Just how broad should suffrage be in a Republic?
Uploaded by Nategrey on Aug 05, 2005
Just how broad should suffrage be in a Republic? That question’s resonated throughout the history of the United States. America is not a Democracy and never has been. Nowhere in the original Constitution is there a reference to voting. The Constitution left it to the states to determine voting procedures and qualifications. Only making broad statements about them maintaining Republican governments. For more than 10 years before the Constitution was written, the states had been writing they’re own suffrage laws. Colonial precedents and English traditions almost universally shaped these laws, and the cornerstone of both Colonial and British suffrage regulations was the restriction of voting to male property owners. There were essentially two rationales for the propertied vote: those who possessed property had a personal stake in society, especially taxation, and that property owners were relatively independent from the support of others. Thus voting was considered to be a social privilege and not a natural right. Those without property were not considered entirely independent and were thought to be easily controllable by interested parties. Likewise, women were excluded from the vote, as were freedmen. In most states Catholics and Jews were also prohibited from voting (Keyssar 5-6).
Colonial property qualifications began to erode after 1790. Though many states retained archaic economic qualification, the enforceable link between property, money, and suffrage had been worn down. Between 1830 and 1955, six states gave up requiring voters to be taxpayers, leaving only six states with tax paying clauses, all of which were nominal. In 1802, Congress declared that any foreign born white male who met a five year residency requirement could become a US citizen three years after formally announcing his intention to become one. Following this precedent, the states shortened their residency requirements, and often permitted aliens to vote in state elections. In the War of 1812, the Federal government had trouble raising a large enough army and had to call on the state militias, reinvigorating the Revolutionary argument that all soldiers must be enfranchised. In the South, large state militias were required in order to put down possible slave revolts, also encouraging the call for universal white male suffrage. By the time the Civil War began, nearly all white males had the vote (Keyssar 29-38).
At the onset of the Civil War,...