Sunday, April 21, 2019

Episode 093: The Dave Mathews Band Breaks Up




As General Washington prepared for an expected British invasion of New York City in the summer of 1776, the overwhelming force of British regulars was not his only worry.  New York was filled with Tories.  It may have been the most pro-British of the 13 colonies.

Even before the Continental Army moved to New York, local patriots had forced the royal government out of the colony. Operating under Isaac Sears, who was an active leader in the Sons of Liberty, patriots had forced Royal Governor William Tryon to flee the city in 1775.  He could only rule over the colony from a British Navy ship in the harbor.  The New York Tories could not speak publicly about their views, but there were too many of them to lock up or banish from the colony.  So unlike Boston, where the relatively small numbers of Tories had been bottled up in the city along with the regulars, the Continental Army in New York found itself surrounded and intermingling with thousands of people who remained loyal to the King.  Most Tories had left the city itself, but Staten Island and Long Island had plenty.

Holy Ground Riots

Much of the Continental Army settled into the city.  For the Continental soldiers, who were mostly small town New Englanders, New York City was a culture shock.  The city had a pretty large red light district, known as the Holy Ground.  The name derived from the fact that Trinity Church owned most of the real estate in the neighborhood.

Of course, it’s not like Boston didn’t have prostitutes, it did.  But in puritan Boston, the prostitutes maintained a low profile.  In New York, soldiers and officers were shocked by the brazenness and the prostitutes actively plying their trade.  One young lieutenant commented on their “impudence and immodesty” After getting to know them a little better, he was even more shocked by their apparent brutality.

Holy Ground Brothel (from Revolutionary War Journal)
Even so, soldiers actively availed themselves of their services.  By some accounts there were as many as 500 women working in the Holy Ground area.  The district was nothing new.  It had been serving locals at least since the 1760s.  But the influx of thousands of young soldiers away from home caused business to boom.  In the evenings soldiers would head to the district to get drunk and get laid. Within weeks of arrival, syphilis began spreading throughout the ranks.  In the days before antibiotics, syphilis would often mean a slow and painful death.

It is not entirely clear whether the New York prostitutes were particularly pro-Tory, or whether the motive was money, or some sadistic pleasure.  But in April 1776, two Continental soldiers turned up dead, one of them brutally castrated, in one of the Holy Ground brothels.

The soldiers rioted for days, destroying brothels and openly fighting in the streets with some of the locals.  The men tore down the brothel where the army had found the two dead soldiers, and damaged several others.  A few days later locals found the dead body of a prostitute dumped into an outhouse, presumably killed during the riots.

Washington ordered a curfew, punished drunkenness with public floggings, and did what he could to keep the army and the prostitutes separate.  He did not attempt to ban soldiers from visiting Holy Ground entirely.  Detachments sent to keep order there had trouble identifying soldiers since almost none of them wore uniforms.

The active rioting only lasted a few days before the fighting stopped. Business dipped a little for a short time, but soon returned to normal.  Soldiers continued to risk their lives for visits to the Holy Ground.

Tory Efforts to Organize

If the muted presence of Tories in the city was bad, it was even worse in some of the outlying areas like Long Island or Staten Island.  In many of the outskirts, Tories still spoke openly in favor of supporting the King and of forming militia units to support the regulars once they arrived.

There were still a few companies of regulars in New York.  These units, however, remained aboard ships in New York Harbor.  They did not attempt to establish permanent bases anywhere, not even on some of the islands that remained Tory strongholds.  There simply were not enough of them to protect against a patriot raid to capture or kill them.

Generals Lee and Washington both attempted to cut off interactions with the ships in the harbor.  Until Lee’s arrival, goods and information flowed freely between the fleet and the city.  The Continental Army made commerce a little more difficult.  But the fleet was able to get the food and supplies it needed from the surrounding islands.  There were plenty of Tories, as well as other merchants happy to sell for hard money.  The fleet also spread the word that the regulars were on their way, and that loyal colonists should prepare for their arrival as best they could.

