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Universal Suffrage Essay

1323 words - 6 pages

Debate on Universal Suffrage: Kent vs. Buel, N.Y
In the midst of the revolutionary war in 1777, New York states constitution became official. In the constitution it stated that white male property owners were the only ones allowed to vote in the state elections. Between 1816 and 1821, the population of citizens who did not own property flourished; leaving about 10 percent of New Yorkers eligible to vote (Unit 3: Great Debates in American History). In September 1821, the state of New York held a convention to revise its constitution; eliminating property ownership as a requirement to vote was a key issue. A great debate ensued between committee members David Buel and James Kent, resulting ...view middle of the document...

Kent expressed that universal suffrage would “jeopardize the rights of property and the principles of liberty” (Unit 3: Great Debates in American History). Kent warned that universal suffrage would allow the growing poor to vote to seize property from the wealthy. In his speech, Kent explains that France and Europe have millions of manufacturing and commercial labors who do not own property, yet their societies continue to thrive. He expresses distaste for the citizens of New England, who granted universal suffrage, because New England’s citizens are, “plain and simple republics of farmers” (Unit 3: Great Debates in American History). Kent believes that New York City will grow in size, wealth, and importance; therefore becoming the London of America, that is, as long as voting rights stay as they are. Kent goes on to state that people who only contribute one cent to the common stock compared to those that pay thousands, should not have any say regarding property concerns. Although Kent’s position was supported by many committee members, he faced strong opposition from committee member David Buel.
David Buel was born on October 22, 1784, in Litchfield, Connecticut. After graduating from Williams College in 1805, Buel studied law in Albany, N.Y. In 1808, David Buel was accepted as an attorney in the New York Supreme Court; 10 years later he was named first judge of the Rensselaer County Court, he resigned in 1828 (Hon. David Buel, Jr.). Compared to Kent, Buel and his supporters were unfamiliar, but that did not stop the convention from approving their proposition. Buel wanted the states suffrage requirements revised to all white male taxpayers, not just property owners. Buel argues that American society cannot be compared to European society because they are exceedingly different. Buel states that in America, the real property “will be in the hands of the many”, whereas in the European society, the aristocracy keeps property in the hands of only a few (Unit 3: Great Debates in American History). Buel disputes Kent’s claims on New England’s society by pointing out that their citizens are content, and have appreciated universal suffrage without destructive effects. Judge Buel explains that while suffrage being limited to property holders may have worked in the beginning, wiser laws have come into effect which steadily increased property owners, resulting in a transformation of interest in its protection. He points out the fact that farmers make up a large amount of the population, and that the agricultural population will grow in the future, therefore the taxpayers should be allowed suffrage( Unit 3: Great Debates in American History). Buel believes the rights of suffrage should not lie in the hands of a few men from a large population that is rapidly increasing, but with hardworking taxpayers that want just as much security as the next man....

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