When America was a new country, just starting out as a democracy, the idea of letting ordinary people vote was revolutionary. The men who wrote the constitution thought voters should be successful men who had experience as farmers or businessmen. Voters should be at least 21 years old and own property. Servants and slaves could not vote and neither could women. During the first few years of our new country, only about half of the white men were allowed to vote in some states.
No one is sure why 21 was chosen as the time when a man became an adult. During the Middle Ages in England, a young man could become a knight at the age of 21 because he had gained his full strength and could wear heavy armor. Gradually, that age was recognized as the time for taking on responsibilities, including voting. When countries around the world adopted voting as a way to choose their leaders, they often set the age at 21 or even higher.
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