masses themselves. This plan
of filtering, as it were, the popular suffrage through an intermediate
body admits of a very plausible defence; since it may be said, with
great appearance of reason, that less intellect and instruction are
required for judging who among our neighbours can be most safely
trusted to choose a member of parliament, than who is himself
fittest to be one.

  In the first place, however, if the dangers incident to popular
power may be thought to be in some degree lessened by this indirect
arrangement, so also are its benefits; and the latter effect is much
more certain than the former. To enable the system to work as desired,
it must be carried into effect in the spirit in which it is planned;
the electors must use the suffrage in the manner supposed by the
theory, that is, each of them must not ask himself who the member of
parliament should be, but only whom he would best like to choose one
for him. It is evident that the advantages which indirect is
supposed to have over direct election require this disposition of mind
in the voter, and will only be realised by his taking the doctrine
au serieux, that his sole business is to choose the choosers, not
the member himself. The supposition must be, that he will not occupy
his thoughts with political opinions and measures, or political men,
but will be guided by his personal respect for some private
individual, to whom he will give a general power of attorney to act
for him. Now if the primary electors adopt this view of their
position, one of the principal uses of giving them a vote at all is
defeated: the political function to which they are called fails of
developing public spirit and political intelligence; of making
public affairs an object of interest to their feelings and of exercise
to their faculties. The supposition, moreover, involves inconsistent
conditions; for if the voter feels no interest in the final result,
how or why can he be expected to feel any in the process which leads
to it? To wish to have a particular individual for his
representative in parliament is possible to a person of a very
moderate degree of virtue and intelligence; and to wish to choose an
elector who will elect that individual is a natural consequence: but
for a person does not care who is elected, or feels bound to put
that consideration in abeyance, to take any interest whatever in
merely naming the worthiest person to elect another according to his
own judgment, implies a zeal for what is right in the abstract, an
habitual principle of duty for the sake of duty, which is possible
only to persons of a rather high grade of cultivation, who, by the
very possession of it, show that they may be, and deserve to be,
trusted with political power in a more direct shape. Of all public
functions which it is possible to confer on the poorer members of
the community this surely is the least calculated to kindle their
feelings, and holds out least natural inducement to care for it, other
than a virtuous determination to discharge conscientiously whatever
duty one has to perform: and if the mass of electors cared enough
about political affairs to set any value on so limited a participation
in them, they would not be likely to be satisfied without one much
more extensive.

  In the next place, admitting that a person who, from his narrow
range of cultivation, cannot judge well of the qualifications of a
candidate for parliament may be a sufficient judge of the honesty
and general capacity of somebody whom he may depute to choose a member
of Parliament for him; I may remark, that if the voter acquiesces in
this estimate of his capabilities, and really wishes to have the
choice made for him by a person in whom he places reliance, there is
no need of any constitutional provision for the purpose; he has only
to ask this confidential person privately what candidate he had better
vote for. In that case the two modes of election coincide in their
result, and every advantage of indirect election is obtained under
direct. The systems only diverge in their operation, if we suppose
that the voter would prefer to use his own judgment in the choice of a
representative, and only lets another choose for him because the law
does not allow him a more direct mode of action. But if this be his
state of mind; if his will does not go along with the limitation which
the law imposes, and he desires to make a direct choice, he can do
so notwithstanding the law. He has only to choose as elector a known
partisan of the candidate he prefers, or some one who will pledge
himself to vote for that candidate. And this is so much the natural
working of election by two stages that, except in a condition of
complete political indifference, it can scarcely be expected to act
otherwise. It is in this way that the election of the President of the
United States practically takes place. Nominally, the election is
indirect: the population at large does not vote for the President;
it votes for electors who choose the President. But the electors are
always chosen under an express engagement to vote for a particular
candidate: nor does a citizen ever vote for an elector because of
any preference for the man; he votes for the Lincoln ticket, or the
Breckenridge ticket. It must be remembered that the electors are not
chosen in order that they may search the country and find the
fittest person in it to be President, or to be a member of Parliament.
There would be something to be said for the practice if this were
so: but it is not so; nor ever will be until mankind in general are of
opinion, with Plato, that the proper person to be entrusted with power
is the person most unwilling to accept it. The electors are to make
choice of one of those who have offered themselves as candidates:
and those who choose the electors already know who these are. If there
is any political activity in the country, all electors, who care to
vote at all, have made up their minds which of these candidates they
would like to have; and will make that the sole consideration in
giving their vote. The partisans of each candidate will have their
list of electors ready, all pledged to vote for that individual; and
the only question practically asked of the primary elector will be
which of these lists he will support.

  The case in which election by two stages answers well in practice is
when the electors are not chosen solely as electors, but have other
important functions to discharge, which precludes their being selected
solely as delegates to give a particular vote. This combination of
circumstances exemplifies itself in another American institution,
the Senate of the United States. That assembly, the Upper House, as it
were, of Congress, is considered to represent not the people directly,
but the States as such, and to be the guardian of that portion of
their sovereign rights which they have not alienated. As the
internal sovereignty of each State is, by the nature of an equal
federation, equally sacred whatever be the size or importance of the
State, each returns to the Senate the same number of members (two),
whether it be little Delaware or the "Empire State" of New York. These
members are not chosen by the population, but by the State
Legislatures, themselves elected by the people of each State; but as
the whole ordinary business of a legislative assembly, internal
legislation and the control of the executive, devolves upon these
bodies, they are elected with a view to those objects more than to the
other; and in naming two persons to represent the State in the Federal
Senate they for the most part exercise their own judgment, with only
that general reference to public opinion necessary in all acts of
the government of a democracy. The elections, thus made, have proved
eminently successful, and are conspicuously the best of all the
elections in the United States, the Senate invariably consisting of
the most distinguished men among those who have made themselves
sufficiently known in public life.

  After such an example, it cannot be said that indirect popular
election is never advantageous. Under certain conditions it is the
very best system that can be adopted. But those conditions are
hardly to be obtained in practice, except in a federal government like
that of the United States, where the election can be entrusted to
local bodies whose other functions extend to the most important
concerns of the nation. The only bodies in any analogous position
which exist, or are likely to exist, in this country are the
municipalities, or any other boards which have been or may be
created for similar local purposes. Few persons, however, would
think it any improvement in our parliamentary constitution if the
members for the City of London were chosen by the Aldermen and
Common Council, and those for the borough of Marylebone avowedly, as
they already are virtually, by the vestries of the component parishes.
Even if those bodies, considered merely as local boards, were far less
objectionable than they are, the qualities that would fit them for the
limited and peculiar duties of municipal or parochial aedileship are
no guarantee of any special fitness to judge of the comparative
qualifications of candidates for a seat in Parliament. They probably
would not fulfil this duty any better than it is fulfilled by the
inhabitants voting directly; while, on the other hand, if fitness
for electing members of Parliament had to be taken into
consideration in selecting persons for the office of vestrymen or town
councillors, many of those who are fittest for that more limited
duty would inevitably be excluded from it, if only by the necessity
there would be of choosing persons whose sentiments in general
politics agreed with those of the voters who elected them. The mere
indirect political influence of town-councils has already led to a
considerable perversion of municipal elections from their intended
purpose, by making them a matter of party politics. If it were part of
the duty of a man's book-keeper or steward to choose his physician, he
would not be likely to have a better medical attendant than if he
chose one for himself, while he would be restricted in his choice of a
steward or book-keeper to such as might without too great danger to
his health be entrusted with the other office.

  It appears, therefore, that every benefit of indirect election which
is attainable at all is attainable under direct; that such of the
benefits expected from it, as would not be obtained under direct
election, will just as much fail to be obtained under indirect;
while the latter has considerable disadvantages peculiar to itself.
The mere fact that it is an additional and superfluous wheel in the
machinery is no trifling objection. Its decided inferiority as a means
of cultivating public spirit and political intelligence has already
been dwelt upon: and if it had any effective operation at all- that
is, if the primary electors did to any extent leave to their nominees
the selection of their parliamentary representative- the voter would
be prevented from identifying himself with his member of Parliament,
and the member would feel a much less active sense of responsibility
to his constituents. In addition to all this, the comparatively
small number of persons in whose hands, at last, the election of a
member of Parliament would reside, could not but afford great
additional facilities to intrigue, and to every form of corruption
compatible with the station in life of the electors. The
constituencies would universally be reduced, in point of
conveniences for bribery, to the condition of the small boroughs at
present. It would be sufficient to gain over a small number of persons
to be certain of being returned. If it be said that the electors would
be responsible to those who elected them, the answer is obvious, that,
holding no permanent office, or position in the public eye, they would
risk nothing by a corrupt vote except what they would care little for,
not to be appointed electors again: and the main reliance must still
be on the penalties for bribery, the insufficiency of which
reliance, in small constituencies, experience has made notorious to
all the world. The evil would be exactly proportional to the amount of
discretion left to the chosen electors. The only case in which they
would probably be afraid to employ their vote for the promotion of
their personal interest would be when they were elected under an
express pledge, as mere delegates, to carry, as it were, the votes
of their constituents to the hustings. The moment the double stage
of election began to have any effect, it would begin to have a bad
effect. And this we shall find true of the principle of indirect
election however applied, except in circumstances similar to those
of the election of Senators in the United States.

  The best which could be said for this political contrivance that
in some states of opinion it might be a more practicable expedient
than that of plural voting for giving to every member of the community
a vote of some sort, without rendering the mere numerical majority
predominant in Parliament: as, for instance, if the present
constituency of this country were increased by the addition of a
numerous and select portion of the labouring classes, elected by the
remainder. Circumstances might render such a scheme a convenient
mode of temporary compromise, but it does not carry out any
principle sufficiently thoroughly to be likely to recommend itself
to any class of thinkers as a permanent arrangement.

                         Chapter 10

                   Of the Mode of Voting.

  THE QUESTION of greatest moment in regard to modes of voting is that
of secrecy or publicity; and to this we will at once address

  It would be a great mistake to make the discussion turn on
sentimentalities about skulking or cowardice. Secrecy is justifiable
in many cases, imperative in some, and it is not cowardice to seek
protection against evils which are honestly avoidable. Nor can it be
reasonably maintained that no cases are conceivable in which secret
voting is preferable to public. But I must contend that these cases,
in affairs of a political character, are the exception, not the rule.

  The present is one of the many instances in which, as I have already
had occasion to remark, the spirit of an institution, the impression
it makes on the mind of the citizen, is one of the most important
parts of its operation. The spirit of vote by ballot- the
interpretation likely to be put on it in the mind of an elector- is
that the suffrage is given to him for himself; for his particular
use and benefit, and not as a trust for the public. For if it is
indeed a trust, if the public are entitled to his vote, are not they
entitled to know his vote? This false and pernicious impression may
well be made on the generality, since it has been made on most of
those who of late years have been conspicuous advocates of the ballot.
The doctrine was not so understood by its earlier promoters; but the
effect of a doctrine on the mind is best shown, not in those who
form it, but in those who are formed by it. Mr. Bright and his
school of democrats think themselves greatly concerned in
maintaining that the franchise is what they term a right, not a trust.
Now this one idea, taking root in the general mind, does a moral
mischief outweighing all the good that the ballot could do, at the
highest possible estimate of it. In whatever way we define or
understand the idea of a right, no person can have a right (except
in the purely legal sense) to power over others: every such power,
which he is allowed to possess, is morally, in the fullest force of
the term, a trust. But the exercise of any political function,
either as an elector or as a representative, is power over others.

  Those who say that the suffrage is not a trust but a right will
scarcely accept the conclusions to which their doctrine leads. If it
is a right, if it belongs to the voter for his own sake, on what
ground can we blame him for selling it, or using it to recommend
himself to any one whom it is his interest to please? A person is
not expected to consult exclusively the public benefit in the use he
makes of his house, or his three per cent stock, or anything else to
which he really has a right. The suffrage is indeed due to him,
among other reasons, as a means to his own protection, but only
against treatment from which he is equally bound, so far as depends on
his vote, to protect every one of his fellow-citizens. His vote is not
a thing in which he has an option; it has no more to do with his
personal wishes than the verdict of a juryman. It is strictly a matter
of duty; he is bound to give it according to his best and most
conscientious opinion of the public good. Whoever has any other idea
of it is unfit to have the suffrage; its effect on him is to
pervert, not to elevate his mind. Instead of opening his heart to an
exalted patriotism and the obligation of public duty, it awakens and
nourishes in him the disposition to use a public function for his
own interest, pleasure, or caprice; the same feelings and purposes, on
a humbler scale, which actuate a despot and oppressor. Now an ordinary
citizen in any public position, or on whom there devolves any social
function, is certain to think and feel, respecting the obligations
it imposes on him, exactly what society appears to think and feel in
conferring it. What seems to be expected from him by society forms a
standard which he may fall below, but which he will seldom rise above.
And the interpretation which he is almost sure to put upon secret
voting is that he is not bound to give his vote with any reference
to those who are not allowed to know how he gives it; but may bestow
it simply as he feels inclined.

  This is the decisive reason why the argument does not hold, from the
use of the ballot in clubs and private societies, to its adoption in
parliamentary elections. A member of a club is really, what the
elector falsely believes himself to be, under no obligation to
consider the wishes or interests of any one else. He declares
nothing by his vote but that he is or is not willing to associate,
in a manner more or less close, with a particular person. This is a
matter on which, by universal admission, his own pleasure or
inclination is entitled to decide: and that he should be able so to
decide it without risking a quarrel is best for everybody, the
rejected person included. An additional reason rendering the ballot
unobjectionable in these cases is that it does not necessarily or
naturally lead to lying. The persons concerned are of the same class
or rank, and it would be considered improper in one of them to press
another with questions as to how he had voted. It is far otherwise
in parliamentary elections, and is likely to remain so, as long as the
social relations exist which produce the demand for the ballot; as
long as one person is sufficiently the superior of another to think
himself entitled to dictate his vote. And while this is the case,
silence or an evasive answer is certain to be construed as proof
that the vote given has not been that which was desired.

  In any political election, even by universal suffrage (and still
more obviously in the case of a restricted suffrage), the voter is
under an absolute moral obligation to consider the interest of the
public, not his private advantage, and give his vote, to the best of
his judgment, exactly as he would be bound to do if he were the sole
voter, and the election depended upon him alone. This being
admitted, it is at least a prima facie consequence that the duty of
voting, like any other public duty, should be performed under the
eye and criticism of the public; every one of whom has not only an
interest in its performance, but a good title to consider himself
wronged if it is performed otherwise than honestly and carefully.
Undoubtedly neither this nor any other maxim of political morality
is absolutely inviolable; it may be overruled by still more cogent
considerations. But its weight is such that the cases which admit of a
departure from it must be of a strikingly exceptional character.

  It may, unquestionably, be the fact that if we attempt, by
publicity, to make the voter responsible to the public for his vote,
he will practically be made responsible for it to some powerful
individual, whose interest is more opposed to the general interest
of the community than that of the voter himself would be if, by the
shield of secrecy, he were released from responsibility altogether.
When this is the condition, in a high degree, of a large proportion of
the voters, the ballot may be the smaller evil. When the voters are
slaves, anything may be tolerated which enables them to throw off
the yoke. The strongest case for the ballot is when the mischievous
power of the Few over the Many is increasing. In the decline of the
Roman republic the reasons for the ballot were irresistible. The
oligarchy was yearly becoming richer and more tyrannical, the people
poorer and more dependent, and it was necessary to erect stronger
and stronger barriers against such abuse of the franchise as
rendered it but an instrument the more in the hands of unprincipled
persons of consequence. As little can it be doubted that the ballot,
so far as it existed, had a beneficial operation in the Athenian
constitution. Even in the least unstable of the Grecian
commonwealths freedom might be for the time destroyed by a single
unfairly obtained popular vote; and though the Athenian voter was
not sufficiently dependent to be habitually coerced, he might have
been bribed, or intimidated by the lawless outrages of some knot of
individuals, such as were not uncommon even at Athens among the
youth of rank and fortune. The ballot was in these cases a valuable
instrument of order, and conduced to the Eunomia by which Athens was
distinguished among the ancient commonwealths.

  But in the more advanced states of modern Europe, and especially
in this country, the power of coercing voters has declined and is
declining; and bad voting is now less to be apprehended from the
influences to which the voter is subject at the hands of others than
from the sinister interests and discreditable feelings which belong to
himself, either individually or as a member of a class. To secure
him against the first, at the cost of removing all restraint from
the last, would be to exchange a smaller and a diminishing evil for
a greater and increasing one. On this topic, and on the question
generally, as applicable to England at the present date, I have, in
a pamphlet on Parliamentary Reform, expressed myself in terms which,
as I do not feel that I can improve upon, I will venture here to

  "Thirty years ago it was still true that in the election of
members of Parliament the main evil to be guarded against was that
which the ballot would exclude- coercion by landlords, employers, and
customers. At present, I conceive, a much greater source of evil is
the selfishness, or the selfish partialities, of the voter himself.
A base and mischievous vote is now, I am convinced, much oftener given
from the voter's personal interest, or class interest, or some mean
feeling in his own mind, than from any fear of consequences at the
hands of others: and to these influences the ballot would enable him
to yield himself up, free from all sense of shame or responsibility.

  "In times not long gone by, the higher and richer classes were in
complete possession of the government. Their power was the master
grievance of the country. The habit of voting at the bidding of an
employer, or of a landlord, was so firmly established, that hardly
anything was capable of shaking it but a strong popular enthusiasm,
seldom known to exist but in a good cause. A vote given in
opposition to those influences was therefore, in general, an honest, a
public-spirited vote; but in any case, and by whatever motive
dictated, it was almost sure to be a good vote, for it was a vote
against the monster evil, the over-ruling influence of oligarchy.
Could the voter at that time have been enabled, with safety to
himself, to exercise his privilege freely, even though neither
honestly nor intelligently, it would have been a great gain to reform;
for it would have broken the yoke of the then ruling power in the
country- the power which had created and which maintained all that
was bad in the institutions and the administration of the State- the
power of landlords and boroughmongers.

  "The ballot was not adopted; but the progress of circumstances has
done and is doing more and more, in this respect, the work of the
ballot. Both the political and the social state of the country, as
they affect this question, have greatly changed, and are changing
every day. The higher classes are not now masters of the country. A
person must be blind to all the signs of the times who could think
that the middle classes are as subservient to the higher, or the
working classes as dependent on the higher and middle, as they were
a quarter of a century ago. The events of that quarter of a century
have not only taught each class to know its own collective strength,
but have put the individuals of a lower class in a condition to show a
much bolder front to those of a higher. In a majority of cases, the
vote of the electors, whether in opposition to or in accordance with
the wishes of their superiors, is not now the effect of coercion,
which there are no longer the same means of applying, but the
expression of their own personal or political partialities. The very
vices of the present electoral system are a proof of this. The
growth of bribery, so loudly complained of, and the spread of the
contagion to places formerly free from it, are evidence that the local
influences are no longer paramount; that the electors now vote to
please themselves, and not other people. There is, no doubt, in
counties, and in the smaller boroughs, a large amount of servile
dependence still remaining; but the temper of the times is adverse
to it, and the force of events is constantly tending to diminish it. A
good tenant can now feel that he is as valuable to his landlord as his
landlord is to him; a prosperous tradesman can afford to feel
independent of any particular customer. At every election the votes
are more and more the voter's own. It is their minds, far more than
their personal circumstances, that now require to be emancipated. They
are no longer passive instruments of other men's will- mere organs
for putting power into the hands of a controlling oligarchy. The
electors themselves are becoming the oligarchy.

  "Exactly in proportion as the vote of the elector is determined by
his own will, and not by that of somebody who is his master, his
position is similar to that of a member of Parliament, and publicity
is indispensable. So long as any portion of the community are
unrepresented, the argument of the Chartists against ballot in
conjunction with a restricted suffrage is unassailable. The present
electors, and the bulk of those whom any probable Reform Bill would
add to the number, are the middle class; and have as much a class
interest, distinct from the working classes, as landlords or great
manufacturers. Were the suffrage extended to all skilled labourers,
even these would, or might, still have a class interest distinct
from the unskilled. Suppose it extended to all men- suppose that what
was formerly called by the misapplied name of universal suffrage,
and now by the silly title of manhood suffrage, became the law; the
voters would still have a class interest, as distinguished from women.
Suppose that there were a question before the Legislature specially
affecting women; as whether women should be allowed to graduate at
Universities; whether the mild penalties inflicted on ruffians who
beat their wives daily almost to death's door should be exchanged
for something more effectual; or suppose that any one should propose
in the British Parliament, what one State after another in America
is enacting, not by a mere law, but by a provision of their revised
Constitutions- that married women should have a right to their own
property. Are not a man's wife and daughters entitled to know
whether he votes for or against a candidate who will support these

  "It will of course be objected that these arguments' derive all
their weight from the supposition of an unjust state of the
suffrage: That if the opinion of the non-electors is likely to make
the elector vote more honestly, or more beneficially, than he would
vote if left to himself, they are more fit to be electors than he
is, and ought to have the franchise: That whoever is fit to
influence electors is fit to be an elector: That those to whom
voters ought to be responsible should be themselves voters; and
being such, should have the safeguard of the ballot to shield them
from the undue influence of powerful individuals or classes to whom
they ought not to be responsible.

  "This argument is specious, and I once thought it conclusive. It now
appears to me fallacious. All who are fit to influence electors are
not, for that reason, fit to be themselves electors. This last is a
much greater power than the former, and those may be ripe for the
minor political function who could not as yet be safely trusted with
the superior. The opinions and wishes of the poorest and rudest
class of labourers may be very useful as one influence among others on
the minds of the voters, as well as on those of the Legislature; and
yet it might be highly mischievous to give them the preponderant
influence by admitting them, in their present state of morals and
intelligence, to the full exercise of the suffrage. It is precisely
this indirect influence of those who have not the suffrage over
those who have which, by its progressive growth, softens the
transition to every fresh extension of the franchise, and is the means
by which, when the time is ripe, the extension is peacefully brought
about. But there is another and a still deeper consideration, which
should never be left out of the account in political speculations. The
notion is itself unfounded, that publicity, and the sense of being
answerable to the public, are of no use unless the public are
qualified to form a sound judgment. It is a very superficial view of
the utility of public opinion to suppose that it does good only when
it succeeds in enforcing a servile conformity to itself. To be under
the eyes of others- to have to defend oneself to others- is never
more important than to those who act in opposition to the opinion of
others, for it obliges them to have sure ground of their own.
Nothing has so steadying an influence as working against pressure.
Unless when under the temporary sway of passionate excitement, no
one will do that which he expects to be greatly blamed for, unless
from a preconceived and fixed purpose of his own; which is always
evidence of a thoughtful and deliberate character, and, except in
radically bad men, generally proceeds from sincere and strong personal
convictions. Even the bare fact of having to give an account of
their conduct is a powerful inducement to adhere to conduct of which
at least some decent account can be given. If any one thinks that
the mere obligation of preserving decency is not a very considerable
check on the abuse of power, he has never had his attention called
to the conduct of those who do not feel under the necessity of
observing that restraint. Publicity is inappreciable, even when it
does no more than prevent that which can by no possibility be
plausibly defended- than compel deliberation, and force every one to
determine, before he acts, what he shall say if called to account
for his actions.

  "But, if not now (it may be said), at least hereafter, when all
are fit to have votes, and when all men and women are admitted to vote
in virtue of their fitness; then there can no longer be danger of
class legislation; then the electors, being the nation, can have no
interest apart from the general interest: even if individuals still
vote according to private or class inducements, the majority will have
no such inducement; and as there will then be no non-electors to
whom they ought to be responsible, the effect of the ballot, excluding
none but the sinister influences, will be wholly beneficial.

