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|Center for Teaching the Rule of Law|
Welcome to the Center for Teaching the Rule of Law Blog. This blog will be used by Center Staff to post articles addressing issues concerning the Rule of Law and how it is taught and understood in our communities, nation, and world.
Additionally, we will make daily posts on historical events in the History of the Rule of Law.
We invite your comments, but please keep it civil.
To return to the Rule of Law Website, click here.
On July 26, 1847, the Americo-Liberian colonists of the Pepper Coast of Africa declared their independence , adopting a constitution that established the first modern republic on the African continent. The Pepper Coast was nominally a American Colony at the time, though British, Dutch and Portuguese traders also maintained trading posts there. American influence in the region began in the early 19th century with a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. Between 1822 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, more than 15,000 freed and free-born people of color who faced social and legal oppression in the U.S., along with 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to Liberia. Although many succumbed to tropical diseases and violent encounters with native African tribes, the resettled former slaves developed a society that adopted the principles democracy based on the example of the United States.
he United Kingdom was the first country to recognize Liberia's independence. The United States did not recognize Liberia until 1862, after the Southern states, which had strong political power in the American government, declared their secession and the formation of the Confederacy. The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that the ACS had purchased; they maintained relations with U.S. contacts in developing these areas and the resulting trade.
There was a decline in production of Liberian goods in the late 19th century, and the government struggled financially, resulting in indebtedness on a series of international loans. On July 16, 1892, Martha Ann Erskine Ricks met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and presented her a handmade quilt, Liberia's first diplomatic gift. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Ricks said, "I had heard it often, from the time I was a child, how good the Queen had been to my people—to slaves—and how she wanted us to be free."
Liberia remained neutral during World War I until August 4, 1917 upon declaring war on Germany. Subsequently, it was one of 32 nations to take part in the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, which ended the war and established the League of Nations; Liberia was among the few African and non-Western nations to participate in both the conference and the founding of the League.
In the mid-20th century Liberia gradually began to modernize with American assistance. During World War II the United States made major infrastructure improvements to support its military efforts in Africa and Europe against Germany. It built the Freeport of Monrovia and Roberts International Airport under the Lend-Lease program before its entry into the Second World War.
After the war, President William Tubman encouraged foreign investment, with Liberia achieving the second-highest rate of economic growth in the world during the 1950s. The country also began to take a more active role in international affairs: It was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and became a vocal critic of the South African apartheid regime. As one of the few African nations to escape colonization, Liberia also served as a proponent both of African independence from European colonial powers and of Pan-Africanism, and helped to fund the Organization of African Unity.
In the late-20th century, tension between indigenous and repatriated-descended Liberians resulted in two civil wars and periods of military rule. Liberia became a pariah state because of its trade in "blood diamonds." In 2003, pro-democracy forces gained the upper hand and established a new democratic state.
Mohammed Helmy was born in British-occupied Sudan on July 25, 1901 to an Egyptian father and German mother. As a young man he traveled to Germany to study medicine and became a doctor working in the Robert Koch Hospital in Berlin, becoming head of the department of urology. In 1938, he was fired along with all other non-Aryans. Increasingly vocal in his criticism of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, Helmly was imprisoned twice, and following his release was under an effective house arrest.
Helmy was conscripted for service in the local health corps, and used his position to provide medical excuses for foreign laborers to leave Germany and for Germans to avoid military service. He worked to secretly treat Jewish citizens and help hide them from persecution., including Anna Boris, a patient whom he successfully hid from the authorities until the end of the war. At one point, when Helmy's activities were close to discovery, he and Boros concocted a scheme to make it appear that she had duped him - a ruse that played on the Gestapo's belief that Helmy, as a "Hamite" was innately unintelligent.
Helmy died in 1982 in Berlin. He was subsequently named as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, the roll of honor for non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to protect Jews from the Nazis.
