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LIBRARY

OF THE

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.

Class



PROPORTIONAL



REPRESENTATION



BY



JOHN R. COMMONS

PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY IN SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY




NEW YORK: 46 EAST MTH STREET
THOMAS Y. CROWELL & COMPANY

BOSTON: 100 PURCHASE STREET



COPYRIGHT, 1896,
THOMAS Y. CROWELL & COMPANY.



C. J. PETHRS & SON, TYPOGRAPHERS.



PREFACE.



IT is intended in this book to show the his-
torical significance of the recent movement for
Proportional Representation, and a detailed appli-
cation of the reform to American politics. Spe-
cial consideration is given to city government,
where, at present, other reforms are being tried,
and where, it is believed, this one, if it were un-
derstood, would also be heartily accepted.

I am grateful for expert criticism on the proof,
received from Professor J. W. Jenks of Cornell
University, and Mr. Stoughton Cooley, Secretary
of the American Proportional Representation
League ; and for helpful suggestions from Pro-
fessor Richard T. Ely, the editor of this series.

JOHN R. COMMONS.

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, January, 1896.



1



LIBRARY OF
ECONOMICS AND POLITICS

EDITED BY
RICHARD T. ELY, PH.D., LL.D.



NUMBER EIGHT.



3Lthrarg



OF



Economics anti politics*



Vol. I. The Independent Treasury System of the
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By DAVID KINLEY, Ph.D., Professor of Political
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By WILLIAM A. SCOTT, Ph.D., Associate Professor of
Political Economy in the University of Wisconsin.

Vol. III. Socialism and Social Reform . . $1.50

By RICHARD T. ELY, Ph.D., LL.D., Professor of
Political Economy, and Director of the School of
Economics, Political Science, and History in the
University of Wisconsin.

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py and Economics $1.75

By AMOS G. WARNER, Ph.D., Professor of Eco-
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Illustrated with Colored Maps. 8vo . . $2.50
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Sketch of the Rise of the Penitentiary

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By FREDERICK H. WINES, LL.D.

Vol. VII. Social Theory. A grouping of Social Facts
and Principles $1.75

By JOHN BASCOM, Professor of Political Economy
and Political Science, Williams College.

Vol. VIII. Proportional Presentation . . . $1.75

By JOHN R. Ct /lONS, Professor of Sociology
in Syracuse Ui ersity.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER. PAGE.

I. THE FAILUKE OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES . 1
II. THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF REPRE-
SENTATIVE ASSEMBLIES 10

III. THE DISTRICT SYSTEM AT WORK 36

IY. THE GENERAL TICKET, THE LIMITED VOTE,

THE CUMULATIVE VOTE 86

\

Y. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION 99

VI. APPLICATION OF THE REMEDY 132

VII. " PARTY' RESPONSIBILITY " 163

VIII. CITY GOVERNMENT 197

IX. SOCIAL REFORM 223

X. THE PROGRESS OF PROPORTIONAL REPRE-
SENTATION S2j&'

APPENDIX.

I. THE DISTRIBUTION OF SEATS 271

II. THE HARE PREFERENTIAL PLAN 279

III. THE GOVE BILL. LEGISLATIVE REPRESEN-

TATION 285

IV. BOOKS, PERIODICALS, AND SOCIETIES . . . 292



..''

y



PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.



CHAPTER I.

THE FAILURE OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES.

THE American people are fairly content with
their executive and judicial departments of gov-
ernment, but they feel that their law-making
bodies have painfully failed. This conviction per-
tains to all grades of legislatures, municipal, State,
and Federal. The newspapers speak what the peo-
ple feel; and, judging therefrom, it is popular to
denounce aldermen, legislators, and congressmen.
When Congress is in session, the business interests
are reported to be in agony until it adjourns. The
cry that rises towards the end of a legislature's
session is humiliating. The San Francisco Bulle-
tin is quoted as saying :

"It is not possible to speak in measured terms of the
thing that goes by the name of legislature in this State.
It has of late years been the vilest deliberative body in the
world. The assemblage has become one of bandits instead
of law-makers. Everything within its grasp for years has
been for sale. The commissions to high office which it con-
fers are the outward and visible signs of felony rather than
of careful and wise selection."

