Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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SUFFRAGE means a vote or a participation in government, and, specifically, the privilege of voting under a representative government, upon the choice of officers, and upon the adoption or rejection of fundamental laws. This privilege has always and everywhere been conditioned, at least, upon age and sex. Universal suffrage, therefore, is an inaccurate though popular description of manhood suffrage—that of males of full age, and there is no right of suffrage except in the sense that this privilege is created and sanctioned by positive law. The object of suffrage is the continuity of government and the preservation and perpetuation of its benefits.


—There are two important theories regarding the basis of suffrage. 1. That it is a privilege granted by the state to such persons or classes as are deemed most likely to use it for the public weal, a device to secure good government whose application must depend upon social conditions, civil institutions and political aptitudes. Most states have acted upon this theory, and, at different times, conditioned suffrage upon age, sex, nativity, religious profession, rank, military service, possession of property, tax payment, character, intelligence, residence. "While the action of a state in determining what political status shall be given to children, women, aliens, inferior races and others, is necessarily arbitrary and artificial, and reflects the convictions of the nation and generation upon the moral claims which arise from the natural facts that differentiate these groups of persons and form their relations" to other groups of persons possessing political power, no disfranchisement is a violation of institutional liberty if it only recognizes natural (physical, mental or moral) inequalities of condition, or of political justice if civil institutions bear equally upon all who are in the same political status, or of equality before the law if due relation is preserved between the political rights and duties that are imposed. 2. That, like life, it is a gift from nature—a natural right of all persons. This political dogma of the eighteenth century is a pure fiction. If this so-called natural right is denied by a state, it can not be enforced: if it exists, it must be unconditioned, but few who affirm it work to secure its enjoyment to females, and none claim that it can be safely exercised by minors. The democratic spirit, formulated in the second theory, and voiced in the American and French revolutions, has been a powerful dissolvent of political privileges justified, in their origin, by the first theory. In one century it has led to a wide adoption of manhood suffrage. Statesmen have sought to direct this movement; demagogues, to profit by it: fools, to stay it.


—Advocates of any extended suffrage claim: 1, that it gives the state the greatest practicable security against internal violence; 2, that the chances of a wise conduct of both its internal and external affairs are increased with every addition of individuals or classes consulted; 3, that each individual and class best knows its own interests and wants; and 4, that no individual or class can be as safely intrusted to protect another's interest as that other itself. These claims are now being tested by manhood suffrage, which is of too recent origin to yield anything more than material for suspended judgment. Yet it is undeniable that the first results of this greatest political experiment of the century are not unmixed good: it has sometimes, especially in cities, borne the evils of ignorant rulers, insecurity of life and property, extravagant and corrupt administration. But good or evil no large curtailment of this suffrage is now possible. The old qualifications are felt to be unjust: the intellectual and moral development of man has made a wide bestowal of the suffrage not only possible but expedient. Any disfranchisement, to be successful, must follow closely the lines of least reasonable resistance, and clearly tend to lessen the enumerated evils. Within such lines there are three such qualifications which may be prescribed by the state with justice, and which only apply the principle that political rights should be correlated to political duties. 1. An educational qualification evidenced by ability to read and write. "No one," says Mill, "but those in whom an a priori theory has silenced common sense, will maintain that power over others, over the whole community, should be imparted to people who have not acquired the commonest and most essential requisites for taking care of themselves—for pursuing intelligently their own interests, and those of the persons most nearly allied to them." Intelligence is not an infallible test of political wisdom, but it is essential to the safe conduct of government; and if it is an admitted evil to withhold the suffrage from any person, the prevention of greater evil demands its denial to the illiterate. So low an educational test can not, with present private and public aid for elementary instruction, long bar any one from the electorate who would strengthen the state. 2. An economic qualification evidenced by maintenance without municipal aid, and the payment of a poll tax. In politics, as elsewhere, only that which costs is valued. The industrial virtues imply self-denial, which prepares their possessors to wield political power; but pauperism raises a presumption of unfitness to share in political power. The person who can not support himself has no moral claim to rule one who can. The payment of one direct tax is a political object-lesson, useful to all, and imperatively needed by those who pay no other tax and occasion the greater part of all police expenditure. In cities an additional qualification—the payment of such taxes or rent as give a substantial interest in the economical administration of the municipality—should be imposed upon the electors of the local body which makes municipal appropriations and lays municipal taxes. Its necessity is fully set forth in the report of the commission appointed in the state of New York, in 1876, to devise a plan for the government of cities. (See CITIES.) "Non-taxpayers," says Mill, "have very motive to be lavish, and none to economize. As far as money matters are concerned, any power of voting possessed by them is a violation of the fundamental principles of free government, a severance of the power of control from the interest in its beneficial exercise." 3. A moral qualification evidenced by habitual obedience to the positive law of the state. Such obedience, practically, is the interpretation given by the courts to the phrase "good moral character." Theoretically the wisdom of thus restricting the suffrage has long been admitted. One of the present state constitutions mentions "good moral character" as one of the conditions to citizenship; the United States statutes require an alien applying for naturalization to "make it appear to the satisfaction of the court admitting such alien, * * that during that term (five years) he has behaved as a man of good moral character." Practically, the enforcement of these constitutional and statutory requirements has been impossible, for the law has never given naturalization courts and registrars of elections any adequate means for the determination of the law-abiding character of applicants for citizenship and registration.


