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WHAT QUESTIONS SHALL BE SUBMITTED TO THE PEOPLE
THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES OR THEIR SERVANTS ?
WHO SHOULD DETERMINE
WHAT MATTERS A SOVEREIGN IS TO ACT UPON
THE SOVEREIGN HIMSELF OR HIS AGENTS?
AT PRESENT (EXCEPT IN A FEW CASES COVERED BY OUR CONSTITUTIONS) THE PEOPLES' AGENTS” DECIDE WHAT QUESTIONS, IF ANY,
SHALL BE SUBMITTED TO THE VOTERS; WHEREBY SAID AGENTS" HAVE GOVERNMENT, LAW, BUSINESS, PROPERTY AND PRIVILEGE, PRACTICALLY IN THEIR OWN HANDS, AND HAVE BECOME MASTERS INSTEAD OF SERVANTS, MAKING LAWS TO SUIT THEMSELVES AND MANAGING PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR THEIR PRIVATE PROFIT, EXERCISING IN FACT, THE CONTROL AND SOVEREIGNTY THAT OF RIGHT BELONG TO THE PEOPLE, AND TRANSFORMING THE GOVERNMENT INTO AN
ELECTIVE ARISTOCRACY IN PLACE OF A DEMOCRACY.
THEIR LOST SOVEREIGNTY
TO THE PEOPLE, IT IS ONLY NECESSARY TO
TRANSFER THE OPTION
OF ORDERING A REFERENDUM OR VOTE AT THE POLLS,
FROM THE LEGISLATORS TO THE PEOPLE;
OR ENLARGE THE OPTION
SO THAT EITHER THE LEGISLATORS OR THE PEOPLE
MAY ORDER ANY QUESTION TO THE POLLS
FOR FINAL DECISION
BY THE VOTERS.
GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE
DEMOCRACY AND DIRECT LEGISLATION.
The National Democratic Platform, adopted at Kansas City, says, “We favor direct legislation wherever practicable.” It is also endorsed by the Populists and by many thoughtful Republicans. The National endorsement is the fitting culmination of the strong and rapidly growing movement for direct legislation in our states and cities38 state platforms, chiefly Democratic and Populist, and over 3,000 newspapers and magazines of various complexion had already declared in favor of direct legislation. Its advocacy by two great parties and by leading men of the other parties is a fact of deepest moment because of the nature and effects of the measure itself, and because of the resulting indications as to the character of the poltical leaders who controlled the conventions adopting direct legislation planks.
1. WHAT IS DIRECT LEGISLATION?
Laws and ordinances (other than mere routine, and urgency measures necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health, peace, or safety) must not go into effect for a month or more after passage, and if during that time a reasonable percentage of voters sign a petition for the referendum on any law or ordinance, it shall be submitted to the people for final decision at the polls. Voters must also have the right to "initiate," or propose a law or ordinance, and bring the issue before the people for decision. This is simply an extension to city and state of the fundamental rights of voters in every New England town, where any 10 voters by petition may require the insertion of any subject in the warrant, and bring the matter to a vote in town meeting.
GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE.
These methods, called the initiative and referendum, enable the people to stop laws they do not want, and secure laws they do want. In other words they establish' government by the people, instead of government by delegates. The delegates (congressmen, legislators and councilmen) will be elected and will pass laws as at present, but their vote will not be final. The people can overrule them, veto, and instruct them. The people will be stronger than the delegates not merely on election day, but every day, and in case of conflict the people's will will prevail, and not the delegates' will as so often happens now.
The best plan is to establish the initiative and referendum by constitutional amendment, so that they may be secure from legislative interference. From the standpoint of such an amendment the referendum may be defined as the right to have a measure referred to the people for final decision at the polls. The reference may be made obligatory, as in the case of constitutional amendments, and important franchise grants in some of our states, or it may be made to depend upon a petition of a moderate percentage of the voters, or upon the order of the mayor, governor, president, or judge, or the order of either house or a certain number of votes in either house.
The initiative is the right to propose a law by petition which in due course brings the measure before the people for. adoption or rejection.
The initiative and referendum together constitute direct legislation and yield in importance to no other measures whatever, for they enable the people to stop any law they do not want before it goes into effect, or annul it after it has gone into effect, if a trial of it shows it objectionable, and they also enable the people to create and establish any law they desire without the necessity of waiting till Congress or Councils see fit to act in the matter—a waiting that is often very long where the measure desired by the people opposes the interests
of powerful corporations who have large "influence” with the legislators. The people may even establish a law against the express vote of Congress, or affirm a law declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Direct legislation will give Uncle Sam the means of controlling the movements of the great train in which he and his family are journeying thru the years,—he can turn off the steam and put on the direct air brake if the engineers and conductors he has hired to manage the train attempt to run it on a road he does not wish to travel, and if they go to sleep, or are held up, or in any way fail to move on the line he desires, he can fix the switch, and turn on the power to suit himself.
II. POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT DIRECT
Sovereignty means control. Where the will of a legislative body may prevail over the will of the people, it is the legislative body that is sovereign and not the people. When the Broadway Surface Railway Company spent $500,000 buying aldermen in New York, and thereby persuaded them to give the company, without payment to the city, a street railway franchise on Broadway for which another company had offered the city a million dollars (and which was worth a great many millions), it was not government by the people, but government by politicians and monopolists against the people. If the citizens of New York had possessed the initiative and referendum, the grant would have been stoppedprobably it would never have been attempted, for no company would pay its dollars to buy legislation certain to be nipped in the bud by a petition and referendum vote. Recently the Philadelphia Councils, “bribed by the rich to rob the poor," have given to private parties a lease of the city's gas works and franchises against the indignant protest of the