Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3

Document 2

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 2:§§ 726--30


§ 726. As the nature of the duties of a senator require more experience, knowledge, and stability of character, than those of a representative, the qualification in point of age is raised. A person may be a representative at twenty-five; but he cannot be a senator until thirty. A similar qualification of age was required of the members of the Roman senate. It would have been a somewhat singular anomaly in the history of free governments, to have found persons actually exercising the highest functions of government, who, in some enlightened and polished countries, would not be deemed to have arrived at an age sufficiently mature to be entitled to all the private and municipal privileges of manhood. In Rome persons were not deemed at full age until twenty-five; and that continues to be the rule in France, and Holland, and other civil law countries; and in France, by the old law, in regard to marriage full age was not attained until thirty. It has since been varied, and the term diminished.

§ 727. The age of senators was fixed in the constitution at first by a vote of seven states against four; and finally, by an unanimous vote. Perhaps no one, in our day, is disposed to question the propriety of this limitation; and it is, therefore, useless to discuss a point, which is so purely speculative. If counsels are to be wise, the ardour, and impetuosity, and confidence of youth must be chastised by the sober lesson of experience; and if knowledge, and solid judgment, and tried integrity, are to be deemed indispensable qualifications for senatorial service, it would be rashness to affirm, that thirty years is too long a period for a due maturity and probation.

§ 728. The next qualification is citizenship. The propriety of some limitation upon admissions to office, after naturalization, cannot well be doubted. The senate is to participate largely in transactions with foreign governments; and it seems indispensable, that time should have elapsed sufficient to wean a senator from all prejudices, resentments, and partialities, in relation to the land of his nativity, before he should be entrusted with such high and delicate functions. Besides; it can scarcely be presumed, that any foreigner can have acquired a thorough knowledge of the institutions and interests of a country, until he has been permanently incorporated into its society, and has acquired by the habits and intercourse of life the feelings and the duties of a citizen. And if he has acquired the requisite knowledge, he can scarcely feel that devoted attachment to them, which constitutes the great security for fidelity and promptitude in the discharge of official duties. If eminent exceptions could be stated, they would furnish no safe rule; and should rather teach us to fear our being misled by brilliancy of talent, or disinterested patriotism, into a confidence, which might betray, or an acquiescence, which might weaken, that jealousy of foreign influence, which is one of the main supports of republics. In the convention it was at first proposed, that the limitation should be four years; and it was finally altered by a vote of six states against four, one being divided, which was afterwards confirmed by a vote of eight states to three. . . .

§ 729. The only other qualification is, that the senator shall, when elected, be an inhabitant of the state, for which he is chosen. This scarcely requires any comment; for it is manifestly proper, that a state should be represented by one, who, besides an intimate knowledge of all its wants and wishes, and local pursuits, should have a personal and immediate interest in all measures touching its sovereignty, its rights, or its influence. The only surprise is, that provision was not made for his ceasing to represent the state in the senate, as soon as he should cease to be an inhabitant. There does not seem to have been any debate in the convention on the propriety of inserting the clause, as it now stands.

§ 730. In concluding this topic, it is proper to remark, that no qualification whatsoever of property is established in regard to senators, as non had been established in regard to representatives. Merit, therefore, and talent have the freest access open to them into every department of office under the national government. Under such circumstances, if the choice of the people is but directed by a suitable sobriety of judgment, the senate cannot fail of being distinguished for wisdom, for learning, for exalted patriotism, for incorruptible integrity, and for inflexible independence.

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

Story, Joseph. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. 3 vols. Boston, 1833.

Easy to print version.