—The political injustice of allowing law-breakers, inflicting heavy taxes upon law-keepers, to become and remain voters, that is, law-makers, is equaled only by its danger, for wherever a bare majority rule, and the will of law-breakers is allowed legal expression, the action of the majority and of the state may be determined by its basest elements. This danger can be diminished by 1, Laws establishing a systematic registration of criminals, with provisions for the publication and exchange of criminal registers. 2. Laws so extending the use of disfranchisement as a penalty for crime for males, that conviction for any felony shall, in addition to other punishments, entail, ipso facto, permanent political disability; and that a single conviction for certain misdemeanors which imply unfitness to discharge the duties of a voter (as, for example, illegal voting and petit larceny), or such repeated convictions for any misdemeanor or different misdemeanors as may by statute law and judicial construction constitute one an "habitual misdemeanant," a "common drunkard," or a "repeater," shall, in addition to any other penalties, be followed by a temporary loss of the suffrage. 3. Laws requiring clerks of criminal courts to report at stated times the names and descriptions of all persons convicted of disfranchisable crimes to clerks of naturalization courts and to registrars of elections, whose duty it shall be to refuse to such persons citizenship and registration until the disability is removed.


—This policy of punishing crime politically, if adopted and maintained, would tend, first, to purify the electoral body by purging it of its most corrupt and corruptible elements, and so preserve the national life by limiting its control to law-abiding citizens; second, to lower taxes by divesting the most wasteful and least productive members of society of all power, directly or indirectly, to appropriate the public moneys, and by substituting, in many cases, an inexpensive disability for an expensive confinement; third, to reform occasional offenders, and to deter the young from criminal acts by appealing to two of the strongest motives to lawful action which operate in a democratic country, viz., fear of permanent political inferiority, and hope of civic honor.


In the American Colonies, 1619-1789. The original settlers, with unimportant exceptions, all had a voice in public affairs. The founders of Virginia and of New England (the original forces which determined the course of colonial development) were mainly Englishmen, accustomed to self-government, and in each colony homogeneity of character, community of interests and belief, economic conditions, and military necessities, found expression in equality of political privileges till the arrival of men of other blood and religion, of "indented servants," "redemptioners," transported felons, and negroes, introduced social inequalities. From that time electoral qualifications varied greatly, and often in different colonies, the most constant tests being religious profession and possession of property. The influx of immigrants of different religions soon compelled the abolition of the former test, and the economic conditions of the country, tending powerfully to equality of condition, early in the colonial period produced a movement which has been "constant though not steady, and is not yet spent, toward absolute equality of political rights and privileges." The first legislative body that ever sat in America (at Jamestown, July 30, 1619) was elected by all the male inhabitants. Notwithstanding some fluctuation, both before and after, the Virginia colony, from 1670, restricted the suffrage to "freeholders and house-keepers," the reason stated being that the "usual way of choosing burgesses by the votes of all persons who, having served their time, are freemen of this country," produced tumults at the election, and that it would be better to follow the English fashion and "grant a voyce in such election only to such as by their estates, real or personal, have interest enough to tye them to the endeavor of the publique good." The first legislative body in New England (at Plymouth, 1620,) was composed of all the male inhabitants, and this township type and school of government was adopted in other New England settlements. It was ordered, May 18, 1631, before there was a representative body in Massachusetts, "that no man should be admitted to this body politic but such as are members of some of the churches within the limits of the same." This was not repealed until Aug. 3, 1664. It excluded for thirty years three-fourths of the male inhabitants from the ballot box; and a parallel law is found only in New Haven colony, where, June 4, 1639, a fundamental agreement was adopted providing "that church members only shall be free burgesses, and they only shall choose among themselves magistrates and officers to have the power of transacting all public civil affairs of this plantation." The first representative court in Massachusetts, in 1634, ordered "that none but freeman should have any vote in any town." The Massachusetts charter of 1691 restricted suffrage to the possessors of an estate of freehold in land to the value of 40s. per annum, or other estate to the value of £40. At the beginning of the eighteenth century a freehold test had become common in the colonies, though all attempts (see Locke's "Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina," 1669,) to limit political power to hereditary wealth had failed. In some colonies, laws imposed penalties on absentees from town meetings or elections, a survival of which appears in the constitution (article xii.) of Georgia, in force 1777-89. From 1700 to 1776, inclusive, no change occurred in the social condition of the colonies necessitating any radical change in the suffrage, except that parliament, in 1746, substituted for the various naturalization acts which their need of immigrant laborers had induced several colonies to pass before the close of the preceding century, a uniform system of naturalization, on the basis of seven years' residence, at oath of allegiance, and profession of the "Protestant Christian faith." Independence brought about some extension of the suffrage, but, though the demonstrated capacity for self-government of the colonists led to a declaration of the right of self-government in all classes of mankind, the principle was not consistently followed by revolutionary statesmen. "They extended it just so far as the conditions of the time and place at once necessitated and made safe; and sought to shun two opposite dangers: danger to the government from the supremacy of any class, and danger to the government by the exclusion of any class which might have sufficient unity, self-conscious power and independent interest to attempt the same kind of revolution which the colonists had themselves sanctioned. "The last survival of the test of religious profession appears in the constitution of South Carolina (article xiii.)in force 1778-90, which limited suffrage to "every free white man who acknowledge the being of a God, and believes in a future state of rewards and punishments."


