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Parliament with the best men. To this we may answer first of all that industrious and modest mediocrities are a necessity in legislative assemblies, and that it would be impossible to govern a country with a Parliament composed of great intellects exclusively, who, of course, would all claim to have their say in every discussion, and would all aspire to a seat in the Ministry. As chiefs are necessary, so are also rank and file; nay, nothing can be worse for discipline and compactness, whether in an army or in a Political party, than to have too many chiefs or leading men. Besides, the virtue of choosing illustrious men is not possessed by the very extensive Constituencies : I believe that they prefer colourless candidates. Men of mark will rise under any system whatever. In Italy, as in England, many distinguished statesmen are elected by small Constituencies; nay, they have often found there a refuge when abandoned by large ones. We can therefore reckon that a country will always produce a sufficient number of distinguished men under any system. When in the House of Commons the Electoral Reform was under discussion in 1831, Macaulay very properly remarked in one of his speeches :-"In whatever way the House of “ Commons may be chosen, some able men will be chosen “ in that way, who would not be chosen in any other way. “ If there were a law that the hundred tallest men in “ England should be Members of Parliament there would “ probably be some able men among those who would come “ into the House by virtue of this law. If the hundred “ persons whose names stand first in the alphabetical list of " the Court Guide were made Members of Parliament “there would probably be able men among them.”
The objection of the partisans of the uninominal vote is against the inequality of the number of representatives ascribed to different Constituencies. It is said that an elector in a Constituency which returns four members exercises a right twice as great as an elector who belongs to a Constituency which returns only two. This, I think, is a fallacy, as the elector who takes part in the election of two members exercises his right in common with say 10,000 other electors, while the one who elects four exercises his right in common with say 20,000 other electors. It is, therefore, not one elector who elects two members, but 10,000 who elect two, and 20,000 who elect four. And this is in accordance with justice. If it were possible to unite the whole nation into one Constituency, as has been proposed by Thomas Hare, would the right of the electors, who should thus take part in the election of 508 members, be more important or more extensive than that which they had previously exercised in electing one member in the uninominal Constituencies? It is evident it would not; therefore this objection, which originated in that love of equality and symmetry inborn in the Latin races, and which cannot well be applied to the varied and complex social organism, has no real value. These inequalities are unavoidable in any system whatever; nor are they avoided in the uninominal Constituency. In France an arrondissement with 95,000 inhabitants, forms a Constituency, and returns one member, whereas an arrondissement with 105,000 inhabitants is divided into two Constituencies, and returns two members. In Italy, the Constituency of Benevento, with 25,000 inhabitants, has hitherto returned one member, like the first collegio of Palermo, with 80,000. But what of that? It would be absurd to require that the Constituencies of any country should have the regularity of a chess-board. From what I have already said, it results therefore that the new Constituencies of the Italian law, whilst they mark an advance on the uninominal Constituencies, will also avoid many of the inconveniences of the Scrutin de Liste of the French school, or at least will modify them. I spoke last year at a great meeting of the Political party to which I belong, summing up my opinion on the Electoral Reform Bill in the following words :-“This system may be said to “ be an improved Scrutin de Liste, which preserves the char“acter of a collective election, without the inconvenience “ of having too long a list or too large a Constituency. It “ is equally free from the evils of a too extended district, “ and from the immediate contact of elector and elected in “ a narrow district, since the candidate is not quite a “ stranger to the electors, as in the Provincial Elections, “ while yet not so bound up with them as in the uninominal “ Constituency, in which he cannot, without peril to him“ self, devote himself to the general interest instead of the “ interests of a Commune, of a family, or even of one " individual. In this intermediate Constituency, the elector “ is not subject to be surprised by an unknown candidate, “as in the Provincial Elections, or to the corruption, which “ may prevail in the present Constituencies. The horizon “ now open to him is wider than heretofore, and he is able " to soar above private interests, though still not so high “ as in the Provincial Elections, where he may perchance “ see nothing at all.”
Before concluding I must examine one very important point. Does the Scrutin de Liste reproduce as its result the physiognomy of the electoral body in such a manner as to be a true and genuine representation of the country? It may do so, but on one condition, that is, that it be coupled with one of the systems that have been proposed to secure also the representation of minorities. That question, therefore, must be answered in the negative for the Scrutin de Liste of the French school, and only partially in the affirmative for the Scrutinio di Lista enacted by the Italian law. In the French Assembly, Gambetta said that the Scrutin d'Arrondissement is the image of the country in a broken mirror; one might have answered him that the Scrutin de Liste according to his system may have been the image of the country in an unbroken mirror, but that the image reproduced was a distorted one.
The system of Proportional Representation seems to be unintelligible to the French Political Schools, which, save individual exceptions, be they Conservative, Liberal or Radical, are always metaphysical and doctrinaire. That system, on the only occasion on which it was proposed to the French Assembly, was rejected by an immense majority with scarcely even the honour of a discussion. Now, without that corrective, the Scrutin de Liste not only does not give to parties the importance they must have according to the number of votes which they can command in the country ; it not only makes it impossible for some views to be represented; but it may entirely falsify the will of the nation by giving the majority in the House to those who are in a minority in the electoral body. And herein it deserves not only the severe sentence of Lamartine which I have quoted, but also that other of Laboulaye, who called it a mere “mystification, unworthy of a free nation.”
The prevalence of minorities through greater ability and activity, is a phenomenon which we frequently see. Our great poet Giusti has wittily remarked :
Che i più tirano i meno è verità
“ That the many draw after them the few is indeed true, provided wisdom and virtue be with the many; but the few, my friend, draw after them the many, when the many are sluggards or fools.”
And this is only right. But an electoral system which of itself produces such an effect cannot bear the most elementary criticism, and that is quite sufficient for its condemnation without appeal. I therefore sum up my opinion thus. The Scrutinio di Lista tempered by the Proportional Representation of minorities, is by far preferable to the uninominal Constituency; the uninominal Consituency is preferable to the Scrutinio di Lista without that corrective. And the great Patriot, whose name is indissolubly connected with our glorious national resurrection, Count Cavour, declared himself favourable to the uninominal Constituency for the sole reason that the multiplicity of circumscriptions affords greater facilities for minorities being represented.
It may suffice to prove the fallacy of the Scrutin de Liste pure and simple, if we cast a glance at the Presidential election in the United States of America, which is carried out on that system by the selection of the electors in the second degree. In 1860 Lincoln obtained 1,867,000 votes from universal suffrage and 180 from the Presidential Constituency, and was proclaimed elected, whilst his competitor with 2,801,00 votes from the universal suffrage had only 123 from the Presidential Constituency. Lincoln, therefore, with a minority of supporters in the country obtained a majority in the Presidential Constituency. Moreover, of the competitors with Lincoln, Douglas, who had a number of votes almost equal to his, that is 1,376,000, had only 12 electors in his favour; while Breckenridge, with 836,000, had 72; and Bell, with 590,000, had 39. So in 1875, instead of Tilden, who had a majority of votes in the country, Hayes was elected, who had obtained a minority; and so also in 1880, General Garfield had two-thirds of the votes of the Presidential Constituency, although in the country he had only a majority of 3,400 out of 9,000,000 of voters. How this happens is very simply explained. The majority of one vote in the State of New York suffices to secure thirty-five representatives, while one of twenty thousand in Colorado would secure only one. And if by a practically impossible hypothesis it should be attempted as