Tomorrow, I will vote in my first U.S. Presidential election. In light of this historic event, I decided I should remind myself (and in turn, all of you) the immense amount of pain, suffering, and fighting that set the stage for what we have the right and privilege to do today. Democracy did not just fall out of thin air. It was bought with the blood, sweat, and tears of generations who demanded the freedom to choose who was given the right to govern.
You may not like the current nominees, but knowing that you have a right to choose, a right that did not exist for many over thousands of years, should at least give you the impetus to go out and vote.
Lest we forget… (note: pulled from the web, I did not do all this research myself…)
It was not until 1689 that The Bill of rights was enacted by the Parliament of England The Bill of Rights 1689 set out the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, rules for freedom of speech in Parliament, and limited the power of the monarch.
1707: The first Parliament of Great Britain is established after the merger of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland under the Acts of Union 1707.
From the late 1770s: new Constitutions and Bills explicitly describing and limiting the authority of powerholders, many based on the English Bill of Rights(1689). Historian Norman Davies calls the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Constitution of May 3, 1791 “the first constitution of its kind in Europe”.
The United States: the Founding Fathers rejected ‘democracy’ as defined by the Greeks, preferring instead ‘a natural aristocracy’, whereby only the landed gentry were entitled to a place in Congress. The Americans, as with the English, took their cue from the Roman republic model: only the patrician classes were involved in government.
- 1776: Virginia Declaration of Rights
- United States Constitution ratified in 1788, created bicameral legislature with members of the House of Representatives elected “by the People of the several states,” and members of the Senate elected by the state legislatures.
- 1791: the United States Bill of Rights ratified.
- 1790s: First Party System in U.S. involves invention of locally rooted political parties in the United States; networks of party newspapers; new canvassing techniques; use of caucus to select candidates; fixed party names; party loyalty; party platform (Jefferson 1799);
- 1800: peaceful transition between parties
1780s: development of social movements identifying themselves with the term ‘democracy’: Political clashes between ‘aristocrats’ and ‘democrats’ in Benelux countries changed the semi-negative meaning of the word ‘democracy’ in Europe, which was until then regarded as synonymous with anarchy, into a much more positive opposite of ‘aristocracy’.
1789–1799: the French Revolution
- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted on 26 August 1789 which declared that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” and proclaimed the universal character of human rights.
- Universal male suffrage established for the election of the National Convention in September 1792, but revoked by the Directory in 1795.
- Slavery abolished in the French colonies by the National Convention on 4 February 1794, with Black people made equal to White people (“All men, without distinction of color, residing in the colonies are French citizens and will enjoy all the rights assured by the Constitution”). Slavery was re-established by Napoleon in 1802.
The United Kingdom
- 1807: The Slave Trade Act banned the trade across the British Empire after which the U.K. established the Blockade of Africa and enacted international treaties to combat foreign slave traders.
- 1832: The passing of the Reform Act, which gave representation to previously under represented urban areas in the U.K. and extended the voting franchise to a wider population.
- 1833: The Slavery Abolition Act was passed, which took effect across the British Empire from 1 August 1834.
1848: Universal male suffrage was definitely established in France in March of that year, in the wake of the French Revolution of 1848.
1848: Following the French, the Revolutions of 1848, although in many instances forcefully put down, did result in democratic constitutions in some other European countries, among them Denmark and Netherlands.
1850s: introduction of the secret ballot in Australia; 1872 in UK; 1892 in USA
1853: Black Africans given the vote for the first time in Southern Africa, in the British-administered Cape Province.
1870: USA – 15th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibits voting rights discrimination on the basis of race, colour, or previous condition of slavery.
1893: New Zealand is the first nation to introduce universal suffrage by awarding the vote to women (universal male suffrage had been in place since 1879).
It is astounding to imagine a world where we do not have the right to choose who governs us, but it did exist. Thankfully, it does not exist any longer in many nations all around the world.
So, in light of the many who have fought for the right to vote, in honor of the many who have died so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy, in remembrance of the many who struggled to allow minorities and women to have the right to vote, GET OUT AND VOTE.