—When the federal constitution was adopted, each state was left by its constitution, or by its charter from the crown (under which two states, Rhode Island and Connecticut, continued to act), to prescribe for itself who should have the privilege of voting. No state then granted that privilege to all of its citizens. It was limited to the following classes of persons: in New Hampshire, "every male inhabitant of each town and parish with town privileges, and places unincorporated in the state, of twenty-one years of age and upward, excepting paupers and persons excused from paying taxes at their request"; in Massachusetts, "every male inhabitant of twenty-one years of age and upward, having a freehold estate within the commonwealth of the annual income of three pounds, or any estate of the value of sixty pounds", in Rhode Island, "such as are admitted free of the company and society, "freeholders of estate of the value of $134, and the eldest sons of such freeholders; in Connecticut, such persons as had "maturity in years, quiet and peaceable behaviour, a civil conversation, and forty shillings freehold or forty pounds personal estate," if so certified by the selectmen; in New York, "every male inhabitant of full age who shall have personally resided within one of the counties of the state for six months immediately preceding the day of election, if during the time aforesaid he shall have been a freeholder, possessing a freehold of the value of twenty pounds within the county, or have rented a tenement therein of the yearly value of forty shillings, and been rated and actually paid taxes to the state"; in New Jersey, "all inhabitants of full age, who are worth fifty pounds, proclamation money, clear estate in the same, and have resided in the county in which they claim a vote for twelve months immediately preceding the election"; in Pennsylvania, "every freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the state two years next before the election, and within that time paid a state or county tax which shall have been assessed at least six months before the election"; in Delaware "as exercised by law at present, "all resident tax-paying freemen;" in Virginia, "as exercised by law at present, "persons having a freehold estate of one hundred acres of unimproved land, or twenty-five acres of improved land, or a house and lot in a town; in Maryland, "all freemen above twenty-one years of age, having a freehold of fifty acres of land in the county in which they offer to vote, and residing therein, and all freemen having property in the state above the value of thirty pounds current money, and having resided in the county in which they offer to vote one whole year next preceding the election"; in North Carolina, for senators, "all freemen of the age of twenty-one years who have been inhabitants of any one county within the state twelve months immediately preceding the day of election, and possessed of a freehold within the same county of fifty acres of land for six months next before and at the day of election." and for members of the house of common. "all freemen of the age of twenty years who have been inhabitants of any one county within the state twelve months immediately preceding the day of any election, and shall have paid public taxes"; in South Carolina, "every free white man of the age of twenty-one years, being a citizen of the state, and having resided therein two years previous to the day of election, and who hath a freehold of fifty acres of land, or a town lot of which he hath been legally seized and possessed at least six months before such election, or (not having such freehold or town lot), hath been a resident within the election district in which he offers to give his vote six months before said election, and hath paid a tax the preceding year of three shillings sterling toward the support of the government" and in Georgia such "citizens and inhabitants of the state as shall have attained to the age of twenty-one years, and shall have paid tax for the year next preceding the election, and shall have resided six months within the county."


