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Women’s Voting Rights in 18th-Century New Jersey Electoral Reforms: Opacity and Transparency

Linda Garbaye
p. 230-245

Résumés

Cet article porte sur le droit de vote des femmes dans le New Jersey pendant la période révolutionnaire américaine. Le New Jersey fut le 1er Etat de l’Union à accorder, explicitement, le droit de vote des femmes dans les années 1790. Cette expérience permet de mettre en lumière, tour à tour, une certaine transparence et un manque de transparence concernant les droits politiques de certains citoyens américains et les intérêts politiques, variables, des législateurs du New Jersey. Les historiens mettent en effet en avant le développement des partis politiques qui a entraîné dès la fin du 18e siècle une compétition électorale serrée entre les Fédéralistes et les Républicains, et l’influence des idées progressistes – les droits naturels des Lumières, les idées révolutionnaires américaines, et le principe d’égalité hommes-femmes des Quakers en matière de participation politico-religieuse.

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Notes de l’auteur

Cet article est la version remaniée d’une communication faite dans l’atelier xviiie siècle au congrès SAES 2012

Texte intégral

1In the history of women’s political participation in the United States, the experience of New Jersey is often put forward by historians. This is largely because New Jersey is the first American state in which voting rights were explicitly granted to women, as early as 1790. Despite the scarcity of sources establishing clear and detailed evidence of New Jersey legislators’ motivations to grant voting rights to women at that period, some factors considered as potential explanations for these motivations are quite well documented. This helps us to understand better the context in which laws establishing women’s voting rights were passed. Historians usually focus on two main causes that could have led to this legislation. The first is the development of a party system, which led to political competition between groups, leading to the necessity of attracting voters, including voters from traditionally excluded populations. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a period of democratic expansion in New Jersey, Federalists and Republicans acted intensely to enlarge their electorate. The second cause is the influence of progressive ideas regarding women’s political participation. These liberal ideas came from a variety of sources: the theory of natural rights (the Enlightenment), political ideas of the American Revolution, and the principle of equality of the Quakers who were a powerful force in West Jersey.

2Examination of primary and secondary sources at the New Jersey State Archives and the New Jersey State Library in Trenton, the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, the Special Collections at Rutgers University, the historical societies of Camden, Gloucester and Bergen Counties, and the Friends Historical Society at Swarthmore College Library (Pennsylvania) did not yield new and detailed evidence describing the origins and motivations for the granting of women’s voting rights in eighteenth century New Jersey. However, they generally corroborate the historians’ current accounts on this subject, that is to say the importance of progressive ideas and of political competition, mainly between Federalists and Republicans.

3In this analysis, I seek to assess the degrees of transparency and opacity of the eighteenth century New Jersey legislation granting voting rights to women. A brief description of the history of voting rights in the United States and in other countries will first be provided. The electoral history of New Jersey, from the end of the eighteenth century to the very beginning of the nineteenth century, will then be analyzed according to the transparency-opacity dialectic.

Voting rights in the United States and abroad

4What is the background of debates on voting rights during and after the American Revolution? How did debates on voting rights take place at the time? Which categories of the population were included in the electorate by the drafters of American state constitutions, and for what reasons?

5Anglo-Americans in the British colonies were inspired by a variety of sources, among them texts of seventeenth-century British political thought, notably John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government (1690-91). Locke underlines the capacity of reason and of critical reflection of individuals on their acts and thoughts. Individuals are endowed with natural rights that enable them to oppose themselves to arbitrary power and to replace it if necessary. Later Enlightenment texts – for example James Otis’s The Rights of British-Americans Asserted and Proved (1764) and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776) also had a considerable influence on the formation of revolutionary political thought.

  • 1  Influential European works included Marquis de Condorcet’s essay On the Admission of Women to the (...)

