Youth's Battle for the Ballot: A History of Voting Age in America

By Wendell W. Cultice | Go to book overview

Summary

The noblest of mankind . . . those who offered and gave their life for their country.

-- GeneralDouglas MacArthur

A look into the history of suffrage merely substantiates the theory that no clear-cut criteria for establishing legal voting qualifications exist. The advanced civilizations of Greece and Rome used the franchise but in a restricted sense. The Greeks limited voting to every male 18 years of age or older who was a property-holding citizen. In Rome, every male citizen 25 years of age was eligible to cast a ballot.

Through the ensuing centuries, Europe and the Western world conceived the idea that the individual citizen had a right to a voice in government. The setting of the age of 21 years for voting in the Western world apparently stemmed from the English heritage in requiring that age for knighthood.

Because New England militia groups included practically all males age 16 or older, it is probable that a few, if not many, under 21 years of age enjoyed the franchise in those elections.

The idea that a man who was old enough to fight was old enough to vote was heard after the Revolutionary War, and history indicates that the first proposal to reduce the voting age of 21 years was probably introduced and defeated by a margin of 2 to 1 at the Missouri convention of 1820.

In the New York convention of 1821, an effort was made to differentiate between those who actually participated in combat and those who merely were attired for regimental or pompous ceremonial purposes.

In 1832, the delegates to Tennessee's convention were asked to debate

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