A strike (or more properly, a riot) over beer at first blush may not seem to have much to do with the history of the Rule of Law. However, the Leeuwarden Beer Strike of 1487 was about more than beer. To understand the Beer Strike, one has to understand the contentious politics of the Netherlands in the Late Middle Ages.
The first record description of the region known as the Netherlands is from the Greek geographer Pytheas, who noted c. 325 BC that in these regions, "more people died in the struggle against water than in the struggle against men." That observation is something of an exaggeration, as the inhospitable geography, while sometimes deadly, was also much contested over by the Celtic tribes that inhabited the region.
While today we recognize the Netherlands as a unified country, through much of its history this region as been more often divided than not, and even when unified under one rule, it was generally that of a foreign prince who took little interest in the internal struggles of the local populace.
The Romans were the first to conquer the region and place it under their nominal rule. However, the official Roman border was set at the Rhine River during the reign of Augustus Caesar, effective dividing the "low countries" into two regions of an area inside the the Empire and under its direct control and an area beyond the border subject to Roman influence, but nominally independent. In modern terms, the nations of Luxembourg and Belgium and the two western most provinces of the Netherlands, the historical region known as Holland were within the Empire and the remainder of the Netherlands was not.
This a distinction that was repeated in future eras. For example when the region was ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy, whose territory included much of the former Roman region, the territory was referred to as les pays de par deçà ("the lands over here") for the Low Countries, as opposed to les pays de par delà ("the lands over there") for their original homeland. Under Habsburg rule, les pays de par deçà developed into the pays d'embas ("lands down-here"), an expression in relation to other Habsburg possessions like Hungary and Austria. This was translated as Neder-landen in contemporary Dutch official documents, thus "Netherlands".
In keeping with the divided nature between their external rulers and their internal governance, the provinces of the Netherlands developed from traditional tribal areas, maintaining their own customs and often their own languages. Even today, the Netherlands recognizes Dutch, West Frisian, Low Saxon and Limburgish as official and distinct languages.
And this brings us to beer. Beer has throughout history been the beverage of the common man (and not infrequently the entire population), preferred not only for its intoxicating effect, but for its nutritional value and the fact that it was often safer to drink than potentially contaminated sources of water. It is sometimes observed that that the distinction between and village and town and a city was that the village had a bakery, the town a bakery and a brewery, and the city a bakery and two breweries.
In the Late Middle Ages, the City of Haarlem, in "North Holland," one of the provinces traditionally "inside" the civilized world, was particularly renowned for its strong, dark and flavorful beer produced in over 100 breweries. The brew of Leeuwarden, by contrast, was considered inferior both in taste and fortifying properties. The rivalry between the two cities was not limited to their competing beverages. Leeuwarden was the capital of Friesland, an "outside" province, and had had various times been the focal point of the resistance to external rule in the Friso-Hollandic Wars of the 13th to 15th centuries. The two cities were also competitors for the burgeoning international trade that in the coming centuries would turn the Netherlands into a world power.
Thus it came to pass in the early summer of 1487 that the town leaders of Leewarden determined that to protect the business interest of the local brewers (and the city's tax revenue from brewing), it would be necessary to ban the importation of all beers not brewed within the city. They further banned the selling of any existing stocks of foreign beers -- a move that did not sit well with the local tavern owners.
Matters came to a head (pun fully intended) on July 24, a market day, when a large number of farmers were in the city to sell their produce who desired to quench their thirst before heading home, prevailed upon a local tavernkeeper to open his stock of Haarlem Beer. When the incident was reported to the authorities, an attempt was made to arrest the tavernkeeper and expel his patrons, who were now well fortified with the strong brew. A general donnybrook ensued, and in the following days citizens from neighboring towns, estimated to number more than 8,000, besieged the city hall demanding that the ban on imported beer end. The city eventually capitulated.
