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tv   Lectures in History State Constitutions  CSPAN  May 21, 2022 11:01am-12:02pm EDT

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good morning, everybody. welcome to history 3011 the american revolution. hope all of you had a great spring break last weekend and look forward to hearing a little bit more about. what you did? in our upcoming discussions now we spent the last two weeks talking about the war of independence the actual war. and the amazing thing about the revolution is that while war was raging american drove constitutions and debated how to construct a government that would protect the people's rights and in facilitate their happiness. i mean this word happiness is not just appear in the
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declaration of independence. it appears over and over and over again in the discussions around the formation of state constitutions and in the earliest bills of rights, so, you know, i think we need to think about how emotion and sentiment are part of the goals of the revolution of really creating a government that's going to contribute to individual fulfillment as well as the common good and that both of those goals were intertwined the fulfillment and happiness of the individual that we could all be our best selves but also the good of the whole are the twin goals of this period of about creation of the republic now what we're not going to talk about today is the confederation because that was a sideshow. that was the national government was not of interest to these contemporaries. they put a very little you know philosophy political science and consideration into its construction in many ways. they just took the existing congress they had and and you know gave it some some rights and powers, but all the kind of
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philosophical ideas all the hopes and dreams all of the plans for the future. all the experiments were conducted at the state level. so today i'm going to talk about three state constitutions that we're very influential in the period they either trade a templates that other states borrowed templates that influenced our own us constitution of 1787 and 1788. or they engage in a radical democratic experiments that some other states followed and some other states thought were a bridge too far. that went too far or they represented. a what we might call our counter revolutionary movement a pushback against what some americans viewed as excessive democracy in the period around 1776 and a desire to figure out how to maintain the order of the british constitution that they had rejected without creating aristocracy monarchy etc. so trying to figure out how to create an orderly society was
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important to some americans while pursuit of the greatest degree of democracy was important to others democracy was not a shared value in 1776. many feared it. and particularly in the run-up to 1776 and the declaration of independence. remember many people were not ready to separate from england. this includes people within the continental congress and and within the state conventions these sort of these assemblies that had emerged in the in the collapse of british governments. you know many people at who are state of colonial officials at the state level. we're not ready to declare independence. so so in some ways we talked about the ways in which malicious service or military service derival of war people to choose. to two sides where they're going to come out as loyalists where they're going to come out as supporters of the patriot cause that these were these were kind of moments of crisis for individuals and 1775 1776 and even thereafter. this call for the creation of
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state governments was was a galvant was a way to galvanize. so it was pushed by the more radical groups within the continental congress and within within the colonies within the state conventions the state conventions these local these irregular bodies, right the former legislatures that were now these ballooned bodies that included committees and extra people had been pushing for for creating more formal frames of government a really moving the revolution forward politically. you know, but at the top there have been sort of resistance and in some colonies there was resistance because people weren't ready to declare independence. pennsylvania the place where the continental congress was meeting. it's legislature was dragging its feet. it was one of the holdouts in terms of approving independence. so in the period between when common sense was written in america and england are war in this period and the war has started. right, so in the period between when common sense was written and the declaration of independence, so there's just a
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lot of maneuvering around these issues. now within individual colonies now states moving into statehood. you know, some groups were like we just have to do something in the short term. let's just use our charter so connecticut, which had a royal charter dating back to the 17th century. they just used that as a framework of government some people in massachusetts. wanted to do the same. but others in massachusetts really wanted to use this take this opportunity to do something new the virginia convention. they pass laws, but they didn't know what to do without a royal governor to enact them as lord dummer's lund dunmore had fled the area. he's on ship, you know, their antagonistic with them. there's a sort of a concern or a question about well, how do we make laws legal? how do we make them binding? you know, how do we make people listen to us? how do we how do we run these governments from our new position of these conventions? so, you know, we need we need to figure out we need to figure out what makes us legitimate how to
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make this government function replace what we had before make it better. so this is the this is the energy and this is the push and john adams sam adams. jefferson other figures who are in this pro-independence faction within congress. you know felt that once people created governments had recreated their governments not we're not just using some leftover british model. that would be a true revolution that there would be no going back. this is literally the words that jefferson used there would be no going back once people had created these new governments at the state level. so in between may 10th and may 15th congress worked on this resolution for the states and it called upon them to adopt such government as shall in the opinion of the representatives of the people best conduced to the happiness safety of their constituents. in particular in america in general so, you know, this is a job for the states, but they're still a notion of the collective of america that the declaration of independence would in some ways invention create, you know a month later.
