Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3

Document 1

Records of the Federal Convention

[1:228; Journal, 13 June]

4 Resolved that the Members of the second Branch of

the national Legislature ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures. to be of the age of thirty years at least.

[1:428; Madison, 26 June]

Col. Mason. He did not rise to make any motion, but to hint an idea which seemed to be proper for consideration. One important object in constituting the Senate was to secure the rights of property. To give them weight & firmness for this purpose, a considerable duration in office was thought necessary. But a longer term than 6 years, would be of no avail in this respect, if needy persons should be appointed. He suggested therefore the propriety of annexing to the office a qualification of property. He thought this would be very practicable; as the rules of taxation would supply a scale for measuring the degree of wealth possessed by every man.

[2:235; Madison, 9 Aug.]

Mr. Govr. Morris moved to insert 14 instead of 4 years citizenship as a qualification for Senators; urging the danger of admitting strangers into our public Councils. Mr. Pinkney 2ds. him

Mr. Elseworth. was opposed to the motion as discouraging meritorious aliens from emigrating to this Country.

Mr. Pinkney. As the Senate is to have the power of making treaties & managing our foreign affairs, there is peculiar danger and impropriety in opening its door to those who have foreign attachments. He quoted the jealousy of the Athenians on this subject who made it death for any stranger to intrude his voice into their legislative proceedings.

Col. Mason highly approved of the policy of the motion. Were it not that many not natives of this Country had acquired great merit during the revolution, he should be for restraining the eligibility into the Senate, to natives.

Mr. Madison was not averse to some restrictions on this subject; but could never agree to the proposed amendment. He thought any restriction however in the Constitution unnecessary, and improper. unnecessary; because the Natl. Legislre. is to have the right of regulating naturalization, and can by virtue thereof fix different periods of residence as conditions of enjoying different privileges of Citizenship: Improper: because it will give a tincture of illiberality to the Constitution: because it will put it out of the power of the Natl Legislature even by special acts of naturalization to confer the full rank of Citizens on meritorious strangers & because it will discourage the most desirable class of people from emigrating to the U. S. Should the proposed Constitution have the intended effect of giving stability & reputation to our Govts. great numbers of respectable Europeans; men who love liberty and wish to partake its blessings, will be ready to transfer their fortunes hither. All such would feel the mortification of being marked with suspicious incapacitations though they sd. not covet the public honors He was not apprehensive that any dangerous number of strangers would be appointed by the State Legislatures, if they were left at liberty to do so: nor that foreign powers would make use of strangers as instruments for their purposes. Their bribes would be expended on men whose circumstances would rather stifle than excite jealousy & watchfulness in the public.

Mr. Butler was decidely opposed to the admission of foreigners without a long residence in the Country. They bring with them, not only attachments to other Countries; but ideas of Govt. so distinct from ours that in every point of view they are dangerous. He acknowledged that if he himself had been called into public life within a short time after his coming to America, his foreign habits opinions & attachments would have rendered him an improper agent in public affairs. He mentioned the great strictness observed in Great Britain on this subject.

Docr. Franklin was not agst. a reasonable time, but should be very sorry to see any thing like illiberality inserted in the Constitution. The people in Europe are friendly to this Country. Even in the Country with which we have been lately at war, We have now & had during the war, a great many friends not only among the people at large but in both Houses of Parliament. In every other Country in Europe all the people are our friends. We found in the Course of the Revolution, that many strangers served us faithfully--and that many natives took part agst. their Country. When foreigners after looking about for some other Country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours, it is a proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence & affection.

Mr. Randolph did not know but it might be problematical whether emigrations to this Country were on the whole useful or not: but he could never agree to the motion for disabling them for 14 years to participate in the public honours. He reminded the Convention of the language held by our patriots during the Revolution, and the principles laid down in all our American Constitutions. Many foreigners may have fixed their fortunes among us under the faith of these invitations. All persons under this description with all others who would be affected by such a regulation, would enlist themselves under the banners of hostility to the proposed System. He would go as far as seven years, but no further.

Mr. Wilson said he rose with feelings which were perhaps peculiar; mentioning the circumstance of his not being a native, and the possibility, if the ideas of some gentlemen should be pursued, of his being incapacitated from holding a place under the very Constitution which he had shared in the trust of making. He remarked the illiberal complexion which the motion would give to the System, & the effect which a good system would have in inviting meritorious foreigners among us, and the discouragement & mortification they must feel from the degrading discrimination, now proposed. He had himself experienced this mortification. On his removal into Maryland, he found himself, from defect of residence, under certain legal incapacities, which never ceased to produce chagrin, though he assuredly did not desire & would not have accepted the offices to which they related. To be appointed to a place may be matter of indifference. To be incapable of being appointed, is a circumstance grating, and mortifying.

