Democracy in Spanish America: The Early Adoption of Universal Male Suffrage, 1810–1853

epc publication

Universal manhood suffrage — the right to an equal vote for all adult males, regardless of racial, economic or literacy conditions, as adopted by some Spanish American countries in the 1850s, at a time when very few countries in the Western world had done so — is the subject of this article. It considers in more detail the experience of New Granada (Colombia), with some comparative references, especially to Argentina and Mexico, in the wider context of the 1848 European revolutions. It offers a novel contribution to the wider historiography of suffrage while also contributing to a growing literature that seeks to decentre the history of democracy. Additionally, in as much as issues related to suffrage were central to the process of constitution-making, what we detail here has some bearing on the renewed interest in constitutional history. While this is above all an engagement with history, it is hoped that its findings will have relevance to theoretical discussions among social scientists on the expansion of suffrage.