Revolutionary War and Resistance (1776-1790)

The leaders of the American Revolution argued that government is legitimate only when it has the consent of the governed. After the Revolution, some of the restrictions on voting seemed to go against the fundamental principles of the new country.

“No Taxation without Representation”

Some states replaced property ownership qualifications with taxpaying requirements (i.e. if you pay taxes, you can vote); some eliminated voting requirements regarding money or property.

“No taxation without representation,” a rallying cry of the Revolution, was applied in the case of free Black men in the former colonies.

In 1780, Paul Cuffee, a free business owner of African and American Indian descent from Boston, asked to be excused from paying taxes since he and his brother had "no voice or influence in the election of those who tax us." His petition was denied, but his lawsuit helped push the Massachusetts Legislature to grant voting rights to all free male citizens of the state in 1783.


Paul Cuffee; Source: Wikimedia

By 1790, six states (Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont) permitted free African American men to vote. Of the original 13 colonies, only Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina explicitly prevented men from voting based on their race.