« ForrigeFortsett »
present obtaining in England, by which a voter is annually liable to have his title disputed and his vote objected to. Lord John Russell, on the contrary, in his bill for the registration of parliamentary electors, proposes to limit the power of objecting parties; contending that experience has proved that the custom prevailing in this country is productive of much mischief and of no commensurate good.
Lord Stanley failed, we think, to prove the necessity for the change or the efficacy of the remedy. Why, we ask, is a voter to be subjected, annually, to the inconvenience of attending in a court, and wasting his time in meeting objections which have before been met, and answering questions which have before been answered ? What other object can there be in such a system, than to weary out the elector and give every chance to the objector ? What motive can there be for such a regulation but the hope that circumstances may interfere to prevent a man's attention to the registry,—that absence, or illness, or business may give the anti-popular party a chance of disfranchising him? When a man has once proved to the satisfaction of the court, that he occupies a house of value sufficient to entitle him to the franchise, on what plea can he annually be required to prove the validity of his title, so long as he continues to occupy the same premises ? We confess that we entirely approve of the principle in the Irish Reform act, by which an elector is protected from annual annoyance; and we hope to see the English act amended by the introduction of a clause limiting the extraordinary powers of objectors. What!' it will be asked by the Tory traducers of the Irish electors, What! will you offer a premium to deception, and allow those who are disqualified, to vote? Our reply to all the rodomontade which we hear on this subject is, * No; we will ‘not offer a premium to deception, nor knowingly allow those disqualified to vote.' We contend that the Irish Reform act is so framed as to provide (as far as a mere statute can provide against such things) against voting by disqualified persons. We have shown, according to that law, that any one who forges a certificate is liable to transportation for seven years. If, therefore, certificates are forged, transport the offenders. We have shown again, that every one is liable to be sworn as to his proper identity and actual possession of the property from which he votes. If he swears falsely detection cannot be difficult; and when he is detected prosecute him for perjury. But the law is still more severe and cautious. According to the 56th clause of the 2 and 3 Will IV. c. 88, it is provided with reference to Ireland:
* And be it enacted, that if any person being at the time of any election being in the enjoyment of any office disqualifying him from voting
at such election, or being otherwise disqualified, or having ceased to be qualified, shall notwithstanding presume to vote at such election, such person shall forfeit to his majesty a sum of one hundred pounds, and shall be liable to all penalties, forfeitures, and provisions to which he would have been subject for such offence by any law in force at the time of committing the same; and in case of a petition to the House of Commons for altering the return or setting aside the election, at which such person shall have voted, his vote shall be struck off by the committee, with such costs as to them shall seem meet, to be paid by him to the petitioner.'
any man of common candor, after this, is it not unfair to allege that the Irish law holds out inducements and affords facilities to disqualified persons to vote at elections ?
We admit freely that the law requires amendment as to the establishment of claims; and we admit also that personation’ is practised at Irish elections; but we have no hesitation in saying, that Lord Stanley's bill is not directed against those evils, but aims at crushing popular enthusiasm and contracting the honest franchise. If there is not sufficient caution observed before a voter's claim is declared to be valid, let the law require more caution, and the clearer proof of qualification by direct evidence. This will remedy the evil without violating rights !
It admits of immediate proof, that the system of annual objections is productive of much inconvenience, and is attended with a great deal of abuse. Lord John Russell stated recently in the House of Commons, that he knew of a case in the East Riding of York, where a voter who had established his claim the year before, was obliged to go from a great distance to the registration court with his lease, to prove his title again. When he arrived, the objection had vanished ! and he found that his time had been wasted for nothing. The law that allows such practices as this (and they are matters of constant occurrence) must be vicious; and therefore we are inclined to consider the clauses in Lord John Russell's registration bill as important in the very highest degree. That bill has been postponed till next session ; but we hope that the following clauses will, sooner or later, be sanctioned as the law of the land.
* And be it enacted, that no objection to the value of any lands or tenements holden by an established voter for any county, riding, parts, or division of a county, shall be allowed so long as they shall continue to be holden by the same voter, nor shall any objection to the title of any such established voter to hold any lands or tenements be allowed, unless the objection be grounded upon something which shall have happened after the date to which the qualification of such voter was last established.'
* And be it enacted, that no objection to the value of any premises VOL. VIII.
occupied by an established voter for any city or borough, shall be allowed so long as he shall continue to occupy the same premises.'
If Lord Stanley's proposition to oblige the Irish voters annually to produce their leases and title-deeds in court, and to come as often into collision with their landlords, be odious and unnecessary, what will be thought of the plan which would enable an objector, whose objections had been quashed in the registration court, to persecute a voter further, and compel his attendance from any part of a county before the judges of assize?