In the United States, 1789-1884. During this period freehold franchise has given way to manhood suffrage. The French revolution, intensifying the democratic spirit till Americans abhorred all political privileges as British badges; the transfer of political leadership from conservative statesmen of long experience to radical politicians echoing the French dogma of political equality, the vast expansion of territory, with the settlement of new states bidding against each other with political franchises for immigrants; the growth of population, with the rise of large cities inhabited by many uninterested in the soil; the anti-slavery agitation, spreading the doctrine of the "rights of man"; the gradual popular recognition that the principles of the declaration of independence had not been logically applied; the private interest of demagogues, and the fierce competition of parties careful for the next election if neglectful of the next generation; and, finally, the alleged necessity imposed by a war, one of whose incidents was the emancipation of a race—are some of the causes which have united to produce the existing electoral franchise. Eleven of the thirteen original states have abolished the tax and property tests, as follows: New Hampshire, the tax test in 1792; Georgia, the property test in 1798; Maryland, the property test in 1801 and 1809; Massachusetts, the property test in 1821: New York, the property test in 1821, and the tax test in 1826; Delaware, the property test in 1831; New Jersey, the property test in 1844; Connecticut, the property test in 1845; South Carolina, the property test in 1865; North Carolina, the property test in 1854 and 1868; Virginia, the property test in 1850, and the tax test, established in 1864, in 1882. The only new states which have required a property or even a tax qualification, are the following: Tennessee, admitted in 1796 with a freehold qualification, abolished it in 1834; Ohio, admitted in 1802 with a tax qualification, abolished it in 1851; Louisiana, admitted in 1812 with a tax qualification, abolished it in 1845; Mississippi, admitted in 1817 with a militia or tax qualification, abolished it in 1832. Long before they disappeared, tax and property tests had become forms. Parties or candidates paid the taxes of unqualified citizens whose votes were needed and could thereby be had, or conveyed lend to them before election, which was deeded back after election. Thus, by degrees, all native-born white males of age were allowed to vote upon taking the freeman's oath, after a brief term of residence in a state or town, and the competition of new states for laborers led to the gradual extension of suffrage to alien declarants, who now have it is thirteen states. After the rise of the American party, Massachusetts, during 1859-63, denied the suffrage to aliens, unless "they shall have resided within the jurisdiction of the United States two years subsequent to naturalization, and shall be otherwise qualified". Free black males of age, who could vote in some slave states, as Tennessee (Const. of 1834), were disfranchised in some free states, as Connecticut (Const. of 1818).


—In the southern states political power was held exclusively by the property-owning and educated classes till the close of the rebellion. When slavery was abolished by the 13the amendment (see Const. III., Amendments) in 1865, the dominant party in congress apparently had no intention of interfering wit the control of the suffrage in the states. But the inadequate protection given the negro in the southern states, and the unwillingness of the northern states that his freedom should increase the political power of those lately in rebellion, led to the adoption of the 14th amendment (see Const., III., Amendments) in 1868. This conferred citizenship upon the negro, guaranteed to him the same rights enjoyed by white citizens of the United States, and made if for the interest of the southern states to voluntarily extend the suffrage to the negro, by providing that when the right of voting is denied to any of the male inhabitants of any state, being twenty-one years of age and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, such state's representation in congress shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state. This amendment not being promptly ratified when proposed, in 1866 (see Const., III., Amendments), was followed by the reconstruction act of March 2, 1867 (see RECONSTRUCTION, for temporary political disabilities), which made it a condition of the restoration of the seceding states that new constitutions should be adopted, framed by "delegates elected by the male citizens twenty-one years old and upward, of whatever race, color or previous condition", and securing "to all such persons" the elective franchise, and by the adoption of the 15th amendment, in 1870, which provides that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color previous condition of servitude". The reasons for this amendment were (Cooley's Con. Law, 264, 265; Hunt J., in U. S. vs. Reese, 92 U. S. R., 214, 247): "1. That unless the ballot was given to the freedom, the government of the southern states must for a considerable time be in the hands of those lately in rebellion, and that the existence in a political community of a great body of citizens against whom the laws discriminate in a particular which makes the discrimination a stigma and disgrace, must always be an occasion of discontent, disorder and danger. 2, That it would benefit the colored race by giving them importance, securing to them respect, protecting them against unfriendly action or legislation, and by acting as an educational process." This enfranchisement of the negro is the last of a series of extensions of a suffrage which began in the colonial period, and have ended by nominally conferring political supremacy in some states upon those whose former status as slaves leaves them illiterates and non-taxpayers, unhabituated to the obedience of law.


