Page:Essays on Political Economy (Bastiat).djvu/191

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183
THE LAW.

capable? Are age, sex, and judicial condemnations the only conditions to which incapacity is to be attached?

On taking a nearer view of the subject, we may soon perceive the motive which causes the right of suffrage to depend upon the presumption of incapacity; the most extended system differing only in this respect from the most restricted, by the appreciation of those conditions on which this incapacity depends, and which constitutes, not a difference in principle, but in degree.

This motive is, that the elector does not stipulate for himself, but for everybody.

If, as the republicans of the Greek and Roman tone pretend, the right of suffrage had fallen to the lot of every one at his birth, it would be an injustice to adults to prevent women and children from voting. Why are they prevented? Because they are presumed to be incapable. And why is incapacity a motive for exclusion? Because the elector does not reap alone the responsibility of his vote; because every vote engages and affects the community at large; because the community has a right to demand some securities, as regards the acts upon which his well-being and his existence depend.

I know what might be said in answer to this. I know what might be objected. But this is not the place to exhaust a controversy of this kind. What I wish to observe is this, that this same controversy (in common with the greater part of