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The Right to Vote in American History
The right to vote, to have a voice in choosing one's leaders and shaping government's policy, is among the most fundamental rights of American citizenship. Surprisingly, the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not mention a right to vote. How is it possible that the Framers, who led a revolution against "taxation without representation," did not consider voting a fundamental right for all American citizens?
The Framers distrusted overly strong governments, but they also distrusted democracy, because they feared that citizens were not always sufficiently informed or broad-minded to make wise decisions about important, complicated political issues. Most of them also believed that only men who owned property were truly independent. Men who owned property were considered independent because they presumably could provide for themselves, and so were not dependent on others. Thus, they could be trusted to vote, because no one else was in a position to tell them how to vote. Under this political theory, women and slaves were not allowed to vote, because women were considered dependent on their husbands, while slaves were dependent on their masters. Also the Framers feared that those who did not own property would be dependent on their bosses or landlords, and that they might threaten the rights of property owners if they were allowed to participate in government.
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