I



2 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

Every State in the Union can furnish examples
more or less approaching to this. Statements
almost as extreme are made regarding Congress.
Great corporations and syndicates seeking legis-
lative favors are known to control the acts of both
branches. The patriotic ability and even the per-
sonal character of members are widely distrusted
and denounced.

These outcries are not made only in a spirit of
partisanship, but respectable party papers denounce
unsparingly legislatures and councils whose ma-
jorities are of their own political complexion.
The people at large join in the attack. When
statements so extreme as that given above are
made by reputable papers and citizens, it is not
surprising that the people at large have come
thoroughly to distrust their law-makers. Charges
of corruption and bribery are so abundant as to
be taken as a matter of course. The honored
historical name of alderman has frequently become
a stigma of suspicion and disgrace.

As might be expected, this distrust has shown
itself in far-reaching constitutional changes. The
powers of State and city legislatures have been
clipped and trimmed until they offer no induce-
ments for ambition. The powers of governors,
mayors, judges, and administrative boards have
been correspondingly increased. The growing
popularity of the executive veto is one of the



FAILURE OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 3

startling facts of the times. President Hayes
vetoed more congressional bills than any prede-
cessor, and his record has been excelled by Presi-
dent Cleveland. A city has been known to turn
out in mass-meetings, and to illuminate the heav-
ens with bonfires, in honor of a mayor's veto which
rescued it from outrages and robberies perpetrated
by its own lawfully elected u city fathers." The
prevailing reform in municipal government is the
transfer of legislative functions, and even legis-
lative discretion, from the city council to the
mayor.

Our municipal institutions were transplanted
from England. As in the English system, the
municipal council was supreme. It engrossed all
the legislative and administrative powers of local
government. It elected the mayor and heads of
departments. It governed its appointees through
its own committees. New York was the first city
to break from this simplicity, as it has since gone
farthest in stripping the council of power. Uni-
versal distrust led first to the mayor's appoint-
ment by the governor, then to his popular election,
and later to popular election of heads of depart-
ments. Again, the control of finances was taken
from the council and placed in an ex-officio Board
of Estimate and Apportionment. The council
still retained the right to confirm or reject the
mayor's appointees. Thus the unity of govern-



4 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

ment was lost. Responsibility was ravelled out
into scores of aimless threads. Mr. A. H. Green,
a few years ago, found "eighty different boards
or individuals who could create debt indepen-
dently of each other." l Here was the oppor-
tunity of the " boss " and the party machine.
Unity must somehow be secured. The "boss,"
a mere private citizen, gathered! into his hands
these scattered threads, -and centralized the gov-
ernment of the city in himself. He controlled
nominations and elections. He appointed and re-
moved officers. He pitted council against mayor,
boards against council, subordinates against chiefs,
making them all responsible to him. But he was
responsible to no one. The latest movement in
municipal reform is to legalize the boss in the
person of the mayor, to give him sole power to
appoint and remove all heads of departments, but
to elect him by popular vote and make him re-
sponsible to the people. The movement is not
yet completed. The council remains a shrivelled
and vicious relic. Logically, it should be abol-
ished or reformed.

A similar movement, though later in time, is
affecting State legislatures. The governor has
been considerably exalted, but the movement is
as yet mainly in the stage of independent boards,
clothed with certain legislative and administrative

1 L. Williams, Arena, vol. ix., p. 644.



FAILURE OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 5

authority. Where the governor at first appointed
these boards, as in the case of the Railway Com-
missioners of Iowa, popular election is substituted.
The Constitutions of the new States of North and
South Dakota, Montana, and Washington, may be
considered as stating the thought of the American
people at the present time regarding their legisla-
tures. 1 Several administrative boards are created
in these new States, all filled by popular elec-
tion. Among these are commissions to supervise
and regulate insurance, railroads, agriculture and
labor, prisons, and public lands. These commis-
sions absorb, in various degrees, the powers of
legislatures, executives, and judges. They are the
nondescript, many-headed agents of the people
distrusting the legislature, but not yet ready to
confide everything to the governor's autocracy.

