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Alfred de Grazia:

PUBLIC & REPUBLIC : Political Representation in America


Part C 


The Levellers were but a faint echo in English life for a century after this time. In the meantime, disputes over representation were a kind of internecine, though not ruinous, warfare among the oligarches, landed and commercial. When the populists again raised their voices, the ranks of the ruling classes closed and formed behind the idea that they were the virtual representatives of the nation. The eighteenth century was dominated on their behalf by the solid conservatism of Swift, the dogmatic bombast of Johnson, and the magnificent oratory of Burke.

Algernon Sidney is a fitting transitional figure for our purposes. He was much more conservative, despite his republicanism, than the Levellers, but was still preoccupied with the problem of the responsibility of the representative to his constituents, and in his Discourses on Government Sidney gave a more lengthy treatment to that problem than we have hitherto encountered. He died in 1683, the Revolution establishing the final supremacy of Parliament occurred in 1688, Locke's Second Essay on Government appeared in 1689, and the "Discourses" were finally published in 1698.

From the insistence on strict delegation common to the Levellers, Sidney has wandered into a compromise. The delegates are restricted and controlled; but, if they believe firmly in a view contrary to that of their constituents, they may uphold their own view and take the consequences in the election to follow - caveat actor.

The legislative power, therefore, that is exercised by the parliament, cannot be conferred by the writ of summons, but must be essentially and radically in the people, from whom their representatives and delegates have all that they have.

Sidney then quotes an imaginary critic as saying the people "must only choose, and trust those whom they choose, to do what they list: and that is as much liberty as many of us deserve for our irregular elections of burgesses."

Retorts Sidney:

"This is ingeniously concluded: I take what servant I please, and, when I have taken him, I must suffer him to do as he please.... And if I am free in my private capacity to regulate my particular affairs according to my own discretion, and to allot to each servant his proper work, why have not I, with my associates, the freemen of England, the like liberty of directing and limiting the powers of the servant we employ in our public affairs."[53]

But Sidney then distinguishes between the Netherland and Swiss governments, which are federal, and the English, which is national. He decides that "it is not therefore for Kent or Sussex, Lewis or Maidstone but for the whole nation, that the members chosen in those places are sent to serve in Parliament. And though it be fit for them as friends and neighbors, so far as may be, to hearken to the opinions of the electors for the information of their judgments, and to the end that what they shall say may be of more weight, when every one is known not to speak his own thoughts only, but those of a great number of men, yet they are not strictly and properly obliged to give account of their actions to any, unless the whole body of the nation which they serve, and who are equally concerned in their resolutions, could be assembled." Since this is not practical," the only punishment to which they are subject, if they betray their trust, is scorn, infamy, hatred, and an assurance of being rejected, when they shall again seek the same honour."[54]

He concludes that nothing forbids the instruction of delegates,"but the less we fetter them the more we manifest our own rights."[55]

Thus, in Sidney we have a conflict between the fears and high hopes of the direct democrats for all men, and the reiteration under the last of the ambitious Stuarts of that doctrine formerly of the Crown, the doctrine of virtual representation, which from now on is used in defense of the parliamentary status quo against all attempts at reform of representation. In 1704 Charles Davenant in his Essays Upon Peace at Home and War Abroad wrote: "When the commonalty have once made their choice [of representatives], their whole power is devoted and delegated; and whether their representatives do well or ill, their princes are to judge" since the King can call or dissolve them.[56]

Sidney shows only the beginning of the confusion that beset theories of representation in England between the Restoration and the advent of the vigorous Radicals in 1769.[57] The absence of large issues concerning representation during a period which saw the most corrupt election system ever known to England is explained by the fact that, for many years after the Commonwealth revolution, the ruling classes in Parliament saw clearly that a standardization, rationalization, and liberalization of the representative system would be an invitation to political power of groups distinctly opposed to their interests. This is not true of all party issues. W.E.P.Lecky, in his monumental History of England in the Eighteenth Century, has indicated that there were differences between the Whigs and Tories, whatever the political wags and critics had to say about them.[58] The Whigs were the party of parliamentary supremists, the Tories to a large extent Jacobite. The Whigs' "function was to watch over the interests of the commercial classes and of the Nonconformists," while the Tories represented "essentially the party of the landed gentry and of the Established Church." And the Whigs were more concerned than were the Tories with asserting the freedom of the press.

