The Project Gutenberg EBook of Considerations on Representative Government
by John Stuart Mill
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Title: Considerations on Representative Government

Author: John Stuart Mill

Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5669]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on August 5, 2002]

Edition: 10

Language: English

Character set encoding: Latin1


Redacted by Curtis A. Weyant

[Redactor's note: Italics are indicated by underscores surrounding the
_italicized text_.]

[Footnotes initially found throughout the text have been numbered and
placed at the end of the text.]





Those who have done me the honor 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 any thing 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.


To What Extent Forms of Government Are a Matter of Choice.

The Criterion of a Good Form of Government.

That the Ideally Best Form of Government is Representative

Under What Social Conditions Representative Government is

Of the Proper Functions of Representative Bodies.

Of the Infirmities and Dangers to Which Representative Government
Is Liable.

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

Of the Extension of the Suffrage.

Should There Be Two Stages of Election?

Of the Mode of Voting.

Of the Duration of Parliaments.

Ought Pledges to Be Required from Members of Parliament.

Of a Second Chamber.

Of the Executive in a Representative Government.

Of Local Representative Bodies.

Of Nationality as Connected with Representative Government.

Of Federal Representative Governments.

Of the Government of Dependencies by a Free State.

Chapter I

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 fulfill
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
plow, or a threshing machine.

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 can not 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 superinduce 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 institution. 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 either.

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 fulfill 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 favorable 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 civilized
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 fulfill 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 fulfill the duties which a
particular form of government requires of them. A rude people, though
in some degree alive to the benefits of civilized society, may be
unable to practice the forbearances 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 civilized government, to be really
advantageous to them, will require to be in a considerable degree
despotic; 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
civilized 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 can not 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 practiced, instead of a security
against misgovernment, is but an additional wheel in its machinery.

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

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 fulfill 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
civilization, differ much from one another. The capability of any
given people for fulfilling the conditions of a given form of
government can not 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

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. Every thing
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 can not 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 can not be durable unless preceded or
accompanied by an altered distribution of power in society itself. A
nation, therefore, can not choose its form of government. The mere
details, and practical organization, 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 organized; and the advantage in organization
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 any
thing 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 toward
ranging the powers of society on its side. On the day when the
protomartyr 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, if 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 D'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 recognize 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 favors, instead of
discouraging, the attempt to exercise, among all forms of government
practicable in the existing condition of society, a rational choice.

Chapter II

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 can not 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 realized 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 life, 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

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 society.

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 toward 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, can
not 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
fulfill 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 every thing which a government can be required to promote.
But, thus understood, it affords no basis for a philosophy of
government. We can not 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 vers_, 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?
Every body 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 any thing 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 organization. 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

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 favors the creation of more. A
just distribution of burdens, 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 vers_, 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
demoralize 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 every thing. No more does
Progress in one thing imply Progress in every thing. 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 prerequisites 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 government.

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 toward improvement, we ought not to forget that there is an
incessant and ever-flowing current of human affairs toward 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 realized 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 toward
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 any thing 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 insure 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 can not 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 any thing, 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 cinsure 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, favoritism,
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

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
organization 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 have under any other mode
of organization; 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
organizing, and the better the mode of organization, 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 organize 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 organized
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 insure 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 civilization, 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 practice 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 and 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 detail 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 means.

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 was 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 favor of which it may be
forgiven almost any amount of other demerit compatible with progress,
is that its operation on the people is favorable, or not unfavorable,
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 civilization until it has learned 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 civilization of such tribes, when not the
result of juxtaposition with others already civilized, is almost
always the work of an absolute ruler, deriving his power either from
religion or military prowess--very often from foreign arms.

Again, uncivilized races, and the bravest and most energetic still
more than the rest, are averse to continuous labor of an unexciting
kind. Yet all real civilization is at this price; without such labor,
neither can the mind be disciplined into the habits required by
civilized 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
civilized people have far other means of imparting civilization 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 civilized influences, that its adoption under any
circumstances whatever in modern society is a relapse into worse than

At some period, however, of their history, almost every people, now
civilized, 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 insure 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 learned 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 learned 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 can not 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 minuti
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 can not 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 civilization 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, and their organized 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 unorganized
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 favorable
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

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, favor 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 realize 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 III

That the ideally best Form of Government is Representative Government.