  "Even in this I do not agree. I cannot think that even if the people
were fit for, and had obtained, universal suffrage, the ballot would
be desirable. First, because it could not, in such circumstances be
supposed to be needful. Let us only conceive the state of things which
the hypothesis implies; a people universally educated, and every
grown-up human being possessed of a vote. If, even when only a small
proportion are electors, and the majority of the population almost
uneducated, public opinion is already, as every one now sees that it
is, the ruling power in the last resort; it is a chimera to suppose
that over a community who all read, and who all have votes, any
power could be exercised by landlords and rich people against their
own inclination which it would be at all difficult for them to throw
off. But though the protection of secrecy would then be needless,
the control of publicity would be as needful as ever. The universal
observation of mankind has been very fallacious if the mere fact of
being one of the community, and not being in a position of
pronounced contrariety of interest to the public at large, is enough
to ensure the performance of a public duty, without either the
stimulus or the restraint derived from the opinion of our fellow
creatures. A man's own particular share of the public interest, even
though he may have no private interest drawing him in the opposite
direction, is not, as a general rule, found sufficient to make him
do his duty to the public without other external inducements.
Neither can it be admitted that even if all had votes they would
give their votes as honestly in secret as in public.

  "The proposition that the electors when they compose the whole of
the community cannot have an interest in voting against the interest
of the community will be found on examination to have more sound
than meaning in it. Though the community as a whole can have (as the
terms imply) no other interest than its collective interest, any or
every individual in it may. A man's interest consists of whatever he
takes an interest in. Everybody has as many different interests as
he has feelings; likings or dislikings, either of a selfish or of a
better kind. It cannot be said that any of these, taken by itself,
constitutes 'his interest'; he is a good man or a bad according as
he prefers one class of his interests or another. A man who is a
tyrant at home will be apt to sympathise with tyranny (when not
exercised over himself): he will be almost certain not to sympathise
with resistance to tyranny. An envious man will vote against Aristides
because he is called the just. A selfish man will prefer even a
trifling individual benefit to his share of the advantage which his
country would derive from a good law; because interests peculiar to
himself are those which the habits of his mind both dispose him to
dwell on, and make him best able to estimate. A great number of the
electors will have two sets of preferences- those on private and
those on public grounds. The last are the only ones which the
elector would like to avow. The best side of their character is that
which people are anxious to show, even to those who are no better than
themselves. People will give dishonest or mean votes from lucre,
from malice, from pique, from personal rivalry, even from the
interests or prejudices of class or sect, more readily in secret than
in public. And cases exist- they may come to be more frequent- in
which almost the only restraint upon a majority of knaves consists
in their involuntary respect for the opinion of an honest minority. In
such a case as that of the repudiating States of North America, is
there not some check to the unprincipled voter in the shame of looking
an honest man in the face? Since all this good would be sacrificed
by the ballot, even in the circumstances most favourable to it, a much
stronger case is requisite than can now be made out for its
necessity (and the case is continually becoming still weaker) to
make its adoption desirable."*

  * Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, 2nd ed. pp 32-36.

  On the other debateable points connected with the mode of voting
it is not necessary to expend so many words. The system of personal
representation, as organised by Mr. Hare, renders necessary the
employment of voting papers. But it appears to me indispensable that
the signature of the elector should be affixed to the paper at a
public polling place, or if there be no such place conveniently
accessible, at some office open to all the world, and in the
presence of a responsible public officer. The proposal which has
been thrown out of allowing the voting papers to be filled up at the
voter's own residence, and sent by the post, or called for by a public
officer, I should regard as fatal. The act would be done in the
absence of the salutary and the presence of all the pernicious
influences. The briber might, in the shelter of privacy, behold with
his own eyes his bargain fulfilled, and the intimidator could see
the extorted obedience rendered irrevocably on the spot; while the
beneficent counter-influence of the presence of those who knew the
voter's real sentiments, and the inspiring effect of the sympathy of
those of his own party or opinion, would be shut out.*

  * "This expedient has been recommended, both on the score of saving
expense, and on that of obtaining the votes of many electors who
otherwise would not vote, and who are regarded by the advocates of the
plan as a particularly desirable class of voters. The scheme has
been carried into practice in the election of poor-law guardians,
and its success in that instance is appealed to in favour of
adopting it in the more important case of voting for a member of the
Legislature. But the two cases appear to me to differ in the point
on which the benefits of the expedient depend. In a local election for
a special kind of administrative business, which consists mainly in
the dispensation of a public fund, it is an object to prevent the
choice from being exclusively in the hands of those who actively
concern themselves about it; for the public interest which attaches to
the election being of a limited kind, and in most cases not very great
in degree, the disposition to make themselves busy in the matter is
apt to be in a great measure confined to persons who hope to turn
their activity to their own private advantage; and it may be very
desirable to render the intervention of other people as little onerous
to them as possible, if only for the purpose of swamping these private
interests. But when the matter in hand is the great business of
national government, in which every one must take an interest who
cares for anything out of himself, or who cares even for himself
intelligently, it is much rather an object to prevent those from
voting who are indifferent to the subject, than to induce them to vote
by any other means than that of awakening their dormant minds. The
voter who does not care enough about the election to go to the poll,
is the very man who, if he can vote without that small trouble, will
give his vote to the first person who asks for it, or on the most
trifling or frivolous inducement. A man who does not care whether he
votes, is not likely to care much which way he votes; and he who is in
that state of mind has no moral right to vote at all; since, if he
does so, a vote which is not the expression of a conviction, counts
for as much, and goes as far in determining the result, as one which
represents the thoughts and purposes of a life."- Thoughts, etc., p.

  The polling places should be so numerous as to be within easy
reach of every voter; and no expenses of conveyance, at the cost of
the candidate, should be tolerated under any pretext. The infirm,
and they only on medical certificate, should have the right of
claiming suitable carriage conveyance, at the cost of the State, or of
the locality. Hustings, poll clerks, and all the necessary machinery
of elections, should be at the public charge. Not only the candidate
should not be required, he should not be permitted, to incur any but a
limited and trifling expense for his election. Mr. Hare thinks it
desirable that a sum of L50 should be required from every one who
places his name on the list of candidates, to prevent persons who have
no chance of success, and no real intention of attempting it, from
becoming candidates in wantonness or from mere love of notoriety,
and perhaps carrying off a few votes which are needed for the return
of more serious aspirants. There is one expense which a candidate or
his supporters cannot help incurring, and which it can hardly be
expected that the public should defray for every one who may choose to
demand it; that of making his claims known to the electors, by
advertisements, placards, and circulars. For all necessary expenses of
this kind the L50 proposed by Mr. Hare, if allowed to be drawn upon
for these purposes (it might be made L100 if requisite), ought to be
sufficient. If the friends of the candidate choose to go to expense
for committees and canvassing there are no means of preventing them;
but such expenses out of the candidates's own pocket, or any
expenses whatever beyond the deposit of L50 (or L100), should be
illegal and punishable. If there appeared any likelihood that
opinion would refuse to connive at falsehood, a declaration on oath or
honour should be required from every member on taking his seat that he
had not expended, nor would expend, money or money's worth beyond
the L50, directly or indirectly, for the purposes of his election; and
if the assertion were proved to be false or the pledge to have been
broken, he should be liable to the penalties of perjury.

  It is probable that those penalties, by showing that the Legislature
was in earnest, would turn the course of opinion in the same
direction, and would hinder it from regarding, as has hitherto done,
this most serious crime against society as a venial peccadillo. When
once this effect has been produced, there need be no doubt that the
declaration on oath or honour would be considered binding.* "Opinion
tolerates a false disclaimer, only when it already tolerates the thing
disclaimed." This is notoriously the case with regard to electoral
corruption. There has never yet been, among political men, any real
and serious attempt to prevent bribery, because there has been no real
desire that elections should not be costly. Their costliness is an
advantage to those who can afford the expense, by excluding a
multitude of competitors; and anything, however noxious, is
cherished as having a conservative tendency if it limits the access to
Parliament to rich men. This is a rooted feeling among our legislators
of both political parties, and is almost the only point on which I
believe them to be really ill-intentioned. They care comparatively
little who votes, as long as they feel assured that none but persons
of their own class can be voted for. They know that they can rely on
the fellow-feeling of one of their class with another, while the
subservience of nouveaux enrichis, who are knocking at the door of the
class, is a still surer reliance; and that nothing very hostile to the
class interests or feelings of the rich need be apprehended under
the most democratic suffrage as long as democratic persons can be
prevented from being elected to Parliament. But, even from their own
point of view, this balancing of evil by evil, instead of combining
good with good, is a wretched policy. The object should be to bring
together the best members of both classes, under such a tenure as
shall induce them to lay aside their class preferences, and pursue
jointly the path traced by the common interest; instead of allowing
the class feelings of the Many to have full swing in the
constituencies, subject to the impediment of having to act through
persons imbued with the class feelings of the Few.

  * Several of the witnesses before the Committee of the House of
Commons in 1860, on the operation of the Corrupt Practices
Prevention Act, some of them of great practical experience in election
matters, were favourable (either absolutely or as a last resort) to
the principle of requiring a declaration from members of Parliament;
and were of opinion that, if supported by penalties, it would be, to a
great degree, effectual. (Evidence, pp. 46, 54-57, 67, 123, 198-202,
208.) The Chief Commissioner of the Wakefield Inquiry said (in
reference certainly to a different proposal), "If they see that the
Legislature is earnest upon the subject, the machinery will work....
I am quite sure that if some personal stigma were applied upon
conviction of bribery, it would change the current of public
opinion" (pp. 26 and 32). A distinguished member of the Committee (and
of the present Cabinet) seemed to think it very objectionable to
attach the penalties of perjury to a merely promissory as
distinguished from an assertory oath; but he was reminded, that the
oath taken by a witness in a court of justice is a promissory oath:
and the rejoinder (that the witness's promise relates to an act to
be done at once, while the member's would be a promise for all
future time) would only be to the purpose, if it could be supposed
that the swearer might forget the obligation he had entered into, or
could possibly violate it unawares: contingencies which, in a case
like the present, are out of the question.

  A more substantial difficulty is that one of the forms most
frequently assumed by election expenditure is that of subscriptions to
local charities, or other local objects; and it would be a strong
measure to enact that money should not be given in charity, within a
place, by the member for it. When such subscriptions are bona fide,
the popularity which may be derived from them is an advantage which it
seems hardly possible to deny to superior riches. But the greatest
part of the mischief consists in the fact that money so contributed is
employed in bribery, under the euphemistic name of keeping up the
member's interest. To guard against this, it should be part of the
member's promissory declaration, that all sums expended by him in
the place, or for any purpose connected with it or with any of its
inhabitants (with the exception perhaps of his own hotel expenses),
should pass through the hands of the election auditor, and be by him
(and not by the member himself or his friends) applied to its declared

  The principle of making all lawful expenses of a charge not upon the
candidate, but upon the locality, was upheld by two of the best
witnesses (pp. 20, 65-70, 277).

  There is scarcely any mode in which political institutions are
more morally mischievous-work greater evil through their spirit-than
by representing political functions as a favour to be conferred, a
thing which the depositary is to ask for as desiring it for himself,
and even pay for as if it were designed for his pecuniary benefit. Men
are not fond of paying large sums for leave to perform a laborious
duty. Plato had a much juster view of the conditions of good
government when he asserted that the persons who should be sought
out to be invested with political power are those who are personally
most averse to it, and that the only motive which can be relied on for
inducing the fittest men to take upon themselves the toils of
government is the fear of being governed by worse men. What must an
elector think, when he sees three or four gentlemen, none of them
previously observed to be lavish of their money on projects of
disinterested beneficence, vying with one another in the sums they
expend to be enabled to write M.P. after their names? Is it likely
he will suppose that it is for his interest they incur all this
cost? And if he form an uncomplimentary opinion of their part in the
affair, what moral obligation is he likely to feel as to his own?
Politicians are fond of treating it as the dream of enthusiasts that
the electoral body will ever be uncorrupt: truly enough, until they
are willing to become so themselves: for the electors, assuredly, will
take their moral tone from the candidates. So long as the elected
member, in any shape or manner, pay for his seat, all endeavours, will
fail to make the business of election anything but a selfish bargain
on all sides. "So long as the candidate himself, and the customs of
the world, seem to regard the function of a member of Parliament
less as a duty to be discharged than a personal favour to be
solicited, no effort will avail to implant in an ordinary voter the
feeling that the election of a member of Parliament is also a matter
of duty, and that he is not at liberty to bestow his vote on any other
consideration than that of personal fitness."

  The same principle which demands that no payment of money for
election purposes should be either required or tolerated on the part
of the person elected dictates another conclusion, apparently of
contrary tendency, but really directed to the same object. It
negatives what has often been proposed as a means of rendering
Parliament accessible to persons of all ranks and circumstances; the
payment of members of Parliament. If, as in some of our colonies,
there are scarcely any fit persons who can afford to attend to an
unpaid occupation, the payment should be an indemnity for loss of time
or money, not a salary. The greater latitude of choice which a
salary would give is an illusory advantage. No remuneration which
any one would think of attaching to the post would attract to it those
who were seriously engaged in other lucrative professions with a
prospect of succeeding in them. The business of a member of Parliament
would therefore become an occupation in itself; carried on, like other
professions, with a view chiefly to its pecuniary returns, and under
the demoralising influences of an occupation essentially precarious.
It would become an object of desire to adventurers of a low class; and
658 persons in possession, with ten or twenty times as many in
expectancy, would be incessantly bidding to attract or retain the
suffrages of the electors, by promising all things, honest or
dishonest, possible or impossible, and rivalling each other in
pandering to the meanest feelings and most ignorant prejudices of
the vulgarest part of the crowd. The auction between Cleon and the
sausage-seller in Aristophanes is a fair caricature of what would be
always going on. Such an institution would be a perpetual blister
applied to the most peccant parts of human nature. It amounts to
offering 658 prizes for the most successful flatterer, the most adroit
misleader, of a body of his fellow-countrymen. Under no despotism
has there been such an organised system of tillage for raising a
rich crop of vicious courtiership.* When, by reason of pre-eminent
qualifications (as may at any time happen to be the case), it is
desirable that a person entirely without independent means, either
derived from property or from a trade or profession, should be brought
into Parliament to render services which no other person accessible
can render as well, there is the resource of a public subscription; he
may be supported while in Parliament, like Andrew Marvell, by the
contributions of his constituents. This mode is unobjectionable for
such an honour will never be paid to mere subserviency: bodies of
men do not care so much for the difference between one sycophant and
another as to go to the expense of his maintenance in order to be
flattered by that particular individual. Such a support will only be
given in consideration of striking and impressive personal
qualities, which, though no absolute proof of fitness to be a national
representative, are some presumption of it, and, at all events, some
guarantee for the possession of an independent opinion and will.

  * "As Mr. Lorimer remarks, by creating a pecuniary inducement to
persons of the lowest class to devote themselves to public affairs,
the calling of the demagogue would be formally inaugurated. Nothing is
more to be deprecated than making it the private interest of a
number of active persons to urge the form of government in the
direction of its natural perversion. The indications which either a
multitude or an individual can give, when merely left to their own
weaknesses, afford but a faint idea of what those weaknesses would
become when played upon by a thousand flatterers. If there were 658
places of certain, however moderate, emolument, to be gained by
persuading the multitude that ignorance is as good as knowledge, and
better, it is terrible odds that they would believe and act upon the
lesson."- (Article in Fraser's Magazine for April 1859, headed
"Recent Writers on Reform.")

                           Chapter 11

                  Of the Duration of Parliaments.

  AFTER HOW long a term should members of Parliament be subject to
re-election? The principles involved are here very obvious; the
difficulty lies in their application. On the one hand, the member
ought not to have so long a tenure of his seat as to make him forget
his responsibility, take his duties easily, conduct them with a view
to his own personal advantage, or neglect those free and public
conferences with his constituents which, whether he agrees or
differs with them, are one of the benefits of representative
government. On the other hand, he should have such a term of office to
look forward to as will enable him to be judged, not by a single
act, but by his course of action. It is important that he should
have the greatest latitude of individual opinion and discretion
compatible with the popular control essential to free government;
and for this purpose it is necessary that the control should be
exercised, as in any case it is best exercised, after sufficient
time has been given him to show all the qualities he possesses, and to
prove that there is some other way than that of a mere obedient
voter and advocate of their opinions, by which he can render himself
in the eyes of his constituents a desirable and creditable

  It is impossible to fix, by any universal rule, the boundary between
these principles. Where the democratic power in the constitution is
weak or over-passive, and requires stimulation; where the
representative, on leaving his constituents, enters at once into a
courtly or aristocratic atmosphere, whose influences all tend to
deflect his course into a different direction from the popular one, to
tone down any democratic feelings which he may have brought with
him, and make him forget the wishes and grow cool to the interests of
those who chose him- the obligation of a frequent return to them for
a renewal of his commission is indispensable to keeping his temper and
character up to the right mark. Even three years, in such
circumstances, are almost too long a period; and any longer term is
absolutely inadmissible. Where, on the contrary, democracy is the
ascendant power, and still tends to increase, requiring rather to be
moderated in its exercise than encouraged to any abnormal activity;
where unbounded publicity, and an ever-present newspaper press, give
the representative assurance that his every act will be immediately
known, discussed, and judged by his constituents, and that he is
always either gaining or losing ground in the estimation; while by the
same means the influence of their sentiments, and all other democratic
influences, are kept constantly alive and active in his own
mind-less than five years would hardly be a sufficient period to
prevent timid subserviency. The change which has taken place in
English politics as to all these features explains why annual
Parliaments, which forty years ago stood prominently in front of the
creed of the more advanced reformers, are so little cared for and so
seldom heard of at present. It deserves consideration that, whether
the term is short or long, during the last year of it the members
are in position in which they would always be if Parliaments were
annual: so that if the term were very brief, there would virtually
be annual Parliaments during a great proportion of all time. As things
now are, the period of seven years, though of unnecessary length, is
hardly worth altering for any benefit likely to be produced;
especially since the possibility, always impending, of an earlier
dissolution keeps the motives for standing well with constituents
always before the member's eyes.

  Whatever may be the term most eligible for the duration of the
mandate, it might seem natural that the individual member should
vacate his seat at the expiration of that term from the day of his
election, and that there should be no general renewal of the whole
House. A great deal might be said for this system if there were any
practical object in recommending it. But it is condemned by much
stronger reasons than can be alleged in its support. One is, that
there would be no means of promptly getting rid of a majority which
had pursued a course offensive to the nation. The certainty of a
general election after a limited, which would often be a nearly
expired, period, and the possibility of it at any time when the
minister either desires it for his own sake, or thinks that it would
make him popular with the country, tend to prevent that wide
divergence between the feelings of the assembly and those of the
constituency, which might subsist indefinitely if the majority of
the House had always several years of their term still to run- if it
received new infusions drop by drop, which would be more likely to
assume than to modify the qualities of the mass they were joined to.
It is as essential that the general sense of the House should accord
in the main with that of the nation as is that distinguished
individuals should be forfeiting their seats, to give free utterance
to the most unpopular sentiments. There is another reason, of much
weight, against the gradual and partial renewal of a representative
assembly. It is useful that there should be a periodical general
muster of opposing forces, to gauge the state of the national mind,
and ascertain, beyond dispute, the relative strength of different
parties and opinions. This is not done conclusively by any partial
renewal, even where, as in some of the French constitutions, a large
fraction, a fifth or a third, go out at once.

  The reasons for allowing to the executive the power of dissolution
will be considered in a subsequent chapter, relating to the
constitution and functions of the Executive in a representative

                           Chapter 12

      Ought Pledges to be Required from Members of Parliament?

  SHOULD A member of the legislature be bound by the instructions of
his constituents? Should he be the organ of their sentiments, or of
his own? their ambassador to a congress, or their professional
agent, empowered not only to act for them, but to judge for them
what ought to be done? These two theories of the duty of a
legislator in a representative government have each its supporters,
and each is the recognised doctrine of some representative
governments. In the Dutch United Provinces, the members of the
States General were mere delegates; and to such a length was the
doctrine carried, that when any important question arose which had not
been provided for in their instructions, they had to refer back to
their constituents, exactly as an ambassador does to the government
from which he is accredited. In this and most other countries which
possess representative constitutions, law and custom warrant a
member of Parliament in voting according to his opinion of right,
however different from that of his constituents: but there is a
floating notion of the opposite kind, which has considerable practical
operation on many minds, even of members of Parliament, and often
makes them, independently of desire for popularity, or concern for
their re-election, feel bound in conscience to let their conduct, on
questions on which their constituents have a decided opinion, be the
expression of that opinion rather than of their own. Abstractedly from
positive law, and from the historical traditions of any particular
people, which of these notions of the duty of a representative is
the true one?

  Unlike the questions which we have hitherto treated, this is not a
question of constitutional legislation, but of what may more
properly be called constitutional morality- the ethics of
representative government. It does not so much concern institutions,
as the temper of mind which the electors ought to bring to the
discharge of their functions; the ideas which should prevail as to the
moral duties of an elector. For let the system of representation be
what it may, it will be converted into one of mere delegation if the
electors so choose. As long as they are free not to vote, and free
to vote as they like, they cannot be prevented from making their
vote depend on any condition they think fit to annex to it. By
refusing to elect any one who will not pledge himself to all their
opinions, and even, if they please, to consult with them before voting
on any important subject not foreseen, they can reduce their
representative to their mere mouthpiece, or compel him in honour, when
no longer willing to act in that capacity, to resign his seat. And
since they have the power of doing this, the theory of the
Constitution ought to suppose that they will wish to do it; since
the very principle of constitutional government requires it to be
assumed that political power will be abused to promote the
particular purposes of the holder; not because it always is so, but
because such is the natural tendency of things, to guard against which
is the especial use of free institutions. However wrong, therefore, or
however foolish, we may think it in the electors to convert their
representative into a delegate, that stretch of the electoral
privilege being a natural and not improbable one, the same precautions
ought to be taken as if it were certain. We may hope that the electors
will not act on this notion of the use of the suffrage; but a
representative government needs to be so framed that, even if they do,
they shall not be able to effect what ought not to be in the power
of any body of persons- class legislation for their own benefit.

  When it is said that the question is only one of political morality,
this does not extenuate its importance. Questions of constitutional
morality are of no less practical moment than those relating to the
constitution itself. The very existence of some governments, and all
that renders others endurable, rests on the practical observance of
doctrines of constitutional morality; traditional notions in the minds
of the several constituted authorities, which modify the use that
might otherwise be made of their powers. In unbalanced
governments- pure monarchy, pure aristocracy, pure democracy- such
maxims are the only barrier which restrains the government from the
utmost excesses in the direction of its characteristic tendency. In
imperfectly balanced governments, where some attempt is made to set
constitutional limits to the impulses of the strongest power, but
where that power is strong enough to overstep them with at least
temporary impunity, it is only by doctrines of constitutional
morality, recognised and sustained by opinion, that any regard at
all is preserved for the checks and limitations of the constitution.
In well-balanced governments, in which the supreme power is divided,
and each sharer is protected against the usurpations of the others
in the only manner possible- namely, by being armed for defence with
weapons as strong as the others can wield for attack- the government
can only be carried on by forbearance on all sides to exercise those
extreme powers, unless provoked by conduct equally extreme on the part
of some other sharer of power: and in this case we may truly say
that only by the regard paid to maxims of constitutional morality is
the constitution kept in existence. The question of pledges is not one
of those which vitally concern the existence of representative
governments; but it is very material to their beneficial operation.
The laws cannot prescribe to the electors the principles by which they
shall direct their choice; but it makes a great practical difference
by what principles they think they ought to direct it. And the whole
of that great question is involved in the inquiry whether they
should make it a condition that the representative shall adhere to
certain opinions laid down for him by his constituents.

