The regular debate of the Harvard Union was held last evening. The question for the evening's debate was: Resolved, "That the poll tax as a qualification for the ballot should be abolished."
Mr. Healey '91 opened the debate on the affirmative. He said that the question could not be considered on political grounds but only on grounds of expediency. He declared the poll tax as a requisite for voting to be a refic of the old feudal system and said that it had been abolished in almost all the European countries and by 37 out of the 44 states of the Union. He cited the opinions of the leading men in both the great political parties in favor of the affirmative and closed by showing that the poll tax as a requirement for voting was opposed to the spirit of our free institutions because the right to vote was the inalienable right of every freeman.
A. S. Hayes '91 opened the debate on the negative. He said that it is not merely voters that are wanted but men who can think and vote on sound principles. He gave statistics to show the great falling off of the vote in Massachusetts in the years immediately following presidential elections, and concluded that the abolition of the poll tax as a requisite for voting would greatly increase this lack of interest. The poll tax should be retained until the people of Massachusetts have attained a higher degree of economic knowledge.
S. C. Brackett continued the debate on the affirmative. He opposed this requisite for voting for the reason that all government should rest on the consent of the governed and not on the payment of a poll tax. This tax tends to keep the rich man in office and the poor man out. He said that the men kept from voting are not the scum of our population, but are honest and intelligent citizens. He cited the case of John T. Andrew to show that the present system by inducing the politicians to pay the poll taxes of the rabble, tends to indirect bribery and corruption.
G. P. Costigan '92 continued the debate on the negative. He said that simply paying a man's poll tax was not sufficient to induce him to vote for any particular candidate. He ridiculed the idea that the poll tax was necessarily bad because it came down from feudal time. This qualification adds to the dignity of American citizenship. Its abolition would not diminish bribery but would tend greatly to increase it by increasing the corruption fund of the professional politicians. He thought that the abolition of the poll taxes as a requisite for voting would take away one of the greatest safeguards of good government.
The debate was then thrown open to the house and following gentlemen spoke from the floor: Affirmative, M. E. Grigor, Sp., R. W. Keep, L. S., F. H. Hitchcock, '91. Negative, F. B. Williams, L. S., C. H. Lincoln, '93, A. P. Stone, '93, L. Coolidge, '94, H. F. Hollis, '92, L. K. Morse, '91, W. L. Bartlett '92, L. Jenks, '92, W. R. Buckminster, '94, E. P. Jose, '93, F. W. Dallinger, '93, J. M. Perkins, '92.
The debate was summed up for the negative by A. S. Hayes, '91, and for the affirmative by S. C. Brackett, '91, The vote on the merits of the question was 12 for the affirmative and 8 for the negative. On the merits of the principal disputants 21 for the negative and 4 for the affirmative.
The question chosen for the next debate, Thursday, March 19, was Resolved, That the Republican party was justified in appointing Thos. N. Hart for postmaster of Boston.
The debate was one of the most interesting of the year, and great interest and enthusiasm prevailed.