1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Representation
REPRESENTATION, a term used in various senses in different connexions, but particularly in a political meaning, which has developed out of the others.
The word “represent” comes from Lat. re-praesentare, to “make present again,” or “bring back into presence,” and its history in English may be traced fairly well by the citations given in the New English Dictionary of its earliest uses in literature in senses which are still common. ThusThe word. we find the verb meaning (1380) simply to “bring into presence,” and Barbour uses it (1375) in the sense of bringing clearly before the mind, whence the common sense of “explain,” “exhibit,” “portray.” In 1513 it is used as synonymous with “describe,” or “allege to be.” In 1460 we find it employed for the performance of a play or a part in a play, whence comes the sense of symbolizing, standing in the place of some one, or corresponding to something; and in 1655 for acting as authorized agent or deputy of some one. This is a notable point in the development of the word. In Cromwell’s speech to the parliament, January 22, 1655, he says: “I have been careful of your safety, and the safety of those you represented.” This strictly political use of the verb developed, it will be seen, comparatively late.
The noun “representation” passed through similar stages. In 1425 we find it equivalent to “image,” “likeness,” “reproduction,” “picture,” from which is derived a meaning hardly distinguishable from “pretence.” In 1553 it means a “statement” or “account,” a sense which leads later (1679) to that of a formal and serious plea or remonstrance. In 1589 it occurs for a performance of a play. In 1647 it is used in psychology for the action of mental reproduction, a technical sense which applies especially to the “immediate object of imagination” (Sir W. Hamilton), and in Kantian language becomes the generic term for percepts, concepts and ideas. In 1624 it comes to mean “substitution of one thing or person for another,” “substituted presence” as opposed to “actual presence,” or “the fact of standing for, or in place of, some other thing or person,” especially with a right or authority to act on their account. Its application to a political assembly then becomes natural, but for some time it is not so found in literature, the sense remaining rather formal. Good instances of this use are: Gataker, Transubst. 4: “The Rocke was Christ onely symbolically and sacramentally, by representation or resemblance”; and R. Coke, Power and Subj. iii.: “So cannot these members be formed into one body but by the king, either by his Royal Presence or representation.” Thus “presence” and “representation” are used in distinctive meanings. In Scots law (1693) it obtains the technical meaning of the assumption by an heir of his predecessor’s rights and obligations.
The term “representative,” now specially applied to an elected member of a national or other assembly, deriving his authority from the constituency which returns him, appears to have been first used to denote not the member but the assembly itself. In the act abolishing the office of king, after Charles I.’s execution, 1649, section iv. runs: “And whereas by the abolition of the kingly office provided for in this Act, a most happy way is made for this nation (if God see it good) to return to its just and ancient right of being governed by its own Representatives or national meetings in council, from time to time chosen and entrusted for that purpose by the people, it is therefore resolved and declared by the Commons assembled in Parliament,” &c., “and that they will carefully provide for the certain choosing, meeting and sitting of the next and future Representatives,” &c. But the application of the term to the persons who sat in parliament was at all events very soon made, for in 1651 Isaac Penington the younger published pamphlet entitled “ The fundamental right, safety and liberty of the People; which is radically in themselves, derivatively in the Parliament, their substitutes or representatives.”
It is worth while to dwell on the historical evolution of the various meanings of “represent,” “representation” and “representative,” because it is at least curious that it was not till the 17th century that the modern political or parliamentary sense became attached to thern; and it is well to remember that though the idea of political representation is older and thus afterwards is expressed by the later meaning of the word, >the actual use of “representation” in such a sense is as modern as that. In Burke’s speeches of 1769 and 1774–1775, relating to taxation, we find the word in this sense already in common use, but the familiar modern doctrine of “no taxation without representation,” however far back the idea may be traced, is not to be found in Burke in those very words. The “originator of that immortal dogma of our (i.e. American) national greatness ” was, according to the American writer M. C. Tyler (Amer. Lit. i. 154), the politician and philanthropist Daniel Gookin (1612–1687), an Irish settler in Virginia, who, moving to Boston and becoming speaker of the Massachusetts legislature, became prominent in standing up for popular rights in the agitation which resulted in the withdrawal of the colonial charter (1686). But it was the vogue of the “dogma” in America, not its phrase, that he seems to have originated; and while the precise form of the phrase does not appear to be attributable to any single author, the principle itself was asserted in England long before the word “representation,” in a political sense, was current. In English constitutional history the principle was substantially established in 1297 by the declaration De Tallagio non concedendo, confirmed by the Petition of Right in 1628.
