by Jon Grinspan
There was a time when young people were the most passionate participants in American democracy. In the second half of the nineteenth century–as voter turnout reached unprecedented peaks–young people led the way, hollering, fighting, and flirting at massive midnight rallies. Parents trained their children to be “violent little partisans,” while politicians lobbied twenty-one-year-olds for their “virgin votes”—the first ballot cast upon reaching adulthood. In schoolhouses, saloons, and squares, young men and women proved that democracy is social and politics is personal, earning their adulthood by participating in public life.