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Map of New Jersey

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.

Bibliography

  • 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).

candidates supported by both major parties

As early as the first Federal elections in 1788, there were candidates, who while alligned with one party or another, was supported in the press by both parties in a particular election.


Republican splinter parties

See Republican. These are elections in which two distinct and separate Republican tickets were run.

Anti-Caucus:

New Jersey 1820: Several newspapers, including the Elizabeth-Town Gazette and the True American (Philadelphia) listed a separate ticket of dissident Republicans for the U.S. House of Representatives race in New Jersey in 1820, referred to as the "Anti-Caucus" ticket. Nominations for At Large candidates on a state wide level could often cause problems. Rotation of candidates, or lack thereof, from different regions/counties would sometimes cause dissension, and occasionally regional candidates, often an incumbent who had been dropped from the list, would be set up in opposition. As the Federalist Party declined, the process of country meetings, conventions and the Legislative caucus to nominate candidates came under increased criticism and with less party competition the idea of a more open and balanced method of selecting candidates was becoming a political issue.

Adamite / Crawford:

While many tickets would grow up around support for one person (such as Clintonians in New York or Snyderites in Pennsylvania), the affiliations of many candidates in various elections in 1823 and 1824 were based around which candidate for President in 1824 the individual candidate was supporting. While those supporters of Andrew Jackson would become the mainstream part of the Republican Party as it transitioned into the Democratic Party, there were also the followers of John Quincy Adams, many of whom would soon form the basis for, first the National Republican Party, then its successor, the Whig Party. The followers of William H. Crawford were also identified, though they never coalesced into any sort of larger organization and mostly existed in Georgia, Crawford's home state, though they found support among the Bucktails of New York.

Friends of Reform:

In 1820, these were Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, mostly in Bucks County, opposed to the present administration.

New School / New School Republican / Old School / Old School Democrat / Old School Republican:

Used in Pennsylvania throughout the 1810's. They were often in opposition to the Constitutionalists. (See also: Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism and Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania. Andrew Shankman. University Press of Kansas. 2004.)

Opposition Republican:

Used in several states over the course of over 20 years.

"Prior to the election of 1802 there had been minor divisions based largely upon personal jealousies and the quest for offices; and a vague dissatisfaction with the Governor had developed. A new cause of dissension became prominent in 1803 and 1804 as the legislature began to attempt modifications in the judicial system and to use its powers of impeachment against the judges of the State courts. McKean's opposition to most of these measures alienated many Republicans; and some of his supporters sought Federalist aid to redress the political balance." (The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics, 1800-1816. Sanford W. Higginbotham. 1952. p 49)

"The election of 1803 found the Republican splits becoming deeper and more widespread. The quarrel over Federal patronage in Philadelphia nearly reached the point of an open breach, while the Rising Sun movement against Leib gained added strength in Philadelphia County. In Lancaster some of the State officeholders made an unsuccessful attempt to organize a third party movement in support of McKean. The Federalists for the most part abandoned active politics, although the dissident Republican factions courted their aid." (Higginbotham, p 58)

Union:

Used in several states over the course of over 20 years.

In Rhode Island in 1807 and 1808 this was a splinter party formed by a combination of those republicans who were supporters of Governor James Fenner, combined with Federalists.

In New Jersey, for several years, from 1807 through 1822, this was a quasi-merged group between Federalists and Republicans, similar to the Quids in Pennsylvania.