« ForrigeFortsæt »
lated to make strong, true, honest, self-reliant, and self-governed men, and we have grave doubts whether any republic can long endure without its purifying and elevating influence.
Here, then, is that "democratic principle" about which so much is said and so little realized. It is the "principle" that democratic government reflects the integrity, morality, and intelligence of the voting majority. If this be so, and those who hold the ballot control the government, and the government cannot be good unless the elemental voters are good, then the well-being of the state requires that the suffrage should be freed, as far as it is possible to free it, from all dead weights, and especially from those classes which are grossly ignorant, or have disqualified themselves by flagrant violations of law and order.
As to the negro, there is but one course in regard to him, if he is treated in the spirit of that "democratic principle' which we have sought to elucidate. By the action of the general government and a large majority of the states he is made a free man, and must be in the eye of the Constitution and before the law a citizen on exactly the same footing as any other citizen. All laws which relate to color or descent must be blotted from the statute-book. He must be able to hold property, to give his testimony in courts of justice, to prosecute before all judicial tribunals, and to vote at elections on precisely the same terms as any other citizen. Nay, he must have the right to be elected to office, if he can secure a majority, with no disability which does not attach to other men. The negro, if we treat him wisely, or even fairly, must henceforth be a man, no more, no less.
It does not follow that when we maintain the right of suffrage, irrespective of color, that we maintain the negro's right to marry our daughter. The former is a matter of public law, the latter a matter of individual taste. We have not a right to exclude a well-qualified man from those franchises as a citizen which are necessary for his development as a being, and for his safeguard as a man; but we have a right not to include in our circle of intimate friends and social companions those who are not agreeable to our feelings. Political equality does not necessarily include social level. We vote with whole classes of men with whom we would not consort; with Jews,
green Irishmen, and uncleanly scavengers. The political enfranchisement of the negro might leave his social status precisely where it is. And rightly; for his social position and his political franchise depend upon very different considerations. We say this to calm the excitement of the alarmists. who are so nervous at "negro equality."
Men just out of slavery, and especially cotton and sugar slavery, are not, it is true, of the very highest order of manhood. Even the children of Israel, headed by their splendid leader, were not able to go up and possess the "promised land" till forty years of probation in the wilderness had laid under the sand all the adult emigrants and buried with them the craven spirit of slavery. It was the young, free blood, born among the rocks and trained in the wild and free spirit of the desert, that carried the banner of victory over the Jordan. And since that time the effect of slavery in training a race has not improved. Large numbers of them are diseased in body and diseased in mind; they have been restricted in every possible direction save only that of toil; they have not only had no means of development, being cut off from all the learning of the world, but have a jargon peculiar to the plantation, and little more to be understood than that of the Mandans or Hottentots; and they are without self-reliance or self-government. How is it possible to admit some millions of such men, with no educational preparation, to the suffrage without endangering the great interests of the state?
We smile, however, at the crotchet of those fancy reasoners who maintain that if we enfranchise the negro his vote will be always under the influence and at the disposal of his former masters. For, first, if the negro is not enfranchised, the nineteen additional representatives soon to accrue to the South will be placed absolutely in the masters' hands. To prevent the master's possessing this power by gaining the negro's vote, these philosophers would put the power directly and exclusively into his possession. Emancipation then but increases the old master's power, whereas it ought to enure to the benefit of the emancipated. Second, our immediate past experience demonstrates that all the talk about the negro's being at the master's beck, even after emancipation, is fiction. The old blarney about the tender attachment of slave
to master we had supposed to be about dissipated. Like all other beings, the negro wisely thinks of his own interests first. Third, all the influence the old masters can attain by favoring the negro's interests is their just right. Within due limits it is the constituent's right to vote for the man who will forward his share of the common well-being; it is the representative's right to win a class of voters by honorably securing him that share. If the master study the negro's well-being he has good claim upon his vote.
What the good of the state requires in reference to the negro is precisely what it requires in reference to all other persons: It is the admission of those who are intellectually and morally qualified to the suffrage, and the exclusion of the rest. But there can be no commission, no census to inquire who is thus qualified; and in a democratic government we must make rules and laws that bear on all alike. Any rule will operate imperfectly, and be unjust in individual cases; but that is no sufficient reason for its rejection. The general good must, in all such cases, override all individual and minor considerations.
