“The idea of restraining the right of suffrage to the freeholders… would create division among the people, and make enemies of all those who should be excluded.”

Alexis Tocqueville, decades after the Philadelphia Convention had this to say:

What was called the People in the most democratic republics of antiquity was very unlike what we designate by that term. In Athens all the citizens took part in public affairs; but there were only twenty thousand citizens to more than three hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. All the rest were slaves, and discharged the greater part of those duties which belong at the present day to the lower or even to the middle classes. Athens, then, with her universal suffrage, was, after all, merely an aristocratic republic, in which all the nobles had an equal right to the government.

The struggle between the patricians and plebeians of Rome must be considered in the same light: it was simply an internal feud between the elder and younger branches of the same family. All belonged to the aristocracy and all had the aristocratic spirit.

It is to be remarked, moreover, that, among the ancients books were always scarce and dear, and that very great difficulties impeded their publication and circulation. These circumstances concentrated literary tastes and habits among a small number of men, who formed a small literary aristocracy out of the choicer spirits of the great political aristocracy. Accordingly, nothing goes to prove that literature was ever treated as a trade among the Greeks and Romans.

These communities, which were not only aristocracies, but very polished and free nations, of course imparted to their literary productions the special defects and merits that characterize the literature of aristocratic times. And indeed a very superficial survey of the works of ancient authors will suffice to convince us that if those writers were sometimes deficient in variety and fertility in their subjects, or in boldness, vivacity, and power of generalization in their thoughts, they always displayed exquisite care and skill in their details. Nothing in their works seems to be done hastily or at random; every line is written for the eye of the connoisseur and is shaped after some conception of ideal beauty. No literature places those fine qualities in which the writers of democracies are naturally deficient in bolder relief than that of the ancients; no literature, therefore, ought to be more studied in democratic times. This study is better suited than any other to combat the literary defects inherent in those times; as for their natural literary qualities, these will spring up of their own accord without its being necessary to learn to acquire them.

It is important that this point should be clearly understood. A particular study may be useful to the literature of a people without being appropriate to its social and political wants. If men were to persist in teaching nothing but the literature of the dead languages in a community where everyone is habitually led to make vehement exertions to augment or to maintain his fortune, the result would be a very polished, but a very dangerous set of citizens. For as their social and political condition would give them every day a sense of wants, which their education would never teach them to supply, they would perturb the state, in the name of the Greeks and Romans, instead of enriching it by their productive industry.

It is evident that in democratic communities the interest of individuals as well as the security of the commonwealth demands that the education of the greater number should be scientific, commercial, and industrial rather than literary. Greek and Latin should not be taught in all the schools; but it is important that those who, by their natural disposition or their fortune, are destined to cultivate letters or prepared to relish them should find schools where a complete knowledge of ancient literature may be acquired and where the true scholar may be formed. A few excellent universities would do more towards the attainment of this object than a multitude of bad grammar-schools, where superfluous matters, badly learned, stand in the way of sound instruction in necessary studies.

What is democracy and what is a republic?

I was always taken by the conclusions of Tocqueville discussing this issue as he compared America to the European Continent.

Yeah I was taught that Athens, a city/state represented pure democracy but as Alexis points out, the Greek’s pure democracy amounted to inclusion of 20,000 human beings along with the exclusion of 330,000 human beings in their democratic model.

They omitted this fact in my middle school and high school experience.

I recall from my high school Latin that the Brothers Gracchi of Ancient Rome—who resembled our Kennedy Brothers in my readings—lobbied for land redistribution among the masses. Both of the Gracchi were clubbed to death after they had reached ultimate power and of course the Kennedy Brothers were shot.

Cicero was the Novus Homo, or new man without aristocratic familial ties—except in marriage—and was simply a representative of the mercantile class (that is my take anyway) who made money through trade without proper blood lines. He was even invited into a triumvirate by Caesar that would include Crassus the richest bastard in the world (well outside of China anyway and maybe India). Pompey filled that void after Cicero demurred.

I always found that fascinating, because this demonstrates that Julius would choose oratory over power and real money; but that is another story.

The point to be made is that the vast majority of humans residing in Rome by the time of the Caesars were slaves or members of the Latin version of the unwashed.

So the battle between the plebeians and the patricians was a battle between the top 5% of the population and the 5% of the Roman population who represented the mercantile class. (I have to add here that the Gracchi Brothers were seeking more suffrage as far as a percentage of the Roman population than just Plebeians and Patricians)

America, to my mind, represented the achievements of the mercantile class; the monied class.

