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 XIII
ELECTORAL MORALITY AFTER 1854

The attack upon electoral corruption assisted the democratic advance--Effect of the act of 1854--1 Lessened direct bribery in general--Had no effect on certain boroughs--Bribery in Beverly, Lancaster, Reigate, and elsewhere--Character of corrupt organizations--Sums paid for votes--Indirect corruption--Committee work--Travelling expenses--Question of conveyance in the House of Commons--Treating--Undue influence and intimidation-- Report of 1870--Expense of elections--Obstacles to reform-- Public opinion indifferent--Failure of election auditors--Their abolition--The law of agency--Complicated by act of 1854-- Inefficiency of election committees--Character of desirable reform.

EVEN the limited transfer of electoral power from the aristocracy of agricultural and commercial wealth to the masses which was effected by the act of 1867 and later complemented by the legislation of 1878, 1884, and 1885, would have been far less complete without the accompanying reforms in electoral methods. The final settlement of the registration system, as we have seen, assisted the process. The compilation of the lists was left, it is true, in the hands of the party registration associations; but these latter rested after 1885 upon a democratic basis, and instead of representing the interests of the local squire or the aristocratic big-wigs of the party, acted for the popularly constituted caucus organization.

But still more important as an auxiliary factor making for a truly democratic franchise, was the gradual elimination of the more flagrant corrupt practices, accompanied as it was by a reduction in the expense of elections. So

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