Our marvelous latter-day statesmanship has invented universal suffrage. That
is the finest feather in our cap. All that we require of a voter is that he
shall be forked, wear pantaloons instead of petticoats, and bear a more or less
humorous resemblance to the reported image of God. He need not know anything
whatever; he may be wholly useless and a cumberer of the earth; he may even
be known to be a consummate scoundrel. No matter. While he can steer clear of
the penitentiary his vote is as weighty as the vote of a president, a bishop,
a college professor, a merchant prince. We brag of our universal, unrestricted
suffrage; but we are shams after all, for we restrict when we come to the women.
- "Universal Suffrage" speech delivered to the Monday Evening Club about 1875. Reprinted in Mark Twain: A Biography, edited by A. B. Paine
As you describe me I can picture myself as I was, 22 years ago. The portrait
is correct. You think I have grown some; upon my word there was room for it.
You have described a callow fool, a self-sufficient ass, a mere human tumble-bug,
stern in air, heaving at his bit of dung & imagining he is re-modeling the
world & is entirely capable of doing it right. Ignorance, intolerance, egotism,
self-assertion, opaque perception, dense & pitiful chuckle-headedness --
& an almost pathetic unconsciousness of it all. That is what I was at 19
- 20; & that is what the average Southerner is at 60 to-day. Northerners,
too, of a certain grade. It is of children like this that voters are made. And
such is the primal source of our government! A man hardly knows whether to swear
or cry over it.
- letter to Jacob H. Burrough, 1 November 1876
But in this country we have one great privilege which they don't have in other
countries. When a thing gets to be absolutely unbearable the people can rise
up and throw it off. That's the finest asset we've got -- the ballot box.
- interview in Boston Transcript, 6 November 1905
Vote: the only commodity that is peddleable without a license.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927
Illustration from first edition of LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
No party holds the privilege of dictating to me how I shall vote. If loyalty
to party is a form of patriotism, I am no patriot. If there is any valuable
difference between a monarchist and an American, it lies in the theory that
the American can decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn't. I claim
that difference. I am the only person in the sixty millions that is privileged
to dictate my patriotism.
- Mark Twain, a Biography
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