-Friday, Aug. 10, 1787Skip to next paragraph
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Yesterday Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania demanded a long (14-year) residency requirement for foreign-born congressional candidates, and James Madison of Virginia opposed it.
REJECTING long-established practices in a majority of States, the Convention today approved citizenship, age, and residency as the only three qualifications for election to the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Charles Pinckney of South Carolina sought to have a property qualification accepted, insisting it would ensure independence.
``It was prudent when such great powers were to be trusted to connect the tie of property with that of reputation,'' the youthful and wealthy South Carolina delegate said.
John Rutledge concurred with his colleague, explaining that members of the Committee of Detail had recommended no qualifications because they could not agree among themselves.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the oldest delegate, was credited by one observer with scuttling the property qualification.
Still seated in his chair because of physical ailments, the 81-year-old diplomat said he disliked everything that debased the spirit of the common people. Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with, Dr. Franklin said, were the richest rogues.
He then said:
``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 - [it] 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.''
James Madison of Virginia reported that Mr. Pinckney's motion to include property as a qualification for election to Congress was defeated by ``so general a no'' that a roll call vote was not recorded.
Mr. Madison then proceeded to attack the proposal for leaving all qualifications for elections to Congress itself. If a future Congress could decide qualifications for both electors and the elected, Mr. Madison said, ``it [the Congress] can by degrees subvert the Constitution.'' The British Parliament had the power over both electors and elected, and it was a lesson worthy of the delegates' attention, he noted.
``They ... made the changes in both cases subservient to their views, or to the views of political or Religious parties,'' Mr. Madison added.
With 11 States in attendance, the delegates have turned their back on the long-standing traditions in the separate States of requiring not only religious and residential qualifications, but also property ownership. The Convention has voted only that the qualifications for office be citizenship, residency of nine years, and age - 30 for Senate, and 25 for the House.
Col. George Mason had successfully argued that the opinions of anyone below age 25 were certain to be crude and erroneous. It may be true, he said, that the Continental Congress proved in the past to be a good school for the young, but let them in the future ``bear the expence of their own education.''
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue on Monday.