—The existing conditions of the suffrage in the United States are now the following: The constitution of the United States confers the right to vote upon no one. That right is not a "privilege or immunity" of citizens of the United States: when they possess it at all, even for electing representatives and presidential electors—the only federal officers chosen by popular vote


—it is created by state constitutions and state laws. (Const. of U. S., Art 1., Sec. 2; Art. II., Sec. 1.) The fifteenth amendment to the constitution does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one, but it invests citizens of the United States with the right of exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise, on account of their race, color or previous condition of servitude, and empowers congress to enforce that right by appropriate legislation. The power of the state to exclude from the franchise upon other grounds, including those of nativity, sex. illiteracy and non-payment of taxes, remains intact. The power of congress to legislate at all upon the subject of voting at state elections rests upon this amendment, and can be exercised by providing a punishment only when the wrongful refusal to receive the vote of the qualified elector at such elections is because of his race, color or previous condition of servitude. The third and fourth sections of the act of May 31, 1870 (16 Stat., 140), not being confined in their operations to the above-described unlawful discrimination, are beyond the limit of the 15th amendment, and unauthorized.(U. S.vs.Reese, 92 U. S., 214.) Qualifications of electors are defined in the several state constitutions, and no additional qualifications can be required by the state legislature, but the legislature may prescribe by law "such conditions to the exercise of the elective franchise as shall seem reasonable to protect the privilege, and to prevent impositions and other frauds, and also all proper regulations for receiving and canvassing votes."(Cooley's Con Law, 252.) The qualifications prescribed by existing state constitutions are shown in the table on pages 828, 829.

Table.  Click to enlarge in new window.

Table.  Click to enlarge in new window.


—Some constitutions require registration; some disfranchise any persons while under guardianship; some, any person while kept in any poor-house or other asylum at public expense, or while confined in any public prison; some, any person stationed in any state while in the military, naval or marine service of the United States; some, idiots or insane persons, but these persons, without express mention, are excluded from voting, as incapable of exercising legal volition. The educational test shown in the table was established in Connecticut in 1855, the Massachusetts in 1857, in Missouri in 1876. The constitutions of Alabama and Mississippi forbid the imposition of such a test. That of Florida allows if after 1880; that of Colorado, after 1890. The economic test shown is at least the prepayment of some tax, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Tennessee and Georgia. The constitutions of Alabama, Arkansas, California and Mississippi, expressly forbid a property test, and the constitution of Arkansas also expressly forbids a poll-tax test; that of Nevada allows it. Paupers are expressly disfranchised in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. A moral test exists in all the states except four (Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and West Virginia), but if satisfactory proof of the reformation of the offender is given, the constitutions of ten states (Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin) expressly permit restoration to the suffrage; some of them by a two-thirds vote of the legislature, others by a majority vote.


—The table on page 831 shows the offenses for which states disfranchise for crime by the express terms of their constitutions, or for which their legislatures may make disfranchisement a penalty. It shows that conviction of the offenses enumerated, does or may disfranchise, specifically as follows: of bribery, in twenty-three states; of felony, in sixteen states; of infamous crime, in sixteen states; of treason, in eleven states; of dueling, in eleven states; of perjury, in ten states; of forgery, in seven states; of larceny, in seven states; of embezzlement of public funds, or fraud, in seven states; of election misdemeanors, in six states; of other high crimes or malfeasance in office, in six states; of murder, in two states; of robbery, in two states. Conviction of some of the enumerated crimes also disqualifies for jury service in some of the states, while permanent ineligibility to office is the sole political disability that is inflicted upon those guilty of bribery or of dueling in other states. Three states (Nebraska Nevada and Wisconsin) admit the principle of the exterritoriality of crime in their constitutional provisions for disfranchisement.

Table.  Click to enlarge in new window.


Territories. The ordinance of 1787, for the government of the northwest territory, provided that "so soon as there shall be 5,000 free male inhabitants of full age in the district, they shall receive authority to elect representatives to a general assembly: provided, also, that a freehold in fifty acres of land in the district, having been a citizen of one of the states, and being resident in the district, or the like freehold, and two years' residence in the district, shall be necessary to qualify a man as an elector of a representative." The constitution having given congress power to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States, two forms of territorial government have from time to time been established: 1, by an executive and judges of federal appointment, who together constitute a legislature; 2, by an executive and judges of federal appointment and a legislature composed of representatives chosen by the people of the territory. In the second form of government, the basis of suffrage has been substantially uniform, being limited commonly, as it now is by law in the first election in a territory, to "every male citizen above the age of twenty-one years, including persons who have legally declared their intention to become citizens in any territory hereafter organized, and who are actually residents of such territory at the time of the organization thereof." At subsequent elections the qualifications of voters may be prescribed by the legislative assembly of each territory, provided that the right of voting shall be exercised only by citizens of the United States above the age of twenty-one years, and by alien declarants above that age, who have taken the required oath; that it be not denied to a citizen on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude; and that no person in the army or navy, or attached to troops in the service of the United States, shall be allowed to vote by reason of being on service in the territory, unless it has been for six months his permanent domicile.