It has long (perhaps throughout the entire duration of British
freedom) been a common form of speech, that if a good despot could be
insured, 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 insure 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
burdens 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 realization 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 laborer, 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 organization 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 any thing, that the
era of national decline has arrived; that is, if the nation had ever
attained any thing 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 realized any thing
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 unfavorable 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 realize 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
untractableness, 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 realization 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
can not 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 civilization, 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
civilization, 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 favorable to present good government, and promotes a better
and higher form of national character than any other polity

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 _lite_ of mankind,
and may become so among the rest. But as this opinion is any thing 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 laborers as such
have an interest, is it regarded from any point of view but that of
the employers of labor? 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 ante-revolutionary
France. Their superior prosperity was too obvious ever to have been
gainsayed; 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 coexisted 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
unrealized. 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 guaranty 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 favor 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 neighbors 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 energy.

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 vigorous
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 Veds. 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

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 favor 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

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 any thing 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. [1] 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 favorable to it.

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 favored 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 neighborhood, 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 can not 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 any thing goes
amiss, the habitual impulse of French people is to say, "Il faut de la
patience;" and of English people, "What a shame!" The people who think
it a shame when any thing 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 is 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 favored 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 Colbert.

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 labor 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 any thing 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, makes 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
counter. 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
general good; and he usually finds associated with him in the same
work minds more familiarized 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 their interest to be his interest. 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
neighbor, 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 every where 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 can not, 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 IV

Under what Social Conditions Representative Government is Inapplicable.

We have recognized 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 can not permanently
subsist--_i.e._, in which it does not fulfill 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 fulfill 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 fulfill 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
place-hunters 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 coexistence with the popular body of an hereditary
king. If, instead of struggling for the favors 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 realized.

The preceding are the cases in which representative government can not
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 civilization,
have some lesson to learn, some habit not yet acquired, to the
acquisition of which representative government is likely to be an

The most obvious of these cases is the one already considered, in
which the people have still to learn the first lesson of civilization,
that of obedience. A race who have been trained in energy and courage
by struggles with Nature and their neighbors, 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
civilized 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 Mohammed, 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

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 _prim 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
recognized 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
neighboring 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. There are parts of Europe where the same work is still
to be done, and no prospect of its being done by any other means.
Nothing short of despotic rule or a general massacre could effect 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 civilization
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 realized a tolerably
effective popular government on that restricted scale, and may yet
have but slender sympathies with any thing beyond, and no habit or
capacity of dealing with interests common to many such communities. 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
learned to feel themselves one people, except through previous
subjection to a central authority common to all. [2] 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 favorable 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.

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 shortcomings 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 civilization, the One and
his councillors, 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 civilization to those over
whom they rule; and subjection to a foreign government of this
description, notwithstanding its inevitable evils, is often 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 civilized origin, or other peculiarities of
circumstance, are markedly superior in civilization 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 civilization 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 favorable 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 overmeddling, 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 every
thing 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 overgovernment
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 any thing
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 favors. 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 V

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

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

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
characterizes 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 States.

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 every thing in the last resort.

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 every thing, but can not possibly do every thing; and in
many cases its control over every thing 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 can not
be done except by bodies; other things can not 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 recognized 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 organized 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 every
body 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 can not 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 every body, 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 can not 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 recognized 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 can not? 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
any thing 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 oftener 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 recognizes 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. In 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 can not 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 defense 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 recognized
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 civilization 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 Nomothet, 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 labor 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

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 cinsure them if found condemnable, and, if
the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfill 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 any where, 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 can not 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 guaranty 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 practiced 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 VI

Of the Infirmities and Dangers to which Representative Government
is Liable.

