Jack Saladin wrote:There have been varying degrees of small-scale, limited suffrage democracies in Europe for thousands of years. The US added another one to the pile with its white, landowning men only system around the same time as plenty of other countries. The US didn't turn into anything resembling an actual democracy until well after a bunch of other countries had already got there, so the US either was a few thousand years late to the party, or about fifty years, depending on how you want to define democracy.
For universal suffrage, if you count paralegal methods of restricting black people from voting - like requiring them to read a copy of Journey to the West in Mandarin to register to vote, or 'Grandfather laws' - we're about forty or fifty years late. If you don't, we actually granted universal suffrage around the same time as everyone else was granting it (1910s and 1920s). We weren't the first, but we certainly weren't the last.
Also, it's good to keep in mind that the 'new' thing that the US brought to the table was not just 'democracy!', but a focus on on ruling from the bottom up (well, okay - uh, the middle up. The middle male up. The middle white
male up. Well, you get the idea). That is, you didn't get to be in charge just because your daddy had been the right sort of person. You only got to be in charge if the people willed it (and, uh, your daddy had been very rich. And white). Something like a mix between a meritocracy and a democracy with inborn rights to the people. This was an immensely interesting, very
If you define democracy as this - the theme of deconstructing the basic 'mandate of heaven' clause most of the European powers worked under - then yeah, the US is one of the oldest players... except, you know, for France, who went through this whole stage at nearly the exact same time
. So, not really, but kind of?