White Manhood Suffrage
Throughout the first half of the 19th century, “free suffrage” was the goal of men who believed that they did not need to own property to have an interest in the fortunes of their country or to exercise sound judgment on its behalf. They agitated to change state constitutions and abolish property requirements for voting. This cane bearing their slogan was likely carried in parades. Some men in power shared their philosophy. Others found the growing power of the “common man,” the shifting American economy, and the need for new voters to support their own new political parties were compelling reasons to support free suffrage.
Nearly all white men could vote for president in the 1856 election. Free African American men could only vote in six northern states and women could not vote at all.
Gifts of Ralph E. Becker Collection of Political Americana and Sara L. Lepman