Days after his arrival from Boston in April, Washington had written the local Committee of Safety to do what it could to disrupt communications between Governor Tryon aboard ship and the many Tory elements in the region. Two months later in June, Washington reported that little had changed and that the Royal Governor was still stirring up trouble.

Israel Putnam (from Wikimedia)
Concerned about Tory activity, Washington instructed General Israel Putnam, his second in command in New York, to arrest some of the key Tories in and around New York City.  He wanted it done quietly so as to avoid stirring up loyalist sentiments.  Putnam should arrest notorious leaders espousing opposition to the patriot cause, and send them to a prison set up in Connecticut for this purpose.

The patriots had rounded up quite a few Tories, but numerous others escaped their grasp.  Richard Hewitt was a prominent Tory living out on Long Island near Suffolk.  Fans of the AMC series, Turn, which is loosely based on events on Long Island during the Revolution, may know Hewitt as a British officer.  In fact, Hewitt was a native born New Yorker.

Putnam authorized the arrest of Hewitt, and deployed a group on horseback to go out to Hempstead in Suffolk County to arrest him.  Hewitt, however, rounded up a group of loyalists, who armed themselves and occupied his house.  When the patriots arrived, the two parties exchanged fire, in what is sometimes called the Battle of Hempstead Swamp.  It was hardly a battle though, involving a few dozen men at most, with no known casualties.  The patriot attackers realized they could not take the house and returned home empty handed.  Once the regulars arrived a few months later, Hewitt would raise a regiment of loyalist militia and would command them as a Lt. Col.

Another prominent Tory, Oliver De Lancey, lived on Manhattan, just north of town, in the area that is today part of Central Park.  De Lancey came from one of the wealthiest and politically powerful families in New York.  He had sat on the Governor’s Council for decades.  For many years, De Lancey tended to support colonial protests against taxes and other Parliament restrictions.  But when it came time to take up arms in support of the cause, De Lancey thought that was going too far, and spoke out against rebellion.  Now labelled as a prominent loyalist, he faced arrest.  In June, De Lancey fled his farm and escaped to the British fleet in the harbor.

When the regulars took the city, De Lancey would be one of the top loyalist militia officers, rising to the rank of major general.  What all this showed was that even before the British fleet arrived for the invasion, Washington could not control the region because of too much loyalist sympathy.  New York simply was not New England.

The Plot Against Washington

Patriots redoubled their efforts to arrest Tories after the discovery of a conspiracy to target George Washington.  The instigator of this conspiracy was probably Gov. Tryon.  But since Tryon was bottled up in New York Harbor, he had to rely on men still in the city.

One of those men was New York City Mayor David Mathews, whom Tryon had appointed in February 1776.  After the Continental Army occupied New York City, they left Mathews alone.  Mathews, in turn, probably tried to keep a very low profile.

Mathews was not just sitting around though.  There is good evidence, he was working with a band of men who planned either to assassinate Washington and some of the other top Continental officers, or possibly capture them and turn them over to the British.

As far as I know, David Mathews did not go by “Dave” nor was he really the leader of this band.  The group is probably better known as the Hickey Conspiracy or the Tryon Plot.  For some reason, I like calling it the Dave Mathews Band.  That really isn’t historically accurate though.

Gov. William Tryon
(from Wikimedia)
In any event, the conspiracy involved bribing several members of Washington’s Life Guard.  This was an elite group of soldiers that the Continental Army had established back in March 1776 in Boston to provide protection for General Washington.  They acted as his personal bodyguard.  The plan was to have these men, who had Washington’s trust, to turn on him and kill or capture him as soon at the British regulars began their attack on New York.

The conspiracy fell apart in June.  One of Washington’s guards Sgt. Thomas Hickey ended up in prison for passing counterfeit notes.  The Irish born Hickey had been a British regular who had deserted and then joined the Continental Army in Cambridge.  Despite his past position with the enemy, he was selected to join Washington’s Life Guards.

While in prison Hickey bragged to a fellow prisoner, Isaac Ketchum that he was part of a conspiracy to kill Washington and then defect back to the British army.  Ketchum turned prison snitch and revealed the information in exchange for his own release from prison.

