"King George Has Issued Too Many Pattents for Us": Property and Democracy in Jeffersonian New York


The question of a "Jeffersonian Revolution" American political behavior has been posited by a number of scholars, counterpoised to a "Jacksonian Revolution." Given the enormous variability in political practice from state to state and region to region, this problem must be examined through detailed case studies, now facilitated by data now being assembled by the "New Nation Votes Project," sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society and Tufts University. This paper arrives at an ambiguous conclusion regarding a "Jeffersonian Revolution" in New York. Turnout in New York state was powerfully shaped by the property qualifications established in the 1777 constitution, and turnout relative to those qualifications was quite high, but relative to the measure of "adult white males" was quite low. Throughout much of New York both turnout and competition between parties was low. On the other hand a series of very specific counties stand out as having tight elections and wild extremes of nominally "illegal" voting by unqualified voters between roughly 1800 and 1820. These were counties where the formative institutions and practices of the Jacksonian era were clearly being forged during the age of Jefferson and Madison.