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- 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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Home > Document Library > Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting > Note on the debate of August 7, 1787 in the Constitutional Convention, on voting rights


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. — TGW]

 

[T]he fundamental principle [is] that men cannot be justly bound by laws of which they have no part. Persons and property both being essential objects of government, the most that either can claim, is such a structure of it, as will leave a reasonable security for the other. And the most obvious provision of this double character, seems to be that of confining to the holders of property, the object deemed least secure in popular governments, the right of suffrage for one of the two legislative branches. This is not without example among us, as well as other constitutional modifications, favoring the influence of property in the government. But the United States have not reached the stage of society in which conflicting feelings of the class with, and the class without property, have the operation natural to them in countries fully peopled. The most difficult of all political arrangements is that of so adjusting the claims of the two classes as to give security to each, and to promote the welfare of all. The federal principle, which enlarges the sphere of power without departing from the elective basis of it, and controls in various ways the propensity in small republics to rash measures and the facility of forming and executing them, will be found the best expedient yet tried for solving the problem.

[From Max Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937), 2:204.]





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