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the Crowi, too, possess the power of giving to the citizens a more popular election, we must likewise concede to it the power of exclusion; and we own that, great as the benefits are which would result from the reform, we should regret to see it accomplished by an exertion of prerogative which, in less favourable circunstances, might be turned against the people. This, indeed, just forms one of those considerations which seem to sanction most strongly our preceding remarks. But, in the second place, it will be observed, that the Burgh Sets, as they now stand, owe their origin to statute. It is not by virtue of any royal charter that the old Councils are invested with the power of chusing the new. That primary principle was introduced by the act of James III., which, in this respect, still regulates their constitutions. The mode of election that has been established, even in disregard of some of its minor enactments, depends upon usage, which is not of the same nature with a royal grant, but forms a part of the public law of the kingdom; and which, as it possesses the power of controlling the statute, would appeur, in sound reasoning, to be alterable only by Parliament. But it is manifestly the province of the Legislature alone, to redress those grievances which rest either immediately or indirectly upon legislative authority. In the third place, though no doubt could be entertained as to the constitutional power of the Crown, yet the evil scenis too extensive to be remedied frum that quarter. It exists, not in one Burgh only, but in all the Burghs; and though it were granted that the King might remodel the set of one Burgh, it does not exactly follow that it would be a proper or even a constitutional exercise of his prerogative, to renew their sets universally. Although the Crown appears to have been resorted to, for the purpose of redressing grievances in single Burghs, it was never considered, even in practice, as the proper instrument of effecting any general change. Where that was desirable, Parliament itself always appears to have interposed; and its numerous enactments, relative both to the mode of election, and to the qualifications of Magistrates, sufficiently prove, that, even at a period when the Royal authority was much greater than now, it was deemed unconstitutional and inexpedient to exert it so widely as a general reform of the Burghs in any respect would imply.
The same arguments apply to the Convention of Burghis, which has been mentioned as the next quarter from which redress should be sought; and it is liable, besides, to many other exceptions, derived from its constitution, from the uncertain extent of its jurisdiction and powers, and from its never having exercised, in point of fact, any such authority as the projected alteration requires. Parliament, therefore, it seems plain, is the most legitimate and most adequate source of reform. Its power alone is undoubted; all general grievances are natural and proper objects of its cognizance; and while it possesses most perfectly the means of inquiry, it can best ascertain the suitable remedy, and present it in the most acceptable form,
What that remedy ought to be, we have stated, in general terms, frequently, in the course of these observations. It is the recal of the self-perpetuating system, and the admission of the Burgesses to the right of choosing their Magistrates by a popular election. What modifications ought to be made with respect either to the franchise or eligibility, we shall not here examine, as it would lead us into a discussion of too much detail. Existing statutes, however, throw a great deal of light on some parts of the subject; and none of the arrangements will be attended with much difficulty, if investigation be commenced with an honest desire to give the people redress.
There is one circumstance connected with this subject, on which we cannot help remarking. As we before stated, the Crown, on the application of Montrose, granted to that Burgh, not only a considerable reform in its constitution, but appointed a poll for the election of the new Council and Magistrates. Very soon afterwards, the magistracy of Aberdeen failed; but though a poll election was petitioned for, almost unanimously, by its citizens, it was refused, and a warrant granted to the members of the former Council. On the lawfulness of this warrant we have already expressed some doubts, and may state very shortly the general grounds of objection. It has been seen, that the Burgesses at large elected their magistracy, till the statute of James introduced the alteration, that the old Council, that is, the Council whose term was expiring, should elect the
The ultimate right of the Burgesses, however, remained entire, although they had no power of electing their cffice-bearers, so long as there existed a Council to appoint their successors, in terms of the statute. But, when the magistracy determined without election, and there was neither a new Council chosen, nor an old one to chuse, then, the condition of the statute being no longer applicable, the right of the Burgesses revived, as it had previously existed. They had all along formed the proper constituent members of the corporation; and, notwithstanding that the choice of their Magistrates was suspended by the enactment, that the retiring magistracy should appoint their successors, it seems plain, that such a suspension could not endure beyond the condition on which it depended. When the Coun cil that had been elected for a year, or other definite term, sut
fered the time to elapse, without making a valid election, their powers ceased ; and, though their recent honours might be remembered by the inhabitants, they were no longer invested with authority, nor by law distinguishable from the rest of their fellowcitizens. A burgh, in such circumstances, were the point now to be argued for the first time, might possibly be found entitled to meet of its own accord, and exert the inherent right of electing its Magistrates, to the exercise of which there was no obstruction: Or, if any authority were wanted, for the purpose of enabling the citizens to assemble and conduct the election, the Court of Session would perhaps be found perfectly competent to grant the requisite warrants. The Burghs, however, had always been in use to address the Crown upon these emergencies, and to obtain the warrant from the King in Council. Into the nature of the warrants granted previous to the Revolution, it seems unnecessary to inquire; as, during that period, the exercise of prerogative respecting the Royal Burghs was so arbitrary, that their grievances are enumerated among those represented in 1689 by the Convention of Estates of Scotland. The view of the Legislature on the subject, however, was sufficiently shown, by a general poll election being then ordained for the purpose of renewing a legal magistracy throughout the kingdom, and subverting those Councils that had been arbitrarily imposed upon them. The example thus set by the Estates seems to have been generally followed since that period; for out of thirty cases that have been collected since the Union, we understand there are only four in which the poll has been refused, and the election committed to the former Councillors. Even these do not appear to have been contested, but to have been granted without discussion, in terms of an unopposed petition. The example of Montrose had been the last; and it was generally and reasonably believed, that the poll was the only constitutional means of renewing a magistracy that had failed, Indeed, to any one who considered the subject generally, it appeared that the warrant might have been addressed to any set of Burgesses, named at pleasure, as well as to the old Councillors since the Burgh and the rights of its members remained entire, and nothing was wanting but an authority to meet for the purpose of election. But to grant a warrant to individuals, seemed to be a direct usurpation on the privileges of the citizens, by compelling them to accept of a magistracy, nominated neither by themselves, according to their antient constitution, nor by a former Council, according to the statute.