6Regarding the specific issue of women’s voting rights, the people who defended these rights at that period were not numerous, they were mostly Enlightenment intellectuals and politicians who strongly believed in individual rights and saw the expansion of the “stake in society” argument becoming relevant to more categories of the population. Among prominent supporters – men and women – of women’s political participation, and in some cases of women’s voting rights, were Mercy Otis Warren, or Abigail Adams – who sent a letter to her husband John Adams in 1777 in which she advocated American women’s rights to be taken into account in the new American institutions.1

7Before the changes in the state’s voting system, there had been voting qualifications and modes of elections inherited from Britain, both in theory and practice. Property criteria for voting qualifications were fundamental, and those who could elect their representatives were mostly rich white males. An important characteristic of the political system in the British colonies of America, as well as during the very early stage of American independence, is that it was not entirely democratic: voting was a privilege, and not a right, dedicated to white, propertied (and thus independent), adult men. So the number of eligible voters was necessarily small during that period, since women, ethno-racial minorities, and non-propertied people traditionally could not vote.

8During and after the American Revolutionary War, the franchise question was highly debated and led to considerable ideological changes in this new and experimental era. Paradoxically, only a few states extended voting rights during the first years of independence. Gradually, the vote became a major instrument of political expression as well as the object of conflicts – mostly political and economic – between several categories of the population, even though other political tools were deemed important by American citizens, such as petitions and deliberations in public meetings.

  • 2  In New Jersey, the majority of African Americans were slaves and they lived in the eastern part of (...)
  • 3  The term “male” was included in the 1777 New York Constitution.

9One should stress the fact that voting qualifications were states’ prerogatives in the early American republic, and thus criteria were different from one state to the other. The diversity of American experiences in expanding or restricting voting qualifications also concerned free African Americans,2 Amerindians and aliens. Virginia and the Carolinas were the only colonies that prevented free African Americans from voting at the beginning of the eighteenth century. North Carolina granted them voting rights back as early as 1737, while Georgia did the contrary in 1761. During the revolutionary period, Massachusetts studied the possibility of suppressing voting rights for African Americans and Amerindians susceptible to pay taxes but, in the end, Massachusetts legislators did not make that change in their constitution of 1780 (Kruman 106). At that time, five states – New York,3 Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts –, restricted the vote exclusively to men: the terms “males” and “sons” were used in their respective constitution, which was not the case in the Constitution of New Jersey.

10It is in this general context of debates around political rights, and of local and diverse experiences, that New Jersey legislators not only extended voting rights to those who were not landowners, but did so at an early stage – compared to other states – and granted these rights to women and other minorities, i.e. categories who had generally been excluded from the franchise.

  • 4  Before the early twentieth century, English legislation prevented women from voting with the Engli (...)

11The specific experience of women’s voting rights in eighteenth-century New Jersey can also be placed in its international context. The eighteenth century was both a time of debates on women’s rights in several countries, as already mentioned above, and a period when it was usually understood that women were not political actors, at least in formal politics. In New Jersey, as in other British colonies of North America, married women had no political rights; their property belonged to their husband, in accordance with the principle of coverture included in British Common Law. In the period when New Jersey women voted – i.e. in the 1780s and 1790s –, voting rights for single women and widows were discussed and/or practised elsewhere in the world. There was another original experience in North America: Lower Canada propertied and unmarried women could vote at the end of the eighteenth century. The 1791 Constitutional Act refers to voters as “persons” without mention of sex. Women did vote in Lower Canada until the beginning of the nineteenth century (Greer 113, 204). During and after the French Revolution, women in France became French “citizens” but obstacles to their access to political citizenship are linked to the absence, in reality, of an “abstract individualism” (Rosanvallon 523), since the right to vote concerned male individuals exclusively. During the French Revolution, the distinction between “active” and “passive” citizens was applied, and women were classified as passive. French women were “citizens” but had no political rights; they were granted national voting rights late, in 1944. British women obtained national voting rights earlier than their French counterparts, in 1918 for women of 30 and over, extended to all women of 21 years of age or more in 1928.4 The first country in the world to grant national voting rights to women was New Zealand in 1893. From this brief overview of women’ voting rights, one notes that voting rights granted to women in the eighteenth century took place in rare cases only.

12The precocious character of New Jersey legislation regarding the expansion of voting rights appears through two main historical steps: the first New Jersey Constitution of 1776 and the electoral laws of 1790 and 1797.

