General Principles. Concerning the constitution and mode of recruitment of the lower chambers there is now substantial unanimity of opinion and of practice that it should rest upon a popular basis, that its members should be elected by direct, equal, secret, and what is commonly described as universal suffrage, and that the tenure of their mandates should be of relatively short duration Prior to the recent constitutional changes in Europe, this view and practice was not, however, universal.
In some of the German states (notably Prussia) the lower chambers were chosen indirectly by electors who themselves were elected according to a three class system under which the voters were grouped on the basis of the amount of the taxes which they paid. The result was in large measure the disfranchisement of the working and professional classes and the devolution of the legislative power upon the representatives of the Wealthy, and especially the large land-owning classes. An almost equally undemocratic system prevailed in Austria until 1907.
In Belgium prior to 1921 where, as pointed out in a previous chapter, a system of plural or weighted voting prevailed, 2 the Catholic party was able to elect the majority of the members of the lower Chamber,while, in consequence of the system, the strength of the Liberal and Socialist parties was greatly reduced. To-day, however, there appear to be no lower chambers in Europe or Asia which are indirectly elected or elected upon the basis of a restricted or unequal suffrage.
The Basis of Representation :
A principle which is now almost universal is that representation in the lower chamber (and in some states likewise in the upper chamber shall be based upon the total population, including citizens and aliens alike, men and women, adults and minors, rather than upon the number of voters. In several states of the American union, however, there are deviations from this principle. Thus in Alabama and Idaho the basis of apportionment is the total number of votes polled at the preceding election in Arkansas and Indiana it is the number of male inhabitants 21 years of age or over, in Massachusetts it is the number of legal voters and in North Carolina aliens are not counted in determining the basis of representation.
In France there has been considerable public sentiment in recent years in favor of basing representation in the parliament upon the French population alone and of excluding aliens from the basis of apportionment this for the reason that the presence of large numbers of aliens in certain districts and their almost total absence in others leads to inequalities of representation which are artificial and unjust. Something might be said in favor of basing representation upon the voting population alone, but in most constituencies it would make little difference in the result.
Deviations from the Principle of Equality of Representation :
While it is the theory that representation shall be based upon population and that constituencies of substantially equal population shall be equally represented, in fact there are frequent deviations from the principle. Thus it is a common provision in constitutions (for example in the American and the French constitutions) that each State, county, town, or district shall be entitled to at least one representative however small its population.
As a consequence of such a provision four American states (Delaware, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona) elect one representative each to Congress although their populations are below the Congressional quota that of Nevada far below it. So in France there are, or were recently, some districts with populations of less than 14,000 each which elected one deputy, while there were others with populations exceeding 112,000 which elected only one.
In some American states the constitutional provision that each county, regardless of its population, shall be entitled to one and only one senator, plays havoc with the principle of equality of representation. Thus in New Jersey under the operation of this rule Cape May county, with a population of about 20,000 inhabitants, elects one senator while Essex county, with a population in excess of 500,000, elects but one senator. Somewhat similar inequalities are found in Maryland, South Carolina, and other states. In some of the New England states where the town system of representation in the legislature prevails, the inequalities are still more flagrant.
Thus in Connecticut certain small towns with four or five hundred inhabitants each have the same number of representatives as cities like New Haven with 150,000 inhabitants. The four principal cities of that state contain about a third of the total population, yet they elect less than one thirtieth of the representatives in the lower house of the legislature. The provisions in some state constitutions which limit the number of representatives which certain counties having large cities may elect (e.g, New York and Rhode Island) also lead to flagrant inequalities of representation.
Redistribution Requirements :
In order to insure a correspondence between the representation of a district (or in the case of federal unions, of a state or province) and its growth in population, some constitutions (e.g., the constitution of the United States and those of some of the individual states) require that a census of the population shall be made at stated intervals and that there shall be a reapportionment or redistribution of representation, on the basis of the results thereof But there is no way of enforcing compliance on the part of the legislature to whom such injunctions are addressed.
For many years it was a standing complaint by the Social Democratic party in Germany that no substantial redistribution of seats in the Prussian legislature was ever made subsequent to 1860 and none at all of seats in the Reichstag after 1871. In consequence of the growth of cities it came to pass that they were greatly under represented in comparison with the rural districts, which were correspondingly over represented. All together it was quite the most unequal system of representation in the world.