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so think about this is coming before the declaration of independence. so in fact, it actually gets in the way of some of the business of congress because everybody is so excited about this and what this represents that people want to go back to their their home colonies and work on these constitutions. so thomas jefferson is one of those people and so it's sort of an accident that he was even in philadelphia to be part of the writing of the declaration of independence. he was subbing for his cousin peyton randolph and jefferson writes about how he's like trying to finish finish finish. let's get these drafts. i'm going back and then come back, you know wrap up the draft so decorations. i want to go back so jefferson wrote three drafts three drafts of the virginia constitution that he tried to, you know, get people interested in and get people behind and was very active and involved in the constitution that virginia's did create. so the thing is it's easy in opposition to be united. so the callous had some notions of what they didn't want right? they don't want they didn't want
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standing armies. they didn't want royal governors who could shut down their colonial legislatures. they didn't want to be beholden to to the english parliament and didn't accept its sovereignty over all matters pertaining to local government. they thought their local government should have they know a role in this what you know, what you know, what did they hold up in opposition to english rule was there their local legislatures, right? so that's going to be the locus of a lot of the interests and a lot of the excitement so they know what they don't want but the specifics of what they want. that's where the work. had to occur and that process was what really revealed a lot of differences. amongst americans who had, you know were sort of even those who are united in desiring independence. we're not necessarily united on what they wanted to see in terms of government. so one thing that people agreed about was that these government should be republics. in fact, that is what the may
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15th resolution actually called for the creation of republican governments with a small r. but this is where the current republican party is taking its name from this concept. so the word republic is actually comes from the latin like so many other things to do with government and early america and it literally race pubica literally means the public thing. in other words the public interest so the main goal of a republic had to be the achievement of the public interest the achievement of the common good. but there was a role for individual happiness and individual well-being as well in the goals of this republic. so republics were the most basic level representative governments. so americans agreed at this point that although they were very interested in the greek city-states and the pure democracy they had engaged in that that you know, they would be impossible to achieve or mimic in even within something as small as a colony.
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that that you know to have a pure democracy you really needed something like the towns of new england where people still met animals to to discuss and debate and vote on local affairs, but anything bigger than a little town is just simply logistically impossible. so so this government was going to have to operate by people choosing representatives and having those representatives act in their interests. right and what kind of representation you think? there are people they're thinking about you can you can answer. so what kind of represents presentation don't they want what kind of representation do they want? they don't want the wealthy and the kind of ruling class. some people might still want that to happen. so so that's actually a great point some of them want that some of them are maybe going to want some changes. they're gonna they're looking at themselves. hey, i've been on this committee. i've now become kind of politically active. i may be the person that i could do this. i want to be i want to i want to be that representative. i also i'm thinking of this concept of actual representation right that represents that
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representatives will will actually represent the interests of their constituents will live among them. so i do want residents requirements. you know, what how are you going to how are you going to enforce these sorts of things got to start thinking about all this? so, you know who should serve should it be the elites that have generally dominated political office even in these relatively even in societies were up to 80% of the white men adult white men had the vote like the new england, you know, there's still so picking elite people for office. is that going to change and should it change john adams feels that that's actually it's a good system james madison and others, you know think that's a good system. these people in pennsylvania coming out of that militia committee are thinking something different. they are thinking like connie said what about me? you know, what about i could do this and how do we how do we create opportunities for for these people have been serving these committees in malicious in the war two enter into political service to get elected. how do we how do we help make that happen for them if they don't have that reputation and that money and that power that
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gets people into political office who should vote? you know big question. so the other thing that people had in mind when they thought about republics was also how actually demanding they were they demanded a lot of people they demanded a lot of citizens. so you have to you know within the british system. did you have to work all that hard to be a citizen? you know within this system you're gonna have to work and in the work is laid out in these constitutions, what will be demanded of the citizens is going to be a much greater level, you know to be politically aware. you have to participate in all sorts of, you know, direct and indirect ways you have to pay taxes, you know, you're gonna have to probably serve in the you can have to serve in the militia you have to serve in content army, you know, so you can have to operate military service you're going to have to offer up taxes to support the war and all the efforts involved and you know a level of engagement. it's just going to be required to you active system ring. so the term the colonists used a lot was virtue.
