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which he has accepted benefits. This is a common rule in all law, because it is common sense, and it is for the same reason a sound rule in politics.
In addition to these rules, I may remind the reader of a fundamental truth concerning all elections and votes—a truth which is simply prescribed by common sense, and yet has often been set aside. A majority having voted for a subject is of no earthly value, unless the subject be of such a character that there can be, at the time, a public opinion about it. If there were, in a company of men, different opinions as to the time of the day, we cannot solve the difficulty by putting the question : “All who are in favor of its being now six o'clock will say Aye; those who are of the contrary opinion will say No.” No majority of ever so vast a country can decide for me the chloroform question, or whether captain Ericsson's steam generator be or be not practical. And no majority, no matter how overwhelming, can be worth anything if there be not, in addition to a proper apparatus of evolving public opinion, of which we have spoken already, also one by which the true majority can be ascertained. It is an utter and constantly recurring error into which those that are unacquainted with the nature and the economy of liberty fall, to believe that what liberty requires is the ascertainment of incoherent votes on every question sprung upon society separately and incoherently. A French paper recently said that under certain circumstances the emperor Napoleon the Third would put the question of war to the universal suffrage of France. Of course I do not believe in the possibility of such an act, but I have mentioned the statement as an illustration. How can the French people at large decide on a question of
2 This has been well pointed out in the case of Louis Napoleon, by the Hon. A. P. Butler, United States senator for South Carolina. war or peace, if France cannot debate the matter, cannot reflect on it? and what can a majority of votes on so grave a question mean, when the whole management of the vote, from first to last, is in the hands of that strongly concentrated government which puts the question ?
I return to the seven requisites which I have pointed out.
If any one of these conditions be omitted, the whole election or voting is vitiated, and can in no way be depended upon. It will go with every experienced and truthful citizen, and pass with every serious historian, for nothing more than, possibly, for skilfully arranged deceptions of the unwary and very inexperienced. It is a question, indeed, whether these conditions can be frequently fulfilled, and whether it be possible in the nature of things to fulfil them at all, or any of them, in uninstitutional countriesin large countries enmeshed like a huge being by the close network of a bureaucratic mandarinism. They must, then, be resorted to as rarely as possible. In strictly organized police governments they have no value, except for the very purpose of deceiving, or of giving an apparently more firmlybased fulcrum for the lever of the power already existing.
Every one of my readers will agree with the necessity of the condition which has been stated as the first. There is the greatest difference between an accidental or momentary general opinion, and an organically-produced, well-settled, public opinion—the same difference which exists between a “decree of acclamation,” as those decrees in the first French revolution were called, which were proposed and forth with adopted by a burst of feeling or a clamor of passions, and an extensive law which has first been discussed and rediscussed, called for and assailed in papers, pamphlets, meetings and institutions, and then, after long and patient debate, passed through the whole sifting and purposely re
tarding, repetitionary and revisionary parliamentary process. Real public opinion on public matters of a truly free people under an institutional government is generally the wisest master to which the freeman can bow; general opinion is worth nothing as a political truth. It may be correct; it may be vicious, as a thousand rumors show, and public rumor is general opinion. This subject of public and merely general opinion has been largely discussed in the Political Ethics.
When Cromwell had dissolved parliament, and even dissolved the famous council of state, in spite of Bradshaw's opposition, we are informed that addresses of gratulation and thanks reached him from all parts of England, just as they were crowded upon L. N. Bonaparte after the second of December, 1851. We cannot judge whether they expressed the opinion of the majority; for in politics, as in common life, it is the noisy that are heard and make themselves observed, while the majority and more substantial people are silent and overlooked; but, for argument's sake, we will grant that those addresses to Cromwell expressed the opinions, the views, the feelings of the majority of the nation at the moment. Even in this case they expressed nothing more than the existing general feeling, not the public opinion of England, as successive events very soon proved.
To seize upon loud and demonstrative general opinion and feeling of a part of the people while compressing the public opinion of the whole, is a frequent means of successful tyranny. It was the way the first French convention frequently managed things, and Danton knew it well. He acknowledged it. ,
As to the second and subsequent conditions which have been enumerated, the following observations may prove of interest. Numerous and extensive inquiries, referring to the
United States as well as to Europe, and some of which I propose to give to the reader, have proved to me certain instructive facts relating to the statistics of popular elections. I do not treat in this paper of the voting in assemblies of trustees, of representatives or boards.
I must also remark that I shall always use the term election for direct elections, in which the voter votes directly upon the question at issue, and not for a person who will have the ultimate right of the direct vote; either for a person or on a measure. The election of our presidents was intended to be a double election, and in form it continues to be such; for we elect electors. But it is well known that the election has long since become virtually a direct one, so far as the individual votes express the desire of the voters, because the persons voted for as electors declare beforehand for whom they shall vote in case they are made electors, and after being elected electors they do not become members of a deliberative body in which the question of the presidential election is discussed.3
3 This knowledge of the vote which an elector will give does of course not affect the result. Each elector represents a majority and a minority, but his vote can only be cast for one candidate. Nevertheless, that which is called the popular vote indicates a proportion between the presidential candidates very different from that which appears from the official votes of the electors. For instance, the popular vote at the last presidential election stood:
For Pierce . . . . . . 1,504,471
. . . . . : 1,283,174 " Hale . . . . . . 148,851 and the votes of the electors stood
For Pierce . . . . . . 254
. . . 42 So that the popular vote stood :
. Pierce to Scott as 132 to 100. But the votes of the electors:
Pierce to Scott as 605 to 100.
Where the double election is introduced as an active principle, it deprives elections of much, and often of all interest, and is frequently resorted to for this very purpose, by governments which do not feel sufficiently strong to refuse the claims of the people to a share in the government, yet desire to defeat-the reality of such a share.
The following, then, are the positions which experience seems fully to bear out: · The more exclusive the privilege of voting is, the smaller is the number of qualified voters who abstain from voting ; and the largest number of abstinents occurs where universal suffrage is freely left to itself, and not interfered with by the executive.
The smaller the number of qualified voters, the smaller is also the number of abstinents.
So soon as the number of qualified voters exceeds five or six hundred, the number of abstinents will be at least twenty-five per centum.
The larger the number of qualified voters, voting upon the same question or persons, and under one and the same electoral system, the larger is also the number of abstinents.
The larger the area over which one and the same election or voting extends, the larger is the proportion of abstainers.
When there are three fairly supported candidates, the total number of votes polled is larger than when there are but two candidates, all other things being equal.
The whole number of polled votes, compared to the number of qualified voters, does not necessarily indicate the interest a community may take in a measure or person. Whenever people feel perfectly sure of the issue, there are many who abstain because their votes will not defeat the opponent; and many others abstain, because their candidate will be elected at any rate.
If the number of qualified voters (voting exactly upon