Since the strength of the Social Democratic party lay chiefly in the great industrial centers while that of the Conservative parties was mainly in the country districts the effect was to keep down to relatively small proportions the representation of the former,and it was for this very reason that the ruling classes refused to permit a redistribution of seats.
Electoral Circumscriptions :
For convenience in choosing representatives and to insure a closer relationship between the representative and his Constituents, it is the practice in all countries to divide the territory into electoral circumscriptions, districts, or constituencies, from each of Which, ordinarily, one representative is chosen The entire chamber might be chosen from the country at large on a general ticket, each elector being allowed to cast a vote for the entire number but in states of considerable area, where several hundred members are to be elected, such a method would obviously be impracticable. The time and effort involved in voting such a ballot would be considerable and what is of more , importance, the ignorance of the elector concerning the candidates from distant parts of the state would be so great that an election under such Circumstances would be largely a guess.
General Ticket versus Single Member District :
In the laying out of electoral districts two methods are employed one is to divide the state into as many districts as there are representatives to be Chosen and allow a single member to be chosen from each the other is to create a smaller number of districts, from each of Which a number of representatives is chosen at large on a general ticket. I he former is known as the single member district plan the latter, as the general ticket method. Each has been employed by most states at different times in their history, but nearly all came ultimately to adopt the single member district method, although the recent spread of the system of proportional representation has necessitated the adoption of the general ticket System in one form or another in the countries where it has been introduced except Where the form is that of the Single transferable vote.
In the United States, for a long time,representatives in Congress were chosen from the state at large, each elector being allowed to cast a vote for the entire ticket but the objections to the method were so serious that Congress in 1842 enacted that thereafter they should be chosen by districts containing as nearly as possible equal populations, and this rule still prevails.
In Great Britain the single-member district method has long prevailed though from 1867 to 1885 a few of the more populous boroughs were permitted to choose their members by general ticket. These were the so called three-cornered constituencies, thirteen in number, in which a minority of not less than two fifths was allowed to choose one member.
French Practice :
The method f1rst employed in the Third French Republic for choosing members of the Chamber of Deputies was the single member district system (scrutin d’arrondissement or scrutin uninominal) but in 1885 the general ticket method was-adopted, under which all the deputies apportioned to each department were elected from the department at large by general ticket (scrutin de liste).
Under this law the 38 deputies to which the department of the Seine was entitled were elected on a single ballot, each elector having 38 votes. In consequence of the alarm in 1889 caused by General Boulanger’s threat to take a plebiscite of France on the issue of his dismissal from the army and the success which he achieved in several elections, a success which was greatly facilitated by the general ticket system, the French parliament made haste to abolish the system and to restore the single member district system.
In time, however, widespread dissatisfaction with the latter method grew up and a demand was made for a return to the general ticket system. The chief grounds of complaint were that the system of election from small districts had the effect of lowering the character of the chamber by making the representative a mere agent (mandataire) of his petty district-de’pufés de clocher they were called-charged by his constituents with obtaining appropriations for public works, construction of rail-roads, appointments to office, decorations for prominent residents, etc.
The system was denounced as députantissm instead of parliamentarism as Gam-betta in his day had declared France to be, under such asystem, a miroir brise, so Briand and others now declared her to be a mare stagnante. Furthermore, election from small districts greatly facilitated the power of the government to control the elections, as experience during the Second Empire and during the presidency of MacMahon had clearly demonstrated.
Finally another result of the system was the existence of flagrant inequalities in the population of the districts and consequently inequalities of representative. In these circumstances a law was passed in 1919 reestablishing a system of scrutin de liste but different from the system of 1885 in that it was coupled with a system of proportional representation and subject to the restriction that not more than six deputies should be chosen on a general ticket that is, the department should be the election district only in case it was not entitled to more than six members.
Without this latter modification the 50 deputies to which the department of the Seine was entitled would have been elected from the department at large upon general ticket, each elector having 50 votes-a system which would obviously have been impracticable. The working of the law of 1919, however, proved unsatisfactory, and in 1927 it was repealed and France returned again to the system of scrutin d’arrondissement.
