Posted by John W on August 08, 1998 at 04:48:41:
In response to House of Commons elections pre-1832, written by The Mysterious H.C. on August 04, 1998 at 23:45:02
It helps to understand the odd pattern of pre-Reform representation if you remember two things: Parliament was not originally set up to represent people but to reflect the tax-paying ability of the kingdom. Originally two knights from each shire and two burgesses from each independent town. . Secondly, the long lived notion that it was dangerous to give political power to those who had no stake in the peace and prosperity of the land, and who would therefore be free to pursue stupid notions unrestrained by economic responsibility for the outcome. Oliver Cromwell was one of the most powerful advocates of this idea. Voting rights therefore usually but not universally attached to the ownership or control of property--no servant could vote.
Remember also that well into the 19th century voting was public and in person. Hence the rowdiness of elections.
However , a system which made Pitt, Burke, Fox and Palmerston MPs at an age when they were at the height of their powers has something to be said for it, It produced representatives of talent, whereas our present system elects delegates of vested interests, the worst possible system except for any of the alternatives, as Churchill said.
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