Both parties represented wealth, not small wealth, but wealth with connections in and around the government.[59] They had vast numbers of retainers, but the depth and independence of the groups they represented were shallow and small. It is significant that they were not divided continually by conflict over "laissez-faire" and alternated in their attitudes toward the numerous foreign imbroglios.

The existing system of representation allowed both Whigs and Tories to contend for power with relative freedom, landed wealth being matched against commercial wealth or various combinations of both. The King descended sometimes into the political arena and then his interference became a political matter to the party opposing him. George III was especially astute at this practice, although he found the electioneering was costing him a large part of his income. During the whole of the eighteenth century a large majority of the seats in the House of Commons were sham constituencies or nomination boroughs, responsible to single individuals, the Crown, or at best a handful of men. By the turn of the nineteenth century, roughly thirty electoral districts in England with some 60 seats out of 371 had an electorate in excess of four hundred. According to Bentham, in his Plan of Parliamentary Reform in the early part of the nineteenth century," There are three descriptions of influential persons, by whom freedom of suffrage is destroyed, and its opposite spuriousness produced, ... The proprietor... The terrorist... The corruptionist."[60] Of the large number of patron-controlled seats, the Porritts say that there were three types of patron-Member relations: (I) strict control (most numerous); (2) seats held through friendship (with few restrictions on voting but with a natural affinity of viewpoint); and (3) purchased seats bringing independence to the purchaser.[61]

There were few prominent exponents of any theory of representation apart from virtual representation, the belief that the social and political system of England at that time could produce a body of men in Parliament who reflected the true sentiment of the nation. Sporadic debate occurred from time to time on the length of tenure of Parliament but here again the sides were determined by the exigencies of the hour, both the Whigs and the Tories being quite content and even determined to lengthen the duration of parliaments when they controlled them.[62]

The chief issue among theorists of representation in the first part of the eighteenth century was the half-hearted one of land, rather than other forms of wealth, as a basis for the suffrage and for holding office.[63] The issue was a "half-hearted" one because land was available to any one with the money to purchase it; the commercial classes by then could easily afford such expenditures. Furthermore, the growth of a proprietary notion of parliamentary seats put the seats on the open market where they could be had by anyone who could pay the price for them.

The feeling that land was the basis for representation had its origins in the original county representation of England, and we find writers referring nostalgically and mystically to that age-old tradition at a time when the patent facts of politics proved it weak.[64] Swift wrote that "Law in a free country is, or ought to be, the determination of the majority of those who have property in land." Davenant held that "the right strength of this kingdom depends upon the land, which is infinitely superior, and ought much more to be regarded than our concerns in trade."[65] And Defoe stated in The Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England (1701) that the freeholders were the real owners of the country and that if the King owned all the land of the country, he would rightly rule alone, be supreme, and there would be no recourse from his actions.

In the remarkable case of Ashby v. White, in 1703, [66] several pertinent issues were clarified. Ashby, formerly possessed of a vote as a burgher, was denied a vote by the election officials because he was generally reckoned by the town authorities to be an unsubstantial citizen. King's Bench refused him redress at law, despite the important dissent of Chief Justice Holt, because the majority felt that it could not encroach on the jurisdiction of the House of Commons over matters of suffrage, that no suit lies against a judge and that the election officials were in the character of judges, and that no damages were proved by Ashby. Furthermore, precedents were lacking.

However, Holt, in an opinion later upheld on appeal by the House of Lords, declared for Ashby.

"The election of knights belongs to the freeholders of counties and it is an original right vested in and inseparable from the freehold, and can no more be severed from their freehold, than the freehold itself be taken away.... As for citizens and burgesses, they depend on the same right as the knights of shires, and differ only as to the tenure, but the right and manner of their election is on the same foundation."

The right of choosing burgesses in towns where that right is held from tenure in burgage is a real right, as in the county franchise, but where the town is incorporated under a charter, the right is a personal one and comes from custom or the charter. Though the right be in the body politic, "the exercise and enjoyment of this right is in the particular members." Thus the right exists and must have a remedy. Parliament would probably not admit Ashby's case and therefore we must admit it, Holt declared. His opinion shows clearly the vast strength of the idea of representation of the land and the potential weakness in the representation of movable property. For the latter right is personal and is less easy to define and defend since it rests on "charter and custom."