District of Columbia. The government of this district, over which congress has the power of exclusive legislation, was originally vested in a board of three commissioners under the act of July 16, 1790. This board was abolished by act of May 1,1802, and the city of Washington was incorporated by act of May 3, 1802, which provided that its council should be elective " by the free white male inhabitants of full age who have resided twelve months in the city, and paid taxes therein the year preceding." An act of May 15, 1820, provided that both the mayor and the council should be elective by "every free white male citizen of the United States of lawful age, who shall have resided in the city for one year next preceding the day of election, and shall be a resident of the ward in which he shall offer to vote, and who shall have been assessed for the year ending on the 31st day of December next preceding the day of election, and who shall have paid all taxes legally assessed and due on personal property, when legally required to pay the same. "The act of May 17, 1848, re-enacted this qualification, with the addition that it apply to persons assessed "as subject to a school tax for that year (except persons non compos mentis, vagrants, paupers or persons who have been convicted of any infamous crime), and who shall have paid the school tax and all taxes on personal property due from him." An act of March 4, 1855, for the codification of the laws of the District of Columbia, provided for the submission of the proposed code to the votes of "every free white male citizen of the United States above the age of twenty-one years, who has resided in said district for one year next preceding such election." The act of Jan. 8, 1867, extended the suffrage in the District of Columbia to "every male person, except paupers and persons under guardianship of the age of twenty-one years and upward, who has not been convicted of any infamous crime, and excepting persons who have voluntarily given aid and comfort to the rebels, in the late rebellion, and who shall have been born or naturalized in the United States, and who shall have resided in this district for one year, and three months in the ward in which he shall offer to vote without distinction on account of race or color." The act of Feb. 21, 1871, created a legislative assembly for the District of Columbia, consisting of a council and house of delegates, to be elected by " all male citizens of the United States above the age of twenty-one years, except such as are noncampos mentis, and persons convicted of infamous crimes, who have been actual residents of the district for twelve months prior to any election therein, and of the election district, or precinct in which they shall respectively reside, for thirty days immediately preceding such election." This act applied a severe test to the political theories of the advocates of unrestricted suffrage. The white population of the district always contains a large mobile element which has no large interest in its weal; almost the whole black population was ignorant, and without political responsibility. From 1860 to 1870 the white population had increased from 60,763 to 88,278, and the black population from 14,316 in 1860, to 43,404 in 1870. Under these conditions unrestricted suffrage produced extravagance, corruption and other incidents of bad government. Congress was petitioned for relief, and by the act of June 11, 1878, representative government was abolished, a population of 177,000 left without a voter, and the government vested, as originally under the act of July 16, 1790, in a board of commissioners.


—WOMAN SUFFRAGE. The political dogma of the eighteenth century, that suffrage is a natural right, led to an early demand for its extension to woman. Condorcet published July 3, 1790, in Journal de la societe de 1789, a plea for citizenship of women. The constitution of New Jersey, framed in 1776, permitted all inhabitants of certain qualifications to vote, and an act to regulate elections under it passed in 1793, provided that "every voter shall openly, and in full view, deposit his or her ballot, which shall be a single written ticket containing the names of the persons for whom he or she votes." This act was repealed in 1807. Agitation against slavery in the United States gave prominence to the dogma of "natural rights", and small groups of persons before the close of the first half century demanded its universal application. The first woman's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, N. Y., July 19, 1848. It based the claims of woman on the declaration of independence, and demanded equal rights. The first national woman's rights convention was held at Worcester, Mass., Oct. 23, 1850. The attention of the English people was called to the subject of woman suffrage by an article in the "Westminister Review" in 1851, and effective demand for the enfranchisement of woman dates from this time, 1850-51. Its advocates argue that it is a natural right, and that "the consent of the governed" is not "the governed property holders, nor the governed voting men, nor the governed married men." but all the governed men and women; that taxation without representation is tyranny; that the voting of males is no longer conditioned upon military service; that no class is as safe a guardian of the interests of another class as that other class itself; and that woman needs a vote to adequately protect and advance her interests. Its opponents reply, that the suffrage is not a natural right, that in all ages and countries it has been conditioned by qualifications of expediency; that representation of tax-paying women practically exists; that the interests of the family and of the state will be best preserved by continuing the divisions of labor which hitherto has exempted women not only from military service, but from the performance of political duties; that the interests of women are not so distinct from those of men as to make their representation as a class either necessary or expedient; and that their interests can be adequately protected without their having a vote. The agitation has resulted in the limited and tentative enfranchisement of woman in certain states, and for certain purposes. In 1866 the American equal rights association presented the first petition ever laid before congress for woman suffrage. In 1868 the New England woman suffrage association was formed, and the first systematic effort begun for memorializing legislatures and congress, obtaining hearings before these bodies, holding conventions, publishing and distributing tracts and documents, and securing lecturers. The agitation had, by 1870, assumed such dimensions in Massachusetts, that the republican convention, held Oct. 5, 1870, admitted Lucy Stone and Mary A. Livermore as regularly accredited delegates. The Massachusetts republican state convention of 1871 indorsed woman suffrage, and the national republican conventions of 1872 and 1876 resolved that the subject "should be treated with respectful consideration." The legislature of the territory of Wyoming, by an act approved Dec. 10, 1869, granted the right to suffrage to women. The same right was extended to women in the territory of Washington in 1883, and has long been exercised by them in the territory of Utah. Woman suffrage limited to school elections has at various times been conferred as follows: Women may vote a school meetings in Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Vermont, Dakota and Wyoming; at school elections in Colorado and Minnesota; and for members of school committees in Massachusetts; at school meetings in Michigan and New York, if they are tax payers; in Washington territory, if they are liable to taxation. Widows and unmarried women in Idaho may vote as to special district taxes, if they hold taxable property. In Oregon, widows having children and taxable property may vote to school meetings. In Indiana, "Women, not married nor minors, who pay taxes and are listed as parents, guardians, or heads of families, may vote to school meetings." In Kentucky any white widow, having a child of school age, is a qualified school voter; if she has no child, but is a tax payer, she may vote on the question of taxes.


