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The Rights and Duties of American Citizenship

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Pages: 234

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/4/2009 - General Books LLC

By: Westel Woodbury Willoughby

Excerpt from book: CHAPTER III SUFFRAGE Suffrage a Privilege, not a Right. — There is a disposition on the part of many, especially in this country, to demand that the suffrage, or power of voting, be given to every citizen as a natural right, irrespective of his qualification to use it properly. No claim could be less warranted. The suffrage is a privilege, not a natural or inherent right. It is a reward for merit or capacity, not a power to be unconditionally demanded. The citizen is endowed with the privilege of voting, and thereby of participating in the determination of the policies of government and the selection of the officials who shall transact it, in order that by its exercise the good of the state may be maintained. It is, therefore, for the state itself to determine by its laws, when, and by whom, and under what conditions, this power shall be used. As one writer has forcibly said: " The pretension that every man has the necessary qualifications of a citizen simply because he was born twenty-one years ago, is as much as to say that labor, merit, virtue, character, and experience are to count for nothing." As a matter of fact, we do, in this country for the most part, give the suffrage to all adult male citizens, but this is because, upon the whole, they aredeemed qualified to possess it, and because, thereby, all have been given a direct interest in public affairs. But it is believed by many that we have been too precipitate in thus extending the suffrage. Certainly this is true in those states in which aliens who have not yet become citizens have been given the right to vote. As regards the granting of the privilege to the negro population irrespective of capacity, this would seem also to be a mistake. Woman Suffrage. — In a few states the right to vote has been given to wo...  

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