So the mercantile class had to come up with a plan and a propaganda that would somehow turn this new aristocracy into a meritocracy in the mind of the masses.

Like Ronald Reagan declaring that he hoped that the idiot who confiscated someone’s single beer cooler would catch a million bucks for his ‘invention’.

Well the mercantilist takes the risks they say so only he can reap the rewards even though the mercantilist loses only his investment through the charter with his partner, the King. But alas, that is another story.

( As an aside, I am amazed that my clone for Microsoft Word will tell me that mercantilist is misspelled.)

The capitalists during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were more worried about the peasants revolting than the slaves revolting.

That is why only propertied owners could vote for their state legislatures and that the state legislatures would vote in the Senators to represent them in Congress. At least in most states. This idea will never completely go away even though we have a 17th Amendment forbidding this type of ignominy.

In the category of initiatives that are going nowhere fast, Louie Gohmert, a Republican representative from Texas, wants to repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to having senators appointed by state legislators, rather than directly elected.

Get it? Republicanism.

The further you could remove the human being from the electoral process, the easier it would be to get representatives in Congress who would bow to the needs of the mercantile class.

When you read the tomes written by folks like Calhoun; this South Carolina Senator (where else would this pig come from?) would go on and on speaking about republicanism in the context of Rome; ancient Rome. And this was the case for many Southern politicians and professors.

Now the Southern states have worked for this Greek/Roman model to keep as many revolting peasants off of the electoral screen and the New South and the conservative West are echoing those sentiments today; even in the event of Civil Rights Legislation over the last five decades as well as Constitutional Amendments.

The right will always seek to limit the definition of who actually qualifies to be a citizen.

Many Southern and Western States have worked hard to keep the revolting peasants off of the election lists.

The South had worked for Poll taxes where only those who paid could vote. The 24th Amendment makes this practice illegal today.

The South had worked for literacy tests, so that only those able to correctly answer mandated test questions, could vote.

Now, the more conservative legislatures are attempting to keep college students from voting, those without paid for I.D.’s to vote, and to keep those without proper Providence from voting. but this type of talk from the fascists might lead to unconstitutional action on the part of the state in violation of the 26th Amendment.

In many states it is difficult if not impossible for a rehabilitated felon to vote. This relates to more than five million people and their ability to vote.

Many on the right would bar people on welfare from voting.

Anything that the repubs can do to limit the number of voters in any election has been enacted or proffered as far as proposed legislation.

As I find myself off line, I thought it might be a good thing to spend some time thinking this all out.

The right wing plutocrats always seek to limit the vote.

The republicans always seek to limit the numbers of citizens who will be able to breach the courthouse doors.

The republicans will always seek to redefine citizenship.

The republicans will always seek to keep those who have lost their citizenship through incarceration from ever voting in state or national elections.

The republicans will always seek to extort the upper class mercantile class for more money to keep them in office.

The republicans will always seek to reduce the number of governmental workers who work for the benefit of the peasant class.

The Greek/Roman model of ‘democracy’ and ‘republic’ will always be with us!



4 thoughts on “SUFFRAGE

  1. In Athens all the citizens took part in public affairs; but there were only twenty thousand citizens to more than three hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants.

    This sounds like what we got Dick. Lots of inhabitants but with variations as to the degree with which we’re accorded rights as citizens. Repubs are pushing mightily to formailize this arrangement.


      Yeah they are. I really think that if we could get a 90% turnout in our elections, the repubs would be destroyed.

      Those who sat home on election day are just as responsible for the right wing landslides last Nov.

      And the state legislatures are voting for the most anti electorate legislation I have ever seen…at least since the 60’s.

  2. cmaukonen

    Well one thing is we have to change the way we select our representatives and presidential candidates. The current method gives far to much power to the extremes and outside moneys.

    This was the thing the old Party Boss system alleviated to an extent.

    Make local politics local again.

    1. No doubt C that the centralization of power has definitlely messed up the political and social apple cart. How you might go about decentralizing that again is a really big problem. Decentralization of authority, in very large organizations, usually comes with a huge penalty of unsustainable inefficiency. It’s possible to have a very large and efficient and fair structure but the bigger it gets the more complex it becomes. Our ability to devise such structures is very limited. The bigger the structure the more objective and logical it has to be. We don’t do objective or logical.

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