Following orders from the Continental Congress, the New Jersey Provincial Congress devised a new framework of government for the state. Passed in July 1776, the new state constitution remained in force until 1844. Providing for annual elections, the constitution established an upper house called the Legislative Council and a lower house called the General Assembly. A joint meeting of the Council and the Assembly elected the governor. Essentially a figurehead, the governor lacked the power to veto laws passed by the legislature, could not pardon criminals, and did not have the authority to appoint individuals to state offices. These powers devolved on the legislature, which was thought to best represent the voice of the people. The governor and Legislative Council, meeting together, acted as the state's supreme court and court of appeals.
Different counties in New Jersey initially used different methods of voting, some favoring viva voce voting and others the paper ballot system. After 1797, however, all the counties shifted to the secret ballot. Representation was apportioned according to geographic units; each of the state's thirteen counties elected one councilor and three assemblymen to the legislature. The constitution included a provision that allowed the legislature to "add to or diminish the number or proportion" of representatives if "a majority of representatives" deemed it "equitable and proper." Although a few slight adjustments were made in 1804, 1815, and 1818, the state did not in this period fully accept the principle that representation should be proportionate to population. In addition, officeholders had to own a certain amount of property. Members of the lower house had to possess real or personal property of at least £500 in value, and members of the upper house had to own property valued at twice that much.
New Jersey's suffrage laws were unique. Under the 1776 constitution, any adult inhabitant who possessed real or personal property valued at £50 or more was entitled to vote. Laws passed in 1790 and 1797 made it clear that the legislators intended the constitution to enfranchise both unmarried women (single and widowed) and free blacks who met the property requirement. Although a few other states during this period did allow free blacks to vote, no other state allowed women to cast ballots. Ongoing hostility, however, resulted in the law's repeal. In 1807 the legislature eliminated all property qualifications for voting but confined the vote to white males. Thus the franchise was extended to all adult white male taxpayers at the same time that women and free blacks lost the right to vote.
The 1807 law represented a rare show of bipartisan cooperation between Federalists and Republicans. Long-standing differences between East Jersey, which was primarily Presbyterian in religion and looked to New York City for its cues, and West Jersey, which was predominantly Quaker in religion and took Philadelphia as it model, had persisted from the colonial era. After the factions united to ratify the United States Constitution on December 19, 1788, the old divisions between East and West Jersey resurfaced. Counties in the southern part of the state formed the West Jersey "Junto," which tended to support Federalist policies and candidates, while East Jersey increasingly gravitated toward the emerging Democratic-Republican Party.
Throughout the 1790s, the parties battled for control. In 1798 voters reacted against the Alien and Sedition Acts by electing three Republican members out of five to represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite Federalists' subsequent attempts to gerrymander districts to their advantage, the Republican surge continued. After 1800, New Jersey Republicans gained control of the state legislature, the governorship, and the congressional delegation. With only a brief Federalist interlude during the War of 1812, the Republicans’ dominance continued unabated until the fracture of the Republican Party itself during the Jacksonian era.
Republican domination was enhanced by the state's method of electing members to Congress. Whereas most state legislatures divided their state into districts and allowed each district to select its own representative to Congress, after 1813 New Jersey chose to use the at-large method of electing congressmen. Voters throughout the state cast ballots for all the eligible candidates. The candidates with the highest totals were elected. As Republicans well knew, this system tended to result in the election of members from the majority party and to eliminate the possibility of representation for the Federalist minority. Thus both persuasion and procedural tactics enabled the New Jersey Republicans solidify their own power while eradicating the divisive legacy of the state’s colonial past.
- Fleming, Thomas.
New Jersey: A Bicentennial History(New York: Norton, 1977).
- Fee, Walter R.
The Transition from Aristocracy to Democracy in New Jersey, 1789–1829.Somerville, NJ: Somerset Press, 1933.
- Klinghoffer, Judith Apter and Lois Elkis.
"'The Petticoat Electors': Women's Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776–1807,"Journal of the Early Republic, 12 (Summer 1992), 169–193.
- Kruman, Marc W.
Between Authority and Liberty: State Constitution Making in Revolutionary America.Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
- McCormick, Richard P.
Experiment in Independence: New Jersey in the Critical Period, 1781–1789.New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1950).
- Zagarri, Rosemarie.
The Politics of Size: Representation in the United States, 1776–1850.Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987).
In Pennsylvania, the Quids, known first as "Constitutionalists", arose out of a split among the Republicans in local Philadelphia politics.
The various Republican splinter movements in New York [Burrites, Lewisites and Clintonians] although most had underlying economic and reform issues, they often instead rallied around a central personality. As did most Republican splinter movements in Pennsylvania with exception of the Constitutional Republicans, a movement formed to prevent proposed judicial changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution. In addition to these, there were within Congress a group of individuals who were often classified as Quids. Among this group were congressmen from Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, New Jersey and North Carolina. Mainly elected in 1804 and 1806 as Republicans, they began to question some actions and direction of their party. When reaction to the Embargo revitalized the Federalist; New York and Pennsylvania dissident Republican movements moved back into the main party. On the Congressional level, a few remained in opposition, some declined to run for re-election, and others were not re-nominated.