  No reader of this treatise can doubt what conclusion, as to this
matter, results from the general principles which it professes. We
have from the first affirmed, and unveryingly kept in view, the
co-equal importance of two great requisites of government:
responsibility to those for whose benefit political power ought to be,
and always professes to be, employed; and jointly therewith to obtain,
in the greatest measure possible, for the function of government the
benefits of superior intellect, trained by long meditation and
practical discipline to that special task. If this second purpose is
worth attaining, it is worth the necessary price. Superior powers of
mind and profound study are of no use if they do not sometimes lead
a person to different conclusions from those which are formed by
ordinary powers of mind without study: and if it be an object to
possess representatives in any intellectual respect superior to
average electors, it must be counted upon that the representative will
sometimes differ in opinion from the majority of his constituents, and
that when he does, his opinion will be the oftenest right of the
two. It follows that the electors will not do wisely if they insist on
absolute conformity to their opinions as the condition of his
retaining his seat.

  The principle is, thus far, obvious; but there are real difficulties
in its application: and we will begin by stating them in their
greatest force. If it is important that the electors should choose a
representative more highly instructed than themselves, it is no less
necessary that this wiser man should be responsible to them; in
other words, they are the judges of the manner in which he fulfils his
trust: and how are they to judge, except by the standard of their
own opinions? How are they even to select him in the first instance
but by the same standard? It will not do to choose by mere
brilliancy- by superiority of showy talent. The tests by which an
ordinary man can judge beforehand of mere ability are very
imperfect: such as they are, they have almost exclusive reference to
the arts of expression, and little or none to the worth of what is
expressed. The latter cannot be inferred from the former; and if the
electors are to put their own opinions in abeyance, what criterion
remains to them of the ability to govern well? Neither, if they
could ascertain, even infallibly, the ablest man, ought they to
allow him altogether to judge for them, without any reference to their
own opinions. The ablest candidate may be a Tory and the electors
Liberals; or a Liberal and they may be Tories. The political questions
of the day may be Church questions, and he may be a High Churchman
or a Rationalist, while they may be Dissenters or Evangelicals; and
vice versa. His abilities, in these cases, might only enable him to go
greater lengths, and act with greater effect, in what they may
conscientiously believe to be a wrong course; and they may be bound,
by their sincere convictions, to think it more important that their
representative should be kept, on these points, to what they deem
the dictate of duty, than that they should be represented by a
person of more than average abilities. They may also have to consider,
not solely how they can be most ably represented, but how their
particular moral position and mental point of view shall be
represented at all.

  The influence of every mode of thinking which is shared by numbers
ought to be felt in the legislature: and the constitution being
supposed to have made due provision that other and conflicting modes
of thinking shall be represented likewise, to secure the proper
representation for their own mode may be the most important matter
which the electors on the particular occasion have to attend to. In
some cases, too, it may be necessary that the representative should
have his hands tied, to keep him true to their interest, or rather
to the public interest as they conceive it. This would not be
needful under a political system which assured them an indefinite
choice of honest and unprejudiced candidates; but under the existing
system, in which the electors are almost always obliged, by the
expenses of election and the general circumstances of society, to
select their representative from persons of a station in life widely
different from theirs, and having a different class-interest, who will
affirm that they ought to abandon themselves to his discretion? Can we
blame an elector of the poorer classes, who has only the choice
among two or three rich men, for requiring from the one he votes for a
pledge to those measures which he considers as a test of
emancipation from the class-interests of the rich? It moreover
always happens to some members of the electoral body to be obliged
to accept the representative selected by a majority of their own side.
But though a candidate of their own choosing would have no chance,
their votes may be necessary to the success of the one chosen for
them; and their only means of exerting their share of influence on his
subsequent conduct, may be to make their support of him dependent on
his pledging himself to certain conditions.

  These considerations and counter-considerations are so intimately
interwoven with one another; it is so important that the electors
should choose as their representatives wiser men than themselves,
and should consent to be governed according to that superior wisdom,
while it is impossible that conformity to their own opinions, when
they have opinions, should not enter largely into, their judgment as
to who possesses the wisdom, and how far its presumed possessor has
verified the presumption by his conduct; that it seems quite
impracticable to lay down for the elector any positive rule of duty:
and the result will depend, less on any exact prescription, or
authoritative doctrine of political morality, than on the general tone
of mind of the electoral body, in respect to the important requisite
of deference to mental superiority. Individuals, and peoples, who
are acutely sensible of the value of superior wisdom, are likely to
recognise it, where it exists, by other signs than thinking exactly as
they do, and even in spite of considerable differences of opinion: and
when they have recognised it they will be far too desirous to secure
it, at any admissible cost, to be prone to impose their own opinion as
a law upon persons whom they look up to as wiser than themselves. On
the other hand, there is a character of mind which does not look up to
any one; which thinks no other person's opinion much better than its
own, or nearly so good as that of a hundred or a thousand persons like
itself. Where this is the turn of mind of the electors, they will
elect no one who is not or at least who does not profess to be, the
image of their own sentiments, and will continue him no longer than
while he reflects those sentiments in his conduct: and all aspirants
to political honours will endeavour, as Plato says in the "Gorgias,"
to fashion themselves after the model of the Demos, and make
themselves as like to it as possible. It cannot be denied that a
complete democracy has a strong tendency to cast the sentiments of the
electors in this mould. Democracy is not favourable to the reverential
spirit. That it destroys reverence for mere social position must be
counted among the good, not the bad part of its influences; though
by doing this it closes the principal school of reverence (as to
merely human relations) which exists in society. But also democracy,
in its very essence, insists so much more forcibly on the things in
which all are entitled to be considered equally, than on those in
which one person is entitled to more consideration than another,
that respect for even personal superiority is likely to be below the
mark. It is for this, among other reasons, I hold it of so much
importance that the institutions of the country should stamp the
opinions of persons of a more educated class as entitled to greater
weight than those of the less educated: and I should still contend for
assigning plurality of votes to authenticated superiority of
education, were it only to give the tone to public feeling,
irrespective of any direct political consequences.

  When there does exist in the electoral body an adequate sense of the
extraordinary difference in value between one person and another, they
will not lack signs by which to distinguish the persons whose worth
for their purposes is the greatest. Actual public services will
naturally be the foremost indication: to have filled posts of
magnitude, and done important things in them, of which the wisdom
has been justified by the results; to have been the author of measures
which appear from their effects to have been wisely planned; to have
made predictions which have been of verified by the event, seldom or
never falsified by it; to have given advice, which when taken has been
followed by good consequences, when neglected, by bad. There is
doubtless a large portion of uncertainty in these signs of wisdom; but
we are seeking for such as can be applied by persons of ordinary
discernment. They will do well not to rely much on any one indication,
unless corroborated by the rest; and, in their estimation of the
success or merit of any practical effort, to lay great stress on the
general opinion of disinterested persons conversant with the subject
matter. The tests which I have spoken of are only applicable to
tried men; among whom must be reckoned those who, though untried
practically, have been tried speculatively; who, in public speech or
in print, have discussed public affairs in a manner which proves
that they have given serious study to them. Such persons may, in the
mere character of political thinkers, have exhibited a considerable
amount of the same titles to confidence as those who have been
proved in the position of practical statesmen. When it is necessary to
choose persons wholly untried, the best criteria are, reputation for
ability among those who personally know them, and the confidence
placed and recommendations given by persons already looked up to. By
tests like these, constituencies who sufficiently value mental
ability, and eagerly seek for it, will generally succeed in
obtaining men beyond mediocrity, and often men whom they can trust
to carry on public affairs according to their unfettered judgment;
to whom it would be an affront to require that they should give up
that judgment at the behest of their inferiors in knowledge.

  If such persons, honestly sought, are not to be found, then indeed
the electors are justified in taking other precautions; for they
cannot be expected to postpone their particular opinions, unless in
order that they may be served by a person of superior knowledge to
their own. They would do well, indeed, even then, to remember, that
when once chosen, the representative, if he devotes himself to his
duty, has greater opportunities of correcting an original false
judgment than fall to the lot of most of his constituents; a
consideration which generally ought to prevent them (unless
compelled by necessity to choose some one whose impartiality they do
not fully trust) from exacting a pledge not to change his opinion, or,
if he does, to resign his seat. But when an unknown person, not
certified in unmistakable terms by some high authority, is elected for
the first time, the elector cannot be expected not to make
conformity to his own sentiments the primary requisite. It is enough
if he does not regard a subsequent change of those sentiments,
honestly avowed, with its grounds undisguisedly stated, as a
peremptory reason for withdrawing his confidence.

  Even supposing the most tried ability and acknowledged eminence of
character in the representative, the private opinions of the
electors are not to be placed entirely in abeyance. Deference to
mental superiority is not to go the length of
self-annihilation- abnegation of any personal opinion. But when the
difference does not relate to the fundamentals of politics, however
decided the elector may be in his own sentiments, he ought to consider
that when an able man differs from him there is at least a
considerable chance of his being in the wrong, and that even if
otherwise, it is worth while to give up his opinion in things not
absolutely essential, for the sake of the inestimable advantage of
having an able man to act for him in the many matters in which he
himself is not qualified to form a judgment. In such cases he often
endeavours to reconcile both wishes, by inducing the able man to
sacrifice his own opinion on the points of difference: but, for the
able man to lend himself to this compromise, is treason against his
especial office; abdication of the peculiar duties of mental
superiority, of which it is one of the most sacred not to desert the
cause which has the clamour against it, nor to deprive of his services
those of his opinions which need them the most. A man of conscience
and known ability should insist on full freedom to act as he in his
own judgment deems best; and should not consent to serve on any
other terms. But the electors are entitled to know how he means to
act; what opinions, on all things which concern his public duty, he
intends should guide his conduct. If some of these are unacceptable to
them, it is for him to satisfy them that he nevertheless deserves to
be their representative; and if they are wise, they will overlook,
in favour of his general value, many and great differences between his
opinions and their own.

   There are some differences, however, which they cannot be
expected to overlook. Whoever feels the amount of interest in the
government of his country which befits a freeman, has some convictions
on national affairs which are like his life-blood; which the
strength of his belief in their truth, together with the importance he
attaches to them, forbid him to make a subject of compromise, or
postpone to the judgment of any person, however greatly his
superior. Such convictions, when they exist in a people, or in any
appreciable portion of one, are entitled to influence in virtue of
their mere existence, and not solely in that of the probability of
their being grounded in truth. A people cannot be well governed in
opposition to their primary notions of right, even though these may be
in some points erroneous. A correct estimate of the relation which
should subsist between governors and governed, does not require the
electors to consent to be represented by one who intends to govern
them in opposition to their fundamental convictions. If they avail
themselves of his capacities of useful service in other respects, at a
time when the points on which he is vitally at issue with them are not
likely to be mooted, they are justified in dismissing him at the first
moment when a question arises involving these, and on which there is
not so assured a majority for what they deem right as to make the
dissenting voice of that particular individual unimportant. Thus (I
mention names to illustrate my meaning, not for any personal
application) the opinions supposed to be entertained by Mr. Cobden and
Mr. Bright on resistance to foreign aggression might be overlooked
during the Crimean war, when there was an overwhelming national
feeling on the contrary side, and might yet very properly lead to
their rejection by the electors at the time of the Chinese quarrel
(though in itself a more doubtful question), because it was then for
some time a moot point whether their view of the case might not

  As the general result of what precedes, we may affirm that actual
pledges should not be required, unless, from unfavourable social
circumstances or faulty institutions, the electors are so narrowed
in their choice as to be compelled to fix it on a person presumptively
under the influence of partialities hostile to their interest: That
they are entitled to a full knowledge of the political opinions and
sentiments of the candidate; and not only entitled, but often bound,
to reject one who differs from themselves on the few articles which
are the foundation of their political belief: That in proportion to
the opinion they entertain of the mental superiority of a candidate,
they ought to put up with his expressing and acting on opinions
different from theirs on any number of things not included in their
fundamental articles of belief: That they ought to be unremitting in
their search for a representative of such calibre as to be entrusted
with full power of obeying the dictates of his own judgment: That they
should consider it a duty which they owe to their fellow-countrymen,
to do their utmost towards placing men of this quality in the
legislature: and that it is of much greater importance to themselves
to be represented by such a man than by one who professes agreement in
a greater number of their opinions: for the benefits of his ability
are certain, while the hypothesis of his being wrong and their being
right on the points of difference is a very doubtful one.

  I have discussed this question on the assumption that the
electoral system, in all that depends on positive institution,
conforms to the principles laid down in the preceding chapters. Even
on this hypothesis, the delegation theory of representation seems to
me false, and its practical operation hurtful, though the mischief
would in that case be confined within certain bounds. But if the
securities by which I have endeavoured to guard the representative
principle are not recognised by the Constitution; if provision is
not made for the representation of minorities, nor any difference
admitted in the numerical value of votes, according to some
criterion of the amount of education possessed by the voters; in
that case no words can exaggerate the importance in principle of
leaving an unfettered discretion to the representative; for it would
then be the only chance, under universal suffrage, for any other
opinions than those of the majority to be heard in Parliament. In that
falsely called democracy which is really the exclusive rule of the
operative classes, all others being unrepresented and unheard, the
only escape from class legislation in its narrowest, and political
ignorance in its most dangerous, form, would lie in such disposition
as the uneducated might have to choose educated representatives, and
to defer to their opinions. Some willingness to do this might
reasonably be expected, and everything would depend upon cultivating
it to the highest point. But, once invested with political
omnipotence, if the operative classes voluntarily concurred in
imposing in this or any other manner any considerable limitation
upon their self-opinion and self-will, they would prove themselves
wiser than any class, possessed of absolute power, has shown itself,
or, we may venture to say, is ever likely to show itself, under that
corrupting influence.

                           Chapter 13

                       Of a Second Chamber.

  OF ALL topics relating to the theory of representative government,
none has been the subject of more discussion, especially on the
Continent, than what is known as the question of the Two Chambers.
It has occupied a greater amount of the attention of thinkers than
many questions of ten times its importance, and has been regarded as a
sort of touchstone which distinguishes the partisans of limited from
those of uncontrolled democracy. For my own part, I set little value
on any check which a Second Chamber can apply to a democracy otherwise
unchecked; and I am inclined to think that if all other constitutional
questions are rightly decided, it is but of secondary importance
whether the Parliament consists of two Chambers, or only of one.

  If there are two Chambers, they may either be of similar, or of
dissimilar composition. If of similar, both will obey the same
influences, and whatever has a majority in one of the Houses will be
likely to have it in the other. It is true that the necessity of
obtaining the consent of both to the passing of any measure may at
times be a material obstacle to improvement, since, assuming both
the Houses to be representative, and equal in their numbers, a
number slightly exceeding a fourth of the entire representation may
prevent the passing of a Bill; while, if there is but one House, a
Bill is secure of passing if it has a bare majority. But the case
supposed is rather abstractedly possible than likely to occur in
practice. It will not often happen that of two Houses similarly
composed, one will be almost unanimous, and the other nearly equally
divided: if a majority in one rejects a measure, there will
generally have been a large minority unfavourable to it in the
other; any improvement, therefore, which could be thus impeded,
would in almost all cases be one which had not much more than a simple
majority in the entire body, and the worst consequence that could
ensue would be to delay for a short time the passing of the measure,
or give rise to a fresh appeal to the electors to ascertain if the
small majority in Parliament corresponded to an effective one in the
country. The inconvenience of delay, and the advantages of the
appeal to the nation, might be regarded in this case as about
equally balanced.

  I attach little weight to the argument oftenest urged for having two
Chambers- to prevent precipitancy, and compel a second deliberation;
for it must be a very ill-constituted representative assembly in which
the established forms of business do not require many more than two
deliberations. The consideration which tells most, in my judgment,
in favour of two Chambers (and this I do regard as of some moment)
is the evil effect produced upon the mind of any holder of power,
whether an individual or an assembly, by the consciousness of having
only themselves to consult. It is important that no set of persons
should, in great affairs, be able, even temporarily, to make their sic
volo prevail without asking any one else for his consent. A majority
in a single assembly, when it has assumed a permanent character- when
composed of the same persons habitually acting together, and always
assured of victory in their own House- easily becomes despotic and
overweening, if released from the necessity of considering whether its
acts will be concurred in by another constituted authority. The same
reason which induced the Romans to have two consuls makes it desirable
there should be two Chambers: that neither of them may be exposed to
the corrupting influence of undivided power, even for the space of a
single year. One of the most indispensable requisites in the practical
conduct of politics, especially in the management of free
institutions, is conciliation: a readiness to compromise; a
willingness to concede something to opponents, and to shape good
measures so as to be as little offensive as possible to persons of
opposite views; and of this salutary habit, the mutual give and take
(as it has been called) between two Houses is a perpetual school;
useful as such even now, and its utility would probably be even more
felt in a more democratic constitution of the Legislature.

  But the Houses need not both be of the same composition; they may be
intended as a check on one another. One being supposed democratic, the
other will naturally be constituted with a view to its being some
restraint upon the democracy. But its efficacy in this respect
wholly depends on the social support which it can command outside
the House. An assembly which does not rest on the basis of some
great power in the country is ineffectual against one which does. An
aristocratic House is only powerful in an aristocratic state of
society. The House of Lords was once the strongest power in our
Constitution, and the Commons only a checking body: but this was
when the Barons were almost the only power out of doors. I cannot
believe that, in a really democratic state of society, the House of
Lords would be of any practical value as a moderator of democracy.
When the force on one side is feeble in comparison with that on the
other, the way to give it effect is not to draw both out in line,
and muster their strength in open field over against one another. Such
tactics would ensure the utter defeat of the less powerful. It can
only act to advantage by not holding itself apart, and compelling
every one to declare himself either with or against it, but taking a
position among, rather than in opposition to, the crowd, and drawing
to itself the elements most capable of allying themselves with it on
any given point; not appearing at all as an antagonist body, to
provoke a general rally against it, but working as one of the elements
in a mixed mass, infusing its leaven, and often making what would be
the weaker part the stronger, by the addition of its influence. The
really moderating power in a democratic constitution must act in and
through the democratic House.

  That there should be, in every polity, a centre of resistance to the
predominant power in the Constitution- and in a democratic
constitution, therefore, a nucleus of resistance to the democracy- I
have already maintained; and I regard it as a fundamental maxim of
government. If any people, who possess a democratic representation,
are, from their historical antecedents, more willing to tolerate
such a centre of resistance in the form of a Second Chamber or House
of Lords than in any other shape, this constitutes a stronger reason
for having it in that shape. But it does not appear to me the best
shape in itself, nor by any means the most efficacious for its object.
If there are two Houses, one considered to represent the people, the
other to represent only a class, or not to be representative at all, I
cannot think that where democracy is the ruling power in society the
Second House would have any real ability to resist even the
aberrations of the first. It might be suffered to exist in deference
to habit and association, but not as an effective check. If it
exercised an independent will, it would be required to do so in the
same general spirit as the other House; to be equally democratic
with it, and to content itself with correcting the accidental
oversights of the more popular branch of the legislature, or competing
with it in popular measures.

  The practicability of any real check to the ascendancy of the
majority depends henceforth on the distribution of strength in the
most popular branch of the governing body; and I have indicated the
mode in which, to the best of my judgment, a balance of forces might
most advantageously be established there. I have also pointed out,
that even if the numerical majority were allowed to exercise
complete predominance by means of a corresponding majority in
Parliament, yet if minorities also are permitted to enjoy the equal
right due to them on strictly democratic principles, of being
represented proportionally to their numbers, this provision will
ensure the perpetual presence in the House by the same popular title
as its other members, of so many of the first intellects in the
country, that without being in any way banded apart, or invested
with any invidious prerogative, this portion of the national
representation will have a personal weight much more than in
proportion to its numerical strength, and will afford, in a most
effective form, the moral centre of resistance which is needed. A
Second Chamber, therefore, is not required for this purpose, and would
not contribute to it, but might even, in some conceivable modes impede
its attainment. If, however, for the other reasons already
mentioned, the decision were taken that there should be such a
Chamber, it is desirable that it should be composed of elements which,
without being open to the imputation of class interests adverse to the
majority, would incline it to oppose itself to the class interests
of the majority, and qualify it to raise its voice with authority
against their errors and weaknesses. These conditions evidently are
not found in a body constituted in the manner of our House of Lords.
So soon as conventional rank and individual riches no longer overawe
the democracy, a House of Lords becomes insignificant.

  Of all principles on which a wisely conservative body, destined to
moderate and regulate democratic ascendancy, could possibly be
constructed, the best seems to be that exemplified in the Roman
Senate, itself the most consistently prudent and sagacious body that
ever administered public affairs. The deficiencies of a democratic
assembly, which represents the general public, are the deficiencies of
the public itself, want of special training and knowledge. The
appropriate corrective is to associate with it a body of which special
training and knowledge should be the characteristics. If one House
represents popular feeling, the other should represent personal merit,
tested and guaranteed by actual public service, and fortified by
practical experience. If one is the People's Chamber, the other should
be the Chamber of Statesmen; a council composed of all living public
men who have passed through important political offices or
employments. Such a Chamber would be fitted for much more than to be a
merely moderating body. It would not be exclusively a check, but
also an impelling force. In its hands the power of holding the
people back would be vested in those most competent, and who would
generally be most inclined, to lead them forward in any right
course. The council to whom the task would be entrusted of
rectifying the people's mistakes would not represent a class
believed to be opposed to their interest, but would consist of their
own natural leaders in the path of progress. No mode of composition
could approach to this in giving weight and efficacy to their function
of moderators. It would be impossible to cry down a body always
foremost in promoting improvements as a mere obstructive body,
whatever amount of mischief it might obstruct.

  Were the place vacant in England for such a Senate (I need
scarcely say that this is a mere hypothesis), it might be composed
of some such elements as the following. All who were or had been
members of the Legislative Commission described in a former chapter,
and which I regard as an indispensable ingredient in a
well-constituted popular government. All who were or had been Chief
justices, or heads of any of the superior courts of law or equity. All
who had for five years filled the office of puisne judge. All who
had held for two years any Cabinet office: but these should also be
eligible to the House of Commons, and if elected members of it,
their peerage or senatorial office should be held in suspense. The
condition of time is needed to prevent persons from being named
Cabinet Ministers merely to give them a seat in the Senate; and the
period of two years is suggested, that the same term which qualifies
them for a pension might entitle them to a senatorship. All who had
filled the office of Commander-in-Chief; and all who, having commanded
an army or a fleet, had been thanked by Parliament for military or
naval successes. All who had held, during ten years, first-class
diplomatic appointments. All who had been Governors-General of India
or British America, and all who had held for ten years any Colonial
Governorships. The permanent civil service should also be represented;
all should be senators who had filled, during ten years, the important
offices of Under-Secretary to the Treasury, permanent
Under-Secretary of State, or any others equally high and
responsible. If, along with the persons thus qualified by practical
experience in the administration of public affairs, any representation
of the speculative class were to be included- a thing in itself
desirable- it would be worth consideration whether certain
professorships, in certain national institutions, after a tenure of
a few years, might confer a seat in the Senate. Mere scientific and
literary eminence are too indefinite and disputable: they imply a
power of selection, whereas the other qualifications speak for
themselves; if the writings by which reputation has been gained are
unconnected with politics, they are no evidence of the special
qualities required, while if political, they would enable successive
Ministries to deluge the House with party tools.