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and virtue is an old word. also a latin word and it's a word that actually went through some transformations in the 15th and 16th century machiavelli and the prince. and his advice to the ruler of florence wrote a lot about virtue and the college were aware of that of those discussions as well. so they knew about classical ideas about virtue and they knew about these these more early modern ideas about about you know about how a roller should rule. and we know today we think of virtue as something that's private. we often associated with women sexual purity. you know, it's a private. it's a private quality for these people. it was a public quality and it was actually generally a male quality. so one of the things a revolution has changing is opening up the achievement of virtue the quality of virtue to a broader range of people, you know, across gender and across ethnicity then it had been employed before the revolution, but it still did you know have this association of you know, a
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military service of willingness to sacrifice oneself for the good of the country, but there were lots of other ways that americans could engage in self-sacrifice so citizenship in this in these republics it was going to demand, you know self-sacrifice of people they used the term disinterestedness, but that they did not mean boredom. they didn't mean withdrawal. they just meant altruism the ability to put the good of the whole above the good of the self the public service itself required, you know, a little bit of that sublimation of of the self, you know, you had to put your own interest aside and think about other people's interests and work in those interests and maybe lose money in your home farm or maybe you know have to support a program that's going to hurt you that you know, that was absolutely the requirement for engaging in and get citizenship. so very demanding and many people in the revolutionary generation thought in order to have that degree of to have to sacrifice you had to have something to sacrifice you had to be invested in society in some ways. so generally they assume that people there had to be some sort
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of property requirement for the vote. that you had to have skin in the game you had to be invested in society in some in some way that that you had property at risk you had things at risk that you know, you either run it to support or you want to you were willing to to give up to exercise those qualities of citizenship of selflessness and service. so this was going to be a big discussion. now remember tom payne and even the declaration of independence also talk about equality. and so so for some of the revolutionary generation the quality is not a forefront goal, but for others it was so so another thing that these constitution writers thought about was how to achieve equality. what was you know? short of taking people's property away what could you do? to achieve it and and should government have the power to take people's property away if concentrations of wealth were too great or in the name of the greater good. is that something that's on the
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table for these governments to to suggest? so another kind of question another problem challenge for this constitution rate generation was also the the question of what would really hold society so, you know the british imperial authority held society together that that sort of hierarchical chain held society together and preserved order. what would hold people together after when that was taken away? you know, what would what would generate these feelings of of public spiritedness and selflessness and the willing to willingness to sacrifice, you know, what would prevent anarchy, you know, some people are really worried about anarchy and the folks that don't want to create these state governments is because they're worried that that transition period is this going to anarchy's going to break loose. you are going to you'll have a state of nature that thomas hobbes talked about in the 17th century that you're a property. are we stolen your personal be? endangered security will be gone. so, you know, some people didn't really have faith that they could make this transition.
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so there's a lot of discussion about what would hold society together and what many of the framers of these constitutions hoped that the kind that the governments themselves would generate morality, they would generate and train people in good citizenship that they were that these in some ways. they're trying to instill ethics. by through government. i know it's you know today the idea that politics would be the school of ethics is you know, is that necessarily where the way people are thinking this is this is what john john adams called it the divine science of politics. that that maybe through the creation creation of these wonderful republican governments. that that you could actually almost sort of achieve moral goals make people more moral and and we'll see as we talk about the specific constitutions that they actually you know, put things in the constitution to to create the kind of society they want and encourage people to engage in where moral behavior there was also a hope, you know, we talked earlier in the class about the the influence of
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english enlightenment figures like john locke but by the 18th century the enlightenment had gone through a couple of different phases and changes in the 18th century. it became much more of a kind of continent-wide event in europe and also other areas within the uk became engaged in writing enlightenment text and these texts of 18th century were from france. they're from scotland often and they were just as exciting to many americans as the lock had been a century earlier. so one of these thinkers was montesquieu, he was a french nobleman and he wrote a book called the spirit of the laws and 1748 and one of the things that matsis you talked about was the importance of republics being small. that republics, you know, we can't be a perfect read city state, but but you try to have a republic that's small and relatively homogeneous and then and then it's a lot easier for people to to get along and it's a lot easier for people to agree on what the common good is. so this is one of the reasons also why the colonists are thinking the state is where is what's going to be the republic?
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the nation will not really be republican quite the same way or it's not going to be that's not going to be the locus and the focus. others other contemporaries are also reading a lot of philosophers coming out of scotland in this period and they'd like these philosophers in part because these scottish thinkers were they were on the margins of english society, too. i know a scotland was subject to two stamp act. they were subjected all sorts of, you know, they got charged for exporting things to england. i mean, they were really subjected to a lot of disadvantageous relationships visa-vis, london and parliament and so on they felt it they felt like they were a little bit on that outskirts and outside. so, of course the columnists like to read these thinkers and a lot of them were also thinking about emotion and sentiment in ways that got people were kind of interested in and the 18th century. so i remember tom payne is appeal to reason but it's also an appeal to emotion evangelicalism is like is popular because of this emotional appeal as well. so there are a number of
