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and America in general." This recommendation met with general approval among the Revolutionists, and before the expiration of a year Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, and New York had drafted new instruments of government as states, not as colonies uncertain of their destiny. Though Virginia and New Jersey completed their constitutions before the Fourth of July, they declared the dominion of Great Britain at an end. Virginia simply repudiated the authority of George III, and New Jersey expressly said in the written instrument that "all civil authority under him is necessarily at an end." Connecticut and Rhode Island, deeming the government they possessed under their ancient charters sufficient for their needs, drew up no new instruments, but merely renounced their allegiance to George III and continued their old systems without any structural change. South Carolina, in view of the temporary character of the document drafted in 1776, drew up a new and more complete constitution in 1778, and Massachusetts, with more deliberation, put into effect in 1780 a constitution which in its fundamental principles remains unchanged to-day the original instrument having never been reorganized. Thus the transition from colonies to states was completed, but in no instance was the issue submitted to popular approval at the polls.
So irregular were the methods pursued by the Revolutionists of the various states in drawing up their constitutions that it is well-nigh impossible to make any general statement true of all of them, except that Delaware and Massachusetts were the only states that had their constitutions framed by regularly organized conventions summoned for that special purpose and confining their activities to the single function of framing an instrument of government. In all of the other colonies, the bodies that drafted the constitutions were primarily engaged in the maintenance of orderly government during the crisis and in meeting the demands which fell upon them through the exigencies of
The procedure, however, may be illustrated by the events in Pennsylvania. There the "Committee of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia," a revolutionary and voluntary body, in pur
'Readings, p. 35.
pursuance of the advice of Congress given in May, 1776, despatched to the county committees circular letters asking the appointment of delegates to a provincial conference. In response to this call, the convention, composed of ninety-seven members, assembled in the city of Philadelphia on June 18, and after due deliberation decided that a special convention should be called for the purpose of drafting the constitution, and that it should be composed of eight representatives from the city of Philadelphia and each of the counties.
In spite of their declaration that all authority came from the people, the preliminary conference at Philadelphia had no intention of admitting all of the people to a vote in the election of the delegates to the coming constitutional convention. On the contrary they expressly excluded such as were not county or provincial tax-payers, those who would not take an oath to support the Revolutionary cause, and those who had been published by the committee of public safety as enemies to the liberties of America. What proportion of the adult males the voters, under these strict limitations, actually composed, it is impossible to determine, but it is safe to assume that the work of transforming the colony into a state was accomplished by an energetic minority. Moreover, the constitution which the new convention completed in September, 1776, was not submitted to the people for popular ratification.
A somewhat similar process was followed in Maryland,' where the provisional revolutionary congress, on receipt of the instructions of Congress, resolved that "A new convention be elected for the express purpose of forming a new government by the authority of the people only and enacting and ordering all things for the preservation, safety, and general welfare of this colony." The call for the election of the new convention, in addition to excluding the "enemies of the liberties of America," placed restrictions on the suffrage as follows: "All freemen above twenty-one years of age, being freeholders of not less than fifty acres of land or having visible property in this colony to the value of £40 sterling at least, and no others be admitted to vote for representatives to serve in the said convention for the said counties and districts, and the town of Baltimore aforesaid;
1 See Readings, p. 36.
and that all freemen above twenty-one years of age, owning a whole lot of land in the said city of Annapolis, or having a visible estate of £20 sterling at the least within this province or having served five years to any trade within the said city and being a housekeeper, and no others be admitted to vote for representatives to serve in the said convention for the said city." The constitution drafted by the convention elected by these voters was not submitted for ratification on its completion in November, 1776.
Thus America came out of the Revolution a union of thirteen states, loosely bound together under the Articles of Confederation. Each state, except Rhode Island and Connecticut which continued their colonial charters, had a new written constitution based for practical purposes upon the precedents which had been established during colonial times. Seven years of war and the overthrow of British dominion had left the social order essentially unchanged.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
QUITE naturally the men who led in stirring up the revolt. against Great Britain and in keeping the fighting temper of the Revolutionists at the proper heat were the boldest and most radical thinkers - men like Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson. They were not, generally speaking, men of large property interests or of much practical business experience. In a time of disorder, they could consistently lay more stress upon personal liberty than upon social control; and they pushed to the extreme limits those doctrines of individual rights which had been evolved in England during the struggles of the small landed proprietors and commercial classes against royal prerogative, and which corresponded to the economic conditions prevailing in America at the close of the eighteenth century. They associated strong government with monarchy, and came to believe that the best political system was one which governed least. A majority of the radicals viewed all government, especially if highly centralized, as a species of evil, tolerable only because necessary and always to be kept down to an irreducible minimum by a jealous vigilance. Jefferson put the doctrine in concrete form when he declared that he preferred newspapers without government to government without newspapers. The Declaration of Independence, the first state constitutions, and the Articles of Confederation bore the impress of this philosophy. In their anxiety to defend the individual against government interference and to preserve to the states a large sphere of local autonomy, these Revolutionists had set up a system too weak to achieve even the primary objects of government; namely, national defence, the protection of property, and the advancement of commerce. They were not unaware of the character of their handiwork, but many believed with Jefferson that "man was a rational animal endowed by nature with rights and with an innate sense of justice and that he could
be restrained from wrong and protected in right by moderate powers confided to persons of his own choice." 1 Occasional riots and disorders, they held, were preferable to too much government.
The new American political system based on these doctrines had scarcely gone into effect before it began to incur opposition from many sources. The close of the Revolutionary struggle removed the prime cause for radical agitation and brought a new group of thinkers into prominence. When independence had been gained, the practical work to be done was the maintenance of social order, the payment of the public debt, the provision of a sound financial system, and the establishment of conditions favorable to the development of the economic resources of the new country. The men who were principally concerned in this work of peaceful enterprise were not the philosophers, but men of business and property and the holders of public securities"a strong and intelligent class possessed of unity and informed by a conscious solidarity of interests." 2 For the most part they had had no quarrel with the system of class rule and the strong centralization of government which existed in England. It was on the question of policy, not of governmental structure, that they had broken with the British authorities. By no means all of them, in fact, had even resisted the policy of the mother country, for within the ranks of the conservatives were large numbers of Loyalists who had remained in America, and, as was to have been expected, cherished a bitter feeling against the Revolutionists, especially the radical section which had been boldest in denouncing the English system root and branch. In other words, after the heat and excitement of the War of Independence were over and the new government, state and national, was tested by the ordinary experiences of traders, financiers, and manufacturers, it was found inadequate, and these groups accordingly grew more and more determined to reconstruct the political system in such a fashion as to make it subserve their permanent interests.
1 Readings, p. 93.
2 Wilson, Division and Reunion, p. 12.