  The historical antecedents of England render it all but certain
that, unless in the improbable case of a violent subversion of the
existing Constitution, any Second Chamber which could possibly exist
would have to be built on the foundation of the House of Lords. It
is out of the question to think practically of abolishing that
assembly, to replace it by such a Senate as I have sketched, or by any
other; but there might not be the same insuperable difficulty in
aggregating the classes or categories just spoken of to the existing
body, in the character of Peers for life. An ulterior, and perhaps, on
this supposition, a necessary step, might be, that the hereditary
Peerage should be present in the House by their representatives
instead of personally: a practice already established in the case of
the Scotch and Irish Peers, and which the mere multiplication of the
order will probably at some time or other render inevitable. An easy
adaptation of Mr. Hare's plan would prevent the representative Peers
from representing exclusively the party which has the majority in
the Peerage. If, for example, one representative were allowed for
every ten Peers, any ten might be admitted to choose a representative,
and the Peers might be free to group themselves for that purpose as
they pleased. The election might be thus conducted: All Peers who were
candidates for the representation of their order should be required to
declare themselves such, and enter their names in a list. A day and
place should be appointed at which Peers desirous of voting should
be present, either in person, or, in the usual parliamentary manner,
by their proxies. The votes should be taken, each Peer voting for only
one. Every candidate who had as many as ten votes should be declared
elected. If any one had more, all but ten should be allowed to
withdraw their votes, or ten of the number should be selected by
lot. These ten would form his constituency, and the remainder of his
voters would be set free to give their votes over again for some one
else. This process should be repeated until (so far as possible) every
Peer present either personally or by proxy was represented. When a
number less than ten remained over, if amounting to five they might
still be allowed to agree on a representative; if fewer than five,
their votes must be lost, or they might be permitted to record them in
favour of somebody already elected. With this inconsiderable
exception, every representative Peer would represent ten members of
the Peerage, all of whom had not only voted for him, but selected
him as the one, among all open to their choice, by whom they were most
desirous to be represented. As a compensation to the Peers who were
not chosen representatives of their order, they should be eligible
to the House of Commons; a justice now refused to Scotch Peers, and to
Irish Peers in their own part of the kingdom, while the representation
in the House of Lords of any but the most numerous party in the
Peerage is denied equally to both.

  The mode of composing a Senate, which has been here advocated, not
only seems the best in itself, but is that for which historical
precedent, and actual brilliant success, can to the greatest extent be
pleaded. It is not, however, the only feasible plan that might be
proposed. Another possible mode of forming a Second Chamber would be
to have it elected by the First; subject to the restriction that
they should not nominate any of their own members. Such an assembly,
emanating like the American Senate from popular choice, only once
removed, would not be considered to clash with democratic
institutions, and would probably acquire considerable popular
influence. From the mode of its nomination it would be peculiarly
unlikely to excite the jealousy of, to come into hostile collision
with, the popular House. It would, moreover (due provision being
made for the representation of the minority), be almost sure to be
well composed, and to comprise many of that class of highly capable
men, who, either from accident or for want of showy qualities, had
been unwilling to seek, or unable to obtain, the suffrages of a
popular constituency.

  The best constitution of a Second Chamber is that which embodies the
greatest number of elements exempt from the class interests and
prejudices of the majority, but having in themselves nothing offensive
to democratic feeling. I repeat, however, that the main reliance for
tempering the ascendancy of the majority can be placed in a Second
Chamber of any kind. The character of a representative government is
fixed by the constitution of the popular House. Compared with this,
all other questions relating to the form of government are

                           Chapter 14

            Of the Executive in a Representative Government.

  IT WOULD be out of place, in this treatise, to discuss the
question into what departments or branches the executive business of
government may most conveniently be divided. In this respect the
exigencies of different governments are different; and there is little
probability that any great mistake will be made in the
classification of the duties when men are willing to begin at the
beginning, and do not hold themselves bound by the series of accidents
which, in an old government like ours, has produced the existing
division of the public business. It may be sufficient to say that
the classification of functionaries should correspond to that of
subjects, and that there should not be several departments independent
of one another to superintend different parts of the same natural
whole; as in our own military administration down to a recent
period, and in a less degree even at present. Where the object to be
attained is single (such as that of having an efficient army), the
authority commissioned to attend to it should be single likewise.
The entire aggregate of means provided for one end should be under one
and the same control and responsibility. If they are divided among
independent authorities, the means, with each of those authorities,
become ends, and it is the business of nobody except the head of the
Government, who is probably without the appropriate departmental
experience, to take care of the real end. The different classes of
means are not combined and adapted to one another under the guidance
of any leading idea; and while every department pushes forward its own
requirements, regardless of those of the rest, the purpose of the work
is perpetually sacrificed to the work itself.

  As a general rule, every executive function, whether superior or
subordinate, should be the appointed duty of some given individual. It
should be apparent to all the world who did everything, and through
whose default anything was left undone. Responsibility is null when
nobody knows who is responsible. Nor, even when real, can it be
divided without being weakened. To maintain it at its highest there
must be one person who receives the whole praise of what is well done,
the whole blame of what is ill. There are, however, two modes of
sharing responsibility: by one it is only enfeebled, by the other,
absolutely destroyed. It is enfeebled when the concurrence of more
than one functionary is required to the same act. Each one among
them has still a real responsibility; if a wrong has been done, none
of them can say he did not do it; he is as much a participant as an
accomplice is in an offence: if there has been legal criminality
they may all be punished legally, and their punishment needs not be
less severe than if there had been only one person concerned. But it
is not so with the penalties, any more than with the rewards, of
opinion: these are always diminished by being shared. Where there
has been no definite legal offence, no corruption or malversation,
only an error or an imprudence, or what may pass for such, every
participator has an excuse to himself and to the world, in the fact
that other persons are jointly involved with him. There is hardly
anything, even to pecuniary dishonesty, for which men will not feel
themselves almost absolved, if those whose duty it was to resist and
remonstrate have failed to do it, still more if they have given a
formal assent.

  In this case, however, though responsibility is weakened, there
still is responsibility: every one of those implicated has in his
individual capacity assented to, and joined in, the act. Things are
much worse when the act itself is only that of a majority- a Board,
deliberating with closed doors, nobody knowing, or, except in some
extreme case, being ever likely to know, whether an individual
member voted for the act or against it. Responsibility in this case is
a mere name. "Boards," it is happily said by Bentham, "are screens."
What "the Board" does is the act of nobody; and nobody can be made
to answer for it. The Board suffers, even in reputation, only in its
collective character; and no individual member feels this further than
his disposition leads him to identify his own estimation with that
of the body- a feeling often very strong when the body is a permanent
one, and he is wedded to it for better for worse; but the fluctuations
of a modern official career give no time for the formation of such
an esprit de corps; which if it exists at all, exists only in the
obscure ranks of the permanent subordinates. Boards, therefore, are
not a fit instrument for executive business; and are only admissible
in it when, for other reasons, to give full discretionary power to a
single minister would be worse.

  On the other hand, it is also a maxim of experience that in the
multitude of counsellors there is wisdom; and that a man seldom judges
right, even in his own concerns, still less in those of the public,
when he makes habitual use of no knowledge but his own, or that of
some single adviser. There is no necessary incompatibility between
this principle and the other. It is easy to give the effective
power, and the full responsibility, to one, providing him when
necessary with advisers, each of whom is responsible only for the
opinion he gives.

  In general, the head of a department of the executive government
is a mere politician. He may be a good politician, and a man of merit;
and unless this is usually the case, the government is bad. But his
general capacity, and the knowledge he ought to possess of the general
interests of the country, will not, unless by occasional accident,
be accompanied by adequate, and what may be called professional,
knowledge of the department over which he is called to preside.
Professional advisers must therefore be provided for him. Wherever
mere experience and attainments are sufficient wherever the
qualities required in a professional adviser may possibly be united in
a single well-selected individual (as in the case, for example, of a
law officer), one such person for general purposes, and a staff of
clerks to supply knowledge of details, meet the demands of the case.
But, more frequently, it is not sufficient that the minister should
consult some one competent person, and, when himself not conversant
with the subject, act implicitly on that person's advice. It is
often necessary that he should, not only occasionally but
habitually, listen to a variety of opinions, and inform his judgment
by the discussions among a body of advisers. This, for example, is
emphatically necessary in military and naval affairs. The military and
naval ministers, therefore, and probably several others, should be
provided with a Council, composed, at least in those two
departments, of able and experienced professional men. As a means of
obtaining the best men for the purpose under every change of
administration, they ought to be permanent: by which I mean, that they
ought not, like the Lords of the Admiralty, to be expected to resign
with the ministry by whom they were appointed: but it is a good rule
that all who hold high appointments to which they have risen by
selection, and not by the ordinary course of promotion, should
retain their office only for a fixed term, unless reappointed; as is
now the rule with Staff appointments in the British army. This rule
renders appointments somewhat less likely to be jobbed, not being a
provision for life, and the same time affords a means, without affront
to any one, of getting rid of those who are least worth keeping, and
bringing in highly qualified persons of younger standing, for whom
there might never be room if death vacancies, or voluntary
resignations, were waited for.

  The Councils should be consultative merely, in this sense, that
the ultimate decision should rest undividedly with the minister
himself: but neither ought they to be looked upon, or to look upon
themselves, as ciphers, or as capable of being reduced to such at
his pleasure. The advisers attached to a powerful and perhaps
self-willed man ought to be placed under conditions which make it
impossible for them, without discredit, not to express an opinion, and
impossible for him not to listen to and consider their
recommendations, whether he adopts them or not. The relation which
ought to exist between a chief and this description of advisers is
very accurately hit by the constitution of the Council of the
Governor-General and those of the different Presidencies in India.
These Councils are composed of persons who have professional knowledge
of Indian affairs, which the Governor-General and Governors usually
lack, and which it would not be desirable to require of them. As a
rule, every member of Council is expected to give an opinion, which is
of course very often a simple acquiescence: but if there is a
difference of sentiment, it is at the option of every member, and is
the invariable practice, to record the reasons of his opinion: the
Governor-General, or Governor, doing the same. In ordinary cases the
decision is according to the sense of the majority; the Council,
therefore, has a substantial part in the government: but if the
Governor-General, or Governor, thinks fit, he may set aside even their
unanimous opinion, recording his reasons. The result is, that the
chief is individually and effectively responsible for every act of the
Government. The members of Council have only the responsibility of
advisers; but it is always known, from documents capable of being
produced, and which if called for by Parliament or public opinion
always are produced, what each has advised, and what reasons he gave
for his advice: while, from their dignified position, and ostensible
participation in all acts of government, they have nearly as strong
motives to apply themselves to the public business, and to form and
express a well-considered opinion on every part of it, as if the whole
responsibility rested with themselves.

  This mode of conducting the highest class of administrative business
is one of the most successful instances of the adaptation of means
to ends which political history, not hitherto very prolific in works
of skill and contrivance, has yet to show. It is one of the
acquisitions with which the art of politics has been enriched by the
experience of the East India Company's rule; and, like most of the
other wise contrivances by which India has been preserved to this
country, and an amount of good government produced which is truly
wonderful considering the circumstances and the materials, it is
probably destined to perish in the general holocaust which the
traditions of Indian government seem fated to undergo, since they have
been placed at the mercy of public ignorance, and the presumptuous
vanity of political men. Already an outcry is raised for abolishing
the Councils, as a superfluous and expensive clog on the wheels of
government: while the clamour has long been urgent, and is daily
obtaining more countenance in the highest quarters, for the abrogation
of the professional civil service which breeds the men that compose
the Councils, and the existence of which is the sole guarantee for
their being of any value.

  A most important principle of good government in a popular
constitution is that no executive functionaries should be appointed by
popular election: neither by the votes of the people themselves, nor
by those of their representatives. The entire business of government
is skilled employment; the qualifications for the discharge of it
are of that special and professional kind which cannot be properly
judged of except by persons who have themselves some share of those
qualifications, or some practical experience of them. The business
of finding the fittest persons to fill public employments- not merely
selecting the best who offer, but looking out for the absolutely best,
and taking note of all fit persons who are met with, that they may
be found when wanted- is very laborious, and requires a delicate as
well as highly conscientious discernment; and as there is no public
duty which is in general so badly performed, so there is none for
which it is of greater importance to enforce the utmost practicable
amount of personal responsibility, by imposing it as a special
obligation on high functionaries in the several departments. All
subordinate public officers who are not appointed by some mode of
public competition should be selected on the direct responsibility
of the minister under whom they serve. The ministers, all but the
chief, will naturally be selected by the chief; and the chief himself,
though really designated by Parliament, should be, in a regal
government, officially appointed by the Crown. The functionary who
appoints should be the sole person empowered to remove any subordinate
officer who is liable to removal; which the far greater number ought
not to be, except for personal misconduct; since it would be vain to
expect that the body of persons by whom the whole detail of the public
business is transacted, and whose qualifications are generally of much
more importance to the public than those of the minister himself, will
devote themselves to their profession, and acquire the knowledge and
skill on which the minister must often place entire dependence, if
they are liable at any moment to be turned adrift for no fault, that
the minister may gratify himself, or promote his political interest,
by appointing somebody else.

  To the principle which condemns the appointment of executive
officers by popular suffrage, ought the chief of the executive, in a
republican government, to be an exception? Is it a good rule, which,
in the American Constitution, provides for the election of the
President once in every four years by the entire people? The
question is not free from difficulty. There is unquestionably some
advantage, in a country like America, where no apprehension needs be
entertained of a coup d'etat, in making the chief minister
constitutionally independent of the legislative body, and rendering
the two great branches of the government, while equally popular both
in their origin and in their responsibility, an effective check on one
another. The plan is in accordance with that sedulous avoidance of the
concentration of great masses of power in the same hands, which is a
marked characteristic of the American Federal Constitution. But the
advantage, in this instance, is purchased at a price above all
reasonable estimates of its value. It seems far better that the
chief magistrate in a republic should be appointed avowedly, as the
chief minister in a constitutional monarchy is virtually, by the
representative body. In the first place, he is certain, when thus
appointed, to be a more eminent man. The party which has the
majority in Parliament would then, as a rule, appoint its own
leader; who is always one of the foremost, and often the very foremost
person in political life: while the President of the United States,
since the last survivor of the founders of the republic disappeared
from the scene, is almost always either an obscure man, or one who has
gained any reputation he may possess in some other field than
politics. And this, as I have before observed, is no accident, but the
natural effect of the situation. The eminent men of a party, in an
election extending to the whole country, are never its most
available candidates. All eminent men have made personal enemies, or
have done something, or at the lowest professed some opinion,
obnoxious to some local or other considerable division of the
community, and likely to tell with fatal effect upon the number of
votes; whereas a man without antecedents, of whom nothing is known but
that he professes the creed of the party, is readily voted for by
its entire strength. Another important consideration is the great
mischief of unintermitted electioneering. When the highest dignity
in the State is to be conferred by popular election once in every
few years, the whole intervening time is spent in what is virtually
a canvass. President, ministers, chiefs of parties, and their
followers, are all electioneerers: the whole community is kept
intent on the mere personalities of politics, and every public
question is discussed and decided with less reference to its merits
than to its expected bearing on the presidential election. If a system
had been devised to make party spirit the ruling principle of action
in all public affairs, and create an inducement not only to make every
question a party question, but to raise questions for the purpose of
founding parties upon them, it would have been difficult to contrive
any means better adapted to the purpose.

  I will not affirm that it would at all times and places be desirable
that the head of the executive should be so completely dependent
upon the votes of a representative assembly as the Prime Minister is
in England, and is without inconvenience. If it were thought best to
avoid this, he might, though appointed by Parliament, hold his
office for a fixed period, independent of a parliamentary vote:
which would be the American system, minus the popular election and its
evils. There is another mode of giving the head of the
administration as much independence of the legislature as is at all
compatible with the essentials of free government. He never could be
unduly dependent on a vote of Parliament, if he had, as the British
Prime Minister practically has, the power to dissolve the House and
appeal to the people: if instead of being turned out of office by a
hostile vote, he could only be reduced by it to the alternative of
resignation or dissolution. The power of dissolving Parliament is
one which I think it desirable he should possess, even under the
system by which his own tenure of office is secured to him for a fixed
period. There ought not to be any possibility of that deadlock in
politics which would ensue on a quarrel breaking out between a
President and an Assembly, neither of whom, during an interval which
might amount to years, would have any legal means of ridding itself of
the other. To get through such a period without a coup d'etat being
attempted, on either side or on both, requires such a combination of
the love of liberty and the habit of self-restraint as very few
nations have yet shown themselves capable of: and though this
extremity were avoided, to expect that the two authorities would not
paralyse each other's operations is to suppose that the political life
of the country will always be pervaded by a spirit of mutual
forbearance and compromise, imperturbable by the passions and
excitements of the keenest party struggles. Such a spirit may exist,
but even where it does there is imprudence in trying it too far.

  Other reasons make it desirable that some power in the state
(which can only be the executive) should have the liberty of at any
time, and at discretion, calling a new Parliament. When there is a
real doubt which of two contending parties has the strongest
following, it is important that there should exist a constitutional
means of immediately testing the point, and setting it at rest. No
other political topic has a chance of being properly attended to while
this is undecided: and such an interval is mostly an interregnum for
purposes of legislative or administrative improvement; neither party
having sufficient confidence in its strength to attempt things
likely to promote opposition in any quarter that has either direct
or indirect influence in the pending struggle.

  I have not taken account of the case in which the vast power
centralised in the chief magistrate, and the insufficient attachment
of the mass of the people to free institutions, give him a chance of
success in an attempt to subvert the Constitution, and usurp sovereign
power. Where such peril exists, no first magistrate is admissible whom
the Parliament cannot, by a single vote, reduce to a private
station. In a state of things holding out any encouragement to that
most audacious and profligate of all breaches of trust, even this
entireness of constitutional dependence is but a weak protection.

  Of all officers of government, those in whose appointment any
participation of popular suffrage is the most objectionable are
judicial officers. While there are no functionaries whose special
and professional qualifications the popular judgment is less fitted to
estimate, there are none in whose case absolute impartiality, and
freedom from connection with politicians or sections of politicians,
are of anything like equal importance. Some thinkers, among others Mr.
Bentham, have been of opinion that, although it is better that
judges should not be appointed by popular election, the people of
their district ought to have the power, after sufficient experience,
of removing them from their trust. It cannot be denied that the
irremovability of any public officer, to whom great interests are
entrusted, is in itself an evil. It is far from desirable that there
should be no means of getting rid of a bad or incompetent judge,
unless for such misconduct as he can be made to answer for in a
criminal court; and that a functionary on whom so much depends
should have the feeling of being free from responsibility except to
opinion and his own conscience. The question however is, whether in
the peculiar position of a judge, and supposing that all practicable
securities have been taken for an honest appointment,
irresponsibility, except to his own and the public conscience, has not
on the whole less tendency to pervert his conduct than
responsibility to the government, or to a popular vote. Experience has
long decided this point in the affirmative as regards responsibility
to the executive; and the case is quite equally strong when the
responsibility sought to be enforced is to the suffrages of
electors. Among the good qualities of a popular constituency, those
peculiarly incumbent upon a judge, calmness and impartiality, are
not numbered. Happily, in that intervention of popular suffrage
which is essential to freedom they are not the qualities required.
Even the quality of justice, though necessary to all human beings, and
therefore to all electors, is not the inducement which decides any
popular election. Justice and impartiality are as little wanted for
electing a member of Parliament as they can be in any transaction of
men. The electors have not to award something which either candidate
has a right to, nor to pass judgment on the general merits of the
competitors, but to declare which of them has most of their personal
confidence, or best represents their political convictions. A judge is
bound to treat his political friend, or the person best known to
him, exactly as he treats other people; but it would be a breach of
duty as well as an absurdity if an elector did so. No argument can
be grounded on the beneficial effect produced on judges, as on all
other functionaries, by the moral jurisdiction of opinion; for even in
this respect, that which really exercises a useful control over the
proceedings of a judge, when fit for the judicial office, is not
(except sometimes in political cases) the opinion of the community
generally, but that of the only public by whom his conduct or
qualifications can be duly estimated, the bar of his own court.

  I must not be understood to say that the participation of the
general public in the administration of justice is of no importance;
it is of the greatest: but in what manner? By the actual discharge
of a part of the judicial office, in the capacity of jurymen. This
is one of the few cases in politics in which it is better that the
people should act directly and personally than through their
representatives; being almost the only case in which the errors that a
person exercising authority may commit can be better borne than the
consequences of making him responsible for them. If a judge could be
removed from office by a popular vote, whoever was desirous of
supplanting him would make capital for that purpose out of all his
judicial decisions; would carry all of them, as far as he found
practicable, by irregular appeal before a public opinion wholly
incompetent, for want of having heard the case, or from having heard
it without either the precautions or the impartiality belonging to a
judicial hearing; would play upon popular passion and prejudice
where they existed, and take pains to arouse them where they did
not. And in this, if the case were interesting, and he took sufficient
trouble, he would infallibly be successful, unless the judge or his
friends descended into the arena, and made equally powerful appeals on
the other side. Judges would end by feeling that they risked their
office upon every decision they gave in a case susceptible of
general interest, and that it was less essential for them to
consider what decision was just than what would be most applauded by
the public, or would least admit of insidious misrepresentation. The
practice introduced by some of the new or revised State
Constitutions in America, of submitting judicial officers to
periodical popular re-election, will be found, I apprehend, to be
one of the most dangerous errors ever yet committed by democracy: and,
were it not that the practical good sense which never totally
deserts the people of the United States is said to be producing a
reaction, likely in no long time to lead to the retraction of the
error, it might with reason be regarded as the first great downward
step in the degeneration of modern democratic government.*

  * I have been informed, however, that in the States which have made
their judges elective, the choice is not really made by the people,
but by the leaders of parties; no elector ever thinking of voting
for any one but the party candidate: and that, in consequence, the
person elected is usually in effect the same who would have been
appointed to the office by the President or by the Governor of the
State. Thus one bad practice limits and corrects another; and the
habit of voting en masse under a party banner, which is so full of
evil in all cases in which the function of electing is rightly
vested in the people, tends to alleviate a still greater mischief in a
case where the officer to be elected is one who ought to be chosen not
by the people but for them.

  With regard to that large and important body which constitutes the
permanent strength of the public service, those who do not change with
changes of politics, but remain to aid every minister by their
experience and traditions, inform him by their knowledge of
business, and conduct official details under his general control;
those, in short, who form the class of professional public servants,
entering their profession as others do while young, in the hope of
rising progressively to its higher grades as they advance in life;
it is evidently inadmissible that these should be liable to be
turned out, and deprived of the whole benefit of their previous
service, except for positive, proved, and serious misconduct. Not,
of course, such delinquency only as makes them amenable to the law;
but voluntary neglect of duty, or conduct implying untrustworthiness
for the purposes for which their trust is given them. Since,
therefore, unless in case of personal culpability, there is no way
of getting rid of them except by quartering them on the public as
pensioners, it is of the greatest importance that the appointments
should be well made in the first instance; and it remains to be
considered by what mode of appointment this purpose can best be

  In making first appointments, little danger is to be apprehended
from want of special skill and knowledge in the choosers, but much
from partiality, and private or political interest. Being, as a
rule, appointed at the commencement of manhood, not as having
learnt, but in order that they may learn, their profession, the only
thing by which the best candidates can be discriminated is proficiency
in the ordinary branches of liberal education: and this can be
ascertained without difficulty, provided there be the requisite
pains and the requisite impartiality in those who are appointed to
inquire into it. Neither the one nor the other can reasonably be
expected from a minister; who must rely wholly on recommendations, and
however disinterested as to his personal wishes, never will be proof
against the solicitations of persons who have the power of influencing
his own election, or whose political adherence is important to the
ministry to which he belongs. These considerations have introduced the
practice of submitting all candidates for first appointments to a
public examination, conducted by persons not engaged in politics,
and of the same class and quality with the examiners for honours at
the Universities. This would probably be the best plan under any
system; and under our parliamentary government it is the only one
which affords a chance, I do not say of honest appointment, but even
of abstinence from such as are manifestly and flagrantly profligate.