Hickey faced a court martial.  He admitted to taking bribes, but claimed he never intended to go through with it.  He just wanted to take the money from gullible Tories.  The court martial did not buy his story.  It sentenced him to death.  On June 28, Hickey when to the gallows, the first Continental soldier executed by a court martial.  Most of the army and the city turned out to see the execution. It was supposed to be one of the most widely viewed executions up until that time in America.

According to some other accounts, Ketchum exposed only that Hickey was conspiring to desert to the enemy, not kill Washington.  Hickey was convicted of conspiracy and sedition, but the trial never heard testimony about any assassination plot. Whether Hickey was part of the assassination plot or not though, there did appear to be one.  A man named Samuel Fraunces testified before Congress after the war, that he had exposed the plot and was falsely accused of being part of the conspiracy and imprisoned for a time.

Whoever exposed the plot, an assassination plot did seem to exist.  With the plot exposed, patriots arrested Mathews and 12 others suspected of being involved.  They shipped them off to Connecticut. Mathews was placed under house arrest in the custody of his brother in law, who was a Major in the Connecticut militia.  Several years later he escaped and returned to New York, by then under British control.  Mathews resumed his role as Mayor of New York City as well as the leader of Tory militia.  He remained in those roles until the British evacuation in 1783.

The patriots never prosecuted anyone else, even though Hickey allegedly claimed that over 700 men were part of the plot.  There simply was no evidence to convict anyone.  The Patriot leadership did not want the public to find out that Continental soldiers were plotting to kill their commander. Also, for civilians, there was still the problem that there were no treason laws on the books, except those laws for committing treason against the King.

Continental Defenses

As it turned out, the British were in no hurry to take New York.  The first of the invasion fleet did not begin to arrive until July.  Most of them would not arrive until August.

That gave the Continental Army almost all summer to improve and expand its defenses.  While they did use the time to build up fortifications, in many ways, time was not on their side.  Patriot forces grew to over 20,000, but most of them were militia from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  The Continental Army itself had grown again, but was under 10,000.  Militia were often untrained and sometimes uncooperative in following orders.  The Continental army was not much better.  Remember, most of Washington’s army left service at the end of their enlistments in December 1775.  Washington had to replace most of them with new recruits.  This meant that even the Continental soldiers often had about six months experience, and almost none in combat.

In May, Washington had to deploy General Sullivan, along with 3000 soldiers to Canada.  I’ll get into the details for that deployment in a couple of weeks, but this only weakened Washington’s forces in New York.  Disease also continued to wreak havoc with the army.  It was not unusual for one-third of the army to be too sick for active duty at any time.

Rather than focus on training and drilling, the army spent much of its time digging ditches and building forts and other entrenchments.  While defenses were important, the army needed more time training the soldiers to fight in battle.  That simply did not happen.

In Boston, Washington had regular intelligence about the enemy thanks to patriots who remained in Boston during the occupation.  He had no such intelligence network in New York, meaning he largely did not know what the loyalists were doing, nor could he control their communications with the British fleet.  He would eventually build a spy network, but he did not have one at this time.

Washington also would have benefited greatly from cavalry, which could have scouted Long Island and completed longer distance raids.  Connecticut volunteers had arrived in New York with horses.  However, since Congress had not authorized payment for the care and feeding of horses, the soldiers had to send them back to Connecticut.  Washington would not get a cavalry.

Nathaniel Greene

One of the most critical defenses for the patriots was the Gowanus Heights on Long Island.  Washington delegated authority for those defenses to General Nathaniel Greene.  Now I’ve mentioned Greene in several earlier episodes, but I have not really introduced him.  Greene was one of the original group of brigadier generals which Congress commissioned in June 1775.  He would be the only general besides Washington to serve as a general for the entire war.

Nathanael Greene
(from Wikimedia)
Greene was only 33 years old when he joined the Continental Army.  He came from a Quaker family in Rhode Island.  His family’s pacifist roots did not exactly predict a military career, but Greene was obsessed with the military from a young age.  He eventually left the Quaker community as a result.  Greene also developed a friendship with Henry Knox, well before the war began.  Greene was always looking to buy books on military strategy.  Knox’s bookstore in Boston was the only one in the region that carried a wide variety of such books.