Practice m Other Countries :
Italian practice, like that of France, has oscillated between the two systems. From 1891 to 1919 the single-member district system was in force. In the latter year, however, Italy followed the example of France and returned to the general ticket system with proportional representation. Under the regime of Mussolini certain changes to be explained below have been introduced. In the other countries where schemes of proportional representation have recently been introduced the general ticket system has necessarily taken the place of the single-member district system.
In the states of the American Union the single-member district method of choosing representatives is the rule, though there are a few exceptions. Likewise in the choice of members of municipal councils the district or ward method generally prevails, especially where the single-chambered council exists, though there are some notable exceptions, especially in cities which have introduced the commission form of government. In some municipalities a mixed system is employed, according to which a certain number of members, in addition to the ward representatives, are chosen from the city at large on general ticket.
Advantages of the Single Member District Method :
One advantage of the single-member district method is its simplicity and convenience. Where the country is divided into as many electoral circumscriptions as there are representatives to be chosen, the task of the voter in each district is restricted to the simple duty of casting a ballot for one representative. Owing to the necessarily restricted area of the electoral district under this system, the chances are considerable that the candidate Will be better known to the voters than would be possible under the general ticket system, Which requires larger districts, and that he will in turn be more familiar With the needs and conditions of the district which he is chosen to represent.
It affords a means of establishing a closer relationship between the elector and his representative it tends to increase the responsibility of the voter in choosing his representative and at the same time perhaps intensifies the interest of the representative in and his responsibility to his constituency.
The Hon. A. J. Balfour, speaking in the House of Commons on April 13,1894, said,
“I have always been of the Opinion that the whole basis of representation in this House is a local basis, and that the various localities, when they send representatives here, while conscious, of course, of the imperial obligations resting upon them, must vote as localities and have regard to the interest of localities.”
Experience has shown in fact that the election of representatives on a general ticket from large districts will not prevent them from regarding themselves as the immediate representatives of a particular part of the district.
By agreement and understandings among them they are likely to divide the district into small constituencies, each charging himself with the care of the particular interests of the one which he regards as his own. Indeed, according to Poincare and others, this is actually what happened in France when the general ticket system was introduced in 1885. Each former circumscription insisted upon its own particular deputy to look after its special interests and by mutual agreement such an arrangement was brought about.
The constitution of France and of the European countries generally expressly declare that deputies shall be the representatives of the entire nation and not of their particular districts, but as Carre de Malberg has conclusively shown, such pro visions are, certainly in France at least, mere pious declaration which mean little or nothing in fact.
Another advantage of the single member district method is that it tends to secure representation of the minority party in the state, city, or province, as a whole. Obviously, if all the representatives are chosen at large on a general ticket, the party having a bare majority will elect all and the minority none.
Thus in the United States, as long as representatives in Congress were chosen from the state at large, the majority party in each usually elected the entire congressional delegation whereas if the district ticket method had prevailed, some districts in states not overwhelmingly in control of one party or the other would have chosen representatives belonging to the minority party.
The injustice of such scheme led to the substitution of the district method, as has been said, by an act of Congress in 1842. In the same way it happened under the general ticket system established in France in 1885 that the majority party in the department was able to elect all the deputies to which the department was entitled (in case of the department of the Seine 38 altogether) and the minority elected none.
If such a system had been established in 1919 without a system of proportional representation the Radical and Radical Socialist parties with 216,000 votes in the department of the Seine would have been able to elect all the 50 deputies to which the department was then entitled, while the votes of 197,000 unified Socialists and those of the Progressists, Nationalists, and Glericals would have counted for nothing.
Objections to the Single Member District System :
The objections to the single member district method are first, that it narrows the range of choice and often leads to the election of inferior men. This is notably the case in the large cities where the ward system of choosing aldermen is almost universal.
Experience abundantly proves that in cities where such a system prevails not only inferior, but often corrupt, representatives are chosen. In the second place, the district system leads to the choice of men who regard them. selves as the representatives of local interests rather than men who Consider themselves as the representatives of the interests of the country as a whole, and the men chosen therefore are likely to take a narrow and particularity view of public questions instead of a broad national view. The experience of both France and Italy with the scrutin d’arrondissement system of choosing deputies clearly established the truth of this statement.
