Colonial Government and Politics

Start Free Trial

Who had voting rights in the American colonies?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The primary answer to this question is white male landowners. The colonies essentially followed the English way of voting rights. Colonists believed that only the white male had the mental capacity to vote for such important parts of a society.

Obviously, minorities such as African Americans and Native Americans were not allowed to vote. Women were also seen as incompatible with the voting process. However, it is important to view these sad truths in the context of the time. Most still believed that, by opening the vote to women and minorities, that democracy would crumble. They believed it would set off a domino effect that would lead to foolish voting practices down the line. In a sense, their vision of democracy was not democratic at all. This irrational fear built the foundation for only white male landowners possessing the voting rights in the colonies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Voting began early in the British colonies.  Settlers in both Jamestown and Plymouth Colony voted on various local issues.  Most of the settlers were white men, and they were the only ones allowed to vote.

As the colonies became more established, voting continued.  Men voted for legislators to serve in local assemblies.  The colonies were still ruled by England until the end of the Revolutionary War, so they participated by voting at the local level only.

Both in the Thirteen English Colonies and in the early United States of America, very few people could vote.  In fact, the only people who were allowed to vote were white men who owned land and were over the age of 21.  This excluded women, African Americans, younger men, and white older men who were not landowners.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial