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these large organizations is controlled by | select and control, directly or indirectly, the
men who are to do their common work.
their leaders. The general result which
There is the disease. But then come the questions, What is the remedy? And how is the remedy to be applied?
In the present paper, an attempt will be made to answer the first of these questions -to find the remedy. The disease is deepseated. The remedy must go to the root of the disease, and not play with the symptoms. The disease comes, if the diagnosis is correct, in the main from constitutional defects in our system of government, from a wrong use of the process of election, and the use of a wrong form of that process. The treatment, then, must be directed to those constitutional defects. In the compass of this paper necessarily only an outline of a system can be given, for the purposes of thought and discussion.
II. We come, then, to the statement of the main features of a system framed to give us a people's government.
One point of objection had best be met here.
It is often said that governments cannot be constructed on paper-that they must grow.. Governments do, indeed, grow; but how do they grow? This National Government under which we now live was first framed on paper. That was the way in which its growth began: So it was, too, with our State governments. And shall we have our governments grow wild? How do governments get the best growth-without or with the hand and thought of man? The American method, the scientific method, the common-sense method, is first to draft a scheme of government on paper, as the first stage of its growth; then to think of it, discuss it, and change it; then to enact it, or make it into a constitution; and after that, when time develops faults, when faults grow, then to devise such changes in the scheme as will meet the faults. But it has never been the method of the American people to say that "nothing can be done."
As the next stage, then, in the growth of our system of government, let us see if we cannot work out on paper some of the main features of a people's government.
These features are, as it seems to me, as follows:
1. All political action, by more men than one, should be taken by men meeting and acting as one body-giving to every man one voice.
The meaning of this is, that citizens would act in their own persons only in the affairs of towns, or of small districts where the numbers of the citizens are not too large for them to meet and act as one body. In all other public action, whether as to the affairs of cities, counties, States, or the nation, whether it be the choice of public officers or the adoption of public measures, whenever the numbers of the citizens who are to act are too large for them to meet and act as one body, then they should act by delegates.
This is, as it seems to me, the key-stone of the political arch, the fact which lies at the foundation of popular government. Its especial importance is in its application to the process of election. And its application to the process of election is this: Instead of the citizens of a large city, or a large district, or a State, casting their ballots
directly for a mayor, or a member of the State legislature, or a governor, or a presidential elector, or a representative to Congress, the citizens in each small election district (which should, as a rule, have not more than five hundred voters) would meet in one place, as one body, at one time, and vote for a member of an electoral convention-an elector. This voting by the citizens should be done on a call of names, each citizen giving his vote aloud at the call of his name. And, to insure greater deliberation and greater unanimity, a two-thirds vote rather than a majority, as it seems to me, should be required for a choice. The delegates thus chosen to an electoral convention would in their turn meet, as one body, at one time and place, and would elect the mayor, or member of the State legislature, or governor, or presidential elector, or representative to Congress. It is at once seen that, in some instances, it would become necessary, on account of the large number of voters, to use an intermediate convention (or it might be more than one) to choose the members of the final electoral convention, which should elect the officer himself. That would depend on the size of the voting constituencies. Each successive convention should, as to its membership, be kept, as to numbers, within the limit which will secure deliberate action. That limit seems to be about five hundred men. It may add clearness to the statement of the plan proposed to give one illustration of its working, with the figures. In electing a President of the United States, for instance, the number of citizens entitled each to his one voice in the choice of his President is, taking it roughly, nine millions. If we make the number of the electors who vote directly for the President, in the final convention, three hundred, that would give ninety thousand voters to each district which would choose a presidential elector. If, then, each of these districts of ninety thousand voters were divided into small districts having each two hundred and fifty voters, there would be three hundred and sixty of these small election districts, each of which would have one delegate in the convention which should choose the presidential elector.
The reasons in favor of such a system, especially for elections, are these:
(a) The system is simple and practical. It is the system which is, in form, used for the nomination of candidates-a system which has grown, which has been called
into existence, without the aid of any enactment, by a living and growing need. It is the system which the national party organizations have been compelled to adopt in order to get any common action of their members. It is, in substance, the system which the framers of our national Constitution supposed they had adopted for the election of the President. But they overlooked the necessity of having the electoral college of presidential electors meet as one body. Nor did they anticipate the effect of the growth of population, and the consequent increased numbers of popular constituencies.
(b) This system is the only way in which we can secure a common judgment of the people, as to men or measures.