Lord Stanley proposed to establish the right of appeal to the judges against the decision of the revising barristers; and, to work out his intention more thoroughly, introduced a clause into his bill which provided that no voter whose claim had been disallowed by the barrister could appeal without giving a bond and security for the sum of £10, which sum might be exacted from him if the judge thought that he had no business to appeal!! It may well be asked, what is there in the nature of the elective franchise to warrant such regulations as these? or what is there in the constitution of England that declares that the man who asks for the franchise shall be regarded as a public enemy? The law is obliged to fix some standard of qualification; but nothing can be more unreasonable than to multiply objections and difficulties in the road of those who are possessed of the requisite qualification. A free and an extensive franchise is necessary for the preservation of public liberty, and that man is an enemy to the people, and a friend of arbitrary and irresponsible power who proposes to contract it. Lord Stanley professes that his object is to purify the system of registration ; but the policy of his party and the provisions of his bill tend a very different way:
Crimson leaves the rose adorn,
Viewing Lord Stanley's recent movement with reference to the interests of the country for which he proposed to legislate, it cannot be regarded as any thing else than as a calamity. The best friends of Ireland implored the noble lord to desist; for, that any such attempt would only excite the people who were subsiding into tranquillity; but he heeded no warning. The decrease of crime (proved before Lord Roden's committee by Lord Roden's own witnesses), and the movement in favor of temperance indicated an altered state of things. • Battalion after battalion
squadron after squadron--was withdrawn from the shores of • Ireland; yet every day property became more secure and order
more manifest.' Every thing was full of promise ; and all the country seemed to want was repose, when Stanley let loose the waters of bitterness over the land. This nobleman was the last person in existence to whom the nice and delicate task of legislating for Ireland should have been confided :
"A man who, on Irish questions, came denuded of the slightest claim to public confidence -a man who to his face had been told by Lord Althorp, that his Irish administration had been a lamentable failure ; who since that time, from his political transactions, had acquired an unqualified title to the disrelish of one country, and to the distrust of both ; who, when a Whig, endeavored to swamp the lords, and when he turned Tory, to destroy the rights of the people ; who lauded in 1832 the Irish members elected under the existing registration, when it suited his purpose, and who now wanted to slap the door of the Ilouse of Commons in their faces ; who first of all, when introduced to public life, began by exposing that faction, and holding it up to public scorn, to which he now gave the assistance and support of his great talents, and which every beating of his heart told him he ought never to lave devoted himself to.'*
Leaving Lord Stanley however, it is time that we should return to the general question of the vices of the present system of registration. In noticing the state of the law regulating registration in Ireland, we took occasion to refer to some of the hardships to which those who claim votes in England are liable; we shall now enumerate the several evils in the existing laws which are most worthy of the attention of the legislature,— which tend most seriously to contract the franchise, and deprive of votes many of those who are in the actual possession of the property qualification fixed by aet of parliament:
1. The liability to have one's claim disputed annually.
II. The encouragement given to frivolous, factious, and technical objections.
III. The disfranchisement attendant upon removal from one house of the requisite value to another of similar value, in the same city, &c.
IV. The payment of registration fees.
V. The obligation to bring proof of the payment of assessed taxes.
VI. The obligation to prove payment of poor rates.
VII. The uncertainty attending the decisions of the revising barristers.
For six of these evils provision is made in the bills · For the • Registration of Parliamentary Electors,' and To make further
* Mr. Shiel's Speech in the House of Commons, 20th June.
isirmers; for, if passed into
for the - mati s straxu ajaled to, stating the grounds of obnair's dark kalores the objection to be true. The * We are notice to the overseer, accompanied
We would the world think of the jusmindre din daw ktorehand, what the objection or objecar nigamu trial without allowing him a copy of the don matai aktivis true, and yet brings it, he is actuated
on that he does so. or upyar watis; it he does believe it to be true he can have We nerer anlamprehend the meaning of those who urge
brough, should be disqualified from voting. If1 zues-u the possession of a legal qualification at the funge Land Sohn Russell has introduced a clause to meet such aves rih s in the terms following:
Ard kit Ansched, that so much of the last-recited act as authorizes Penker or members to serve in parliament, to put to any voter at the
wrapuís the returning officer mix of tendering his rote the following question (that is to say), ‘have
e qualification for which your name was inserted in the zikr of ruters now in force for the county of, et cætera, [or, for the
riding, et atera, or for the city, et cætera, as the case may be, geuzining in ench case the particulars of the qualification, as described rennur
tits appearing to the returning officer or his deputy that the xt, 10 person shall be excluded from voting at any such election by in the Angrister shall be repealed ; and that after the passing of this
s originally inserted in the register: provided always, that this ennement shall not be construed to authorize any person to vote at such election who is subject to any legal incapacity, or to prevent the nue el nu ma incapable person from being void. hibalo prepared to do away with the payment of the shilling early part of 1833, very properly condemned this exaction; ob
to pay for a right of this nature. The Edinburgh Review, in the
occupied by an established voter for an
'brought in by Lord
to the friends of the ally to produce their leases and tit as often into collision with their
of the two first causes of cessary, what will be thought of
registered as an estaobjector, whose objections had
long as he continues court, to persecute a voter fi from any part of a county be
Lord Stanley proposed to
. A man
him? Again, if a man does not be-
removing from one house to another can be more un culties in the ro qualification. A
it is injustice to prevent him from the preservatior the people, and proposes to cor to purify the s
or his deputy, at any election of a and the provis
Viewing the interests
qualification for which his cannot be best friends of crime den's own
A man ought not to have indicated squadro Ireland
any such a siding into
which is no