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1. The Election of Representatives, Parliamentary and Municipal :
A Treatise. By THOMAS HARE, Barrister-at-Law. 1859.
Third edition, 1865. 2. Considerations on Representative Government. By JOHN
STUART MILL. 1861. 3. Representation. By Sir John LUBBOCK, Bart., M.P. Sonnen
schein. 1885. New edition, 1906. 4. Report of the Royal Commission on Systems of Election.
Cd. 5163. Wyman. 1910. 5. Proportional Representation : A Study in Methods of Election.
By John H. HUMPHREYS. Methuen. 1911. 6. Proportional Representation and British Politics. By J.
FISCHER WILLIAMS. Murray. 1914.
TWO long-fought causes, Woman Suffrage and Proportional
1 Representation, have unexpectedly, as it were by ' chance of war,' come within sight of a possible speedy fruition as a result of the Speaker's Conference' on Franchise Reform. Concerning the first, the British public has had a sufficiency of information during the past ten years; and it might have been supposed that all politicians, at least, were familiar with the case for Proportional Representation. Yet no less a politician than the Prime Minister, on the occasion of his announcing in March last the proposed introduction of the new Reform Bill, informed the House that he had never been able to understand that particular proposal ; naturally indicating, further, that he was not personally concerned to press it.
In such circumstances, it can hardly be supposed that the general public is well informed on the subject; and this might in normal times be taken as a strong practical objection to the present enactment of the proposed reform. When, however, it is remembered that the principle of Proportional Representation was actually introduced, albeit with a limited application, into the Home Rule Bill of 1912, by a Government of which the present Prime Minister was an influential member, the Liberal party at least, to say nothing of the Prime Minister, are hardly in a position to object to this item in the Conference Proposals. When, further, it is remembered that in 1910 the mass of the Conservative party made the Referendum an election issue; and that up to the date of that departure nine-tenths of the electorate had never heard the Referendum discussed, there can hardly be a sincere objection on the Unionist side, on the score of popular unpreparedness, to the broaching of Proportional Representation at the present juncture.
As a matter of fact, however, the proposal has now a good deal of Conservative support. Lord Hugh Cecil recently avowed, in a frankly partisan speech, that he would be prepared to assent to other and less palatable enactments in the Reform Bill if Proportional Representation were certain to be included. In his opinion, it would strengthen the hands of conservatism
with a small c. And other Conservatives with a large Care understood to declare that it was only on the strength of the inclusion of Proportional Representation that they assented to Woman Suffrage and to a number of the concessions made to Radicalism by the Conference. Needless to say, such arguments do not improve the chances of the proposal on the Liberal side, having regard to the fact that Proportional Representation was not one of the reforms most widely demanded by representative Liberals, and that the Prime Minister has so pointedly placed it in that light. But neither is the Conservative party at all united in support of the innovation. It is the more desirable that the merits of the scheme should be fully and dispassionately considered.
Proportional Representation has been of late years actually in operation in Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Serbia, Denmark, Tasmania, and elsewhere, under a variety of forms, of which the common principle is the election of one member for each quota of votes. There are said to be 300 possible applications of the idea ; but the problem is greatly simplified for the British elector in virtue of the fact that one clearly formulated and logically consistent method is now alone proposed for his acceptance--that advocated by the Proportional Representation Society as the result of two generations of discussion.
This scheme is not now competed with by any different project professing the same ends. At one time the Cumulative
Vote was actually tried, as was the three-cornered constituency with two votes to each elector; and the Second Ballot used to have many Liberal and Labour advocates. But the Second Ballot has fallen into nearly complete discredit in France, the place of its birth, as being at once hostile to minority representation in principle and apt to set up an unjust kind of minority representation by encouraging corrupt bargains among factions between first and second elections. It is among the systems which honestly avow the desire to secure the due representation at once of majorities and minorities that we must look for the electoral system of the future, because such schemes alone are fitted to endure.