The debates on the fourth article of the 1776 New Jersey Constitution

13New Jersey was not just a political experiment; it was also a military one. New Jersey is sometimes referred to as the “Cockpit of the Revolution” by historians (Lundin vi-vii; Mitnick 10, 45-60). New Jersey represented one of the key battlegrounds during the American Revolutionary era, because it was located between two major places: Philadelphia and New York. Because of this, some historians argue that it was then the main battleground. At that period, New Jersey cultural and political history was complex since it was neither a clear pro-patriot nor a pro-loyalist territory. In addition, the New Jersey population was already diverse, with a homogeneous West Jersey, socio-economically speaking, contrasting with East Jersey (McCormick 25-26). During the American Revolution, New Jersey was invaded by British troops in November 1776; in the context of the Revolutionary War and of the wish to break ties with Britain, the Continental Congress sent instructions to each state in May 1776, so that legislators in those states could organize their respective governing entities. In accordance with these instructions, New Jersey legislators met in convention to write their constitution. On February 16, 1776, New Jersey counties had voted nine to four in favour of suffrage extension, and the New Jersey Constitution was adopted on July 2, 1776, became one of the first state constitutions.

14Article IV of the 1776 New Jersey State Constitution states the following:

That all inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money, clear estate in the same, and have resided within the county in which they claim a vote for twelve months immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote for Representatives in Council and Assembly; and also for all other public officers, that shall be elected by the people of the county at large. (Emphasis added).

15Consequently, and because of the absence of gender and ethno-racial details on those who could vote, the term “inhabitant” could authorize women and other minorities to vote.

16There are debates today among historians on the interpretation to be given to the fourth article of the first New Jersey Constitution. According to some historical accounts of eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries New Jersey, the formulation “inhabitants” was not deliberate. In the context of the American Revolutionary War, the New Jersey State Constitution needed to be drafted rapidly before the arrival of British troops where the constitutional text was being prepared. Some historians argue that it was a mistake due to haste – legislators drafted the constitution in about two days –, and they wrote “inhabitant” instead of “white male” in the document. The constitution drafters risked their lives in writing the first state constitution: this type of action was considered by the British authorities as an act of rebellion.

17As already mentioned, the first New Jersey Constitution allowed women and free African Americans – as well as aliens and felons – to vote, whether deliberately or not. Supporters of the “mistake” theory underline the fact that legislators used the “he” and “his” pronouns exclusively to identify voters in the Acts of the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, Act of June 4, 1777, and in the Act of the Eighth General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, Act of December 16, 1783 (Kruman 191 n85). In other words, they consider that there is a lack of coherence in the identification of voters since they were referred to as men, and not as women, after the Constitution of 1776, and before the laws of the 1790s.

18Moreover, it is considered that it was not useful to specify who was concerned by voting qualifications since voting was traditionally a propertied white male practice (Zagarri 31). Other historians think that the New Jersey legislators may have intentionally written this vague term in the constitution because the subject of suffrage qualifications had actually been discussed before the drafting of this constitution, by the third Congress of New Jersey which revised the drafting committee’s suffrage clause; as a consequence, “all inhabitants” who resided in their voting place for at least one year and who were “worth” fifty pounds could vote (Kruman 106, 191 n84). These historians underline the necessity for the patriots – who were not numerous at the beginning of the war – to gather as many people as possible around the patriotic cause. As mentioned above, the language of the New Jersey first Constitution was ambiguous, and voters were not determined as specifically white and male. Due to the absence of racial and gender criteria, the visible limits to be enfranchised were explicitly socio-economic.

  • 5  Someone who named himself or herself “Essex” advocated voting rights for New Jersey women who had (...)

19The American Revolution had a great impact in New Jersey: Revolutionary beliefs and the slogan “No Taxation without Representation” had logical implications for New Jersey voting reforms (Kruman 191 n82).5 And among the various transformations of the Western world in the eighteenth century is the development of individual rights, including the right to political representation.