The growth of the parliamentary system in England is traced in the article Parliament, but the account there given may be supplemented here by a more precise reference to the evolution of the idea of political “representation” as such, and of its embodiment in the word now The Idea of political representation.employed to express it. The simple idea of the substitution of one person for another, in some connexion, e.g. hostage, pledge, victim, is so old as to be only describable as primitive; it is found in the proxy system, e.g. in marriage, and in diplomacy, the legate or ambassador being the alter ego of his sovereign; but, so far as general political legislative action, by one man in an assembly on behalf of others, is concerned, no systematic employment of a “deputy (the word still used both in a general sense and in politics as a synonym for “representative”) is known among the ancients. So long as political power rests in a small privileged class, such an idea must be slow to develop; and the primitive notion of a law-making body is that of all the members present in person, as in ancient Greece. But, as Stubbs (Const. Hist. i. 586) points out, the early English jury system (see Jury) shows the germ of the true idea of representation in England; it was the established practice of electing or selecting juries to present criminal matters before the king’s judges, and assessors to levy taxes on the county, that suggested the introduction of popular representation in the English political system, and thus brought “the commons” into play in addition to the Crown and the nobles. Under Henry III., in 1254, we have the writ (see Parliament) requiring the sheriff of each county to “cause to come before the King’s Council two good and discreet Knights of the Shire, whom the men of the county shall have chosen for this purpose in the stead of all and of each of them, to consider along with knights of other shires what aid they will grant the king.” But the definite establishment of the principle of political representation, in a shape from which the later English system of representation lineally descended, may be traced rather to the year 1295, in Edward I.’s famous writ of summons to parliament, of which the following is the important part. In the volume of Select Documents of English Constitutional History (1901), selected by G. B. Adams and H. M. Stephens, whose version from the Latin we quote, the section is headed (ante-dating the use of the vital word), “Summons of representatives of the counties and boroughs”:—
“The king to the sheriff of Northamptonshire. Since we intend to haye a consultation and meeting with the earls, barons and other Emcipal men of our kingdom with regard to providing remedies against the dangers which are in these days threatening the same kingdom: and on that account have commanded them to be with us on the Lurd's' Day next after the feast of St Martin in the approaching wint.er, at Westminster, to consider, ordain and do as may be necessary for the avoidance of these dangers: we strictly require you to cause two knights from the aforesaid county, two citizens from each city in the same county and two burgesses from each borough, of those who are especially discreet and capable of labouring, to be elected without delay, and to cause them to come to us at the aforesaid time and place. Moreover, the said knights are to have full and sufficient power for themselves and for ine community of the aforesaid county, and the said citizens and burgesses for themselves and the communities of the aforesaid cities and boroughs separately, then and there, for doing what shall then be ordained according to the Common Council in the premises, so that the aforesaid business shall not remain unfinished in any way for defect of this power. And you shall have there the names of the knights, citizens and burgesses, and this writ." The words “ Elegi facias, " instead of “ venire facias ” (which were retained in 127 5; see PARLIAMENT), still appear to make the parliament of 1 295 the model, rather than that of 1 27 5. though in other respects the latter appears now to have established the summoning of county and borough representatives. In this summoning by the king of the two knights and two burgesses with full and sufficient power for themselves and for Growth the community, we ind therefore the origin of political of, -, ,, ,-e. representation of the commons, as opposed to the svnfallvu actual presence and personal attendance of the peers. g'ngm|d The older English national assemblies had consisted of the privileged class fully summoned as individuals. The change involved has been well explained by E. A. Freeman (Ency. Brit., 9th ed., viii. 297), when he says: “The national assemblies changed their character . . . by no cause so much as by the growth of the practice of summons .... In the great assembly at Salisbury (1086), where all the landowners of England became the men of the king (William the Conqueror), we see the first germs of Lords and Commons. The Witan are distinguished from the ' land-sitting men.' By the Witan, so called long after the Conquest, we are doubtless to understand those great men of the realm who were usually summoned to every assembly. The vast multitude who came to do their homage to the king were summoned only for that particular occasion. The personal right of summons is the essence of the peerage .... The earls and bishops of England, by never losing their right to the personal summons, have kept that right to personal attendance in the national assembly which was once common to all freemen, but which other freemen have lost. The House of Lords represents* by unbroken, succession the Witan of the assembly of Salisbury; that is, it represents by unbroken succession the old assemblies of the Teutonic democracy .... The 'land-sitting men, ' on the other hand, not summoned personally or regularly, but summoned in a mass when their attendance was specially needed, gradually lost the right of personal attendance, till in the end they gained the more practical right of appearing by their representatives.” From the same authority the account of the intermediate stages in the adoption of the representative principle may be further quoted:-
“ By the time of Henry II. the force of circumstances, especially the working of the practice of summons, had gradually changed the ancient assembly of the whole nation into a mere gathering of the great men of the realm .... It is in the reign of Richard I. that we begin to see the first faint glimmerings of parliamentary representation The object of his wise ministers, of Archbishop Hubert among the first, was to gain the greatest amount of money for their master with the least amount of oppression towards the nation. Under Hubert's administration, chosen bodies of knights or other lawful men, acting in characters which became more and more distinctly representative, were summoned for every kind of purpose. How far they were nominated, how far freely elected, is not always clear. It seems most likely that in one stage they were nominated by the sheriff in the county court, while at a later stage they were chosen by the county court itself. In other words, the principle of representation was first established. and then the next stage naturally 1 The inevitable use of the word “ represent " in its wider sense (“ corresponds to ), is worth noting in this passage from Freeman, side by side with the more technical one in ' representative " (“ chosen delegate ).
was that t he representatives should be freely chosen. Summoised bodies of knights appear in characters which are the forerunners of grand jurors and of justices of the peace. They appear also in a character which makes them distinctly forerunners of the knights of the shire which were soon to come. A chosen body of knights have to assess the imposts 'on each shire. From assessing the taxes the next stage was to vote or to refuse them. In IZI3 the sheriffs are called on to summon four discreet men from each shire, to come and speak with the king about the affairs of the realm. When we have reached this stage, we have come very near to a parliament, name and thing. The reign of John, in short, is marked by common consent as the time from which Englishmen date the birth of their national freedom in its later form, . . The (Great) Charter (i2i5) is the first solemn act of the united English nation after Norman conquerors and Norman settlers had become naturalized Englishmen. Representation was already fast growing up; but it had hardly yet reached such a stage that it could be ordained in legal form. But rules are laid down out of which, even if it had not begun already, representation in the strictest sense could not lai; shortly toarise. The distinction which had been growing up ever since the Conquest, and indeed before, between the Witan and the land-sitting men, now receives a legal sanction. The practice of summons makes the distinction. Certain great men, prelates, earls and greater barons, are to receive the personal summons. The rest of the king's tenants-in-chief are to be summoned only in a body. Here we have almost come to a separation of Lords and Commons. But in modern ideas those names imply two distinct houses; and it was not yet settled, it had not yet come into men's minds to consider, whether the national council should consist of one house or a dozen. But it is decreed in so many words that the acts of those who came would bind those who stayed away. On such a provision, representation, and not only representation but election of the representatives, follows almost as a matter of course. The mass stay away: a few appear, specially commissioned to act in the name of the rest. The Charter mentions only the king's tenants-in-chief; so far had things been marred or feudalized by the influence of the Conquest. But as the election could only be made in the ancient county court, every freeholder at least, if not every freeman, won back his ancient right. If he could not come himself to say Yea or Nay, he at least had a voice in choosing those who could do so with reater effect.” glbid. pp. 307, 3, o8.)
