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Constitution Sunday: Answers to Mason’s “Objections”: “Marcus” [James Iredell] IV

Answers to Mason’s “Objections”: “Marcus” [James Iredell] IV

Norfolk and Portsmouth Journal (Virginia), March 12, 1788

Following are excerpts from James Iredell’s responses to George Mason’s “Objections” to the Constitution:

VIIIth. Objection. ‘Under their own construction of the general clause at the end of the enumerated powers, the Congress may grant monopolies in trade and commerce, constitute new crimes, inflict unusual and severe punishments, and extend their power as far as they shall think proper Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: Answers to Mason’s “Objections”: “Marcus” [James Iredell] IV”

The Theories of Slavery

Trout Fishing in Sullivan County, New York. By: Henry Inman.

In the 15 years leading up to the Civil War, a wide variety of theories emerged for how the federal government should deal with slavery expanding, or not expanding, into the territories acquired by the United States.

Continue reading “The Theories of Slavery”

Constitution Sunday: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] III

“A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] III

Connecticut Courant (Hartford), November 19, 1787

Following are excerpts from Oliver Ellsworth’s article in the Connecticut Courant:

“A government capable of controling the whole, and bringing its force to a point is one of the prerequisites for national liberty. Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] III”

Constitution Sunday: Refutation of the “Federal Farmer”: Timothy Pickering to Charles Tillinghast

Refutation of the “Federal Farmer”: Timothy Pickering to Charles Tillinghast

Philadelphia, December 24, 1787

Following are excerpts from Timothy Pickering’s letter to Charles Tillinghast, refuting the “Federal Farmer”:

“In respect to the organization of the general government, the federal farmer, as well as other opposers, object to Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: Refutation of the “Federal Farmer”: Timothy Pickering to Charles Tillinghast”

Constitution Sunday: “Americanus” [John Stevens, Jr.] I

“Americanus” [John Stevens, Jr.] I

Daily Advertiser (New York), November 2, 1787

Following are excerpts from John Stevens, Jr.’s article in the Daily Advertiser:

“But, so prone is the spirit of man to party and faction, that even this admirable system will not prevent their mischievous efforts, in a state possessing a ‘small territory.’ Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “Americanus” [John Stevens, Jr.] I”

Two Supreme Coordinate Powers

Gouverneur Morris. Engraving by: J. Rogers.

Coming out of the Philadelphia Convention, many Americans had different perspectives about what had transpired and how effective the Constitution could be as a governing document.

Continue reading “Two Supreme Coordinate Powers”

The Inadequacy of the Confederation

John Jay. By: John Trumbull.

By 1787, the strength and stability of the states was under scrutiny. Shays’ Rebellion had erupted, citizens had become more licentious, and state legislatures appeared to be running rampant, doing significant damage to the health of the country as a whole. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 465.

Continue reading “The Inadequacy of the Confederation”

Divided Sovereignty

Signing of the Constitution. By: Louis S. Glanzman.

John Adams had strong opinions about federalism. He believed that the government should be structured similarly to the British Empire, given the British Empire’s extraordinary success.

At the time of the signing of the Constitution, Adams firmly believed that the Constitution had secured a national government, as opposed to a government dividing its sovereignty into states and a federal government. Gordon Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, 191. Continue reading “Divided Sovereignty”

The Ohio System

Lithographic Print of Cincinnati, Ohio. 1800. By: Stobridge Lithographing Co.

Ohio was admitted into the Union in 1803, and it introduced a new political system to the United States. Each county in Ohio had county commissions that each county’s citizens elected, rather than the states of the South and Southwest, who had self-perpetuating commissions. Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 365.

Further, each county commission had overlapping jurisdiction with “towns, school districts, and other subdivisions,” which produced a variety of offices for election. Id. Local citizens were responsible for electing its local representatives to these towns, school districts, and county commissions, as well as fulfilling their obligations for electing representatives to the Ohio State Senate and House of Representatives and of course the federal Senate and House of Representatives.

Gordon Wood notes in Empire of Liberty that so many political offices open created a widespread, competitive political atmosphere, with dozens and dozens of candidates running for the various offices then open for politicians in Ohio. For example, 116 men ran for “Hamilton County’s [the County including Cincinnati] seven seats in Ohio’s third territorial assembly.” Id. In 1803, 22 candidates ran to be Ohio’s first governor. Id.

Meanwhile, because of Ohio’s diverse economy, “with a variety of markets and no simple distribution for the region’s many products,” small towns began popping up all over Ohio. Id.

These early years in Ohio inevitably created a sense of participation in politics on all levels for Ohioans. As is familiar for modern Americans, early Ohioans, beginning in 1803, would participate in their local politics, state politics, and federal politics. Unlike other states in the Union in the South and Southwest of the country then, Ohioans would have an active role in electing their local governments and having a say in how local affairs were conducted.

The fact that so many Americans had no ability to be involved in their local elections prior to this Ohioan system being adopted deserves more analysis. The uniquely American obsession with having democratic principles from top to bottom and from small to large has spread throughout the United States by now, but in those early years, it is clear that the extent of democratic rights were, for some, perhaps just limited to state elections and federal elections.

Americans now enjoy the full benefits of democracy on the local level, the state level, and the federal level. Some in the early years of the Republic may have questioned the capability of the citizenry to be informed enough to elect their local politicians. But there is no question that the election of local politicians, whether they be in school districts, county commissions, or towns, is a fundamental responsibility that is valued by Americans who choose to inform themselves and exercise their right to vote.

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