20What is important to bear in mind is that at the time of the drafting of the 1776 New Jersey Constitution, several petitions from New Jerseyans were sent to the legislature to reform voting qualifications, and thus to shift from freeholder to householder voting rights; the right to vote was becoming separated from land ownership for the first time since the New Jersey proprietary era (McCormick 64-69). The Patriots, representing a minority in New Jersey at the beginning of the war, partly resorted to the extension of rights to incite New Jerseyans to join their cause. This major element – the people’s desire to extend voting rights to more categories of the population – undoubtedly had an impact on legislators’ choices. Maxine Lurie asserts that radical changes occurred in the 1776 New Jersey structure of government, and thus one can assume that New Jersey was more a radical place then than a conservative one (Mitnick 33). For Jan Ellen Lewis, the language of the New Jersey Constitution of 1776 is ambiguous but the intent of legislators to include more people – other than propertied white males – in the suffrage was deliberate.

The first official and explicit granting of voting rights for New Jersey women

21Ulterior New Jersey legislation – see below the extracts of the laws of 1790 and 1797 that clearly described women’s voting rights –leaves no doubt concerning the legislators’ sympathies for women’s political participation. Alexander Keyssar wrote that the reasons why the State of New Jersey had this liberal approach to the vote remain “unclear” (54), but that this was largely, though not exclusively, related to factional politics during the revolutionary period; as already mentioned, legislators sought to enlarge their electorate in the 1790s. By “factional politics” in New Jersey, I mean Federalists vs. Republicans; women were generally considered as Federalists and conservative voters, often from the Quaker community, and many of these voters came from the western part of the state.

22Fourteen years after the 1776 New Jersey Constitution, in the New Jersey 1790 Election Law, the pronoun “she” appeared for the first time, on the subject of voting qualifications, and thus included women in the electorate. The following section concerns the qualifications – and disqualifications – of voters:

[…] All free inhabitants of this State of full age, and who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money clear estate in the same, and have resided within the county in which they claim a vote, for twelve months immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote for all public officers which shall be elected by virtue of this act; and no person shall be entitled to vote in any other township or precinct, than that in which he or she doth actually reside at the time of the election; and no person who shall be convicted of treason against this State or the United States, or any of them, shall be entitled to vote at any such election (New Jersey State, Acts of the 15th General Assembly 669-70). (Emphasis added)

  • 6  The issue of voting rights concerns other minorities, in addition to women, but my analysis is foc (...)
  • 7  John Cooper (1729-1785) was a member of the New Jersey Legislative Council from 1776 to 1780, and (...)
  • 8  He is also mentioned in the list of persons returned as members of the New Jersey General Assembly (...)
  • 9  Journal of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council, Unit 1, October 25, 1796 : “[…] Ordered, th (...)

23This election statute of November 18, 1790, passed by the New Jersey Assembly, granted voting rights to women in New Jersey and concerned only seven counties mainly located in West Jersey (out of thirteen New Jersey counties). The counties concerned by this change happened to be those in which a strong Quaker community resided, and a strongly Federalist part of the state. The Quakers are often perceived as having progressive views on some issues such as women’s political participation, pacifism, and the protection of rights of ethno-racial minorities.6 The role of women in the Quaker community was considerable, they could be ministers and travel from one place to the other in the goal of preaching Quakerism, and they could also organize their own meeting sessions. The influence of Quakerism on women’s political rights, resulting from their egalitarian principles, is put forward by some historians who establish links between Quaker legislators and the expansion of voting rights in favour of women; they mainly refer to John and Joseph Cooper of Gloucester County, New Jersey. John Cooper was a legislator and a judge; he had influential political friends from New Jersey and from neighbouring Pennsylvania, and he was in permanent contact with members of the Continental Congress, as he had been selected to be among the Declaration of Independence signers (Certificate of Election of John Cooper, Prince 464, McGeorge 1-3).7 Joseph Cooper drafted the 1797 reform election law (Certificate of Mr. [Joseph] Cooper, Certificate of Election of Joseph Cooper),8 with his political colleague John Outwater of Bergen County (Certificate, John Outwater, New Jersey State Archives 5-7.)9

24Seven years later, the Legislature chose again the pronouns “he” or “she” to refer to voters in the 1797 Act which aimed at revising elections regulations, and this time the law concerned the entire state. It was thus reinforcing the idea that women were included as potential voters. This 1797 Act describes voters’ qualifications in the following manner:

[…] Be it enacted, that all free inhabitants of this State, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds, proclamation money, and have resided within the county in which they claim a vote, for twelve months, immediately preceding the election; shall be entitled to vote for all public officers, which shall be elected by virtue of this act, and no person shall be entitled to vote in any other township or precinct, than that in which he or she doth actually reside at the time of the election. (Laws of New Jersey, February 1797, emphasis added).