  It is also absolutely necessary that the examinations should be
competitive, and the appointments given to those who are most
successful. A mere pass examination never, in the long run, does
more than exclude absolute dunces. When the question, in the mind of
an examiner, lies between blighting the prospects of an individual,
and neglecting a duty to the public which, in the particular instance,
seldom appears of first rate importance; and when he is sure to be
bitterly reproached for doing the first, while in general no one
will either know or care whether he has done the latter; the
balance, unless he is a man of very unusual stamp, inclines to the
side of good nature. A relaxation in one instance establishes a
claim to it in others, which every repetition of indulgence makes it
more difficult to resist; each of these in succession becomes a
precedent for more, until the standard of proficiency sinks
gradually to something almost contemptible. Examinations for degrees
at the two great Universities have generally been as slender in
their requirements as those for honours are trying and serious.
Where there is no inducement to exceed a certain minimum, the
minimum comes to be the maximum: it becomes the general practice not
to aim at more, and as in everything there are some who do not
attain all they aim at, however low the standard may be pitched, there
are always several who fall short of it. When, on the contrary, the
appointments are given to those, among a great number of candidates,
who most distinguish themselves, and where the successful
competitors are classed in order of merit, not only each is stimulated
to do his very utmost, but the influence is felt in every place of
liberal education throughout the country. It becomes with every
schoolmaster an object of ambition, and an avenue to success, to
have furnished pupils who have gained a high place in these
competitions; and there is hardly any other mode in which the State
can do so much to raise the quality of educational institutions
throughout the country.

  Though the principle of competitive examinations for public
employment is of such recent introduction in this country, and is
still so imperfectly carried out, the Indian service being as yet
nearly the only case in which it exists in its completeness, a
sensible effect has already begun to be produced on the places of
middle-class education; notwithstanding the difficulties which the
principle has encountered from the disgracefully low existing state of
education in the country, which these very examinations have brought
into strong light. So contemptible has the standard of acquirement
been found to be among the youths who obtain the nomination from the
minister which entitles them to offer themselves as candidates, that
the competition of such candidates produces almost a poorer result
than would be obtained from a mere pass examination; for no one
would think of fixing the conditions of a pass examination so low as
is actually found sufficient to enable a young man to surpass his
fellow-candidates. Accordingly, it is said that successive years
show on the whole a decline of attainments, less effort being made
because the results of former examinations have proved that the
exertions then used were greater than would have been sufficient to
attain the object. Partly from this decrease of effort, and partly
because, even at the examinations which do not require a previous
nomination, conscious ignorance reduces the number of competitors to a
mere handful, it has so happened that though there have always been
a few instances of great proficiency, the lower part of the list of
successful candidates represents but a very moderate amount of
acquirement; and we have it on the word of the Commissioners that
nearly all who have been unsuccessful have owed their failure to
ignorance not of the higher branches of instruction, but of its very
humblest elements- spelling and arithmetic.

  The outcries which continue to be made against these examinations by
some of the organs of opinion, are often, I regret to say, as little
creditable to the good faith as to the good sense of the assailants.
They proceed partly by misrepresentation of the kind of ignorance
which, as a matter of fact, actually leads to failure in the
examinations. They quote with emphasis the most recondite questions*
which can be shown to have been ever asked, and make it appear as if
unexceptionable answers to all these were made the sine qua non of
success. Yet it has been repeated to satiety that such questions are
not put because it is expected of every one that he should answer
them, but in order that whoever is able to do so may have the means of
proving and availing himself of that portion of his knowledge. It is
not as a ground of rejection, but as an additional means of success,
that this opportunity is given. We are then asked whether the kind
of knowledge supposed in this, that, or the other question is
calculated to be of any use to the candidate after he has attained his
object. People differ greatly in opinion as to what knowledge is
useful. There are persons in existence, and a late Foreign Secretary
of State is one of them, who think English spelling a useless
accomplishment in a diplomatic attache, or a clerk in a government
office. About one thing the objectors seem to be unanimous, that
general mental cultivation is not useful in these employments,
whatever else may be so. If, however (as I presume to think), it is
useful, or if any education at all is useful, it must be tested by the
tests most likely to show whether the candidate possesses it or not.
To ascertain whether he has been well educated, he must be
interrogated in the things which he is likely to know if he has been
well educated, even though not directly pertinent to the work to which
he is to be appointed. Will those who object to his being questioned
in classics and mathematics, in a country where the only things
regularly taught are classics and mathematics, tell us what they would
have him questioned in? There seems, however, to be equal objection to
examining him in these, and to examining him in anything but these. If
the Commissioners- anxious to open a door of admission to those who
have not gone through the routine of a grammar school, or who make
up for the smallness of their knowledge of what is there taught by
greater knowledge of something else- allow marks to be gained by
proficiency in any other subject of real utility, they are
reproached for that too. Nothing will satisfy the objectors but free
admission of total ignorance.

  * Not always, however, the most recondite; for a late denouncer of
competitive examination in the House of Commons had the naivete to
produce a set of almost elementary questions in algebra, history,
and geography, as a proof of the exorbitant amount of high
scientific attainment which the Commissioners were so wild as to

  We are triumphantly told that neither Clive nor Wellington could
have passed the test which is prescribed for an aspirant to an
engineer cadetship. As if, because Clive and Wellington did not do
what was not required of them, they could not have done it if it had
been required. If it be only meant to inform us that it is possible to
be a great general without these things, so it is without many other
things which are very useful to great generals. Alexander the Great
had never heard of Vauban's rules, nor could Julius Caesar speak
French. We are next informed that bookworms, a term which seems to
be held applicable to whoever has the smallest tincture of
book- knowledge, may not be good at bodily exercises, or have the
habits of gentlemen. This is a very common line of remark with
dunces of condition; but whatever the dunces may think, they have no
monopoly of either gentlemanly habits or bodily activity. Wherever
these are needed, let them be inquired into and separately provided
for, not to the exclusion of mental qualifications, but in addition.
Meanwhile, I am credibly informed, that in the Military Academy at
Woolwich the competition cadets are as superior to those admitted on
the old system of nomination in these respects as in all others;
that they learn even their drill more quickly; as indeed might be
expected, for an intelligent person learns all things sooner than a
stupid one: and that in general demeanour they contrast so
favourably with their predecessors, that the authorities of the
institutions are impatient for the day to arrive when the last remains
of the old leaven shall have disappeared from the place. If this be
so, and it is easy to ascertain whether it is so, it is to be hoped we
shall soon have heard for the last time that ignorance is a better
qualification than knowledge for the military and a fortiori for every
other, profession; or that any one good quality, however little
apparently connected with liberal education, is at all likely to be
promoted by going without it.

  Though the first admission to government employment be decided by
competitive examination, it would in most cases be impossible that
subsequent promotion should be so decided: and it seems proper that
this should take place, as it usually does at present, on a mixed
system of seniority and selection. Those whose duties are of a routine
character should rise by seniority to the highest point to which
duties merely of that description can carry them; while those to
whom functions of particular trust, and requiring special capacity,
are confided, should be selected from the body on the discretion of
the chief of the office. And this selection will generally be made
honestly by him if the original appointments take place by open
competition: for under that system his establishment will generally
consist of individuals to whom, but for the official connection, he
would have been a stranger. If among them there be any in whom he,
or his political friends and supporters, take an interest, it will
be but occasionally, and only when, to this advantage of connection,
is added, as far as the initiatory examination could test it, at least
equality of real merit. And, except when there is a very strong motive
to job these appointments, there is always a strong one to appoint the
fittest person; being the one who gives to his chief the most useful
assistance, saves him most trouble, and helps most to build up that
reputation for good management of public business which necessarily
and properly redounds to the credit of the minister, however much
the qualities to which it is immediately owing may be those of his

                             Chapter 15

                   Of Local Representative Bodies.

  IT IS BUT a small portion of the public business of a country
which can be well done, or safely attempted, by the central
authorities; and even in our own government, the least centralised
in Europe, the legislative portion at least of the governing body
busies itself far too much with local affairs, employing the supreme
power of the State in cutting small knots which there ought to be
other and better means of untying. The enormous amount of private
business which takes up the time of Parliament, and the thoughts of
its individual members, distracting them from the proper occupations
of the great council of the nation, is felt by all thinkers and
observers as a serious evil, and what is worse, an increasing one.

  It would not be appropriate to the limited design of this treatise
to discuss at large the great question, in no way peculiar to
representative government, of the proper limits of governmental
action. I have said elsewhere* what seemed to me most essential
respecting the principles by which the extent of that action ought
to be determined. But after subtracting from the functions performed
by most European governments those which ought not to be undertaken by
public authorities at all, there still remains so great and various an
aggregate of duties that, if only on the principle of division of
labour, it is indispensable to share them between central and local
authorities. Not only are separate executive officers required for
purely local duties (an amount of separation which exists under all
governments), but the popular control over those officers can only
be advantageously exerted through a separate organ. Their original
appointment, the function of watching and checking them, the duty of
providing, or the discretion of withholding, the supplies necessary
for their operations, should rest, not with the national Parliament or
the national executive, but with the people of the locality. In some
of the New England States these functions are still exercised directly
by the assembled people; it is said with better results than might
be expected; and those highly educated communities are so well
satisfied with this primitive mode of local government, that they have
no desire to exchange it for the only representative system they are
acquainted with, by which all minorities are disfranchised. Such
very peculiar circumstances, however, are required to make this
arrangement work tolerably in practice, that recourse must generally
be had to the plan of representative sub-Parliaments for local
affairs. These exist in England, but very incompletely, and with great
irregularity and want of system: in some other countries much less
popularly governed their constitution is far more rational. In England
there has always been more liberty, but worse organisation, while in
other countries there is better organisation, but less liberty. It
is necessary, then, that in addition to the national representation
there should be municipal and provincial representations: and the
two questions which remain to be resolved are, how the local
representative bodies should be constituted, and what should be the
extent of their functions.

  * On Liberty, concluding chapter; and, at greater length, in the
final chapter of Principles of Political Economy.

  In considering these questions two points require an equal degree of
our attention: how the local business itself can be best done; and how
its transaction can be made most instrumental to the nourishment of
public spirit and the development of intelligence. In an earlier
part of this inquiry I have dwelt in strong language- hardly any
language is strong enough to express the strength of my
conviction- on the importance of that portion of the operation of
free institutions which may be called the public education of the
citizens. Now, of this operation the local administrative institutions
are the chief instrument. Except by the part they may take as
jurymen in the administration of justice, the mass of the population
have very little opportunity of sharing personally in the conduct of
the general affairs of the community. Reading newspapers, and
perhaps writing to them, public meetings, and solicitations of
different sorts addressed to the political authorities, are the extent
of the participation of private citizens in general politics during
the interval between one parliamentary election and another. Though it
is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these various liberties,
both as securities for freedom and as means of general cultivation,
the practice which they give is more in thinking than in action, and
in thinking without the responsibilities of action; which with most
people amounts to little more than passively receiving the thoughts of
some one else. But in the case of local bodies, besides the function
of electing, many citizens in turn have the chance of being elected,
and many, either by selection or by rotation, fill one or other of the
numerous local executive offices. In these positions they have to
act for public interests, as well as to think and to speak, and the
thinking cannot all be done by proxy. It may be added, that these
local functions, not being in general sought by the higher ranks,
carry down the important political education which they are the
means of conferring to a much lower grade in society. The mental
discipline being thus a more important feature in local concerns
than in the general affairs of the State, while there are not such
vital interests dependent on the quality of the administration, a
greater weight may be given to the former consideration, and the
latter admits much more frequently of being postponed to it than in
matters of general legislation and the conduct of imperial affairs.

  The proper constitution of local representative bodies does not
present much difficulty. The principles which apply to it do not
differ in any respect from those applicable to the national
representation. The same obligation exists, as in the case of the more
important function, for making the bodies elective; and the same
reasons operate as in that case, but with still greater force, for
giving them a widely democratic basis: the dangers being less, and the
advantages, in point of popular education and cultivation, in some
respects even greater. As the principal duty of the local bodies
consists of the imposition and expenditure of local taxation, the
electoral franchise should vest in all who contribute to the local
rates, to the exclusion of all who do not. I assume that there is no
indirect taxation, no octroi duties, or that if there are, they are
supplementary only; those on whom their burden falls being also
rated to a direct assessment. The representation of minorities
should be provided for in the same manner as in the national
Parliament, and there are the same strong reasons for plurality of
votes. Only, there is not so decisive an objection, in the inferior as
in the higher body, to making the plural voting depend (as in some
of the local elections of our own country) on a mere money
qualification: for the honest and frugal dispensation of money forms
so much larger a part of the business of the local than of the
national body, that there is more justice as well as policy in
allowing a greater proportional influence to those who have a larger
money interest at stake.

  In the most recently established of our local representative
institutions, the Boards of Guardians, the justices of peace of the
district sit ex officio along with the elected members, in number
limited by law to a third of the whole. In the peculiar constitution
of English society I have no doubt of the beneficial effect of this
provision. It secures the presence, in these bodies, of a more
educated class than it would perhaps be practicable to attract thither
on any other terms; and while the limitation in number of the ex
officio members precludes them from acquiring predominance by mere
numerical strength, they, as a virtual representation of another
class, having sometimes a different interest from the rest, are a
check upon the class interests of the farmers or petty shopkeepers who
form the bulk of the elected Guardians. A similar commendation
cannot be given to the constitution of the only provincial boards we
possess, the Quarter Sessions, consisting of the justices of peace
alone; on whom, over and above their judicial duties, some of the most
important parts of the administrative business of the country depend
for their performance. The mode of formation of these bodies is most
anomalous, they being neither elected, nor, in any proper sense of the
term, nominated, but holding their important functions, like the
feudal lords to whom they succeeded, virtually by right of their
acres: the appointment vested in the Crown (or, speaking
practically, in one of themselves, the Lord Lieutenant) being made use
of only as a means of excluding any one who it is thought would do
discredit to the body, or, now and then, one who is on the wrong
side in politics. The institution is the most aristocratic in
principle which now remains in England; far more so than the House
of Lords, for it grants public money and disposes of important
public interests, not in conjunction with a popular assembly, but
alone. It is clung to with proportionate tenacity by our
aristocratic classes; but is obviously at variance with all the
principles which are the foundation of representative government. In a
County Board there is not the same justification as in Boards of
Guardians, for even an admixture of ex officio with elected members:
since the business of a county being on a sufficiently large scale
to be an object of interest and attraction to country gentlemen,
they would have no more difficulty in getting themselves elected to
the Board than they have in being returned to Parliament as county
members. In regard to the proper circumscription of the constituencies
which elect the local representative bodies; the principle which, when
applied as an exclusive and unbending rule to parliamentary
representation, is inappropriate, namely community of local interests,
is here the only just and applicable one. The very object of having
a local representation is in order that those who have any interest in
common, which they do not share with the general body of their
countrymen, may manage that joint interest by themselves: and the
purpose is contradicted if the distribution of the local
representation follows any other rule than the grouping of those joint
interests. There are local interests peculiar to every town, whether
great or small, and common to all its inhabitants: every town,
therefore, without distinction of size, ought to have its municipal
council. It is equally obvious that every town ought to have but
one. The different quarters of the same town have seldom or never
any material diversities of local interest; they all require to have
the same things done, the same expenses incurred; and, except as to
their churches, which it is probably desirable to leave under simply
parochial management, the same arrangements may be made to serve for
all. Paving, lighting, water supply, drainage, port and market
regulations, cannot without great waste and inconvenience be different
for different quarters of the same town. The subdivision of London
into six or seven independent districts, each with its separate
arrangements for local business (several of them without unity of
administration even within themselves), prevents the possibility of
consecutive or well regulated cooperation for common objects,
precludes any uniform principle for the discharge of local duties,
compels the general government to take things upon itself which
would be best left to local authorities if there were any whose
authority extended to the entire metropolis, and answers no purpose
but to keep up the fantastical trappings of that union of modern
jobbing and antiquated foppery, the Corporation of the City of London.

  Another equally important principle is, that in each local
circumscription there should be but one elected body for all local
business, not different bodies for different parts of it. Division
of labour does not mean cutting up every business into minute
fractions; it means the union of such operations as are fit to be
performed by the same persons, and the separation of such as can be
better performed by different persons. The executive duties of the
locality do indeed require to be divided into departments, for the
same reason as those of the State; because they are of diverse
kinds, each requiring knowledge peculiar to itself, and needing, for
its due performance, the undivided attention of a specially
qualified functionary. But the reasons for subdivision which apply
to the execution do not apply to the control. The business of the
elective body is not to do the work, but to see that it is properly
done, and that nothing necessary is left undone. This function can
be fulfilled for all departments by the same superintending body;
and by a collective and comprehensive far better than by a minute
and microscopic view. It is as absurd in public affairs as it would be
in private that every workman should be looked after by a
superintendent to himself. The Government of the Crown consists of
many departments, and there are many ministers to conduct them, but
those ministers have not a Parliament apiece to keep them to their
duty. The local, like the national Parliament, has for its proper
business to consider the interest of the locality as a whole, composed
of parts all of which must be adapted to one another, and attended
to in the order and ratio of their importance.

  There is another very weighty reason for uniting the control of
all the business of a locality under one body. The greatest
imperfection of popular local institutions, and the chief cause of the
failure which so often attends them, is the low calibre of the men
by whom they are almost always carried on. That these should be of a
very miscellaneous character is, indeed, part of the usefulness of the
institution; it is that circumstance chiefly which renders it a school
of political capacity and general intelligence. But a school
supposes teachers as well as scholars; the utility of the
instruction greatly depends on its bringing inferior minds into
contact with superior, a contact which in the ordinary course of
life is altogether exceptional, and the want of which contributes more
than anything else to keep the generality of mankind on one level of
contented ignorance. The school, moreover, is worthless, and a
school of evil instead of good, if through the want of due
surveillance, and of the presence within itself of a higher order of
characters, the action of the body is allowed, as it so often is, to
degenerate into an equally unscrupulous and stupid pursuit of the
self-interest of its members. Now it is quite hopeless to induce
persons of a high class, either socially or intellectually, to take
a share of local administration in a corner by piece-meal, as
members of a Paving Board or a Drainage Commission. The entire local
business of their town is not more than a sufficient object to
induce men whose tastes incline them and whose knowledge qualifies
them for national affairs to become members of a mere local body,
and devote to it the time and study which are necessary to render
their presence anything more than a screen for the jobbing of inferior
persons under the shelter of their responsibility. A mere Board of
Works, though it comprehend the entire metropolis, is sure to be
composed of the same class of persons as the vestries of the London
parishes; nor is it practicable, or even desirable, that such should
not form the majority; but it is important for every purpose which
local bodies are designed to serve, whether it be the enlightened
and honest performance of their special duties, or the cultivation
of the political intelligence of the nation, that every such body
should contain a portion of the very best minds of the locality: who
are thus brought into perpetual contact, of the most useful kind, with
minds of a lower grade, receiving from them what local or professional
knowledge they have to give, and in return inspiring them with a
portion of their own more enlarged ideas, and higher and more
enlightened purposes.

  A mere village has no claim to a municipal representation. By a
village I mean a place whose inhabitants are not markedly
distinguished by occupation or social relations from those of the
rural districts adjoining, and for whose local wants the
arrangements made for the surrounding territory will suffice. Such
small places have rarely a sufficient public to furnish a tolerable
municipal council: if they contain any talent or knowledge
applicable to public business, it is apt to be all concentrated in
some one man, who thereby becomes the dominator of the place. It is
better that such places should be merged in a larger
circumscription. The local representation of rural districts will
naturally be determined by geographical considerations; with due
regard to those sympathies of feeling by which human beings are so
much aided to act in concert, and which partly follow historical
boundaries, such as those of counties or provinces, and partly
community of interest and occupation, as in agriculture, maritime,
manufacturing, or mining districts. Different kinds of local
business require different areas of representation. The Unions of
parishes have been fixed on as the most appropriate basis for the
representative bodies which superintend the relief of indigence;
while, for the proper regulation of highways, or prisons, or police, a
large extent, like that of an average county, is not more than
sufficient. In these large districts, therefore, the maxim, that an
elective body constituted in any locality should have authority over
all the local concerns common to the locality, requires modification
from another principle- as well as from the competing consideration
of the importance of obtaining for the discharge of the local duties
the highest qualifications possible. For example, if it be necessary
(as I believe it to be) for the proper administration of the Poor Laws
that the area of rating should not be more extensive than most of
the present Unions, a principle which requires a Board of Guardians
for each Union- yet, as a much more highly qualified class of persons
is likely to be obtainable for a County Board than those who compose
an average Board of Guardians, it may on that ground be expedient to
reserve for the County Boards some higher descriptions of local
business, which might otherwise have been conveniently managed
within itself by each separate Union.

  Besides the controlling council, or local sub-Parliament, local
business has its executive department. With respect to this, the
same questions arise as with respect to the executive authorities in
the State; and they may, for the most part, be answered in the same
manner. The principles applicable to all public trusts are in
substance the same. In the first place, each executive officer
should be single, and singly responsible for the whole of the duty
committed to his charge. In the next place, he should be nominated,
not elected. It is ridiculous that a surveyor, or a health officer, or
even a collector of rates, should be appointed by popular suffrage.
The popular choice usually depends on interest with a few local
leaders, who, as they are not supposed to make the appointment, are
not responsible for it; or on an appeal to sympathy, founded on having
twelve children, and having been a rate-payer in the parish for thirty
years. If in cases of this description election by the population is a
farce, appointment by the local representative body is little less
objectionable. Such bodies have a perpetual tendency to become
joint-stock associations for carrying into effect the private jobs
of their various members. Appointments should be made on the
individual responsibility of the Chairman of the body, let him be
called Mayor, Chairman of Quarter Sessions, or by whatever other
title. He occupies in the locality a position analogous to that of the
prime minister in the State, and under a well organised system the
appointment and watching of the local officers would be the most
important part of his duty: he himself being appointed by the
Council from its own number, subject either to annual re-election,
or to removal by a vote of the body.

  From the constitution of the local bodies I now pass to the
equally important and more difficult subject of their proper
attributions. This question divides itself into two parts: what should
be their duties, and whether they should have full authority within
the sphere of those duties, or should be liable to any, and what,
interference on the part of the central government.

  It is obvious, to begin with, that all business purely local- all
which concerns only a single locality- should devolve upon the local
authorities. The paving, lighting, and cleansing of the streets of a
town, and in ordinary circumstances the draining of its houses, are of
little consequence to any but its inhabitants. The nation at large
is interested in them in no other way than that in which it is
interested in the private well-being of all its individual citizens.
But among the duties classed as local, or performed by local
functionaries, there are many which might with equal propriety be
termed national, being the share, belonging to the locality, of some
branch of the public administration in the efficiency of which the
whole nation is alike interested: the gaols, for instance, most of
which in this country are under county management; the local police;
the local administration of justice, much of which, especially in
corporate towns, is performed by officers elected by the locality, and
paid from local funds. None of these can be said to be matters of
local, as distinguished from national, importance. It would not be a
matter personally indifferent to the rest of the country if any part
of it became a nest of robbers or a focus of demoralisation, owing
to the maladministration of its police; or if, through the bad
regulations of its gaol, the punishment which the courts of justice
intended to inflict on the criminals confined therein (who might
have come from, or committed their offences in, any other district)
might be doubled in intensity, or lowered to practical impunity. The
points, moreover, which constitute good management of these things are
the same everywhere; there is no good reason why police, or gaols,
or the administration of justice, should be differently managed in one
part of the kingdom and in another; while there is great peril that in
things so important, and to which the most instructed minds
available to the State are not more than adequate, the lower average
of capacities which alone can be counted on for the service of the
localities might commit errors of such magnitude as to be a serious
blot upon the general administration of the country.

  Security of person and property, and equal justice between
individuals, are the first needs of society, and the primary ends of
government: if these things can be left to any responsibility below
the highest, there is nothing, except war and treaties, which requires
a general government at all. Whatever are the best arrangements for
securing these primary objects should be made universally
obligatory, and, to secure their enforcement, should be placed under
central superintendence. It is often useful, and with the institutions
of our own country even necessary, from the scarcity, in the
localities, of officers representing the general government, that
the execution of duties imposed by the central authority should be
entrusted to functionaries appointed for local purposes by the
locality. But experience is daily forcing upon the public a conviction
of the necessity of having at least inspectors appointed by the
general government to see that the local officers do their duty. If
prisons are under local management, the central government appoints
inspectors of prisons to take care that the rules laid down by
Parliament are observed, and to suggest others if the state of the
gaols shows them to be requisite: as there are inspectors of
factories, and inspectors of schools, to watch over the observance
of the Acts of Parliament relating to the first, and the fulfilment of
the conditions on which State assistance is granted to the latter.

