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Jacksonian Democracy Essay

1116 words - 5 pages

What were the major arguments used, pro and con, in the debate over expanding suffrage during the Age of Jackson? Which arguments were most valid? There was many arguments between the two conflicting sides over the expanding suffrage during the Age of Jackson. So, what is suffrage? Suffrage is the right to vote. It was a major debate during the Age of Jackson. Jackson was born in the Carolinas. Carolina at the time was an agrarian state. Jackson supported both, the agrarian society and the common man. Before Jackson, suffrage was only given to the majority who owned a certain amount of land. It was not a big problem because a majority of people owned land before Jackson. By the time Jackson took his place as president, cities grew and land became harder to own. After Jackson took his place, the western frontier states were the first to start allowing all white males to vote. Politicians in the East were influenced and wanted more voters so they, too, revised their constitution to take away the property ownership requirement for voting. The state that had the most difficult time adapting was Virginia. Virginia was an aristocratic state so the aristocrats rejected the ideas of letting the common people have suffrage. A long time after most states dropped the property requirement for voting did Virginia finally drop the requirement in 1851. This tells us that aristocrats with land supported the property ownership requirement and people with little or no land supported the opposite. Major arguments were made by Nathan Sanford, James Kent, and George Bancroft.
Nathan Sanford was a New York Senate, delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, and Chancellor of New York. New York held a convention to revise the state constitution in 1821 and this is what Sanford said: “The question before us is the right of suffrage - who shall or who shall not have the right to vote. . . To me the only qualifications [to vote] seem to be the virtue and morality of the people. . . Those who contribute to the public support we consider as entitled to a share of the election of rulers. . . Now, sir, this scheme will embrace almost the whole male population of the state. . . This scheme has been proposed by a majority of the committee; they think it safe and beneficial, founded on just and moral principles.”-Nathan Sanford
As you can see, Sanford was a supporter of the expanding suffrage. Sanford’s defense for the expanding suffrage was that the virtue and morality of the people is a much better qualification than property ownership. In my opinion, this argument is invalid because virtue and morality is something that is defined differently from person to person. Politicians in Virginia can have a different standard of morality than lets say Rhode Island. This is why I think Sanford’s argument is invalid.
James Kent was the Chief Justice of New York’s highest court. There was a state convention in New York and this is his opposition to Sanford’s proposal:...

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