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 fulfill 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 intrusted to the executive, this can only arise
from a jealous feeling on the part of the assembly toward 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 derived 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 administration.

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 favorably with the vacillation and shortsightedness of even the
most 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 guaranty for the
intellectual and active capacities of the sovereign. His personal will
is constantly encountering obstacles from the willfulness 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, any thing above mediocrity in an hereditary king has become
extremely rare, while the general average has been even below
mediocrity, both in talent and in vigor 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 vigor 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 exclusively
composed of persons who had exercised public functions, and had either
already filled, or were looking forward to fill the highest 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

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
favorable 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 vigor 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 organized 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 can not 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 can not 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 can not 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 recognizing 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 all 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 pretenses, or will withhold
support from those who endeavour to fulfill 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 community.

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 vers_: 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 realized 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 laboring class?
Suppose, again, a minority of skilled laborers, 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, 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 labor market, taxes or
restrictions on machinery, and on improvements of all kinds tending to
dispense with any of the existing labor--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 laborers.

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 laboring 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 laborers. 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 laborers 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 Csars 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 prtors 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 _rgime_ by whose
gradual operation all the civilization 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. Every body has two kinds of
interests--interests which he cares for and interests which he does
not care for. Every body 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 neighbor, 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 can not 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 power.

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 can not 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 defense 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 burden of taxation upon savings, under the name of realized
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 recognized 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, shall 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) laborers on the one hand, employers of
labor on the other; including, however, along with employers of labor
not only retired capitalists and the possessors of inherited wealth,
but all that highly paid description of laborers (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 laborers, on the other hand, may be ranked those
smaller employers of labor who by interests, habits, and educational
impressions are assimilated in wishes, tastes, and objects to the
laboring 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 organization must be such that these two classes,
manual laborers and their affinities on one side, employers of labor
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 alone,
usually, after sufficient discussion and agitation, become strong
enough to turn the balance in favor 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 VII

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 organize 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 contrivance.

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, can
not 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 favor 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 practiced,
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 favor 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

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 guaranty
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 even probable, 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

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 laborers; 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 any where. 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 colors, 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. Speaking generally,
the choice of the majority is 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; and 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 recognizing 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. [3] 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
recognized 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.

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 can not 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, 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 advantages. 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 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 he is the person, in the whole list of candidates for
Parliament, who best expresses the voter's own opinions, or 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 contained many more
voters than the quota (and there probably ought to be no local
consitituency which does not), 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 eligible as 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 would
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 honorably 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 undreamed 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 _lite_
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 numbers 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
civilization, 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, do not even offer themselves for
Congress or the State Legislatures, so certain is it that they would
have no chance of being returned. Had a plan like Mr. Hare's by good
fortune suggested itself to the enlightened and disinterested 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 any thing 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 outvote 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 any 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 councils 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 insensibly 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 any thing 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 every thing 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
disfavor. 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

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 organization 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 _lite_ 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 councils 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 sympathize 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

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 pretense of equal justice, aim only at
substituting the class ascendancy of the poor for that of the rich,
will of course be unfavorable 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 can not 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 can not 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, stigmatized as insurmountably
prejudiced against any thing 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 of prejudice, properly speaking,
there is in this case none except on the lips of those who talk about
it, and that 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.

Chapter VIII

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 biases, 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 can not
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
organized 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

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
recognize a potent instrument of mental improvement in the exercise of
political franchises by manual laborers. 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 travelers 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. Yet
this is nothing to what we might look for in a government equally
democratic in its unexclusiveness, but better organized 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 laborer, 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 civilized 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 any thing 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 can 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 _ 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 any where 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 economize. 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 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 coextensive 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 laboring 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 every one 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 can not by his labor 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 uncertificated 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 can
not 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 fulfill 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 the security
of others, would be unfelt, and on emerging from which this mark of
inferiority would disappear with the rest.