Greene’s family made its money in commercial shipping.  When London began increasing tariffs and cracking down on smuggling, his business suffered.  Greene owned one of the ships seized by Lt. Dudingston of the Gaspee. Greene sued Dudingston personally.  There is some evidence that when the patriots raided and burned the Gaspee, that a local sheriff attempted to serve papers on Dudingston, before they shot him that is (See, Episode 36)

Greene helped form a militia unit in Rhode Island and hoped to be voted its commander.  The soldiers voted for someone else because Greene had a limp from a childhood accident that made him unable to march smartly.  Despite the disappointment, Greene remained in the regiment as a private.

As a private, Greene still had important personal and professional connections in the government.  As a result, after Lexington, the Assembly chose Greene to become a militia General and lead its regiments to Cambridge.  So, overnight promotion from private to general, not bad!

General Greene stood out in Cambridge for enforcing strict order among the Rhode Islanders, requiring camps be built in straight lines, men remain properly uniformed, and maintained regular drills.  This made the Rhode Islanders stand out among the chaotic camps around Cambridge, and brought Greene to Washington’s attention.  Greene, however, got his commission in the Continental Army primarily because Congress was making an effort to include as many colonies as possible in the leadership, and Greene was the highest ranking officer from Rhode Island.

Greene impressed Washington in Cambridge. Now Washington was putting more responsibility in the hands of this young general who had never even seen a real battle.  Greene had been back in Rhode Island during the Battle of Bunker Hill.  During the Battle of Dorchester Heights, Greene deployed along with Gen. Sullivan north of Boston, prepared to invade the city should the British attack Dorchester from south Boston.  Since that never happened, Greene sat miles away from the action.

Greene put great effort into the defenses on Long Island, though as we’ll see when we get to the battle, his inexperience left some serious gaps that the enemy exploited.  Green was sick and not in command by the time the British invaded. He joined much of his army in the hospital with what modern historians guess was typhoid.

By the end of the war, Greene would turn out to be one of the best generals in the Continental Army, and in my opinion, one of the most underrated.  But during the fighting in New York, his inexperience would show badly.

Greene’s inexperience, however, was the general rule, not the exception in the Continental Army.  This young army of recent civilians prepared to receive the largest British invasion force ever sent overseas.

Since General Howe is going to take until August before he begins his fight in New York, I’ll turn to some other area for the next few weeks.

- - -

Next  Episode 94: War At Sea, Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet (Available April 28, 2019).

Previous  Episode 92: State Constitution, Part 2



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Further Reading

Resources to learn more about today’s topic.

Websites 

Schenawold, Harry Holy Ground, 2015: http://www.revolutionarywarjournal.com/holy-ground

O'Reilly, Edward “Profligate, abandoned, and dissipated”: NYC’s Last Colonial Mayor, 2015: http://blog.nyhistory.org/profligate-abandoned-and-dissipated-new-york-citys-last-colonial-mayor

Shattuck, Gary "Plotting the ‘Sacricide’ of George Washington" Journal of the American Revolution, 2014: https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/07/plotting-the-sacricide-of-george-washington

Washington’s Life Guards: http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/life-guards

"Irishman Thomas Hickey executed for plotting against Washington" Irish Echo,
https://www.irishecho.com/2011/02/226-years-ago-irishman-thomas-hickey-executed-for-plotting-against-washington-2

Moran, Donald N. The Scoundrel Who Saved the Continental Army,
http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/scoundrel.html

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Flick, Alexander C. Loyalism in New York During the American Revolution, New York, The Columbia University Press, 1901.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 5, M. St. Clair & Peter Force, 1837.

Mather, Frederic The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, (1913).

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, (1878).