This emphasis on the land as a source of representation is feudal in origin. The substance of the community lay in its land and the owners of the land were the true voices of the community. As long as the static feudal and post-feudal landholding structure remained, the idea of the intimate connection of land and suffrage had a close relationship to the actual state of life. The trouble began only with the increasing social mobility that followed the break-down of feudalism and with the addition to the substance of the community of a variety of property as valuable as or more valuable than land. When finally the new interests in society manifested themselves, the owners of the land claimed priority in representation and stated that land was originally the source of all wealth.

The immense prestige of land was one cause of the confusion in ideas of representation among the commercial classes in eighteenth-century England. This explains in part why they used such privileges of representation as they did posses by virtue of a few boroughs to press their interests in Parliament; why they sought to gain representation through control of landed estates rather than by pursuing their fight for representation along less traditional lines; and why they never developed a proper theory of representation to match those goods and those virtues which they possessed. They were silent or they developed their own theory of property as merely an advanced stage of the production of land; more often, they gave benign assent to the Swifts, the Defoes, and the Shaftesburys.[67]

With the reduction of land, despite all tradition, to another commodity in the real market, as opposed to the ideal market, went the reduction of the suffrage. Beginning at the end of the sixteenth century, boroughs were up for sale. Sales became increasingly numerous until, when newspapers began to appear in England, seats in the House of Commons were advertised for sale. The price at the beginning was low, in the manner of real property, but it became higher as the years went on, and as the perquisites of a seat in the Commons became greater. Factions would hoard their funds in the period before elections in order to have the greatest campaign funds possible with which to purchase seats in the Commons. The Crown, also, when it participated in the electioneering, helped to raise the price of seats. Most of the peerages granted in the whole period were bestowed for borough-mongering.[68]

Even Swift, ordinarily quite Tory, was angered by the ignominy of the English representative system based on his venerated land qualification. In his Essay on Public Absurdities he condemned the system of rotten boroughs and asked for more seats for the commercial towns. He called for a diminution of the expenses of elections and for a more efficient regulation of the franchise, and he hesitated on the brink of urging annual Parliaments. He still, however, believed that there should be a land-owning qualification for the franchise.[69]

His ideas prevailed to a certain extent in the Bill of 1710 which decreed that, in order to qualify as a candidate for Parliament, a man must give evidence of the ownership of land. No sooner had the bill been passed than the evasions began. Land was not difficult to obtain for one who otherwise had the resources to run for Parliament. There were humorous cases of election winners running around at the last moment before Parliament convened to find a friend with some property to transfer to them. The law was abolished in 1858.

Such laws could not stem the growing power of the large corporations and wealthy individuals that were at the heart of England's rapidly expanding economy. In the seventeenth century the corporation boroughs had given the Stuarts their greatest trials, and they continued their aggressiveness in the eighteenth century as well. The large and popular constituencies in the eighteenth century were the ones most independent of patrons and political managers, excepting the Crown.[70] Such constituencies not only held their own in the towns but ventured afield to gather power unto themselves. As Lecky put it," Individual capitalists and still more, the two great corporations, descended into the political arena, wrested boroughs, by sheer corruption, from the landlords who had for generations controlled them, and strained every nerve to acquire the political influence which was essential to the security of their property."[71]

Bolingbroke, in defending the interests of the land, had said that the landed persons were the true owners of the ship of state, and the moneyed men were but passengers on it; if he had looked a bit closer he might have discovered that the passengers had just bought the ship and incorporated it. The process of realignment of classes was one of amalgamation, whatever the superficial disputes over qualifications for office. Significantly, while the colonists were working hard on the idea of "no taxation without representation," the Tory landlords and Whig merchants were joined together in consideration of how best to tax the colonies.[72]

Apart from the dispute over the merits of real property for representative purposes and the rather swashbuckling electioneering of all factions, the period between the two Radicalisms is noted for its debate on the relation of the representative to his constituents. We have already been introduced to the subject by the statement of Algernon Sidney, whose significant point was the position of the representative as the voice of the nation rather than of the constituency. John Toland in his Art of Governing by Parties (1701) and Sir Humphrey Mackworth in his Vindication of the Rights of the Commons of England (1701) also opposed imperative mandates.[73] But in the middle of the eighteenth century, the instructing of representatives gained a new vogue in the popular boroughs and, by reaction, excited a fuller development of the theory of virtual representation. Blackstone, in his Commentaries, gave support to the "virtual" theory, [74] and Sir William Yonge defined it very adequately on the floor of Parliament in 1745.[75] It was Edmund Burke, however, who made the classic defense of the theory, thereby providing us with material which will shed some light on the origin, nature, and limitations of the theory of virtual representation.

