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Why was New Jersey Suffrage taken Away?

By Jon Guttman
11/13/2018 • Ask Mr. History

In their state constitution of 1776, New Jersey allowed single or widowed property-owning women and free black men to vote. This suffrage was taken away by the New Jersey legislature in 1807. Why?

We’ve done a little research on our own and found conflicting information from what would seem to be reliable sources:

The New Jersey Historical Commission on their web site, which is hosted by the New Jersey State Department, says suffrage was denied to these women and men in 1807 by the Federalist Party because they determined that these two groups tended to support Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party. This statement is in one of their Teaching Resources. The URL for this document is

https://www.nj.gov/state/historical/it-happened-here/ihhnj-er-petticoat-politicians.pdf

The textbook American Horizons: U.S. History in a Global Context, by Michael Schaller, Robert D. Schulzinger, John Bezis-Selfa, Janette Thomas Greenwood, Andrew Kirk, Sarah J. Purcell, and Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Oxford University Press, 2013 – says in Chapter 8 A New Nation Facing a Revolutionary Word (page 290) says the following:

“In 1807, for example, the New Jersey legislature disenfranchised property-holding women and free African Americans who had voted for decades largely because they supported the Federalist party.”

Can you please help us figure out which version is correct?

Thank you.

Janet Sugg

 

???

 

 

Dear Ms Sugg,

The state of New Jersey came into existence on Jul 2, 1776, just two days before the Declaration of Independence was publicly proclaimed. At the state constitution’s inception, the right to vote was indeed stipulated under three conditions: 1. being of full age, 2. having attained a threshold level of wealth (defined as 50 pounds proclamation money” or “clear estate of the same” and 3. having residence in a county a year before the election. This unique state of affairs was probably more difficult to enforce in practice than on paper. Although reference was made to “he or she” in 1777 and 1790 documents, both parties alternated in mocking their opposite numbers for relying on “petticoat electors.” New Jersey abolished slavery in 1804, but just three years later the 32nd General Assembly of the State of New Jersey limited the vote to free white male citizens who paid their taxes, sweeping away the voting rights once available to free blacks and women. By that time the Democratic-Republicans were the dominant party (since Thomas Jefferson’s presidential victory in 1800) and the revolutionary fervor that inspired New Jersey’s boldly progressive constitution of 1776 had largely waned in favor of the prevailing trends in the other states. The excuse that women and blacks tended to favor the Federalists seems almost moot, given that party’s state of decline.

Perhaps the source below might help sort out the confusion.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-black-people-and-women-lost-vote-new-jersey-180967186/

Sincerely,

 

Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

www.historynet.com

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