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The Ballot-Box., Issue 7914, 23 May 1889
In the course of a sermon on the ballot box, Dr Talmage spoke as follows:
The ballot-box is the sacred chest of the nation. In it is the law, in it is the divine and humane will, in it is the fate of the nation. Carried in front of our host, again and again the waters of national trouble have parted. O'Connell and Grote and Cobdten and Macaulay and Gladstone fought great battles in the introduction of the ballot-boxes in England, and to-day it is one of the fastnesses of the nation. It is one of the corner-stones of our Go vernrnent. It is older thau the Constitution. In it is our national safety. And yet, you know as well as I know, it has its sworn antagonists, and I propose this morning, iu God's name and as a Christian patriot, to set before you the names of some of the sworn enemies of this sacred chest, the ballot-box. First, I remark, ignorance is a mighty foe. Other things being equal, the more intelligence a man has the better he is qualified to exercise the right of suffrage. You have been ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty years studying American institutions, you have canvassed all the great questions about tariff and Home Rule and all the educational questions, and everything in American politics you are well acquainted with. You consider yourself competent to cast a vote the day after to-morrow, and you are competent. You will take your position in the line of electors, you will wait for your turn to come, you will cast your vote and pass out. Well done. But right behind you there will come a man who cannot spell his own name. He cannot write, and if he can write, he uses a small "I" for the personal pronoun. He could not tell on which side of the Alleghany Mountains Ohio is. Educated canary birds, educated horses know more thau he. He will cast his vote aud it will balance your vote. His ignorance is as mighty as your intelligence. All men of fair men will acknowledge that that is not right.
There will be in this November thousands and thousands of people who are no more qualified to exercise the right of suffrage than to lecture on astronomy. How are these things to be corrected ? By laws of compulsory education well executed. Igo in for a law which, after giving fair warning for a few years, shall make ignorance a crime. There is no excuse for ignorance on these subjects in this land, where the common schools make knowledge as free as the fresh air of Heaven. I would have a board of examination seated beside the officers of registration, and let them decide whether the men who come up to vote have any capacity to be monarchs in a land where we are all monarchs, Educate the people, give them an opportunity to know and understand what they do. If they will not take the education, deny them the vote. Another powerful foe of the ballot-box is bribery. Bribery is one of the disgraces of this country. It is often the case that a man is nominated for office with reference to his capacity to provide money for the elections, or with reference to his capacity to command money from others. I tell you no news. Your patriotic heart has been pained again and again with it. bribery to-day is one of the mightiest foes of the ballot-box.
Another great enemy of that sacred chest is defamation of character. Can you find out from the newspapers when two men are runuug for office which is the best? How often the good man is denounced, and the bad man applauded, so that you can come sometimes to no just opinion as to who is the best man, and there are hundreds and thousands of electors who go up to vote so utterly befogged they know not what they do. Is not that a fearful influence to be brought upon the ballot-box of this country ? Thomas Paine writes Washington a letter, and publishes it, saying—" Treacherous in all private friendship and a hypocrite in public morals, the world will be puzzled to know whether we had better call you an apostate or an impostor, and whether you abandoned good morals or never had any," That is Thomas Paiue's opinion of George Washington. Another powerful foe of the ballot-box is I the rowdy and drunken caucus. The ballot- ' box does not give any choice to a man when the nominations are made in the back part of a groggery. When the elector comes up, he has to choose between two evils. In some of the cities, men have come to tho ballot-box to vote, and have found both names such a greasy, stenchful i crew they had no choice. You say vote for somebody outside. Then they throw away their vote. Now, how are these things to be remedied ? Some say by a property qualification, They say that after a man gets a certain amount of property—a certain amount of real estate—he is financially interested in good government, and he becomes cautious and conservative. I reply, a property q«alification would shut off from the ballot-box a great many of the best men in this land. Literary men are almost always poor. A pen is a good implement to make the world better, but it is a very poor implement to get a livelihood by ordinarily. I have known scores of literary men who never owned a foot of ground, and never will own a foot of ground until they get under it. Professors of colleges, teachers of schools, editors of newspapers, ministers of religion, qualified in every possible way to vote, yet no worldly success. There has been many a man who has nothad a house on earth, who will have a mansion in Heaven, There
are many who, through accidents of fortune, have come to great success while they are profound in their stupidity, as profound in their stupidity ast a man of large fortune with whom I was crossing the ocean, who told me he was going to see the dykes of Scotland! When a member of my family asked a lady on her return from Europe if she had seen Mont Blanc, she replied: " Well, really I don't know ; is that in Europe?" Ignorance by the square foot. Property qualification will not do. The only way these evils will be eradicated will be by more thorough legal defence of the ballot-box, and a more thorough moralisation and Christianisation of the people.
The Ballot-Box., Issue 7914, 23 May 1889
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