in a law
which makes an exception for people or things if, when the law was passed, they were already doing whatever is being forbidden. And related concepts. Building code
s often grant exceptions for buildings built before the code was enacted, for example.
The phrase comes from a series of similar changes in the constitution
s of six southern US
states between 1895
. The right to vote was limited to literate
people with some arbitrary amount of wealth, but exceptions were made for people who'd had the right to vote during the Civil War
, or whose ancestor
s had had that right at the time. By chance, quite coincidentally
, the set of people allowed to vote in those states during the Civil War
was the set of all white people
in those states, and both poverty
were depressingly common among black
and white people
both. The effect, perhaps unintentional, was to limit the franchise
to most whites (not counting poor, illiterate immigrant
s) and a minority of blacks.
The United States Supreme Court
took one look at this in 1915
, rolled its collective eye, and told them to go home and let everybody vote. Other equally unfortunate coincidence
s followed, and things didn't really get set right until the 1960s
. I've read that there are counties in the South
to this day where some odd arrangements are in place, but it does seem that coincidence
s are a lot less common than they once were.
Note that nobody, North
, let chicks vote at all
back then, before we of the harsh vowels up here start patting ourselves on the back too much.