Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2

[Volume 2, Page 76]

Document 7

James Wilson, The Legislative Department, Lectures on Law

1791Works 1:413

2. Before one can be a representative, he must have been seven years a citizen of the United States.

Two reasons may be assigned for this provision. 1. That the constituents might have a full and mature opportunity of knowing the character and merit of their representative. 2. That the representative might have a full and mature opportunity of knowing the dispositions and interests of his constituents.

3. The representative must, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state, in which he is chosen.

The qualification of residence we have found to be universally insisted on with regard to those who elect: here the same qualification is insisted on with regard to those who are elected. The same reasons, which operated in favour of the former qualification, operate with equal, indeed, with greater force, in favour of this. A provision, almost literally the same with the present one, was made in England three centuries and a half ago. By a statute made in the first year of Henry the fifth, it was enacted, that "the knights of the shires, which from henceforth shall be chosen in every shire, be not chosen, unless they be resident within the shire where they shall be chosen, the day of the date of the writ of the summons of the parliament"--"And moreover it is ordained and established, that the citizens and burgesses of the cities and boroughs be chosen men, citizens and burgesses, resiant, dwelling, and free in the same cities and boroughs, and no other in any wise." to this moment, this statute continues unrepealed--a melancholy proof, how far degenerate and corrupted manners will overpower the wisest and most wholesome laws. From Sir Bulstrode Whitlocke we learn, that, above a century ago, noncompliance with this statute was "connived at." The statute itself has been long and openly disregarded. [Volume 2, Page 77] The consequences of this disregard may be seen in the present state of the representation in England.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2, Document 7
The University of Chicago Press

The Works of James Wilson. Edited by Robert Green McCloskey. 2 vols. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000