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 laborers, 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, can
not 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 pretense for applying this doctrine to any
case which can 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

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 any thing 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 any thing 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 compromising 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 labor is on the
average more intelligent than a laborer; for he must labor with his
head, and not solely with his hands. A foreman is generally more
intelligent than an ordinary laborer, and a laborer 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 manage. 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
practiced, 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 pretense. The "local" or "middle class" examination for the
degree of associate, so laudably and public-spiritedly established by
the University of Oxford, 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

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 favor of
education, right in itself, is farther and strongly recommended by its
preserving the educated from the class legislation of the uneducated;
but it must stop short of enabling them to practice 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 realized 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 practiced 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 can not too soon
begin to reconcile himself to the former. In the mean time, 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 farther 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 can not be
obtained without bringing with them, as it appears to me, 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 leveled in some particular
constituencies, whose members, consequently, would be returned
principally by manual laborers; 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 laboring
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 recognizing 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 unfavorable 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 every
thing, 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 can not be resisted are usually far too well satisfied with their
own opinions 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 realize 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 color
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 any thing, 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 greater 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 laborers in corn-fields 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 can not exact, and are yet desirous
to have. It would also be no small matter 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 realize to herself that there is a point of
honor in them; and most people have as little sympathy in the point of
honor 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 honor. 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 IX

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 defense; since it may be said, with great appearance of
reason, that less intellect and instruction are required for judging
who among our neighbors 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
management, 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 realized 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 who 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, can not 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 operates. 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 Breckinridge ticket or the
Lincoln 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 intrusted 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 can not 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 intrusted 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 dileship are no guaranty of any special fitness to judge
of the comparative qualifications of candidates for a seat in
Parliament. They probably would not fulfill 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 intrusted 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.

It is unnecessary, as far as England is concerned, to say more in
opposition to a scheme which has no foundation in any of the national
traditions. An apology may even be expected for saying so much against
a political expedient which perhaps could not, in this country, muster
a single adherent. But a conception so plausible at the first glance,
and for which there are so many precedents in history, might perhaps,
in the general chaos of political opinions, rise again to the surface,
and be brought forward on occasions when it might be seductive to some
minds; and it could not, therefore, even if English readers were alone
to be considered, be passed altogether in silence.

Chapter X

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 any
thing 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 every body, 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 _prim 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, any thing 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

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 any
thing 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 overruling 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 laborers,
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 propositions?

"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

"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 laborers 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 can not 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 insure
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, can not 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_. Every body has as many different interests as
he has feelings; likings or dislikings, either of a selfish or of a
better kind. It can not 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 sympathize with tyranny (when not exercised
over himself); he will be almost certain not to sympathize 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 favorable 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."

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 organized 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. [5]

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 50 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 can not 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 50 proposed by Mr. Hare, if allowed to be drawn upon
for these purposes (it might be made 100 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 50 (or 100), should be illegal and
punishable. If there appeared any likelihood that opinion would refuse
to connive at falsehood, a declaration on oath or honor 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 50,
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 honor
would be considered binding. [6] "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
any thing, 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.

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 favor 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, pays for his seat, all endeavours will fail to make the
business of election any thing 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 favor 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
occupation 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 demoralizing
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 rivaling 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
organized system of tillage for raising a rich crop of vicious
courtiership. [7] 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 Marvel, by the
contributions of his constituents. This mode is unobjectionable for
such an honor 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
guaranty for the possession of an independent opinion and will.

Chapter XI

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 representative. 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 able, without 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 XII

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
recognized 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
can not 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 honor, 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, recognized 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 defense 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 can not 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
coequal 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 can not
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 vers_. 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 will, 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

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 recognize 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
recognized 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 honors
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 can not be denied that a complete democracy has a strong
tendency to cast the sentiments of the electors in this mould.
Democracy is not favorable 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 can not 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 can not 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 supremacy, of which it is one of the most sacred not to desert
the cause which has the clamor 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
favor of his general value, many and great differences between his
opinions and their own. There are some differences, however, which
they can not 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 can not 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 unfavorable social
circumstances or family 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 intrusted 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 toward 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
recognized 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 every thing 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 XIII

Of a Second Chamber.