"The first evidence of this appeared in reports of a dinner of the 'Democratic Constitutional Republicans' held at the White Horse Tavern in Philadelphia on March 4, 1805, to celebrate Jefferson's second inauguration. A few days later the Freeman's Journal printed a proposal, dated March 14, for forming 'The Society of Constitutional Republicans.' This document recognized the sovereignity of the people, the principle of majority rule, and the right of the people, to alter and abolish their government as they saw fit. However, it described the Pennsylvania Constitution, along with the Federal Constitution, as 'the noblest invention of human wisdom, for the self-government of man' and avowed that it should be changed only when the motives and causes were 'obvious, cogent, general and conclusive.' Great political blessings were enjoyed under the Constitution, and it required no alteration. The list of the society's principles closed with an assertion of loyalty to the existing State and Federal administrations." (The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics, 1800-1816. Sanford W. Higginbotham. 1952. p 82-83)
"Continuing the practice of the preceding year, the Aurora referred to the Constitutional Republicans as Quids. The latter professed to find the title an honorable one. A writer on the Freeman's Journal asserted that a 'tertium quid' was a substance used in pharmacy to transform a poison into a medicine and avowed that there was a great need for such an element in politics. A third party would determine whether there would be 'liberty of despotism.'" (Higginbotham, p 91)
"The incident [the Special election of State Senator for District 1 in December of 1805] highlighted one aspect of the dilemma which faced the Pennsylvania Quids so long as they existed - how to avoid becoming a tail to the Federalist kite when the Democratic leaders would not permit them to rejoin their old party." (Higginbotham, p 105)
"With McKean ineligible for another term in 1808 and with national issues making union with the Federalists less and less palatable, the great majority of Constitutional Republicans wished to return to the Republican ranks. However, they had no desire to submit to the leadership of Leib and Duane after the many indignities they had suffered at their hands. An alliance with the country Republicans, who were also seeking to rid the party of the domination of Leib and Duane, seemed a logical and natural arrangement." (Higginbotham, p 138)
"The election of 1808 was a significant demonstration of the depth and strength of Pennsylvania Republicanism. The Federalists had been favored by many circumstances - Republican disunity over presidential candidates; the Leib-Boileau quarrel among the Democrats; Quid cooperation with them in the three preceding elections; and, most important, the economic hardships of the embargo. Yet they had lost by an overwhelming majority. Republican unity reappeared under the stimulus of a revived Federalism campaigning on national issues. Internal divisions were suppressed, and the Republicans gave undivided support to Madison and Snyder. The stresses of the campaign destroyed the Constitutional Republicans as a third party, though there were vestiges in a few counties." (Higginbotham, p 176)
"The strength and nature of this factionalism varied, but it never entirely disappeared. The first stage lasted from 1800 to 1805. Personal and local differences appeared almost immediately as the Federalists virtually abandoned politics. The struggle between Governor McKean and the country Democrats in the legislature over judicial reform and the failure of the attack on the judiciary culminated in the movement for a constitutional convention. Duane and Leib, whose arbitrary control of the party in Philadelphia had produced a violent schism, took sides against the Governor. Aided by the Federalists, the Constitutional Republicans, generally called Quids, were able to defeat the project for a convention and to re-elect McKean." (Higginbotham, p 328)
"Adapted from tertium quid, a 'third something,' the name 'Quid' was first prominently used in a political sense in Pennsylvania in 1804, and it was soon affixed to a faction of the Republican party officially calling itself the Society of Constitutional Republicans. The Pennsylvania Quids attracted Federalist support and in 1805 re-elected Governor Thomas McKean, who had been the choice of a united Republican party in 1802 but was opposed by the majority wing of the party in 1805. (fn: Sanford W. Higginbotham. The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics, 1800-1816, p. 69, 346.)." ("Who Were the Quids?" Noble E. Cunningham, Jr. The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. Vol. 50, No. 2 (Sep. 1963), p. 254)
"The use of 'Quid' to refer to various third-party factions which plagued the Jeffersonian Republicans must not, however, be construed to mean that all Quids were part of the same third-party movement. When John Randolph referred to the third party, he was not being accurate. There was no such thing. The Quids in Pennsylvania and in New York - the only states where they represented organized factions - were neither in league with each other nor supporters of Randolph. In both states, the Republican divisions were the products of local controversies over men, offices, and state policies, and the Quid factions had not direct connection with the schism produced in national politics by Randolph's defection." (Cunningham, p 255)
"The opponents of the Philadelphia Democrats and their rural allies were called at various times the Rising Sun Party (after a tavern where they first met in 1802), the Third Party, the Tertium Quids (Third Whats), and more often simply the Quids. The Quids hoped to tame popular politics by discrediting the radicalism that they blamed on the Philadelphia Democrats. To do so, they emphasized the nation's future greatness and the prosperity each citizen would enjoy in a vibrant economy with a peaceful representative politics committed to promoting internal economic development. Accepting, even welcoming, democracy in Pennsylvania, the Quids attempted to redefine the term. Popular politics would remain the instrument the citizens used to create the conditions that produced material independence. But democracy would only provide such indepedence of circumstances when Pensylvanians realized that their power should not be used to disrupt or hindred private energies or the use of property." (Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism and Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania. Andrew Shankman. University Press of Kansas. 2004. p. 96)
- The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics, 1800-1816. Sanford W. Higginbotham. 1952.
- Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism and Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania. Andrew Shankman. University Press of Kansas. 2004.
Assembly: A gathering of persons for the purpose of deliberation and decision; a deliberative body, a legislative council. Please also see House of Representatives.
Oxford English Dictionary
Assembly or General Assembly: the name given to the lower house in New Jersey and New York.
1788 - 1825: New Jersey, New York
Office Scope: State
Role Scope: County