I saw this comment from a video:

Just maybe our founding fathers had the right idea when they said only property owing males over 21 could vote.

Then I checked the List of amendments to the United States Constitution and couldn't find anything about that.

Then I googled and found this topic: The US founding fathers considered land ownership as a prerequisite for voting. Why didn't this win broad approval?, but I couldn't find the details (who & the quotation) about the event the US founding fathers consider only property owing males over 21 could vote

So did The US founding fathers consider only property owning males over 21 could vote?

  • 1
    Do you mean property owing males or property owning males? The latter was pretty common at the time, the former would be extremely unusual.
    – gerrit
    Oct 1, 2018 at 11:43
  • 3
    This should be on the History site. Oct 1, 2018 at 13:20
  • How notable is that Youtube comment? Can you find anyone else claiming that voting was only intended for property-owning males over 21?
    – Giter
    Oct 1, 2018 at 13:48
  • 2
    @Giter It's a common claim among the alt right. Often coincides with claims that "all men" in "all men are created equal" did not actually include every person.
    – user11643
    Oct 1, 2018 at 14:17
  • 5
    Universal suffrage evolved from lesser versions. When the u.s. was founded, common suffrage schemes included only men and property owners / nobility. It was another 40 years or so before universal male suffrage was common in Europe.
    – user11643
    Oct 1, 2018 at 14:19

2 Answers 2


You're not going to find the law in the original Constitution because it was left to each state to decide:

Eventually, the framers of the Constitution left details of voting to the states. In Article I Section 4, the Constitution says:

The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations.

Unfortunately, leaving election control to individual states led to unfair voting practices in the U.S. At first, white men with property were the only Americans routinely permitted to vote. President Andrew Jackson, champion of frontiersmen, helped advance the political rights of those who did not own property. By about 1860, most white men without property were enfranchised. But African Americans, women, Native Americans, non-English speakers, and citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 had to fight for the right to vote in this country.
Library of Congress: The Founders and the Vote

By "routinely permitted to vote", they mean that it's true in general but not in every case. In particular, some women and African Americans could vote in New Jersey before 1807 if they met certain requirements:

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, but some New Jersey women could vote as early as 1776. New Jersey’s first constitution in 1776 gave voting rights to “all inhabitants of this colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds … and have resided within the county … for twelve months.” In 1790 the legislature reworded the law to say “he or she,” clarifying that both men and women had voting rights. But only single women could vote because married women could not own property. Still, many unmarried women voted in New Jersey in the 1790s and the very early 1800s.

African Americans in the state could vote if they met the residency and property requirements. In 1797, the New Jersey government required voters to be free inhabitants. We do not know if enslaved African Americans voted before this law was passed -- the property requirements made that unlikely, but no law specifically prohibited them from doing so.
Did You Know: Women and African Americans Could Vote in NJ before the 15th and 19th Amendments?


According to Property Ownership and the Right to Vote: The Compelling State Interest Test Louisiana Law Review volume 30 (1969):

When the Constitution was ratified, most of the states required property ownership as a qualification for voting in a general election.

Only Georgia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina did not have property qualifications for voting, but these states had taxpaying qualifications. Vermont, Kentucky, and Indiana entered the Union without property or taxpaying qualifications. However, Tennessee entered with property qualifications; and Ohio, Louisiana and Mississippi entered with taxpaying qualifications.

Up to 1969 there had been property owner only elections, until the Supreme Court decision Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701:

Louisiana law provides that only "property taxpayers" have the right to vote in elections called to approve the issuance of revenue bonds by a municipal utility system. At a special election, a majority of the property taxpayers approved a bond issue for the City of Houma's municipally owned utility systems. Within the period permitted to contest the election result, appellant, a nonproperty taxpayer otherwise qualified to vote, brought suit for himself and others similarly situated to enjoin the issuance of the bonds and to obtain a declaratory judgment that the limitation of the franchise to property taxpayers is unconstitutional.


The "property taxpayer" limitation on the franchise violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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