Electoral Reform in England and Wales: The Development and Operation of the Parliamentary Franchise, 1832-1885

By Charles M. A. Seymour | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
REGISTRATION: METHODS AND CAUSES OF DIS-
QUALIFICATION

Organized disfranchisement --The system of objections --Activities of the Anti-Corn Law League--Frivolous and vexatious objections--Post service of objections --Walpole's bill of 1847--Is defeated--Rate-paying requirements --Disfranchising effects -- Evans' bill of 1848--Attitude of parties --After amendment by Lords becomes law--The compound occupiers --Their names not upon the rate-books--Their disfranchisement --Clay's act of 1851--Its failure --Continued disfranchisement of compound occupiers--Investigation of 1864--Pessimistic report --Remedial proposals--The act of 1865--Summary of effects of registration law on the electorate--Restricted the operation of the franchise -- Electoral power placed in hands of party agents.

THE preceding chapter has dealt with the opportunities afforded by the registration system for the creation of votes, whether upon manufactured qualifications, or by means of truly fraudulent methods. The ensuing pages are chiefly concerned with the reverse process: the destruction of votes. It mattered little to the party agent whether he enfranchised a friend or excluded an opponent; if he might do both, so much the more was gained. The framers of the system had foreseen that the enfranchising process must result inevitably. Although they had failed to realize the possibility of the wholesale creation of faggot votes, they had perceived the opportunity furnished for the manufacture of questionable claims, and to prevent such claims they had instituted the system of objections. But they did not foresee that by instituting this system they were placing an equally efficient weapon of destruction in the hands of the party asso

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