While it did not lead to significant changes in the local government beyond repeal of the beer importation ban, the Leeuwarden Beer Strike can perhaps be viewed as an antecedent of a later act of civil disobedience concerning a popular beverage - the Boston Tea Party. Major beer riots would occur again in Bavaria and Chicago in the 19th century, and, in the late 20th Century on the campus of Illinois State University.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (23 July 1856 – 1 August 1920), born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, and an independence activist. He was one third of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Tilak was the first leader of the Indian independence movement. The British colonial authorities called him "The father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the title of "Lokmanya", which means "accepted by the people (as their leader)". Mahatma Gandhi called him "The Maker of Modern India".
Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj ("self-rule") and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote in Marathi: "Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!". He formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders including Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in first class in Mathematics from Deccan College of Pune in 1877. He left his M.A. course of study midway to join the L.L.B course instead, and in 1879 he obtained his L.L.B degree from Government Law College. After graduating, Tilak started teaching mathematics at a private school in Pune. Later, due to ideological differences with the colleagues in the new school, he withdrew and became a journalist. Tilak actively participated in public affairs. He stated: "Religion and practical life are not different. The real spirit is to make the country your family instead of working only for your own. The step beyond is to serve humanity and the next step is to serve God."
Inspired by Vishnushastri Chiplunkar, he co-founded the New English school for secondary education in 1880 with a few of his college friends, including Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Mahadev Ballal Namjoshi and Vishnushastri Chiplunkar. Their goal was to improve the quality of education for India's youth. The success of the school led them to set up the Deccan Education Society in 1884 to create a new system of education that taught young Indians nationalist ideas through an emphasis on Indian culture. The Society established the Fergusson College in 1885 for post-secondary studies. Tilak taught mathematics at Fergusson College. In 1890, Tilak left the Deccan Education Society for more openly political work. He began a mass movement towards independence by an emphasis on a religious and cultural revival.
Tilak had a long political career agitating for Indian autonomy from British colonial rule. Before Gandhi, he was the most widely known Indian political leader. Unlike his fellow Maharashtrian contemporary, Gokhale, Tilak was considered a radical Nationalist but a Social conservative. He was imprisoned on a number of occasions that included a long stint at Mandalay. At one stage in his political life he was called "the father of Indian unrest" by British author Sir Valentine Chirol.
During late 1896, a bubonic plague spread from Bombay to Pune, and by January 1897, it reached epidemic proportions. The British Indian Army was brought in to deal with the emergency and strict measures were employed to curb the plague, including the allowance of forced entry into private houses, the examination of the house's occupants, evacuation to hospitals and quarantine camps, removing and destroying personal possessions, and preventing patients from entering or leaving the city. By the end of May, the epidemic was under control. The measures used to curb the pandemic caused widespread resentment among the Indian public. Tilak took up this issue by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari (Kesari was written in Marathi, and "Maratha" was written in English), quoting the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to say that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. Following this, on 22 June 1897, Commissioner Rand and another British officer, Lt. Ayerst were shot and killed by the Chapekar brothers and their other associates. According to Barbara and Thomas R. Metcalf, Tilak "almost surely concealed the identities of the perpetrators". Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. When he emerged from prison in present-day Mumbai, he was revered as a martyr and a national hero. He adopted a new slogan coined by his associate Kaka Baptista: "Swaraj (self-rule) is my birthright and I shall have it."
Following the Partition of Bengal, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, Tilak encouraged the Swadeshi movement and the Boycott movement. The movement consisted of the boycott of foreign goods and also the social boycott of any Indian who used foreign goods. The Swadeshi movement consisted of the usage of natively produced goods. Once foreign goods were boycotted, there was a gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Tilak said that the Swadeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin.
Tilak opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and was supported by fellow Indian nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. They were referred to as the "Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate". In 1907, the annual session of the Congress Party was held at Surat, Gujarat. Trouble broke out over the selection of the new president of the Congress between the moderate and the radical sections of the party. The party split into the radicals faction, led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the moderate faction. Nationalists like Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai were Tilak supporters.