  But, if the administration of justice, police and gaols included, is
both so universal a concern, and so much a matter of general science
independent of local peculiarities, that it may be, and ought to be,
uniformly regulated throughout the country, and its regulation
enforced by more trained and skilful hands than those of purely
local authorities- there is also business, such as the administration
of the poor laws, sanitary regulation, and others, which, while really
interesting to the whole country, cannot consistently with the very
purposes of local administration, be, managed otherwise than by the
localities. In regard to such duties the question arises, how far
the local authorities ought to be trusted with discretionary power,
free from any superintendence or control of the State.

  To decide this question it is essential to consider what is the
comparative position of the central and the local authorities as
capacity for the work, and security against negligence or abuse. In
the first place, the local representative bodies and their officers
are almost certain to be of a much lower grade of intelligence and
knowledge than Parliament and the national executive. Secondly,
besides being themselves of inferior qualifications, they are
watched by, and accountable to, an inferior public opinion. The public
under whose eyes they act, and by whom they are criticised, is both
more limited in extent, and generally far less enlightened, than
that which surrounds and admonishes the highest authorities at the
capital; while the comparative smallness of the interests involved
causes even that inferior public to direct its thoughts to the subject
less intently, and with less solicitude. Far less interference is
exercised by the press and by public discussion, and that which is
exercised may with much more impunity be disregarded in the
proceedings of local than in those of national authorities.

  Thus far the advantage seems wholly on the side of management by the
central government. But, when we look more closely, these motives of
preference are found to be balanced by others fully as substantial. If
the local authorities and public are inferior to the central ones in
knowledge of the principles of administration, they have the
compensating advantage of a far more direct interest in the result.
A man's neighbours or his landlord may be much cleverer than
himself, and not without an indirect interest in his prosperity, but
for all that his interests will be better attended to in his own
keeping than in theirs. It is further to be remembered, that even
supposing the central government to administer through its own
officers, its officers do not act at the centre, but in the
locality: and however inferior the local public may be to the central,
it is the local public alone which has any opportunity of watching
them, and it is the local opinion alone which either acts directly
upon their own conduct, or calls the attention of the government to
the points in which they may require correction. It is but in
extreme cases that the general opinion of the country is brought to
bear at all upon details of local administration, and still more
rarely has it the means of deciding upon them with any just
appreciation of the case. Now, the local opinion necessarily acts
far more forcibly upon purely local administrators. They, in the
natural course of things, are permanent residents, not expecting to be
withdrawn from the place when they cease to exercise authority in
it; and their authority itself depends, by supposition, on the will of
the local public. I need not dwell on the deficiencies of the
central authority in detailed knowledge of local persons and things,
and the too great engrossment of its time and thoughts by other
concerns, to admit of its acquiring the quantity and quality of
local knowledge necessary even for deciding on complaints, and
enforcing responsibility from so great a number of local agents. In
the details of management, therefore, the local bodies will
generally have the advantage; but in comprehension of the principles
even of purely local management, the superiority of the central
government, when rightly constituted, ought to be prodigious: not only
by reason of the probably great personal superiority of the
individuals composing it, and the multitude of thinkers and writers
who are at all times engaged in pressing useful ideas upon their
notice, but also because the knowledge and experience of any local
authority is but local knowledge and experience, confined to their own
part of the country and its modes of management, whereas the central
government has the means of knowing all that is to be learnt from
the united experience of the whole kingdom, with the addition of
easy access to that of foreign countries.

  The practical conclusion from these premises is not difficult to
draw. The authority which is most conversant with principles should be
supreme over principles, while that which is most competent in details
should have the details left to it. The principal business of the
central authority should be to give instruction, of the local
authority to apply it. Power may be localised, but knowledge, to be
most useful, must be centralised; there must be somewhere a focus at
which all its scattered rays are collected, that the broken and
coloured lights which exist elsewhere may find there what is necessary
to complete and purify them. To every branch of local administration
which affects the general interest there should be a corresponding
central organ, either a minister, or some specially appointed
functionary under him; even if that functionary does no more than
collect information from all quarters, and bring the experience
acquired in one locality to the knowledge of another where it is
wanted. But there is also something more than this for the central
authority to do. It ought to keep open a perpetual communication
with the localities: informing itself by their experience, and them by
its own; giving advice freely when asked, volunteering it when seen to
be required; compelling publicity and recordation of proceedings,
and enforcing obedience to every general law which the legislature has
laid down on the subject of local management.

  That some such laws ought to be laid down few are likely to deny.
The localities may be allowed to mismanage their own interests, but
not to prejudice those of others, nor violate those principles of
justice between one person and another of which it is the duty of
the State to maintain the rigid observance. If the local majority
attempts to oppress the minority, or one class another, the State is
bound to interpose. For example, all local rates ought to be voted
exclusively by the local representative body; but that body, though
elected solely by rate-payers, may raise its revenues by imposts of
such a kind, or assess them in such a manner, as to throw an unjust
share of the burden on the poor, the rich, or some particular class of
the population: it is the duty, therefore, of the legislature, while
leaving the mere amount of the local taxes to the discretion of the
local body, to lay down authoritatively the modes of taxation, and
rules of assessment, which alone the localities shall be permitted
to use.

  Again, in the administration of public charity the industry and
morality of the whole labouring population depend, to a most serious
extent, upon adherence to certain fixed principles in awarding relief.
Though it belongs essentially to the local functionaries to
determine who, according to those principles, is entitled to be
relieved, the national Parliament is the proper authority to prescribe
the principles themselves; and it would neglect a most important
part of its duty if it did not, in a matter of such grave national
concern, lay down imperative rules, and make effectual provision
that those rules should not be departed from. What power of actual
interference with the local administrators it may be necessary to
retain, for the due enforcement of the laws, is a question of detail
into which it would be useless to enter. The laws themselves will
naturally define the penalties, and fix the mode of their enforcement.
It may be requisite, to meet extreme cases, that the power of the
central authority should extend to dissolving the local representative
council, or dismissing the local executive: but not to making new
appointments, or suspending the local institutions. Where Parliament
has not interfered, neither ought any branch of the executive to
interfere with authority; but as an adviser and critic, an enforcer of
the laws, and a denouncer to Parliament or the local constituencies of
conduct which it deems condemnable, the functions of the executive are
of the greatest possible value.

  Some may think that however much the central authority surpasses the
local in knowledge of the principles of administration, the great
object which has been so much insisted on, the social and political
education of the citizens, requires that they should be left to manage
these matters by their own, however imperfect, lights. To this it
might be answered, that the education of the citizens is not the
only thing to be considered; government and administration do not
exist for that alone, great as its importance is. But the objection
shows a very imperfect understanding of the function of popular
institutions as a means of political instruction. It is but a poor
education that associates ignorance with ignorance, and leaves them,
if they care for knowledge, to grope their way to it without help, and
to do without it if they do not. What is wanted is, the means of
making ignorance aware of itself, and able to profit by knowledge;
accustoming minds which know only routine to act upon, and feel the
value of principles: teaching them to compare different modes of
action, and learn, by the use of their reason, to distinguish the
best. When we desire to have a good school, we do not eliminate the
teacher. The old remark, "as the schoolmaster is, so will be the
school," is as true of the indirect schooling of grown people by
public business as of the schooling of youth in academies and
colleges. A government which attempts to do everything is aptly
compared by M. Charles de Remusat to a schoolmaster who does all the
pupils' tasks for them; he may be very popular with the pupils, but he
will teach them little. A government, on the other hand, which neither
does anything itself that can possibly be done by any one else, nor
shows any one else how to do anything, is like a school in which there
is no schoolmaster, but only pupil teachers who have never
themselves been taught.

                          Chapter 16

       Of Nationality, as connected with Representative Government.

  A PORTION of mankind may be said to constitute a Nationality if they
are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist
between them and any others- which make them co-operate with each
other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the
same government, and desire that it should be government by themselves
or a portion of themselves exclusively. This feeling of nationality
may have been generated by various causes. Sometimes it is the
effect of identity of race and descent. Community of language, and
community of religion, greatly contribute to it. Geographical limits
are one of its causes. But the strongest of all is identity of
political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and
consequent community of recollections; collective pride and
humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in
the past. None of these circumstances, however, are either
indispensable, or necessarily sufficient by themselves. Switzerland
has a strong sentiment of nationality, though the cantons are of
different races, different languages, and different religions.
Sicily has, throughout history, felt itself quite distinct in
nationality from Naples, notwithstanding identity of religion,
almost identity of language, and a considerable amount of common
historical antecedents. The Flemish and the Walloon provinces of
Belgium, notwithstanding diversity of race and language, have a much
greater feeling of common nationality than the former have with
Holland, or the latter with France. Yet in general the national
feeling is proportionally weakened by the failure of any of the causes
which contribute to it. Identity of language, literature, and, to some
extent, of race and recollections, have maintained the feeling of
nationality in considerable strength among the different portions of
the German name, though they have at no time been really united
under the same government; but the feeling has never reached to making
the separate states desire to get rid of their autonomy. Among
Italians an identity far from complete, of language and literature,
combined with a geographical position which separates them by a
distinct line from other countries, and, perhaps more than
everything else, the possession of a common name, which makes them all
glory in the past achievements in arts, arms, politics, religious
primacy, science, and literature, of any who share the same
designation, give rise to an amount of national feeling in the
population which, though still imperfect, has been sufficient to
produce the great events now passing before us, notwithstanding a
great mixture of races, and although they have never, in either
ancient or modern history, been under the same government, except
while that government extended or was extending itself over the
greater part of the known world.

  Where the sentiment of nationality exists in any force, there is a
prima facie case for uniting all the members of the nationality
under the same government, and a government to themselves apart.
This is merely saying that the question of government ought to be
decided by the governed. One hardly knows what any division of the
human race should be free to do if not to determine with which of
the various collective bodies of human beings they choose to associate

  But, when a people are ripe for free institutions, there is a
still more vital consideration. Free institutions are next to
impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a
people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak
different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the
working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences
which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the
different sections of the country. An altogether different set of
leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another.
The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them.
One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are
circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same
system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears
more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the
common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much
stronger than jealousy of the government. That any one of them feels
aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler is sufficient to determine
another to support that policy. Even if all are aggrieved, none feel
that they can rely on the others for fidelity in a joint resistance;
the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may
reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding
for the favour of the government against the rest. Above all, the
grand and only effectual security in the last resort against the
despotism of the government is in that case wanting: the sympathy of
the army with the people. The military are the part of every community
in whom, from the nature of the case, the distinction between their
fellow-countrymen and foreigners is the deepest and strongest. To
the rest of the people foreigners are merely strangers; to the
soldier, they are men against whom he may be called, at a week's
notice, to fight for life or death. The difference to him is that
between friends and foes- we may almost say between fellow-men and
another kind of animals: for as respects the enemy, the only law is
that of force, and the only mitigation the same as in the case of
other animals- that of simple humanity. Soldiers to whose feelings
half or three-fourths of the subjects of the same government are
foreigners will have no more scruple in mowing them down, and no more
desire to ask the reason why, than they would have in doing the same
thing against declared enemies. An army composed of various
nationalities has no other patriotism than devotion to the flag. Such
armies have been the executioners of liberty through the whole
duration of modern history. The sole bond which holds them together is
their officers and the government which they serve; and their only
idea, if they have any, of public duty is obedience to orders. A
government thus supported, by keeping its Hungarian regiments in Italy
and its Italian in Hungary, can long continue to rule in both places
with the iron rod of foreign conquerors.

  If it be said that so broadly marked a distinction between what is
due to a fellow-countryman and what is due merely to a human
creature is more worthy of savages than of civilised beings, and
ought, with the utmost energy, to be contended against, no one holds
that opinion more strongly than myself. But this object, one of the
worthiest to which human endeavour can be directed, can never, in
the present state of civilisation, be promoted by keeping different
nationalities of anything like equivalent strength under the same
government. In a barbarous state of society the case is sometimes
different. The government may then be interested in softening the
antipathies of the races that peace may be preserved and the country
more easily governed. But when there are either free institutions or a
desire for them, in any of the peoples artificially tied together, the
interest of the government lies in an exactly opposite direction. It
is then interested in keeping up and envenoming their antipathies that
they may be prevented from coalescing, and it may be enabled to use
some of them as tools for the enslavement of others. The Austrian
Court has now for a whole generation made these tactics its
principal means of government; with what fatal success, at the time of
the Vienna insurrection and the Hungarian contest, the world knows too
well. Happily there are now signs that improvement is too far advanced
to permit this policy to be any longer successful.

  For the preceding reasons, it is in general a necessary condition of
free institutions that the boundaries of governments should coincide
in the main with those of nationalities. But several considerations
are liable to conflict in practice with this general principle. In the
first place, its application is often precluded by geographical
hindrances. There are parts even of Europe in which different
nationalities are so locally intermingled that it is not practicable
for them to be under separate governments. The population of Hungary
is composed of Magyars, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, Roumans, and in some
districts Germans, so mixed up as to be incapable of local separation;
and there is no course open to them but to make a virtue of necessity,
and reconcile themselves to living together under equal rights and
laws. Their community of servitude, which dates only from the
destruction of Hungarian independence in 1849, seems to be ripening
and disposing them for such an equal union. The German colony of
East Prussia is cut off from Germany by part of the ancient Poland,
and being too weak to maintain separate independence, must, if
geographical continuity is to be maintained, be either under a
non-German government, or the intervening Polish territory must be
under a German one. Another considerable region in which the
dominant element of the population is German, the provinces of
Courland, Esthonia, and Livonia, is condemned by its local situation
to form part of a Slavonian state. In Eastern Germany itself there
is a large Slavonic population: Bohemia is principally Slavonic,
Silesia and other districts partially so. The most united country in
Europe, France, is far from being homogeneous: independently of the
fragments of foreign nationalities at its remote extremities, it
consists, as language and history prove, of two portions, one occupied
almost exclusively by a Gallo-Roman population, while in the other the
Frankish, Burgundian, and other Teutonic races form a considerable

  When proper allowance has been made for geographical exigencies,
another more purely moral and social consideration offers itself.
Experience proves that it is possible for one nationality to merge and
be absorbed in another: and when it was originally an inferior and
more backward portion of the human race the absorption is greatly to
its advantage. Nobody can suppose that it is not more beneficial to
a Breton, or a Basque of French Navarre, to be brought into the
current of the ideas and feelings of a highly civilised and cultivated
people- to be a member of the French nationality, admitted on equal
terms to all the privileges of French citizenship, sharing the
advantages of French protection, and the dignity and prestige of
French power- than to sulk on his own rocks, the half-savage relic of
past times, revolving in his own little mental orbit, without
participation or interest in the general movement of the world. The
same remark applies to the Welshman or the Scottish Highlander as
members of the British nation.

  Whatever really tends to the admixture of nationalities, and the
blending of their attributes and peculiarities in a common union, is a
benefit to the human race. Not by extinguishing types, of which, in
these cases, sufficient examples are sure to remain, but by
softening their extreme forms, and filling up the intervals between
them. The united people, like a crossed breed of animals (but in a
still greater degree, because the influences in operation are moral as
well as physical), inherits the special aptitudes and excellences of
all its progenitors, protected by the admixture from being exaggerated
into the neighbouring vices. But to render this admixture possible,
there must be peculiar conditions. The combinations of circumstances
which occur, and which effect the result, are various.

  The nationalities brought together under the same government may
be about equal in numbers and strength, or they may be very unequal.
If unequal, the least numerous of the two may either be the superior
in civilisation, or the inferior. Supposing it to be superior, it
may either, through that superiority, be able to acquire ascendancy
over the other, or it may be overcome by brute strength and reduced to
subjection. This last is a sheer mischief to the human race, and one
which civilised humanity with one accord should rise in arms to
prevent. The absorption of Greece by Macedonia was one of the greatest
misfortunes which ever happened to the world: that of any of the
principal countries of Europe by Russia would be a similar one.

  If the smaller nationality, supposed to be the more advanced in
improvement, is able to overcome the greater, as the Macedonians,
reinforced by the Greeks, did Asia, and the English India, there is
often a gain to civilisation: but the conquerors and the conquered
cannot in this case live together under the same free institutions.
The absorption of the conquerors in the less advanced people would
be an evil: these, must be governed as subjects, and the state of
things is either a benefit or a misfortune, according as the
subjugated people have or have not reached the state in which it is an
injury not to be under a free government, and according as the
conquerors do or do not use their superiority in a manner calculated
to fit the conquered for a higher stage of improvement. This topic
will be particularly treated of in a subsequent chapter.

  When the nationality which succeeds in overpowering the other is
both the most numerous and the most improved; and especially if the
subdued nationality is small, and has no hope of reasserting its
independence; then, if it is governed with any tolerable justice,
and if the members of the more powerful nationality are not made
odious by being invested with exclusive privileges, the smaller
nationality is gradually reconciled to its position, and becomes
amalgamated with the larger. No Bas-Breton, nor even any Alsatian, has
the smallest wish at the present day to be separated from France. If
all Irishmen have not yet arrived at the same disposition towards
England, it is partly because they are sufficiently numerous to be
capable of constituting a respectable nationality by themselves; but
principally because, until of late years, they had been so atrociously
governed, that all their best feelings combined with their bad ones in
rousing bitter resentment against the Saxon rule. This disgrace to
England, and calamity to the whole empire, has, it may be truly
said, completely ceased for nearly a generation. No Irishman is now
less free than an Anglo-Saxon, nor has a less share of every benefit
either to his country or to his individual fortunes than if he were
sprung from any other portion of the British dominions. The only
remaining real grievance of Ireland, that of the State Church, is
one which half, or nearly half, the people of the larger island have
in common with them. There is now next to nothing, except the memory
of the past, and the difference in the predominant religion, to keep
apart two races, perhaps the most fitted of any two in the world to be
the completing counterpart of one another. The consciousness of
being at last treated not only with equal justice but with equal
consideration is making such rapid way in the Irish nation as to be
wearing off all feelings that could make them insensible to the
benefits which the less numerous and less wealthy people must
necessarily derive from being fellow-citizens instead of foreigners to
those who are not only their nearest neighbours, but the wealthiest,
and one of the freest, as well as most civilised and powerful, nations
of the earth.

  The cases in which the greatest practical obstacles exist to the
blending of nationalities are when the nationalities which have been
bound together are nearly equal in numbers and in the other elements
of power. In such cases, each, confiding in its strength, and
feeling itself capable of maintaining an equal struggle with any of
the others, is unwilling to be merged in it: each cultivates with
party obstinacy its distinctive peculiarities; obsolete customs, and
even declining languages, are revived to deepen the separation; each
deems itself tyrannised over if any authority is exercised within
itself by functionaries of a rival race; and whatever is given to
one of the conflicting nationalities is considered to be taken from
all the rest. When nations, thus divided, are under a despotic
government which is a stranger to all of them, or which, though sprung
from one, yet feeling greater interest in its own power than in any
sympathies of nationality, assigns no privilege to either nation,
and chooses its instruments indifferently from all; in the course of a
few generations, identity of situation often produces harmony of
feeling, and the different races come to feel towards each other as
fellow-countrymen; particularly if they are dispersed over the same
tract of country. But if the era of aspiration to free government
arrives before this fusion has been effected, the opportunity has gone
by for effecting it. From that time, if the unreconciled nationalities
are geographically separate, and especially if their local position is
such that there is no natural fitness or convenience in their being
under the same government (as in the case of an Italian province under
a French or German yoke), there is not only an obvious propriety, but,
if either freedom or concord is cared for, a necessity, for breaking
the connection altogether. There may be cases in which the
provinces, after separation, might usefully remain united by a federal
tie: but it generally happens that if they are willing to forego
complete independence, and become members of a federation, each of
them has other neighbours with whom it would prefer to connect itself,
having more sympathies in common, if not also greater community of

                         Chapter 17

               Of Federal Representative Governments.

  PORTIONS OF mankind who are not fitted, or not disposed, to live
under the same internal government, may often with advantage be
federally united as to their relations with foreigners: both to
prevent wars among themselves, and for the sake of more effectual
protection against the aggression of powerful States.

  To render a federation advisable, several conditions are
necessary. The first is, that there should be a sufficient amount of
mutual sympathy among the populations. The federation binds them
always to fight on the same side; and if they have such feelings
towards one another, or such diversity of feeling towards their
neighbours, that they would generally prefer to fight on opposite
sides, the federal tie is neither likely to be of long duration, not
to be well observed while it subsists. The sympathies available for
the purpose are those of race, language, religion, and, above all,
of political institutions, as conducing most to a feeling of
identity of political interest. When a few free states, separately
insufficient for their own defence, are hemmed in on all sides by
military or feudal monarchs, who hate and despise freedom even in a
neighbour, those states have no chance for preserving liberty and
its blessings but by a federal union. The common interest arising from
this cause has in Switzerland, for several centuries, been found
adequate to maintain efficiently the federal bond, in spite not only
of difference of religion when religion was the grand source of
irreconcilable political enmity throughout Europe, but also in spite
of great weakness in the constitution of the federation itself. In
America, where all the conditions for the maintenance of union existed
at the highest point, with the sole drawback of difference of
institutions in the single but most important article of Slavery, this
one difference has gone so far in alienating from each other's
sympathies the two divisions of the Union, that the maintenance or
disruption of a tie of so much value to them both depends on the issue
of an obstinate civil war.

  A second condition of the stability of a federal government is
that the separate states be not so powerful as to be able to rely, for
protection against foreign encroachment, on their individual strength.
If they are, they will be apt to think that they do not gain, by union
with others, the equivalent of what they sacrifice in their own
liberty of action; and consequently, whenever the policy of the
Confederation, in things reserved to its cognisance, is different from
that which any one of its members would separately pursue, the
internal and sectional breach will, through absence of sufficient
anxiety to preserve the union, be in danger of going so far as to
dissolve it.

  A third condition, not less important than the two others, is that
there be not a very marked inequality of strength among the several
contracting states. They cannot, indeed, be exactly equal in
resources: in all federations there will be a gradation of power among
the members; some will be more populous, rich, and civilised than
others. There is a wide difference in wealth and population between
New York and Rhode Island; between Bern and Zug or Glaris. The
essential is, that there should not be any one State so much more
powerful than the rest as to be capable of vying in strength with many
of them combined. If there be such a one, and only one, it will insist
on being master of the joint deliberations: if there be two, they will
be irresistible when they agree; and whenever they differ everything
will be decided by a struggle for ascendancy between the rivals.
This cause is alone enough to reduce the German Bund to almost a
nullity, independently of its wretched internal constitution. It
effects none of the real purposes of a confederation. It has never
bestowed on Germany a uniform system of customs, nor so much as a
uniform coinage; and has served only to give Austria and Prussia a
legal right of pouring in their troops to assist the local
sovereigns in keeping their subjects obedient to despotism: while in
regard to external concerns, the Bund would make all Germany a
dependency of Prussia if there were no Austria, and of Austria if
there were no Prussia: and in the meantime each petty prince has
little choice but to be a partisan of one or the other, or to intrigue
with foreign governments against both.

