Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding

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Chapter 5. Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

The Farmer Refuted
Alexander Hamilton
1775
The classic argument for limiting voting rights to adult males who own property: so that voters are excluded who are dependent on the wills of others for their livelihood.

John Adams to James Sullivan
May 26, 1776
Adams explains why women, children, and the poor are excluded from the vote.

Letter to William Pendleton on requirements for voting
Thomas Jefferson
August 26, 1776
Voting for the Virginia house of representatives should be open to rich and poor alike.

The Essex Result
Town of Essex, Massachusetts
(Theophilus Parsons, probable author)
1778
On why women, children, and the poor do not vote.

Statements of three Massachusetts towns on voting rights
1778-80
Protests against the requirement in the Massachusetts Constitution that limited the right to vote to property owners.

Speech in the Constitutional Convention on voting rights
James Madison
August 7, 1787
Madison fears that the dependent situation of the poor will make them tools of the rich.

Note on the debate of August 7, 1787 in the Constitutional Convention, on voting rights
James Madison
August 7, 1787
Madison fears a time when class tensions will make popular government risky.

Address of the Massachusetts Convention to their Constituents
March 1780
These remarks, defending the property requirement for voting, were part of a letter transmitting the proposed Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 to the citizens of that state.

Remarks on Mr. Jeffersonís Draft of a Constitution
James Madison
October 15, 1788
Madisonís concern about class warfare between rich and poor led him to favor a House of Representatives elected by the people at large, and a Senate elected by property owners.

Note to His Speech in the Constitutional Convention on the Right of Suffrage
James Madison
1821
Madisonís fullest statement on the property requirement for voting.

Note on voting rights during the Convention for Amending the Constitution of Virginia
James Madison
1829

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States
Charles Beard
1913
The principle of majority rule was not recognized in the founding.







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