Mennonite federal electoral behaviour on the West Reserve in Manitoba, 1887-1935
Dueck, Theodore J. H.
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In the writing of history, interpretations are usually based on a set of accepted historical facts. The validity of these facts is, ideally at least, established through rigorous testing of sources and corroboration by independent witnesses. There are times, however, when the mere repetition of assertions of learned writers is taken as sufficient proof of a premise. There are many cases in which the hard facts are difficult to discover. When one speaks of attitudes, perceptions, emotions and beliefs, the objective facts may be surrounded by a nebulous haze of subjectivity. These highly elusive variables are often alluded to in historical writing in a speculative way--persons X and Y behaved in a specific fashion and this may be due to factors A and B or mitigating circumstances C and D. In the study of electoral behaviour, determining how a particular group voted (or did not vote) can be a useful tool in arriving at general conclusions regarding the attitudes and perceptions of that group to certain issues. This process of extrapolation usually depends on the existence of accurate descriptive data of voting behaviour. It is important that necessarily qualitative and subjective conclusions be placed on a solid quantitative base. this is not to say that only quantifiable topics ought to be addressed in historical study. Instead, this is an argument for a history where interpretations are based on facts--where those facts can be measured, they should be, and carefully so. The conclusions reached in such a study will have more credibility than a work wherein the researcher has not bothered to verify his premises. Political activity lends itself to statistical verification very well, and the amount of discussion which is not grounded on solid statistical evidence is therefore somewhat surprising. Mennonite political behaviour has been the subject of chapters in several books and of many learned articles. The attitudes of Mennonites to the relationship between church and state, active political lobbying and participation in political parties have been discussed at length. Mennonite political involvement at the level of voting in elections is examined, including considerable investigation into official church positions on members participating in civic elections. In most cases though, the analysis is almost entirely qualitative, utilizing an impressionistic historical method, and dealing in broad generalizations. The role of Mennonites in the political process at the electoral level in Canada has never been thoroughly investigated in a ....