Page:The Chartist Movement.djvu/52

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

of seats, was made. In the preliminaries to this the question whether true representation was of persons or of property, which goes to the root of the matter, was debated long and earnestly by the Army in 1647. In the debate on the Agreement of the People, the Radical and Whig standpoints are clearly exhibited.[1]

Mr. Pettus—Wee judge that all inhabitants that have nott lost their birthright should have an equall voice in Elections.

Rainborough—I think its cleare that every man that is to live under a Government, ought first by his owne consent to putt himself under that Government.

Ireton—… You must fly for refuge to an absolute naturall right. … For my parte I think itt is noe Right att all. I think that noe person hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing or determining of the affaires of the kingdome and in chusing those that shall determine what lawes wee shall bee ruled by heere, noe person hath a right to this, that hath nott a permanent fixed interest in this kingdome.

Here obviously the question of manhood or property suffrage is the issue. Colonel Rich declared that manhood suffrage would be the end of property.

Those that have noe interest in the kingdome will make itt their interest to choose those that have noe interest. Itt may happen that the majority may by law, nott in a confusion, destroy propertie: there may bee a law enacted that there shall bee an equality of goods and estate.[2]

There was at the same time a demand for short and regular Parliaments, and that elections should be made "according to some rule of equality or proportion" based upon "the respective rates they (the counties and boroughs) bear in the common charges and burdens of the kingdome … to render the House of Commons as neere as may bee an equall representative of the whole body of the People that are to elect." Parliament was to be elected biennially and to sit not more than eight months or less than four.[3]

Here, therefore, is the nucleus of a Radical Programme: Manhood Suffrage, Short Parliaments, and Equal Representation. We have even a hint at the doctrine of "absolute naturall right," which lies at the base of modern democratic theory since the French Revolution, and which found an echo in the minds of all Chartists two hundred years after the famous

  1. Clarke Papers, ed. Firth, 1. 299-307.
  2. Ibid. p. 315.
  3. Ibid. pp. 363 et seq., "Agreement of the People." Gardiner, Select Documents of the Puritan Revolution, "Heads of the Proposals."