Tomlinson, Abraham; Dawson, Henry B. New York city during the American revolution : Being a collection of original papers (now first published) from the manuscripts in the possession of the Mercantile library association, of New York city by New York (N.Y.). Mercantile Library Association;
Privately printed for the Association, 1861.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Bliven, Bruce Under the Guns: New York, 1775-1776, New York: Harper & Rowe, 1972.

Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Ellis, Joseph Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Golway, Terry Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution, Henry Hold & Co. 2004.

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Meltzer, Brad & Mensch, Josh The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, Flatiron Books, 2018 (book recommendation of the week).

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Episode 092: State Constitutions, Part 2




Last week we looked at the first five colonies to produce state constitutions.  Today we will continue that look at the remaining colonies, beginning with Pennsylvania and continuing on in the order in which states adopted their first constitution.

So far, the colonies we reviewed followed a similar pattern.  A royal governor refused to let the legislature meet to discuss issues, typically the flashpoint being appointment of delegates to the First Continental Congress in 1774.  The local patriots would get in a snit about this and form their own quasi-legislature to get work done.  Over the next two years or so, the royal government would become increasingly irrelevant until the provincial government took over and formed its new constitution.  That pattern generally continues through each colony.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania followed a similar path, but with a slightly different dynamic.  As a proprietary colony, Pennsylvania did not have a royal governor.  Way back in 1691 King Charles II had granted Pennsylvania to William Penn as his personal property.  Penn ruled as governor until his death in 1718, at which time he willed Pennsylvania to his three sons.  By 1775 Pennsylvania passed to William’s grandson John Penn, with his cousin, also named John Penn holding a minority 25% stake in the colony.

Because the proprietors were not royal appointees, they did not have to worry much about the King replacing them for their policies.  Sure, the King could tear up the colonial charter if things got too out of hand, but the Penns were not just political appointees.  They literally owned the colony. At the same time, Governor Penn did not have to listen to the people or face reelection.  He would remain governor until death, unless of course there was some sort of revolution that overthrew the entire political structure by force.
Gov. John Penn
(from Wikimedia)

Pennsylvania also had a legislature dominated by Quakers and other pacifists.  These groups opposed armed revolution on religious grounds.  Even though Quakers had become minority of the colonial population, they retained control of the legislature, mostly because legislative districts were not evenly divided based on population, and greatly benefitted Quaker communities in and around Philadelphia.

In 1774, it came time to pick delegates for the First Continental Congress.  When Governor Penn dragged his feet on the issue, local patriot committees, known as Associators, voted to meet as a provincial committee in July 1774. They met for the purpose of choosing delegates to the Continental Congress, choosing a mix of conservative and radical delegates, reflecting divisions within the colony.

That fall, voters sent a more radical group of representatives to the Assembly, but the radical committees still operated separately from the colonial Assembly.  After Lexington, the Associators converted themselves into militias ready to go to war.  The Assembly, still full of moderates, gave them quasi-legal status under a Committee of Safety which helped finance and regulate the new radical militias.

These moves made for incremental reform.  In 1775 and early 1776, the Quakers as a group began to remove themselves from politics, not wanting to be attacked as Tories, but also not wanting to support a war.  Radicals took their places in government, shifting the colony radically to the left.

In May 1776, the Second Continental Congress encouraged all colonies, who had not already, to set up Provincial Congresses if the traditional legislatures were not meeting the needs of the public.  The radicals in Pennsylvania took this opportunity to call for a Provincial Congress in June.  Only people approved by Associator committees could vote for delegates and one of the conditions was that voters had to repudiate formally any allegiance to the King.  Therefore any moderates and conservatives could not vote.

The radical Committee of 100 pressured the Pennsylvania Assembly to withdraw its instructions to Pennsylvania delegates to the Continental Congress to reject independence.  The Assembly continued to assert power.  It did withdraw its instructions, but did not instruct to vote for independence either.  The delegates were left to do whatever they wanted. The internal fighting in the Assembly became such a problem that they stopped meeting entirely by August.

The radical convention in July set about creating a new constitution for Pennsylvania, but also began to engage in a series of rather radical power grabs.  They disarmed any Pennsylvanians who had not joined the Associators.  They implemented price controls, created offenses against the State, compelled citizens to take loyalty oaths, and assumed control of the courts and elections.

Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776
(from Rollins College)
The new constitution, which took effect in September 1776 was the first written after the Declaration of Independence and was by far the most radical of all the colonies.  First, it granted the vote to all free men 21 or older.  It eliminated any property requirements, thus allowing the rabble to choose legislators.  It also created a single body legislature to make all laws.  There would be no upper house, though the people would elect an executive council, that would run the government. The Assembly and Council would elect a president annually to serve as the head of the Council.  But the president had no independent authority outside of the council.  There was no single chief executive.

The constitution set term limits for legislators.  They could serve no more than four out of every seven years.  Legislators also could not pass laws in a single session, except in emergencies.  Legislatures would have to publish a law, then wait until after the next annual election before they could enact it.

It also required that all legislators take a religious oath: “I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.”  This permitted the seating of member of just about any Christian sect, but not beyond that.

A bill of rights that guaranteed freedom of worship, and protected the civil rights of all who acknowledged some belief in God.

It also protected the right of pacifists not to be forced to bear arms, though they might be required to pay the State some compensation if they did not heed a call to arms.  It guaranteed basic due process, right to counsel, to confront witness, to have a speedy jury trial, and a right against self-incrimination.  It also granted jury trials in civil suits.

The constitution also recognized a right against search and seizure without specific warrants, a right of free speech and free press, the right to bear arms, and the right to assemble to petition or instruct their representatives in government.  It also included a right to move between states and for people to “form a new state in vacant countries, or in such countries as they can purchase.”

The new Constitution would remain in place until 1790.

Maryland

The royal colony of Maryland followed the most common pattern.  The royal governor shut down the legislature in 1774.  Patriots created their own quasi legislature known as the Annapolis Convention to run the colony.  The Convention met nine times over the next two and a half years, selecting delegates to the Continental Congress, supporting trade restrictions in early sessions.  After Lexington, delegates voted to create their own army.  They also began calling themselves the Association of Freemen.  In July 1776 they agreed to create their own Constitution, which they did at a Convention that fall.  They completed their work in November.  Again, the constitution took effect without any ratification by public vote.

Royal Gov. Robert Eden
(From Wikimedia)
The Constitution itself was pretty traditional. It created a House and Senate as well as a governor elected by both houses.  Voters elected their representatives directly each year but voted for electors who would choose senators every five years.

Property requirements limited voting, though free blacks who met those requirements could vote.  Only Christians, though of any sect, could hold office.

A declaration of rights included freedom of speech and press, freedom of worship, the right to maintain a militia, and basic due process rights.

The Maryland Constitution remained in place until 1851, though it saw numerous amendments.  The constitution allowed the legislature to pass amendments, as long as they passed through two different sessions.  One of the early amendments took away the right of free blacks to vote in 1809.

North Carolina

North Carolina followed the traditional colonial route to statehood and created a pretty traditional constitution.  The Royal Governor refused to call the Assembly into session in 1774 because he knew they would cause trouble.  Patriots formed a Provincial Congress which met in August to choose delegates to the First Continental Congress and to support colonial boycotts.  The Provincial Congress met five times over the next two and a half years, each time getting more aggressive and eventually creating its own army.

The Provincial Congress began work on a temporary constitution in April, but never could pull the trigger on enacting it.  It was not until October 1776 that the people elected a more radical group of delegates who enacted the new constitution.  The Congress declared the constitution in force as of December, without any sort of popular ratification.

NC Constitution, 1776
(from UNC)
Like most other colonies, North Carolina's constitution began with a declaration of rights, guaranteeing the right of the people to create their government and elect representatives, separation of powers, due process, protection from warrantless searches, freedom of the press, right to bear arms, the right of assembly, the freedom of worship, and others.

The Constitution divided the legislature into a House and Senate, both subject to annual elections.  To vote or hold office one had to be a freeman and own a certain amount of land.  Voters also had to be at least 21 years old.