The result which we wish to secure by any political action, where the action is by more men than one, is the judgment of those men, and not merely their choice between two lists of names or two measures prepared by the hands of others. And we wish to get, not a mere declaration of the individual judgments of the single men who make up the body, but the common judgment of the whole body. And that common judgment can be had only by a meeting, a conference, of the men who are to act, where each man can be heard, and can hear other men; where each man can change his own opinion, and change the opinions of other men; where men and measures can be discussed on their merits; where a common judgment—a different thing from the judgment of any one, two, or three individuals—a new thing can grow and take form; where new combinations can be made, on the spot, and at the time; where it will be impossible for a small knot of men to force a vote for some one man or measure, as a mere choice between two evils, simply because it is then too late to combine on any other man or measure.
This method of having the citizens ot each small election district meet and choose their one delegate to cast their collective vote will secure, as far as any system can, the common judgment of the whole people. The result of the action of the delegate may not be, in all respects, what any individual citizen would most wish. But it will be a result to which, as a whole, all the citizens can agree. The delegates, if there be a reasonably large number of them, will be as sure as any body of men can be to represent fairly the common opinion of the citizens who have chosen them. But whenever we
attempt to have a large number of citizens in a large district vote, as to men or measures, without any opportunity for conference, they may indeed assent to the action of some other men, but their action cannot be, in any correct sense, their own common judgment.
(c) This system is the only way in which we can secure to every man his one voice, and his full weight.
Whenever men meet for common action, and have an opportunity for conference, every man will have his one voice; he can vote for any man he may wish to vote for, can give his reasons for it, and have his opportunity to influence other men. We shall secure, as far as any system can, that every man will be weighed at his true worth. The rich man who has won his wealth honestly, by honest work, will have great weight in the public councils. The same points of character which have given him wealth will give him influence in public affairs. And any man who has proved himself to have sound, practical sense, even if he be not a man of great pecuniary means, will surely have power in these citizens' meetings and representative conventions. The proposal to restrict the right to vote according to a property standard is not for the best interests of either rich or poor. With such restrictions the moneyed men would have too much power for their own good. They could not be secure against its misuse. A property qualification with us is neither practicable nor sound on principle. The rich man of to-day is the poor man of tomorrow. But the man himself does not suddenly change. His voice in public affairs is, in itself, worth as much the day after he loses his money as the day before, though it will not have the same tone or power-will not be heard as far. If men meet together, talk together, and act together, every man in the long run will have his just weight in public affairs; and in no other way can that result be accomplished. (d) This system is the only way in which we can secure to the people the free choice of their public servants.
Any system of election which requires the citizens, in a district so large as to make it impossible for them to meet and act as one body, to vote directly for public officers, necessarily makes it certain that they must adopt some nomination which has been made beforehand. The necessary result is that we turn the process of election by the whole people into that of nomination by a
| few men. If, in addition, we have many elective officers, and have frequent elections, the certain result is that we take from the people the choice of their public servants, and create a permanent class of self-appointed office-holders. I do not mean that there will not be, from time to time, some change in the individuals who manage the election organizations. Single men, here and there, will for special reasons cease to be useful to the election machines, and will therefore be dropped from their service. But, amid all the changes of "issues" and party names, the old familiar faces will meet us at every turn, changing from time to time the names and "platforms" of their organizations, always keeping before our eyes a due proportion of the grand old platitudes about liberty and free suffrage, and will reappoint themselves from year to year under the form of popular election.
(e) This system will secure, as surely as any system can, the selection for the people's service of the people's best and wisest
We have nothing of that kind nowand for the reason that the people do not make their own choice. But how would it be under the system here proposed? Take the case of the election of a representative to Congress from a district of thirty thousand voters. Suppose the number of small election districts were one hundred, giving an average of three hundred voters to each small election district. These three hundred men meet together and have to choose a delegate to an electoral convention. The men who meet together are all neighbors, many of whom are personally known to one another. In the rural districts, nearly all of them would be life-long acquaintances. These men know that they are really taking a substantial part in the selection of the men who are to tax them, and have the control of their property-of all their public affairs. Very certainly it will be no unknown man who will receive a two-thirds vote, or a simple majority vote, of those citizens who are met together to choose their delegate. They will be certain to choose men who have a reputation, of some kind. But there are only two classes of men in a community who have reputations—the men who have good reputations and the men who have bad ones; and, in the very large majority of instances, the reputations are just. When, then, in the local meetings, a delegate is to be selected by the agreement of two-thirds or one-half of the citizens
present, what manner of man is it that they will choose? One or the other of these two classes it will be. I do not say that, in such cases, the people would never be deceived, but, in a very large majority of instances, the man who would be thus chosen by a real vote of the people would be a man long and widely known for his honorable life. When the delegates should meet in convention, though each man might be influenced by his personal prejudices, yet they would have to agree on some one. And they will not agree on a man unknown. Neither will they agree on a man known for his bad deeds. Again, in the very large majority of instances, their vote will be for a man known, and widely known, for his honorable life. The wider the district becomes from which the delegates assemble, the wider will be the reputation of the man who can command their voices. When we come to a convention of delegates from a whole State, or from the whole country, the choice of a public officer by such a convention will, in all human probability, be a man of wide reputation, and he will very certainly be a man of great ability, and honesty. For those delegates will be as free as men can be from improper influences. Each one of them will have his own private interests and prejudices. But these will neutralize one another. It cannot be said that an unfit man would never be chosen by such a convention, but we make the chance of such a thing as small as any system can make it. Each successive stage in the ascending series of conventions will tend more and more to separate the delegates from local and improper influences. They will be as favorably situated as men can be for giving us a wise and upright choice of men.
