Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

a scheme which we do not remember to have seen recommended by any previous writer, and which Mr. Mill proposes with more appearance of hesitation, and with less confidence in its feasibility, than is usual with him. It seems objectionable on two grounds; - the impossibility, amounting almost to absurdity, of fixing with any accuracy the relative intellectual capacity of every voter in a population so infinitely diverse as, spite of the lack of individuality, must always be the case with a civilized nation of the present day; and not less for the reason that intellectual position cannot justly be made the exclusive, or even the principal, ground for judging of the fitness of a man to exercise the right of election. Mr. Mill proposes, with a good deal of apparent misgiving, several methods of getting at the intellectual condition of voters ; — such as the nature of a man's occupation; the employer of labor being in general more intelligent than the laborer, a foreman than the workmen under him, and a laborer in skilled trades than one in unskilled.

“A banker, merchant, or manufacturer is likely to be more intelligent than a tradesman, because he has larger and more complicated interests to manage. ..... Two or more votes might be allowed to every person who exercises any of these superior functions. The liberal professions, when really and not nominally practised, imply of course a still higher degree of instruction, and whenever a sufficient examination, or any serious conditions of education, are required before entering on a profession, its members could be admitted at once to a plurality of votes. The same rule might be applied to graduates of universities, and even to those who bring satisfactory certificates of having passed through the course of study required by any school in which the higher branches are taught; under proper securities that the teaching is real, and not a mere pretence. ..... All these suggestions are open to much discussion in detail, and to objections which it is of no use to anticipate. The time is not come for giving to such plans a practical shape, nor should I wish to be bound by the particular proposals which I have made. ..... Let me add, that I consider it an absolutely necessary part of the plurality scheme, that it be open to the poorest individual in the country to claim its privileges, if he can prove that, in spite of all difficulties and obstacles, he is in point of intelligence entitled to them. There ought to be voluntary examinations, at which any person whatever might present himself, might prove that he came up to the standard of knowledge and ability laid down as sufficient, and be admitted in consequence to the plurality of votes.” — pp. 168 – 170.

The hesitation and uncertainty which are to be observed in these suggestions attach, however, only to the practical application of the principle. Of the correctness and importance of the principle itself Mr. Mill is firmly convinced, — so firmly, indeed, as to be unwilling to make the suffrage universal, until its operation can be controlled and modified by it.

* Until there shall have been devised, and until public opinion is willing to accept, some mode of plural voting which may assign to education, as such, the degree of superior influence due to it, and sufficient as a counterpoise to the numerical weight of the least educated class, — for so long the benefits of completely universal suffrage cannot be obtained without bringing with them, as it appears to me, more than equivalent evils.” — p. 171.

And further on:

“ The American institutions have imprinted strongly on the American mind that any one man (with a white skin) is as good as any other, and it is felt that this false creed is nearly connected with some of the most unfavorable points in American character. It is not a small mischief that the constitution of any country should sanction this creed ; for the belief in it, whether express or tacit, is almost as detrimental to moral and intellectual excellence as any effect which most forms of government can produce.” — p. 174.

Mr. Mill is a believer in the perfectibility of human institutions of government, — an end worth striving for, certainly, whether we believe or not in the probability of its accomplishment; but it seems to us that his whole scheme of “graduated suffrage” rests on a false estimate of the qualifications necessary for intelligent voting. If a man has to vote upon measures, he must of course understand whatever relates to their propriety, their probable usefulness, and their adaptation to the end which they are intended to effect. Therefore it might seem eminently just and proper to gauge the capacity of members of Parliament or of Congress, and to “graduate” their votes, though this we do not understand Mr. Mill to propose. But in voting for men, it seems to us that the main requirements are common sense and common honesty; and

VOL. LXXIV. - 5TH S. VOL. XII. NO. I.