  There are two different modes of organising a Federal Union. The
federal authorities may represent the Governments solely, and their
acts may be obligatory only on the Governments as such; or they may
have the power of enacting laws and issuing orders which are binding
directly on individual citizens. The former is the plan of the
German so-called Confederation, and of the Swiss Constitution previous
to 1847. It was tried in America for a few years immediately following
the War of Independence. The other principle is that of the existing
Constitution of the United States, and has been adopted within the
last dozen years by the Swiss Confederacy. The Federal Congress of the
American Union is a substantive part of the government of every
individual State. Within the limits of its attributions, it makes laws
which are obeyed by every citizen individually, executes them
through its own officers, and enforces them by its own tribunals. This
is the only principle which has been found, or which is ever likely,
to produce an effective federal government. A union between the
governments only is a mere alliance, and subject to all the
contingencies which render alliances precarious. If the acts of the
President and of Congress were binding solely on the Governments of
New York, Virginia, or Pennsylvania, and could only be carried into
effect through orders issued by those Governments to officers
appointed by them, under responsibility to their own courts of justice
no mandates of the Federal Government which were disagreeable to a
local majority would ever be executed. Requisitions issued to a
government have no other sanction, or means of enforcement, than
war: and a federal army would have to be always in readiness to
enforce the decrees of the Federation against any recalcitrant
State; subject to the probability that other States, sympathising with
the recusant, and perhaps sharing its sentiments on the particular
point in dispute, would withhold their contingents, if not send them
to fight in the ranks of the disobedient State.

  Such a federation is more likely to be a cause than a preventive
of internal wars: and if such was not its effect in Switzerland
until the events of the years immediately preceding 1847, it was
only because the Federal Government felt its weakness so strongly that
it hardly ever attempted to exercise any real authority. In America,
the experiment of a Federation on this principle broke down in the
first few years of its existence; happily while the men of enlarged
knowledge and acquired ascendancy, who founded the independence of the
Republic, were still alive to guide it through the difficult
transition. The Federalist, a collection of papers by three of these
eminent men, written in explanation and defence of the new Federal
Constitution while still awaiting the national acceptance, is even now
the most instructive treatise we possess on federal government.*

  * Mr. Freeman's History of Federal Governments, of which only the
first volume has yet appeared, is already an accession to the
literature of the subject, equally valuable by its enlightened
principles and its mastery of historical details.

  In Germany, the more imperfect kind of federation, as all know,
has not even answered the purpose of maintaining an alliance. It has
never, in any European war, prevented single members of the
Confederation from allying themselves with foreign powers against
the rest. Yet this is the only federation which seems possible among
monarchical states. A king, who holds his power by inheritance, not by
delegation, and who cannot be deprived of it, nor made responsible
to any one for its use, is not likely to renounce having a separate
army, or to brook the exercise of sovereign authority over his own
subjects, not through him but directly, by another power. To enable
two or more countries under kingly government to be joined together in
an effectual confederation it seems necessary that they should all
be under the same king. England and Scotland were a federation of this
description during the interval of about a century between the union
of the Crowns and that of the Parliaments. Even this was effective,
not through federal institutions, for none existed, but because the
regal power in both Constitutions was during the greater part of
that time so nearly absolute as to enable the foreign policy of both
to be shaped according to a single will.

  Under the more perfect mode of federation, where every citizen of
each particular State owes obedience to two Governments, that of his
own state and that of the federation, it is evidently necessary not
only that the constitutional limits of the authority of each should be
precisely and clearly defined, but that the power to decide between
them in any case of dispute should not reside in either of the
Governments, or in any functionary subject to it, but in an umpire
independent of both. There must be a Supreme Court of justice, and a
system of subordinate Courts in every State of the Union, before
whom such questions shall be carried, and whose judgment on them, in
the last stage of appeal, shall be final. Every State of the Union,
and the Federal Government itself, as well as every functionary of
each, must be liable to be sued in those Courts for exceeding their
powers, or for non-performance of their federal duties, and must in
general be obliged to employ those Courts as the instrument for
enforcing their federal rights. This involves the remarkable
consequence, actually realised in the United States, that a Court of
justice, the highest federal tribunal, is supreme over the various
Governments, both State and Federal; having the right to declare
that any law made, or act done by them, exceeds the powers assigned to
them by the Federal Constitution, and, in consequence, has no legal
validity. It was natural to feel strong doubts, before trial had
been made, how such a provision would work; whether the tribunal would
have the courage to exercise its constitutional power; if it did,
whether it would exercise it wisely and whether the Governments
would consent to submit peaceably to its decision. The discussions
on the American Constitution, before its final adoption, give evidence
that these natural apprehensions were strongly felt; but they are
now entirely quieted, since, during the two generations and more which
have subsequently elapsed, nothing has occurred to verify them, though
there have at times been disputes of considerable acrimony, and
which became the badges of parties, respecting the limits of the
authority of the Federal and State Governments.

  The eminently beneficial working of so singular a provision is
probably, as M. de Tocqueville remarks, in a great measure
attributable to the peculiarity inherent in a Court of justice
acting as such- namely, that it does not declare the law eo nomine
and in the abstract, but waits until a case between man and man is
brought before it judicially involving the point in dispute: from
which arises the happy effect that its declarations are not made in
a very early stage of the controversy; that much popular discussion
usually precedes them; that the Court decides after hearing the
point fully argued on both sides by lawyers of reputation; decides
only as much of the question at a time as is required by the case
before it, and its decision, instead of being volunteered for
political purposes, is drawn from it by the duty which it cannot
refuse to fulfil, of dispensing justice impartially between adverse
litigants. Even these grounds of confidence would not have sufficed to
produce the respectful submission with which all authorities have
yielded to the decisions of the Supreme Court on the interpretation of
the Constitution, were it not that complete reliance has been felt,
not only on the intellectual pre-eminence of the judges composing that
exalted tribunal, but on their entire superiority over either
private or sectional partialities. This reliance has been in the
main justified; but there is nothing which more vitally imports the
American people than to guard with the most watchful solicitude
against everything which has the remotest tendency to produce
deterioration in the quality of this great national institution. The
confidence on which depends the stability of federal institutions
was for the first time impaired by the judgment declaring slavery to
be of common right, and consequently lawful in the Territories while
not yet constituted as States, even against the will of a majority
of their inhabitants. This memorable decision has probably done more
than anything else to bring the sectional division to the crisis which
has issued in civil war. The main pillar of the American
Constitution is scarcely strong enough to bear many more such shocks.

  The tribunals which act as umpires between the Federal and the State
Governments naturally also decide all disputes between two States,
or between a citizen of one State and the government of another. The
usual remedies between nations, war and diplomacy, being precluded
by the federal union, it is necessary that a judicial remedy should
supply their place. The Supreme Court of the Federation dispenses
international law, and is the first great example of what is now one
of the most prominent wants of civilised society, a real International

  The powers of a Federal Government naturally extend not only to
peace and war, and all questions which arise between the country and
foreign governments, but to making any other arrangements which are,
in the opinion of the States, necessary to their enjoyment of the full
benefits of union. For example, it is a great advantage to them that
their mutual commerce should be free, without the impediment of
frontier duties and custom-houses. But this internal freedom cannot
exist if each State has the power of fixing the duties on
interchange of commodities between itself and foreign countries; since
every foreign product let in by one State would be let into all the
rest. And hence all custom duties and trade regulations, in the United
States, are made or repealed by the Federal Government exclusively.
Again, it is a great convenience to the States to have but one
coinage, and but one system of weights and measures; which can only be
ensured if the regulation of these matters is entrusted to the Federal
Government. The certainty and celerity of Post Office communication is
impeded, and its expense increased, if a letter has to pass through
half a dozen sets of public offices, subject to different supreme
authorities: it is convenient, therefore, that all Post Offices should
be under the Federal Government. But on such questions the feelings of
different communities are liable to be different. One of the
American States, under the guidance of a man who has displayed
powers as a speculative political thinker superior to any who has
appeared in American politics since the authors of the Federalist,*
claimed a veto for each State on the custom laws of the Federal
Congress: and that statesman, in a posthumous work of great ability,
which has been printed and widely circulated by the legislature of
South Carolina, vindicated this pretension on the general principle of
limiting the tyranny of the majority, and protecting minorities by
admitting them to a substantial participation in political power.
One of the most disputed topics in American politics, during the early
part of this century, was whether the power of the Federal
Government ought to extend, and whether by the Constitution it did
extend, to making roads and canals at the cost of the Union. It is
only in transactions with foreign powers that the authority of the
Federal Government is of necessity complete. On every other subject,
the question depends on how closely the people in general wish to draw
the federal tie; what portion of their local freedom of action they
are willing to surrender, in order to enjoy more fully the benefit
of being one nation.

  * Mr. Calhoun.

  Respecting the fitting constitution of a federal government within
itself much need not be said. It of course consists of a legislative
branch and an executive, and the constitution of each is amenable to
the same principles as that of representative governments generally.
As regards the mode of adapting these general principles to a
federal government, the provision of the American Constitution seems
exceedingly judicious, that Congress should consist of two Houses, and
that while one of them is constituted according to population, each
State being entitled to representatives in the ratio of the number
of its inhabitants, the other should represent not the citizens, but
the State Governments, and every State, whether large or small, should
be represented in it by the same number of members. This provision
precludes any undue power from being exercised by the more powerful
States over the rest, and guarantees the reserved rights of the
State Governments, by making it impossible, as far as the mode of
representation can prevent, that any measure should pass Congress
unless approved not only by a majority of the citizens, but by a
majority of the States. I have before adverted to the further
incidental advantage obtained of raising the standard of
qualifications in one of the Houses. Being nominated by select bodies,
the Legislatures of the various States, whose choice, for reasons
already indicated, is more likely to fall on eminent men than any
popular election- who have not only the power of electing such, but a
strong motive to do so, because the influence of their State in the
general deliberations must be materially affected by the personal
weight and abilities of its representatives; the Senate of the
United States, thus chosen, has always contained nearly all the
political men of established and high reputation in the Union: while
the Lower House of Congress has, in the opinion of competent
observers, been generally as remarkable for the absence of conspicuous
personal merit as the Upper House for its presence.

  When the conditions exist for the formation of efficient and durable
Federal Unions, the multiplication of them is always a benefit to
the world. It has the same salutary effect as any other extension of
the practice of co-operation, through which the weak, by uniting,
can meet on equal terms with the strong. By diminishing the number
of those petty states which are not equal to their own defence, it
weakens the temptations to an aggressive policy, whether working
directly by arms, or through the prestige of superior power. It of
course puts an end to war and diplomatic quarrels, and usually also to
restrictions on commerce, between the States composing the Union;
while, in reference to neighbouring nations, the increased military
strength conferred by it is of a kind to be almost exclusively
available for defensive, scarcely at all for aggressive, purposes. A
federal government has not a sufficiently concentrated authority to
conduct with much efficiency any war but one of self-defence, in which
it can rely on the voluntary co-operation of every citizen: nor is
there anything very flattering to national vanity or ambition in
acquiring, by a successful war, not subjects, nor even
fellow-citizens, but only new, and perhaps troublesome, independent
members of the confederation. The warlike proceedings of the Americans
in Mexico were purely exceptional, having been carried on
principally by volunteers, under the influence of the migratory
propensity which prompts individual Americans to possess themselves of
unoccupied land; and stimulated, if by any public motive, not by
that of national aggrandisement, but by the purely sectional purpose
of extending slavery. There are few signs in the proceedings of
Americans, nationally or individually, that the desire of
territorial acquisition for their country as such has any considerable
power over them. Their hankering after Cuba is, in the same manner,
merely sectional, and the northern States, those opposed to slavery,
have never in any way favoured it.

  The question may present itself (as in Italy at its present
uprising) whether a country, which is determined to be united,
should form a complete or a merely federal union. The point is
sometimes necessarily decided by the mere territorial magnitude of the
united whole. There is a limit to the extent of country which can
advantageously be governed, or even whose government can be
conveniently superintended, from a single centre. There are vast
countries so governed; but they, or at least their distant
provinces, are in general deplorably ill administered, and it is
only when the inhabitants are almost savages that they could not
manage their affairs better separately. This obstacle does not exist
in the case of Italy, the size of which does not come up to that of
several very efficiently governed single states in past and present
times. The question then is whether the different parts of the
nation require to be governed in a way so essentially different that
it is not probable the same Legislature, and the same ministry or
administrative body, will give satisfaction to them all. Unless this
be the case, which is a question of fact, it is better for them to
be completely united. That a totally different system of laws, and
very different administrative institutions, may exist in two
portions of a country without being any obstacle to legislative
unity is proved by the case of England and Scotland. Perhaps, however,
this undisturbed co-existence of two legal systems, under one united
legislature, making different laws for the two sections of the country
in adaptation to the previous differences, might not be so well
preserved, or the same confidence might not be felt in its
preservation, in a country whose legislators were more possessed (as
is apt to be the case on the Continent) with the mania for uniformity.
A people having that unbounded toleration which is characteristic of
this country for every description of anomaly, so long as those
whose interests it concerns do not feel aggrieved by it, afforded an
exceptionally advantageous field for trying this difficult experiment.
In most countries, if it was an object to retain different systems
of law, it might probably be necessary to retain distinct legislatures
as guardians of them; which is perfectly compatible with a national
Parliament and King, or a national Parliament without a King,
supreme over the external relations of all the members of the body.

  Whenever it is not deemed necessary to maintain permanently, in
the different provinces, different systems of jurisprudence, and
fundamental institutions grounded on different principles, it is
always practicable to reconcile minor diversities with the maintenance
of unity of government. All that is needful is to give a
sufficiently large sphere of action to the local authorities. Under
one and the same central government there may be local governors,
and provincial assemblies for local purposes. It may happen, for
instance, that the people of different provinces may have
preferences in favour of different modes of taxation. If the general
legislature could not be depended on for being guided by the members
for each province in modifying the general system of taxation to
suit that province, the Constitution might provide that as many of the
expenses of the government as could by any possibility be made local
should be defrayed by local rates imposed by the provincial
assemblies, and that those which must of necessity be general, such as
the support of an army and navy, should, in the estimates for the
year, be apportioned among the different provinces according to some
general estimate of their resources, the amount assigned to each being
levied by the local assembly on the principles most acceptable to
the locality, and paid en bloc into the national treasury. A
practice approaching to this existed even in the old French
monarchy, so far as regarded the pays d'etats; each of which, having
consented or been required to furnish a fixed sum, was left to
assess it upon the inhabitants by its own officers, thus escaping
the grinding despotism of the royal intendants and subdelegues; and
this privilege is always mentioned as one of the advantages which
mainly contributed to render them, as some of them were, the most
flourishing provinces of France.

  Identity of central government is compatible with many different
degrees of centralisation, not only administrative, but even
legislative. A people may have the desire, and the capacity, for a
closer union than one merely federal, while yet their local
peculiarities and antecedents render considerable diversities
desirable in the details of their government. But if there is a real
desire on all hands to make the experiment successful, there needs
seldom be any difficulty in not only preserving these diversities, but
giving them the guarantee of a constitutional provision against any
attempt at assimilation, except by the voluntary act of those who
would be affected by the change.

                           Chapter 18

        Of the Government of Dependencies by a Free State.

  FREE STATES, like all others, may possess dependencies, acquired
either by conquest or by colonisation; and our own is the greatest
instance of the kind in modern history. It is a most important
question how such dependencies ought to be governed.

  It is unnecessary to discuss the case of small posts, like
Gibraltar, Aden, or Heligoland, which are held only as naval or
military positions. The military or naval object is in this case
paramount, and the inhabitants cannot, consistently with it, be
admitted to the government of the place; though they ought to be
allowed all liberties and privileges compatible with that restriction,
including the free management of municipal affairs; and as a
compensation for being locally sacrificed to the convenience of the
governing State, should be admitted to equal rights with its native
subjects in all other parts of the empire.

  Outlying territories of some size and population, which are held
as dependencies, that is, which are subject, more or less, to acts
of sovereign power on the part of the paramount country, without being
equally represented (if represented at all) in its legislature, may be
divided into two classes. Some are composed of people of similar
civilisation to the ruling country, capable of, and ripe for,
representative government: such as the British possessions in
America and Australia. Others, like India, are still at a great
distance from that state.

  In the case of dependencies of the former class, this country has at
length realised, in rare completeness, the true principle of
government. England has always felt under a certain degree of
obligation to bestow on such of her outlying populations as were of
her own blood and language, and on some who were not, representative
institutions formed in imitation of her own: but until the present
generation, she has been on the same bad level with other countries as
to the amount of self-government which she allowed them to exercise
through the representative institutions that she conceded to them. She
claimed to be the supreme arbiter even of their purely internal
concerns, according to her own, not their, ideas of how those concerns
could be best regulated. This practice was a natural corollary from
the vicious theory of colonial policy- once common to all Europe, and
not yet completely relinquished by any other people- which regarded
colonies as valuable by affording markets for our commodities, that
could be kept entirely to ourselves: a privilege we valued so highly
that we thought it worth purchasing by allowing to the colonies the
same monopoly of our market for their own productions which we claimed
for our commodities in theirs. This notable plan for enriching them
and ourselves, by making each pay enormous sums to the other, dropping
the greatest part by the way, has been for some time abandoned. But
the bad habit of meddling in the internal government of the colonies
did not at once terminate when we relinquished the idea of making
any profit by it. We continued to torment them, not for any benefit to
ourselves, but for that of a section or faction among the colonists:
and this persistence in domineering cost us a Canadian rebellion
before we had the happy thought of giving it up. England was like an
ill-brought-up elder brother, who persists in tyrannising over the
younger ones from mere habit, till one of them, by a spirited
resistance, though with unequal strength, gives him notice to
desist. We were wise enough not to require a second warning. A new era
in the colonial policy of nations began with Lord Durham's Report; the
imperishable memorial of that nobleman's courage, patriotism, and
enlightened liberality, and of the intellect and practical sagacity of
its joint authors, Mr. Wakefield and the lamented Charles Buller.*

  * I am speaking here of the adoption of this improved policy, not,
of course, of its original suggestion. The honour of having been its
earliest champion belongs unquestionably to Mr. Roebuck.

  It is now a fixed principle of the policy of Great Britain,
professed in theory and faithfully adhered to in practice, that her
colonies of European race, equally with the parent country, possess
the fullest measure of internal self-government. They have been
allowed to make their own free representative constitutions by
altering in any manner they thought fit the already very popular
constitutions which we had given them. Each is governed by its own
legislature and executive, constituted on highly democratic
principles. The veto of the Crown and of Parliament, though
nominally reserved, is only exercised (and that very rarely) on
questions which concern the empire, and not solely the particular
colony. How liberal a construction has been given to the distinction
between imperial and colonial questions is shown by the fact that
the whole of the unappropriated lands in the regions behind our
American and Australian colonies have been given up to the
uncontrolled disposal of the colonial communities; though they
might, without injustice, have been kept in the hands of the
Imperial Government, to be administered for the greatest advantage
of future emigrants from all parts of the empire. Every colony has
thus as full power over its own affairs as it could have if it were
a member of even the loosest federation; and much fuller than would
belong to it under the Constitution of the United States, being free
even to tax at its pleasure the commodities imported from the mother
country. Their union with Great Britain is the slightest kind of
federal union; but not a strictly equal federation, the mother country
retaining to itself the powers of a Federal Government, though reduced
in practice to their very narrowest limits. This inequality is, of
course, as far as it goes, a disadvantage to the dependencies, which
have no voice in foreign policy, but are bound by the decisions of the
superior country. They are compelled to join England in war, without
being in any way consulted previous to engaging in it.

  Those (now happily not a few) who think that justice is as binding
on communities as it is on individuals, and that men are not warranted
in doing to other countries, for the supposed benefit of their own
country, what they would not be justified in doing to other men for
their own benefit- feel even this limited amount of constitutional
subordination on the part of the colonies to be a violation of
principle, and have often occupied themselves in looking out for means
by which it may be avoided. With this view it has been proposed by
some that the colonies should return representatives to the British
legislature; and by others, that the powers of our own, as well as
of their Parliaments, should be confined to internal policy, and
that there should be another representative body for foreign and
imperial concerns, in which last the dependencies of Great Britain
should be represented in the same manner, and with the same
completeness, as Great Britain itself. On this system there would be
perfectly equal federation between the mother country and her
colonies, then no longer dependencies.

  The feelings of equity, and conceptions of public morality, from
which these suggestions emanate, are worthy of all praise; but the
suggestions themselves are so inconsistent with rational principles of
government that it is doubtful if they have been seriously accepted as
a possibility by any reasonable thinker. Countries separated by half
the globe do not present the natural conditions for being under one
government, or even members of one federation. If they had
sufficiently the same interests, they have not, and never can have,
a sufficient habit of taking counsel together. They are not part of
the same public; they do not discuss and deliberate in the same arena,
but apart, and have only a most imperfect knowledge of what passes
in the minds of one another. They neither know each other's objects,
nor have confidence in each other's principles of conduct. Let any
Englishman ask himself how he should like his destinies to depend on
an assembly of which one-third was British American, and another third
South African and Australian. Yet to this it must come if there were
anything like fair or equal representation; and would not every one
feel that the representatives of Canada and Australia, even in matters
of an imperial character, could not know, or feel any sufficient
concern for, the interests, opinions, or wishes of English, Irish, and
Scotch? Even for strictly federative purposes the conditions do not
exist which we have seen to be essential to a federation. England is
sufficient for her own protection without the colonies; and would be
in a much stronger, as well as more dignified position, if separated
from them, than when reduced to be a single member of an American,
African, and Australian confederation. Over and above the commerce
which she might equally enjoy after separation, England derives little
advantage, except in prestige, from her dependencies; and the little
she does derive is quite outweighed by the expense they cost her,
and the dissemination they necessitate of her naval and military
force, which in case of war, or any real apprehension of it,
requires to be double or treble what would be needed for the defence
of this country alone.

  But though Great Britain could do perfectly well without her
colonies, and though on every principle of morality and justice she
ought to consent to their separation, should the time come when, after
full trial of the best form of union, they deliberately desire to be
dissevered- there are strong reasons for maintaining the present
slight bond of connection, so long as not disagreeable to the feelings
of either party. It is a step, as far as it goes, towards universal
peace, and general friendly cooperation among nations. It renders
war impossible among a large number of otherwise independent
communities; and moreover hinders any of them from being absorbed into
a foreign state, and becoming a source of additional aggressive
strength to some rival power, either more despotic or closer at hand,
which might not always be so unambitious or so pacific as Great
Britain. It at least keeps the markets of the different countries
open to one another, and prevents that mutual exclusion by hostile
tariffs, which none of the great communities of mankind, except
England, have yet completely outgrown. And in the case of the British
possessions it has the advantage, especially valuable at the present
time, of adding to the moral influence, and weight in the councils of
the world, of the Power which, of all in existence, best understands
liberty- and whatever may have been its errors in the past, has
attained to more of conscience and moral principle in its dealings
with foreigners than any other great nation seems either to conceive
as possible or recognise as desirable. Since, then, the union can only
continue, while it does continue, on the footing of an unequal
federation, it is important to consider by what means this small
amount of inequality can be prevented from being either onerous or
humiliating to the communities occupying the less exalted position.

  The only inferiority necessarily inherent in the case is that the
mother country decides, both for the colonies and for herself, on
questions of peace and war. They gain, in return, the obligation on
the mother country to repel aggressions directed against them; but,
except when the minor community is so weak that the protection of a
stronger power is indispensable to it, reciprocity of obligation is
not a full equivalent for non-admission to a voice in the
deliberations. It is essential, therefore, that in all wars, save
those which, like the Caffre or New Zealand wars, are incurred for the
sake of the particular colony, the colonists should not (without their
own voluntary request) be called on to contribute anything to the
expense, except what may be required for the specific local defence of
their ports, shores, and frontiers against invasion. Moreover, as
the mother country claims the privilege, at her sole discretion, of
taking measures or pursuing a policy which may expose them to
attack, it is just that she should undertake a considerable portion of
the cost of their military defence even in time of peace; the whole of
it, so far as it depends upon a standing army.

