The right to vote is one of the main historical events that shaped American society between 1815 and 1861. The white males’ wealth dictated the American laws on political and public leadership positions before major revolutions in voting and elections. This depicts that women, people of color, and less wealthy white males were denied their right to vote in America. Moreover, the voting rights were controlled by individual states, some of which imposed further restrictions that denied people the opportunity to be part of the country’s running. The black people were mainly the slaves who suffered more harm than their counterparts from other continents and with different skin pigments. The right to vote was at the root of slavery and built political and moral debates from 1815 to 1861. Foner, in the book “Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History,” discusses several events within the mentioned period and how they affected slavery about voting rights. Foner discusses similar events in the book “Give Me Liberty! An American History.” The revolutions that occurred during the period were crucial in shaping America to its current state.
The first law that affected slaves’ participation in voting was enacted in the 1830s. According to Foner in “An Act for the Encouragement of the Importation of White Servants (1698)”, the original law enacted was “an early example of the ideas, which recurred in later years, both that a white majority is desirable and that some whites are more desirable than others” (78). Due to the wealth controlled by a white male, the restriction was intense, and the slaves did not get the slightest opportunity to be part of any leadership position. The law was used mainly in the South to bar black communities from voting in any election. The requirement for the property was also adopted with the view that it would make it impossible for the slaves to participate in the democratic process of electing leaders.
America was surrounded by empires that had little regard for democracy. The federal government and the constitution allowed Americans to participate in elections. However, despite their belief in democracy, America was not open to voting equality until March 4, 1829, when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated. The event attracted about 20,000 people who were charged and broke furniture and glasses. It was seen as the advent of true democracy of electing a “common man” wanted by the people. Earlier, Andrew Jackson had voted for President John Quincy Adams even though he was considered more popular among the electorates than the elected person due to the voting rights restrictions. According to Foner, Andrew’s regime became known as “the Age of Jackson, or the period of Jacksonian Democracy” (698). This depicted the initial rise of various free slaves into recognized and respected people with equal rights and freedoms.
The rise in antislavery movements attracted more advocates such as Abby Kelley. Kelly was bold and fierce in the war against slavery and devoted her life to fighting it. According to Foner in “An Age ff Reform 1820–1840”, the author states that Kelly joined the Female Antislavery Society and fought alongside other women who had already been actively involved in the abolitionist movement. Her speech in Lynn, dubbed “baptism of fire,” resulted in rages among Philadelphia residents who were unpleased with the idea of calling for racial amalgamation. Most people had been rooted into the race due to the divide created earlier by slavery and wealth. Kelly’s hearers in Lynn were not attentive to the fact that there were critical issues that needed more attention than rooting humans to the belief that there were lesser people. In her speech in other places, Kelly spoke about the holy cause of human rights, pointing to the understanding that people were created equal before God from a religious perspective.
The antislavery and civil rights movements resulted in several awakenings in America. According to Foner in the “Virginia Petition for the Right to Vote (1829)”, the “large slaveholders who dominated Virginia politics successfully resisted demands for changes in voting qualifications in 1829, but a subsequent constitutional convention, in 1850, eliminated the property requirement” (220). Even though the movements resulted in some awareness and some states were reconsidering the arguments of the black people and freed slaves, others continued to hold firmly to the traditions of white supremacy and male suffrage. However, more discussions and riots resulted in several legislations that limited the number of restrictions against voting, such as property ownership requirements. The reconstruction period that occurred immediately after the Civil War made it easier to enact and pass the Fifth Amendment, allowing every race to have equal voting rights. Since the Fifth Amendment was at the federal level, it was not immediately adopted by all the states, especially those rooted in slavery and wealth control, as part of their restrictions on voting. This prompted the ratification of the amendments in 1870 to make it in line with the state laws.
The fight against slavery extended more to the women who wanted to be considered an integral part of American society. Foner, in “Abigail and John Adams on Women and the American Revolution (1776),” explains some of the significant events that resulted in women gaining the right to vote. Even though several women, including Abby Kelley, joined abolitionist movements in the early 1800s, they did not get an immediate hearing at both the federal and state levels. There were decades of movements by women to be heard, but there were still more grave issues, such as slavery and poverty, that needed more immediate address. In this case, men did not take center stage in helping women fight their battles. The women lamented, “Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as of the vassals of your sex” (127). The women continued to advocate for their rights to be equal to those enjoyed by the men.
In conclusion, slavery resulted in several issues, the chief of which was the right to vote, which was affected by race and wealth control. Voting was allowed to wealthy white males before several movements and advocacies began to ease the restrictions. Each movement or riot resulted in better circumstances, making America achieve the democracy it currently enjoys. The right to vote affected slaves in political and moral respects since it affected their enjoyment of being part of political processes and enjoying human rights. Abby Kelley, in her speech, revealed the need to heed the holy human right, which is also found in voting and choosing leadership.
Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History. Vol. 1. New York and London: WW Norton & Company, 2011.
Foner, Eric. (2013). Give Me Liberty! An American History: Seagull Fourth Edition. Vol. 1. WW Norton & Company.