Of all topics relating to the theory of representative government,
none have 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 of comparatively little
importance whether the Parliament consists of two Chambers or only of

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 unfavorable 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
favor 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
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 can not 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 insure 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 the crowd
rather than in opposition to it, 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 can not
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

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 insure 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 degree, tend to
compromise it. 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 office or employment.
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 then be most
inclined to lead them forward in any right course. The council to whom
the task would be intrusted 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 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.
The functions conferring the senatorial dignity should be limited to
those of a legal, political, or military or naval character.
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 favor 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,
or 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 XIV

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 has probably
no 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 every thing, and through
whose default any thing 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 offense: 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 offense, 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 any thing, 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 councillors 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
clamor 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 guaranty 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 can not 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

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'tat_, 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'tat_ 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 paralyze 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

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 provoke 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
centralized 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 can not, 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 any thing 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 can not be denied that the
irremovability of any public officer to whom great interests are
intrusted 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.

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 attained.

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 all appointed at
the commencement of manhood, not as having learned, 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 honors 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
performing 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
honors 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 every thing 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
[8] which can be shown to have been ever asked, and make it appear
as if unexceptionable answers to all these were made the _sine qu
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 attach 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, 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 any thing _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.

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 Csar speak French. We are next
informed that book-worms, 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 demeanor they
contrast so favorably 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, _
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 redound to the credit of the minister, however much the
qualities to which it is immediately owing may be those of his

Chapter XV

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 centralized 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 [9] 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
labor, it is indispensable to share them between central and local
authorities. Not solely 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. That the
people should exercise these functions directly and personally is
evidently inadmissable. Administration by the assembled people is a
relic of barbarism opposed to the whole spirit of modern life; yet so
much has the course of English institutions depended on accident, that
this primitive mode of local government remained the general rule in
parochial matters up to the present generation; and, having never been
legally abolished, probably subsists unaltered in many rural parishes
even now. There remains the plan of representative sub-Parliaments for
local affairs, and these must henceforth be considered as one of the
fundamental institutions of a free government. They 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 organization, while in other countries there is
better organization but less liberty. It is necessary, then, that, in
addition to the national representation, there should be municipal and
provisional 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.

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 can not 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 can not 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

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, can not, 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 co-operation 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 elective body for all local
business, not different bodies for different parts of it. Division of
labor 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 divers 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
any thing 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 piecemeal, 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 any thing 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 organized 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

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 jails, 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 demoralization, owing to
the maladministration of its police; or if, through the bad
regulations of its jail, the punishment which the courts of justice
intended to inflict on the criminals confined therein (who might have
come from, or committed their offenses 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 every where; there is no good reason why police, or jails, 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 intrusted 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
jails 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 fulfillment of the
conditions on which state assistance is granted to the latter.

But if the administration of justice, police and jails 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 skillful 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, can not, 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 criticized, 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 compensatory advantage of a far more
direct interest in the result. A man's neighbors 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 learned from the united experience of the
whole kingdom, with the addition of easy access to that of foreign

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 localized, but knowledge, to be
most useful, must be centralized; there must be somewhere a focus at
which all its scattered rays are collected, that the broken and
colored 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 mode 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 laboring population depends, 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
every thing is aptly compared by M. Charles de Rmusat 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 any thing itself that can
possibly be done by any one else, nor shows any one else how to do any
thing, is like a school in which there is no schoolmaster, but only
pupil-teachers who have never themselves been taught.

Chapter XVI

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
hitherto 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
every thing 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
_prim 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 themselves.
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 can not 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 favor of the
government against the rest. Above all, the grand and only reliable
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 enemies--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

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 civilized 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
civilization, be promoted by keeping different nationalities of any
thing 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 civilized 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 neighboring 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
civilization, 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 civilized 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,
re-enforced by the Greeks, did Asia, and the English India, there is
often a gain to civilization, but the conquerors and the conquered can
not 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 neighbors, but the wealthiest, and one of the freest, as well
as most civilized 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 tyrannized 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 neighbors with whom it would prefer to connect itself, having
more sympathies in common, if not also greater community of interest.

