Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book: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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Home > Document Library > Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting > Statements of three Massachusetts towns on voting rights


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. — TGW]

 

Return of the town of Richmond on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780:
Excluding persons from a share in representation for want of pecuniary qualifications is an infringement on the natural rights of the subject.

Return of the town of Dorchester on the proposed Massachusetts Constitution of 1778:
All men were born equally free and independent, having certain natural and inherent and unalienable rights, among which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, and acquiring, possessing, and protecting property [quoted from the 1776 Pennsylvania Declaration of Rights]; of which rights they cannot be deprived but by injustice, except they first forfeit them by committing crimes against the public… [H]ow can a man be said to be free and independent, enjoying and defending life and liberty and protecting property, when he has not a voice allowed him in the choice of the most important officers in the legislature, which can make laws to bind him and appoint judges to try him in all cases as well of life and liberty as of property?

Return of the town of Mansfield on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780:
[It is true that some people fail to acquire property because of laziness or other defects. But] shall it from thence be argued that thousands of honest, good members of society shall be subjected to laws framed by legislators, the election of whom they could have no voice in? Shall a subject of a free commonwealth be obliged to contribute his share to public expenses,… and be excluded from voting for a representative? This appears to us in some degree slavery.






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