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Last Best Hope of Earth

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James Cannon

The Conventional Debate

Dr. William Smith
William Smith. By: Gilbert Stuart. 1801-02.

In Pennsylvania, extraordinary events were transpiring that would shape how people expressed their will. William Smith (“Cato”) and a group of individuals, led by James Cannon (“Cassandra”) in 1776, debated the issue of how institutions should reflect the people’s will, given the Radical Political Experiment unfolding in Pennsylvania.

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Setting an Unshakeable Foundation

John_Marshall_by_Henry_Inman,_1832
John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. By: Henry Inman.

In the first years of the American Republic, there were drastic changes in the law. The importance and organization of laws were coming into place. At the top were constitutional rights, which, as James Cannon explained “must be protected and defended ‘as the apple of your eye’ from danger ‘or they will be lost forever.'” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 293 quoting James Cannon, “Cassandra,” Apr. 1776, Force, ed., American Archives, 4th Ser., V, 1094, quoting from Hulme, Historical Essay, 143-44. Cannon continued, stating that constitutional rights must be set “on a foundation never more to be shaken,” meaning that constitutional rights “must be specified and written down in immutable documents. Id.

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