chapter 5 the american revolution

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political developments within the states

republicanism

  • government by the consent of the governed
  • 1763- colonial assemblies had substantial power, most white men could vote
  • once allegiance to the crown was repudiated republicanism became the only acceptable system of political values
  • provides philosophical underpinning
  • offers legitimacy for government and authority
  • application of principles rested on the central proposition of popular sovereignty

the transition from colonies to states

  • 1774-5 - most colonial assemblies reconstituted as provincial conventions
  • congress dithered when asked whether it would recommend colonies drawing up new constitutions
  • some states changed their constitutions before congress decided
  • may 1776- congress adopted a resolution calling on all states that did not have a permanent constitution based on popular sovereignty to adopt one
  • discussed the possibility of drafting a uniform model constitution, however Adams's view prevailed
  • 1776-1780 - all but 2 states adopted new constitutions
  • Rhode Island and Connecticut merely revised their colonial charters deleting all reference to royal authority
  • new constitutions embodied the principles of republicanism
  • reflected the balance of political power at the time of its writing
  • honest attempt by men of good faith to find the best way forward
  • americans wanted effective government
  • concerned about the dangers of excessive authority which they had convinced themselves was conspiring to destroy their liberty

elitists vs democrats

  • americans had to decide what type of government the new states should have and who should be allowed to vote and hold office
  • debated in newspapers, pamphlets, legislative chambers, committee rooms, pubs and homes
  • elitists- men who had led the assemblies
  • felt that while governments should maintain liberty, they must also preserve order
  • feared that too much democracy might generate unstable governments, could result in anarchy
  • sought to design republics in which the people would exercise their sovereignty by choosing the best men to govern and then standing aside to let them do so
  • sought to create governments along the lines of the former colonial system
  • franchise limited to property holders
  • high property qualifications for office holding
  • fairly infrequent elections
  • bicameral legislature
  • governors with wide powers
  • democrats- men from humble backgrounds
  • broad franchise
  • no property qualifications for office holding
  • frequent elections
  • unicameral legislature
  • weak executive

the state constitutions

  • most new constitutions drawn up and put into effect by state legislatures without specific authorisation from the electorate
  • few were the work of specially elected conventions
  • varying in detail
  • resembled each other in many respects
  • broadly patterned on the colonial model
  • all agreed sovereignty resided with the people
  • all were concerned about the separation of powers
  • usual provision was for a legislature consisting of 2 houses- except Pennsylvania and Georgia
  • lower house seen as directly representing the people
  • upper house seen as representing gentlemen
  • all original states required property ownership or payment of taxes to vote
  • property qualifications for voting were generally low
  • in most states- over 2/3 white men over the age of 21 had the right to vote
  • qualifications for office holding remained much the same as under the colonial governments
  • every state except Pennsylvania had…

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