—The first European legislature to give the right of suffrage to woman was the house of keys, in the Isle of Man, which passed an act, approved Jan. 5, 1881, to extend this privilege to women having certain property qualifications. The British parliament, by an act approved Aug. 2, 1869, granted the municipal franchise to women in England and Wales; by an act approved June 3, 1881, extended the municipal franchise in Scotland to unmarried woman, and women not living in families with their husbands; and by an act approved in 1870, extended the privilege of voting for school boards to rate payers, including women. Prior to the passage of these acts, women had, by the custom of London, and the custom of some other parts of England, certain rights of suffrage in municipal affairs.


—A summary of the laws relating to suffrage, in the Dominion of Canada and in the principal countries of Europe, will be found in the books below, cited under the title "In foreign states."


—See, on suffrage: Mill's Representative Government, chap. viii.; Lieber's Civil Liberty and Self-Government, chap. xvi. and app. i.; Woolsey's Political Science, vol. i., pp. 299-302, and vol. ii., pp. 111, 112; Sumner's Theory and Practice of Elections, in "Princeton Review," March and July, 1880. On suffrage in the United States: Poore's Charters and Constitutions: Bancroft's History of the United States, passim; Hildreth's History of the United States, vol. iii., pp. 381, 506; Frothingham's Rise of the Republic, chap. i.; Cooke's Virginia, pp. 222-225; De Tocqueville's Democracy in America, vol. i., chaps. v., xiii.; Cooley's Constitutional Law, chap. xiv., secs. 1, 2; Minor vs. Happersett, 21 Wal., 172, 173; Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wal., 36; U. S. vs. Reese, 92 U. S. Rep., 214; Spencer vs. Board of Registration, 1 McArthur (D. C.) 169. In the territories; Poore's Charters and Constitutions; Revised Statutes of U. S., Secs. 1859, 1860. In the District of Columbia: Const. of U. S., Art. I., Sec. 8; Stat. at Large. On negro suffrage, N. A. Rev., vol. 128, pp.161, 225. On disfranchisement for crime, Journal of Social Science for 1882, No. 17, p. 71. On Woman suffrage Mill's Representative Government, chap. viii., and Subjection of Women; Condorcet's Plea for Citizenship of Women, Fort. Rev., vol. xiii., p. 719: Journal of Social Science, No. 10, p. 42; Stephens' Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, chap. v.; Robinson's Massachusetts in the Women Suffrage Movement, N. A. Rev., vol. 129, pp. 303, 413, and vol. 130, p. 16; Report of Bureau of Education, 1880, xxv., xxvi. In foreign states: Demombynes' Les Constitutions Européennes, 1881; Block's Dictionnaire de l'Administration Francaise, Art. Elections, and at end, Administration Comparée; Martin's Statesman's Year-Book, 1883. In Great Britain: Walpole's The Electorate and the Legislature. In Germany: Report of Foreign Relations of U. S., 1877-8, p. 196. In Prussia, idem, p. 176.


Notes for this chapter

Notes to Table.

