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the expansive character of American life has now entirely ceased. Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American intellect will continually demand a wider field for its exercise. But never again will such gifts of free land offer themselves. For a moment at the frontier the bonds of custom are broken, and unrestraint is triumphant. There is not tabula rasa. The stubborn American environment is there with its imperious summons to accept its conditions; the inherited ways of doing things are also there; and yet, in spite of environment, and in spite of custom, each fron. tier did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity, a gate of escape from the bondage of the past; and freshness, and confidence, and scorn of older society, impatience of its restraints and its ideas, and indifference to its lessons, have accompanied the frontier. What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bond of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities, that, and more, the ever retreating frontier has been to the United States directly, and to the nations of Europe more remotely. And now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ELECTIVE FRANCHISE IN
BY FLORENCE ELIZABETH BAKER, A. B.
[Paper presented at the Forty. First Annual Meeting of the State Historical Society of
Wisconsin, December 14, 1893.1 The early history of the elective franchise in Wisconsin is so intimately connected with its history in the other states of the Northwest Territory, that it is scarcely necessary to rewrite it here. Her fifty-four thousand square miles of territory, with its sparse population of fur-traders and lead miners, were governed in turn by Indiana (1800), Illinois (1809), and finally by Michigan (1818), when Illinois took her place among the states of the union.' Still in those early days occasional mention may be found in some pioneer newspaper of the part that what is now Wisconsin played in an election. In June of 1825, we discover a Detroit paper stopping its press "to announce that the schooner Harriet arrived this morning from Green Bay and Mackinac, bringing the intelligence that Mr. Biddle received eighty-two votes at Green Bay and forty-two on the Island of Mackinac. Mr. Wing received at the former place thirtyfour and at the latter eighteen — and Mr. Richard two at Mackinac.” 2
In 1830 the counties of Brown, Crawford, Chippewa, and Iowa, which included part of Wisconsin Territory, but were then in Michigan Territory, were exempted from the operation of the law requiring freehold security to be given for any purpose, or as a qualification for office.
* U.S. Statutes at Large, ii., pp. 58, 514; iii., p. 428. See also Thwaites's “Boundaries of Wisconsin," W1s. Hist. Colls., xi.
• Detroit Gazette (June 14), 1825.
With the organization of the Territory, however, the separate existence of Wisconsin began. The agitation looking towards this result had been begun in congress by James Duane Doty as early as 1824, but not until April 20, 1836, did the bill pass. It went into effect the 4th of July following. By the terms of the bill, the executive power was vested in a governor, who was subject to removal by the president. He had the usual powers of a Territorial governor, and was also superintendent of Indian affairs. There was also a Territorial secretary. The leg. islative assembly, which was to consist of a council and house of representatives, was elected by the qualified voters. At the first election, every free white male citizen of the United States, above the age of twenty-one years, who was an inhabitant of the Territory, was entitled to vote, and was eligible to any office in the Territory. The qualifications at subsequent elections were to be decided by the legislative assembly, provided, that the right of suffrage should be exercised only by citizens of the United States. All township and county officers, except judicial officers, justices of the peace, sheriffs, and clerks of court, were elected by the people. The chief justice and his associates, the attorney-general, and marshal, were appointed by the president; and all other civil offices not otherwise provided for were filled by the governor.?
The first election was held on the second Monday of October, 1836, and although the time intervening between the governor's proclamation and the election was barely a month, the first campaign excited considerable interest. The legislature elected at that time met at Belmont, in the present county of La Fayette, later in the month. It is not until 1838 that we find recorded "An act providing for, and regulating, general elections in this Territory." The twelfth section thereof prescribes the qualifications of an elector: He must be twenty-one years old; a free, white, male citizen, or a foreigner duly naturalized; and must
"U. S. Statutes at Large, v., pp. 10-16. ? Ibid., pp. 11-13.
have had a six months' residence in the Territory. The manner of voting was prescribed by section ten: The elector must hand a folded ballot to the judges, “who shall deposit the same immediately into a general ballotbox, prepared for that purpose, and the clerk shall take down the name of all such voters;" the polls were to be opened at nine and closed at six, but the closing of the polls might be postponed until nine, if the judges of elec. tion deemed such course necessary to receive ail the votes.
During the first few years of Territorial history party organization does not appear to have played an important part in the elections. In 1838, however, we find James Duane Dɔty, who was nominated by the citizens of Brown county as an independent candidate for Territorial delegate, writing thus to his fellow-citizens: "I hope, therefore, my friends will permit me to decline the acceptance of their nomination as the nomination of a single county, and to express my desire, if it accords with their wishes, that they should submit my name to a general convention, and to tender them my thanks for the honor they have done me." 2
In accordance with this suggestion, a convention of delegates from several, but not all, of the counties, met at Madison on the 29th of August, and regularly nominated Doty, his opponent being George W. Jones, who had been placed in the field by public meetings held at Milwaukee and Mineral Point the 11th of July. Thus Wisconsin had seen the starting of its party machinery.
The next year national politics entered into the local elections. The first demonstration was a democratic primary held at Mineral Point, which called on the democrats of the several counties to organize, and "to correspond frequently with each other to promote general harmony and concert."3 On the 18th of June a "Territo
· Laws of Wisconsin, 1836-1833, p. 404.
rial Convention " — the result of a people's movement in Brown and Dane counties — met at Madison; and the next day, at the same place, the “ Democratic Territorial Convention," the outcome of the Mineral Point meeting. The first nominated Judge Doty for delegate, and the second Byron Kilbourn. Each of these conventions expressed its opinions of the other in a series of resolutions, which at the present date appear more ridiculous than dignified or forceful.'
Hardly was the Territory organized when an agitation for state government was begun. In his messages to the legislatures of 1838-39, and 1839-40, Governor Dodge recommended that the question be submitted to the people.” The three succeeding years it was defeated by overwhelming majorities, and the next two years the bills for submission were defeated in the legislature. In connection with the election of 1814, negro suffrage was for the first time brought to public attention. The petition of six colored men was presented in the council, praying that the right of suffrage be extended to all persons holding real estate in the Territory, or taxable property to the value of one hundred dollars. It was referred to a select committee, who reported an amendment to the bill regulating elections, which amendment failed of adoption. In the house a similar petition was presented, and referred to a committee, which reported that “it is not expedient to legislate on the subject.” A
During the year 1845 the fact that the people wanted a state government became apparent, and early in 1846 the preliminary measures were passed by congress and the Territorial legislature. On the 5th of January, 1846, the legislature convened at Madison. Governor Dodge submitted his message,' and as much of it as related to state
' Ibid., p. 293. ? House Jour., Wis. Terr. Legis., 1838, p. 6; 1€39, p. 9. * Council Jour., Wis. Terr. Legis., 1844-1845, p. 230. * House Jour., Wis. Terr. Legis., 1843-44, pp. 167, 336. * Id., 1846, p. 12.