Lacock Abbey, Chippenham
My Dear Sir
Will you permit me to call your attention to the very great advantage which would arise to the Country from a very simple enactment, altering the present law of Elections in a manner apparently unimportant at first sight, but really most important. And one of its chief recommendations is, that no outcry can be raised against it, because it is perfectly equitable in principle. In fact most persons would dismiss it at once with the observation “that it would make no difference one way or the other” – which is nevertheless so far from being the case, that it would at once liberate the Metropolitan Boroughs and many others from their present condition, which is anything but satisfactory to all who like myself are moderate politicians, and who tho’ supporters of Lord Greys’ <1> government are yet toto cælo <2> opposed to the Ultra Radicals and Destructives.
The enactment which I ask for is simply this, that in Boroughs which have 2 representatives each elector may dispose as he pleases of his two votes. That is to say that he may give them both if he pleases to his favorite candidate: so that a plumper shall reckon as two votes.
I cannot understand why this was not always allowed by law. But it is not too late to correct the anomaly. The effect would be this. The Metropolitan Boroughs now return 20 Members of the same politics! Just as if the constituency were unanimous! Under the new system they would return in all probability 10 of each side.
For the sake of illustration let us suppose a borough with 2000 electors: the close of the poll very frequently presents something like the following result
|Mr A. 1100
|Mr B. 1100
|Mr C. 900
|Mr D. 900
In such a case it is clear that the Constituents are nearly equally divided. Justice therefore requires that the Representation should be equally divided. And if you adopt my proposed alteration, the next election would stand as follows
|Mr A. 1100
|Mr B. 1100
|Mr C. 1800
Therefore one of each side would be returned.
If you will only examine the state of the polls at the present elections you will be quite surprized how many exhibit the proofs of a nearly divided constituency, and in all such cases in future each party would return one member. Of course in some places the proposed change would injure the ministerial side (as a Norwich and Bristol) But it is for you to consider whether the gain would not be far greater than the loss – The calculation is easily made. I shall rejoice if you think fit to adopt this suggestion, which I think is likely to cause the real voice of the Electoral Body to be much more distinctly heard than at present: and as I anticipate a speedy junction of all moderate politicians against the Anarchists and Radicals, I do not scruple to point it out as a subject well worthy of your consideration.
I have the honour to be
Your obedient hble servant
Henry Fox Talbot
January 13th 1835
Mr Hy Fox Talbot suggesting an alteration in the mode of valuing Plumpers at Elections
1. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845), statesman.