The withdrawal of women’s voting rights in 1807

25Voting rights for women, as well as for other minorities, were withdrawn in 1807 for several reasons, particularly voting fraud – suggested by many politicians and the local press –, competition between political formations, and a gradual change from an inclusion of minority groups in the suffrage, during the American Revolutionary period, towards a return of universal white male suffrage in the United States some years later (McCormick 98, Turner 185, Zagarri 6, 36).

26In the 2nd Chapter, section 1, of the Act of 1807, only free white males could vote:

Be it enacted, by the council and general assembly of this State, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that from and after the passing of this act, no person shall vote in any state or county election for officers in the government of the United States, or of this State, unless such person be a free, white, male citizen of this state, of the age of twenty-one years, worth fifty pounds proclamation money, clear estate, and have resided in the county where he claims a vote, for at least twelve months immediately preceding the election. (Emphasis added).

27In some New Jersey contested elections, one notes an important level of fraud and corruption, for example in 1807 when voters of the county of Essex were asked to decide the site of the county’s courthouse between two politically rival places, Newark and Elizabeth. One of the consequences of this highly contested vote was to suppress the voting results later, and to reform voting qualifications as a means to avoid corruption and fraud. Petitions came to the legislature to put an end to fraud. Negotiations took place between the main political groups which resulted in the exclusion of minorities, among them women, from the suffrage, even though fraud concerned all voters (Mc Cormick 97-100; Zagarri 36; Keyssar 54).

  • 10  Very few women signed petitions; for example one woman signed the Petition of Several Inhabitants (...)

28Nationally, even though the gender-neutral term “person” is present in the United States Constitution – except in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1868, referring to voters as “male citizens –”, women were excluded from formal politics, and more particularly from voting. The historical literature on the role of women, during the Revolutionary War era, is generally unanimous in its description of women as active actors, but not in formal politics. As a consequence, some women and men, mainly belonging to educated, elitist, and rich families, expressed their opinion on the subject and described voting rights for propertied women as a necessity and/or as a right (see above). Archives concerning New Jersey women in that period show that only some women were economically powerful and the number of women signing petitions was tiny.10

  • 11  Two women voted in a 1787 legislative election (Burlington, New Jersey, election of October 9, 178 (...)

29Another point that transpires in the historical literature is the idea that women did not express a strong will to exercise the right to vote. With the exception of a few specific elections (Shinn 77-81),11 the proportion of women voters was in fact negligible for several reasons, including the absence of appropriate conditions for voters in general, and women in particular, to vote.

  • 12  Seventy-five women were polled in a Newark borough on October 18, 1797 (McCormick 99 n23).

30In addition, New Jersey women were generally viewed as easily manipulated by the two major political parties when they cast their vote, in particular at the end of the 1790s, a period that represented a climax of female voting turnout in eighteenth and nineteenth-century New Jersey (McCormick 99 n23, Zagarri 32),12 and a change in voting procedures since for the first time the electoral practices were organized at the level of the state, after the 1788 elections (McCormick 86).

31In the end, women’s voting rights in New Jersey were repealed in 1807, with a law establishing that voters were to be free, white male citizens of twenty-one years old only. As already mentioned, the main reason for this backlash was suspicion of voting fraud which was denounced by legislators and the press.

32Nevertheless, this law was not passed either unanimously or rapidly and its supporters had made several attempts before achieving this vote. This may be attributed to the wish of some legislators to maintain these rights for women, including for political gain. In specific contested elections between Federalists and Republicans, it thus seems that female voters played an important role.