  But there is a means, still more effectual than these, by which, and
in general by which alone, a full equivalent can be given to a smaller
community for sinking its individuality, as a substantive power
among nations, in the greater individuality of a wide and powerful
empire. This one indispensable and, at the same time, sufficient
expedient, which meets at once the demands of justice and the
growing exigencies of policy, is to open the service of Government
in all its departments, and in every part of the empire, on
perfectly equal terms, to the inhabitants of the Colonies. Why does no
one ever hear a breath of disloyalty from the Islands in the British
Channel? By race, religion, and geographical position they belong less
to England than to France. But, while they enjoy, like Canada and
New South Wales, complete control over their internal affairs and
their taxation, every office or dignity in the gift of the Crown is
freely open to the native of Guernsey or Jersey. Generals, admirals,
peers of the United Kingdom, are made, and there is nothing which
hinders prime ministers to be made, from those insignificant
islands. The same system was commenced in reference to the Colonies
generally by an enlightened Colonial Secretary, too early lost, Sir
William Molesworth, when he appointed Mr. Hinckes, a leading
Canadian politician, to a West Indian government. It is a very shallow
view of the springs of political action in a community which thinks
such things unimportant because the number of those in a position
actually to profit by the concession might not be very considerable.
That limited number would be composed precisely of those who have most
moral power over the rest: and men are not so destitute of the sense
of collective degradation as not to feel the withholding of an
advantage from even one person, because of a circumstance which they
all have in common with him, an affront to all. If we prevent the
leading men of a community from standing forth to the world as its
chiefs and representatives in the general councils of mankind, we
owe it both to their legitimate ambition, and to the just pride of the
community, to give them in return an equal chance of occupying the
same prominent position in a nation of greater power and importance.

  Thus far of the dependencies whose population is in a sufficiently
advanced state to be fitted for representative government. But there
are others which have not attained that state, and which, if held at
all, must be governed by the dominant country, or by persons delegated
for that purpose by it. This mode of government is as legitimate as
any other if it is the one which in the existing state of civilisation
of the subject people most facilitates their transition to a higher
stage of improvement. There are, as we have already seen, conditions
of society in which a vigorous despotism is in itself the best mode of
government for training the people in what is specifically wanting
to render them capable of a higher civilisation. There are others,
in which the mere fact of despotism has indeed no beneficial effect,
the lessons which it teaches having already been only too completely
learnt; but in which, there being no spring of spontaneous improvement
in the people themselves, their almost only hope of making any steps
in advance depends on the chances of a good despot. Under a native
despotism, a good despot is a rare and transitory accident: but when
the dominion they are under is that of a more civilised people, that
people ought to be able to supply it constantly. The ruling country
ought to be able to do for its subjects all that could be done by a
succession of absolute monarchs, guaranteed by irresistible force
against the precariousness of tenure attendant on barbarous
despotisms, and qualified by their genius to anticipate all that
experience has taught to the more advanced nation. Such is the ideal
rule of a free people over a barbarous or semi-barbarous one. We
need not expect to see that ideal realised; but unless some approach
to it is, the rulers are guilty of a dereliction of the highest
moral trust which can devolve upon a nation: and if they do not even
'him at it, they are selfish usurpers, on a par in criminality with
any of those whose ambition and rapacity have sported from age to
age with the destiny of masses of mankind.

  As it is already a common, and is rapidly tending to become the
universal, condition of the more backward populations, to be either
held in direct subjection by the more advanced, or to be under their
complete political ascendancy; there are in this age of the world
few more important problems than how to organise this rule, so as to
make it a good instead of an evil to the subject people; providing
them with the best attainable present government, and with the
conditions most favourable to future permanent improvement. But the
mode of fitting the government for this purpose is by no means so well
understood as the conditions of good government in a people capable of
governing themselves. We may even say that it is not understood at

  The thing appears perfectly easy to superficial observers. If
India (for example) is not fit to govern itself, all that seems to
them required is that there should be a minister to govern it: and
that this minister, like all other British ministers, should be
responsible to the British Parliament. Unfortunately this, though
the simplest mode of attempting to govern a dependency, is about the
worst; and betrays in its advocates a total want of comprehension of
the conditions of good government. To govern a country under
responsibility to the people of that country, and to govern one
country under responsibility to the people of another, are two very
different things. What makes the excellence of the first is that
freedom is preferable to despotism: but the last is despotism. The
only choice the case admits is a choice of despotisms: and it is not
certain that the despotism of twenty millions is necessarily better
than that of a few, or of one. But it is quite certain that the
despotism of those who neither hear, nor see, nor know anything
about their subjects, has many chances of being worse than that of
those who do. It is not usually thought that the immediate agents of
authority govern better because they govern in the name of an absent
master, and of one who has a thousand more pressing interests to
attend to. The master may hold them to a strict responsibility,
enforced by heavy penalties; but it is very questionable if those
penalties will often fall in the right place.

  It is always under great difficulties, and very imperfectly, that
a country can be governed by foreigners; even when there is no extreme
disparity, in habits and ideas, between the rulers and the ruled.
Foreigners do not feel with the people. They cannot judge, by the
light in which a thing appears to their own minds, or the manner in
which it affects their feelings, how it will affect the feelings or
appear to the minds of the subject population. What a native of the
country, of average practical ability, knows as it were by instinct,
they have to learn slowly, and after all imperfectly, by study and
experience. The laws, the customs, the social relations, for which
they have to legislate, instead of being familiar to them from
childhood, are all strange to them. For most of their detailed
knowledge they must depend on the information of natives; and it is
difficult for them to know whom to trust. They are feared,
suspected, probably disliked by the population; seldom sought by
them except for interested purposes; and they are prone to think
that the servilely submissive are the trustworthy. Their danger is
of despising the natives; that of the natives is of disbelieving
that anything the strangers do can be intended for their good. These
are but a part of the difficulties that any rulers have to struggle
with who honestly attempt to govern well a country in which they are
foreigners. To overcome these difficulties in any degree will always
be a work of much labour, requiring a very superior degree of capacity
in the chief administrators, and a high average among the
subordinates: and the best organisation of such a government is that
which will best ensure the labour, develop the capacity, and place the
highest specimens of it in the situations of greatest trust.
Responsibility to an authority which bas gone through none of the
labour, acquired none of the capacity, and for the most part is not
even aware that either, in any peculiar degree, is required, cannot be
regarded as a very effectual expedient for accomplishing these ends.

  The government of a people by itself has a meaning and a reality;
but such a thing as government of one people by another does not and
cannot exist. One people may keep another as a warren or preserve
for its own use, a place to make money in, a human cattle farm to be
worked for the profit of its own inhabitants. But if the good of the
governed is the proper business of a government, it is utterly
impossible that a people should directly attend to it. The utmost they
can do is to give some of their best men a commission to look after
it; to whom the opinion of their own country can neither be much of
a guide in the performance of their duty, nor a competent judge of the
mode in which it has been performed. Let any one consider how the
English themselves would be governed if they knew and cared no more
about their own affairs than they know and care about the affairs of
the Hindoos. Even this comparison gives no adequate idea of the
state of the case: for a people thus indifferent to politics
altogether would probably be simply acquiescent and let the government
alone: whereas in the case of India, a politically active people
like the English, amidst habitual acquiescence, are every now and then
interfering, and almost always in the wrong place. The real causes
which determine the prosperity or wretchedness, the improvement or
deterioration, of the Hindoos are too far off to be within their
ken. They have not the knowledge necessary for suspecting the
existence of those causes, much less for judging of their operation.
The most essential interests of the country may be well administered
without obtaining any of their approbation, or mismanaged to almost
any excess without attracting their notice.

  The purposes for which they are principally tempted to interfere and
control the proceedings of their delegates are of two kinds. One is to
force English ideas down the throats of the natives; for instance,
by measures of proselytism, or acts intentionally or unintentionally
offensive to the religious feelings of the people. This misdirection
of opinion in the ruling country is instructively exemplified (the
more so, because nothing is meant but justice and fairness, and as
much impartiality as can be expected from persons really convinced) by
the demand now so general in England for having the Bible taught, at
the option of pupils or of their parents, in the Government schools.
From the European point of view nothing can wear a fairer aspect, or
seem less open to objection on the score of religious freedom. To
Asiatic eyes it is quite another thing. No Asiatic people ever
believes that a government puts its paid officers and official
machinery into motion unless it is bent upon an object; and when
bent on an object, no Asiatic believes that any government, except a
feeble and contemptible one, pursues it by halves. If Government
schools and schoolmasters taught Christianity, whatever pledges
might be given of teaching it only to those who spontaneously sought
it, no amount of evidence would ever persuade the parents that
improper means were not used to make their children Christians, or
at all events, outcasts from Hindooism. If they could, in the end,
be convinced of the contrary, it would only be by the entire failure
of the schools, so conducted, to make any converts. If the teaching
had the smallest effect in promoting its object it would compromise
not only the utility and even existence of the government education,
but perhaps the safety of the government itself. An English Protestant
would not be easily induced, by disclaimers of proselytism, to place
his children in a Roman Catholic seminary: Irish Catholics will not
send their children to schools in which they can be made
Protestants: and we expect that Hindoos, who believe that the
privileges of Hindooism can be forfeited by a merely physical act,
will expose theirs to the danger of being made Christians!

  Such is one of the modes in which the opinion of the dominant
country tends to act more injuriously than beneficially on the conduct
of its deputed governors. In other respects, its interference is
likely to be oftenest exercised where it will be most pertinaciously
demanded, and that is on behalf of some interest of the English
settlers. English settlers have friends at home, have organs, have
access to the public; they have a common language and common ideas
with their countrymen: any complaint by an Englishman is more
sympathetically heard, even if no unjust preference is intentionally
accorded to it. Now, if there be a fact to which all experience
testifies, it is that when a country holds another in subjection,
the individuals of the ruling people who resort to the foreign country
to make their fortunes are of all others those who most need to be
held under powerful restraint. They are always one of the chief
difficulties of the government. Armed with the prestige and filled
with the scornful overbearingness of the conquering nation, they
have the feelings inspired by absolute power without its sense of

  Among a people like that India the utmost efforts of the public
authorities are not enough for the effectual protection of the weak
against the strong; and of all the strong, the European settlers are
the strongest. Wherever the demoralising effect of the situation is
not in a most remarkable degree corrected by the personal character of
the individual, they think the people of the country mere dirt under
their feet: it seems to them monstrous that any rights of the
natives should stand in the way of their smallest pretensions: the
simplest act of protection to the inhabitants against any act of power
on their part which they may consider useful to their commercial
objects, they denounce, and sincerely regard, as an injury. So natural
is this state of feeling in a situation like theirs that even under
the discouragement which it has hitherto met with from the ruling
authorities it is impossible that more or less of the spirit should
not perpetually break out. The Government, itself free from this
spirit, is never able sufficiently to keep it down in the young and
raw even of its own civil and military officers, over whom it has so
much more control than over the independent residents.

  As it is with the English in India, so, according to trustworthy
testimony, it is with the French in Algiers; so with the Americans
in the countries conquered from Mexico; so it seems to be with the
Europeans in China, and already even in Japan: there is no necessity
to recall how it was with the Spaniards in South America. In all these
cases, the government to which these private adventurers are subject
is better than they, and does the most it can to protect the natives
against them. Even the Spanish Government did this, sincerely and
earnestly, though ineffectually, as is known to every reader of Mr.
Helps' instructive history. Had the Spanish Government been directly
accountable to Spanish opinion we may question if it would have made
the attempt: for the Spaniards, doubtless, would have taken part
with their Christian friends and relations rather than with Pagans.
The settlers, not the natives, have the ear of the public at home;
it is they whose representations are likely to pass for truth, because
they alone have both the means and the motive to press them
perseveringly upon the inattentive and uninterested public mind. The
distrustful criticism with which Englishmen, more than any other
people, are in the habit of scanning the conduct of their country
towards foreigners, they usually reserve for the proceedings of the
public authorities. In all questions between a government and an
individual the presumption in every Englishman's mind is that the
government is in the wrong. And when the resident English bring the
batteries of English political action to bear upon any of the bulwarks
erected to protect the natives against their encroachments, the
executive, with their real but faint velleities of something better,
generally find it safer to their parliamentary interest, and at any
rate less troublesome, to give up the disputed position than to defend

  What makes matters worse is that when the public mind is invoked
(as, to its credit, the English mind is extremely open to be) in the
name of justice and philanthropy, in behalf of the subject community
or race, there is the same probability of its missing the mark. For in
the subject community also there are oppressors and oppressed;
powerful individuals or classes, and slaves prostrate before them; and
it is the former, not the latter, who have the means of access to
the English public. A tyrant or sensualist who has been deprived of
the power he had abused, and, instead of punishment, is supported in
as great wealth and splendour as he ever enjoyed; a knot of privileged
landholders, who demand that the State should relinquish to them its
reserved right to a rent from their lands, or who resent as a wrong
any attempt to protect the masses from their extortion; these have
no difficulty in procuring interested or sentimental advocacy in the
British Parliament and press. The silent myriads obtain none.

  The preceding observations exemplify the operation of a
principle- which might be called an obvious one, were it not that
scarcely anybody seems to be aware of it- that, while responsibility
to the governed is the greatest of all securities for good government,
responsibility to somebody else not only has no such tendency, but
is as likely to produce evil as good. The responsibility of the
British rulers of India to the British nation is chiefly useful
because, when any acts of the government are called in question, it
ensures publicity and discussion; the utility of which does not
require that the public at large should comprehend the point at issue,
provided there are any individuals among them who do; for, a merely
moral responsibility not being responsibility to the collective
people, but to every separate person among them who forms a
judgment, opinions may be weighed as well as counted, and the
approbation or disapprobation of one person well versed in the subject
may outweigh that of thousands who know nothing about it at all. It is
doubtless a useful restraint upon the immediate rulers that they can
be put upon their defence, and that one or two of the jury will form
an opinion worth having about their conduct, though that of the
remainder will probably be several degrees worse than none. Such as it
is, this is the amount of benefit to India, from the control exercised
over the Indian government by the British Parliament and people.

  It is not by attempting to rule directly a country like India, but
by giving it good rulers, that the English people can do their duty to
that country; and they can scarcely give it a worse one than an
English Cabinet Minister, who is thinking of English, not Indian
politics; who seldom remains long enough in office to acquire an
intelligent interest in so complicated a subject; upon whom the
factitious public opinion got up in Parliament, consisting of two or
three fluent speakers, acts with as much force as if it were
genuine; while he is under none of the influences of training and
position which would lead or qualify him to form an honest opinion
of his own. A free country which attempts to govern a distant
dependency, inhabited by a dissimilar people, by means of a branch
of its own executive, will almost inevitably fail. The only mode which
has any chance of tolerable success is to govern through a delegated
body of a comparatively permanent character; allowing only a right
of inspection, and a negative voice, to the changeable
Administration of the State. Such a body did exist in the case of
India; and I fear that both India and England will pay a severe
penalty for the shortsighted policy by which this intermediate
instrument of government was done away with.

  It is of no avail to say that such a delegated body cannot have
all the requisites of good government; above all, cannot have that
complete and ever-operative identity of interest with the governed
which it is so difficult to obtain even where the people to be ruled
are in some degree qualified to look after their own affairs. Real
good government is not compatible with the conditions of the case.
There is but a choice of imperfections. The problem is, so to
construct the governing body that, under the difficulties of the
position, it shall have as much interest as possible in good
government, and as little in bad. Now these conditions are best
found in an intermediate body. A delegated administration has always
this advantage over a direct one, that it has, at all events, no
duty to perform except to the governed. It has no interests to
consider except theirs. Its own power of deriving profit from
misgovernment may be reduced- in the latest constitution of the East
India Company it was reduced- to a singularly small amount: and it
can be kept entirely clear of bias from the individual or class
interests of any one else.

  When the home government and Parliament are swayed by those
partial influences in the exercise of the power reserved to them in
the last resort, the intermediate body is the certain advocate and
champion of the dependency before the imperial tribunal. The
intermediate body, moreover, is, in the natural course of things,
chiefly composed of persons who have acquired professional knowledge
of this part of their country's concerns; who have been trained to
it in the place itself, and have made its administration the main
occupation of their lives. Furnished with these qualifications, and
not being liable to lose their office from the accidents of home
politics, they identify their character and consideration with their
special trust, and have a much more permanent interest in the
success of their administration, and in the prosperity of the
country which they administer, than a member of a Cabinet under a
representative constitution can possibly have in the good government
of any country except the one which he serves. So far as the choice of
those who carry on the management on the spot devolves upon this body,
the appointments are kept out of the vortex of party and parliamentary
jobbing, and freed from the influence of those motives to the abuse of
patronage, for the reward of adherents, or to buy off those who
would otherwise be opponents, which are always stronger, with
statesmen of average honesty, than a conscientious sense of the duty
of appointing the fittest man. To put this one class of appointments
as far as possible out of harm's way is of more consequence than the
worst which can happen to all other offices in the state; for, in
every other department, if the officer is unqualified, the general
opinion of the community directs him in a certain degree what to do:
but in the position of the administrators of a dependency where the
people are not fit to have the control in their own hands, the
character of the government entirely depends on the qualifications,
moral and intellectual, of the individual functionaries.

  It cannot be too often repeated, that in a country like India
everything depends on the personal qualities and capacities of the
agents of government. This truth is the cardinal principle of Indian
administration. The day when it comes to be thought that the
appointment of persons to situations of trust from motives of
convenience, already so criminal in England, can be practised with
impunity in India, will be the beginning of the decline and fall of
our empire there. Even with a sincere intention of preferring the best
candidate, it will not do to rely on chance for supplying fit persons.
The system must be calculated to form them. It has done this hitherto;
and because it has done so, our rule in India has lasted, and been one
of constant, if not very rapid, improvement in prosperity and good
administration. As much bitterness is now manifested against this
system, and as much eagerness displayed to overthrow it, as if
educating and training the officers of government for their work
were a thing utterly unreasonable and indefensible, an unjustifiable
interference with the rights of ignorance and inexperience. There is a
tacit conspiracy between those who would like to job in first-rate
Indian offices for their connections here, and those who, being
already in India, claim to be promoted from the indigo factory or
the attorney's office, to administer justice or fix the payments due
to government from millions of people. The "monopoly" of the Civil
Service, so much inveighed against, is like the monopoly of judicial
offices by the bar; and its abolition would be like opening the
bench in Westminster Hall to the first comer whose friends certify
that he has now and then looked into Blackstone. Were the course
ever adopted of sending men from this country, or encouraging them
in going out, to get themselves put into high appointments without
having learnt their business by passing through the lower ones, the
most important offices would be thrown to Scotch cousins and
adventurers, connected by no professional feeling with the country
or the work, held to no previous knowledge, and eager only to make
money rapidly and return home.

  The safety of the country is, that those by whom it is
administered be sent out in youth, as candidates only, to begin at the
bottom of the ladder, and ascend higher or not, as, after a proper
interval, they are proved qualified. The defect of the East India
Company's system was, that though the best men were carefully sought
out for the most important posts, yet if an officer remained in the
service, promotion, though it might be delayed, came at last in some
shape or other, to the least as well as to the most competent. Even
the inferior in qualifications, among such a corps of functionaries,
consisted, it must be remembered, of men who had been brought up to
their duties, and had fulfilled them for many years, at lowest without
disgrace, under the eye and authority of a superior. But though this
diminished the evil, it was nevertheless considerable. A man who never
becomes fit for more than an assistant's duty should remain an
assistant all his life, and his juniors should be promoted over him.
With this exception, I am not aware of any real defect in the old
system of Indian appointments. It had already received the greatest
other improvement it was susceptible of, the choice of the original
candidates by competitive examination: which, besides the advantage of
recruiting from a higher grade of industry and capacity, has the
recommendation, that under it, unless by accident, there are no
personal ties between the candidates for offices and those who have
a voice in conferring them.

  It is in no way unjust that public officers thus selected and
trained should be exclusively eligible to offices which require
specially Indian knowledge and experience. If any door to the higher
appointments, without passing through the lower, be opened even for
occasional use, there will be such incessant knocking at it by persons
of influence that it will be impossible ever to keep it closed. The
only excepted appointment should be the highest one of all. The
Viceroy of British India should be a person selected from all
Englishmen for his great general capacity for government. If he have
this, he will be able to distinguish in others, and turn to his own
use, that special knowledge and judgment in local affairs which he has
not himself had the opportunity of acquiring. There are good reasons
why (saving exceptional cases) the Viceroy should not be a member of
the regular service. All services have, more or less, their class
prejudices, from which the supreme ruler ought to be exempt. Neither
are men, however able and experienced, who have passed their lives
in Asia, so likely to possess the most advanced European ideas in
general statesmanship; which the chief ruler should carry out with
him, and blend with the results of Indian experience. Again, being
of a different class, and especially if chosen by a different
authority, he will seldom have any personal partialities to warp his
appointments to office. This great security for honest bestowal of
patronage existed in rare perfection under the mixed government of the
Crown and the East India Company. The supreme dispensers of office,
the Governor-General and Governors, were appointed, in fact though not
formally, by the Crown, that is, by the general Government, not by the
intermediate body; and a great officer of the Crown probably had not a
single personal or political connection in the local service: while
the delegated body, most of whom had themselves served in the country,
had and were likely to have such connections.

  This guarantee for impartiality would be much impaired if the
civil servants of Government, even though sent out in boyhood as
mere candidates for employment, should come to be furnished, in any
considerable proportion, by the class of society which supplies
Viceroys and Governors. Even the initiatory competitive examination
would then be an insufficient security. It would exclude mere
ignorance and incapacity; it would compel youths of family to start in
the race with the same amount of instruction and ability as other
people; the stupidest son could not be put into the Indian service
as he can be into the church; but there would be nothing to prevent
undue preference afterwards. No longer all equally unknown and unheard
of by the arbiter of their lot, a portion of the service would be
personally, and a still greater number politically, in close
relation with him. Members of certain families, and of the higher
classes and influential connections generally, would rise more rapidly
than their competitors, and be often kept in situations for which they
were unfit, or placed in those for which others were fitter. The
same influences would be brought into play which affect promotions
in the army: and those alone, if such miracles of simplicity there be,
who believe that these are impartial, would expect impartiality in
those of India. This evil is, I fear, irremediable by any general
measures which can be taken under the present system. No such will
afford a degree of security comparable to that which once flowed
spontaneously from the so-called double government.

  What is accounted so great an advantage in the case of the English
system of government at home has been its misfortune in India- that
it grew up of itself, not from preconceived design, but by
successive expedients, and by the adaptation of machinery originally
created for a different purpose. As the country on which its
maintenance depended was not the one out of whose necessities it grew,
its practical benefits did not come home to the mind of that
country, and it would have required theoretic recommendations to
render it acceptable. Unfortunately, these were exactly what it seemed
to be destitute of: and undoubtedly the common theories of
government did not furnish it with such, framed as those theories have
been for states of circumstances differing in all the most important
features from the case concerned. But in government, as in other
departments of human agency, almost all principles which have been
durable were first suggested by observation of some particular case in
which the general laws of nature acted in some new or previously
unnoticed combination of circumstances. The institutions of Great
Britain, and those of the United States, have the distinction of
suggesting most of the theories of government which, through good
and evil fortune, are now, in the course of generations, reawakening
political life in the nations of Europe. It has been the destiny of
the government of the East India Company to suggest the true theory of
the government of a semibarbarous dependency by a civilised country,
and after having done this, to perish. It would be a singular
fortune if, at the end of two or three more generations, this
speculative result should be the only remaining fruit of our
ascendancy in India; if posterity should say of us, that having
stumbled accidentally upon better arrangements than our wisdom would
ever have devised, the first use we made of our awakened reason was to
destroy them, and allow the good which had been in course of being
realised to fall through and be lost, from ignorance of the principles
on which it depended. Di meliora: but if a fate so disgraceful to
England and to civilisation can be averted, it must be through far
wider political conceptions than merely English or European practice
can supply, and through a much more profound study of Indian
experience, and of the conditions of Indian government, than either
English politicians, or those who supply the English public with
opinions, have hitherto shown any willingness to undertake.

                                    THE END


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