did were to face the potential wrath of their constituentsrather quickly (in this age of pork-barrel politics,however, Congressmen are seldom judged on their strictadherence to their constitutional oaths, but rather ontheir ability to bring the most federal dollars back totheir District).Given that Clause 1 of Section 2 pointedly declaresthat Members shall be "chosen…by
of theseveral States", it would certainly seem logical to expectthat
(i.e., nearly everyone) would electRepresentatives.Reading the rest of the clause dispels such logic,however, with it stating that:
in each State shall have theQualifications requisite for Electors of the mostnumerous Branch of the State Legislature."
Further reading therefore shows that there arequalifications being imposed by the States as to
People could qualify to vote — only those meeting thequalifications necessary could become an
. Thisis yet another example of the general wording of a clausebeing over-ruled by the actual process later detailed.The general wording is used in a "feel-good" mannerand detracts from that process actually specified.Each State individually decided the qualificationsnecessary of its Citizens who were allowed to vote forState Representatives. This standard was then used within that State to determine who could vote forfederal Representatives in Congress, negating the needfor a uniform federal qualification standard.The practical qualifications for an Elector in the1780's were that an Elector must be a (free) white, maleof at least 21 years of age, with property. It is here thatone begins to understand that the literal wording of thePreamble "
We the People
of the United States" may nothave initially included every person in the United States,at least when push came to shove.
"The age of twenty-one was a qualificationuniversally required.So, too, was residence, exceptthat in Virginia and South Carolina it was enough toown in the district or town a certain free-hold or 'lot'.South Carolina required the electors to 'acknowledgethe being of a God, and to believe in a future state ofrewards or punishments.' White men alone couldclaim the franchise in Virginia, in South Carolina, andin Georgia…the other ten states raised no questionof color.In Pennsylvania, in New Hampshire, andpartially in North Carolina, the right to vote belongedto every resident tax-payer;Georgia extended to anywhite inhabitant 'of any mechanic trade';with thisexception, Georgia, and all the other coloniesrequired the possession of a freehold, or of propertyvariously valued, in Massachusetts at about twohundred dollars, in Georgia at ten pounds.
"The property requirement for voting wasremoved among the original thirteen states in thefollowing order of time:"In several cases, when the property-ownership qualification on the right to vote wasabandoned, the payment of a small tax, on thePennsylvania model of 1776, was substituted orcontinued;but in time that tax was also generallyabolished.By the middle of the nineteenthcentury practically all white male citizens in theoriginal states could vote."
Various barriers which limited voting of differing groups were removed by the following constitutionalamendments: the
(1870) removed barriers due to"
, color, or previous condition of
" (i.e.,blacks allowed to vote). The
, ratified 50 years later,removed barriers "on account of
" (i.e., womenallowed to vote). The
, ratified in 1964, removedbarriers to vote in federal elections due to the failure to"pay any
tax" (i.e., the poor [or at least those notpaying direct Taxes] allowed to vote). The
, ratifiedin 1971, removed barriers "on account of
" forcitizens of the United States, who are
years of age or older.The electoral requirements set by early Stategovernments prior to the ratification of theseamendments will be rightly viewed today asunnecessarily narrow, resulting in the denial of suffrage(voting) rights of many responsible adults.To concentrate on
happened to qualify as anElector at any given point in time and ignore the
used to exclude certain groups, however, is toignore a fundamental lesson which is critical tounderstand. Sometimes it is more important to firstunderstand the
used to achieve a desired
rather than to quarrel about which particular end shouldbe chosen at any given point in time.
B.O.L. Volume I: Issue 4: Page 2
History of the United States of America from the Discovery of the Continent,
Volume V (Port Washington, NY: KennikatPress, Inc., 1967 [Reprint of 1885 Edition]), pp 114 - 115.
Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard,
A Basic History of the United States
(New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1944) p. 213.