Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

influences dominated by the higher class, which class cannot be reached by the reimposition of a franchise limitation.

How change these tendencies? How guide the mighty river so that its flood may fructify the earth and all of its peoples? The tendencies towards evil are not yet flowing with the blood and do not yet inhere into the bone of the people. This change cannot be accomplished by Courts of Impeachment and Removal, the Referendum, the Electoral Delegates, and the thousand nostrums which are the mere modifications of the machinery of government, unaccompanied by the pure controlling spirit of popular life. These slight erections would soon be engulfed in the waves of a shoreless democracy. It would be binding the tide with ropes. The remedy must be deeper. Would these tendencies be changed by the reimposition of a suffrage limitation? You could not impose a money or a property qualification. An educational or an intelligence qualification would only be considered by the people.

Would the imposition of an intelligence franchise affect the general status? A few brief illustrations will show beyond cavil that an intelligence franchise, outside of the Southern States, where, by reason of the large illiterate negro vote, the conditions are abnormal, will not affect the general tendency. Let us illustrate by the States in this Union which have more than others felt the effect of political corruption. Take the

States of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois. These have been pivotal States and they have been swamped with money, and it is interesting to consider the effect of the illiterate vote. The total population of New York State at the census of 1890 was 4,822,392. The number of illiterates was 266,911, or 5.5 per cent. of the whole population. Estimating one vote to every four of population, there were, in round numbers, 1,205,000 voters, and 66,000 illiterate voters. Consider. ing one-third of these illiterate voters to be venal, which is a large proportion, there would be in New York State 22,000 corruptible voters, through illiteracy, or one and five-sixths per cent. of the whole voting population, which would be reached by the imposition of the franchise regulation and thus debarred from political life. This leaves the question of the effect of 22,000 venal voters upon practically a million and a quarter of intelligent voters. Would it account for the great corruption which is alleged to exist in New York State? This proportion does not even hold good at this period, for the illiterate vote is rapidly decreasing throughout the country. In the period between 1870 and 1890 the illiteracy in New York State decreased from 7.1 per cent. to 5.5 per cent. In that proportion of decrease the danger of the vote arising from illiteracy in New York State would be decreased to about one per cent. of the whole voting population, or, in round numbers, to about 15,000 votes of her voting population of about one and one-half millions.

In this regard let us consider New York City. There were 38,420 of illiterate males over ten years of age in 1890. Of these we will say that there were 35,000 voters. Allowing one-third of these to be considered as venal through illiteracy, we will have about 11,500 dangerous voters through illiteracy in the whole population of 1,210,000, or less than one per cent. of the whole population of the city.

The population in Pennsylvania in 1890 was 4,063,134. Its illiterate population was 275,353, or 6.8 per cent. of the whole population. Its voting population was 1,015,000, and the illiterate voting population was, in round numbers, 68,000. Allowing one-third to be corruptible, can we account for the debauchery of Pennsylvania politics by the presence of 23,946 who are corruptible through illiteracy out of a voting population of over 1,000,000 ? So with Illinois, with its voting population of 726,918, and its illiterate voting population of 38,158. Considering 12,719 of these to be venal, would that affect the virtue of the remaining three-quarters of a million of honest voters ? Ohio teaches the same lesson in almost identical figures. Iowa, with only 3.6 per cent, illiterates in the whole population, should certainly not feel the effect of its illiterate vote of a little more than four thousand upon its whole voting population.

There are other States where the rate of illiteracy is much higher, but what is remarkable is the fact that, with possibly two exceptions, in those States the cor

ruptible element is smaller than in the States where the illiteracy is proportionately much less.

The lesson of these figures is potent, and shows, beyond any question, that the imposition of the intelligence franchise would reach only a very small portion of the vote considered venal, and that the illiterate vote, even if we consider the whole of it venal, would have comparatively small effect, moral or otherwise, upon the total voting population. This vote, comparatively infinitesimal in numbers and unimportant by reason of its ignorance, further loses its power for evil, for it has no cohesiveness, and its strength is dissipated between the parties.

More than this, my experience for years has been that the man peculiarly susceptible to corruption is not the one who cannot read and write. The potent elements of corruption are, primarily, the classes which provide the means for corruption, and, secondly, the agents whom they employ to use them. These can always read and write. The mere mechanical power to read and write, add and subtract, will surely not affect a man's political honesty, nor will it make a revolution in the sentiment of the people. Some more potent corrective to corruption is surely needed. You must educate the souls and the lives of the people with a higher and better education than that imparted by the knowledge of a few elementary books. This education must reach their love of country and envelop the people with a nobler and a grander and purer ideal

of citizenship. What is needed is an education of their citizenship, not a mere education of the mind. This is the only education which can reach the crisis of to-day. More than this, will not the rapidly decreasing illiteracy resulting from our system of education soon destroy the necessity for an intelligence qualification for the franchise ?

Above these considerations there is a higher and more potent objection to the reimposition of the franchise limitation. This objection touches the very heart of the nation's being. It will be turning our lives against the advance of modern political science. The sovereignty of the whole people is the dominant, aggressive, and vital principle of to-day throughout the world. It has made a democracy of England and a republic of France. Its spirit jostles the soldiers in Berlin, and it controls monarchical Europe. It shakes the Czar sitting on the only despotic throne in civilization. This spirit was born with our Republic, and should we be the power to arrest its development throughout the nations of the world? Would it not fix the attention of civilization upon class as the model we give it upon which to rebuild the institutions of government ? Shall we bind the hands of this potent spirit and say to the people of the world, struggling against king and emperor and class and privilege, that the fundamental theory of our government is at fault, and that the people cannot be entirely trusted? Could we, in justice to our theory of government, send this

« AnteriorContinuar »