Happy Open Access Week! This week we celebrate open access scholarship, and remember that it is time to set the default to Open Access.
Our collection of open access scholarship in the Tufts Digital Library is small but growing, aided in a large part by our Provost’s Open Access Fund.
(This morning as I was walking around the office, cajoling my coworkers into labeling themselves with stickers that say “I Support Open Access”, I realized how many of us are employed in the business of creating open access to scholarship and research data. Just thinking about all of my colleagues who are digitizing the painstakingly gathered election data that comprise the “A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825” project makes me proud; we are creating a vital research collection for historians, and jobs for us. Huzzah for open access, I say!)
The recent talk of the archive world is this article from the Atlantic. I know this because I was sent it by my colleagues here at Tufts and my colleagues at AAS. In essence, it points out that what people term “discoveries” aren’t really discoveries. They’re in the archives and have been preserved, but many archives don’t know everything that’s there because there isn’t time enough in the world for item-level cataloging.
Well, at A New Nation Votes we know what we have – over 40,000 pages of election information. But as we get to the nitty-gritty of election results, we do find some amusing tidbits. (Well, we find them amusing.) Like the fact that in 1821, one person in the town of Boston (Boston didn’t become a city until the next year) voted for Napoleon Buonoparte for Governor. Napoleon got only the one vote, which was good, since he was in exile on St. Helena at the time and he died only a couple of weeks after the election was held.
There was also the congressional race in the 16th District in New York in 1804, when Judas Iscariot got one vote. And that wasn’t Judas’ only vote in New York. He received a vote in the Assembly race in Washington County two years later, along with Napoleon, Talleyrand and Benedict Arnold. Clearly some voters weren’t happy with their choices for candidates.
So, remember, whether you voted for Bill Clinton or Bill the Cat (my go-to write-in vote in elections that frustrate me thanks to years of Bloom County), your vote has been recorded for posterity. And you might just create a good laugh for some researcher 200 years from now.
Do you find some of the laws in your state odd? There are various lists out there of laws that are still on the books that seem ridiculous, not only for the present, but for any point in time. Personally, I love that Massachusetts still has a law that bans the use of tomatoes in clam chowder. But there are stranger laws as well – in Boston there is an ordinance that requires you to carry a gun if crossing Boston Common in case of bears.
But, like many of the things we discover here at A New Nation Votes, this is not a new complaint. As far back as 1823 people were complaining about the odd laws of their forefathers. I have here a piece from The Sentinal (Butler, PA) of October 18, 1823:
“BLUE LAWS. The Blue laws of Connecticut have often been a source of meriment to the citizens of the present day. But it is not generally known that some of the acts of the legislature of Pennsylvania are equally queer. About the year 1683 or 84 the legislature of Pennsylvania, passed a resolution that, ‘no member thereof should come to the house barefooted nor eat his bread and cheese on the steps.’ “
Apparently in 1683 it was a concern that, not only might the members show up without shoes, but that, heaven forbid, they might eat their lunch on the steps of the state house.
So go ahead and complain about your state’s silly laws. It’s a time honored tradition.
Did Tuesday’s results in the Republican primary confuse you? As explained here, by the New York Times, the three elections on Tuesday didn’t really award any delegates. Yet, that didn’t stop people from voting in them (not a lot of people, as turnout was quite low, but thousands of people nonetheless).
This prompted one colleague to ask me, is there any historical precedent for this? Or have we just gone crazy, voting for nothing?
The good news (maybe) is that we haven’t gone crazy. There is a long, storied historical precedent for this. A perfect example is the 1824 Presidential election. Do you remember this one? It’s the one where the President was actually chosen by the House of Representatives because none of the four candidates received a majority in the Electoral College. There are already a number of misconceptions running around about this election, namely because several states, including New York, which had by far the largest population, didn’t directly elect their presidential electors, and so the popular vote that we have is far from representative of the country as a whole. But New York wasn’t the only state who didn’t direct elect their electors. South Carolina was another state where the state legislature elected the electoral ticket. The rest of the population had absolutely no say in who the legislature would choose.
But that didn’t stop them from saying it anyway. As can be seen here, there were polls around the state throughout the summer and autumn where the people chose to have their say. Luckily for them, when the legislature did actually make their choice, they went with a ticket dedicated to Andrew Jackson, the same person who overwhelmingly won the state poll. But there was nothing that required that the legislature agree with the rest of the population.
And it could have been even more confusing. At least in South Carolina they knew who they were electing. In Delaware, they weren’t certain who the electors would vote for and there was a question as to whether they were legally elected. As seen here, one of the three electors chosen by their legislature ended up voting for William Crawford in the Electoral College. But of the eight newspapers that reported on the legislative election, five of them listed him as a supporter of Henry Clay. And there were 30 members of the Delaware legislature at the time and two of the electors only received 15 votes. “Through a strange and unexpected interpretation of the state law governing tie votes, the president officer of the senate cast an additional vote for each of the Crawford men, both of whom were declared elected.” (History of American Presidential Elections 1789-1968, Volume 1, Arthur M. Schlesinger, jr. Editor, p 374) And even then, thanks to the confusion in the newspapers, the people still didn’t know who their electors were voting for.
So, cut the people in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri some slack. They’re just following historical precedent in casting votes that don’t mean anything.