Political Parties in the Early American Republic

This was a period of great experimentation and change in the development of political parties. The framers of the federal Constitution had not anticipated the development of permanent political parties. Parties were considered “factions,” dangerous and illegitimate alliances that pursued their own self-interest at the expense of the common good. National leaders were expected to[…]

Voting in Early America

The first representative assembly in English America convened in Jamestown’s church July 30, 1619. By Ed Crews Among the first things the Jamestown voyagers did when they set up English America’s first permanent settlement was conduct an election. Nearly as soon as they landed—April 26, 1607, by their calendar—the commanders of the 105 colonists unsealed[…]

The Birth and Growth of Gerrymandering in Early America

Gerrymandering, the politicians’ practice of drawing district lines to favor their party and expand their power, is nearly as old as the republic itself. Elbridge Gerry was a powerful voice in the founding of the nation, but today he’s best known for the political practice with an amphibious origin. Long and thin, the redrawn state[…]

Elbridge Gerry’s Monster Salamander that Swallows Votes

Examining the two-hundred-year-old creation of Founding Father Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. By Harlow Giles Unger As Americans prepare to vote in local and state elections on Election Day, tens of thousands–even millions–will find their votes chewed, swallowed, and discarded by a monstrous “salamander”—the two-hundred-year-old creation of Founding Father Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Gerry created the[…]

Remembering 1876, the Year of the Inconclusive Vote

There has never been anything like it before or since. We are told that this year’s presidential election is unprecedented in many ways. The American voters are faced with the choice between an unlikely candidate who has been repudiated by many within his own party, and a seasoned politician whom the head of the FBI[…]

George Washington and the First Electoral College

It’s worth considering the astonishing contrast between 21st-century presidential elections and those contemplated by the 18th-century authors of the Constitution. By Craig Dimitri Everyone at the 1787 Federal Convention knew that Virginia delegate George Washington – who presided over the assembly – would be the first executive.  The challenge would be in determining how to[…]

The Pankhurst Sisters: Bitter Divisions behind Their Fight for Women’s Votes

Sylvia Pankhurst’s book is the dominant narrative of the time, but was she unfair to her sister Christabel? Emmeline Pankhurst, her eldest daughter Christabel and some local socialist women founded, in 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Their goal was to campaign for the parliamentary vote for women. The women-only WSPU, whose members were called[…]

An Overview of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1848-1920

It was the single largest extension of voting rights in our nation’s history. The woman suffrage movement actually began in 1848, when a women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The Seneca Falls meeting was not the first in support of women’s rights, but suffragists later viewed it as the meeting that[…]