When asked in Calcutta whether he envisioned a Maratha-type of government for independent India, Tilak answered that the Maratha-dominated governments of 17th and 18th centuries were outmoded in the 20th century, and he wanted a genuine federal system for Free India where everyone was an equal partner. He added that only such a form of government would be able to safeguard India's freedom. He was the first Congress leader to suggest that Hindi written in the Devanagari script be accepted as the sole national language of India.
During his lifetime among other political cases, Tilak had been tried for sedition charges in three times by British India Government—in 1897, 1909, and 1916. In 1897, Tilak was sentenced to 18 months in prison for preaching disaffection against the Raj. In 1909, he was again charged with sedition and intensifying racial animosity between Indians and the British. The Bombay lawyer Muhammad Ali Jinnah appeared in Tilak's defense but he was sentenced to six years in prison in Burma in a controversial judgement. In 1916 when for the third time Tilak was charged for sedition over his lectures on self-rule, Jinnah again was his lawyer and this time led him to acquittal in the case.
On 30 April 1908, two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafarpur, to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford of Calcutta fame, but erroneously killed two women traveling in it. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was hanged. Tilak, in his paper Kesari, defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or self-rule.
The Government swiftly charged him with sedition. At the conclusion of the trial, a special jury convicted him by 7:2 majority. The judge, Dinshaw D. Davar gave him a six years jail sentence to be served in Mandalay, Burma and a fine of ₹1,000 (US$14). On being asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Tilak said: "All that I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue."
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was his lawyer in the case. Justice Davar's judgement came under stern criticism in press and was seen against impartiality of British justice system. Justice Davar himself previously had appeared for Tilak in his first sedition case in 1897. In passing sentence, the judge indulged in some scathing strictures against Tilak's conduct. He threw off the judicial restraint which, to some extent, was observable in his charge to the jury. He condemned the articles as "seething with sedition", as preaching violence, speaking of murders with approval. "You hail the advent of the bomb in India as if something had come to India for its good. I say, such journalism is a curse to the country". Tilak was sent to Mandalay from 1908 to 1914. While imprisoned, he continued to read and write, further developing his ideas on the Indian nationalist movement. While in the prison he wrote the Gita Rahasya. Many copies of which were sold, and the money was donated for the Indian Independence movement.
Tilak developed diabetes during his sentence in Mandalay prison. This and the general ordeal of prison life had mellowed him at his release on 16 June 1914. When World War I started in August of that year, Tilak cabled the King-Emperor George V of his support and turned his oratory to find new recruits for war efforts. He welcomed The Indian Councils Act, popularly known as Minto-Morley Reforms, which had been passed by British Parliament in May 1909, terming it as "a marked increase of confidence between the Rulers and the Ruled". It was his conviction that acts of violence actually diminished, rather than hastening, the pace of political reforms. He was eager for reconciliation with Congress and had abandoned his demand for direct action and settled for agitations "strictly by constitutional means" – a line that had long been advocated by his rival Gokhale.[additional citation(s) needed] Tilak reunited with his fellow nationalists and rejoined the Indian National Congress during the Lucknow pact 1916.
Tilak tried to convince Mohandas Gandhi to leave the idea of Total non-violence ("Total Ahimsa") and try to get self-rule ("Swarajya") by all means. Though Gandhi did not entirely concur with Tilak on the means to achieve self-rule and was steadfast in his advocacy of satyagraha, he appreciated Tilak's services to the country and his courage of conviction. After Tilak lost a civil suit against Valentine Chirol and incurred pecuniary loss, Gandhi even called upon Indians to contribute to the Tilak Purse Fund started with the objective of defraying the expenses incurred by Tilak.
