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Chapter 2

Bribery Committee

In the case of the late Bribery Committee, it seemed to be the
conclusion of the soundest practical minds that Bribery could not
be put down; that Pure Election was a thing we had seen the last
of, and must now go on without, as we best could. A conclusion
not a little startling; to which it requires a practical mind of
some seasoning to reconcile yourself at once! It seems, then, we
are henceforth to get ourselves constituted Legislators not
according to what merit we may have, or even what merit we may
seem to have, but according to the length of our purse, and our
frankness, impudence and dexterity in laying out the contents of
the same. Our theory, written down in all books and law-books,
spouted forth from all barrel-heads, is perfect purity of
Tenpound Franchise, absolute sincerity of question put and answer
given;--and our practice is irremediable bribery; irremediable,
unpunishable, which you will do more harm than good by attempting
to punish! Once more, a very startling conclusion indeed;
which, whatever the soundest practical minds in parliament
may think of it, invites all British men to meditations of
various kinds.

A Parliament, one would say, which proclaims itself elected and
eligible by bribery, tells the Nation that is governed by it a
piece of singular news. Bribery: have we reflected what bribery
is? Bribery means not only length of purse, which is neither
qualification nor the contrary for legislating well; but it
means dishonesty, and even impudent dishonesty;--brazen
insensibility to lying and to making others lie; total oblivion,
and flinging overboard, for the nonce, of any real thing you can
call veracity, morality; with dexterous putting on the cast-
clothes of that real thing, and strutting about in them! What
Legislating can you get out of a man in that fatal situation?
Nonce that will profit much, one would think! A Legislator who
has left his veracity lying on the door threshold, he, why verily
_he_--ought to be sent out to seek it again!

Heavens, what an improvement, were there once fairly, in Downing-
street, an Election-Office opened, with a Tariff of Boroughs!
Such and such a population, amount of property-tax, ground-
rental, extent of trade; returns two Members, returns one
Member, for so much money down: Ipswich so many thousands,
Nottingham so many,--as they happened, one by one, to fall into
this new Downing-street Schedule A! An incalculable improvement,
in comparison: for now at least you have it fairly by length of
purse, and leave the dishonesty, the impudence, the unveracity
all handsomely aside. Length of purse and desire to be a
Legislator ought to get a man into Parliament, not with, but if
possible _without_ the unveracity, the impudence and the
dishonesty! Length of purse and desire, these are, as intrinsic
qualifications, correctly equal to zero; but they are not yet
less than zero,--as the smallest addition of that latter sort
will make them!

And is it come to this? And does our venerable Parliament
announce itself elected and eligible in this manner? Surely such
a Parliament promulgates strange horoscopes of itself. What is
to become of a Parliament elected or eligible in this manner?
Unless Belial and Beelzebub have got possession of the throne of
this Universe, such Parliament is preparing itself for new
Reform-bills. We shall have to try it by Chartism, or any
conceivable _ism,_ rather than put up with this! There is
already in England 'religion' enough to get six hundred and
fifty-eight Consulting Men brought together who do _not_ begin
work with a lie in their mouth. Our poor old Parliament,
thousands of years old, is still good for something, for several
things;--though many are beginning to ask, with ominous anxiety,
in these days: For what thing? But for whatever thing and
things Parliament be good, indisputably it must start with other
than a lie in its mouth! On the Whole, a Parliament working with
a lie in its mouth, will have to take itself away. To no
Parliament or thing, that one has heard of, did this Universe
ever long yield harbour on that footing. At all hours of the day
and night, some Chartism is advancing, some armed Cromwell is
advancing, to apprise such Parliament: "Ye are no Parliament.
In the name of God,--go!"

In sad truth, once more, how is our whole existence, in these
present days, built on Cant, Speciosity, Falsehood, Dilettantism;
with this one serious Veracity in it: Mammonism! Dig down where
you will, through the Parliament-floor or elsewhere, how
infallibly do you, at spade's depth below the surface, come upon
this universal _Liars_-rock substratum! Much else is ornamental;
true on barrel-heads, in pulpits, hustings, Parliamentary
benches; but this is forever true and truest: "Money does bring
money's worth; Put money in your purse." Here, if nowhere else,
is the human soul still in thorough earnest; sincere with a
prophet's sincerity: and 'the Hell of the English,' as Sauerteig
said, 'is the infinite terror of Not getting on, especially of
Not making money.' With results!