The legislature held the power to appoint judges and other court officers, as well as generals and field offices of the state’s army and militia.  The legislature also elected a governor for one year terms, and limited to serve no more than three out of six years.  The legislature also elected a seven person Council of State to advise the Governor.

The Constitution banned clergyman from serving in the legislature or Council of State.  It also mandated that “no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.”  It also barred the establishing of any specific state church or denomination.

The Constitution also banned debtors prison, established a public school system, allowed foreigners to become citizens after one year, and barred the private purchase of Indian lands.

North Carolina’s Constitution remained in place until an 1835 constitutional convention made numerous amendments, including the direct election of the Governor.

Georgia

Georgia was one of the last colonies to jump on the patriot bandwagon.  It did not send delegates to the First Continental Congress in 1774.  When a provincial congress met in January 1775 to decide whether to send a delegation to the Second Continental Congress, they could not agree to a delegation.

Following Lexington, Georgia patriots began organizing militarily and seized colonial gunpowder.  A second provincial congress met in July 1775.  It finally approved a delegation to the Continental Congress, and set up a standing Council of Safety to enforce colonial trade bans with Britain.  By the end of 1775, the Provincial Congress had control of most of the colony, forcing the Royal Governor to flee in January 1776.

Georgia Constitution of 1777
In May 1776, the Congress drafted a rudimentary constitution, simply called “Rules and Regulations” which created a President and Council of Safety selected by the unelected Provincial Congress, to run the colony.  It also appointed a Supreme Court and gave the President authority to appoint lower magistrates.

At the same time, the Provincial Congress began work on a more permanent constitution, which it enacted in February 1777.  The new constitution created a unicameral legislature, meaning it was not divided into two houses.  The people elected legislators annually, with the vote limited to free white males with property.  The legislators would then select a governor and council from among its own members.  The Governor could only serve for one term out of three.

The Georgia Constitution lasted only twelve years, until the State created a new one based more closely on the then newly adopted US Constitution.

New York

New York’s Tory population contributed to the colony’s slow trajectory toward independence and statehood.  The Royal Assembly had sent delegates to the First Continental Congress in 1774, thinking it would slow down radical call for boycotts against Britain.  When that backfired, the Assembly rejected the Congress’ recommendations and refused to send delegates to the Second Continental Congress in 1775.

The New York radicals then held a provincial convention in New York City in April 1775 to choose their own delegates to the Continental Congress.  The convention lasted only three days to select delegates.  It did not attempt to govern the colony.  The radicals only created a Provincial Congress after Lexington, when they met in May to begin organizing militia and taking control of the colony’s weaponry.  Otherwise, the Congress was quite moderate.  It instructed its delegates at the Continental Congress to seek an accommodation with Britain, and opposed the patriot invasion of Canada.  A second Provincial Congress, which met from December 1775 until May 1776 fought with General Charles Lee, whom Washington had sent to organize New York for a possible invasion.  A third Congress which met in May and June of 1776 instructed its Continental Congress delegates to oppose independence.

Announcement of NY Constitution of 1777 (from Newsday)
Finally in July 1776 the Provincial Congress convened in White Plains to create a state constitution.  It also allowed its delegates to support independence belatedly at the Continental Congress.  In August, the Congress tasked a committee to write a constitution, but after the British Army invaded New York, the task of drafting a constitution got delayed.  The finished draft did not arrive until March 12, 1777.  The Provincial Congress approved the Constitution without a popular vote.  It went into effect in April.

The New York Constitution differed from earlier state constitutions.  It started off with its own declaration of independence, which quoted liberally from the Continental Congress’ declaration.  It created a legislature divided into an Assembly and Senate.  Assemblymen served one year terms.  Senators served four year terms.  It limited the right to vote to adult male property owners.

Unlike most other constitutions, New York created a governor elected by the people rather than the legislature.  He would also serve a three year term. The Governor had power to revise laws passed by the legislature and to end a legislative session.  He appointed judges and other government officials, without even approval from the legislature.  In other words, New York would have a strong executive, not easily under the legislature’s control.

