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This chapter traces the history of the world's anti-death penalty movement, noting how countries moved away from punishments such as breaking on the wheel and burning at the stake and how capital punishment has been abolished or curtailed in various countries and American states. After taking note of early successes of the abolitionist movement, the chapter discusses abolitionist efforts over time, including in the Progressive Era and in the post-World War II period (e.g., in Europe and the Americas). In particular, the chapter discusses American states (i.e., Michigan, Wisconsin and Rhode Island) that abolished capital punishment before the American Civil War, and describes how West Germany outlawed capital punishment in its constitution in 1949. The chapter discusses how international human rights law has evolved in the post-World War II period, with capital punishment coming under increased scrutiny and protocols to international and regional human rights conventions (e.g., the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Protocols 6 & 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights) abolishing or restricting the death penalty's use.
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.
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