Re: Pro-democracy movement
Tue, 18 Jun 1996 16:37:17 -0400

Julia Stein writes:

>[T]he democracy movement in this country starting right after the American
>Revolution has also been forgotten. This movement fought for 3 reforms as
>cornerstones of democracy: free public education (including women and
>African-Americans); free public libraries; and suffrage.

I question that the "pro democracy" movement has been forgotten; it never
existed in the first place. To be sure, people did fight for all three
reforms, but connecting and identifying them as being part of a "pro
democracy movement" is not an accurate rendition of history. There was no
particular group that identified itself in this fashion at the relevant times
and the writings of William Manning, which you quoted, were not discovered
until relatively recently. He had little influence during his life. The
move to create public education was widely supported by a variety of
different groups from the very beginning. This was also true regarding the
development of public libraries which got an enormous boost from, of all
things, wealthy, greedy "philanthropists." Women's suffrage was more closely
related to the anti-slavery and prohibition movements which you didn't even

Certainly, they all emphasized the importance of "democracy," as did everyone
else, including the pro slavery supporters. But there were numerous reasons
for each of these movements and while emphasizing the importance of
"democracy" is certainly politic, as it was at the time, it is not
particularly accurate.

When you claim that the "60s was really just an extension of this democracy
movement," you not only connect to a fictitious entity, but you are rather
loose with the underlying facts. The sixties, insofar as this relates to a
widespread youth movement, didn't begin until after the voter registration
drives in the South. The rest of your examples, insofar as they relate to
the sixties, regard efforts to increase personal freedom, which is not
necessarily the same thing as "democracy." In a democracy, people can
choose to restrict the personal freedoms of others, or themselves for that
matter; the two words do not mean the same thing.

Were the sixties, at least substantially, about personal freedom? I have no
quarrel with that interpretation. Was it about democracy? Well, uh, gee,
it's not that I want to say anything bad about democracy, nor did the sixties
for that matter, but that interpretation doesn't ring true. It's a great
sound bite, but if no one buys it -- and why should they -- why press it? It
does not illuminate, it obfuscates. Martin