The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 386 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Sec.5.  But in giving the right of suffrage to all free male citizens twenty-one years of age, it is not given to every man, because all men of that age are not citizens.  Persons born in foreign countries and residing here are aliens, and are not entitled to the political rights of persons born in this country.  They are presumed to have too little knowledge of our government, and to feel too little interest in public affairs, on their first coming hither, to be duly qualified for the exercise of political power.  Laws, however, have been enacted for naturalizing aliens after they shall have resided here long enough to become acquainted with and attached to our government.  By naturalization they become citizens, entitled to all the privileges of native or natural born citizens, (Chap.  XXXIV, Sec.3, 4.)

Sec.6.  The constitutions of most of the states confer the rights of an elector on white male citizens only.  Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, are the only states in which colored men have the same electoral rights as white citizens.  In New York, men of color owning a freehold estate (an estate in lands) of the value of $250, are qualified voters.

Sec.7.  It is provided also in state constitutions, that electors committing infamous crimes are disfranchised. Franchise is a right or privilege enjoyed by the citizens of a state.  Hence the right of voting at elections is called the elective franchise; and an elector, when deprived of this privilege, is disfranchised.  An infamous crime is one which is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison.  Men guilty of high crimes are deemed unfit to be intrusted with so important a duty as that of electing the persons who are to make and execute the laws of the state.  It is provided, however, that if such persons are pardoned before the expiration of the term for which they were sentenced to be imprisoned, their forfeited rights are restored.

Sec.8.  By the earliest constitutions of many of the old states, electors were required to own property, or to have paid rents or taxes, to a certain amount.  In the election of the higher officers, freeholders only were entitled to vote.  A freeholder is an owner of real estate, (property in lands,) which he holds in his own right, and may transmit to his heirs.  In the constitutions of the newer states, property has not been made a qualification of an elector; and in the amended constitutions of the old states this restriction upon the elective franchise has been removed, until it has nearly ceased to exist in the United States.  It is now enjoyed by all white male freemen, with few exceptions, in almost every state of the Union.

Chapter VII.


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The Government Class Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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