HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.
The Interest of the First Voter.
by North American Review, The

Victory in November, 1900, will he won by the party which appeals most successfully to the new voters, the citizens who have come of age since the Presidential election of 1896. His first national ballot is a matter vastly more important to a young man than a vote is to a veteran. The arguments usually addressed to men who are in the habit of voting the Democratic or the Republican Presidential ticket, are by no means the best for those who have never voted for a President, and who are making up their minds with which of the two great parties to ally themselves.

There are really only two national parties. It is not likely that there will ever be more than two, of commanding influence, at any one time.

With which of the two parties at present dividing the serious thought of the country can the First Voter ally himself, with the assurance of promoting his own good as well as that of his country? The idea that a young voter thinks of himself first, and then of his country, is, no doubt, shocking to purely theoretical politicians. Practical men, however, know it to be a fact. Facts are what the managers of national campaigns have to deal with, and the campaign manager who gets hold of the most facts and acts in accordance with them is the one who succeeds. The fight is won by the man behind the ballot. us leaders theorize, but he votes. The commanding officer in a battle may have his manual of tactics at his finger's ends, but the fate of his cause is decided by the man behind the gun. All the books in the world cannot teach a greenhorn on the firing-line to shoot his rifle straight. The fine-spun theories of the scholar in politics are equally useless to the voter who approaches the polling-booth for the first time.

Thinking, then, of himself and of his own future, his business or his profession, his family and his friends, the average young American must make up his mind along which of the two party paths his best interests lie. By following that path, he will at the same time be best serving his country. It seems to me that there can be no sort of doubt that the welfare of the country, as a whole, is best promoted by that which is best for its young men. That disposes of the objection that the view I am advancing of political duty is a purely selfish one. The youth of the land are its life blood. How can they be most effectively and wholesomely stimulated and directed?

It is an inspiring topic, this appeal of the two great national parties to a million young men for the first time assuming the highest duty and privilege of citizenship.

Under which banner will American youth enlist in November, 1900? It is quite likely that the decision then made may determine the political affiliations of these young men, this magnificent army of American electors, for their lives. It is not unlikely, indeed, that it will also determine the political views of their brothers and sons, when they, in turn, reach the age of franchise. How vastly important it is, then, to the Democratic party that the young voters should this year cast Democratic ballots! If there are clear and convincing reasons why the Democracy offers young voters the greatest and surest opportunities, a public service, a service not only to the party but to the American people, can be rendered by a presentation of those reasons in a periodical like THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

The entire number of votes cast in November, 1884, was 10,044,985. Of these, 4,911,017 were polled for Grover Cleveland, and 4,848,334 for James G. Blame. Of the ten million ballots, Cleveland had a plurality of only 62,683.

In four years, the Presidential vote of the American people had increased, in 1888, to 11,380,860, of which Grover Cleveland received 5,538,233 and Harrison 5,440,216, Cleveland still having 98,017 more votes at the polls, although Harrison had a majority in the Electoral College, and was, of course, elected President.

In November, 1892, the American people cast 12,059,351 votes, of which 5,556,918 were polled for Cleveland, and 5,176,108 for Harrison. Clevelands plurality this time was 380,810.

By November, 1896, the votes of the people for President had increased to 13,923,102. Of these 7,104,779 were cast for William McKinley, and 6,502,925 for William Jennings Bryan.

Mr. McKinleys plurality, the first the Republican party had had, in twelve years, was 601,854, being the largest plurality any Presidential candidate had had since 1872. In that year General Grant, the hero of the war, entrenched in power by four years occupation of the White House, was elected President over Horace Greeley, the reformer, by a plurality of only 762,691 votes in the popular vote.

Now, the normal increase in the number of votes for President, reckoning from one four years to another, is more than ten per cent. Adding ten per cent. to the vote of 1892, would give us an estimated vote for 1896 of 13,265,286; whereas the actual vote in 1896 was 657,816 more than that. It is plain, then, that unless the excess over the estimated ten per cent. can be accounted for by immigration, we must reckon on considerably more than a million first voters every four years. And there will naturally be a slight continuous increase in the percentage.

