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Proportional Representation A Study in Methods of Election   By:

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PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

A STUDY IN METHODS OF ELECTION

BY

JOHN H. HUMPHREYS

HON. SECRETARY, PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

THE RT. HON. LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH

First Published in 1911

TO THE MEMORY OF

CATHERINE HELEN SPENCE

OF ADELAIDE

AN UNWEARIED WORKER IN THE CAUSE OF REAL REPRESENTATION

INTRODUCTION

BY LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH

I believe this book will generally be welcomed as opportune. Proportional Representation has made very rapid, almost startling advances in recent years. In one shape or another it has been adopted in many countries in Northern Europe, and there is a prospect of a most important extension of this adoption in the reform of the parliamentary institutions of France. Among ourselves, every political writer and speaker have got some inkling of the central principle of proportional representation, and not a few feel, sometimes with reluctance, that it has come to stay, that it will indeed be worked into our own system when the inevitable moment arrives for taking up again the reform of the House of Commons. They know and confess so much among themselves, but they want to be familiarized with the best machinery for working proportional representation, and they would not be sorry to have the arguments for and against its principles once more clearly examined so that they may be properly equipped for the reception of the coming change. This little book of Mr. Humphreys is just what they desire. The author has no doubt about his conclusions, but he goes fairly and with quite sufficient fulness through the main branches of the controversy over proportional representation, and he explains the working of an election under the system we must now regard as the one most likely to be adopted among us. His qualifications for his work are indeed rare, and his authority in a corresponding measure high. A convinced adherent of proportional representation, he stimulated the revival of the Society established to promote it. He was the chief organizer of the enlarged illustrative elections we have had at home. He has attended elections in Belgium and again in Sweden, and when the time came for electing Senators in the colonies of South Africa, and Municipal Councils in Johannesburg and Pretoria, the local governments solicited his assistance in conducting them, and put on record their obligations for his help. The reader can have no better guide in argument, no more experienced hand in the explanation of machinery, and if I add that Mr. Humphreys has done his work with complete mastery of his subject and with conspicuous clearness of exposition, I need say no more in recommendation of his book.

It may be objected that the Royal Commission which issued its Report last spring, did not recommend the incorporation of proportional representation into our electoral system. This is most true. One member indeed (Lord Lochee) did not shrink from this conclusion, but his colleagues were unable to report that a case had been made out for the adoption "here and now" of proportional representation. Their hesitancy and the reasons they advanced as justifying it must lead many to a conclusion opposite to their own. They themselves are indeed emphatic in pressing the limitation "here and now" as qualifying their verdict. They wish it to be most distinctly understood that they have no irresistible objection to proportional representation. They indeed openly confess that conditions may arise among ourselves at some future time which would appear to be not necessarily distant, when the balance of expediency may turn in favour of its adoption. They suggest "that some need may become felt which can only be satisfied by proportional representation in some form or another," and I do not think I misrepresent their attitude in believing that a very small change of circumstances might suffice to precipitate a reversal of their present conclusion. All who are familiar with the conduct of political controversies must recognize the situation thus revealed... Continue reading book >>




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