The Expansion of American Democracy. A Guide to Answering the Essay Question.
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A Guide to Answering the Essay Question
The first true example of the expansion of the suffrage in American occurred during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson. He presided over the nation when universal white man’s suffrage was allowed. Property requirements in order to vote were dropped during this time. Andrew Jackson – who the Whig Party despised for his vetoes and stubbornness – was considered a “Common Man.”Andrew Jackson
Although Radical Republicans tried to make these amendments relevant by enforcing laws which insured equality – going so far as to occupy the South militarily – eventually, the resolve of the people broke down.The Failure of Resolve
Meanwhile, grandfather clauses were put into effect which allowed any person whose grandfather had voted in an election the state in the past – when only whites were allowed to vote – to be exempt from paying the poll tax or passing the literacy test. This way, poor whites – who may or may not be literate – could still vote.Grandfather Clauses
While African Americans were having their voting rights taken away, many voters were being empowered by the democratic reforms of Progressive leaders like Wisconsin Senator Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette.Progressive Reforms
The 17th Amendment allowed for the direct election of Senators. Previously, Senators had been selected by state legislatures. Like the previously mentioned voting reforms, this amendment gave more power directly to voters in the United States.The Seventeenth (17th) Amendment to the Constitution
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August of 1963 was in part a demand for greater voting rights, too. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech here. After the speech, African American leaders met with John F. Kennedy, who would propose the Civil Rights Act.The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963
One last amendment for the very young in the United States. In 1971, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, forbidding discrimination against voters who were 18 or older. The amendment was ratified to a large extent due to student protestors, who point out – quite correctly – that many eighteen year old men and women had been drafted into the military during the Vietnam War, and were presently fighting to protect a nation that did not allow them to vote – having been sent there by a government which they had had no role in creating.The 26th Amendment