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PROGRESS AND TASK OF DEMOCRACY
REAT progress in democracy regarded as equality has been made since America was first
settled. For convenience, we may separate different kinds of equality, and speak-in order-of equality before the law, equality in voting, social equality, equality in business opportunities, and equality in
Equality before the law means that when a man is Equality tried for any offense, the law asks only, “What have before
you done, and is this contrary to the law of the land?” the law
It does not ask, “ Are you a noble or are you a 'common 'man?” In early times, as we have seen, it was a much greater offense for a serf to kill a lord than for a lord to kill a serf. This kind of inequality had been done away before America was settled. Men had, in theory, gained equal rights to life and liberty and to protection of property. The very idea of a law is that it is a general rule for all cases, and this requires that it shall treat all alike; this makes law a great force for democracy. Why, then, should many feel
that they do not have an equal chance before the law? Class There are two main reasons. First, laws are sometimes legislation made for the benefit of some special class instead of
for the benefit of the whole country. Employers believe that some laws are for the benefit of workingmen as a class, and workingmen think that some laws are
for the benefit of employers as a class. As we have already seen, a law may be made primarily for some one class in order to benefit the whole country in the long run. This would be true of child-labor laws. But there is a general suspicion of " class legislation,” and there is good reason for this suspicion. We need to be very sure that to protect the particular class is for the interest of the whole country.
The second lack of equality before the law is due Legal to the need of hiring expert lawyers to present a case. expense It is easy to see that if one party in a suit has a very good lawyer and the other party a poor lawyer, the first party has the better chance of winning. Originally, a man who was accused of crime was not allowed to have any counsel or lawyer to represent him. We have outgrown that, but there is a great difference lawyers, and usually the best lawyers require large fees. A judge is said to have remarked to a disappointed contestant in a suit, “How can you expect to get justice in this court if you don't have a good lawyer?” The general theory is that it is fairest to both sides to let each present his case as strongly as
Then the judge and jury decide. But this method evidently does not always result in a right decision. The problem of securing more perfect equality before the law is not yet solved. It is one of the "unsettled questions” for the citizens and especially for the lawyers to work out.
In England, as we have seen, only a very small part (2) of the people could vote for members of Parliament Equality until the great change in qualifications which was made in
voting in 1832, and it is still possible in England for a man to vote two or three times in different parts of the country, if he owns property in these different districts.
One of the demands of English democracy at present is “ one man, one vote.”
In the American colonies there were two kinds of qualifications for voting. The first kind included certain very necessary requirements of residence, age, and being “freemen.” Those who voted in a town ought to live there, ought to be old enough to judge wisely, and ought to be responsible members of the community—a freeman meant substantially the same as a citizen. The Hartford freeman of 1703 must take an oath to be faithful to Queen Anne and to the government of the colony:
“ And whensoever you shall give your Vote or Suffrage Freeman's touching any matter which concerns this colony, being oath called there unto, you will give it, as in your conscience
you shall judge may conduce to the best good of the same without respect of persons, or Favor of any Man, So Help You God. (Bishop's History of Elections in the American Colonies, pp. 260-61.)”
A second type of requirements was imposed in most states. Under it came, in various states, religion, morals, property, race, color, and sex. Most qualifications of this sort have been removed. Religious qualifications were in general the first to be made and the first to disappear. Thus, in Massachusetts Bay, in order to vote it was at first necessary to belong to the Puritan Church, but in 1691 no rule is found in the Charter which would limit the right to church members. In many of the colonies Catholics were not allowed to vote; Quakers and Jews were excluded in others. By the time of the Revolution practically all religious qualifications had disappeared.
Property qualifications were established early and
lasted longer than religious qualifications. In Virginia, for example, all inhabitants could vote until 1655. After this there were various requirements in Property the colony and the state, rising as high, in 1736, as one qualifica
tions hundred acres of uncultivated land or twenty-five of cultivated. The property qualification was not abolished till the middle of the nineteenth century. In the New England colonies there was at first no property qualification, but from about the middle of the seventeenth century requirements of landowning or of other property were general. The highest requirement was probably that in Rhode Island, where “ a freeman must be a freeholder of lands, tenements, and hereditaments” to the value of four hundred pounds, or an income of twenty pounds a year. In South Carolina the provision was that none should have a vote for members of Parliament “ that hath less than fifty acres of freehold within the said precincts,” and this fifty-acre qualification was followed in eight other states. Mr. Frederick Cleveland, who has studied these qualifications, believes that they were imposed in most cases by the charters. They appeared in New England about the time when the royal commission was appointed to secure uniform qualifications for electors. After the Declaration of Independence, practically all the original states had property qualifications. But beginning with Maryland in 1810, closely followed by New York in 1821 and Massachusetts in 1822, these were gradually abolished. South Carolina kept its requirement until 1865. In some cases taxation took the place of property. It was thought that those who had to pay taxes, and only those, should have the right to vote, but this qualification, too, has been largely given up. The new states to the northwest had few, if any, restrictions.
They were far more democratic than the older states. The influence of the frontier was felt in this as in so many other ways.
Restrictions on the basis of color naturally went along with slavery. In all the colonies there were among the early immigrants some “indentured servants.” These were not slaves, but men who were held to work for a certain number of years. Such servants were not allowed to vote, whether white or black, but there was no colonial law in the North to prevent any free negro from voting. In the South, slavery was always a bar, and twenty-three states limited voters to “ white male citizens." The Fifteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, adopted in 1870, abolished this qualification of color. It reads:
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
The restriction of voting to males was a matter of course in the early history of the country. From the very nature of the state in early times, women would scarcely be thought of as belonging to it, for at first the nation was a band of warriors. Its purpose was conquest. Later it enforced order and governed trade, but it had practically none of the duties which would especially interest women, so long as the earlier division of labor between men and women continued. In the early part of the nineteenth century, along with the growth of democracy in other lines, agitation began for woman's suffrage. The claim was at first based almost entirely upon the idea of an equal right. Those who sought the ballot for women felt that to be deprived