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people demanded their rights. The question of political philosophy was, what are the rights of the common people? The claim of despotism was that the common people had no political rights; they were children who were to submit without question to the authority of their parents. Louis XVIII, returning from his exile in England to Paris, thus defined, with curious naïveté, the Bourbon conception of the relation between king and people: "If my right to the throne were not altogether founded on that law [the divine right of kings, recognized by the ancient law of France], what claim should I have to it? What am I apart from that right? An infirm old man, a miserable outlaw, reduced to begging, far from his country, for shelter and food. That is what I was only a few days ago; but that old man, that outlaw, was the King of France. That title alone sufficed to make the whole nation, when at last it understood its real interests, recall me to the throne of my fathers. I have come back in answer to the call, but I have come back King of France." 1
In such an epoch the emphasis, alike of leaders and of people, was laid upon rights. This view we have inherited from our fathers. We have formed the habit of looking at all the political
1 Gilbert Stenger, The Return of Louis XVIII, p. 177.
duties as rights and privileges, as something to which we have a claim, something which will confer a benefit upon us. All men, we think, have an equal right to hold office, and when one man has held office four years, his neighbor says, it is now my turn. The ballot we think of as something by which we are to protect our own interests and promote our own welfare. We select a Representative, who must come from our political district, and who, in the House of Representatives, will seek such legislation as will promote our local welfare; we select Senators who will represent our State and promote the interests of our State in the National legislation.
The next step is easy and natural. Special interests send representatives to Congress. Appropriations for public buildings, or for river and harbor improvements, and special advantage for special industries in the protective tariff are engineered by skillful politicians, each seeking, with perhaps personal disinterestedness, to promote the pecuniary advantage of his own clientele. Under the corrupting influence of this false conception the professional politician becomes scarcely less an advocate of a special interest in Congress than is the paid counsel before the
But the evil effect of this point of view does
not stop with the professional politician. The individual voter votes for his own interests: one man to secure a higher protection for his manufactured goods, another to get a contract from the government, a third to get a job from the contractor, and a fourth to get a five-dollar-bill from the political committee. The story is told-I believe it is authentic-that a Western cowboy arrested for murder wrote to Mr. Roosevelt for financial aid in securing competent defense, but subsequently returned the contribution, saying: "I do not need it; we have elected the district attorney!"
It is high time we changed our point of view; high time that we realized that suffrage is not a natural right- is not a right at all. It is a sacred duty; a right only as every man has a right to do his duty. "Public office is a public trust." How that sentence rang through the land! It was better than a speech. Suffrage is a public office, and therefore a public trust, and no man is entitled to have that public trust committed to him unless he is at least able to govern himself. The Southern States have in this respect set an example which it would be well if it were possible for all the States to follow. Many of them have adopted in their Constitution a qualified suffrage. The qualifications are not the
same in all the States, but there is not one of those States in which every man, black or white, has not a legal right to vote provided he can read and write the English language, owns three hundred dollars' worth of property, and has paid his taxes. A provision that no man should vote unless he has intelligence enough to read and write, thrift enough to have laid up three hundred dollars' worth of property, and patriotism enough to have paid his taxes would not be a bad provision for any State in the Union to incorporate in its Constitution.
We talk about giving to the negroes, to the Filipinos, and to the Porto Ricans self-government. What President Wilson, of Princeton University, has said on this subject would be well worth printing on a card and sending to every
We cannot give them self-government. Self-government is not a thing that can be "given" to any people, because it is a form of character and not a form of constitution. No people can be "given" the self-control of maturity. Only a long apprenticeship of obedience can secure them the precious possession, a thing no more to be bought than given. They cannot be presented with the character of a community, but it may confidently be hoped that they will become a community under the wholesome and salutary influences of just laws and a sympathetic administration; that they will
after a while understand and master themselves, if in the meantime they are understood and served in good conscience by those set over them in authority.'
Hitherto the duty of protecting the fundamental rights of persons and property in civilized communities has devolved upon the men. There is a small but very earnest minority of women who insist that women should share in this duty of protection. Are they right? Does this obligation rest upon them, or are they exempt from it? To answer that question let us consider briefly the problem of life. What are we on this earth for? Is there any interpretation of its enigma, any rational meaning to existence?
We are born; grow up in families, under the protection and guidance of father and mother. We are nursed, taught, trained for life's work. We grow to maturity; marry; children are given to us; we provide for them until they are old enough to provide for themselves; govern them until they are old enough to govern themselves; then they marry and children are given to them. We tarry a few years as grandparents, to enjoy the privilege of the children without the responsibility, and then pass off the stage. And so the process goes on generation after gen1 Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States, p. 53.