The district system encourages the view that the representative is the mandataire off his constituency rather than of the country that, in short, he is commissioned to represent a part rather than the whale of the state. As pointed out above, it facilitates the perceive of the government to control the elections, since the smaller the district the more easily it can influence the decisions of a sufficient number of voters to obtain the return of government candidates. This evil has been especially great on the continent of Europe and it constituted one of the principal reasons which led the French in 1919 to abandon for a time the system of scrutin d’arrondissement.
Moreover, the custom which regards the legislator as the representative of a particular locality is responsible for the election of men whose energies are likely to be engrossed with the pressure of petty local influences, and therefore often deprives the state of the services of able statesmen who would be willing to serve in the legislature could they be freed from such influences.
In the third place, the system increases powerfully the temptation of legislative majorities to gerrymander the state, that is, to construct the electoral districts in such a way as to give the majority Party more representatives than its voting strength entitles it to.
Qualifications for Membership in the Legislature :
The constitutions Of all states prescribe certain qualifications for eligibility to the office of representative, and some expressly lay down a number of disqualifications. The qualifications relate for the most part to citizenship, age, and residence the disqualifications relate mainly to the incompatibility of the legislative function with that of public office.
The propriety of excluding aliens from membership in the legislative body is universally recognized, for the reason that aliens, owing no permanent allegiance to the state and having perhaps only a transient interest in its welfare, cannot be expected to possess the requisite qualifications for participating in its government. Moreover, their presence in the legislature would afford a possible means through which the mischiefs of, foreign influence might find their way into the public councils.
Practically all constitutions require of the representative the attainment of a certain age, for the reason that the experience and knowledge necessary to a successful discharge of legislative duties are not likely to be possessed by minors. Some states, like Great Britain, require merely the attainment of the majority twenty one years of age, and this is the rule in the British dominions, most states, however, insist on a higher age, twenty five for the lower chamber, thirty for the upper, while some require the attainment of a greater age.
Thus Belgium, France, Italy, and Poland require the attainment of forty years for membership in the upper chamber, although only twenty-five years for membership in the lower chamber. Czechoslovakia requires 30 years for the lower house and 45 for the upper, Chile 21 years for the chamber of deputies and 35 years for the senate. A few, like Denmark, make no distinction , between the age requirements for eligibility to the two chambers.
The Residence Requirement European Practice :
Residence in the district which the member represents is required by positive law or custom in many states. In the United States the representative in Congress is required by the constitution to be an inhabitant of the state, but neither the constitution nor the statutes require that he shall be a resident of the district.
Nevertheless, a custom so strong and universal as to possess almost the force of positive law requires that he shall be a resident of the district, and this rule has rarely been disregarded in practice. The popular notion is that an actual resident will feel a deeper concern and possess a more intimate knowledge of the needs and conditions of his constituents than a non-resident would.
In England, formerly, residence in the district was required by law but for a long time the rule was systematically ignored, and the statute requiring it was repealed in 1774. It was found, said Judge Story, that boroughs and cities ,were often better represented by men of eminence and known patriotism, who were strangers to them, than by those chosen from their own vicinage.
The election of non residents to represent constituencies to which they are to all intents and purposes strangers is an occurrence so common in England that it has come to be almost as much the rule as the exception. There has been no parliament for many years which has not contained a large number of members who represented districts in which they were not residents.
The English practice not only has the effect of securing the election of representatives who are more free from the tyranny of petty local interests and who are likely to take broad national views of public questions, but it affords a means of bringing into and retaining in public life able men who otherwise would be unable to obtain seats in parliament.
There have been times when some of the most distinguished leaders in English public life would have been in retirement had a residence requirement been enforced. Under the English practice the continuance in public life of a great statesman and leader is not dependent upon the favor of a particular constituency which may refuse to return him for local or personal reasons having no relation to his qualifications.
On the continent of Europe neither constitutions nor customs limit the choice of representatives to the residents of districts from which they are chosen. Non-residents are frequently chosen , in fact most of the French colonial deputies and senators are nonresidents and instances are not lacking in which Parisians have been chosen to represent colonies Which they had never even visited before announcing their candidacies.
Results in America :
In the United States, where the opposite practice prevails, the country has, as a consequence, been deprived at times of the services of some of its ablest and most experienced statesmen. Lord Bryce thus criticized the American custom of limiting the choice of representatives to residents of the district.
