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 XIV
THE FINAL ATTACK UPON CORRUPTION AND
EXCESSIVE ELECTION EXPENDITURE

Methods of attacking corruption --Improved tribunal for trial of election petitions--Secret voting --Effective publication and control of election expenses--Disfranchisement of incurable boroughs--Transference of jurisdiction over election petitions to courts--The act of 1868 --Amended in 1879 --General effect -- Movement for introduction of the ballot --Report of 1870 --Opposition and indifference in the Commons--Ballot Act carried in 1872--Effects --Partly nullified by the canvass --In certain boroughs merely lowered price of votes--Bribery in 1880 -- Indirect bribery and treating --Collective corruption --Rôle of the party associations--Expense of elections --The act of 1883 -- Maximum expenditure --Restraint of expenditure --Return of expenses--Definition of four kinds of corrupt practices --Illegal practices--Opposition to the act --Effects of the act --Expenditure lessened--Purity of elections furthered --Character of corruption that persisted--Democracy aided by the elimination of corruption .

THE elements of corruption which had survived the earlier attempts at purification were not to be dislodged by a single line of attack. In certain boroughs, as we saw, there remained strongly entrenched the traditions of the days when the sole issue of an election was the amount of money spent by the rival parties; here palliative remedies could not be utilized; the sole means of preventing bribery lay in the disfranchisement of the borough, a remedy which would throw the electors into the mass of county voters. Certain of the more obviously corrupt boroughs were thus treated in 1867; but the extent of disfranchisement was so limited that there remained many other incurables, which for the health of the whole must inevitably suffer ultimate excision.

-418-

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