The first condition, that of breaking in upon the existing system at its worst point, will be in a considerable degree fulfilled by any measure which clears away the small constituencies.
The most peccant element in the present state of the representation is not the small number of the electors, taken in the aggregate.
It is, however, indispensable that the Reform should not be merely nominal; that it should be a real change, a substantial improvement, which may be accepted as a step by those whom it will by no means permanently satisfy, and may hold out sufficient promise of good to be really valued.
The point for consideration, therefore, is, what are the qualities most valuable in a half-measure: for with less than these, no Reformer ought to be even temporarily satisfied.
Whatever change he introduces, should be a step in the direction in which a further advance is, or will hereafter be, desirable.
His half-measure should be so constructed as to recognise and embody the principles which, if no hindrance existed, would form the best foundation of a complete measure.They are too few, doubtless, and they will always be too few while any are excluded whose admission would not deteriorate the quality of the mass.At present, too, admission and exclusion are capricious; the same description of persons are admitted in cities and parliamentary boroughs, who are excluded in all other towns and in the rural districts.This state of things, so apparently anomalous, is one of the most satisfactory signs of the times, and a significant exemplification of the new character which has been permanently impressed upon the politics of this empire by the great popular triumph twenty-six years ago.The Reform Act, and the mustering and trial of strength between the Progressive and the Stationary forces which filled the fifteen years from 1832 to 1846, have inaugurated Improvement as the general law of public affairs: Improvement in itself, Improvement for its own sake, not such particular improvements only as any section of the public deems called for by its own immediate interest.No considerable section of existing political men desire more; and the active force out of doors is wanting to enable them to carry it if they did.Whatever is proposed, either by the present Administration, or by any who are likely to succeed them, will be a half-measure; will be of the nature of a compromise; and will appear to many, probably to the whole body of Democratic Reformers, to be far short of their just claims.of the pamphlet version in the Somerville College Library.For a discussion of the composition of this work, see the Textual Introduction, lxxxiii-lxxxv above.Since it does not profess to do everything, it should do what is most required: it should apply a corrective where one is the most urgently needed.Secondly, it should be conceived with an eye to the further changes which may be expected hereafter.