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 VIII
THE ATTACK UPON CORRUPTION, 1832-1854

Question of corruption continually debated by the Commons-- Failure to impose a remedy--Punitive measures suggested after 1832--Proposals to disfranchise individual boroughs--Failure of Russell's attempts at reform--The Radicals and the ballot-- Exclusion of the ballot from the Reform Act--Grote's campaign for the ballot--Failure of the movement--Arguments for and against the ballot--Difficulties standing in the way of proof of corruption--Russell's act of 1841--Its effects--Election compromises--The act of 1842--Failure of the legislation--Disfranchisement of Sudbury and St. Albans--The act of 1852--The new bribery commissions--The act of 1854--Its provisions--Definition of corrupt practices--Penalties--Election auditors--Significance of the act of 1854.

THE prevalence, as well as the enormity, of the electoral corruption described in the previous chapter naturally suggests a query as to what attempts were made in the direction of purifying political morals and protecting the voter from the temptations to which he was exposed. Judging by the customary attitude of both the public and the members of parliament toward corruption, as well as by the continued persistence of the evil, it might have been inferred that the general indifference to bribery would be mirrored in the official attitude of the House of Commons. Such was by no means the case. During the two decades which followed the Reform Act there are few subjects so constantly discussed, or in such non-partisan and apparently sincere tone, as the extinction of corrupt practices. It was inevitable that at least a show of opposition to electoral corruption should be made. The honour and dignity of parliament demanded that all possible

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