In Colonial America, democracy was centered in provincial assemblies and based on the collection of neighbors whose freehold ownership made them permanent stakeholders in the community. The removal of the property qualification for voting in the United States occurred over three-quarters of a century and was among the more important events in the history of democratization, functioning to shift voting from a corporate privilege toward a human right.
Moving beyond the standard histories of property standard histories of property qualification removal, Justin Moeller and Ronald F. King adopt the theories and methods of social science to discover underlying patterns and regularities, attempting a more systematic understanding of subject. While no historical event has a single cause, party consolidation and party competition provided a necessary mechanism, making background factors politically relevant. No change in franchise rules could occur without the explicit consent of incumbent politicians, always sensitive to the anticipated impact. Moeller and King argue that political parties acted strategically, accepting or rejecting removal of the property qualification as a means of advancing their electoral position. The authors identify four different variants of the strategic calculation variable, significantly helping to explain both the temporal differences across states and the pattern of contestation with each state individually.
'Justin Moeller and Ronald F. King have written by far the most searching and persuasive study of a fundamental aspect of the history of American democracy. Political parties, it turns out, were more the creators than the creation of the expanded suffrage, a proposition pertinent to recent and current politics as well as to the early national and antebellum United States. It will quickly become essential reading for anyone who wants to know how America's version of democracy came to be.'—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy
1. Introduction: Property, Participation, and the Routes to Reform
2. The Politics of Partisan Preemption: Pennsylvania, Georgia, and New Hampshire
3. The Politics of Partisan Cooptation: Delaware, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia
4. The Politics of Partisan Replacement: Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina
5. The Politics of Partisan Rejection: Rhode Island
6. Strategic Incentives and Franchise Reform: An Event History Analysis
7. Conclusion: The Expansion and Contraction of Democratic Rights
Appendix: Overview of Property Restrictions on Suffrage