Mr. Govr. Morris. The lesson we are taught is that we should be governed as much by our reason, and as little by our feelings as possible. What is the language of Reason on this subject? That we should not be polite at the expense of prudence. There was a moderation in all things. It is said that some tribes of Indians, carried their hospitality so far as to offer to strangers their wives and daughters. Was this a proper model for us? He would admit them to his house, he would invite them to his table, would provide for them comfortable lodgings; but would not carry the complaisance so far as, to bed them with his wife. He would let them worship at the same altar, but did not choose to make Priests of them. He ran over the privileges which emigrants would enjoy among us, though they should be deprived of that of being eligible to the great offices of Government; observing that they exceeded the privileges allowed to foreigners in any part of the world; and that as every Society from a great nation down to a club had the right of declaring the conditions on which new members should be admitted, there could be no room for complaint. As to those philosophical gentlemen, those Citizens of the World, as they called themselves, He owned he did not wish to see any of them in our public Councils. He would not trust them. The men who can shake off their attachments to their own Country can never love any other. These attachments are the wholesome prejudices which uphold all Governments, Admit a Frenchman into your Senate, and he will study to increase the commerce of France: An Englishman, he will feel an equal bias in favor of that of England. It has been said that The Legislatures will not chuse foreigners, at least improper ones. There was no knowing what Legislatures would do. Some appointments made by them, proved that every thing ought to be apprehended from the cabals practised on such occasions. He mentioned the case of a foreigner who left this State in disgrace, and worked himself into an appointment from another to Congress.

Question on the motion of Mr. Govr. Morris to insert 14 in place of 4 years

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--4; noes--7.]

On 13 years, moved Mr. Govr. Morris

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--4; noes--7.]

On 10 years moved by Genl Pinkney

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--4; noes--7.]

Dr. Franklin reminded the Convention that it did not follow from an omission to insert the restriction in the Constitution that the persons in question wd. be actually chosen into the Legislature.

Mr. Rutlidge. 7 years of Citizenship have been required for the House of Representatives. Surely a longer time is requisite for the Senate, which will have more power.

Mr. Williamson. It is more necessary to guard the Senate in this case than the other House. Bribery & Cabal can be more easily practised in the choice of the Senate which is to be made by the Legislatures composed of a few men, than of the House of Represents. who will be chosen by the people.

Mr. Randolph will agree to 9 years with the expectation that it will be reduced to seven if Mr. Wilson's motion to reconsider the vote fixing 7 years for the House of Representatives should produce a reduction of that period.

On a question for 9 years

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. divd. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--6; noes--4; divided--1.]

The term "Resident" was struck out, & "inhabitant" inserted nem. con.

Art. V Sect. 3. as amended agreed to nem. con.

[2:242; King, 9 Aug.]

G Morris

Liberal & illiberal--The terms are indefinite--The Indians are the most liberal, because when a Stranger comes among them they offer him yr. wife & Daughters for his carnal amusement--

It is said yt. we threw open our Doors--invited the oppressed of all Countries to come & find an Asylum in America--This is true we invited them to come and worship in our Temple but we never invited them to become Priests at our Altar--We shd. cherish the love of our country--This is a wholesome prejudice and is in favor of our Country--Foreigners will not learn our laws & Constitution under 14 yrs.--7yrs must be applied to learn to be a Shoe Maker--14 at least are necessary to learn to be an Amer. Legislator--Again--that period will be requisite to eradicate the Affections of Education and native Attachments--

Franklin--I am agt. the Term of 14 yrs--it looks illiberal--we have many good Friends in Engld. & other parts of Europe--they ought not to be excluded--Wilson--agt. the motion of 14 yrs--

[2:243; McHenry, 9 Aug.]

Governeur Morris proposed insted of 4 years 14. He would have confined the members he said to natives--but for its appearance and the effects it might have against the system.

Mr. Mason had the same wishes, but he could not think of excluding those foreigners who had taken a part and borne with the country the dangers and burdenths of the war.

Mr. Maddison was against such an invidious distinction. The matter might be safely intrusted to the respective legislatures. Doctor Franklin was of the same opinion. Mr. Willson expressed himself feelingly on the same side. It might happen, he said, that he who had been thought worthy of being trusted with the framing of the Constitution, might be excluded from it. He had not been born in this country. He considered such exclusing as one of the most galling chains which the human mind could experience, It was wrong to deprive the government of the talents virtue and abilities of such foreigners as might chuse to remove to this country. The corrup of other countries would not come here. Those who were tired in opposing such corruptions would be drawn hither, etc. etc.

[2:248; Madison, 10 Aug.]