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scottish philosophers frances hutchison and adam smith who wrote the bible of capitalism the wealth of nations and 1776. but he also wrote a book called the theory on moral sentiments. so, you know he was he didn't you know want. the market to run society he also wanted to moral society society, you know in which morality and good feeling operated not not, you know, not not endless competition and selfishness, but a pursuit of self-interest at benefited everybody and and you know was still also thinking about the ways in which morality could be part of these discussions. so americans are thinking a lot about about what kinds of social and emotional relationships are going to pull them together. they're trying to achieve these things in constitution writing believe it or not. so anything kind of so, this is george washington resigning his commission as commander in chief at the end of the war. just what are some general reactions to this picture? if anybody see anything, that's
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interesting. okay, there's a lot of what there's a lot of women in the painting. there are a whole bunch of women there. a lot of them are so washington's martha and the s that are mentioned in never caught our presence as their children. they're going to be adults soon. but there's a there's a gallery up there and there's a bunch of women in it. so one thing that we'll see that our most radical constitution creates are there's an opening of the doors to government literally an opening of doors. the doors will be open that people could come and watch galleries built in these what would be these new state houses? so the public could attend and by the public i meant the public so that now, you know women women are often the the most common attendees that a lot of these legislative sessions in the galleries, especially during the day. so this idea of opening everything up to the public. that's that's what at least some of our constitutions are going
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to try to achieve. so almost all of these adventures in constitution writing have some common features. they tried to put some limits on the executive by so, you know this fear of the royal governor as a representative of the monarch, so, you know, but you still need someone to execute laws and kind of manage the you know some of the business of government that the legislature might not necessarily want to manage. so how do you achieve that position? without creating too much continuity with this old system that you didn't like. so one way to do it would be strip some of the powers off that office at the royal governors had. you know super powered legislatures just because that was the body that they saw the defenders of their rights in the colonial period so all these events of the imperial crisis are really shaping how people are reacting. and they're so they're they're thinking of the past when they're writing in the present. they know what they don't want. and accountability so our first significant constitution is the
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june virginia constitution. sorry this has happened again happening right after may 15th resolutions happening during the the writing of the declaration of independence and the vote to to separate from england. so all these things are happening at once. and with the virginia the virginia constitution contributed to all subsequent constitutions. was a declaration of rights the idea of listing. those natural rights that are inherent to all individuals. they are not gifts from government. but are before government. that anti anti-date government and they should come first in the constitution because are actually not. not gifts of any political organization but are inherent to us as people as individuals. and to enumerate those things so that whatever government they created its job was to protect those things. and some other state constitutions just adopted this document wholesale some added
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other things some might play with the language a little bit. we'll talk about some of those discussions. and it included many of the rights that made it into the bill of rights in the us constitution. so it has references to most of them included some reference to speech or press. most of them had some discussion about religion, although not didn't it's not all ended up at the point that the us constitution did they discussed, you know rights to child by jury rights against search and seizure, you know the the right different sorts of property rights some of them had discussions about bearing arms, virginia in virginia. you had the right to bear arms on your own property. others others created a you know a different take on the right to bear arms, and then they were rights in this list that aren't enumerated in the us bill of rights and we'll talk about what some of them were. but george mason started his decoration of rights with a broad statement about natural rates and you can see this is
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all the same language that's going into the decoration of independence. right? it's that all men are born equally free and independent and have certain inherent natural rights, which they cannot by any compact deprived or divest their posterity. so no constitution can take these rates away. these rights aren't from the constitution. they can't be taken away or violated by any government. whenever formed in this class immediately became the target of a lot of discussion within the virginia convention, right the old house of burgesses. and many, you know, these people were slaveholders the george mason was a slaveholder. and immediately people were concerned about what the effect of that language would be on slavery. on their property in enslaved people and so on so they extended debate over this question. and in the end the virginia convention amended. george mason's statement and added language that of which when they enter into a state of society they cannot be any
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compact deprive or divest their posterity. so at the virginian said was and say people are not entering into the society with us they remain apart in a state of nature. and are not part of this process. of constituting a government and society in virginia so this is this is a very explicitly discussed in the in the in the debates over this particular clause of the declaration of rights so, you know right from the beginning the natural rights and and slavery are coming into conflict and people are very and people know it and people are very aware of it. i mean mason do it when he put this out there. so what you know, we see that there's that that for you know, some americans are starting to think that we saw already that anti-slavery sentiment had been growing even before the revolution broke out. they've got petitions from tree
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and enslaved africans in massachusetts, we've got you know people freeing slaves. you've got some evangelicals starting to you know, talk about the need to get rid of slavery and so on so there's been some sentiment sure even though like george mason was a slaveholder wasn't known whether or not he was in favor of like keeping slavery in what would be like a national government. well, what's interesting is that he and thomas jefferson talk a lot in this period particularly about getting rid of slavery and jefferson. i'm going to show you a phrase that jefferson put in his draft constitution and up through the us constitution. yes, they do talk about it and they want they want government to stop it, but that they don't stop, you know, but that they don't free their own enslaved. property people so this is the this is the paradox. this is the incompatible moment. but this also shows what? you know people trying to adhere to these beliefs these ideas and how it's coming up against.