All such experiments are attempts to secure that ' represen'tation,' so called, shall be real and not illusory; that varieties of political choice in the State shall so far as possible be indicated in the legislature in the proportions that exist outside. Only thus is representation even approximately attained ; and ‘representative institutions,' so called, had subsisted in this country for centuries before statesmen bethought them of trying to arrange that the machinery should to some extent fulfil the theoretic aim if theoretic aim there was. While representation in the House of Commons was a matter of capriciously distributed privilege, mainly fixed by tradition, only a few asked whether any ideal was involved ; but as soon as the demand for franchise reform found prominent expression in the latter part of the eighteenth century, the need for a rational machinery was insisted on. When the third Duke of Richmond, in his Reform Bill of 1780, proposed to establish not only manhood suffrage and annual Parliaments but equal electoral areas, he was doubtless propounding the ideals of theorists outside of Parliament. On this plan, all males of twenty-one were to be registered in every parish, and returns made to the Lord Chancellor. Then 'the numbers to be told-up, and divided by 558 [the number of members then constituting the House of Commons), and the quotient to be the number by which one member of Parliament was to be elected. Every county to be divided into as many districts as they contain quotients of this nature, and these districts to be called boroughs.'
This, the first notable scheme to secure' one vote one value,' was of course far too revolutionary for its time to be even
seriously discussed ; and within four years the Duke had himself turned Tory, not waiting for the excuse of the French Revolution. But when the general reaction against that Revolution had spent itself, the anomalies of the single vote in arbitrary groupings moved thoughtful men to plan for better things in that regard no less than with respect to the inequities of the franchise; and in 1831–32 we find the poet Praed urging on the House of Commons the necessity of providing better for the representation of regional minorities.
'If we intend,' he argued, 'as surely we do intend, that not the majority only, but the aggregate masses of every numerous constituency, should so far as possible be seen in the persons and heard in the voices of their representatives-should be, in short, in the obvious literal sense of the word, “represented” in the House—then our present rule of election is in the theory wrong and absurd.'
Meanwhile the problem was being faced in other countries. In the 'forties the earliest movement for Proportional Representation was begun in Geneva, where party strifes had been peculiarly bitter by reason of the anomalies of the voting system. In 1855, a scheme of Proportional Representation was enacted in Denmark for the election of representatives to the Rigsraad. Adopted as it was in a time of great political tension, and applying as it did only to a part of the electoral machinery of Denmark, the system had no very favourable chance; yet when the constitution was remodelled in 1867, it was adopted for the new Landsthing," and it has ever since "remained in force.
It may or may not have been under the influence of the Danish experiment that in 1857 Thomas Hare, Barristerat-law, produced his pamphlet on ‘The Machinery of Representation,' in which he set forth an application of 'the single 'transferable vote,' substantially at one with the Danish system, save that Hare proposed to treat the whole United Kingdom as one electorate. In 1859 appeared his much larger treatise on 'The Election of Representatives,' arguing out the problem in all its details and embodying a draft Law to govern them. Like Marshall's scheme of the Cumulative Vote, it was the product of reflection on the anomalous results of recent parliamentary elections, and it at once converted John Stuart Mill. Yet Hare's very able plan is nearly the most
abstract and unattractive form in which Proportional Representation has ever been advocated; and the enthusiastic support given to it in Mill's ' Considerations on Representative 'Government' probably had the effect of causing most practical politicians of his day to dismiss the entire theory as visionary. Writing when the franchise was still very imperfect, Hare addressed himself to two other anomalies in the representative system, the first being the disproportionate share of power attained from time to time by each of the leading parties as a result of the division of the electorate into a multitude of single and a few double constituencies; and the other the constantly shifting size of many of them. Hare accordingly set himself to the solution of both problems by one scheme ; and his plan was to treat the entire electorate as one body, in which any voter could give his suffrage to any candidate. The total number of votes polled at a general election was to be ascertained from the declarations of the returning officers ; this total was to be divided by the number of members to be elected ; and the quotient was to be the number entitling any candidate who polled it to be elected.
Loyal to his principle that every citizen should have the chance of being represented, Hare at this stage complicated his scheme by proposing that 'any borough, and any parish 'or district or division of a parish or other parochial division, ' and any ward or other division of a city, town, or borough, 'and any hundred, wapentake, or other division of a county, ' and any body, college, or society incorporate,' might petition the Crown in Council 'praying that such borough, parish, 'division, or body, may be empowered to return a member 'to represent the same in Parliament. But inasmuch as it was further provided that no member was to be returned who should not poll the prescribed quota, or a 'comparative 'majority 'of votes after the first set of fully quota’d candidates had been chosen, there was to be no addition to the number of members; and there might thus be any number of 'con'stituencies,' so called, nominally entitled to be represented in Parliament, yet unable to return a member. The actual representation was to be determined by giving all electors the right to vote for any candidate in any constituency, a list being officially compiled and published, in the London, Edinburgh and Dublin Gazettes, of all candidates throughout the