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HISTORY OF THE BALLOT
When a new class of political theorists arose to protest against this system, and the Utilitarians and Radicals became the leaders of English political thought, Harrington's more democratic ideas were again brought forward. Bentham agitated for the simplification of the law, started another campaign against priests and lawyers, and proposed annual Parliaments, with restricted re-eligibility of members, and quadrennial elections of the premier. Short popular Parliaments and the abolition of the rights of primogeniture figured in the programme of all the Radicals, and many ideas which had been associated with republicanism again appeared. In 1835 rotation was adopted for local government. The ideas were Harrington's, but there is no need to ascribe their revival to any influence of his—with one exception.
The agitation for the ballot since the dissolution of the Rota had been feeble and spasmodic. Secret voting had been adopted for the Royal Society, the Bank of England, and various Clubs and Companies as a matter of course, but in national politics it was still regarded with suspicion. In 1662 Middleton's Billeting Act introduced secret voting in Scotland for the disqualification of certain government officials. In 1677 the borough of Lymington made unsuccessful experiments in the use of the ballot for parliamentary elections. In 1707 the disputed election at Ashburton was decided by the coloured balls and boxes which the Commons had purchased for the purpose. In 1710 the freeholders of Yorkshire and Middlesex were given permission to elect their registers by secret vote. And during the last years of the seventeenth century, and with varying regularity during the eighteenth century, committees of the Lords and Commons were chosen by written votes placed in glasses. But the
GROTE AND THE BALLOT
most important attempts to introduce the ballot met with failure. The proposals for its general use at elections, which were made in 1695 and 1710, were no more successful than Fletcher of Saltoun's similar suggestion in Scotland. . And the motion brought forward in 1693 to introduce the ballot into the procedure of the Lords was likewise rejected.
But no genuine agitation was started till Bentham and the Radicals added it to their proposals for universal suffrage. The movement reached its height when Grote, the author of the well-known history of Greece, was returned in 1832 as member for the City of London. In his election address he asserted that, “ without the ballot, free and conscientious voting is unattainable," and after his election he devoted all his energies to securing its introduction in England. He distributed model ballot boxes over the country ; in 1833, 1835, 1838, and 1839 he brought in motions ; and in 1836 and 1837 bills providing for its use at parliamentary elections. But his persistence was not rewarded. The“ Times” called him “chimerical," and the House and the nation at large failed to respond to his enthusiastic appeals Had Grote lived one year longer than he did he would have seen that his efforts had not been really vain. In 1872 the ballot became the statutory method of electing members of Parliament; and it is now apparent that its introduction was due to him more than any other single person.
We know from the way in which Harrington was quoted and used to supply mottoes for the title-pages of the pamphlets of the time that “ Oceana" was even then the locus classicus in the literature of the ballot. But there is a much more striking proof of its connec
1 This section is based on the Lords' and Commons' Journals, and on an article in the "Political Science Quarterly," vol. iii., on "The Ballot in England."
GROTE AND HARRINGTON
tion with the movement. In the manuscript department of the British Museum there is an unpublished critical essay on “Oceana by Grote, which shows a very careful study of the book It need not be contended that Grote's enthusiasm for the ballot was entirely or mainly due to reading Harrington. But with such evidence it is reasonable to suppose that “Oceana” was a factor in the case. Thus, however academic its influence may have been, the book deserves a place in the history of the ballot in England. It would have come eventually if Harrington had never been read and if Grote had never been born. But the fact remains that Grote was born and that he studied Harrington. Therefore “Oceana” must be put down as one of the influences to which the introduction of the ballot was directly due, and one concrete illustration of the power of theoretical writings must be acknowledged.
Harrington's influence in England was thus twofold. He helped to justify the rule of property on lines quite contrary to his own. He helped to secure the acceptance of the ballot. But before the days of Grote “Oceana ” had played a rôle in America and France, which was far more important than the rôle it played in England.
HARRINGTON'S INFLUENCE IN AMERICA DURING
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
§ 1 No one who has studied Harrington's writings can help being struck by the resemblance between the political ideas expressed there and those that have been successfully put into practice in America. Again and again one is tempted to substitute the name America for Oceana and spell his new England with a capital N. The written constitution, the unlimited extension of the elective principle, and the separation of the three functions of government lie at the root of American political theory; the equal division of property among the children is one of the most farreaching social and political factors in the United States ; the principle of indirect election, though now discredited, has been employed since the formation of the Union. Short tenure of power, the multiplication of offices, the system of checks and balances, rotation, the ballot, the use of petitions, the popular ratification of constitutional legislation, the special machinery for guarding the constitution, religious liberty, popular education—all these things play their part in America. The only important proposal made in “Oceana ” which has not survived is the proposal to separate the functions of debate and result. And even this has been more nearly realised in America than in England. For in the first place the result of the extensive employment of Committees in Congress, by which the majority of measures are handed over to a picked section of
AMERICAN POLITICAL IDEAS
members for discussion and voted on by the whole body with the minimum of debate, has been virtually to separate the debating and the voting in the making of statutes. In the second place the normal method of amending the constitution by which Congress proposes the desired change and the State legislatures ratify or reject the proposal, places the right of initiating and the right of passing into law in different bodies.
Furthermore, there are certain traits in the American character like the cosmopolitan spirit, the belief in travel, the capacity for selecting what is valuable in foreign countries, and even the love of Venice, which remind us of Harrington's affinity with America. And his sympathetic prophecy of American independence, and the picture which he drew of the founder of “Oceana” passing, like Washington at the completion of his work, into honourable retirement, help us to realise that Harrington was in a certain sense made of the same stuff as the modern American. In short it may be said that Harrington, like Herodotus, was an American before the American type was evolved.
But the similarity between American ideas and those of Harrington is not only due to coincidence. It should be borne in mind that when Harrington was at the height of his publicity the colonies of Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut had already been brought into existence, and other colonies were founded shortly after. Many of the early settlers had breathed the same political atmosphere as Harrington, had gone to the same university, and had read the books that he had read. Some of them, like him, had spent a portion of their lives in the Netherlands, where they came into contact with men of many countries If they had not been in Italy themselves, they had met men who had been