Mr. Pinkney--The Committee as he had conceived were instructed to report the proper qualifications of property for the members of the Natl. Legislature; instead of which they have referred the task to the Natl. Legislature itself. Should it be left on this footing, the first Legislature will meet without any particular qualifications of property; and if it should happen to consist of rich men they might fix such such qualifications as may be too favorable to the rich; if of poor men, an opposite extreme might be run into. He was opposed to the establishment of an undue aristocratic influence in the Constitution but he thought it essential that the members of the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judges--should be possessed of competent property to make them independent & respectable. It was prudent when such great powers were to be trusted to connect the tie of property with that of reputation in securing a faithful administration. The Legislature would have the fate of the Nation put into their hands. The President would also have a very great influence on it. The Judges would have not only important causes between Citizen & Citizen but also where foreigners are concerned. They will even be the Umpires between the U. States and individual States as well as between one State & another. Were he to fix the quantum of property which should be required, he should not think of less than one hundred thousand dollars for the President, half of that sum for each of the Judges, and in like proportion for the members of the Natl. Legislature. He would however leave the sums blank. His motion was that the President of the U. S. the Judges, and members of the Legislature should be required to swear that they were respectively possessed of a clear unincumbered Estate to the amount of------in the case of the President, &c &c--

Mr. Rutlidge seconded the motion; observing, that the Committee had reported no qualifications because they could not agree on any among themselves, being embarrassed by the danger on one side of displeasing the people by making them high, and on the other of rendering them nugatory by making them low.

Mr. Elseworth. The different circumstances of different parts of the U. S. and the probable difference between the present and future circumstances of the whole, render it improper to have either uniform or fixed qualifications. Make them so high as to be useful in the S. States, and they will be inapplicable to the E. States. Suit them to the latter, and they will serve no purpose in the former. In like manner what may be accommodated to the existing State of things among us, may be very inconvenient in some future state of them. He thought for these reasons that it was better to leave this matter to the Legislative discretion than to attempt a provision for it in the Constitution.

Doctr Franklin expressed his dislike of every thing that tended to debase the spirit of the common people. If honesty was often the companion of wealth, and if poverty was exposed to peculiar temptation, it was not less true that the possession of property increased the desire of more property-- Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with, were the richest rogues. We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness-- This Constitution will be much read and attended to in Europe, and if it should betray a great partiality to the rich-- will not only hurt us in the esteem of the most liberal and enlightened men there, but discourage the common people from removing to this Country.

The Motion of Mr. Pinkney was rejected by so general a no, that the States were not called.

Mr Madison was opposed to the Section as vesting an improper & dangerous power in the Legislature. The qualifications of electors and elected were fundamental articles in a Republican Govt. and ought to be fixed by the Constitution. If the Legislature could regulate those of either, it can by degrees subvert the Constitution. A Republic may be converted into an aristocracy or oligarchy as well by limiting the number capable of being elected, as the number authorised to elect. In all cases where the representatives of the people will have a personal interest distinct from that of their Constituents, there was the same reason for being jealous of them, as there was for relying on them with full confidence, when they had a common interest. This was one of the former cases. It was as improper as to allow them to fix their own wages, or their own privileges. It was a power also, which might be made subservient to the views of one faction agst. another. Qualifications founded on artifical distinctions may be devised, by the stronger in order to keep out partizans of a weaker faction.

Mr. Elseworth, admitted that the power was not unexceptionable; but he could not view it as dangerous. Such a power with regard to the electors would be dangerous because it would be much more liable to abuse.

Mr. Govr. Morris moved to strike out "with regard to property" in order to leave the Legislature entirely at large.

Mr. Williamson. This could surely never be admitted. Should a majority of the Legislature be composed of any particular description of men, of lawyers for example, which is no improbable supposition, the future elections might be secured to their own body.

Mr. Madison observed that the British Parliamt. possessed the power of regulating the qualifications both of the electors, and the elected; and the abuse they had made of it was a lesson worthy of our attention. They had made the changes in both cases subservient to their own views, or to the views of political or Religious parties.

Question on the motion to strike out with regard to property

N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo-- ay. [Ayes--4; noes--7.]

Mr Rutlidge was opposed to leaving the power to the Legislature-- He proposed that the qualifications should be the same as for members of the State Legislatures.

Mr. Wilson thought it would be best on the whole to let the Section go out. A uniform rule would probably be never fixed by the Legislature. and this particular power would constructively exclude every other power of regulating qualifications--

On the question for agreeing to Art-- VI-- sect-- 2d

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no S. C. no. Geo. ay-- [Ayes--3; noes--7.]

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3, Document 1
The University of Chicago Press

Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937.

Easy to print version.