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Politics of the Past

According to a statement made by the Duke of Richmond in 1780, the majority of the House of Commons was returned by not more than 6,000 men. In a petition of the Society of the Friends of the People in 1/93, it was mentioned that 84 persons absolutely returned 157 members to Parliament, and that 70 influential individuals secured the return of 150 members; so that in this way 307 members—which, before the union with Ireland constituted the majority of the Lower House—were returned thereto by 154 patrons, of whom 40 were peer?. Such was the abuses of Parliamentary representation at the close of the eighteenth century. But the most grievous abuse of power was the great control which the members of the House of Lords had over the members of the second branch of the Legislature. It appears that by the nomination or influence of S7 peers no less than 218 members were returned for counties and boroughs in England and Wales; 137 were sent to the House of Commons by 90 commoners, and 16 by the Government making a total number of 371 nominee members. Of the 45 members for Scotland, 31 were returned by 21 peers and the remainder by 14 commoners. Of the 100 members Ireland was entitled to, 51 were returned by 36 peers, and 20 by 19 commoners. Such, at that time, was the rotten state of Parliamentary representation. Some of the rotten boroughs—Gatton, Old Sarum, and Midhurst—it is said, had not a house remaining in them; and it appears trom returns submitted to Parliament in 1631 that many of the boroughs had only or three LlO householders. In Scotl&nd Parliamentary representation was even wolse than in England and Wales. The couky franchise was limited chiefly to the few landholders, and the burgh suffrage to self-elected town councillors. In 1823 the whole number of voters for all Scotland was less than 3,000, Edinburgh and Glasgow had each only 33 electors. It is within the memory of man that at an election in Bute» only one person attended the meeting besides the sheriff and the returning officer. This person took the chair, constituted the meeting, called over the roll of freeholders, answered to his own name, took the vote as to the preses, and elected himself. He then moved and seconded his own nomination, put the question as to the vote, and declared himself as unanimously returned* The people were practically disfranchised. Political patrons, by making terms with the Ministry, ruled in a measure supreme. Bribery also ruled triumphant. Sales of seats could be purchased often direct, such as Sudbury, in | England. If the Government required a seat for a particular person the sitting member was bought out at a price agreed on. At the general election in 1768 seats in Parliament were bought by the Treasury noblemen and others for their followers at prices ranging from L 2.000 to L 5.000; and it is said that the celebrated George Selwyn sold the representation of the seat for Lodgershall for the sum of L 9,000-

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Bibliographic details

Politics of the Past, Evening Star, Issue 8024, 28 September 1889, Supplement

Word Count

Politics of the Past Evening Star, Issue 8024, 28 September 1889, Supplement