If it be inferred that these commissions are
created not to belittle, but to enlighten, the
legislature, and to act as its agents, we need
only notice the maze of constitutional restrictions
thrown about all legislative acts. "The articles
in the new State Constitutions on the 'legislative
department 'are long and detailed. They seem
to be composed by the framers in order to declare
what the respective State legislatures cannot be
permitted to do. ... [They declare] by what

1 See article by F. N. Thorpe in Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science, September, 1891.



6 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

procedure the legislature shall act, on what it
shall not act, and to what extent it may act.
The chief limitations on the legislature are with
respect to special or private legislation, corpora-
tions, political corruption among members, taxa-
tion, and power to use the credit of the State." l

These constitutional restrictions, extending to
legislatures and municipal councils, have forced
another branch of government, the judiciary, to
the front. Conscious of popular approval, judges
have steadily encroached upon the field of legisla-
tive discretion, and reluctantly, it may be, have
more and more assumed the right to set aside
legislative statutes. This interference, however
justifiable the reasons, is fraught with danger to
the judiciary. It is thereby, at the expense of its
integrity in the field of administration and justice,
forced into the political arena, where are the
heated questions of political expediency. Popular
election of judges, short terms, and partisanship
will result. " The executive," says Judge Horace
Davis, 2 " all-powerful at the beginning [of colonial
history], was reduced to a mere shadow of its
former glory, and in these later days is regaining
some of its lost power. The legislature, at first
weak, afterwards absorbed the powers of the other

1 Thorpe, as above, p. 17.

2 "American Constitutions," "Johns Hopkins University
Studies in History and Politics," 3d series, pp. 55, 59.



FAILURE OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 7

departments, but is now much reduced again.
Throughout all these changes the dignity and
power of the judges have steadily increased. . . .
Their greatest power, most amazing to Europeans,
is the authority to set aside a statute which they
hold to be in conflict with the written Constitu-
tion. No other courts in the world possess this
unique power. . . . The scope of this power
is much broadened by the modern tendency to
limit legislation. The early Constitutions were
very brief, containing usually little more than a
bill of rights and a skeleton of the government,
leaving all details to the discretion of the legisla-
ture. Now all this is changed ; the bounds of the
different' departments are carefully denned, and
the power of the legislature is jealously curbed,
particularly in the domain of special legislation.
It will be seen at a glance that this enlarges the
relative power of the courts. It limits the legisla-
ture and widens the field of the judiciary at one
stroke."

Not only do the judges pretend to override
the legislatures, but their exalted position renders
them confidently autocratic in other directions.
They are learning to dispense with juries, to dan-
gerously widen the scope of injunctions, and to
punish for contempt in cases not contemplated in
our Constitutions. The legislatures and Congress,
which are legally in a position to check these usur-



8 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

pations, are practically helpless from their lack of
ability and their loss of popular confidence.

This demoralization of legislative bodies, these
tendencies to restrict legislation, must be viewed
as a profoundly alarming feature of American
politics. Just as the duties of legislation are in-
creasing as never before, in order to meet the vital
wants of a complex civilization, the essential or-
gans for performing those duties are felt to be in
a state of collapse. The legislature controls the
purse, the very life-blood of the city, the State,
the nation. It can block every other depart-
ment. It ought to stand nearest to the lives, the
wishes, the wisdom, of the people. It is their
necessary organ for creating, guiding, watching,
and supporting all the departments of govern-
jment. Above them all, then, it ought to be
j eminently representative. But it is the least rep-
f resentative of all. Surely, then, for the American
people beyond all others, and in a high degree,
too, for all peoples who are developing popular
government, it is pertinent to inquire carefully
into the fundamental nature of these representa-
tive institutions, the causes of their failures, and
the means, if any can be found, to adapt them to
the exigencies of modern times.