“The constitution of the (national) assembly, as defined in the Great Charter, did not absolutely imply representation; but it showed that the full establishment of representation could not be long delayed. The work of the period 1217-I3 0 was to call up, alongside of the gathering of prelates, earls and other great men specially summoned, into which the ancient /Vitanagemot had s runk up, another assembly directly representing all other classes of the nation which en'oyed political rights. This assembly, chosen by various local bodies, communicates or universitates, having a quasi corporate being, came gradually to bear the name of the commons. The knights of the shire, the barons, citizens and burgesses of the towns, were severally, chosen by the commune or comniunitas of that part of the people which they represented.” 2 “ The notion of local representation, by which shires and boroughs chose representatives of their own communities, had to some extent to strive with another doctrine, that of the representation of estates or classes of men. The 13th century was the age when the national assemblies, not only of England but of most other European countries, were putting on their definite shape. And in most of them the system of estates prevailed. These in most countries were three, -clergy, nobles and commons. By these last were commonly meant only the communities of the chartered towns, while the noblesse of foreign countries answered to the lesser barons and knights, who in England were reckoned among the commons. The English system. thus went far to take in the whole free population, while the estates of other countries, the commons no less than the cler y and nobles, must be looked on as privileged bodies. In Englamf we had in truth no estates: we had no nobility in the foreign sense .... Yet the continental theory of estates so far worked in the development of our parliamentary system that the Three Estates of England' became a familiar phrase. It was meant to denote the lords, the commons and the. clergy in their parliamentary character. For it is plain that it was the intention of Edward I. to organize the clergy as a parliamentary estate, alongside of the lords and commons. This scheme failed, mainly through the unwillingness of the clergy themselves to attend in a secular assembly. This left, so far as there were any estates at all, two estates only, —lords and commons. This led to the common 2 Professor Masterman, lecturing (1908) on the House of Commons, has pointed out how fortunate it was that this beginning of the organization of the communes into a central body did not come earlier than it did. Had there been one assembly representing the local communitotes at any earlier time it would have been far too sectional in character and far too little conscious of any common interest. The organization did not begin till England had become a self -conscious body, realizing its common interests and the common destiny that belonged to it as a nation. mistake of fancying the three estates to be king, lords and commons. The ecclesiastical members of the House of Lords kept their seats there; but the parliamentary representation of the clergy as an estate came to nothing. So far as the clergy kept any parliamentary owers, they exercised them in the two provincial convocations. These anomalous assemblies, fluctuating between the character of an ecclesiastical synod and of a parliamentary estate, kept, from Edward I. to Charles II., the parliamentary power of self-taxation. For a long time lords and commons taxed themselves separately. So did the clergy; so sometimes did other bodies. . . .
“During the reign of Henry III. assemblies were constantly held, and their constitution is often vaguely described. But in a great many cases phrases are used which, however vague, imply a popular element. We read of knights, of tenants in chief, of freemen, sometimes even of freemen and villeins, sometimes, more vaguely still, of ‘universi,’ ‘universitas Angliae,’ and the like. In some cases we are able better to interpret these vague phrases. For instance, in 1224 each shire sends four knights chosen by the ‘milites et probi homines.’ Whether these knights were or were not to vote along with the magnates, they were at all events to transact business with them. We must always remember that in these times formal voting in the modern sense is not to be looked for.” (Ibid. pp. 314, 315.)
This summary shows clearly how the idea of “representation” as opposed to “ presence in person ” was applied to the English parliament, so as to give the commons a Theory of proper voice in it as well as the lords. It is unnecessary here to trace further the gradual increase in power ofThe Theory of Representation. the House of Commons till it became the predominant partner in the English bicameral constitution (see Parliament). But from the point of View of historical theory it is important to note that its representative character does not essentially depend upon the particular method (election by vote) by which its members have for so long been chosen. It is a common error to regard the House of Commons as having a national authority higher than that of the House of Lords merely on the ground that it is composed of elected members, and to stigmatize the House of Lords as “unrepresentative” because it is not elected. But in strictness the question of election, as such, has nothing to do with the matter. The proper distinction (ignoring for the moment the later inclusion in the House of Lords of a certain representative element—strictly so regarded—in the Scotch and Irish peers) is that the House of Lords, as still constituted in 1910, remained a presentative chamber, while the House of Commons was essentially a representative one; in the former the members, summoned personally as individuals, were entitled to speak in the great council of the nation, while in the latter the members were returned as the mouthpieces of whole communicates, to whom, in the person of the sheriffs, the summons had been directed to send persons to speak for them. The preponderant authority of the House of Commons is due not to itsi members being elected-that is only one way of settling who the mouthpieces of the commons shall be—but to the progress of popular government. The two British houses have historically existed as assemblies of the separate estates of the realm-the House of Lords of the two estates of lords spiritual and temporal, and the House of Commons of the commons. The third estate has so increased in power as to become predominant in the country; but the authority of its own assembly simply depends on the powers of those it represents. If the balance of political power had not been shifted in the country itself, the authority and competence of the peers, speaking for themselves in a primary assembly, would in theory actually appear higher, so far as their order is concerned, than that of members of the House of Commons, who can only “represent” the popular constituencies. Moreover, the fact that most members of the House of Commons are elected by a party vote is apt to make them very often even less authoritative spokesmen of their constituencies—the communitates—than if they were selected by some method which would indicate that they had the lull confidence of the whole body they “represent.” It is notorious that many members of a modern House of Commons, or of any other “representative” assembly, have only been elected by the votes of a minority of their constituency, or (where there have been more than two candidates) a minority even of those who voted; and there always comes a time when it is certain that if a representative has to come again before the electorate for their votes he will be defeated; he, in fact, no longer reflects their views, while he still sits and legislates. The real desires of the commons in a certain British constituency may even be more faithfully, even if only accidentally, reflected by a local peer whose only right to speak in parliament is technically preventative. In his Vindication of the British Constitution (1835), Disraeli, writing of the Reform Bill of 1832, observed that “ in the effort to get rid of representation without election, it will be Well if eventually we do not discover that we have only obtained election without representation.” A truer word was never spoken. A man may be representative, practically consensu omnium, although no vote, resulting from a division of opinion, has been taken for the purpose of selecting him. The vote is merely a method of selection when there is a definite division of opinion involving an uncertainty; and even in the modern House of Commons many members are returned “unopposed,” no actual voting taking place. A well-recognized representative character (as regards the functions involved) attaches, for instance, in British public life to other persons in whose selection the method of popular voting has had no place; such as the king himself, the Cabinet (in relation to the political party in power), or the bishops (as regards the Church of England).