Adding, then, ten per cent., as the most conservative estimate of increase, to the 13,923,102 votes cast in November, 1896, it is reasonable to suppose that at least 15,315,412 votes will be cast for President on November 7th, 1900. That is to say, about 1,400,000 more electors will vote for President this year than four years ago.

But it is not accurate to treat all this increase as new voters, or rather as first voters. To be admitted to citizenship, the ordinary immigrant, who has not enlisted in and been honorably discharged from the army, must have resided continuously in the United States for at least five years. Evidently this condition will bar from a vote next month all immigrants, otherwise eligible, who did not land prior to November 7th, 1895, and who did not properly follow up their arrival by declaring their intention to become citizens. A Presidential election has been held since that date, but none of the adult male immigrants who arrived in this country subsequent to November, 1891, could have voted in November, 1896. Therefore, all the adult male immigrants who arrived in the United States in the last two months of 1891, and in the years 1892, 1893, 1894, and in ten months of 1895, may vote in November, 1900, if they have complied with the law. The total number of immigrants arriving in that period was about 1,767,144. One-fifth of that number would be 353,228. In round numbers there are 350,000 immigrant adults who may cast their first Presidential vote next month. Nearly all of them will do so. Our newly admitted foreign-born citizens seem to have a higher opinion of the value of the franchise than some whose families have been here for a hundred years or so.

Deducting this estimate of 350,000 electors naturalized since the last Presidential election, we still have more than 1,000,000 young Americans to cast their first votes in November, and thereby to decide whether Mr. Bryan or Mr. McKinley shall go into the White House on the fourth of next March.

Mr. McKinleys plurality in 1896 was 601,854. There are twice as many voters now coming to the polls, in addition to 350,000 citizens naturalized since 1896. The right sort of an appeal to these new voters is all important.

There can be no doubt that these electors casting their first Presidential ballot will decide this Presidential election.

How are the majority of the new voters likely to go? Which of the two great parties will they choose - for I assume they will not throw away their votes by casting a ballot for Caffery, or for any crank ticket? Where do the interests of the young men lie?

Coming to the United States more than fifty years ago, I have had, boy and man, opportunities of watching what is to me the most significant change this wonderful half century has wrought. I, too, have experienced the perplexities and thought out the responsibilities attendant on the right casting of a first vote. In the year 1864, at the age of twenty-one, I cast my first ballot. I felt then that the Democratic party was the young mans party; that the young blood of the nation must naturally be drawn toward Democracy, which made a ready place for the newcomers, and welcomed them to a share in the management of the affairs, even into the councils, of the nation. Nor, in the thirty-six years since I cast a ballot for George B. McClellan, have I seen any good cause for changing my views on this subject. It is, indeed, my deliberate opinion that the Democratic party is the only party which offers an even chance to the first voter, not only in the political contest, but in the battle of life as well.

The struggle for existence has gradually become harder and harder in the United States. Man has a right to more than bare existence. Yet the competition between organized wealth and individual effort grows more and more cruel. Everywhere is felt the greedy grasp of corporate monopoly, destroying the first voters opportunity of making his way in the world; closing the little shops in which his father made a fair living for himself and his family; absorbing one individual business after another; converting the successful lawyers into corporation advisers, driving the others into poorly paid clerkships; concentrating into the hands of the few the opportunities which were formerly open to the honorable competition of the many. Must the young men of the United States clerk for corporations at home, or fight for corporations in the Philippines, and see the other avenues of life gradually closed by the inexorable grip of the Trusts?

I do not believe the first voters in November, 1900, are going to stand for anything like that, or vote for any party which offers them no better prospects for achieving success in public or private life.

This is a young country. The young men must decide its destiny. Will they cast their first votes for William Jennings Bryan, the youngest Presidential candidate of the century, young in blood, young in ambition, young in the healthy activities of life, willing to give them all a new chance in the world, representing the party of young men all over the country? I believe the new voters will answer this question in November by a tremendous majority for Bryan and Democracy.



Terms Defined

Referenced Works