July 22, 1937 – The United States Senate votes down President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, frequently called the "court-packing plan", was a legislative initiative proposed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to obtain favorable rulings regarding New Deal legislation that the Court had ruled unconstitutional. The central provision of the bill would have granted the president power to appoint an additional justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, up to a maximum of six, for every member of the court over the age of 70 years. Additional provisions applied to reforms of the lower federal courts
In the Judiciary Act of 1869, Congress had established that the Supreme Court would consist of the chief justice and eight associate justices. During Roosevelt's first term, the Supreme Court struck down several New Deal measures as being unconstitutional. Roosevelt sought to reverse this by changing the makeup of the court through the appointment of new additional justices who he hoped would rule that his legislative initiatives did not exceed the constitutional authority of the government. Since the U.S. Constitution does not define the Supreme Court's size, Roosevelt believed it was within the power of Congress to change it. Members of both parties viewed the legislation as an attempt to stack the court, and many Democrats, including Vice President John Nance Garner, opposed it. The bill came to be known as Roosevelt's "court-packing plan," a phrase coined by Edward Rumely.
In November 1936, Roosevelt won a sweeping re-election victory. In the months following, he proposed to reorganize the federal judiciary by adding a new justice each time a justice reached age 70 and failed to retire. The legislation was unveiled on February 5, 1937, and was the subject of Roosevelt's ninth Fireside chat on March 9, 1937. He asked, "Can it be said that full justice is achieved when a court is forced by the sheer necessity of its business to decline, without even an explanation, to hear 87% of the cases presented by private litigants?" Publicly denying the president's statement, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes reported, "There is no congestion of cases on our calendar. When we rose March 15 we had heard arguments in cases in which cert has been granted only four weeks before. This gratifying situation has obtained for several years". Three weeks after the radio address, the Supreme Court published an opinion upholding a Washington state minimum wage law in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish. The 5–4 ruling was the result of the apparently sudden jurisprudential shift by Associate Justice Owen Roberts, who joined with the wing of the bench supportive to the New Deal legislation. Since Roberts had previously ruled against most New Deal legislation, his support here was seen as a result of the political pressure the president was exerting on the court. Some interpreted Roberts' reversal as an effort to maintain the Court's judicial independence by alleviating the political pressure to create a court more friendly to the New Deal. This reversal came to be known as "the switch in time that saved nine"; however, recent legal-historical scholarship has called that narrative into question as Roberts' decision and vote in the Parrish case predated both the public announcement and introduction of the 1937 bill.
Roosevelt's legislative initiative ultimately failed. Henry F. Ashurst, the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held up the bill by delaying hearings in the committee, saying, "No haste, no hurry, no waste, no worry—that is the motto of this committee." As a result of his delaying efforts, the bill was held in committee for 165 days, and opponents of the bill credited Ashurst as instrumental in its defeat. The bill was further undermined by the untimely death of its chief advocate in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Joseph T. Robinson. Other reasons for its failure included members of Roosevelt's own Democratic Party believing the bill to be unconstitutional, with the Judiciary Committee ultimately releasing a scathing report calling it "a needless, futile and utterly dangerous abandonment of constitutional principle . . . without precedent or justification". Contemporary observers broadly viewed Roosevelt's initiative as political maneuvering. Its failure exposed the limits of Roosevelt's abilities to push forward legislation through direct public appeal. Public perception of his efforts here was in stark contrast to the reception of his legislative efforts during his first term.
July 21, 1960 – Sirimavo Bandaranaike is elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, becoming the world's first female head of a democratic government
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the wife of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who was involved in politics and later became Prime Minister. She served as her husband's informal advisor and was influential in improving the lives of women and girls in rural areas of Sri Lanka. Following her husband's assassination in 1959, Bandaranaike entered politics, becoming Chairwoman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party; she led the party to victory in the July 1960 election. Elected as prime minister, she became the first democratically elected female head of government in the world.