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this whole sleep holding system and what what individual choices and what collective choices the americans are going to make in this moment. so, you know jefferson's drafts on this constitution are fascinating. he called it new modeling government and this is a phrase right out of the english revolution the puritan army in the english revolution was the new model army, right? so he's like we're starting over jefferson, you know is is a strangely, you know, very interestingly kind of radical person for an elite person. he actually thought that all positive laws should have a 20 year expiration. so every 20 years allah should just be null and void so that one generation didn't bind to the next generation. and this in his constitution for virginia, there wasn't really a governor. there was a kind of executive committee. he really stripped away a lot of rights from this position or this this kind of collective position. they didn't have the right to declare war. they didn't have the right to,
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you know name officers to the militias. they didn't have you know, they didn't have the right to shut down the assembly etc. etc, etc. he thought very hard about also the issue of the dangers that inequality presented to those good social feelings the people wanted in the republic. you know, could you have a republic if half the people couldn't qualify for citizenship couldn't make that property requirement cut, you know, what kind of republic would that be? you know, they're in a they're in a society where 40% of the people are enslaved. so jefferson actually proposed giving everybody who didn't have the the minimum required for the under the constitution land. so everybody was going to get 50 acres who didn't already have it who is you know a mail over the age of 21. we're very suppose that lamb was going to come from. would have been the indian territory it would have been for
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native americans. so jefferson suggested we would buy the virginia should buy the land from native americans and that only the state should buy ever by land for native americans. no individuals should enter into any contracts, you know, there's a there's a hint at a pivot about protecting indigenous. rights, but i mean, you know the idea that that one group will be will be endowed citizenship by by the disposition of another group as a complicated feature other state constitutions actually debated giving the vote to navy americans and incorporating native americans into into this compact and different sorts of ways. some talked about gender very openly. and we'll see that some of the constitutions had gendered language to talk about free men or males over the age of 21 and other stone. they use their term persons. and we used to think this was of a sort of mistake and that you know people they didn't realize what the implications of these actions. but again, if you if as we've sort of dug down and found the
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diaries of these debates over these state constitutions and the discussions and the amendment processes. it's clear that people actually know what they were doing and in some cases in the case of massachusetts. they actually took a male gender pronoun out and put you know a gender, you know went to anymore. and substitute persons so that after a discussion about whether they should be excluding women so, you know the lot is on the table what i'm trying to convey here is how many possibilities they were. this is a moment of possibility. so jefferson's also worked along with other constitution writers to get rid of what many people thought as a source of aristocratic power and wealth which was the leaving property to the eldest son? primogenature and the entailing of the states the locking up of money over generations that even the heirs couldn't couldn't unlock. so just always pass this property state intact and went to the oldest son and this this was a big you know. creator of wealth maintenance
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maintainer of wealth and power so virginia and other states passed laws are put into their constitutions to get rid of. that the oldest son could only inherit and to get rid of these entails make them illegal. and so many of the constitutions actually talked about women's rights of inheritance all children should get an equal share and so put this in their state constitutions. and this was also on a jefferson's drafts. no person hereafter coming into this country shall be held within the same. in slavery under any pretext, whatever. what does that say? please jefferson trying to say that he wants to keep his lifestyle but in the future other people should really not do slavery. it's not freeing. it's not praying. the people are currently enslaved. it's not just stopping the slave trade either, but it's saying anybody brought in after the state will be free. but i mean think about that too.
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that's a i mean, this is 1776. and between 1776 and 1785 the virginia legislature debated. debated anti-slavery bill several times and they passed the house several times. so and you know but one characteristic of the actual bill, so none of these things that jefferson suggesting made it into the final constitution, not this class about slavery not his give everybody 50 acre by land from the india's give everybody 50 acres the entail and private janitor they achieved through bills and later sessions and so on. he also wanted to create public education and have a kind of talented tenth where children who did well in primary school would get a state paid secondary education and eventually be sent to william mary to create a elite so the create to create mobility. to bring new people into the lead that also failed. and this this is an interior shot of monticello, by the way
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with artifem with mammoth artifacts. from george rogers clerk so so in other words there was tremendous potential for change in 1776, but you know even even people like mason and jefferson who are talking about natural rights, you know into the idea of natural rights aware of the implication of natural rates for slavery don't want to don't want to enslavery in the moment. so in the later bills that jefferson mason and others proposed, they wanted to remove freed african-americans from virginia that was going to be a quality requirement for freedom. and generally the laws were gradualists that they didn't apply to people currently enslaved. they only applied to people born after the law. so not just people brought in but people born after the law would be free, but they would have to serve an apprenticeship maybe to age 21 maybe to age 28 and they would have to leave. upon freedom so they talked about creating a black homeland.