The time certainly has fully come for the passage of laws restricting the suffrage to citizens of the United States who can intelligently read their newspaper and can write a correct and legible chirography. These qualifications are very easily ascertained, and the rule would cut off few or none who have the independence, the knowledge, and the moral worth to be valuable citizens and intelligent voters; while the great mass excluded would be men who are a burden on the government and unsafe directors of the state. It would dispose at once of all the most troublesome questions about the negroes, and admit them gradually, as they prepare themselves, to positions which they have won. It would present a perpetual incentive to education, and make the poor more anxious to give their children such advantages as would qualify them for this trust. It would tend to discourage the vicious and corrupt influences by which elections are carried, and give strength and weight to those classes which should rule in every democratic state.
But there is another class of laws which should go hand in hand with these, namely, laws disfranchising knaves and
criminals. If it requires some knowledge to be a director in so important a corporation as the state, it also requires some INTEGRITY and VIRTUE. A large portion of those who seek our shores from abroad are not only without education and intelligence, but are so trained as well nigh to empty them of all individual conscience as well as all self-government, and thus disqualify them from their share in the sovereignty of the state.
It may be, too, that the negro, trained in slavery, will prove to have no sufficient moral sense, and that thieving and other petty crimes may be among the vices bequeathed to society with his forced emancipation. All such persons ought to be reached, if possible, and excluded from the suffrage. What right has a man who knowingly sets government at defiance to have any direction or control in its management?
The "New York Herald," in the article from which we have already quoted, goes on to show what has been the cause of the gross misgovernment in the great commercial center. It describes the sovereignty of New York as consisting in part of the following persons:
Gamblers of various kinds...
Keepers of vile houses...
Men about town...
Thieves, swindlers, and loafers...
Now if we add to these fifteen thousand sovereigns those who vend spirituous liquors contrary to law, and carry on trade with contraband goods, and pursue unlawful callings prejudicial to good order, we shall have an army of men large enough to override what of virtue, integrity, and intelligence there may be in this great city. But all of these men are sure to vote; and, as the "Herald" says, "some of them several times.' And these men, men who have no care for the wellbeing of the city or the state, and who use their power for the most selfish considerations, are invested by law with the right of suffrage. No wonder that, under such circumstances, "popular government with universal suffrage is a failure." The governing class, the men who make the law makers, and
the law expounders, and the law enforcers, being low in the scale of morals, have brought the government down to something like their own level; and, to quote the "Courier and Enquirer," "universal suffrage is only another name for universal corruption."*
In all intelligent private circles, it is universally conceded that a person grossly ignorant or grossly vicious should not be intrusted with great public interests like those of a city or state. We have also publicly acknowledged this principle to some extent by cutting off from the suffrage idiots, insane persons, penitentiary convicts, and in some states, men who have wagers on the result of the election. In the new Missouri Constitution it has been also acknowledged in that sweeping provision which cuts off from the suffrage all who have adhered or given aid to the late rebellion. But a very much larger portion of these criminal classes should be put outside of the suffrage. There are persons every day convicted in our courts of gross breaches of the public law who turn up as regularly at the polls as the most upright citizen. Deserters from the army, bounty-jumpers, smugglers, defrauders of the revenue, takers of bribes, duelists, gamblers, habitual drunkards, the sellers of spirituous liquors contrary to the statute, the keepers of disorderly houses, and many others, are allowed to do violence to society and law, and then exercise the highest trust of good citizenship. In many of the states even murder is no disability in matters of suffrage or holding office. It would be an easy matter to correct all this. If a conviction for certain crimes were to carry with it disfranchisement, it would weed the ballot of a large part of this base material.
We trust, then, that we have made clear to our readers the three propositions: that political franchise should not be made
* What aggravates the evil in our large cities, especially New York, is that an immense body of property holders occupy suburban residences and have no city vote. The men who own the city are thus disfranchised in its government, while the real power is held by the Irishry, the rumsellers, and the mob. A Popish vote well nigh controls our Protestant metropolis. Is it not time to so modify our municipal franchise at least as to secure the safety of property? Should not every owner of property in the city be a voter in the city at municipal elections? Nay, should not their number of votes be in some degree graduated to their taxation, whether of real or personal estate in the city? Something like this the restoration of order demands, and our security will require.-ED.