Why is it that a legislative assembly, which in
our country's infancy summoned to its halls a
Madison or a Hamilton to achieve the liberties



FAILURE OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 9

of the people, has now fallen so low that our
public spirited men hesitate to approach it ? The
municipal council in early times, as now in Eng-
land and Germany, comprised the stanchest men
of the community. The American Congress was
once the arena for a Webster, a Clay, a Calhoun,
whose debates a nation followed. If it can be
shown by what means representative assemblies
formerly enrolled the honored leaders of the peo-
ple, and met precisely the problems of the day,
we may be able to see how the social and political
conditions of to-day, resulting from changes of the
past fifty years, have outgrown those early institu-
tions, and rendered their original fitness a dis-
astrous encumbrance.



10 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.



CHAPTER II.

THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OP
. REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLIES.

A STRIKING feature of social evolution is the
decay and obstruction of institutions which in
their day were essential to progress. The funda-
mental changes in society are unobtrusive. The
increase of wealth and intelligence, the rise of cor-
porations, the combinations of labor, the spread of
democracy, the deepening of religion, the unfold-
ing of new ideals and hopes, these are the fun-
damental motives and objects of social growth.
Laws, legislatures, commissions, courts, are the
machinery and devices whereby the people work
out their ideals. If the work to be done changes,
the machinery becomes obsolete. It may be aban-
doned altogether, as was slavery ; or it may be re-
vised and readapted, as when the king, an heredi-
tary executive, was displaced by the president, an
elected executive provided always that the good
fruits of the past be not jeopardized.

Representative assemblies were devised to meet
certain social ends; they sprang from historical
conditions. It is in the changing character of
these ends and conditions that the modern prob-
lems of representation have arisen.



EEPEESENTATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 11

1. The original object which produced repre-
sentative assemblies was nationalization. This is
shown in the twofold aspect of the union of local
governments into a nation, and the coalescence of
social classes in a single representative assembly.

(1.) The English nation, from which our repre-
sentative institutions were inherited, was formed
by welding together independent local communi-
ties into a central organization, without destroy-
ing the local governments. Previous experiments
in nationalization had resulted in the tyranny of
the capital city and the slavery of the provinces.
The reason is plain to every historical student,
and the same forces were working to the same
outcome In England. But the principle of rep-
resentation, almost unknown to the ancients, was
discovered ; and it permitted the unity of a nation,
while preserving the freedom of the localities.

The primitive idea of a law-making body was
the primary assembly of all the warriors. The
king and his chief adviser sagreed on resolutions,
and offered them to a simple yea and nay vote of
the army. Every freeman had the right to appear
in his own person in the national assembly. After
the Norman conquest this right was retained in
theory, but abandoned in practice. Gradually
only the wealthy land-owners, the tenants in chief,
and the higher clergy appeared. The distances
were too great, the expense too heavy, and their



12 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

influence too slight, for the small land-owners to
continue attendance. And as for the serfs and
the town merchants and artisans, they never had
the right. Thus the king and his council of
magnates became the sole government of Eng-
land. They enacted the laws and controlled their
enforcement. The people had no voice, neither
were they represented.

Slowly two forces were at work. The king
gave away his private estates, upon which he was
supposed to support himself and his administra-
tion, and was therefore compelled to look else-
where for funds. During the same time the
unrepresented classes of small farmers and town
merchants and workmen were acquiring wealth.
The king was forced to ask them for contribu-
tions, or "subsidies," to help him in his wars.
Experience showed that these aids could not be
secured by compulsion. The king must obtain
the consent of his subjects. Neither could their
hearty consent and co-operation be obtained when
they were approached privately and individually.
They must have the king's affairs laid before them
in assembly, and the state of his exchequer ex-
plained. But a national primary assembly of all
the people was impossible. However, there was
in existence the more or less well-organized county
government, with a history running far back into
Anglo-Saxon times. Here was a convenient pri-



REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 13

mary assembly of all the landowners, twice a year
at the county seat, when the king's justices made
their circuit. Here the germs of representation
had appeared in the practice of electing juries to
present the criminal matters of the county before
the king's judges, and of electing assessors to levy
the king's taxes upon the county. 1 Also there
was a true legislative representation in the prac-
tice of the rural towns and the boroughs, which
sent delegates to the county courts. Very natu-
rally, it occurred to the king to ask this county
primary to elect " two good and discreet knights,"
who should represent the land-owners before him,
and hear and act upon his demands. 2

In the towns, also, had quietly grown up the
merchant and craft guilds, compact organizations
of tradesmen and manufacturers, with mutual in-
terests mutually protected. When the king could
no longer wring from them money by coercion, he
invited them to send their two accredited dele-
gates for a national gathering of guild represen-
tatives.