Bandaranaike attempted to reform the former British Colony of Ceylon into a socialist republic by nationalizing organizations in the banking, education, industry, media and trade sectors. Changing the administrative language from English to Sinhala, she exacerbated discontent among the native Tamil population, and with the estate Tamils, who had become stateless under the Citizenship Act of 1948. During Bandaranaike's first two terms as Prime Minister, the country was plagued by high inflation and taxes, a dependence on food imports to feed the populace, high unemployment, and polarization between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations because of her Sinhalese nationalist policies. Surviving an attempted coup d'état in 1962, as well as a 1971 insurrection of radical youths, in 1972 she oversaw the drafting of a new constitution and the formation of the Sri Lankan republic. In 1975, Bandaranaike created what would eventually become the Sri Lankan Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, also appointing the first woman to serve in the Sri Lankan Cabinet. Bandaranaike's tenure was marked by inadequate economic development at the national level. She played a large role abroad as a negotiator and a leader among the Non-Aligned Nations.
Ousted from power in the 1977 elections, Bandaranaike was stripped of her civil rights in 1980 for alleged abuses of power during her tenure and barred from government for seven years. Her successors initially improved the domestic economy, but failed to address social issues, and led the country into a protracted civil war. When she returned to party leadership in 1986, Bandaranaike opposed allowing the Indian Peace Keeping Force to intervene in the civil war, believing it violated Sri Lankan sovereignty. Failing to win the office of President in 1988, she served as Leader of the Opposition in the legislature from 1989 to 1994. When her daughter won the presidential election that year, Bandaranaike was appointed to her third term as Prime Minister and served until her retirement in 2000, two months prior to her death.
July 20, 1906 – In Finland, a new electoral law was ratified, guaranteeing the country the first and equal right to vote in the world. Finnish women were the first in Europe to receive the right to vote.
The first place in Europe to introduce women's suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1906, and it also became the first place in continental Europe to implement racially-equal suffrage for women. Previously only New Zealand and South Australia had approved universal female suffrage, and Finland was the second to grant women the right to stand as candidates.
As a result of the 1907 parliamentary elections, Finland's voters elected 19 women as the first female members of a representative parliament. This was one of many self-governing actions in the Russian autonomous province that led to conflict with the Russian governor of Finland, ultimately leading to the creation of the Finnish nation in 1917. Miina Sillanpää, who was one of the women elected to in 1907, became Finland's first female government minister in 1926.
The election followed the parliamentary reform of 1906 which replaced the Diet of Finland, which was based on the Estates and had its institutional roots in the period of Swedish reign, with a modern unicameral parliament of 200 MPs. The reform was agreed upon after a general strike in Finland in 1905 during which demands for a parliamentary reform arose especially among the Socialists. This coincided with similar development in Russia which too saw a general strike and, after the Russo-Japanese War, the birth of a new institution, the Duma. This background explains why Emperor Nicholas II of Russia allowed the parliamentary reform in Finland.
The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women's rights convention held in the United States. It advertised itself as "a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman". Held in the Wesleyan Chapel of the town of Seneca Falls, New York, it spanned two days over July 19–20, 1848. Attracting widespread attention, it was soon followed by other women's rights conventions, including the Rochester Women's Rights Convention in Rochester, New York, two weeks later. In 1850 the first in a series of annual National Women's Rights Conventions met in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Female Quakers local to the area organized the meeting along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was not a Quaker. They planned the event during a visit to the area by Philadelphia-based Lucretia Mott. Mott, a Quaker, was famous for her oratorical ability, which was rare for non-Quaker women during an era in which women were often not allowed to speak in public.
The meeting comprised six sessions including a lecture on law, a humorous presentation, and multiple discussions about the role of women in society. Stanton and the Quaker women presented two prepared documents, the Declaration of Sentiments and an accompanying list of resolutions, to be debated and modified before being put forward for signatures. A heated debate sprang up regarding women's right to vote, with many – including Mott – urging the removal of this concept, but Frederick Douglass, who was the convention's sole African American attendee, argued eloquently for its inclusion, and the suffrage resolution was retained. Exactly 100 of approximately 300 attendees both men and women, signed the document.
The convention was seen by some of its contemporaries, including featured speaker Mott, as one important step among many others in the continuing effort by women to gain for themselves a greater proportion of social, civil and moral rights, while it was viewed by others as a revolutionary beginning to the struggle by women for complete equality with men. Stanton considered the Seneca Falls Convention to be the beginning of the women's rights movement, an opinion that was echoed in the History of Woman Suffrage, which Stanton co-wrote.
