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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

PROFESSOR BRYCE'S LECTURES.

THE METHODS BY WHICH MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ARE CHOSEN.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

A large audience, composed not only of students but also of many re idents of Cambridge, was present in Sanders Theatre Monday evening to hear an address by Professor Bryce one of the most active members of the English Parliment. Promptly at 7.30 President Eliot in a few complimentary remarks introduced the speaker of the evening, who immediate proceeded to take up the subject of his discourse which was "the methods of election to the English House of Commons." Professor Bryce said that he felt somewhat embarrassed in the discussion of his subject from the fact that he unfortunately knew too much about it. It is much easier to lecture upon a topic on which one is not fully conversant than upon one with which great personal familiarity leads him to continually suggest a variety of incidents and illustrations which tend to drift away from the main subject. The House of Commous in England is the center of political life, in it, is vested by far the larger share of the power of the government, and as it is republican in its character and representative of the people, it is of course the most popular branch of the government. Naturally an election to a seat in this body is considered a high honor and as such is sought after by the most intelligent and influential members of society. The conditions of election and methods of procedure are, however, essentially different from those which govern the choice of members to our house of representatives. It is not necessary that a candidate should reside in the district which he desires to represent, nor indeed that he should have had any previous connection with it either in business or otherwise. The effect of this system is that the nation is represented in parliament by the best men which it has produced. If a member well qualified by experience and political sagacity and in every way worthy of the confidence of the people, loses his seat, he immediately repairs to another district in which he has reason to believe that he has a good chance of success, presents himself as a candidate, and is elected. Neither himself nor the people at large, having suffered anything from his previous failure. The advantages of this system, said the lecturer, are so obviously great that it seems strange to an Englishman that so different a system can prevail in this country with any degree of success. It is true, however, that the possession of land in the district, which he seeks to represent, is of great value to the English candidate, so also is wealth and social position.

In this country but one representative is allowed to each district, in England the number runs from one to four, and it frequently happens that members of the same party run for the same seat in the House of Commons, and it is not considered by any means, a breach of party faith. The result has frequently been, to elect the candidate of the minority. Especially was this the case in the last election in which the Conservatives lost a number of seats. So that now, a caucus system has been devised called the "Birmingham System," which in many respects resembles the one in vogue in this country. In London, for instance, the districts have been divided into a number of wards, each of which send two delegates to a caucus, numbering in the aggregate four hundred, which proceeds to select and ratify a suitable candidate.

Any gentleman who wishes to represent a certain district in parliament, about a month before the election is to take place goes there, and immediately begins electioneering. He strives to become acquainted with the principal men, and win their sympathy. By means of dinner parties given by his friends, lectures, speeches, personal visits, etc., he endeavors to place himself prominently before the public. No opportunity for presiding at meetings of the Young Men's Christian Association," for opening fairs, and in short of impressing the public with a sense of his philantrophy and worth is neglected. The regular campaign consists of canvassing, speaking and paying. Canvassing and personal solicitation of votes is going out of date owing to the great size of the constituencies, which renders it impossible. Speaking appeals directly to the heart of the average English voter and is the most popular campaign method. In the disbursement of his cash the candidate is assisted by an agent, who keeps strict account of every item, and at the close of the campaign is compelled by law to make a sworn statement. Should any expenditure be made for bribery or other than legitimate expenses, an appeal is made to the courts, and should the charge be fully substantiated the member loses his seat. The candidate is also assisted in his canvass by a local committee which directs its energies toward bringing out a large vote, a thing which is very difficult to do, and consequently on its success in this direction depends materially the result of the election. Legitimate campaign expenses, it may be said, consist principally in advertising, printing, traveling, hiring of halls, and the expenses of the state returning officer, toward which the candidate is obliged to contribute.

It is only since 1868 that contested election cases have been carried before the courts, and the plan is said to work admirably; previous to that date they were referred to a parliamentary committee. There were but forty seats contested at the last election, and everything goes to prove the assertion that bribery and the illegal use of money is on the decrease, according as the constituencies enlarge and public patriotism increases. The great mass of the people are honest in their political beliefs, and arr influenced in their voting only by what they deem best for their country. In conclusion the lecturer said the question to ask was "what is the dominant factor in a campaign?" and the answer is "enthusiasm." Take away enthusiasm from a political campaign and little is left. In many instances the party in the ascendant is defeated solely on account of a lack of this necessity. Professor Bryce's remarks were exceedingly instructive and entertaining.

THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

Professor Bryce delivered his second lecture last evening in Sanders Theatre on "The relations which a member of the House of Commons holds; and the functions which he discharges towards his constituents and his party." The relations of a member toward his constituents, the executive government, and his party were briefly but exhaustively discussed in all their various phases. The question frequently asked whether a member ought to act as a mere delegate in the expression of the views which he knows to be held by the majority of his constituents, or whether he should regard the House of Commons as composed of the quintessence of the statesmanship and brains of the nation, and in this way better able to judge of what is best for the people than the people themselves, is one which has never been satisfactorily decided in all its bearings. One thing is certain, that by the adoption of the latter view of the question, the nation is able to procure wiser and more sagacious men, and the House of Commons does not stand in danger of losing its dignity and prestige as a deliberative body. Questions of this nature must be solved by each member individually, and in no two cases are the existing conditions similar.

The relations of a member to the executive government depends materially whether he belongs to the dominant party or to the opposition; in the latter case his principal duty toward the government is to introduce deputations to the different secretaries, and to consult with the ministers on questions not embraced by party lines. If belonging to the party in power, it is considered essential that he should cast his vote on all party questions, and in order to do this he must be present in person. In this he is assisted by what is called the "whip" document, sent to him every morning by the leaders of his party, who act as ministers, in which a programme of the business of the day is published, and from the heading of this paper, which is underscored either once, twice, three or four times, he is able to judge as to the necessity of his appearance. The worse breach of party discipline which a member can commit is a failure to respond to a four lined "whip."

In regard to the relation of a member to his party, experience has shown that he must necessarily subordinate his private views in a great measure and adopt those of his party leaders in order to avoid that instability of government which follow his attempt to vote first on one side and then on the other.

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