Male Suffrage in North America 1789–1897

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Map Code: Ax01940

Following independence, the new states incorporated in the West overwhelmingly abandoned the property and tax-paying qualifications for white male suffrage that were standard in the 13 ex-colonies. Under pressure to reciprocate, eastern legislatures began to enact liberalizing measures in respect of white males – while removing previous eligibilities to vote that obtained for freed black men and wealthy white women. Further pressure for liberalization came from rapid population growth and urbanization, rendering old electoral divisions anachronistic. Dorr’s Rebellion (1841–42) occurred in Rhode Island where suffrage rules were unchanged since the state’s 1663 foundation, hugely favouring its rural landed elite. Thomas Dorr gained an expanded franchise for white men – but excluded blacks and the native Narragansett Indians. President Andrew Jackson championed expanded white male suffrage (while driving Indians from their lands). The 15th Amendment (1870) barred exclusion from voting based on ‘race, colour or previous condition of servitude’; southern states introduced black vote-suppressing ‘Jim Crow Laws’ in retaliation.

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