By Donald Grier Stephenson Jr.
From its roots in early English principles to its perform this day, this paintings covers the evolution, enlargement, and ongoing debates concerning "the first liberty" in America.
• maps support illustrate the illustration challenge of majority-minority districts
• Excerpts from key best courtroom judgements on balloting rights and representation
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Extra resources for The Right to Vote: Rights and Liberties under the Law
Nor did many of the most recent arrivals share the same religious traditions as the old stock. Instead, they were more heavily Roman Catholic and, later, Jewish. Wholly aside from the question whether the franchise should be extended to women and to African Americans, such demographic and cultural changes posed a more fundamental question: Would the nearly universal adult male suffrage that was in place by the 1850s itself survive? The nativist and anti-Catholic “Know- 8 The Right to Vote Nothing” movement (which came together briefly as the American Party) in the mid-1850s had expressed dismay over the political power exerted by the influx of newcomers and proposed various measures that would reduce their influence and even block them from the polls.
51, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable to government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself” (Brock 1961, 264). Otherwise, the rights of minorities are in danger. “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression,” he wrote in the same year in correspondence with Jefferson over the desirability of a bill of rights. “In our Government,” he noted, “the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents” (Mason and Stephenson 2002, 422).
Free and fair elections are thus impossible to maintain where officials have authority to silence their critics. This may be a difficult lesson for any nation to learn, but it is an even harder lesson to put into practice. Wide latitude has usually been accorded dissent in the United States, but notable exceptions demonstrate that liberties are sometimes in greatest danger when they are needed most. At different periods of American history, there have always been those who believed that the safety of the republic depended upon stamping out noxious views and ideas deemed dangerous.