In 1892 the Lowell Sun newspaper discussed the cholera problem. They mistakenly thought that cholera was a virus, not a bacterial infection. They reported that there were cases of cholera in the medical journals of the day, and that one case had been removed to the hospital. They used that information to state that “This is considered to be a direct admission that the case is one of genuine cholera.” (Sun, September 20, 1892) If they did not think that it was a genuine case, I guess they would have stated that fact.
Progress, says one man I admire, “moves at the speed of government.” That is not lightening speed. It is not even turtle speed. It is virtually a ‘stuck in the mud’ speed. Cholera would eventually kill many in Lowell who drank directly from the Merrimack and Concord Rivers. Water was not processed then. It is now. The people, who carried no live illness that could be transmitted to another, drank whatever was in the water of the Merrimack. This was at a time when the mill water was mixed with cloth dyes and transferred to the main current of the river. In Lowell, the threat of cholera resulted in the realization that you would be drinking feces and urine with your water. Police from the state were sent upstream from Lowell to the New Hampshire border and the discovered and shut down a welding operation which allowed employees to urinate into the direct flow of the Merrimack River. Yes, they could culminate in adding their feces to the river water. The doctors at Lowell General were given to warning people about drinking the water, and it was eventually purified, but it took some time before that happened.
I was enjoying a brief history of the Electoral College system in a book today. I recently wanted to test my hypothesis that we knew what the Founding Fathers wanted in the Constitution because James Madison took prolific notes on the formation of the Constitution. To find out what Madison thought, we only needed to read his notes on the forming of the document. It worked. I read a book entitled “Miracle in Philadelphia, the Formation of the U.S. Constitution.” I recently finished the book. There was a great deal of drudgery, and a great deal of knowledge in that original document. If it had been up to some states like my own, Massachusetts, we would never have had a Constitution. But, fortunately, little Delaware saw the handwriting on the wall and became the first state to join the Union. The other states came in as soon as their legislatures allowed. It was not a pretty sight, but it worked and the document was published, heckled, and pored over. So, when I think of that man’s admonition, “It moves at the speed of government,” I have a better understanding as to how much speed he is referring to, and how fast or slow it progresses.
Government can move fairly quickly. In his book, “Political Man,” Seymour Martin Lipset says “When a nation faces a crisis-major changes in its social, economic, or political system or in its international position-the electorate as a whole takes a greater interest in politics.” (Political Man, The Social Bases of Politics). Between 1876 and 1906 in France, the universities charted the course of voting trends to see if there was in fact a stronger current working its way towards progress. They felt that there was.
In “The History of the American People,” Anthony Scott noted that the Emancipation Proclamation fulfilled its goal. It kept the Europeans out of the war and allowed the Union to prevail. Specifically, it stated that “From now on the Civil War was a war to end slavery.” (The History of the American People) “So great was the feeling of Europe against slavery that no European government, least of all the British, would dare help the South.” (ibid.) Lincoln managed to keep the lions at bay by making the war about slavery, when he had looked upon it as being about the fate of the Union. Slavery, Lincoln learned, was a much more strong pull on the fiber of the republic. “The cost of the Civil War amounted to three billion dollars” according to Topics in American History” by Milton Jay Belasco. Workers at this time made approximately $200.00 to $300.00 per year. Three Billion dollars was a great deal of money.
So, in its fight against Cholera, in its formation of the Constitution, in the Emancipation Proclamation, and in its recognition of the cost of waging the most ferocious war in our history, all types of flexibility was practiced to make our government work. It does work, however slowly.
This is an election year, meaning that this is one of the years that an election was dictated to happen by the Founders of the Constitution. Our number of voters is seldomly higher that twenty-five percent. In the early days of communist Russia, it was noted by the Soviet government that the best Constitution in the world was in Russia. Women were part and parcel of the people recognized as being involved in the government. Slavery did not exist. The rich had run out of space. In short, it seemed to be a marvelous document. But, there was one line to it that made it susceptible to criticism. That was the last line of the document, which stated that only members of the Communist Party could be covered by the Constitution. The other seventy-five percent were not covered and not allowed to vote. They had to be members of the Communist Party to enjoy the freedoms of the document. That meant that, automatically, twenty-five percent could vote. That was all.
The United States, which claimed that close to one hundred percent of the union could vote, lost track of one small detail. That was that of the voters, one hundred percent could vote, but only fifty percent of the population was registered. Fifty percent could vote. In addition, it was noticed that of those fifty percent, less than one quarter of the population, voted in any given election. So, it was noted, the voting population of Americans was the same as the voting population of Russia. But, take it a step further. Less than 25% actually voted, making the level of participation in the American governmental system less than the total number of Russians who could vote in the Communist system. Often, the voter turnout in the United States is down to fifteen to twenty percent of the population. Democracy, the Greeks in Athens had learned in a short one hundred years, was a very challenging system. It was hard to be democratic. Especially in an election system.
That is my observation for today. We do not vote, and if we do not vote, we have no right to complain. So let’s get those people who have given up voting out to the polls once again. Let us try to get those people who are not even registered, well, registered.
Somewhere in the future I will tell you about the closest vote that took place for statehood in the United States. It is a clear indication of how important it is to get one vote. See you then.