Chapter XVII

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 toward one another, or
such diversity of feeling toward their neighbors that they would
generally prefer to fight on opposite sides, the federal tie is
neither likely to be of long duration, nor 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 defense, are
hemmed in on all sides by military or feudal monarchs, who hate and
despise freedom even in a neighbor, 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 goes so far in
alienating from each other's sympathies the two divisions of the Union
as to be now actually effecting the disruption of a tie of so much
value to them both.

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 cognizance, 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 can not, 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 civilized than
others. There is a wide difference in wealth and population between
New York and Rhode Island; between Berne, 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, every thing
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 mean time, 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 organizing 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, sympathizing 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
defense of the new federal Constitution while still awaiting the
national acceptance, is even now the most instructive treatise we
possess on federal government. 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 can not 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 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
realized 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 can not
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 every thing 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 has
been 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. 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 civilized 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 can not
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 insured if the
regulation of these matters is intrusted 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," [10]
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

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 defense, 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 neighboring 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-defense, in which it can rely on the voluntary
co-operation of every citizen; nor is there any thing 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 was 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 aggrandizement, 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 favored 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 coexistence 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 are 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 favor 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'tats_, 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 _subdlgus;_ 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 guaranty of a constitutional provision against any
attempt at assimilation except by the voluntary act of those who would
be affected by the change.

Chapter XVIII

Of the Government of Dependencies by a Free State.

Free states, like all others, may possess dependencies, acquired
either by conquest or by colonization, 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 can not, 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
civilization 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 realized, 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 die out 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 tyrannizing 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.

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 a perfectly equal
federation between the mother country and her colonies, then no longer

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 council 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 any
thing 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 defense of this country

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 co-operation 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 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 recognize 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 any thing to the
expense except what may be required for the specific local defense 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 defense 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. Were the whole service of the British crown opened to the
natives of the Ionian Islands, we should hear no more of the desire
for union with Greece. Such a union is not desirable for the people,
to whom it would be a step backward in civilization; but it is no
wonder if Corfu, which has given a minister of European reputation to
the Russian Empire, and a president to Greece itself before the
arrival of the Bavarians, should feel it a grievance that its people
are not admissable to the highest posts in some government or other.

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
civilization 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 civilization.
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 learned, 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 civilized 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 realized;
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 aim 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 organize 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 favorable 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 any thing 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 can not 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 any thing 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 labor, requiring a very superior degree of capacity in the chief
administrators, and a high average among the subordinates; and the
best organization of such a government is that which will best insure
the labor, develop the capacity, and place the highest specimens of it
in the situations of greatest trust. Responsibility to an authority
which has gone through none of the labor, acquired none of the
capacity, and for the most part is not even aware that either, in any
peculiar degree, is required, can not 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 can
not 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, amid 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 responsibility. Among a people like that of
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
demoralizing 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 it.

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 splendor 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 insures
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
defense, 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 does not 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 can not have all
the requisites of good government; above all, can not have that
complete and over-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 such 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, their appointment is 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

It can not be too often repeated that, in a country like India, every
thing 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 practiced 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 learned 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 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 guaranty 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
semi-barbarous dependency by a civilized 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 realized to fall through and be lost from ignorance
of the principles on which it depended. _D meliora;_ but if a fate so
disgraceful to England and to civilization 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



1. 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 vigor
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
ardor are a real specific.

2. 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.

3. 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 every thing conservative, and Liberals for every thing 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.

4. "Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform," 2nd ed. p. 32-36.

5. "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 favor 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 any
thing 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. 39.

6. 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 favorable (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, 54-7, 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

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 _bon 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 euphonious 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).

7. "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

8. Not always, however, the most recondite; for one of the latest
denouncers of competitive examination in the House of Commons had the
_nivet_ 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

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

10. Mr. Calhoun.

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

End of this Project Gutenberg E-Text of Considerations on
Representative Government


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