The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the by Alexander Keyssar

By Alexander Keyssar

An esteemed historian bargains a compelling re-thinking of the trail the United States has taken towards its target of common suffrage so much americans take without any consideration their correct to vote, whether or not they decide to workout it or no longer. however the heritage of suffrage within the U.S. is, in fact,the tale of a fight to accomplish this correct via our society's marginalized teams. within the correct to Vote, Duke historian Alexander Keyssar explores the evolution of suffrage over the process the nation's historical past. reading the numerous positive factors of the background of definitely the right to vote within the U.S.-class, ethnicity, race, gender, faith, and age-the e-book explores the stipulations below which American democracy has multiplied and gotten smaller through the years. Keyssar offers convincing proof that the historical past of definitely the right to vote has no longer been certainly one of a gradual background of growth and lengthening inclusion, noting that vote casting rights gotten smaller considerably within the U.S. among 1850 and 1920. Keyssar additionally offers a arguable thesis: that the first issue selling the growth of the suffrage has been warfare and the first components selling contraction or delaying enlargement were category rigidity and sophistication clash.

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32 Remarkably, the argument that the poor should not vote because they had “no will of their own” coexisted with an altogether contradictory argument, often expressed by the same people: the poor, or the propertyless, should not In the Beginning 11 vote because they would threaten the interests of property—that is, they would have too much will of their own. ”33 Indeed, the almost obsessive incantation of Blackstone’s phrase may well have been a refraction, a semiconscious mask, of class apprehensions, a sign that the well-to-do feared not that the poor would have no will of their own but precisely the opposite.

Vast new territories were added by purchase or conquest, and wars were fought against Britain and Mexico. Commerce expanded, thousands of workers carved canals through the earth, steam-powered ships made their way up and down the Mississippi, and the South grew dependent on the cash crop of cotton. In the Northeast, particularly after the War of 1812, manufacturing industries, led by textiles, became increasingly prominent features of the economic and physical landscape. This fast-moving assembly of changes created pressures for the states to significantly revise the blueprints for governance that they had drawn during the era of the revolution.

The question loomed large, and in many of the former colonies, the revolutionary period—stretching from the mid-1770s to the ratification of the Constitution— witnessed heated public exchanges and sharp political conflict over the franchise; in some locales, men voted—or were prevented from voting—through the use or threat of force. 23 The conflict over the franchise that erupted during the revolution involved— as such conflicts always would—both interests and ideas. The planters, merchants, and prosperous farmers who wielded power and influence in late-eighteenth-century affairs had an unmistakable interest in keeping the franchise narrow: a restricted suffrage would make it easier for them to retain their economic and social advantages.

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