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8 the Formation of State Constitutions

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8. THE FORMATION OF STATE CONSTITUTIONS. When the resistance to Great Britain first began, independence was not the aim and in consequence only pro visional governments were established, tem porarily to take the place of the English colonial governments which had one by one succumbed or been suppressed. Provisional Congresses or Conventions in the several colonies assumed po litical control, entrusting the executive function to Committees of Correspondence and of Public Safety. Under these loose revolutionary organ izations government was conducted for several months, but as it soon became evident that the contest was to be a prolonged one, there grad ually arose a conviction that more regular and permanent forms of government should be or dained. The several colonies turned to the Con tinental Congress, representing all the colonies, for direction, and this body took the initiative in inaugurating the several State governments. Quite naturally, the first request came from the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, as in that colony hostilities already had broken out. On 16 May 1775 that body asked its "explicit advice respecting the taking up and exercising the powers of civil government" The Congress replied 9 June, recommending that they should call upon the several towns entitled to repre sentation in the assembly to elect members, and the assembly so chosen should elect a council, the two bodies should govern in approximate conformity to the spirit and substance of the colonial charter, until a governor of his majesty's appointment should consent to govern according to that instrument. This advice was promptly followed and the government so or ganized remained in force until 1780, when the first constitution of that State was established. A few months later New Hampshire, South Carolina and Virginia successively sought guid ance with respect to the establishment of their civil governments, and by November Congress advised them respectively "to call a full and free representation of the people" that they may adopt "such a form of government as in their judgment would best promote the happiness of the people and most effectively secure peace and good order in the province during the continu ance of the dispute with Great Britain" Finally as the movement in favor of independence gained adherents, Congress 10 May, in anticipation of the Declaration of Independence, recommended that the colonies that had not already done so should establish regularly ordained govern ments. In consequence of this advice, the col

onies, each soon claiming to be of right a free, sovereign and independent State, were shortly inaugurating their first State constitutions.

New Hampshire's constitution was completed 5 Jan. 1776, to be followed by South Carolina on 26 March. Both of these constitutions were incomplete and unsatisfactory, and proved but temporary, as they were replaced by new ones within a few years. Rhode Island and Connec ticut retained their colonial charters. The for mer simply discharged its people from their al legiance to the king by act of the legislature of 4 May, the latter provisionally effected a similar change 14 June, which it made permanent by act of 10 October, at the same time enacting a short bill of rights. Virginia adopted its consti tution 29 June, and New Jersey's was pro claimed on 3 July. Thus before the Declara tion of Independence seven States had assumed independent governments, and four bad drawn up written constitutions. Four other States fol lowed in the same year, Delaware, 21 Septem ber; Pennsylvania, 28 September; Maryland, 11 November and North Carolina, 18 Decem ber. In the 'year 1777 Georgia adopted a con stitution on 5 February, and New York did likewise on 20 April. South Carolina's second constitution was promulgated 19 March 1778. Massachusetts continued under its provisional government until 16 June 1780, when its con stitution went into force. New Hampshire finally secured a new frame of government, 2 June 1784. Vermont, although unrecognized by the other States, pursued her own independent course, framing two constitutions during this period, those of 1777 and 1786. The first was largely copied from that of Pennsylvania. No other State constitutions were adopted prior to the ratification of the Federal Constitution.

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