To his contemporaries, the man from Mount Vernon was enormously impressive. True, the Founders enfranchised neither women nor most men of color, and some of the Founders, such as Jefferson and Washington, owned slaves. By their lights, however, the immediate problem was not so much modern expectations as that republicanism, which predicated political inclusion mainly on land ownership, or what was called freeholding, justified leaving many white men without the rights of Citizenship II.
This problem intensified because ordinary men had more economic opportunities in America than in Europe. From these opportunities, there evolved a thriving society no longer dominated by landed citizens. Country squires remained, but new circumstances challenged their traditional leading role in what had been envisioned as a classical republican society. Those who competed with the squires were men pursuing dynamic livelihoods based on exploitation of natural resources, new techniques of production, expanding networks of trade, improvements in transportation, and innovations in finance. These men often prospered not so much from work on the land as from their ability to contribute to, and profit from, what we now call a cash economy, centered on manufacturing, services, and professions, and housed on relatively small land lots in towns and cities.
Then too, American society was constantly changing, with immigrants arriving from abroad, and with local residents moving from one place to another to get ahead. By one estimate, for example, 70 percent of those who lived in the old Northwest Territories in 1810 had not been there in 1800, even while many of the people living in those territories had changed residence in the same region, some many times.