The men who would be chosen to our national Congress or to our State legislatures under such a system would be very certain to be the ablest and wisest men among us. And the common action, the action approved by the common judgment, of such a body of men, as to either men or measures, would be not only a different thing, but a better thing, than the individual thought and action of nine out of ten of the individuals who make up the body. This is the method of the old town-meeting, of the Convention which framed our national Constitutionthat "most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man," as Mr. Gladstone says. It is a method which gives us the best result that a people is capable of reaching. We should get, in
sober truth, the distilled essence of the wisdom of the whole people. This stream would rise higher than its source. This force of gravitation would work upward, and not downward. The ablest and most honest men would rise to the top, as they always do when things are free, when nature's forces are allowed to operate under nature's laws.
To group the arguments in favor of this return to the simple methods of the old town-meeting and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, they are these: A system so framed is simple and practical; it is the only way in which we can secure a common judgment of the people, as to men or measures; it is the only way in which we can secure to each man his one voice and his full weight; it is the only way in which we can secure to the people the free choice of their public servants; it will secure, as surely as any system can, the selection for the people's service of the people's best and wisest men.
Can more than that be said of our present system?
2. The people should act, in their own persons, only in the local affairs of the small districts, where they can meet and act as one body.
This has been argued. It is separately stated for the sake of completeness.
3. In all other than the local affairs of these small districts, the people should act by delegates.
This has been argued. It is separately stated for the sake of completeness.
4. Each man and each public body, whether in the town, city, county, State, or national governments, should have work of only one kind.
Especially the men who have to do with executive administration should have nothing to do with general supervision-the work of the legislature. And the men in the legislature should have nothing to do with the details of administration, especially with appointments to executive offices. Either work needs different men, with different training, and requires the undivided time and efforts of the men who are to do it. A public servant, if he is to do his work well, cannot be a man-of-all-work. Here is one of the main defects in our present system of government, and in what is called parliamentary government. Both those systems compel the chief public officials to give much of their time and thought to election work and the keeping their places. But, aside from
that point, under what is called parliament- | of place. That is the reason why the Brit
ish army has been, in the language of Sir
ary government, the men who are at the
came true in the first war that Great Brit-
5. The only elective officers should be the chief executive, and the members of the supreme supervisory body-which we commonly call the legislature.
This is intended to apply to city, State, and national governments alike, as are all the general principles here laid down. In a city, the mayor should be the only elective executive official. He should be the responsible head of all city executive administration. He should appoint and remove the head of each executive department. In the same way, in a State, the governor should be the only elective executive official. He should be the responsible head of all State executive administration, of every kind,
canals, schools, prisons, and public charities. He should appoint and remove the head of every executive department. So it should be, too, as in law it now is, with the President of the United States.
There are two main reasons for this: The first is, that the appointment and removal of every official throughout the executive administration, from the very top to the very bottom, should be in the hands of his immediate superior; for he is the only man in a position to judge wisely of the fitness of the subordinate.
The second is, that this rule would diminish greatly the number of elective offices, and, therefore, the amount of election work to be done. It would take from the people the burden of nominally electing a large number of officials as to whose fitness they cannot possibly have knowledge.
6. In executive administration each kind of work should be in the hands of one man. And each officer should have the appointment and removal of his own immediate subordinates.
This is a point which all practical men of affairs well appreciate. To secure efficiency, we must have the responsibility of one man. And to secure the responsibility of one man, we must put power in the hands of one man. Each single office must be under one control, each division and department