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in the west again. you know out of out of indian land and you know, but this this idea the idea of of compact that included the formerly enslaved was not that was not on the table. it had to be you know, the free people had to go. this is one of the reasons why you get i was migration black migration to ohio during and after the american revolution, that's when that that's the period when this is going because there was a kind of you had to you know, they were trying to force free people even people have been freed for generations to leave to leave, virginia. so so virginia shows both the incredible potential that also you know, the the limits of some of these ideas in rhetoric and and you know, the beginning of a conflicts and discussion over this question of slavery that would become part of debates in other states. that would lead to laws abolishing slavery and other states that lead to the dining
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broke of a discussion during the the beta with the us constitution and on and on and on through civil war and today. so another important constitution was the pennsylvania constitution also written in may in june of 1776. so a lot of action those months. so i've already mentioned that pennsylvania had a kind of unique history going into the revolution like a lot of lot less activity around stamp act and a lot of these earlier protests. a lot more activity in the few years leading up to the revolution itself, you know the emergence of radicals like tom payne who are pushing for independence, you know in december and january of 1775 and 1776 and you know a very robust committee structure. and particularly of these of these private militias and associators. that had emerged in between in the 1740s and 50s, but really took on new life and a couple of
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years before the american revolution pennsylvania is also, you know a place with a lot of ethnic and religious diversity in some ways this this may this makes unification difficult right that their challenge for montesquieu. many of these immigrants also were not naturalized. they had not achieved naturalization citizenship. some of the colonies required seven years. of presence and you had to actually go for it and apply for it and some of the german-speaking immigrants didn't bother unless they were kind of coerced by the state to to do so because they wanted to write a will or file some other sort of paper. so you've got a very diverse community. you've got a radical energy. you've also got a rather conservative legislature that did not want to adopt independence. they're dragging their feet even as they're meeting the same building as the content of congress, you know, so this is this is driving the radicals in pennsylvania nuts. so they actually engage in a kind of coup. in may they call a convention. they basically run an election
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for delegates to a constitutional convention. and hold it and write a constitution. and replace the sitting, pennsylvania assembly. with a new assembly. so the committees in pennsylvania literally take over. the government of pennsylvania and write the constitution so this constitution is is the most distinct it's the most different from our current frame of government and from both the british style and and what came after. so they got rid of everything associated with the british system with aristocracy with hierarchy. so no governor because what was the governor except a exemplar of royal power? no senate because what was the senate accepted exemplar of aristocracy house of lords in england, those people had their seats by inheritance because they're aristocrats. why would you need an upper house? if you're not, you know encoding airstracy.
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so they had a one house legislature camera legislature. instead of a governor. they created an executive council the kind of president really and and people that the house representatives would appoint to advise that person that person would sort of execute the will of the legislature. this legislature super hyperpowers itself, right so the legislature, you know appointed judges appointed people to office or they had election of some of these figures of some judicial figures as well. so it's like if they're not elected by the people the business is being conducted by the legislature. the other interesting thing that this constitution did is that it created a lot of accountability? so this is the most people accountable accountable to the people government are created in this period elections were to be annual. so every year you'd have a chance to throw the bum out and elect somebody new. the idea between behind annual elections also was that more
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people would end up serving. this is also informed a desire for term limits, right they didn't want an entrenched elite. they didn't want the same people in power. so people could only serve four out of any seven years. they were term limited. so during the colonial period if you're trying to find out, you know, what went on behind the scenes and what kind of debates people had within these colonial legislatures when they were discussing laws or policy. you have to find a diary you have to find a letter you have to find some private recording of what went on because in the colonial period legislatures did not publish any of their or make public any of their debates or any of their discussions. they didn't publish roll call votes. so you knew that you could find out the gross number of yeas, and a's, but you didn't know whether you're representative voted when way or the other. so the public wasn't allowed in there's no access to the
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debates. nobody knew and no access to real call votes. so pennsylvania, literally they say we're throwing open the doors. we're building a gallery. we're throwing up in the doors. anybody can come at any time on top of that. we're going to publish all of the discussions. on top of that. we're going to publish roll call votes. so, know exactly how you're representative is voting. on top of that we're going to publish. any law that we passed and it won't go into effect until it's been circulated in public and the public has a chance to weigh in and decide whether they like this law or not or whether we know need to go back to the drawing table. so it's kind of popular consent to law to new laws was built into this constitution. so, you know, this was the most democratic constitution created in this period arguably and some strange citizens it made pennsylvania the most democratic society on the face of the earth than this certainly in the in the americas are in europe in this period so that's a pretty
