Curious Republic of Gondour Page 01
CURIOUS REPUBLIC OF GONDOUR
by Mark Twain
THE CURIOUS REPUBLIC OF GONDOUR AND OTHER WHIMSICAL SKETCHES
Most of the sketches in this volume were taken from a series the author wrote for The Galaxy from May, 1870, to April, 1871. The rest appeared in The Buffalo Express.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE CURIOUS REPUBLIC OF GONDOUR
INTRODUCTORY TO "MEMORANDA".
A COUPLE OF SAD EXPERIENCES
THE "TOURNAMENT" IN A.D. 1870
CURIOUS RELIC FOR SALE
A REMINISCENCE OF THE BACK SETTLEMENTS
A ROYAL COMPLIMENT
THE APPROACHING EPIDEMIC
THE TONE-IMPARTING COMMITTEE
OUR PRECIOUS LUNATIC
THE EUROPEAN WAR
THE WILD MAN INTERVIEWED
LAST WORDS OF GREAT MEN
THE CURIOUS REPUBLIC OF GONDOUR
As soon as I had learned to speak the language a little, I became greatly interested in the people and the system of government.
I found that the nation had at first tried universal suffrage pure and simple, but had thrown that form aside because the result was not satisfactory. It had seemed to deliver all power into the hands of the ignorant and non-tax-paying classes; and of a necessity the responsible offices were filled from these classes also.
A remedy was sought. The people believed they had found it; not in the destruction of universal suffrage, but in the enlargement of it. It was an odd idea, and ingenious. You must understand, the constitution gave every man a vote; therefore that vote was a vested right, and could not be taken away. But the constitution did not say that certain individuals might not be given two votes, or ten! So an amendatory clause was inserted in a quiet way; a clause which authorised the enlargement of the suffrage in certain cases to be specified by statute. To offer to "limit" the suffrage might have made instant trouble; the offer to "enlarge" it had a pleasant aspect. But of course the newspapers soon began to suspect; and then out they came! It was found, however, that for once--and for the first time in the history of the republic-- property, character, and intellect were able to wield a political influence; for once, money, virtue, and intelligence took a vital and a united interest in a political question; for once these powers went to the "primaries" in strong force; for once the best men in the nation were put forward as candidates for that parliament whose business it should be to enlarge the suffrage. The weightiest half of the press quickly joined forces with the new movement, and left the other half to rail about the proposed "destruction of the liberties" of the bottom layer of society, the hitherto governing class of the community.
The victory was complete. The new law was framed and passed. Under it every citizen, howsoever poor or ignorant, possessed one vote, so universal suffrage still reigned; but if a man possessed a good common-school education and no money, he had two votes; a high-school education gave him four; if he had property like wise, to the value of three thousand 'sacos,' he wielded one more vote; for every fifty thousand 'sacos' a man added to his property, he was entitled to another vote; a university education entitled a man to nine votes, even though he owned no property. Therefore, learning being more prevalent and more easily acquired than riches, educated men became a wholesome check upon wealthy men, since they could outvote them. Learning goes usually with uprightness, broad views, and humanity; so the learned voters, possessing the balance of power, became the vigilant and efficient protectors of the great lower rank of society.
And now a curious thing developed itself--a sort of emulation, whose object was voting power! Whereas formerly a man was honored only according to the amount of money he possessed, his grandeur was measured now by the number of votes he wielded. A man with only one vote was conspicuously respectful to his neighbor who possessed three. And if he was a man above the common-place, he was as conspicuously energetic in his determination to acquire three for himself.