The question of remodelling the constitution of the British House of Lords was prominently before the country in 1910; and a large number even of those who were prepared to defend its actions in the past were ready to accept changes which would make it in form and composition The British Houses of Parliament. a Second Chamber representative of the nation rather than preventative of its historic order. But it is important to remember, in connexion with the House of Lords question, that, in a country like England, where the constitution has provided for a Second Chamber which is composed of members of an estate or estates distinct in the nation from the estate of the commons, these persons may to a predominant degree nevertheless be really representative men by common consent; while their being so, though not theoretically the reason for their legislative power, is substantially the reason why it has so long persisted. In the absence of a written constitution, theoretical considerations have in England always been second to the force of circumstances. Most people regarded the House of Lords, as still unreformed in 1910, as purely a hereditary body; its members had been summoned to parliament as peers (the important question of their right to a summons need not here be discussed), and most peers enjoyed their titles by hereditary succession. But the constant creation of peers by both political parties had in fact introduced even into the constitution of the House of Lords an essentially representative element (though not resulting from direct election), apart altogether from the fact that heredity maintained there a number of persons whose title had descended from men who were originally representative Englishmen, and whose successors, on the whole, were no less so. In the days when kings really governed in England, the most powerful check on the king, in the interest of the nation at large, was the peerage; the earls and barons, in parliament, were the chief bulwark of the people against tyranny. It was they who stood for the nation in extorting Magna Carta from King John; and as time went on, the representation of the commons in parliament was largely due, not to any direct popular pressure, but to the desire of the kings to influence the lower ranks of society independently of the nobles. Up to the reign of Charles I., at all events, the House of Lords was actually the predominant partner in parliament; the House of Commons was recruited from and returned by only a small section of the commons as now understood; and Oliver Cromwell—certainly a “popular” leader in the ordinary sense—made as short work of it as he did of the king himself. Up to 1832, when the first modern Reform Act was passed, the House of Commons was an oligarchical body, and the electors themselves were a small and privileged class. It is only since then—except in the granting of supplies—that first equality, and then predominance, in respect of the House of Lords, has been asserted by the House of Commons, owing to the fact that an extended suffrage has made the estate of the commons more adequately coincident with the nation as a whole. Prior to 1832 it was the king who directly made and unmade ministries; in 1835 for the first time the result of a general election caused a change of ministry; and the modern view of the House of Lords as purely a revising chamber dates only from then. But the very fact that the responsibility for creating new peerages now passed to ministers dependent on popular suffrage may well justify the contention that henceforth it indirectly included a select number of representative men of the nation, holding their seats in virtue of authoritative nomination and not by heredity. In the sixty years preceding 1906 no fewer than 419 new peerages were created, 238 by the Liberal party, 181 by the Conservative, or a balance of 57 creations on the Liberal side. It is fair to assume that all these new peers were created as being representative men in the nation for one reason or another. And an analysis of the composition of the House of Lords in 1906 would have led an unprejudiced outside observer to suppose that its competence to speak on national affairs had not been weakened by any dependence on the hereditary title. It included 166 men who had been M.P.’s (i.e. had been elected by popular vote to the House of Commons), 172 who had held government office, 140 who had been mayors of county councils, 207 who had served in the army or navy, 40 who had been judges or lawyers, 7 ex-viceroys, 16 ex-governors of colonies, 50 who had been eminent in art, letters, manufactures or trade, and 21 archbishops or bishops (appointed by ministerial recommendation, but only after they had worked up to eminence from being curates, and therefore had wide experience of the social life of the people).
It is possible to compare a chamber so composed somewhat favourably with a modern House of Commons, if the point at is surf the provision of “representative men ” (Le. men generally accepted as national spokesmen)-be strictly considered, apart from the method of selecting them by direct popular vote. In the House of Lords the method is heredity plus selection by the political party which the popular vote has put in power; while in the election of members of the House of Commons the popular choice is doubly limited-first, by the fact that only the enfranchised commons can vote (in 1910 about 71 millions out of 43); and secondly, -because the choice must be made from among candidates who are themselves not disqualified for various reasons (for instance they must not be clergymen, nor entitled to seats in the House of Lords). Now, to carry out the real “will of the nation” in parliament must require (1) a reasonable knowledge of the wishes of the nation, and (2) an understanding of the best ways of expressing those wishes in legislation and administration. In the case of the peers, those who sit as having been originally created and therefore selected for the purpose-a considerable section of those actively attending-the quali-Bcations are obvious: and it is only necessary to deal with those qualified by inheritance of title. Here too, in a number of cases, preceding experience in the House of Commons, to which the popular vote has returned them while they were only in the succession to a peerage, is a frequent factor; but, apart from that, the art of legislation is one which may well be considered to require a certain special disposition and mental equipment. Though allowance must be made for exceptional cases, it is obvious that the son of a man who has been responsible for legislating, who has himself' been brought up as one who will have to take his part in legislating, is most likely, in any society, to have qualified himself for the business, as in the case of any profession or trade. He has been accustomed to breathe the parliamentary atmosphere, and as one of a leisured class has had the opportunity to study the subject of legislation, and to obtain experience of its conditions. This is so generally accepted that, in fact, the same theory is commonly applied to candidates for the House of Commons, and predominantly to members of that House who are given office. The names of more than one generation are writ large in English history in the case of the Pitts, Foxes, Grenvilles, Cannings, Cecils, Stanleys and Cavendishes. The sons of famous political commoners, a Gladstone, a Harcourt, a Churchill, a Primrose, a Chamberlain, have by consent a superior claim, even within the radical or popular party, by no means resting originally or primarily on known personal merit or proved experience, for selection as candidates and then for preferment to office; and it is a very common occurrence for younger sons of peers to be selected as candidates (liberal as much as conservative) for parliament, even though from general intellectual considerations they may appear in no way the equals of other men. They have been brought up to the business; and they are therefore adapted for it by heredity. If the House of Commons were deprived of those members who obtained their seats or their offices primarily for reasons of heredity, it would lose many of its best men-as indeed it occasionally does, to its disadvantage and possibly to the chagrin of the individuals themselves, when succession to a peerage forces a prominent parliamentarian to relinquish his seat in the Lower House and to take his place in the “unrepresentative” chamber.