The mischief is twofold Inferior men are returned, because there fare many parts of the country which do not produce statesmen where nobody, or at any rate nobody desiring to enter Congress, is to be found above a moderate level of political capacity and men of Marked ability and zeal are prevented from forcing their way in. Such man are produced chiefly in the great cities of the older states.
Them is not room enough there for all of them, but no other doors to Congress are open. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore could furnish eight times as many good members as there are seats in these cities. As such men cannot enter from their place of residence, they do not enter at all, and the nation is deprived of the benefit of their services. Careers are moreover interrupted.
A promising politician may lose his seat in his own district through some fluctuation of Opinion or perhaps because he has offended the local wire pullers by too much independence. Since he cannot find a seat elsewhere he is stranded his political life is closed, while Other young men inclined to independence take warning from his fate.
Property Qualifications :
Property qualifications for membership in legislative bodies were very common in former times and still survive in some countries. In Great Britain, for example,until 1858 the possession of an income of £600 was required of county members and £300 of borough members. Under the French charter of 1814 the payment of direct taxes to the amount of at least 1000 francs. was required of all deputies, and this requirement lasted until 1848. In many of the early state constitutions of the United States membership in the legislatures was restricted to large landowners, tax payers, or owners of personal property of a certain amount.
With the advance of the democratic movement, however, property requirements have disappeared almost everywhere. They still survive only here and there for membership in upper chambers. In the Dominion of Canada, for example, the owner ship of $4000 worth of property is required for membership in the Senate.
In the South African Union elected senators must be owners of unmortgaged real estate of the value of f 500 24 In Belgium the ownership of $2400 worth of property, or the payment of $240 of taxes, was formerly required for membership in the Senate, but that requirement was abolished in 192k In Sweden the possession of real property of the value of 80, 000 rix-dollars or an income of 4000 rix-dollars is required.
In the Netherlands only the highest taxpayers are eligible in Spain prior to 1931 grandees were senators of right only if they had a yearly income of 60,000 pesetas derived from real property of their own. There appear to be no existing lower chambers for which there is a property owning qualification for membership.
The chief argument in favor Of property qualifications for me membership in the legislature is that the ownership of property is likely to be evidence of certain qualities in the individual which indicate legislative fitness, such, for example, as thrift, economy, intelligence, or business ability. Moreover, the man of means is more likely to have the time and opportunity for study and devotion to the public service than one who must de vote a large part of his energies to earning a livelihood.
As a matter of fact, where the principle of non payment of members is the rule, as was formerly the case in European countries generally, and where even new the salary is not sufficient to Cover the expenses Of the members, it is practically necessary that they should have a private income, and thus the possession of property becomes an implied qualification.
It is a principle of representation well recognized in many states that legislative mandate and administrative office are incompatible and ought not to be intrusted to the same hands. Accordingly, we find in the constitutions of most states provisions disqualifying holders of certain offices from occupying seats in the legislature. In the United States the disqualification is practically absolute, exceptions being recognized only in the case of a few minor offices, the duties of which are hardly incompatible with the legislative function. It is practically the same in Chile (Const. 1925, Art. 29), where the mandate of a deputy or senator is declared to be incompatible with every salaried state or municipal office and with every service or commission of the same kind with the exception of educational service in the capital city.
In states having the cabinet system of government,however the doctrine of the separation of powers is not carried to the same length as in the United States, and the heads of the executive department are usually not only members of the legislature but are in fact its leaders. In Great Britain until 1919 however when a member of the legislature was appointed to a cabinet office he was required to resign his legislative mandate and seek reelection in order to give his constituents an opportunity to approve or disapprove of his assumption of an administrative office. This rule still prevails in few Continental states.
Formerly religious qualifications were common both in Europe and in America, but with the growth of religious liberty and the separation of church and state such requirements have almost entirely disappeared. In some states, however, certain ecclesiastical persons are debarred from sitting in the legislature.
Thus in Great Britain the clergy of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Established Church of England are excluded from the House of Commons and disqualifications of a similar nature exist in some of the Continental states for example in Switzerland, where the Roman Catholic clergy are in effect debarred, In a few of the American states, notably Maryland and Tennessee, ministers of the gospel are ineligible to public office, which includes membership in the legislature.
