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American election campaigns in the 19th century
- Created 2012-02-20
In the 19th century, a number of new methods for conducting American election campaigns developed in the United States. For the most part the techniques were original, not copied from Europe or anywhere else. The campaigns were also changed by a general enlargement of the voting franchise--most states began removing or reducing property and tax qualifications for suffrage (the last to remove all property requirements was
in 1856) and by the early 19th century the great majority of free adult white males could vote (
being a notable exception, though the constitution was considerably liberalized after an
). In addition, during and after
, black males in the South were enfranchised, and technically were afterwards, though widespread voting by blacks was a practical impossibility after the 1877 withdrawal of federal troops from the South.
The system was characterized by two major parties who dominated government at the local, state and national level, and enlisted most voters into a loyal "army" of supporters. There were numerous small third parties that usually were short-lived or inconsequential. The complex system of electing federal, state and local officials meant that election campaigns were both frequent and consequential in terms of political power. Nearly all government jobs were distributed on a
basis to party workers. The jobs were honorific and usually paid very well. The best way to get a patronage job was to work in the election campaign for the winning party, and volunteers were numerous. Elections provided Americans with much of their news. The elections of 1828-32, 1854-56, and 1894-96 are usually considered
from Wikipedia (last updated: 15 May), licensed under
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Getting the Message Out: National Campaign Materials 1840-1860, Illinois Historical Digitization Projects at Northern Illinois University Libraries
"The Campaign of 1840: William Henry Harrison and Tyler, Too"
Fourth Party System
Third Party System
Second Party System
First Party System
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