It remains nevertheless the fact that, in politics, “representative”
government means not so much government by men
really representative of the nation as government in
the name of the whole body of citizens (and predominantly
the estate of the commons) through a chamberExpression of the “Will of
the People.” or chambers composed of elected deputies. The object in view is the expression of the “will of the people”—the people, that is, who are sovereign. Clearly the only pure case of such government can be in a republic, where there is only one “estate,” the free citizens. The home and historical type of representative government, the United Kingdom, is strictly no such case, since the monarchy and the House of Lords exist and work on lines constitutionally independent of any direct contact with the electorate. British practice, however, is of vital importance for the theory of representative institutions, and it is worth while to point out that the “ will of the people ” may even so be effectively expressed some people may think even more effectively expressed than in a pure republic. The king and the House of Lords, qud correspond to a real embodiment of the nation; (2) that
estates of the realm, are just as much part of “ the people, ” in the widest sense, as “ the commons ” are; they are an integral part of the nation. In a republic they would as individuals be equal citizens, able to become candidates for the representative chamber or chambers; but as it is, since they are expressly debarred from taking part in elections to the House of Commons, they remain entitled and expected to use their historic method of playing a part in the government of the state. They assist to constitute “ the people” in the wider sense, and in the narrower sense “the people ” ('t.e. the commons) know it and rely on it. Under the British constitution the commons have habitually relied on the monarchy and the House of Lords to play their part in the state, and on many occasions it has been proved, by various methods by which it is open to the commons themselves to show their real feeling, that action on the part of the monarch (e.g. in foreign affairs) or the House of Lords (in rejecting or modifying bills sent up by the House of Commons), in which a popular vote has played no initiating or controlling part, is welcomed and ratified, by consent of a large majority, on the part of the nation at large. So much is this so that it is notorious, in the case of the House of Lords, that elected members of the House of Commons, tied by purely party allegiance and pledges, have constantly voted for a measure they did not want to see passed, relying on the House of Lords to throw it out. Ultimately, no doubt, the reconciliation of this “ preventative ” element in the British form of constitution with the growth of democracy and the predominance of the “ representative ” system depends purely on the waiving of historical theory both by king and peers, and its adaptation to the fact of popular government through the recognition that their action rests for its efficient authority upon conformity with the “ will of'the people.” Thus it has become an established maxim in England that while it is the proper function of the House of Lords to reject a measure which in their opinion is not in accordance with the wishes of the nation, they could not repeat such a rejection after a general election had shown that its authors in the House of Commons were supported by the country. The experience of politics from 1832 to 1910 gave abundant justification to the House of Lords for supposing that in such cases they were interpreting the desire of the country better than the House of Commons; the case of the Irish Home Rule bill of 1893 is, of course, the classical example! So that in practice the House of Lords only acts in opposition to the House of Commons, subject to the remedy of a dissolution of parliament (which depends strictly on the prerogative of the Crown, but in practice on the advice of the leader of the majority in the House of Commons), at which the view of the House of Commons might be confirmed and reasserted, and in that case would prevail. The violent attacks made on the House of Lords by the Liberal party, on occasions when that party has had a majority in the commons and has had its measures rejected or distastefully amended, have always been open to the criticism that if the majority in the House of Commons were really supported by the electorate in the country they had the remedy in their own hands. If it were shown by the result of a general election that their defeated measure were the “ will of the people, ” the House of Lords, as was generally understood, must give way. Such a position, though naturally objectionable to a party in power in the House of Commons (because general elections are uncertain things in every respect but that of trouble and expense), could clearly be strong only in view of the confidence of the House of Lords in its action being more truly representative of public opinion. It therefore must be said to have acted, however clumsily and indirectly-and no direct way would be feasible except that of the Referendum-as a “representative ” body, i.e. as carrying out what it judged to be the national will and not merely the will of the peers, although not constituted as 1 The result of the general election of January 1910, following on the rejection of the Budget by the House of Lords, cannot properly be said to show anything to the contrary. It was notorious that there was no genuine majority in the new House of Commons for the Budget, and that the lrish Nationalists only voted for it as part of an arrangement for ulterior purposes.
such in the narrower sense. In practice, and in accordance with this view, it has on more than one occasion (ag. in the case of the Trades Disputes Act of 1906) accepted and passed measures which it was notorious, and indeed avowed, that the peers themselves regarded as bad.
The immense extension of the “ representative principle ” in government, by means of popular election, and its adaptation to municipal as well as national councils, has in recent times resulted in attracting much attention to the Qjjgg in problem of making such elected bodies more accurately obtaining representative of public opinion than they frequently Repreare. There are three distinct problems involved-, f f, “é';';'f" (1) that of making the number of enfranchised citizens um, of getting candidates to stand for the office of representative who are competent and incorruptible exponents of the national will, and (3) that of adopting a system of voting which shall result in the elected representatives forming an assembly which shall adequately reflect the balance of opinion in the electorate. (1) The history of the gradual extension of the franchise in the United Kingdom is given under PARLIAMENT, and the conditions for other countries under their respective headings. But while, in countries with a representative Suffrage system at all, the question as to the extent to which the male citizens shall have the vote is mainly one of degree-as to property or other qualification, up to the inclusion of all adults (see VOTE AND VOTING)**th€ question of the incapacity of women, as a sex, raises a distinction which is more radical. The facts as to the progress of the movement for women's suffrage are given in the article WOMEN. It is only necessary to say here that, where the franchise is limited to the male sex, the theory of “no taxation without representation ” is under modern conditions of life carried out in a decidedly onesided way. The question of women's suffrage is, however, one of public policy, in whatever state it is raised; and even where, as in Great Britain, it has been adopted for municipal affairs, a distinction is commonly made as regards the national assembly. So far as the historical facts as to the disability of women are concerned, it has been unanimously decided in England by the highest law-court of the realm (judgment of the House of Lords in the Edinburgh University case, December IQ 98), presided over on this occasion by a Liberal Lord Chancellor (Lord Loreburn), that, according to their authoritative statement of the common law, women never had in earlier times any legal right to vote for members of parliament; this judgment is therefore entirely adverse to such ingenious arguments to the contrary as are ably expressed in Mrs Charlotte Carmichael Stopes's .British Freewomen (1907).