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that's that's an achievement and it was put together by people like tom payne by dr. benjamin rush. by charles wilson peel the artisan intern artist, you know, remember peel and pain are both fighting the american revolution. those rush has a staff appointment. timothy matlack and the committees they're the ones who are writing, you know, the committee of privates is writing this. is helping to write this constitution. the constitution also gave people broad voting rights so in pennsylvania, there was no property requirement for the vote. all you had to do is own yourself if you are a free person. you could vote. so this excluded the enslaved it excluded apprentices. so if you're in an apprenticeship or contract like that, you're not they were not you're not viewed as totally free. and actually there were a lot of apprentices in the in the militia. so apprentices really pushed back about this but in the end this campus they reached this compromise to exclude them and thereafter the militia didn't enroll in princesses. they weren't allowed to be in
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the militia and serve at these sorts of committees. the the smith that people of color voted because there was no, you know no race or ethnicity was mentioned. pennsylvania also made naturalization easy, so you only had to reside in the state for one year to become naturalized. so this made the vote and participation available to of these fairly recent immigrants like tennessee matlack light to you know, these germans these people of different ethnicities these scots irish. they're now you know voting participating citizens. and pennsylvania is also kind of interesting because they really put like a lot of hopes and dreams into the constitution. they said, you know, we want people to work who recorded there at their calling so they're find a vocation work hard at it. you know, we want people to be virtuous. we want you to contribute to the state and we're going to demand that you contribute to the state. they did criminal justice reform. they they're in the
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constitution. there are limits on bail there. there's you know getting rid of debt debtors prison getting rid of excessive finds and fees and so on and so forth. so, i mean, they're really they're all got rid of entail and primogenature and talked about inheritance and they debated and initially had included. a declaration limiting concentrations of property. so this was one of the 47 there said they were 16 rights and then 47 other elements to the constitution that an enormous proportion of property vested into few individuals is dangerous to the rights and destructive of the common happiness of mankind. and therefore every free state hath the right by its laws to discourage the possession of such property. so that that article did not make it into the final constitution as adopted. but it sure shows that pennsylvania's we're trying to we're thinking about was the quality and worried about
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concentrations of wealth and kind of willing and thinking about using the state. if necessary. to do something about those things so, you know. copyright sacred equality sacred sometimes they come there's sometimes you know, they're they're in sync. is it would there be a moment where that were those not be in sync? there was there were those moments were going to come. particularly during wartime in cities like philadelphia so this constitution really pulled together a broad coalition of support it sort of broke. the existing pennsylvania politics and create a new alliances between rural people. who had been some at mobilized by the revolution and city people who had before had been kind of opposing, you know, opposing factions opposing size within the politics of pennsylvania should be kind of been dominated by by the proprietor by the penn family who were anglicans the church of england and quakers. that was one group and everybody
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else all the immigrant groups all the evangelicals all the others were in the other group rural people and other group. so this kind of creator bridge between the city people and the country people of the lowering and middle orders, and this was their constitution. so the last it'll interesting tidbit about the pennsylvania constitution was this council of censors? and what the council sensors was was a kind of judicial review, but it was an elective body. and basically called for the council of censors to be on it and to you know impeach any official that wasn't doing their job that seemed to be a danger to the republic to keep an eye on the laws and make sure that they were as they should be. but also every seven years to decide whether the constitution needed to be changed in some formal way and if so the council sensors could call a constitutional convention. so built into this constitution is the possibility of change the possibility of revision.
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but this constitution was so you know had so many of these elements of this constitution were controversial that pushback from the groups that had been displaced in the former legislature people who didn't like various search that you know didn't like the kind of opening up of the assembly. the constitution actually says that you should try to vote for different people not the same old people that you know, you you need to run for office and new people need to get up there. right? so, you know this all of these elements the lack of you know, the empowerment of the legislature the lack of other search checks and you know on the legislature you know this creative pushback both within the state and in other states. so although pennsylvania's influence. shaped the vermont constitution a georgia also had a camera assembly but possibly pennsylvania's biggest influence was in provoking a reaction. in other states of a people who
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were saw this democracy and kind of wanted to slow it down. so after this burst of constitution rating, there's a you know, there's a slow walk go that happens and other states that literally is about like things are really radical right now. let's let's wait a little while. this is john adams in massachusetts and and others are try to maybe slow walk things a little bit. and the result of the slow walk at a period of consideration was the massachusetts constitution. of 1780 that was begun in 1778. and john adams drafted this constitution. he had already written about what government should look like in a pamphlet. that was kind of a response to common sense. it came out just a few months after common sense in the spring of 1776. adams was writing to try to reassure people who were worried about independence that americans could create governments, but they would still that could still be kind of orderly that they could be have orderly republics.
