Majorities and Minorities

April 3, 1867


The article states essentially that the republican government of this country has ultimately failed at supporting both the majorities and minorities. The Radicals and Majorities of the country oversee the conflicts of the minorities, leaving the country is despair and at a low point.


Has republican government proved to be a failure in this country? Unquestionably it seems so. We have reached a point where we may well ask ourselves the question whether we should not to better off if our fathers had left the country under British rule. Where, then, are the weak points in the machinery of republican institutions? One is the unreasonable and irresponsible nature of majorities. Corporations are said to have no souls; not because they are corporations, but because masses of men do not hold themselves accountable as units for the acts of the whole body, and the consequence is that a corporation, or a dozen, or a hundred men, will be guilty of hard, grinding acts of injustice and oppression which no man of the number would himself perform. It is an old saying that no one man in a mob is quite as malignant and devilish as the mob itself. And so it may be said of the worst Radical in Congress or in the country that he is not quite as bad as the soulless monster called a "majority." "A minority has no rights which the majority is bound to respect " is the only article of the popular creed. Constitutions, laws, courts, precedents. all these go for nothing when they come in conflict with the will of an insane "majority." Many statesmen have attempted to devise some means by which the voice of a minority would become more influential, and their rights more secure, Up to the present time no success has followed these efforts. Our own country presents the remarkable and unprecedented spectacle of a minority, or, at any rate, a very small majority, of the people ruling with a rod of iron the rest of their fellow citizens, and doing it under the forms prescribed by the Constitution and laws. New York gives say four hundred thousand Democratic votes and four hundred and ten thousand Radical votes ; but these are so distributed as to throw all the offices and depart, ments of the government, executive, legislative, and judicial, into the hands of the Radicals. Nearly one-half of the voters being Democrats, it would seem to be natural that nearly half of the Congressmen from that State should be Democrats; but the delegation (in the two Houses) stands twenty-two to eleven. It ought to be about sixteen to seventeen, that is, if the voters were fairly represented. So all through the North. There are thousands and hundreds of thousands of voters whose influence is never felt upon the politics of the country. The moment they have voted, and their candidates been defeated, they are lost sight of. The Radical legislator, or officer, or Congressman, represents only those who voted for him. The Radical Senate thinks it presumption in the President to nominate Democrats for even onefifth of the offices, and scorns the idea of confirming any such nominees. In a word, the Democratic voters of the North, who are numbered by the million, are practically as much out of their proper relations to the Government as are the people of the late Confederate States. And all because majorities are reckless, blind, wilful, irresponsible, and soulless. Is there any remedy for this state of things? lf not, republican government must be pronounced not simply a failure, but a delusion and a cheat, a humbug! We have never seen any practicable plan suggested for giving its proper weight in all cases to the voice of the minority. It is a singular fact, however, and one worthy of consideration, that the Radicals of the ' New York Legislature should have conceived and successfully perfected a plan for accomplishing this desirable object in one instance. We refer, of course, to that feature of the convention bill recently passed by them which secures to the Democratic party one-half of the delegates at large. This was done, as we have heretofore explained, simply by providing that no one man should vote for more than half the number to be chosen, an arrangement which must infallibly secure half of the delegation to whatever party is next to the largest in the State. What the New York Legislature has accomplished in this one instance must be done in all cases to make republican institutions practicable and beneficial. Who can solve the difficult problem?
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Walker Black




“Majorities and Minorities,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 30, 2023,