Sex, however, apart, there are Various interesting questions as to the principles which should govern the extension of the suffrage and its limitations, to which a brief reference may here be made. It is noteworthy that John Stuart Mill, the philosophical radical whose work on Representative Government (first published in 1861) is a classic on the subject, and who regarded the representative system as the highest ideal of polity, made a good many reservations which have been ignored by those who frequently quote him. Mill's ideal was by no means that popular government should involve a mere counting of heads, or absolute equality of value among the citizens. While holding that “ no arrangement of the suffrage can be permanently satisfactory in which any person or class is peremptorily excluded, or in which the electoral privilege is not open to all persons of full age who desire to obtain it, ” he insisted on “ certain exclusions.” Thus he demanded that universal education should precede universal enfranchisement, and laid it down that if education to the required amount had not become universally accessible and thus a hardship arose, this was “ a hardship that had to be borne.” He would not grant the suffrage to any one who could not read, write and perform a sum in the rule of three. Further, he insisted on the electors being taxpayers, and emphasized the view that, as a condition annexed to representation, such taxation should descend to the poorest class The “in a visible shape, ” by which he explained that he did not mean “indirect taxes, ” a “mode of defraying a share of the public expenses which is hardly felt.” He advocated for this purpose “ a direct tax, in the simple form of a capitation ” on every grown person. But even more than this, he was in favour of a form of plural voting, so that the intellectual classes of the community should have more proportionate weight than the numerically larger working-classes: “though every one ought to have a voice, that every one should have an equal voice is a totally different proposition.” The well-informed and capable man's opinion being more valuable than that of the barely qualified elector, it should be given more effect by a system of plural voting, which should give him more votes than one. As to the test of value of opinion, Mill was careful to say he did not mean property-though the principle was so important that he would not abolish such a test where it existed-~but individual mental superiority, which he would gauge by the rough indication afforded by occupation in the higher forms of business or profession, or by such a criterion as a university degree or the passing of an examination of a fairly high standard. “ Until there shall have been devised some mode of plural voting, which may assign to education as such the degree of superior influence due to it, and sufficient as a counterpoise to the numerical weight of the least educated class, for so long the benefits of completely universal suffrage cannot be obtained without bringing with them, as it appears to me, more than equivalent evils.” “ Equal voting, " he repeated, “ is in principle wrong, because recognizing a wrong standard, and exercising a bacl influence on the voter's mind. It is not useful, but hurtful, that the constitution of the country should declare ignorance to be entitled to as much political power as knowledge.” Modern democracy may ignore Mill's emphatic plea for plural voting, as it ignores his equally strong arguments against the ballot1~his contention being that secret voting violated the spirit of the suffrage, according to which the voter was a trustee for the public, whose acts should be publicly known-but Mill's discussion of the whole subject proceeds on high grounds which are still worth careful consideration. Where a representative system, as such, is extolled as the ideal polity, the reservations made by Mill, a liberal thinker who cannot be dismissed as a prejudiced reactionary, should be remembered. Mill postulated, in any event, a state of society which was worthy of such a system, no less than the necessary checks and balances which should make it correspond to the real conditions of rational government. “ Representative institutions, ” he pointed out, “ are of little value, and may be a mere instrument of tyranny or intrigue, when the generality of electors are not sufficiently interested in their own government to give their vote, or, if they vote at all, do not bestow their suffrage's on public grounds, but sell them for money, or vote at the beck of some one who has control over them, or whom for private reasons they desire to propitiate. Popular election, as thus practised, instead of a security against misgovernment, is but an additional wheel in its machinery.” When, in modern'days, advocates of representative institutions seem ready to extend them to all countries, they become doctrinaires who depart widely from the standpoint of Mill, and forget that democracy is itself only a “ form of government, ” as Sir Henry Maine insisted, for which all communities may not be ripe or fitted. The ideal form of government must be relative to a certain state of civilization and certain conditions of national life, and its advantages can only be tested by results and practical working.
(2) As regards the important question of the selection of candidates (which depends partly on their willingness to stand, 5¢|e, ,-gn", and partly on the means available for discovering vf Cmdl- suitable persons), modern practice is entirely dominated by the organization of political parties and the requirements of party allegiance. Though much has been said as to the desirability or not of paying members for their services (see PAYMENT or MEMBERS), this is certainly overshadowed by the question of the availability of really capable men at all to the number required, for all candidates become “ professional ” dates.
1 Before 1872, when the Ballot Act was passed, voting was public. politicians, whether paid or not. The ideal of having a " representative man ” in the broader sense as a “ representative ” in the narrower is only very roughly attained where the conditions of public life make a capacity for electioneering a necessity. To a large extent the political candidate depends purely upon the support of a party organization. His choice rests with party wire-pullers, and the average individual elector is confronted with the task of voting for some one of whom he may personally know very little, except that, if returned, the candidate will in parliament vote for measures embodying certain general principles as indicated in some vague party programme. Since the elector as a rule himself supports a party, he votes accordingly, but there are always a good many electors who under such a system fail to get a chance of voting for a candidate who fully represents their views. The supremacy of party interests, resulting from the difficulty of having any other form of electoral organization, is apt to bring many evils in its train, including the corruption of the electorate, and the practice of “lobbying/ i.e. the pressure upon members in parliament of important “ interests ” whose electoral assistance is indispensable. (3) The more important point to be considered here is the third. When a representative assembly is to be elected by a direct popular vote, it is obviously necessary (a) that Systems either there should be some system by which the whole °fV°f"1-Kbody as a unit should elect all the members en bloc, or, as this usually appears impracticable, that the mass of electors should be divided within defined areas, or “ constituencies ”; and (b) that in the latter case voting shall take place for the purpose of electing one or more representatives of each such area according to some method by which due effect shall be given to the preferences of the'electors. In theory there can be no perfectly fair arrangement as between constituency and constituency, where a single representative is to be returned, except on the terms that they are exactly equal in the number of electors; each elector's voice would then count equally with that of any other in the nation (or mutatis mutandis in the municipality, &c.). But in practice it is difficult to the point of impossibility to attempt more than an arbitrary distribution of electoral areas, more or less approximating to equality; and recourse is had to the formation of constituencies out of geographical districts taken as units for historical or practical reasons, and necessarily Huctuating from time to time in population or influence. It may become necessary periodically to revise these areas by what in England are called Redistribution Acts, but it has to be admitted that any perfect system of representation is always stultified by the necessary inequalities involved; and what is known as “ gerrymandering ” is sometimes the result, when a party in power so recasts the electoral districts as to give more opportunity for its own candidates to be returned than for those of its opponents. This flaw is particularly noticeable when the arrangement for the method of voting is that which allots only one member or representative to each district (scrutin d'arrortdissement). The essential vice of this single-member system, which prevails in the United Kingdom* and the United States, is the lack of correspondence between the proportions in which the elected members of each party stand to one another and the proportions in which the numbers of the electors who returned them similarly stand; and it may well be that the minority party in the country obtains a majority of representatives in the assembly, or at