Saturday, February 11, 2017
when all other rights are taken away the right of rebellion is made perfect
Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities?
- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 6
Been seeing this in memes of late:
Wealth is no proof of moral character...On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty.
All 2.667 readers know I fucking hate memes. And ellipses set off my alarm bells. Also, too, I hate misquoting and misusing the Framers' words, not to mention misattributing them or mistaking others' words for them. However, I recognize that without such things, more than half my blog content would not exist.
Of course this isn't the most egregious thing in the world, but it's clear people are using the meme simply as an attack on wealth (which I am not against in the least). Paine was making a much larger point about suffrage [elided quotation emphasized]:
In any view of the case it is dangerous and impolitic, sometimes ridiculous, and always unjust to make property the criterion of the right of voting. If the sum or value of the property upon which the right is to take place be considerable it will exclude a majority of the people and unite them in a common interest against the government and against those who support it; and as the power is always with the majority, they can overturn such a government and its supporters whenever they please.
If, in order to avoid this danger, a small quantity of property be fixed, as the criterion of the right, it exhibits liberty in disgrace, by putting it in competition with accident and insignificance. When a broodmare shall fortunately produce a foal or a mule that, by being worth the sum in question, shall convey to its owner the right of voting, or by its death take it from him, in whom does the origin of such a right exist? Is it in the man, or in the mule? When we consider how many ways property may be acquired without merit, and lost without crime, we ought to spurn the idea of making it a criterion of rights.
But the offensive part of the case is that this exclusion from the right of voting implies a stigma on the moral character of the persons excluded; and this is what no part of the community has a right to pronounce upon another part. No external circumstance can justify it: wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it.
On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty; and poverty the negative evidence of innocence. If therefore property, whether little or much, be made a criterion, the means by which that property has been acquired ought to be made a criterion also.
The only ground upon which exclusion from the right of voting is consistent with justice would be to inflict it as a punishment for a certain time upon those who should propose to take away that right from others. The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.
To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. The proposal therefore to disfranchise any class of men is as criminal as the proposal to take away property.
Anyhoo, I've blogged about voting rights many a time, including once referencing an alleged Ben Franklin quotation that I now suspect might actually be an adaptation of Paine's words (since I can only find it dating back to a compendium from 1828). So now I'm really annoyed, and have to conduct more research...