A blupete Essay

Representative Government, Part 4 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Democracy"

In England, Edward the First, in 1295, with a view to dealing with his impecuniosity, issued a writ to the sheriff of Northhampton. The people, of all things, were refusing to pay taxes and they were becoming belligerent. Edward was getting advise to the effect that it might be better to sit down with the people, or rather their representatives, than to let loose the royal troops. Letting the troops loose would be an act which would destroy the country's riches, a share of which the king wanted for himself. Thus, we would have seen the royal messenger riding out from the king's castle to deliver this royal writ to the sheriff of Northhampton. This royal writ of Edward's had the Latin words, elegi facis, meaning that the persons who were to sit on the people's Council (the beginnings of parliament) were to be elected headmen such as the burgesses and knights, and they were to have "full and sufficient power for themselves and the communities" which they represent; they were to come to Council -- ready, to conduct and to conclude the important business of the land.

Now, one of the most fundamental questions of politics - whether of 1295, or of modern day - is this: Should the representative, sent to the legislature -- assuming, in the first place, that he or she has canvassed the subject to be voted upon and considered all the far flung consequences of it -- vote the way the majority of his constituents would have him vote; or, should he vote on the basis of what he thinks is right, no matter that it may run against the majority of what his constituents would like. Edmund Burke, a most brilliant political thinker, thought that the representative should vote his conscience.5

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. ...
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion. ...
The state includes the dead, the living, and the coming generations."
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