History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

CHAPTER XI

JACKSONIAN DEMOCRACY

The New England Federalists, at the Hartford convention, prophesied that in time the West would dominate the East.  “At the adoption of the Constitution,” they said, “a certain balance of power among the original states was considered to exist, and there was at that time and yet is among those parties a strong affinity between their great and general interests.  By the admission of these [new] states that balance has been materially affected and unless the practice be modified must ultimately be destroyed.  The Southern states will first avail themselves of their new confederates to govern the East, and finally the Western states, multiplied in number, and augmented in population, will control the interests of the whole.”  Strangely enough the fulfillment of this prophecy was being prepared even in Federalist strongholds by the rise of a new urban democracy that was to make common cause with the farmers beyond the mountains.

THE DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT IN THE EAST

=The Aristocratic Features of the Old Order.=—­The Revolutionary fathers, in setting up their first state constitutions, although they often spoke of government as founded on the consent of the governed, did not think that consistency required giving the vote to all adult males.  On the contrary they looked upon property owners as the only safe “depositary” of political power.  They went back to the colonial tradition that related taxation and representation.  This, they argued, was not only just but a safeguard against the “excesses of democracy.”

In carrying their theory into execution they placed taxpaying or property qualifications on the right to vote.  Broadly speaking, these limitations fell into three classes.  Three states, Pennsylvania (1776), New Hampshire (1784), and Georgia (1798), gave the ballot to all who paid taxes, without reference to the value of their property.  Three, Virginia, Delaware, and Rhode Island, clung firmly to the ancient principles that only freeholders could be intrusted with electoral rights.  Still other states, while closely restricting the suffrage, accepted the ownership of other things as well as land in fulfillment of the requirements.  In Massachusetts, for instance, the vote was granted to all men who held land yielding an annual income of three pounds or possessed other property worth sixty pounds.

The electors thus enfranchised, numerous as they were, owing to the wide distribution of land, often suffered from a very onerous disability.  In many states they were able to vote only for persons of wealth because heavy property qualifications were imposed on public officers.  In New Hampshire, the governor had to be worth five hundred pounds, one-half in land; in Massachusetts, one thousand pounds, all freehold; in Maryland, five thousand pounds, one thousand of

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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