any rate that a substantial minority obtains an absurdly small representation. “ As a result of the district system, ” writes Professor I. R. Commons of Wisconsin (Proportional Representation, 1907), “the national House of Representatives (in America) is scarcely a representative body. In the Fifty-first Congress, a majority of representatives were elected by a minority of the voters ”; the figures being 5,348,379 Republican votes with 164 elected, and 5,502,581 Democratic votes with 161 elected. In 2 The House of Commons in 1910 was elected by 643 constituencies, of which 27 (including three universities), returned two members each, and the rest one; and the Royal Commission, which reported in that year, recommended the abandonment of the existing two member constituencies “ at the earliest convenient opportunity.” the case of the Fifty-second Congress, the Democrats, with 50-6% of the votes, returned 71-1% of the representatives; the Republicans, with 42-9% of the votes, returning 26-5% of the representatives. Lord Avebury (Proportional Representation, 1890; new ed. 1906) has given various similar experiences in England; thus, at the general election of 1886, the Liberals, with I,333,4OO votes, only obtained 176 seats, while the Unionists, with I,423, 500, obtained 283 (not counting QQ unopposed returns on the Liberal side, and III on the Unionist). In the general election of 1895, at which 132 Unionist seats and 57 Liberal were unopposed, the result in the 481 seats contested was the return of 279 Unionists and 202 Liberals; yet the actua.l votes given were 1,800,000 for the Liberals, and 1,775,000 for the Unionists. Again, in 1906, the Unionist vote, though 44% of the total cast, returned only 28% of the members, and the Liberal majority, which in strict proportion would have been 68, actually was 256. The establishment of mere party majority rule, which is characteristic of a representative system, is a necessity, no doubt, in popular government; but the way in which a substantial minority of voters may only obtain a contemptible minority of members, and may in practice be tyrannized over in consequence, somewhat detracts from its blessings, and leads to extreme party measures. The division of the whole electoral body into constituencies is, after all, only a device for getting over the difficulty of the electors voting en bloc, and it does not seem to justify the conversion of a real majority in the country into a minority as represented in parliament, nor the complete exclusion of a substantial number of the electorate from parliamentary representation-so far as their views are concerned-at all. Yet under the English system such results are possible as the capture of every seat in Wales (34), in 1906, by the Liberal party, with 217,462 votes, the 100,547 Unionist voters having no representation in parliament; while in Warwickshire, though 22,490 votes were given to the Unionist candidates against 22,021 for the Liberal, three Liberals were returned against one Unionist.
The attempt to rectify this flaw in the representative method has led to the suggestion of various devices by the adoption pmpm* of which the elected members may correspond more tional equally to the .divisions of opinion in the electorate. more- Under the plan of scrutin de liste (or “ general ticket ”) °""'"°"° larger districts are created, each returning several members, and each voter has as many votes as there are members to elect; but while this system apparently provides the opportunity for the return of candidates with different views, it only requires a solid party vote to capture the whole of the representation for a majority. What is known as the “limited vote” is a form of serutin de liste by which the elector has less votes than there are seats to be filled; with (say) three to be elected, the elector has only two votes. Systems of “limited vote ” are in force in Portugal, Spain and Japan. A somewhat better plan is the “cumulative vote, ” which gives each elector as many votes as there are members to be elected, but allows him to divide them as he pleases (instead of giving only one vote to any one candidate). This enables an organized minority, by concentrating their votes, to elect at all events some representative; but the “ cumulative vote ” works rather capriciously, and is commonly defeated by careful party organization,
A more elaborate plan, but depending like the “limited ” vote and the “ cumulative ” vote on the formation of constituencies returning three or more members each, is that of the transferable vote. ” By this device an elector can indicate on his ballot paper not only his first choice, but also his second or third, &c. To ensure election a candidate need not obtain a majority of the votes polled, but only a certain number, so fixed that it can be obtained by a number of candidates equal to the number of seats to be filled, but by no more; this number of votes is called the “ quota. ” At the first count first choices onlyiare reckoned, and those candidates who have received a “ quota ” or more are declared duly elected. If all the seats H
have not then been filled up, the surplus votes of those candidates who have received more than the “ quota ” are transferred according to the names marked (2) on them. If these transfers still do not bring the requisite number of candidates up to the “ quota, ” the lowest candidate is eliminated and his votes transferred according to the next preferences, and so on till the seats are filled This system, which is the one usually associated with the term “proportional representation” was first suggested by-Thomas Hare, who published in 1857 a. pamphlet on The Machinery of Representation, and in 1859 a more complete scheme in his treatise on The Election of Representatives. John Stuart Mill, in Representative Government (1861)'warmly endorsed Hare's proposal. Hare wished to treat the whole country as one constituency, but by later supporters of the “ transferable vote ” that plan was abandoned as impracticable; and the principle will work so long as the constituencies adopted each return several members. Lord Courtney, in his evidence before the British Royal Commission in 1909, said that his minimum constituency would be a threemembered one, but he would create a fifteen-membered constituency without hesitation. The simple “ transferable vote ” has been adopted in Tasmania for all elections (1907), after experimental adoption in the constituencies of Hobart and Launceston in 1896-1901, and in the election of the Tasmanian members of the Commonwealth legislature in 1900. It was proposed in the draft of the South African constitution, but abandoned. The principle has also been adopted in the “list systems” of Belgium, some Swiss cantons, Sweden, Finland and parts of Denmark, Wtirttemberg and Servia, where candidates are grouped in lists and all votes given to individual candidates on the list count first as votes for the list itself, the seats being divided among the lists in proportion to the total number of votes obtained by the list. The use of the general term “ proportional representation ” for all of these is, however, somewhat misleading; people often suppose that only one identical system of voting is meant, whereas in fact some 300 possible varieties have been proposed, and each of the states mentioned has a different one from all the others. The only common element is the device of the “ transferable vote, ” i.e. the method of having an “ electoral quota, ” and the filling up of seats, where a quota is not provided by the first choices, by votes transferred from the second choices, and so on. It may be noted here that the “ transferable vote ” is calculated to multiply candidates to a point at which the minds of the electorate may well be embarrassed as to their preferences (the largest Belgian constituency returns 22 members), and, while undoubtedly providing for “minority representation, ” to encourage what may be called “ minority thinking ” and particulari st politics. The “ transferable vote ” is commonly objected to as puzzling to the electors and too complicated for the scrutineers, while it is not much favoured by “ machine ” party organizations, which generally prefer the simpler plan of rough-and-ready majorities; but it has received a growing amount of theoretical support, as well as success in practical experiment, in recent years. The “ second ballot ” is a device for securing absolute majority, instead of relative majority, representation. Where the twoparty system prevails, it is usual for only two The candidates, one for each party, to stand for each Sewnd single-member constituency. But there is nothing b"'"°" to prevent a third or even a fourth candidate standing, and this multiplication of candidates becomes the more common in proportion as parliamentary organization- is split up into groups. The consequence is that the candidate who heads the poll may well have only a relative, not an absolute, majority of votes, and to meet this objection the “ second ballot ” has been introduced, and is in operation in Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. Under this system, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of all the votes, a second election is held, at which, as a rule, only the two candidates compete who received most; or in cases where more than one seat is to be filled, twice as many candidates compete as there are seats. In principle the second ballot has much in its favour, though it does not necessarily reflect the real opinion of the electorate, but only what is practicable; and while leading to political bargaining it does nothing for minority representation.
