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State Constitutions

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”

Corporations in the 1830s and 1840s

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The Founders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. By: Francis Blackwell Mayer.

Following the Panics of 1837 and 1839, the American government and Americans generally had developed a skepticism about corporations. Some states even “rewrote their constitutions in the 1840s” to forbid their state government from stock ownership. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 557.

Continue reading “Corporations in the 1830s and 1840s”

Constitution Sunday: Reply to Wilson’s Speech: “Cincinnatus” [Arthur Lee] I

Reply to Wilson’s Speech: “Cincinnatus” [Arthur Lee] I

New York Journal, November 1, 1787

Following are excerpts from the article, published in response to James Wilson’s speech:

“Your first attempt is to apologize for so very obvious a defect as—the omission of a declaration of rights. This apology consists in a very ingenious discovery; that in the state constitutions, whatever is not reserved is given; but in the congressional constitution, whatever is not given, is reserved. Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: Reply to Wilson’s Speech: “Cincinnatus” [Arthur Lee] I”

The Inadequacy of the Confederation

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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.

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Constitution Sunday: “An American Citizen” [Tench Coxe] I

“An American Citizen” [Tench Coxe] I

Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia), September 26, 1787

Following is an excerpt: Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “An American Citizen” [Tench Coxe] I”

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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The Genesis of the Bill of Rights

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Magna Carta.

Prior to the American Revolution, the colonists had become familiar with the concept of charters. Charters, whether royal, corporate, or proprietary, operated “as the evidence of a compact between an English King and the American subjects.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 268; see also Leonard Krieger, The Politics of Discretion: Pufendorf and the Acceptance of Natural Law (Chicago, 1965), 121.

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A Check on Dangerous Usurpations

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Samuel Chase. By: John Beale Bordley.

While an upper house of state legislatures was desirable to some, as explained in The Birth of the Senate, it also had its detractors. Those detractors argued that it was a mere redundancy, wholly irrelevant to the founding of a stable government. In taking that position, the detractors ignored many of the benefits of having a second house in the legislature.

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The Delegation of Sovereignty

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Noah Webster. By: James Herring.

Prior to the creation and ratification of the Constitution, Americans struggled with legislatures who had run rampant. This, however, was the doing of the people themselves.

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