Voting in New Jersey from 1776-1844
Use the selected readings to complete the following questions.
Part A-1776 Constitution
The Provincial Congress of New Jersey at Burlington adopted a constitution on July 2, 1776. Below is a quote from the document.
"All inhabitants of this colony of full age, who are worth fifty pound proclamation money clear estate in the same, and have resided within the country in which they claim to vote twelve months immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote for representation in the Council and Assembly and also for all other public officers that shall be elected by the people of the country at large."
From the 1776 New Jersey Constitution
1. What qualifications had to be met in order to vote in New Jersey in 1776?
Part B- Early New Jersey Voters
The following excerpts are from Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Women Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco pp. 2-3.
2. Discuss the reasons that led to various groups of people who were permitted to vote between 1776 and 1807?
"Because the New Jersey Constitution did not specifically exclude women (or blacks), many widowed or unmarried women, some black men, and at least one black woman who met the property qualification voted in local elections. Fifty pounds was not a prohibitive sum, and estimates suggest that 95% of the white males could meet the property qualification. Married women could not meet the property qualification for voting because all their property automatically belonged to their husbands, unless they could prove that the had received fifty pounds as a 'gift.' According to some reports, about 5% of the landowners were women, which in not surprising given the number of widows following the Revolutionary War."
"Two Burlington County Women, Iona Curtis and Silveria Lilvey, appeared on the voting lists in 1787."
"Estimates suggest that as many as 10,000 women in New Jersey voted in some years between 1790 and 1807 when they lost the vote as a result of an act of the legislature."
"In 1802, for example, the Trenton True American estimated that women had cast as many as 25% of the votes in that city. Evidence also indicates that some married women voted during this period."
Part C- Newspaper Clippings
The following excerpts are from Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Women Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco pp. 4.
The following quotes come from New Jersey Newspapers during the presidential election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Read how the newspaper positively address the topic of women voting.
Newton, NJ: May their patriotic conduct at the late elections add an irresistible zest to their charms.
Mendham, NJ: May their republican conduct be pleasing and exemplary to their sisters of the Union.
Hackensack, NJ: Rights of women. May they equally participate with men in the rights of men.
Liberty Corner, NJ: The fair daughters of America particularly those who stepped forward to show their patriotism in the cause of republicanism in the late election.
Westfield, NJ: May they stand unrivaled in their love of freedom and justice.
Bloomfield, NJ: The fair of New Jersey who gave their suffrage to the Republican candidate, may they receive for their reward peace and happiness
3. Describe in your own words at least two positive statements that the newspapers chose to highlight about women voters.
Part D- Women Viewed As Scapegoats
The following excerpts are from Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Women Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco pp. 4-5.
"While evidence suggests that women got support from both Federalists and Republicans, and voted for a variety of candidates, those candidates who lost tended to use female voters as scapegoats. Finally, 1807, after a hotly contested election in Elizabeth about the location of Essex County Courthouse, women were disenfranchised in the name of 'election reform.' Evidence indicates that the election of 1807 involved a great deal of fraud, but not that either female or black voters were specifically implicated in the fraud. The voting took place over the three-day period and a considerable number may have voted twice. The results of the elections clearly seem to have been manipulated. Three times as many votes were cast in Newark for this election as had been cast the year before!"
4. How did women become scapegoats in the election of 1807?
Part E- Constitution of 1844
The following excerpts are from Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Women Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco pp. 5-6.
John Condict of Essex County introduced the law the restricted suffrage to legislation. His proposal stated that:
" ... after the passage of this act no person shall vote ina ny state or county election for officers in the government of the United States, or of this state. inless such person be a free white male citizen of this state."
After 1807, New Jersey simply fell in line with the rest of the states in denying the vote to women. In 1844, when the state revised its entire constitution, the words "white" and "male" were made part of the state constitution.
"Every white male citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years, who shall have been a resident of this State one year, and of the county in which he claims his vote for five months, next before the election, shall be entitled to vote for all officers that now are, or hereafter and be elective of the people ..."
From the 1844 New Jersey Constitution
"In one sentence, women and blacks lost the vote, despite the fact that inconsistencies and irregularities were fixed features of voting in New Jersey elections at the time. Ironically, this same law also effectively eliminated property qualifications for white male voters who were twenty-one years of age."
5. Compare the above 1844 NJ Constitution with the NJ Constitution of 1776 in Part E 1844. Describe the similarities and differences.
PART F-No Women Voters Allowed
The following excerpts are from Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Women Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco p. 5.
"Some historians have suggested that women were not concerned about losing the right to vote because they had not fought to gain suffrage in the first place. A more likely reason might be due to the restricted lives women led and their limited ability to influence politics. Women could not hold office and had no political organization to assist them. By contrast, the black communities of Lawnside in Camden County and Gouldtown in Cumberland County vigorously opposed their opposition for decades.
Despite the short-lived nature of black and female suffrage, the fact that women had voted gave inspiration to later suffragists who fought to restore those rights in New Jersey."
6. Describe the immediate and long term effects of the NJ Constitution of 1844.