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Instead of there being under the representative system, as it is known among us, a representation of the entire electoral body, of all the individuals who compose it, there is in fact a representation of only a part. In other words, representation instead of being complete and coextensive with all those who are to be represented and who are to be bound by the action of government, is partial and restricted to a part only of the political body.
Well, gentlemen, in the infancy or in the early stages of a Government an imperfection of this kind may be permitted or overlooked. The affairs of society when they are not complicated, before the community has become rich, before its affairs, social and political, become involved and intricate, may admit of very rude and imperfect arrangements, and yet the people may be well governed, the laws may be just and wholesome and administered in a proper spirit and with complete success. But, as
, wealth accumulates, as population becomes dense and
grow up, as vices are spread through the social body, and as widely extended and complicated political action becomes necessary, those earlier and simpler arrangements—imperfect always—become positively pernicious and hurtful; and the necessity arises for their correction, and that the system of government shall be purified and invigorated by amendment. In
your popular elections which are held or taken under the majority or rather under the plurality rule, (which ordinarily amounts to the same thing) at your popular elections the smaller number of voices which are spoken in the election of represent
atives who are to enact your laws are stricken from the count. When the officers charged with the duty of collecting the voices of the people come to make up the count and declare the result, they strike from the poll or the return all those who when numbered are the smaller quantity or the smaller political force. Then after your representatives selected in this manner by a majority merely, by a part of the community, are convened together, when they come to act in the business of government, to enact laws, they again act by a similar rule. The majority in the representative body pronounce the opinion and decree of that body, and what they pronounce becomes law, binding upon all the people. Now, what is observable in this statement of facts? Why, that in the first place, in selecting representatives you strike off a part of the political body; then, again, in representative action you strike off the minority of the representative body, who represent another portion or mass of the popular electors. The result is that
be made by men who represent a minority of the people who are to be bound by the laws so made. A A representative majority may not be, in point of fact --and often is not—a representative of the majority of the people.
When we come to consider in addition to this that the representative majority, whether in a State Legislature or in Congress, in modern times or comparatively corrupt times, when pernicious and selfish interests invade the halls of legislation, ordinarily acts under what is known as the caucus system; you perceive how far we have departed from those popu
lar principles upon which we professed to found our system originally, and which we supposed would give vitality and energy to its action. A caucus, a private consultation of majority members, rules the action of the representatiye majority. That majority rules the entire representative body, and that representative body is composed of representatives of only a part of the political community. Is it not then established by this inquiry that instead of our representative system being what we originally intended it to be, and what we had supposed it would be, it is in its practical action characterized by imperfections which must arrest universal attention when the facts are examined and provoke a cry for some measure of amendment and reform ? And if a project of reform and amendment can be brought forward which is practicable, reasonable and wise, it will be our business to embrace it with promptness and with gladness of heart.
PLANS OF REFORM.
Now, what do we desire ? We may desire that the whole people, instead of a part of them, shall be represented in the Government, and that is precisely what I propose. In accomplishing this object, differences of opinion, as in all cases of new investigations, may be expected. One may have one project and another another. In a time of inquiry, of movement in the public mind, it is not well and it is not to be expected that all minds should run in the same channel, and that out of the inquiries which individuals enter upon the same ultimate proposition should be evolved by
each. How will we then obtain representation in government of the entire mass of the people? Let us come to that question, and in coming to it inquire into the several plans or projects which have been suggested to secure this object. They may be classed under three heads. In the first place, it has been proposed in various forms that by law there should be a restricted or limited mode of voting. Again, it has been proposed that the elector in all elections of representatives and of other officers where more than one are to be chosen, may bestow his votes upon a smaller number than the whole; in other words, may exercise what is known as the cumulative vote. Again, there has been proposed in Great Britain and elaborately defended in that country what is called the system of personal representation, by which an elector shall be emancipated from the ordinary bonds and trammels of party organization, and shall be as an individual and not as a member of a party represented in Parliament or other body of a similar constitution.
THE LIMITED VOTE.
Now, as to the first of these, that is, the limited or restricted vote—I use these words because I have none more expressive or convenient at hand—as to this limited vote: When you pass to your places of election and proceed to choose for yourselves the election officers who shall hold elections during the year in your several election districts, what do
Each elector votes for one inspector, and yet two are chosen. Here is a limitation upon the voter,
. Instead of voting for both, the law says that he shall vote for but one. What is the practical result throughout the State under this law? Why, that one inspector belongs to the majority party in each election district, and the other belongs to an opposing one. In other words, both the parties into which our political society is ordinarily divided are represented in the election boards. Thus you secure representation of the entire mass of the electors, and yet you secure it by a limitation upon the votes of individual electors.
What has been the practical result of this arrangement, which is found in your State election law of 1839? Has the result been good or bad? Why, there is not a man who hears me, or an intelligent, honorable citizen in this Commonwealth, who would not cry “shame” if that law were repealed. It is a law by which elections are kept comparatively pure, by which fraud is prevented and fairness is secured to the citizen in polling his vote.
I believe in this city, when you come to choose assessors in your several wards, those interesting persons who have control over your pockets [laughter], who take valuations of your property, whose action as public officers is most interesting to you, each elector votes for one, and yet two are selected. In this case you are secured, I presume, against partiality and injustice in the administration of the tax laws by dividing those officers between political parties.
I am told, also, that in selecting your school directors each school division or ward has twelve directors who have charge of your school system-one-third,