THE FIRST LIBERTY: A History of the Right to Vote in America, 1619-1850 by Marchette Chute

THE FIRST LIBERTY: A History of the Right to Vote in America, 1619-1850

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A careful, particularized, history of the struggle for white male suffrage in the period 1609-1850, this is the first work on an American theme by a writer best known for her work in English literature (Shakespeare of London, etc.). Focusing primarily on colonial charters, state constitutions, and the opinions of the men who drew them up, the author sees her subject primarily in legal terms. In so doing she misses much of the interest and excitement of her topic. The quest for the franchise was part of a larger movement toward social equality in America. Its expansion was urged not merely by a few high-minded aristocrats, but more importantly, by impoverished farmers and by the earliest labor unions. None of the impact of this upheaval is reflected in this calm, bland book. Nor is there much attempt to develop the quests for women's and Negro suffrage which began before the Civil War, though these are mentioned briefly. For the tumult and the shouting, the reader would do better to turn to works dealing with the sociopolitical issues, such as Douglass' 1955 Rebels and Democrats. But the author's reputation and strong publisher support ensures attention and it has merit for its meticulously assembled and well ordered information.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1969
Publisher: Dutton