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Evolution of American Politics (1815-1840)

Autor:   •  March 1, 2016  •  Term Paper  •  1,790 Words (8 Pages)  •  656 Views

Page 1 of 8

Casey Taylor

        Between 1815 and 1840, America had experienced many innovative developments, especially developments made within the political system.  Citizens of America witnessed the large increase of political participation by the common man throughout this time period, as both the number of voters and differing campaign tactics increased sharply.  American citizen’s interest and participation in the political field increased during this time period for many reasons, four of which include the increase in representation for the middle class workers, providing the majority of them with the opportunity to vote for the first time. The innovation of new and unique campaigning tactics such as propagandistic newspapers being introduced to the American public, created an atmosphere of competition and intrigue.  The nation’s tendency to elect new candidates all in the name of change, attracting voters to the polling place in order to see their favorite styled candidate victorious. The final major influence on the rise of American political involvement was the development of the 2nd party system, following the Era of Good Feelings, which presented the polling environment with a competition unseen since the collapse of the Federalist Party.  Combining these three factors along with the tendencies of an innovating environment, American society saw the involvement in the political system begin to rapidly expand into a system in which political participation was a necessity for all eligible voters.

Prior to 1815, American government could hardly be described as a democracy, it was a system in which only 44.4% of states allowed white, property owning males to vote for the Presidential electors (Voter Participation in the United States). In 1800, only three states (Kentucky, New York, and Vermont) held the rights to white manhood suffrage (Mintz 1). The states that withheld suffrage from the majority did so because they feared the anarchy that would be caused by the opinions of uneducated, middle class voters having an influence on the elections.  During the amendment of the Constitution in New York, 1821, James Kent was recorded stating that “The tendency of universal suffrage is to jeopardize the rights of property and the principles of liberty.” Kent later goes on to describe how universal suffrage oftentimes creates an environment with the “constant tendency… in the poor to covet and to share in the plunder of the rich, the debtor to… avoid contracts.” (Kent 1). Although many politicians such as Kent disliked the idea of universal suffrage, state legislatures were forced to remove property qualifications due to the recession presented to the common man brought on by the Panic of 1819 (Mintz 1).  Between 1815 and 1840, the process of removing voting restrictions had already begun, and due to the economic recession of the Panic of 1819, the removal began to spread across the nation.  In 1829, George H. Evans wrote The Working Man’s Declaration of Independence, stating that the middle class workers are entitled to equal opportunity to pursue happiness and “social enjoyment,” and that the ability to vote would assist them in achieving those objects (Evans 1).  Writers such as Evans were the final influence on the removal of voting qualifications and by 1830, ten states presented universal suffrage to white men, eight states restricted voting to taxpayers, and only six had kept the property qualifications (Mintz 1). By 1832, 95.8% of states allowed voters to choose the presidential electors (Voter Participation in the United States).  By the majority of states removing voting requirements such as property and taxpayer qualifications, the common man was presented with much higher chances for eligibility and participation within the election process, giving them the opportunity to be represented within the growing democracy.

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