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Conventions

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CONVENTIONS, Constitutional, in the United States. Conventions for the purpose of framing constitutions originated in the United States during the early years of the Revolu tion (1774-76) and the development of the methods employed may be divided into three phases: first, the framing of constitutions by the regular legislative bodies under direct authorization of the people; second, the per formance of that function by a body separate and distinct from the regular legislature; and third, the submission of the proposed consti tutions to popular approval before they be come effective. The colonial legislative assem blies actively participated in the movement leading up to the Revolution; but as the royal governors (save in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania) could adjourn, prorogue or dissolve these bodies, their replace ment became necessary when •the period of military opposition arrived. Hence provincial congresses or conventions sprang into existence during 1774-75, but as these were only tem porary organizations, Continental Congress recommended to New Hampshire (3 Nov. 1775) and to South Carolina (10 May 1776) that the people select representatives, who, if they deemed necessary, should establish a form of government to continue during the dispute with the mother country. Under this recommendation a number of constitutions were framed during 1776 to 1778. In eight instances (North and South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey and the continuation of the charters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut) the constitutions were adopted and promulgated by the legislative bodies without previous authority from or ratification by the people. In New Hampshire and Delaware in 1776, and in Georgia, New York and Vermont in 1777, the legislative bodies had been expressly authorized by popular vote to take such action, but the instru ments enacted were not in any way submitted to the people. In Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina in 1776, and in South Carolina in 1778, the legislatures which framed the con stitutions received express authority from the people, and some time before enactment, copies were distributed so that the people might have an opportunity to object and suggest changes.

The principle that popular authority should be given before a constitution could be framed seems to have been well established and the feeling prevailed too that no constitution should be adopted until submitted to and approved by the people. Some of the first constitutions were informally submitted (Pennsylvania, Maryland, North and South Carolina), but the first instrument of government formally sub jected to a referendum was the proposed Massachusetts constitution of 1778. The first

constitutions framed by bodies separate and distinct from the regular legislatures — and the only ones so framed during the Revolutionary period — were those of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In the former colony delegates were selected in 1778 and drafted a constitu tion in 1779, but on submission to the people it was rejected, as were two constitutions pro posed by the second convention in 1781 and 1782, but the third constitution submitted by the second convention in 1783 was adopted. In 1777 a majority of the Massachusetts towns authorized the formation of a constitution by the general court, but the proposed instrument was rejected in 1778, largely because it had not been framed by a body appointed for that special purpose. Accordingly, a distinct con vention was assembled and the constitution drafted by it was accepted in 1780.

Since 1784, with a few exceptions, constitu tions have been framed or adopted by conven tions chosen by the people for this special purpose. The Nebraska constitution of 1866, however, was framed by the territorial legis lature and submitted to the people by that body. In Michigan the legislature provided for a special commission to prepare a new constitu tion but in 1874, when the instrument as drafted was submitted to popular vote, it was rejected. In Rhode Island a constitution was prepared in a similar manner but it was rejected in 1898 and 1899. In 1911 the Indiana legislature drafted a new constitution but the courts en joined the legislature from submitting it to the people. Though more than 200 conventions have been held not all have framed constitu tions; the Massachusetts constitution of 1780 remained practically unchanged until the re vision of 1917-18, though conventions were held in 1820-21 and 1853. Some States hold con stitutional conventions more frequently than others; Virginia has held conventions in 1776, 1829-30. 1850-51, 1861, 1864, 1867-68 and 1901 02; and in 1776-77, 1801, 1821, 1846, 1867-68, 1894 and 1915 similar bodies met in New York; but in Minnesota no convention has'assembled since the constitution was framed in 1857, and only two have been held in Indiana (1816 and 1850-51). The number of conventions in the Southern States is relatively larger owing to the secession conventions and the two sets of conventions called in these States duriPg the Reconstruction period. For the histors and characteristics of the State constitution! see