33Last but not least, one should not rule out the possible role of some members of the New Jersey Council and Assembly, who drafted the constitution and later voted in favour of woman’s suffrage. Some, not necessarily Quakers, may have strongly believed in the egalitarian principles described in the Declaration of Independence and may have thus considered voting rights for women to be coherent with revolutionary principles.

  • 13  A later New Jersey Constitution, the Constitution of 1844, still excluded women and African Americ (...)

34Eighteenth-century New Jersey electoral reforms allow us to observe both opacity and transparency. Some initial legal texts are ambiguous in 1776 New Jersey, since voters were not completely identified. The term “inhabitant” included in the first New Jersey Constitution of 1776 is – deliberately or not – obscure, and this lack of explicit identification of voters was to evolve in the following decade and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with the laws of the 1790s and of 1807. These changes, from a will to respect the revolutionary principles combining natural rights and political representation linked to the payment of taxes, on the one hand, to the fluctuating electoral interests of the two dominant and competing political groups, which led them to include or exclude some categories of the population from the suffrage, on the other, allow us to observe both a certain transparency and a lack of transparency in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century New Jersey electoral laws. It helps us to observe legislators’ intentions that were more or less explicit regarding suffrage extension. New Jersey women were only to regain voting rights more than a century later, through the nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution adopted in 1920.13

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Bibliographie

Primary sources

Certificate of Election of John Cooper, New Jersey Legislature, October 14, 1777. SLE 00008, n° 30, AM box 2, item # 2026, Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Certificate of Election of Joseph Cooper, October 14, 1793. New Jersey State Legislature. SLE00008, AM2218 box 2, item # 37. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Certificate of John Outwater, member of the New Jersey Council, 1792. New Jersey State Council. Manuscript index # 151. Bergen: Bergen County Historical Society.

Certificate of Joseph Cooper, member of the New Jersey Assembly, November 26, 1790. New Jersey Department of State. AM Papers, Box 12. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Journal of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 1793-1807, Unit 1, October 25, 1796. New Jersey State Legislative Council. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Journal, Minutes, and Proceedings, New Jersey Legislative Council, August 27, 1776. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Laws of New Jersey, 32nd, Act of 1807, 2nd chapter, section 1. New Jersey State Legislature. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Laws of New Jersey, February 22, 1797, section 9, MG 895. New Jersey State Legislature. Newark: New Jersey Historical Society archives.

New Jersey State, Acts of the 15th General Assembly, New Jersey Assembly, November 18, 1790. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

New Jersey State Constitution. Article IV, July 2, 1776. Trenton: New Jersey State Library.

Petition of Several Inhabitants of Essex County to the Legislative Council and General Assembly, concerning the holding of elections, November 2, 1795. New Jersey State Legislature. # SLE 00018 Petitions, transactions, accounts and misc. papers, 1700-1845, item 41. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Petition of Several Inhabitants of Gloucester County to the Supreme Court concerning the appointment of a person to take affidavits and taking evidence, November 5, 1798. New Jersey State Legislature. # SLE 00018 Petitions, transactions, accounts and misc. papers, 1700-1845, item 43. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

Votes and Procedures, New Jersey General Assembly, September 5, 1776. Trenton: New Jersey State Archives.

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Secondary sources

Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005.

Greer Allan. The Patriots and the People: The Rebellion of 1837 in Rural Lower Canada. Toronto: Toronto UP, 1993.

Keyssar, Alexander. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Kruman, Marc. Between Authority and Liberty: State Constitution Making in Revolutionary America. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1997.

Lewis, Jan E. “Rethinking Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776-1807.” Rutgers Law Review 63.3 (2011): 1016-35.

Lundin, Charles L. Cockpit of the Revolution: The War for Independence in New Jersey. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1940.

McCormick, Richard. The History of Voting in New Jersey, a Study of the Development of Election Machinery, 1664-1911. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1953.

McGeorge, Isabella C. “John Cooper, Patriot.” Gloucester County Democrat 29.25 (January 8, 1907).

Mitnick, Barbara J., ed. New Jersey in the American Revolution. New Brunswick: Rivergate, 2005.

Prince, Carl E., et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. vol. 3. Trenton : New Jersey Historical Commission, 1979.