The Legislative Tenure :
The principle of modern representative government requires that the tenure of the representative shall be limited. If it were perpetual, or even very long, the responsibility of the representative to his constituents could not be enforced. Under such circumstances representative government would obviously be such only in name, for a permanent mandate in a representative system is a contradiction of terms. There must be periodical elections if the Will of the electorate is to be ascertained and made known to the representative and by him enacted into law.
Concerning the necessity of frequent elections means of preserving the representative system there is today little difference of opinion but as to the length of term sufficient to insure responsibility, there is no precise rule or principle of universal application, and as a matter of fact the practice of states varies widely.
Thus we find the term of the representatives in the lower chambers varying from one year in two of the American states to five years (formerly seven) in Great Britain, though in the latter country, owing to dissolution of parliament, elections in fact came oftener than seven years, the average duration of recent parliaments having been less than four years.
In most of the Continental states it is four years, but in Poland it is five years and in Czechoslovakia it is six. In the British dominions the duration of the parliament in most cases is three years, but that of the Canadian parliament is five years and so it is in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario and the Union of South Africa.
It was the prevailing opinion in certain parts of America at the time of the adoption of the federal constitution that where annual elections end, tyranny begins and this feeling lay at the basis of a good deal of the opposition to the constitution which disregarded this principle in fixing the term of national representatives at two years. This opinion, however, was not general and the constitutions of only two of the states today in fact, provide for annual elections of representatives. In none of the European states has the principle of annual elections been introduced, the general practice there being four year or five year terms.
It may well be questioned whether the disadvantages and inconveniences of annual elections do not outweigh the advantages. The very frequency of elections, observed Judge Story, has a tendency to create agitations and dissensions in the public mind, to nourish factions and encourage restlessness, to favor rash innovations in domestic legislation and public policy, and to produce violent and sudden changes in the administration of public affairs founded upon temporary excitement and prejudices.
Short tenures and frequent elections involve heavy expense to candidates and to the people and lead to constant shifting in the membership of the legislature with the result that it is always composed in large part of new and inexperienced member with regard to the, frequency of election necessary to preserve the representative principle,about all one can say is that the mandate ought to be neither too short to defeat its purpose nor too long to remove the representative from all popular control.
There is a popular belief that, where no other circumstances affect the case the greater the power, the shorter ought to be its duration. Fisher Ames in his day very well remarked that the term ought to be so long that the representative may understand the interests of the people, and yet so limited that his fidelity may be secured by a dependence upon their approbation.
John Stuart Mill stated the general principle as follows:
“On the one hand, the member ought not to have so long a tenure of his seat as to make him forget his responsibility, take his duties easily conduct them with a View to his own personal advantage, or neglect those full and public conferences with his constituents which, whether he agrees or differs with them, are one of the benefits of representative government. On the other hand, he should have such a term of office to look forward to as will enable him to be judged not by a single act, but by his course of action.”
It may be doubted whether a live or six-year term such as now prevails in Poland and Czechoslovakia and the still long terms of eight, nine, and twelve years for senators in Chile, France, and Ireland, are conducive to effective popular control, especially in countries where the senate cannot be dissolved, although it undoubtedly possesses distinct advantages such as result from longer experience and the freedom of the member from the necessity of engaging in frequent election campaigns in order to keep his seat in the legislature. Democratic logic would seem to require that Where the legislative tenure is a long one, some form of the device known as the “recall” should be provided in Order to insure that the representative shall be responsive to the opinion of the electorate.
Payment of Members American Practice :
Whether members of legislative assemblies should be paid salaries out of the public treasury for their services was once a much controverted question, and until recently there existed a wide divergence of practice in regard to the matter. In the United States, members of both houses of the national and state legislatures, and in most cities, the members of municipal Councils, have from the beginning received compensation either in the form of, a specified sum or a per diem allowance, and in addition it has been customary to allow them a certain sum known as mileage to cover their traveling expenses to and from the meeting place of the legislature.
The federal Constitution and many of the state constitutions have left the legislature free to determine the amount without restriction, but in the late years there has been a tendency among the states to limit by Constitutional provisions the amount which the legislature may vote itself especially where the compensation takes the form of a per diem allowance. It is also a common provision that, no in crease in the amount of compensation may apply to the legislature which votes the increase.