The convention's Declaration of Sentiments became "the single most important factor in spreading news of the women's rights movement around the country in 1848 and into the future", according to Judith Wellman, a historian of the convention. By the time of the National Women's Rights Convention of 1851, the issue of women's right to vote had become a central tenet of the United States women's rights movement. These conventions became annual events until the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.
July 18, 1872 – The Ballot Act 1872 in the United Kingdom introduced the requirement that parliamentary and local government elections be held by secret ballot.
Contrary to popular belief, the secret ballot has not always been a part of democratic elections in the United States or elsewhere. Although used in some recorded incidents in ancient Greece and Rome, in modern times the secret ballot was not commonly employed until the mid-19th century.
In early democratic systems, the voting franchise was limited to relatively small number of the nobility and landed gentry. Being social familiars, the voters often treated elections as a social affair at which an open debate might be held to discuss which of the eligible persons present should be "elected" to serve.
As the franchise expanded beyond the noble and landed classes, employers and landowners had been able to use their sway over employees and tenants to influence the vote, either by being present themselves or by sending representatives to check on the votes as they were being cast. Small retailers were also concerned not to upset their bigger customers by voting differently from them.
The painting The Polling (1755) by William Hogarth depicts a typical election before the introduction of the secret ballot. The colored flags presented the two parties and voters gathered by the flag of their party and announced their vote by calling out their name and the name of the party (not the candidate) they supporting which was then recorded in a register. Note the carriage in the background on the left, indicating that the local squire is observing how his tenants vote.
The first use of a secret ballot was in France in 1848, and subsequently in Australia, where the adoption of four requirements for the manner of voting in secret became known as the "Australian ballot system." The requirements were:
The Ballot Act 1872 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that introduced the requirement for parliamentary and local government elections in the United Kingdom to be held by secret ballot. Radicals, such as the Chartists, had long campaigned for the system to end by the introduction of a secret ballot.
The Representation of the People Act 1867, or Second Reform Act, enfranchised the skilled working class in borough constituencies, and it was felt that their economic circumstances would cause such voters to be particularly susceptible to bribery, intimidation or blackmail. The radical John Bright expressed concerns that tenants would face the threat of eviction if they voted against the wishes of their landlord. It fell to Edward Aldam Leatham, the husband of Bright's sister, to introduce the Ballot Act on leave.
Many in the Establishment had opposed the introduction of a secret ballot. They felt that pressure from patrons on tenants was legitimate and that a secret ballot was simply unmanly and cowardly. Lord Russell voiced his opposition to the creation of a culture of secrecy in elections, which he believed should be public affairs. He saw it as 'an obvious prelude from household to universal suffrage'.
Election spending at the time was unlimited, and many voters would take bribes from both sides. While the secret ballot might have had some effect in reducing corruption in British politics, the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883 formalized the position and is seen by many to have been the key legislation in the attempts to end electoral corruption.
The secret ballot mandated by the Act was first used on 15 August 1872 to re-elect Hugh Childers as MP for Pontefract in a ministerial by-election, following his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The original ballot box, sealed in wax with a liquorice stamp, is held at Pontefract museum. Of those who voted, 16%, were illiterate, and special arrangements had to be made to record their previously-open oral votes. The first general election using a secret ballot was in 1874, which saw the first Conservative majority elected since 1841.
The Ballot Act 1872 was of particular importance in Ireland, as it enabled tenants to vote against the landlord class in parliamentary elections. The principal result of the Act was seen in the general election of 1880, which marked the end of a landlord interest in both Ireland and Great Britain.
The Act inspired Belgian minister Jules Malou to implement a similar system in Belgium, which he did with the act of 9 July 1877 (la loi du 9 Juillet 1877 sur le secret du vote et les fraudes électorales). The elections of 1878 were a victory for the Liberal Party.