We have entered into this explanation, not in the view of a all anticipating a discussion which will probably soon occupy the courts of law; but because we cannot withhold the expression of our surprise and regret, that the Crown should have been advised to adopt such measures with respect to Aberdeen. It is not merely that the warrant is questionable in itself,—it is not the unbecoming vacillation it betrays,-it is not the denial to Aberdeen of a boon which, upon lighter occasion, had been so recently granted to Montrose, “it is not the inconsistency of counsels that we most strongly condemn, or the error of which the one measure, by necessity, convicts the other ;-but it is, that Government, having a clear and a popular path before it, should nevertheless, in its later and more deliberate resolution, have followed a course, of something more than doubtful legality, plainly inconsistent with the welfare of the community, and the rights and freedom of citizens, destructive of the hopes which had been excited of useful reform, and directly opposed to the voice and feelings of the country. A different result was confidently expected; and the disappointment has been generally attributed, with what justice we shall not determine, to a desire of suppressing this retorm in its commencement, and of putting down every attempt, however reasonable or necessary, to give to the people the least additional weight, in the choice even of their local Magistrates, or the administration of their own town. Though dissatisfied, however, the people of Scotland are not discouraged; they seem resolute to pursue their object with unanimity and steadiness; and are now instructed, that they must look solely to the justice and wisdom of Parliament for that redress, which they did not imagine there could have been a wish in any quarter to refuse to them, -and to which, they are satisfied that their claim, when rightly examined, is altogether irresistible.
We are aware that there are many other questions nearly related to the present subject, and of much more general concernment, to which we have scarcely adverted: But we thought it better to wave these for the present, for the purpose of stating the subject of a popular complaint, as it is felt by the people themselves, and of explaining the grounds on which they require to be restored to the exercise of their rights. There is one abuse, however, connected with the administration of the Burghs, in comparison to which the present, and many other grievances, may be almost termed insignificant-we mean Parliamentary Representation, which the people of Scotland can hardly be said to enjoy; the member of Parliament being returned by a Town Council and Magistrates,-generally about twenty persons,--and the Burgesscs, though often amounting to several thousands, being absolutely and entirely excluded from any direct or indirect participation in the election. Every Burgh in Scotland, without exception, is a close Burgh, and that, too, of the most indefensible description. In England, a close Burgh, in general, exists only when the members of the Burgh have been reduced to a very inconsiderable number, or when one person, having acquired the whole property, is enabled to fill the Burgh with his own creatures. In this, though unquestionably a great abuse, men are in some degree induced to acquiesce, because it is only an exception from the system, and because they are less offended with decay, where it is partial, and arises from the progressive operation of natural causes. But in Scotland, every part of the system is bad, without a single deviation to what is right. What makes it the more intolerable too, is, that the Town Council, who are only the servants and office-bearers of the Corporation, have most absurdly obtained the powers of the Corporation, and the exclusive possession of the rights that should reside in its members at large. It is the Burgesses who constitute the Burgh; yet they have no voice in the election of the member who is professediy their representative. Here is not only a state of things which calls for reformation, but furnishes the most obvious, the easiest, and most unexceptionable means of accomplishing it. Parliamentary reform, it is quite true, when conducted upon the real principles of the Representative System, should have less regard to Burghs, contemplated as the artificial creatures of the law, than to Towns, as containing certain proportions of the wealth and population of the country. To attempt reform, however, upon those enlarged principles, has appeared to many a difficult and huzardous experiment; and ancient institutions will always be respected even where they have nothing but their antiquity to recommend them. In admitting the Burgesses, however, to elect their own representatives, nothing is risked, nor can any part of the existing constitution be said to be altered or infringed. No new body of men is introduced as electors-no strange or unknown qualification is proposed. The reform will be achieved, by giving to the Burgesses rights which they once possessed, and which were most unjustly wrested from them; and by enabling them to resume, in their own persons, those powers which have been very unreasonably transferred to their Magistrates. An improvement so simple as this,-so congenial to the constitution,-so consistent with establishment,-so free from innovation,--would be attended with incalculable benefits to this land; not only by ensuring it a more worthy and independent representation, but by creating in its inhabitants all the feelings