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in this pamphlet of 1776 but by 1778 adams was also looking at things that had happened in, pennsylvania. and things that were going on in his own home state of massachusetts. so, you know, what what this popular legislature did in pennsylvania, and basically what the you know, what the legislature then in massachusetts was doing before this constitution. they were doing a lot of people pleasing things. they were making it hard for debtors to collect debts while veterans were away or soldiers were away fighting the war, you know people's. states and mortgages were getting behind these these legislatures were making it, you know giving people debt protection. they were sometimes controlling the price of food that as prices skyrocketed in boston or philadelphia or other cities. so we're doing things that people wanted but you know for some you know people who were the mortgage holders who were the sellers of goods, you know, they've viewed these axes maybe infringements on their property
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rights and we'll talk more about this in a forthcoming lecture. so adams really came back at the constitution writing discussion with a draft that included a lot of elements of the old order. but kind of dressed up in a new kind of republican. clothing so he brought back a strong executive. the governor in this constitution had powers that the royal governor's hadn't had. the particularly veto power the ability to veto things coming out of the legislature the governor had or adams also created a senate. and what she hoped would be a senate of natural aristocrats. and he sort of set things up so that the governor and the senate would both be drawn from these more elite. groups by creating high property bars to serving in political office. so in pennsylvania didn't have any requirement for serving in office. so you had to have an estate of
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a thousand pounds. even to be governor he had to have an estate of 600 pounds to be in the senate. or excuse me to be lieutenant governor and then 300 pounds to be in the senate so you had to be a person or property to even qualify for these offices. you also had to be. a trinitarian protestant this constitution all the constitution has talked about religion. so virginia george mason's initial draft and james madison's prodding. you know. brought a degree of religious freedom to virginia, but virginia retained an established church at that point didn't get taken away until 1785. pennsylvania offered complete religious freedom. no state church. no taxes would be paid to support a state church, massachusetts retained a state church. so they offered religious toleration and the ability to practice religion but gave the state the right to compel people
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to attend particular kinds of public worship or to certainly through text local tax money support a particular church the congregational church the puritan church. and this remained true in massachusetts until 1820s. so the us constitution says the us will not establish a religion. federal government won't but it didn't stop the states from doing it. and in fact, there's some bills right now in some states to reestablish churches with to re-establish religion within states these things are this idea is being floated around to return to this and established religion. here adams actually was open to just saying christian. he had to be christians to be an office holder and the people in massachusetts wanted, you know present protestant present. so, you know the stats of catholics under this. under this constitution was a little vague. there's some language that would seem to exclude catholics. so certainly excluded --. technically it really even excluded.
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folks who were christian who didn't necessarily believe in the divinity of the trinity and so on. so fewer people could vote under this constitution than in the colonial period the property bar for voting was 60 pounds higher than it had been. so the senate the number of senators was based on. the property and tax rate sort of tax revenue of particular districts. so the areas around boston and salem commercial cities would be hyper-represented in the senate so it wasn't just based on population. it was based on tax rolls. at the number of senators a certain area got so some of these western towns weren't even going to be able to qualify to send representatives to the lower house of the massachusetts assembly. you also needed have at least the town had to have 125 150 people to even send a rep. they were still going to do a town base thing.
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so this constitution really likes to represented the interests of more of the the wealthier eastern. part of boston, you know it was it was it was creating a lot of order. and you know making sure that an elite would still have control of some important offices within massachusetts society under this new constitution. but it did do one interesting thing. it actually sent the constitution out to to. for people to consent to so special election was held for local conventions to look at this look representatives from localities to look at this constitution and amend it. and decide what they could live with and what they couldn't live with. so, you know, they push back on some elements of this constitution got something to change, but the so principle of ratification of consent. was an important principle he offered up. a way to sort of think about
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checks and balances of how to how to create a senate maybe an aristocracy. of you know, he said no, we need a powerful executive. he sort of went after those taboos that had been very much influencing the generation of 76 and said, now we need these things. and you know, this was also very controversial this controversial within, massachusetts. so in pennsylvania parties formed around their constitution and anti, you know, an anti-constitution party called themselves the republicans immediately began fighting that constitution looking forward to the next council of censors meeting where they were going to try to go in and rewrite it and they did. in massachusetts we were going to see role, you know rural education about the after this constitution and it's elected officials come in and start. changing, you know start getting rid of some of these protections for debtors and other sorts of popular policies during the war itself. we'll end up in a pretty major
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role insurgency both in massachusetts and another colonies in the 1780s. so here's a couple takeaways. one is that this idea of a declaration of rights. the bill of rights is probably one of the most lasting and great contributions of this era of constitution writing. but also the idea that politics is a you know, politics is a potentially moral activity. and the structure of government can be used to change things that you want for society. these are these are these are sort of lasting. contributions and probably one of the greatest contributions of the american revolution to subsequent revolutions. so it influenced the french revolution influence haitian revolution, you know any of these democratic revolutions the declaration of rights became the basis of their own declarations of rights the writing of constitutions, you know, even in the after the fall soviet union. you know former soviet republics asked, you know americans to come and help them write constitutions. they sometimes wanted to put things in their list of rights like the right to housing.
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for the right to health care you know, so i mean our discussion we will talk a little bit about that in a future discussion. so atoms are figured, you know also really was here talking about the separation of powers. of not letting the legislature run the judiciary not letting them, you know run all aspects the stuff had to be separated out. another lasting idea that we'll see coming up in our discussions of the us constitutions. so for now we'll end and we'll take up. what kinds of societies emerged because of these constitutions the kind of crisis and concern about what was going on in the states? all of which provided some of the impetus for the creation of a central federal government and that will be the subject of our next class. so i'll see.
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the hundred year dedication of the lincoln mario we are joined by author and abraham harold holzer lincoln to -- joined by author and lincoln expert harold holzer to discuss.


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