Who were excluded from voting during the early years of American history?
During colonial times, most of the colonies only allowed white Protestant males who possessed significant amounts of property to vote. This was consistent with the political ideology of the day, which emphasized that only property owners were truly independent of outside influence. But it was also the case that the franchise was fairly broad, as property ownership was widespread in the colonies. After the Revolution, many states temporarily broadened the franchise, but some, like Pennsylvania, eventually passed new restrictions. That said, in most states, the following people were disfranchised until the democratic reforms of the 1830s:
- non-property owners
- Native Americans
In many states, free black men who owned property were allowed to vote, but ironically, as states began to pass reforms that dropped property qualifications for white men in the 1820s and 1830s, they tended to strip free blacks of the franchise.