Burke was elected to Parliament first from Wendover through the good offices of the Earl of Verney, then from the City of Bristol, and after 1781 from Malton by the favor of Lord Rockingham. Those voters eligible to elect him from 1774 to 1781 numbered several thousands, making up the third largest electorate in the nation. They were dominated by merchants and traders, some of them peers, who possessed a large share of all trade with America at that time. Burke's principal sponsors for most of his time in office were wealthy nobles. He met defeat in the Bristol election of 1780 principally because his regard for the interests of Ireland was in conflict with the trading interests of Bristol. The famous speech of 1774 to the electors of Bristol, in which he defended the independence of the representative's judgment, failed to convince his constituents absolutely. He spoke well, on the whole, for his Bristol constituents, who by that time had little to fear from tradition or the nobility. Their difficulties were with the Crown and the new Radical movement which waxed vigorous during Burke's time in Parliament. Burke set himself against these influences. Six years of office from Bristol ended in electoral defeat at the hands of an opponent who apparently promised behavior more consonant with the hard facts of Bristol commercial interests. Burke was then returned to Parliament from a pocket borough.

Burke gloried in being a man who had risen from nothing to eminence;[76] he was proud to defend the wealth and influence of those whom he represented; and by thinking of the nation as a repository of the virtue of all history, his mind could with greater facility accept the theory of virtual representation as opposed to the idea he called individual representation. Burke was Whig and Tory, traditionalist and progressive, all at once, and one might expect to find him at best advantage as a representative of the political and social fusion that was taking place in England between the landed and commercial interests.[77]

In the same breath, he can accept the compact theory of the origin of the state and the idea of the state as a living, historical organism. From Burke's happy position, both Hobbes and Locke would be extreme in their versions of the social compact, the one for leading to despotism, the other for leading to revolution. Furthermore the compact had been established long ago, and there was no need to re-enact it continually. The history and glory of a nation is the continuous fulfillment of the contract for the people in it, and to represent that spirit of the nation is the highest duty of the representative.{[78]

It was in his famous speech to his Bristol constituents in 1774 that Burke, opposing the rising tide of radicalism which carried with it the idea of instructions, best expressed his viewpoint:[79]

"It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention.... But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.

My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superiour. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decides, and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments? To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote and argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience; these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenour of our constitution."

The whole error, he declared, arises from a misconception of the nature of Parliament.

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole."

In another place, in a statement remarkably similar to that of Sir Thomas Smith quoted earlier, Burke said: "The virtual spirit and essence of the House of Commons consists in its being the express image of the feelings of the nation."[80] The Commons stood by itself, he thought, with a character, a tradition, and an esprit that did not lend themselves to a mathematical calculation, as the Radicals would have it. He was deeply hurt by efforts to align the Commons with the people in opposition to the Crown and the Lords, especially after he had committed himself to complete reaction against the French Revolution. When Fox, at one time a close political friend of Burke, received, and encouraged Parliament to receive, petitions from the Friends of the People (a Radical club of the period), Burke was outraged. And, in assailing Fox, he gave some illumination to his own ideas of representation as opposed to the ideas of the direct democrats.

The party which Fox befriends has, so Burke declares, leveled charges against "the interference of peers at elections, and their nominating in effect several of the members of the House of Commons."

"In the printed list of grievances which they made out on the occasion, and in support of their charge, is found the borough for which, under Lord Fitzwilliam's influence, I now sit. By this remonstrance, and its object, they hope to defeat the operation of property in elections and in reality to dissolve the connections and communication of interests which makes the Houses of Parliament a mutual support to each other. Mr. Fox and the Friends of The People are not so ignorant as not to know that peers do not interfere in elections as peers, but as men of property; they well know that the House of Lords is by itself the feeblest part of the Constitution; they know that the House of Lords is supported only by its connections with the crown and with the House of Commons, and that without this double connection the Lords could not exist a single year. They know that all these parts of our Constitution, whilst they are balanced as opposing interests, are also connected as friends; otherwise nothing but confusion could be the result of such a complex Constitution."[81]

He is sure the separation of the parts from each other will lead to the destruction of the whole.

But as the House of Commons is that link which connects both the other parts of the Constitution (the Crown and the Lords) with the mass of the people, it is to that think that their incessant attacks are directed. That artificial representation of the people being once discredited and overturned, all goes to pieces, and nothing but a plain French democracy or arbitrary monarch can possibly exist.[82]

In these later days of Burke, one does not encounter many compliments to the people. He now felt that the experiences with mobs, both English and French, had shown popular strength often to be pernicious and dangerous. There had been a time when Burke was opposing the growing and arbitrary power of the Crown. Then George III was spending vast sums of money in organizing the politics of the country on behalf of his party in the Commons. The King was sending addresses to the country soliciting votes for the Crown's men, and was using the full force of royal favor to fill the offices of the executive departments with weak favorites. It was then that Burke felt the need for revitalizing the Commons, and he turned to three instruments of representation for accomplishing his purpose: (1) the encouragement of a stronger party system; (2) the establishment of parliamentary control over the administration of the realm; and (3) the insistence that the Commons resume its historical function of expressing the will and temper of the nation.

"Party divisions, whether on the whole operating for good or evil, are things inseparable from free government," he said in introducing one of his essays.[83] A short time afterward, he found ample justification for his statement, for the Crown became notoriously involved with what Burke called a "cabal" and a "double cabinet." At that time the function of party appeared most strongly as that of saving a responsible and public-spirited group within the government from the destruction that would befall it if its members were to stand alone as individuals. The party is a protection against cabals, and that virtue is more important than any independence on particular issues. The point is an unusual one. Political theory, relying on Burke, has often defined the chief role of the party as the formulator of issues. But Burke also said, in effect: Beware the man who abandons his old friends because of what he claims to be a vital issue. There is more likely to be a position at stake than an issue.[84]

Similarly, Burke clearly saw how an uncontrolled administration might destroy the stature of the Commons, and he asserted sharply that administration must be responsible to the popular body.

"The people of a free commonwealth, who have taken such care that their laws should be the result of general consent, cannot be so senseless as to suffer their executory system to be composed of persons on whom they have no dependence, and whom no proofs of the public love and confidence have recommended to those powers, upon the use of which the very being of the state depends." [85]

What better statement may be found anywhere of the doctrine of popular control over the bureaucracy, unless it be in the first Annual Message of a man so unlike Burke in most respects, Andrew Jackson?

On the question of the relationship between the House of Commons and the people, we find Burke at his best. Driven by fear of the monarch into the consoling arms of the people, he yet manages to stand off just enough to make it impossible to label him with the stamp of a radical dogma. He ventures into the history of English representation for his point. "The House of Commons was originally supposed to be no part of the standing government of this country."[86] It was to be called up as a control and then dissolved speedily. It was to be to the higher elements of the government what the inquest jury was to the lower elements. Being called out of the people, it could tell what was close to the people at the moment.

From this it follows that, essentially, the Commons has an expressive character.

"For it is not the derivation of the power of that house from the people, which makes it in a distinct sense their representative. The King is the representative of the people; so are the lords; so are the judges. They are all trustees for the people, as well as the commons; because no power is given for the sole sake of the holder; and although government certainly is an institution of divine authority, yet its forms, and the persons who administer it, all originate from the people."[87]

The glory of the Commons does not consist in exerting power or in executing laws. It exists "as a control for the people."[88] Burke, with the Wilkes case near at hand, is indignant over the use of the Commons for raking the King's chestnuts out of the fire. He attacks the King indirectly by limiting, in what must later have seemed to him an extraordinary fashion, the functions of the Parliament.

How else could he hope to limit the power of the Throne? He might also compromise his soul a little further by waving the stick of elections over the heads of irresponsible court favorites. The reasoning faculty of the constituents would pick the man who was independent of the court. They must choose rightly, for "if once members of Parliament can be practically convinced that they do not depend upon the affection or opinion of the people for their political being, they will give themselves over, without even an appearance of reserve, to the influence of the court."[89]

Finally comes what is perhaps the most temperate call to arms in the history of political agitation.