To many persons the horoscope of Parliament is more interesting
than to me: but surely all men with souls must admit that
sending members to Parliament by bribery is an infamous solecism;
an act entirely immoral, which no man can have to do with, more
or less, but he will soil his fingers more or less. No Carlton
Clubs, Reform Clubs, nor any sort of clubs or creatures, or of
accredited opinions or practices, can make a Lie Truth, can make
Bribery a Propriety. The Parliament should really either punish
and put away Bribery, or legalise it by some Office in Downing-
street. As I read the Apocalypses, a Parliament that can do
neither of these things is not in a good way.--And yet, alas,
what of Parliaments and their Elections? Parliamentary Elections
are but the topmost ultimate outcome of an electioneering which
goes on at all hours, in all places, in every meeting of two or
more men. It is _we_ that vote wrong, and teach the poor ragged
Freemen of Boroughs to vote wrong. We pay respect to those
worthy of no respect.

Is not Pandarus Dogdraught a member of select clubs, and admitted
into the drawingrooms of men? Visibly to all persons he is of
the offal of Creation; but he carries money in his purse, due
lacker on his dog-visage, and it is believed will not steal
spoons. The human species does not with one voice, like the
Hebrew Psalmist, 'shun to sit' with Dogdraught, refuse totally to
dine with Dogdraught; men called of honour are willing enough to
dine with him, his talk being lively, and his champagne
excellent. We say to ourselves, "The man is in good society,"--
others have already voted for him; why should not I? We
_forget_ the indefeasible right of property that Satan has in
Dogdraught,--we are not afraid to be near Dogdraught! It is we
that vote wrong; blindly, nay with falsity prepense! It is we
that no longer know the difference between Human Worth and Human
Unworth; or feel that the one is admirable and alone admirable,
the other detestable, damnable! How shall _we_ find out a Hero
and Viceking Samson with a maximum of two shillings in his
pocket? We have no chance to do such a thing. We have got out
of the Ages of Heroism, deep into the Ages of Flunkeyism,--and
must return or die. What a noble set of mortals are we, who,
because there is no Saint Edmund threatening us at the rim of the
horizon, are not afraid to be whatever, for the day and hour, is
smoothest for us!

And now, in good sooth, why should an indigent discerning Freeman
give his vote without bribes? Let us rather honour the poor man
that he does discern clearly wherein lies, for him, the true
kernel of the matter. What is it to the ragged grimy Freeman of
a Tenpound-Franchise Borough, whether Aristides Rigmarole Esq. of
the Destructive, or the Hon. Alcides Dolittle of the Conservative
Party be sent to Parliament;--much more, whether the two-
thousandth part of them be sent, for that is the amount of his
faculty in it? Destructive or Conservative, what will either of
them destroy or conserve of vital moment to this Freeman? Has he
found either of them care, at bottom, a sixpence for him or his
interests, or those of his class or of his cause, or of any class
or cause that is of much value to God or to man? Rigmarole and
Dolittle have alike cared for themselves hitherto; and for their
own clique, and self-conceited crotchets,--their greasy dishonest
interests of pudding, or windy dishonest interests of praise;
and not very perceptibly for any other interest whatever.
Neither Rigmarole nor Dolittle will accomplish any good or any
evil for this grimy Freeman, like giving him a five-pound note,
or refusing to give it him. It will be smoothest to vote
according to value received. That is the veritable fact; and he
indigent, like others that are not indigent, acts conformably

Why, reader, truly, if they asked thee or me, Which way we meant
to vote?--were it not our likeliest answer: Neither way! I, as
a Tenpound Franchiser, will receive no bribe; but also I will
not vote for either of these men. Neither Rigmarole nor Dolittle
shall, by furtherance of mine, go and make laws for this country.
I will have no hand in such a mission. How dare I! If other men
cannot be got in England, a totally other sort of men, different
as light is from dark, as star-fire is from street-mud, what is
the use of votings, or of Parliaments in England? England ought
to resign herself; there is no hope or possibility for England.
If England cannot get her Knaves and Dastards 'arrested,' in
some degree, but only get them 'elected,' what is to become
of England?

I conclude, with all confidence, that England will verily have to
put an end to briberies on her Election Hustings and elsewhere,
at what cost soever;--and likewise that we, Electors and
Eligibles, one and all of us, for our own behoof and hers, cannot
too soon begin, at what cost soever, to put an end to
_bribeabilities_ in ourselves. The death-leprosy, attacked in
this manner, by purifying lotions from without, and by rallying
of the vital energies and purities from within, will probably
abate somewhat! It has otherwise no chance to abate.

Thomas Carlyle