Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the democratic revolution in America was an irresistible one, and that to attempt to stop it “would be to resist the will of God.” The elevation of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1829 pushed the democratic revolution forward – in the North the friction became one between the commercial-financial aristocracy and the working men, and in the South the planters and the yeoman farmers. Against simple majority rule and “the tyranny of king numbers” stood John C. Calhoun and Abel P. Upshur in the South, as well as James Kent, Joseph Story and Orestes Brownson of the North.
Broadening the Base of Democracy
“To what extent was aristocracy weakened and democracy strengthened by the work of the [State constitutional] conventions of the 1830s? In the first place, property qualifications for voting were abolished . . . except Virginia, North Carolina, [New Jersey and Rhode Island], and with Louisiana [Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio] still requiring the payment of taxes. The last of the religious restrictions were also abolished.
In still another way these changes broadened the base of democracy. For the first time the people had been consulted as to the revision and amendment of their constitutions. The conventions were called directly or indirectly by action of the people. The revised constitutions were in turn submitted back to them for ratification or rejection.
In one matter there was a definite reactionary movement. This was the issue of Negro suffrage. Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania took the ballot from the Negro. And New York in 1821 limited Negro suffrage by requiring that he possess a freehold valued at two-hundred fifty dollars over and above all indebtedness. Hence only five of the Northern States granted equal suffrage to Negroes.
Whether or not Jefferson, Mason, and other Revolutionary proponents of natural rights philosophy intended to include Negroes in the statement that “all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights” is a debatable question; but in actual practice the American people had decided by their constitutional provisions that Negroes were not included in the political people.”
(Democracy in the Old South, Fletcher M. Green; The Journal of Southern History, Volume XII, Number 1, February 1946, excerpts pp. 15-16)