"I see no other way for the preservation of a decent attention to public interest in the representatives, but the interposition of the body of the people itself, whenever it shall appear, by some flagrant and notorious act, by some capital innovation, that these representatives are going to overleap the fences of the law, and to introduce an arbitrary power. This interposition is a most unpleasant remedy. But if it be a legal remedy, it is intended on some occasion to be used; to be used then only when it is evident that nothing else can hold the constitution to its true principles...."

Until a confidence in government is re-established, the people ought to be excited to a more strict and detailed attention to the conduct of their representatives. Standards for judging more systematically upon their conduct ought to be settled in the meetings of counties and corporations. Frequent and correct lists of the voters in all important questions ought to be procured.[90]

Ten years afterward, Burke suffered an election reverse at Bristol and one might doubt whether he could recapture that faint enthusiasm for popular participation in the legislative process. In a letter to the Sheriff of Bristol in 1780, he mentioned some of the proposals for reforms of representation then current in parliamentary circles. He writes: "Sir George Savile has consented to adopt the scheme of more frequent elections, as a remedy for disorders which, in my opinion, have a great part of their root in elections themselves."[91]

Burke reiterated in the same letter of 1780 his leitmotif that Britain's form of government was excellent beyond reason, and that any necessary changes ought to be changes in the substance of the government. The reforms of representation then advocated, he felt, would be of no value unless the executive were reformed. The administration of elections being what it was, little hope would be warranted of changes in the electoral structure. The profound disbelief in human contrivances which one can sense in Burke's writings formed a strong shield for his conservative idealism. The contrast of his political outlook with his economic liberalism was nowhere more manifest than in his understanding of the forces of a free economy in treating with the American colonies and his belief, at the same time, that any representation of the colonists in Parliament would be impossible. He gave as reasons for this impossibility the distance, the difficulty of holding elections, the difficulties of consultation, and the worthlessness of having only a small American group in a Parliament otherwise composed of representatives of the British Isles.[92]

Towards the end of his life, Burke wrote a letter to Sir Hector Langrishe summing up his idea of virtual representation in words which are remarkably consistent with his many earlier writings and speeches:

"Virtual representation is that in which there is a communion of interests, and a sympathy in feelings and desires, between those who act in the name of any description of people, and the people in whose name they act, though the trustees are not actually chosen by them. This is virtual representation. Such a representation I think to be, in many cases, even better than the actual. It possesses most of its advantages, and is free from many of its inconveniences; it corrects the irregularities in the literal representation, when the shifting current of human affairs, or the acting of public interests in different ways, carry it obliquely from its first line of direction. The people may err in their choice; but common interest and common sentiments are rarely mistaken. But this sort of virtual representation cannot have a long or sure existence, if it has not a substratum in the actual. The member must have some relation to the constituent."[93]

Burke insisted that no one could lay the blame for any of the various social difficulties of the times on the system of representation, or on the failure of representatives to obey their constituents. The parts of England containing rotten boroughs showed no improvements or prosperity not possessed also by those parts which sent proportionally many fewer members to Parliament. That shows "you have an equal representation, because you have men equally interested in the prosperity of the whole, who are involved in the general interest and the general sympathy...." He adds that the very fact that rotten boroughs have many agents in Parliament means that they add a balancing element to the Constitution, forcing the preservation of a general viewpoint by standing clear of local interests and cabals.[94] To represent the spirit of the state, then, would be Burke's idea of the function of the representative, and whatever illogicalities the procedures for selecting representatives seem to possess are illusions of the mathematical, academic mind.

On those occasions when Burke advocated reforms of representation, the Crown was usurping Parliament's authority. We have mentioned several of those occasions earlier, and may also cite as examples Burke's advocacy of the publication of the division lists of the Commons in 1770 and his defense of the practice of publicizing the proceedings of the Commons. His policies throughout were consistent in supporting the supremacy of Parliament against the encroachments of Crown or people, and in advocating a maximum of representation for the noble and commercial aristocracy.

Those policies were common to most Tories and Whigs of his time. Pitt in 1782 denounced the corrupt influence of the Crown and asked for a commission to investigate Parliamentary representation. He introduced under the Coalition Ministry a series of resolutions against bribery, corruption, and rotten boroughs. Yet after he had achieved victory at the polls over the Crown, he became lukewarm about the whole matter. For the necessity of ridding the Parliament of the King's power underlay the demand for reform.[95] The impetus for reforms in representation had to await the full impact of the Radical movement, which predicated its ideas of representation on individualism and reason rather than on property.[96]

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