European Practice :
In Europe, for a longtime, the contrary practice was followed, for there the view prevailed that service in the legislature ought to be gratuitous. But with the rise of the Socialist and Labor parties and the election to the legislatures of workingmen who were dependent for their livelihood upon the wages or salaries received from their labor, which sources were necessarily cut, off wholly or partially when they became members of the legislature, there grew up a strong demand that they should be Compensated by the state for their legislative services.
In Germany when representatives of the Social Democratic party began to obtain seats in the legislature, in the absence of provisions for the payment of salaries out of the public treasury for their services, the party, by means of voluntary contributions, raised a sum for defraying the expenses of its members. But Bismarck, considering this practice to be in violation of the constitution, caused a suit to be brought against the party and the court sustained his Contention and put a stop to the practice.
It was not until 1906 that the Reichstag abandoned the old practice and provided that its members should receive a small salary (3000 marks about $750 per year) to be paid out of the imperial treasury. The present constitution (Art. 40) declares that they shall have a t to compensation provided by national law, as well as fret? transportation on all German railways.
The constitution of Prussia (Art. 28) contains a similar provision for the benefit of members of the Landtag. That of Czechoslovakia (Art. 27) provides that members of both chambers shall have a right to remuneration as provided by law. That of Belgium (Art. 52) as amended in 1921 expressly fixes the amount which members of the Chamber of Deputies shall receive (12,000 francs per year) and provides that they shall be entitled, in addition, to free transportation on all state or concessionary railways.
But it also expressly provides that senators shall receive no salary further than an indemnity of 4,000 francs per year for their expenses (Art. 57). Some of the new European constitutions are silent on the question, in which case the whole matter is left to the discretion of the legislature. This is the situation in France, where both senators and deputies at present receive the same indemnity (25,000 francs per year).
In Italy compensation for members of parliament out of the state treasury was first provided for in 1912. In Great Britain members of the House of Lords have never received compensation for their services as members and this was true of the House of Commons until 1911, when in consequence of the demands of the Labor party, which had already for some years followed the practice of contributing from the party funds certain sums for the support of its members in the House, Parliament passed a resolution providing that members of the House of Commons, other than those who were already in receipt of a salary as minister, of officer of the House, or of officer of the royal household should receive a salary of £400 per year.
In the British dominions members of the lower chambers of all the parliaments, national and local now receive salaries paid out of the public treasury, and the same is true of those of the upper chambers with some few exceptions. In most cases it is also provided that they shall have free transportation over the railroads where they are owned by the state otherwise they shall be allowed mileage or traveling expenses.
Merits and Demerits of Payment of Members :
The result of recent constitutional or parliamentary legislation is that the practice of payment of members of legislative assemblies out of the public treasury (with the exception of the members of a few upper chambers) is now universal, and consequently the merits of the question have to a large degree been removed from the domain of theoretical discussion.
Under modern conditions with the legislative bodies of many countries composed in large part of the representatives of the Labor and Socialist parties, who generally are not in the possession of private incomes sufficiently large to enable them to render gratuitous service to the state, and with the increasing democratization of the processes of election which necessarily entail heavy expenses upon candidates, the payment of salaries by the state is a necessity, if representatives without adequate private means are in fact to be available for service in the legislature.
On the other hand, as Mill pointed out in his book on “Representative Government,” where the system of com, pensation prevails the tendency is to give politics the character of a gainful profession, to make seats in the legislature the objects of desire on the part of politicians, and to attract into the legislature incompetents instead of able men who would regard service in the legislature as a public duty the successful performance of which is in itself reward enough.
It can hardly be denied that in so far as the system of payment applies to service in American municipal councils the objections which Mill foresaw have by no means been lacking. Outside the United States, the scale of compensation is relatively low in some countries it is hardly sufficient to cover the living,expenses of the member during the legislative session.
In certain European countries where the size of the legislature is very large (in Great Britain 615 members of the House of Commons in France 929 senators and deputies) the burden of a scale of legislative salaries which would amount to adequate compensation for the time and labor of the members Would be larger than public opinion would tolerate.
In comparison with European standards the scale of compensation in the United States is high, but on account of the heavy expenses of candidates resulting from the existing democratic processes of election, especially from the system of primary elections, it is in many cases hardly sufficient to cover such expenses.