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6 - The Positive Founding (I)

One People or Several Peoples?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 July 2021

Alin Fumurescu
Affiliation:
University of Houston
Anna Marisa Schön
Affiliation:
University of Houston
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Summary

Chapter 6 deals with the question of American self-understanding after the Declaration of Independence—were they one people or many peoples?—and the framing of the state constitutions. The first part of the chapter offers substantial excerpts from the first constitutions of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts as well as critical examinations of these documents by contemporaries, including passages from Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and Benjamin Rush’s Observations on the Present Government of Pennsylvania. The selections reveal two fundamental problems to be decided by the state constitutional conventions: who was qualified to write a constitution and who should approve and ratify it—the people at large or the natural aristocracy? The second part of the chapter presents the Articles of Confederation and excerpts from related writings. The same confrontation between the principle of corporate representation and the principle of numerical majorities played out in the debates on the Articles of Confederation as delegates disagreed whether to emphasize the union or the states.

Type
Chapter
Information
Foundations of American Political Thought
Readings and Commentary
, pp. 178 - 225
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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References

Suggested Readings

Franklin, Benjamin, “Albany Plan of Union” [1754] in Labaree, L. W. (ed.), The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. V: July 1, 1753, through March 31, 1755 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), pp. 374–92.Google Scholar
Parsons, Theophilus, “The Essex Result” [1778] in Handlin, O. and Handlin, M. (eds.), The Popular Sources of Political Authority: Documents on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1966), pp. 324–40.Google Scholar
Payson, Phillips, A Sermon Preached before the Honorable Council, and the Honorable House of Representatives, of the State of Massachusetts-Bay (Boston: John Gill, 1778).Google Scholar
Adams, John, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States (London: C. Dilly, 17871788).Google Scholar
Bostonians, “Serious Questions Proposed to All Friends to the Rights of Mankind, with Suitable Answers” [1787] in Hyneman, C. S. and Lutz, D. (eds.), American Political Writing during the Founding Era: 1760–1805, 2 vols., Vol. I (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983), pp. 702–4.Google Scholar

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