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Meeting in Albany to revise the out-of-date constitution of 1777, the convention of 1821 voted to streamline the organization of state government and sharply curtail the patronage powers of the governor. To cement these changes, delegates enacted nearly total manhood suffrage: All adult male citizens of who paid state or local taxes, served in the militia, or worked on state roads- more than ⅘ of the adult male population- were now eligible to vote directly for state legislators, governor, and members of Congress. Before 1800 most of the original 13 states limited the vote to property owners or taxpayers, or less than half the white male population. The new western states extended the right to vote to all white males over the age of 21. Kentucky entered the Union with universal manhood suffrage in 1792, Tennessee (1796), and Ohio (1803) with low taxpayer qualifications that approached universal suffrage. Soon older states such as New Jersey (1807) and Maryland (1810) dropped their property qualification for voting. By 1820, most of the older states had followed suit. Some states liberalized voting in the hopes of dissuading disgruntled nonvoters from moving west or because it seemed unfair to recruit men to fight in the War of 1812 but not allow them to vote.
In most states, however, the driving force behind reform was competition for votes between parties or factions of parties. In Connecticut, the Democratic Republicans first challenged the state's controlling Federalists in 1802 and finally in 1817 achieved suffrage for all men who paid taxes or served in the militia. In South Carolina, a compromise agreement in 1808 allocated votes to the lower house by population, and to the upper house by wealth- this redistribution of power led directly to a demand for universal white suffrage, which became law (with a 2-year residency requirement) in SC. There were laggards, but by 1840, more than 90 percent of adult white males in the nation could vote. However, the right to vote remained barred to most of the nation's 500,000 free African Americans and to women of any race. Only in 5 New England states (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI) could free African American men vote before 1865. Free African Americans were denied the vote in all southern states, and in the new western states as well. The denial of suffrage to white women stemmed from the patriarchal belief that men headed households and represented the interests of all household members. Although the extension of suffrage to all classes of white men seemed to indicate that women had no role in public affairs, in fact women's informal involvement in politics grew along with the increasing pace of political activity. The extension of suffrage to the common man marked a major step beyond the republicanism advocated by the Revolutionary generation