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The Founding Fathers' Thought Voting Was Important

  • Author: Kevin_Clarkson
  • Updated: April 28, 2016
  • Published June 28, 2009

With July 4 and Independence Day approaching, I thought it would be interesting and also appropriate to explore some of the words of our Founding Fathers regarding various subjects. When identifying someone as a "Founding father" I of course included the obvious list of the most well-known characters, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.

But, I thought it appropriate to also include in the group any individual who played a significant role in the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the drafting and adoption of our Constitution. So, I included in my search anyone who served in the Continental Congress and deliberated over the Declaration of Independence, as well as anyone who served in the Constitutional Congress and who played a role in drafting and deliberating over the Constitution. I included also individuals who served first on the Supreme Court, having been appointed by George Washington.

One subject that several of our Founding Fathers wrote about was the importance of the right to vote. I thought this would be a good starting place for these pieces leading up to July 4. The Founders thought that the right to vote was critical to our form of government, and viewed it as a virtually sacred act. I wonder what they would think of our modern day low voter turn-outs and prevalent voter apathy.

The quotes that follow are the Founding Fathers' own words – no editorializing on my part:

John Adams

"We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands: we have a check upon two branches of the legislature, as each branch has upon the other two; the power I mean of electing at stated periods, one branch, which branch has the power of electing another. It becomes necessary to every subject then, to be in some degree a statesman: and to examine and judge for himself of the tendencies of political principles and measures.

[John Adams, The Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, ed. (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), Vol. 1, p. 81, from "'U' to the Boston Gazette" written on August 29, 1763.]

Samuel Adams

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907), Vol. IV, p. 256, in the Boston Gazette on April 16, 1781.]

Alexander Hamilton

A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.

[Alexander Hamilton, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Harold C. Syrett, ed. (New York, Columbia University Press, 1962), Vol III, pp. 544-545.]

John Jay

The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of deliberating upon and choosing the forms of government under which they should live.

[John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, ed. (New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1890), Vol. I, p. 161.]

Thomas Jefferson

The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people.

[Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, ed. (Washington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), Vol. 10, p. 235.]

Thomas Jefferson

[T]he rational and peacable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people.

[Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, ed. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), Vol. 12, p. 136.]

Thomas Jefferson

[S]hould things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.

[Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, ed. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), Vol. 10, p. 245.]

More to come on other topics in the coming days.