The adjective "white" before "male" in some constitutions, adopted before the 15th amendment, is here omitted.

a. Declarant means a male person of foreign birth, who shall have declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, conformably to the naturalization laws of the United States.
b. "Immediately preceding the election at which he offers to vote."
c. " The general assembly may prescribe a longer or shorter residence in any precinct or county, or in any ward in any city or town having a population of more than 5,000 inhabitants, but in no case to exceed three months." (Const., Art. VIII., Sec. 1.)
d. "Provided no native of China shall ever exercise the privileges of an elector."
e. "Provided that no person shall be denied the right to vote at any school district election, or to hold any school district office, on account of sex." (Const., Art. VII., Sec. 1.) And "The general assembly may enact laws to extend the right of suffrage to women of lawful age, and otherwise qualified. No such enactment shall be of effect until submitted to the vote of the qualified electors at a general election, nor unless the same be approved by a majority of those voting thereon." (Idem, Sec. 2.)
f. "In the county, town or city in which he offers to vote."
g. "The legislature may provide by law that any woman of the age of twenty-one years and upward may vote at any election held for the purpose of choosing any officers of schools, or upon any measure relating to schools, and may also provide that any each woman shall be eligible to hold any office pertaining solely to the management of such schools." (Const., Art., Vii., Sec. 8.)
h. "Who have adopted the customs and habits of civilization."
i. "persons of Indian blood residing in the state, who have adopted the language, customs, and habits of civilization, shall have been pronounced (by any district court of the state)capable of enjoying the rights of citizenship."
j. "If twenty-two years of age or upward."
k. "Provided, that no person shall at any time be allowed to vote in the election of the city council of the city of Providence, or upon any proposition to impose a tax, or for the expenditure of money in any town or city, unless he shall, within the year next preceding, have paid a tax assessed upon his property therein, valued at least at $134."
l. "Who have once been declared by law of congress to be citizens of the United States, and civilized persons of Indian descent, not members of any tribe."

Notes to Table

a. A crime punishable by death or imprisonment in a state prison.
b. The constitution adopted by California in 1879 expressly disfranchises for infamous crime, embezzlement or misappropriation of public money, and dueling, and says that laws shall be made to exclude from the right of suffrage persons convicted of the above starred crimes.
c. Theft is the term used in the constitution of Connecticut.
d. The legislature may make the forfeiture of the right of suffrage a punishment for crime.
e. No person who has been dishonorably discharged from the service of the United States is qualified to vote or hold office in Kansas.
f. Since 1876 "the legislature may enact laws excluding from the right of suffrage, for a term not exceeding ten years," for this crime at any election.
g. These crimes forever disqualify for voting.
h. "Under the law of the state, or of the United States, unless restored to civil rights."
i. "In any state or territory of the United States, unless restored to civil rights,"
j. The constitution of Nevada, Art. Iv., Sec. 10, makes intelligible for office persons convicted of embezzlement, or defalcation of public funds, or bribery, and empowers the legislature to make these crimes punishable as felonies; and by Art. II., Sec. 1. clony disfranchises.
k. The constitution of New Jersey, Art. II., sec. 1. says that "no person convicted of a crime which now excludes him from being a witness, unless pardoned or restored by law to the right of suffrage, shall enjoy the right of an elector." The laws of the state make persons convicted of the tabulated crimes incompetent as witnesses, and if the crime is perjury or subornation of perjury, a pardon does not remove the incompetency.
l. Disfranchises "at such election," as do all corrupt offers to give or receive money or other valuable thing for a vote, in both New York and Pennsylvania.
m. Any person convicted of this offense "shall, in addition to any penalties provided by law, be deprived of the right of suffrage absolutely for a term of four years."
n. "Any elector who shall receive any gift or reward for his vote, in meat, drink, money, or otherwise , shall suffer such punishment as the laws shall direct."
o. "Subject to such exceptions as the legislature may make."
p. "Any elector who shall receive any gift or reward for his vote, in meat, drink, money, or otherwise, shall forfeit his right to elect at that time, and suffer such other penalty as the law shall direct."
q. "Petit larceny,"
r. "No person who is under conviction of treason, felony or bribery in an election, shall be permitted to vote while such disability continues." (Const, of W. Va., Art. IV., Sec. 1) This phrase, "while such disability continues, "has not received judicial interpretation in West Virginia, but is constructed by election officers to mean during imprisonment.
s. "These crimes are treason, felony, and the 'crimen falsi.'

—which term includes crimes which involve a charge of such falsehood as may injuriously affect the public administration of justice by the introduction therein of falsehood and fraud, such as forgery, perjury, subornation of perjury, or conspiracy to procure the absence of a witness."
t. And persons "who may be under interdiction."

Footnotes for SWEDEN.

End of Notes

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