A common thing one hears in the US is the “Political system is broken; Founding Fathers never intended politics to be dominated by moneyed interests.” But in 1776, voting was “restricted to property owners—most of whom are white male Protestants over the age of 21″. In 1789, George Washington was elected President. “Only 6% of the population can vote.” Not until 1856 was voting expanded, even to all white men (eliminating property ownership requirement).

In 1868, voting was extended to former slaves (at least in theory), but still explicitly defined as male. Women could first vote starting in 1890 in Wyoming! In 1920, the 19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote throughout the US. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s,there were lots of battles for and against the rights of other groups e.g. Native Americans and immigrants to vote. Of course, the massive battles in the 1960’s to extend practical right to vote to African-Americans; some battles continue to this day.

Not until 1971 (year I was born) did the voting age get lowered to 18, despite 18-21 year olds being conscripted and sent to war throughout. Founding Fathers arguably designed US system specifically to be dominated by moneyed interests, aka white male Protestant landowners. We have far broader-based voting and political participation today than ever before, due to hard work by many activists over 200 years and we’re still by no means perfect. There is lots of progress yet to be made. But we’re leaps and bounds ahead of 50-100-150-200 years ago and no, I’m not watching the World Cup finals :-).

[tweet https://twitter.com/pmarca/status/488432907808026624 align=”center”] [tweet https://twitter.com/mcguirejpatrick/status/488428845750431744 align=”center”] [tweet https://twitter.com/StevenEJohnston/status/488429115368689665 align=”center”] [tweet https://twitter.com/danhudson007/status/488429219567763456 align=”center”] [tweet https://twitter.com/prchovanec/status/488429559256076288 align=”center”] [tweet https://twitter.com/josephjeong/status/488431360323764224 align=”center”]

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Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. […] Kottke: The surprising ages of the Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776. While we’re talking about the Founding Fathers, Marc Andreessen thinks that the Founding Fathers Arguably Designed US System Specifically To Be Dominated By Moneyed Interests […]

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  2. Aristotle deemed a political-regime based on a property-qualification as a *timocracy*.

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  3. Small pebble, but yes, more work needs to be done to revamp US history education in schools. My other favorite fallacy is the “role-model” type or “uplifting motto” picture that is painted of Ben Franklin, especially through his autobiography. I prefer to read it while sipping on a drink at a bar, and smirking at his dry humor and the credulity he clearly assumes of his devoted followers. “Founding fathers” – clearly, Jefferson with his real-estate deal with Napoleon literally invented the country!

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  4. The founding fathers were not saintly figures as they are often portrayed; they often remind me of the Biblical Moses–patriarchal, paternalistic, legalistic, self-righteous… Obviously, they wanted to create a system of government that they thought was better than the one in England at the time. They did not set out to build a nation were all humans were equal. When they said all men were born equal, they meant men like them, not the poor white European males or Native Americans. Their actions spoke more loudly about their characters and intent than any thing they talked about or wrote.

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  5. Thought provoking, and honest. Makes one take a stark look at the founding fathers and the infancy of a nation that is now more than ever closer to actually practicing what we preach. Great post.

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