Regrettably, our conversation got waylaid yesterday by politics in a debate over the meaning "is." That's my fault. I was away closing out a print piece, and left something open when I knew I shouldn't have. Generally, anything over 400 comments--with 200 of them revolving around the same small point--means that wisdom has left the room. Again, this takes about to Toni Morrison and disabusement (more on that later.) When the powers in a state brag that a new law will help their candidate win, and admit that the law is being passed in response to a phantom crime, debating that law becomes uninteresting. It's just more disabusement. Again that's my fault as a moderator, though. I'm sorry about that.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
By 1855, more than half a century after French and American revolutionaries created self-governing republics, democratic governments were still few and feeble on both sides of the Atlantic, and the enemies of democracy--monarchs, aristocrats, and their conservative defenders--still clung tightly to the reins of power in almost every state. Clandestine networks of agitators like Mazzini tried to revive popular revolution in Europe after 1815, but most members of these groups were forced to live in exile, and in their new homes they still often aroused suspicion for their radical views.Even when French revolutionaries succeeded in overturning another monarch in 1830, the French electorate grew only to around 200,000 men--a number representing less than 1 percent of the whole population.12 Elsewhere, universal suffrage remained as controversial as the idea of immediate emancipation in the United States. In the United Kingdom, parliamentary reformers modified the composition of the electorate with the passage of the Reform Act of 1832. But by 1848, despite a massive decade-long Chartist movement calling for universal manhood suffrage, the number of Englishmen who could vote still hovered consistently at just under 20 percent of all adult males in England. Another broadening of the franchise would not occur until a second Reform Bill in 1867, whose merits Garrison heard being debated in the House of Commons before he lunched with Mill.
In the United States, by contrast, universal white manhood suffrage was the law in most states by 1855, making the country an unusual experiment in political democracy. Just as many European and American writers turned to the British West Indies or Haiti to observe the effects of slave emancipation, scores of European travelogues, essays, and books about American democracy appeared in the decades when abolitionists were most active. Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, published in 1835 and 1840, was only the most famous. As Mill noted in the first of his two reviews of that book, the United States was "usually cited by the two great parties which divide Europe as an argument for or against democracy. Democrats have sought to prove by it that we ought to be democrats; aristocrats, that we should cleave to aristocracy, and withstand the democratic spirit."