What is the significance of these devices? In
ancient Rome the tax collectors swarmed from the
imperial city with proconsuls and armies at their
backs, to exact arbitrary tribute from the prov-

1 Stubbs, "Constitutional History," vol. i., p. 586.

2 These were first summoned in 1254, by Henry III., on occa-
sion of a military campaign into Gascony.



14 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

inces. Provincial self-government, and with it
liberty and rights of property, were destroyed. In
England the provinces joined with the central
government, through their elected representatives,
in determining the rate of taxation and in assess-
ing it to individuals. * Concessions in turn were
made by the king, grievances were redressed, local
self-government, and with it liberty and rights of
property, were maintained.

(2) The union of localities alone does not
form a nation ; there must be added the union of
classes. The first was the work of the thirteenth
century, the second of the fourteenth. At the
end of the thirteenth century there were at least
four legislative assemblies, each representing a
distinct class. They hardly deserved the name
of legislatures ; they were rather conventions of
different social classes, negotiating with the king
at separate times and places, regarding their own
particular class interests. They did not meet to-
gether. Each convention separately enacted laws
with the consent of the king. In 1336,aj^uncil
of merchants from twenty-one cities agreed with
the king "to increase customs on wool, to extend
monopolies, and enlarge the privileges of trade." l
Such matters were considered to affect only mer-
chants and townsmen. In the thirteenth century
.military jtermnts anrl lanrj-owners^ncluding the

i Stubbs, "Constitutional History," vol. ii., p. 379.



EEPEESENTATIVE ASSEMBLIES. 15

representatives from the counties, enacted the great
statutes, De Donis, Quia Emptores, and others,
regulating the holding of real property, without
consulting the burgesses and clergy. The clergy
also managed their large estates and voted taxes
thereon without reference to other assemblies ;
and the laws of a political nature, such as those
affecting Ireland and Wales, or foreign relations,
which were not supposed to affect clergy, knights,
or burgesses, were enacted by the jlieat Council
without consulting these popular bodies. 1

By the end of the fourteenth century, these as-
semblies were combined in the House of Lords
and the House of Commons. Here were the
steps: The clergy were gradually deprived of
their power to legislate. The higher clergy then
simply retained the place they had always held
in the Great Council, and this became the modern
House of Lords. The lower clergy were merged
into the electorate of the counties and towns.
Again, the representatives from the small land-
owners of the counties, and those from the guilds
of the towns, were drawn together by common
interests against king and nobility. They elected
a "speaker" to present their petitions to the king,
and thus, in time, became the House of Com-
mons.

This legislative assembly, therefore, was based

1 Hearn, " Government of England," pp. 423-428.



16 PEOPOETIONAL REPRESENTATION.

upon two principles, the representation of local-
ities and the representation of the two organized
social classes, town capitalists and country farm-
ers, which governed those localities.

This was the original problem of representation.
How different is it now ! Not only the kingdom
of England, but the " United Kingdom " of Eng-
land, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, has become a
nation. Localities have lost their significance
and their sanctity. Certain sections, like Ireland,
retain apparently local, but really class, griev-
ances. On the whole, railways, telegraph, the
press, internal trade, and representation itself,
have brought the people together. Foreign rela-
tions, a world-wide system of colonies, national
armies and navies, have exalted a national flag
and inspired a national patriotism. No longer
would it be tolerable to leave the laws upon the
tariff to merchants and importers, land-laws to
real-estate owners, foreign relations to the nobil-
ity, or church taxation to the clergy. The repre-
sentative to-day is therefore not a mere agent of


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