Rosanvallon, Pierre, Le sacre du citoyen : histoire du suffrage universel en France. Paris: Gallimard, 1992.

Shinn, Henry C. “An Early New Jersey Poll List.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 44.1 (January 1920): 77-81.

Turner, Edward R., “Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1790-1807.” Smith College Studies in History 1.4 (July 1916): 165-87.

Zagarri, Rosemarie, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2007.

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Notes

1  Influential European works included Marquis de Condorcet’s essay On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship, 1790; playwright Olympe de Gouges’s Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizen, published in 1791, while the French Constitution was being debated; and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women published in 1792.

2  In New Jersey, the majority of African Americans were slaves and they lived in the eastern part of the state.

3  The term “male” was included in the 1777 New York Constitution.

4  Before the early twentieth century, English legislation prevented women from voting with the English Act of 1690 (Colley 248), the 1832 Reform Act and the 1867 Electoral Law.

5  Someone who named himself or herself “Essex” advocated voting rights for New Jersey women who had equivalent property to that of men. Essex [pseud.], “Essex to Common Sense, N° IV,” New-York Journal, March 7, 1776, in Kruman 106.

6  The issue of voting rights concerns other minorities, in addition to women, but my analysis is focused on women specifically. The element of pacifism in Quaker ideology in a period of war is considerable and, as for the protection of minorities’ rights, the Quakers were generally very active in attempts to abolish slavery, for instance.

7  John Cooper (1729-1785) was a member of the New Jersey Legislative Council from 1776 to 1780, and a judge. John Cooper (Gloucester), Abraham Clark (Essex), John Hart (Hunterdon), Peter Zabriskie (Bergen), and James Mott (Monmouth) are mentioned as members of the Legislative Council (Journal, Minutes and Proceedings 5). “[…] Mr. Smith and Mr. Cooper [are] appointed to meet a Committee of the House of Assembly, in order to form a Great Seal for the state and make report to this house” (Votes and Procedures).

8  He is also mentioned in the list of persons returned as members of the New Jersey General Assembly in the New Jersey Supreme Court Files, book 1796-1799.

9  Journal of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council, Unit 1, October 25, 1796 : “[…] Ordered, that Mr. Cooper and Mr. Outwater be a committee to prepare and bring in a bill, ‘directing a uniform mode of election for choosing members of the Legislative Council and General Assembly, sheriffs and coroners, throughout this state. […]”. In addition, Joseph Cooper is mentioned among the persons returned as members of the State of New Jersey Legislative Council. “[…] John Black (of Burlington) and Joseph Cooper, esquires, severally produced certificates of their being duly elected members of this house, which were read and approved and they – being of the people called Quakers – took and subscribed the affirmation required by law before the honorable Outwater, esquire, and took their seats in Council.”

10  Very few women signed petitions; for example one woman signed the Petition of Several Inhabitants of Essex County to the Legislative Council and General Assembly, concerning the holding of elections, November 2, 1795, and one woman only signed the Petition of Several Inhabitants of Gloucester County to the Supreme Court concerning the appointment of a person to take affidavits and taking evidence, November 5, 1798.

11  Two women voted in a 1787 legislative election (Burlington, New Jersey, election of October 9, 1787) out of two hundred and fifty-eight voters, according to the poll list.

12  Seventy-five women were polled in a Newark borough on October 18, 1797 (McCormick 99 n23).

13  A later New Jersey Constitution, the Constitution of 1844, still excluded women and African Americans from the franchise, through the expression « free white males ». But the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1870, granted voting rights to African Americans only, and thus women were still deprived of voting rights until 1920.

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Linda Garbaye, « Women’s Voting Rights in 18th-Century New Jersey Electoral Reforms: Opacity and Transparency », XVII-XVIII, 69 | 2012, 230-245.

Référence électronique

Linda Garbaye, « Women’s Voting Rights in 18th-Century New Jersey Electoral Reforms: Opacity and Transparency », XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 69 | 2012, mis en ligne le 15 juillet 2016, consulté le 23 septembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/1718/621 ; DOI : 10.4000/1718.621

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Auteur

Linda Garbaye

Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand

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