that, these being granted, the tradesman's vote is as intelligent as that of the merchant or manufacturer, and the choice of the university graduate no wiser or safer than that of the man of moderate education. The men eminent for character and ability in a community are in general as clearly recognized by the humbler classes as by the higher, and though it might sometimes happen that a man of showy but shallow attainments would pass among the former for genuine, we should not apprehend more serious evils from this possibility than from the class feeling which is at least as strong among educated as among uneducated men, and which would be certain in many cases to outbalance in a favorite candidate many shortcomings not less important and dangerous than those of the intellect. The examining committees which our author proposes, even if they were like to accomplish their object, (which, from Mr. Mill's remarks on the examination of candidates for civil offices, may well be doubted,) could take no account of moral qualifications; and it would be by no means edifying to see a man of simple honesty and of modest intellectual culture confined to a single vote, while his neighbor, an educated knave, was invested with the dignity of a triple vote; — an anomaly which would be certain to occur with considerable frequency. And, moreover, intellectual superiority has its dangers. A peculiar conservatism (as we may call it, for want of a more definite term), a peculiar timidity and distrust, are apt to attach to the political views of the classes which possess most of the wealth and the education of old communities, — qualities which may be, and doubtless are, at times very useful in restraining the eccentricities of the men who are at the other extreme of temperament, but which should not be allowed a larger proportional influence than belongs to them in virtue of their actual extent. From the political experience of this country, we should by no means say that its interests would be advanced by giving more power to the educated classes in the cities, and less to the men of moderate education in the country towns. In England, we suppose the nobility to have, as a class, more education and culture than any other. Does Mr. Mill think the members of the House of Commons would be more safely chosen by the nobility, than by the great middle classes who now elect them ? Even if it were possible to ascertain each man's qualifications with sufficient exactness, the system proposed takes no account of the element of progress in education. Suppose a voter were examined on coming of age, and assigned a single vote. How long would it be before he should be allowed to present himself for the privilege of another ? Education is progressive, or should be so; to meet this difficulty, a man should have the right to a second or third examination whenever he should believe his progress sufficient to entitle him to a plurality of votes. Thus we should come to have “cramming” for special elections, and it might well happen that a closely contested canvass might be decided by the raising of a dozen single voters to the rank of double voters. The evils of bribery also, of which the English complain, doubtless with sufficient reason, would not be lessened by the existence of committees of individuals whose single voices possessed such influence in determining the privileges of great bodies of men. But we do not wish to multiply objections, a task seldom difficult, even in the case of the most beneficent political or social projects. Mr. Mill's scheme, springing as it does from a most worthy desire to perfect the system of voting, and to realize all the benefits while avoiding all the dangers of universal suffrage, seems to us, nevertheless, equally impracticable and undesirable ;- impracticable, as involving a fixed register of attainments which it is at any time difficult to measure, and which are, or should be, constantly changing; and undesirable, as establishing a rule of qualification which recognizes only half the true and legitimate grounds on which real qualification is based.

We have said that this work is especially interesting to Americans, from the frequent reference and illustration which its author draws from the working of the American system of government. Let us add to the quotations we have already made two extracts, which are perhaps as important in their bearings as any we could select, and which, though advancing only views with which we have long been perfectly familiar, give an added weight to those views, which is not the less desirable that it comes from a source which all may believe to

be disinterested. The first relates to the appointment and removal of officials.

“ The entire business of government is skilled employment; — the qualifications for the discharge of it are of that special and professional kind which cannot be properly judged of except by persons who have themselves some share of these qualifications, or some practical experience of them. The business of finding the fittest persons to fill public employments, not merely selecting the best who offer, but looking out for the absolutely best, and taking note of all fit persons who are met with, that they may be found when wanted, is very laborious, and requires a delicate as well as highly conscientious discernment; and as there is no public duty which is in general so badly performed, 80 there is none for which it is of greater importance to enforce the utmost practicable amount of personal responsibility, by imposing it as a special obligation on high functionaries in the several departments. All subordinate public officers who are not appointed by some mode of public competition should be selected on the direct responsibility of the minister whom they serve. ..... The functionary who appoints should be the sole person empowered to remove any subordinate officer who is liable to removal, which the far greater number ought not to be, except for personal misconduct, — since it would be in vain to expect that the body of persons by whom the whole detail of the public business is transacted, and whose qualifications are generally of much more importance to the public than those of the minister himself, will devote themselves to their profession, and acquire the knowledge and skill on which the minister must often place entire dependence, if they are liable at any moment to be turned adrift for no fault, that the minister may gratify himself or promote his own interest by appointing somebody else.” — p. 249.

The second extract, and the last which we shall permit ourselves, relates to the Supreme Court of the United States, with special reference to the Dred Scott decision.

“Complete reliance has been felt, not only on the intellectual preeminence of the judges composing that exalted tribunal, but on their entire superiority over either private or sectional partialities. This reliance has been in the main justified ; but there is nothing which more vitally imports the American people, than to guard with the most watchful solicitude against everything which has the remotest tendency to produce deterioration in the quality of this great national institution. The confidence on which depends the stability

« ElőzőTovább »