In England the importance of the whole subject of the method of elections was recognized at the end of 1908 by the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire and report. Its conclusions were published in 1910, after much interesting evidence had been taken, but they attracted little attention, being in the main adverse to innovation. The one positive recommendation was for the adoption of the “alternative vote” (already in use in Queensland and Western Australia) by which the electors might mark their choices 1, 2, 3, &c.; this would not be for the purpose already discussed as part of the method of the “transferable vote,” but the indications of preference would only be used for the same purpose as the “second ballot,” while saving the voters the trouble of further elections. One objection to this “alternative vote,” however, as compared with the “second ballot,” is that it does not allow the voter to change his mind as to his preference, as he well might do after he knew the result of the original voting.
It may be said broadly that all the devices which have been proposed for mitigating or redressing the defects of electoral methods ignore the essential fact that in any case a representative system can only result in a rather arbitrary approximation to correspondence with the opinions of the electorate. It is by no means certain even that “proportional representation” in any of its forms would always result in the return of a representative assembly reflecting with mathematical accuracy the balance of opinion in the electorate; and even if it did, the electors have a way of changing their opinions long before their representatives come up for re-election. It was stated before the British Royal Commission that in Belgium, in spite of “proportional representation,” both in 1900 and in 1902 a majority of members was returned by a minority of votes. While under majority rule, as Mr Augustine Birrell once remarked, “minorities must suffer”—even large minorities—it is on the other hand not likely to conduce to the popularity of representative government that minorities should obtain too great a share of political power. The fact is that no “representation” can reflect the views of those “represented” as accurately as “presentation” by those entitled personally to speak. This conclusion, while in no necessary degree qualifying the importance of “popular government,” undoubtedly detracts from the value of the representative method. The result is seen in the increasing desire in really democratic countries to supplement representative government by some form of Referendum, or direct appeal to the electors for their own personal opinion on a distinct issue—a method which involves fundamentally the addition of a “preventative” element to the representative system.
Literature.—The number of separate works on various aspects of the theory, history and practice of political representation—a much wider subject than representative government—is too large for detailed mention. A general reference can only be made here to the standard treatises on constitutional law. The chapter in Sir G. Cornewall Lewis's Remarks on the Use and Abuse of some Political Terms (Sir T. Raleigh's edition, 1898) should also be noted. In addition to works cited above, a valuable account of all parts of the electoral “machine” is given in M. Ostrogorski's Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties (1902). The Congressional Library, Washington, U.S.A., issued in 1904 a “List of Books relating to Proportional Representation,” which constitutes a complete bibliography of that subject up to that date. The best discussion of the various methods for securing adequate representation is, however, now to be found in the Report (1910) of the British Royal Commission on Systems of Election (Parliamentary Paper, Cd. 5163). It is chiefly valuable for its description of the devices in use in different countries and for its weighty criticism of the proposals for minority representation.
- (H. Ch.)
- The New English Dictionary, for its first citation of “representation” in an assembly, quotes Burke, Late St Nat., Works, ii. 138, i.e. in 1769.
- “No tallage or aid shall be laid or levied by us or our heirs in our realm, without the goodwill and assent of the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, knights, burgesses and other freemen of our realm.”
- “Venire facias,” not “elegi facias.”
- “Election” in these early times has its simple meaning of “choice.” “We must guard ourselves from supposing that the citizens and burgesses, who were summoned to Parliament, were absolutely elected by the inhabitants of the towns as their representatives. Their presence in Parliament is another instance of representation without election. They were often nominated by the sheriff of the county, and even when that great officer, from negligence or favour, permitted the return to be made by those interested in the transaction, the nomination was confined to the small governing body, who returned two of their members, in general very unwilling missionaries, to the great council” (Disraeli, Vindication of the British Constitution, 1835).
- There was at one time, it may be noted, a sort of “representative” element even in the case of the House of Lords, in so far as peers (including peeresses in their own right, abbesses, &c.) could send deputies or proxies. But it must be remembered that the privilege flowed directly from the personal and preventative character of the summons to a peer, who as such could name a deputy. It is quite illegitimate to strain from it an analogy with the election of a representative by the commons. who had no personal right to a summons.
- In the American federal system the bicameral legislature is divided into a “House of Representatives,” composed of members elected by popular vote in each state, and a “ Senate, " composed of members elected by the legislature in each state. In spite of the nomenclature, both houses are really composed of “ representatives." But under a republican system there is no room for a purely preventative assembly, and the term “representative” comes to impl a more direct choice by the “commons.”
- Between January 1906 and January 1910 thirty-five more new peers were created by Liberal premiers, and seven more in June 1910.
- Speaking at Oldham on December 15, 1909, Lord Curzon said: “I have taken out the figures of the past 200 years, and I tell you this, that during that time 41 of our prime ministers have sat in the Lords and only 17 in the Commons; of our foreign secretaries, 56 in the Lords and only 8 in the Commons; of our colonial secretaries, 46 in the Lords and 25 in the Commons; of our war ministers, 29 in the Lords and 31 in the Commons; of first lords of the Admiralty, 48 in the Lords and 28 in the Commons.”