Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

It is necessary to repeat that this word never means, in the United States, “secret ballot,” unless in the instances, which are rare, when the word “secret” is expressly added to it.

In this country we invariably associate with the word “ballot,” the mode of giving a secret vote by dropping a “ ball” into a covered box, in the manner too well known to need to be described.

In the United States the word “ballot” has, in its general acceptation, nothing to do with the word “ball,” but means “a piece of paper, with the names of the candidate or candidates written or printed upon it.”

In the Southern and Western States generally the voting is entirely open, and usually

viva voce.

or

At all elections in the other States, the friends of the different candidates stand round the voting places, with the written printed voting papers (called tickets) in their hands, and as each voter approaches, he takes from the hands of one of the agents of the

G

[ocr errors]

candidate or candidates for whom he intends to vote, one of these lists, openly before all the world, and delivers it, folded or unfolded as the case may be, to the persons taking the poll.

The tickets are now universally, I believe, printed ; and being printed upon coloured paper,—the colour or some distinguishing device indicating the party to which the candidates belong,—the very fact of presenting a paper thus coloured or marked, though it might be folded up, in itself at once shows which side the voter takes at the election.

It will be desirable to describe by a few short quotations from the laws of some of the principal States, the different arrangements in regard to this matter in each.

By chapter 42 of the Acts of Massachusetts (1839 to 1846), relating to the election of the governor, lieut.-governor, senators, and representatives of the Commonwealth, it is enacted

Section 5. That no vote shall be received by the officers presiding at any such election, or at any election

for select-men and town-clerk of any town, or for mayor, aldermen, or common council of any city, unless the same shall be presented for deposit in the ballot-box, open and unfolded ; nor shall any such vote be so received until the name of the person offering the same shall have been found upon the list and checked by the presiding officers, or by some one appointed by them therefore."

I have described in a former volume * the change made in the law of Massachusetts in 1851, by which, instead of this manly mode of giving a vote by presenting the voting paper “open and unfolded,” the secret ballot was attempted to be introduced into practice; and I mentioned the process of voting which I witnessed at Boston, under, though by no means in accordance with, the new law. I described also the indignant feeling exhibited at a meeting of upwards of 5000 of the electors of Boston and its vicinity, against the attempt to impose secrecy upon their votes; their utter repudiation of it, as unworthy of men who had a duty to perform to the State, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to

* Notes on Public Subjects, &c. Murray. 1852.

perform it openly; and their bold declaration, that the man who was either the one or the other, was neither worthy of having a vote, nor entitled to have one. Indeed, the idea of secrecy in the mere act of giving the vote, on the part of 5000 men who came together to a great public meeting to declare their sentiments, was altogether a contradiction and preposterous. Secrecy in the act of voting must, to be effectual as a protection to the voter, be accompanied with secrecy and silence, together with hypocrisy, on the subject of politics, for his whole life, which, if possible, would be contemptible, and which is plainly impossible in any country, much less a free one.

So strongly were these sentiments entertained by the electors of the Whig party in Massachusetts, that, on that party returning to power, the law relating to secrecy was altered in the spring of this year (1853), having been only carried originally by the democratic party by a very small majority, and under the stimulus of particular circumstances, which I have ad. verted to in the volume above-mentioned.

I am informed by a friend, who has the best means of knowing what was done, that the modification introduced into the law" by the Whig party in the spring was the allowing the voter either to put his vote into an envelope, or to deposit it open, as before.

The question has since been brought before the “Convention,” which has been lately assembled to discuss the revision of the Massachusetts' Constitution. The existence of such a Convention in a State like Massachusetts, where the population has been more fixed, and the ideas of republican government more sober, and with a greater leaning to the associations of the past, is probably the strongest proof that could be given of the progress of ultra-democracy in the United States. In this Convention, which assembled in May, 1853, the democratic party had a large majority; and into the projected amendments of the Constitution which they drew up, and which were submitted to the people in November, they re-introduced the proposition to require the votes to be en

« AnteriorContinuar »