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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

"Packing" the House of Commons in the Landed Interest

"Packing" the House of Commons in the Landed Interest.

In the 9th year of the reign of Queen Anne an Act was passed defining the qualification of Member of Parliament, whether for County or Borough, to be an income of £300 per annum, for his own use and benefit, derivable from houses, lands, or hereditaments. In the 33rd of George II., in order to placate the landholding class, the previous law was confirmed, and power given to Election Agents to test on oath, as to his qualification at the time of the election, any Candidate seeking Parliamentary honours.

In the 44th of George III. this latter portion of the Act was repealed, but the property qualification was retained.

In the 1st and 2nd Victoria the qualification for Counties was increased to £600 per year.

It was not until the year 1859 that the Act 21 and 22 Vic., cap. 26, was passed abolishing the property qualification altogether; so that it will be seen that for an unbroken period of 138 years every Member of Parliament had a direct personal and pecuniary interest in the legislation he participated in, and it is therefore little wonder that the land-holding classes have practically legislated themselves out of most of their legitimate responsibilities.