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THE ETHICS OF THE BALLOT-BOX.
"And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen. And they gave forth their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias.”
HIS proceeding, recorded in the Book of Acts,
was probably the first example of voting we have in Christendom. Some persons think that this was not voting, but drawing a name from an urn. But in that case it would not have been said that "they gave forth their lots," for only one person could have drawn a single name from an urn. It is, therefore, the opinion of Mosheim and others that voting is here meant.
If so, voting was considered, in this first instance, as a matter of conscience and religion. They wished to choose a man whose heart God would approve ; they wished to elect a good man, and they prayed to God to enable them to do so.
It is a duty to put religion into politics, and conscience into the ballot. The church and pulpit should abstain from party politics; but all the more should it lay down the principles by which voting ought to be directed. What rules should an honest man adopt in voting ?” is a question very proper for the pulpit. And as we are now on the eve of an election, I propose to consider this question. I have little to say of particular parties or of particular persons. But of parties in general I must say a word.
In most free countries there are two great parties constantly contending for power, and most persons, in order to make their vote effectual, must select one or the other. When it is quite certain that one or the other of two parties must win, and the election is by a plurality, it is evident that I might almost as well stay at home as vote for a third party or third candidate. If, indeed, I think that the most important issue is represented by this third party or its candidate, then it may be my duty to vote for it, year after year, without any expectation of immediate victory, but in the hope of seeing the small party gradually becoming larger, and at last successful. Thus, for example, I voted, from 1840 to 1860, first for the Liberty party, then for the Free Soil party, and then for the Republican party, — voting in the minority for twenty years, in that
“ friendless contest, lingering long, Through weary day and weary year," till victory, born of endurance, came to us in 1860 in the election of Abraham Lincoln.
But usually we must vote for one of two tickets, for one of the two is sure to be elected.
What considerations ought to influence us in selecting our party or our candidate ?
The first rule is always to vote when we have a right to do so. If republican institutions fail, it will be because the good men and wise men and educated men fail to do their duty by taking part in politics. Bad men, who make a trade of politics, are sure to vote, and to induce others to do so. If educated men stay at home, and the ignorant are led to the polls by crafty demagogues, who is responsible for bad government ?
I should like to see it made disgraceful not to vote. I should like to have public opinion condemn those who, instead of voting, keep at their business or their pleasure, or who sit at home reading and do nothing for public order, freedom, and good government. All drinking saloons and places of amusement should be closed. I would have election day made as sacred as Sunday. And every man should not only vote himself, but should also see that his employees have proper opportunity given them to deposit their vote.
I often go to the polls attended by some man who works for me. He usually votes one way, and I the other. Why not both pair off, and stay at home ?" you say. Because then both of us would neglect our duty. I should be as sorry not to have him go, as not to go myself. I should be sorry to