Massachusetts

Now, you would think Massachusetts, which was front stage in the early fighting and a leading proponent of Independence would have been a leader in creating a Constitution as well.  But it did not get around to creating one until 1780,

Instead, a Provincial Congress ran Massachusetts for six years, from 1774 when Governor Gage shut down the Assembly, until 1780 when it finally adopted a new constitution.  During that time, the Provincial Congress pretty much operated like the old colonial assembly, except it did not bother to seek the approval of the Governor for anything.

The state did try to enact a constitution in 1778. It was the first state to submit its proposed constitution to the people, and the people rejected it.  In 1779, it held another convention and once again submitted it to the people who this time approved it.  The Constitution finally became effective in October 1780.  Since this was so much later than the other colonies, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on its details now.  But it is the only constitution to remain in effect to this day, never having been replaced.

Connecticut and Rhode Island

I’ve yet to mention Connecticut and Rhode Island constitutions.  That is because they never created ones in this era.  Connecticut did not write a constitution until 1818. Rhode Island waited until 1843.  Not coincidentally, these were also the only two colonies that had elected governors during the colonial era.  As a result, the voters happily operated under their colonial charters, even after they became independent states.  They had no interference from Britain in the administration of their government.

Conclusion

Now I know going through every State is a lengthy and sometimes repetitive process.  But I think these first attempts at self-government say a great deal about what the people, or at least the patriot leaders in each state, wanted.  Most of the colonies kept government structures largely similar to what they had in the colonial era.

The biggest change for most was giving more authority to the legislature and having a relatively weak chief executive who would be dependent on the legislature, not the other way around.  Most made an effort to create a bill of rights, in an attempt to identify and protect the rights which had forced them to seek independence from Britain.

These Constitutions typically were not about making major social, economic, or political changes.  They largely kept the existing systems intact, other than removing the authority of the King over its government.  They moved that sovereign authority to the people, but did not give the people much direct control over the government.

Few extended the right to vote beyond those who already had it under the colonial system.  Those that did often took back those rights within a few years.  None of the Constitutions ended slavery. The Massachusetts Constitution did not explicitly ban slavery, though the State Supreme Court interpreted it to end slavery three years after its enactment.

Overall, the framers of these constitutions did not want to reinvent the system.  They wanted to make sure the system under which they had always thrived before the recent troubles remained largely the same.  They did not want the King or Parliament to start eroding the power they had enjoyed as neglected colonies.  But neither they largely did not want to share power with the poor, women, native Americans, or blacks.

Even though the republican ideals on which the constitutions were based led to the intellectual conclusion that they should expand power to the whole people, it would take generations for the government structure to live up to that ideal.

Next Week: We return to New York, where Gen. Washington has to deal, not only with an impending invasion, but with Tory conspirators plotting his murder.

- - -

Next  Episode 93: The Dave Mathews Band Breaks Up

Previous  Episode 91: State Constitution, Part 1



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American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy


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Further Reading

Websites: 

Birth of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: http://www.ushistory.org/pennsylvania/birth3.html

Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1776: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/pa08.asp

Maryland Constitutional Conventions: http://aomol.msa.maryland.gov/html/convention1776.html

Constitution of Maryland, 1776: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ma02.asp

North Carolina Provincial Congresses: http://www.ncpedia.org/provincial-congresses

NC Government During the American Revolution - 1774 and 1775:
http://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/nc_revolution_government_1775.html

NC Government During the American Revolution - 1776:
http://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/nc_revolution_government_1776.html

Constitution of North Carolina, 1776: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/nc07.asp

1776 Rules and Regulations of the Colony of Georgia: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/topics/government/related_article/constitutions/rules-and-regulations-of-the-colony-of-georgia-1776

Constitution of Georgia, 1777: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ga02.asp

Constitution of  New York, 1777: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ny01.asp

Homans, George C. “John Adams and the Constitution of Massachusetts.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 125, no. 4, 1981, pp. 286–291. http://www.jstor.org/stable/986331 (free to read online with registration).

Constitution of Massachusetts 1780: http://www.nhinet.org/ccs/docs/ma-1780.htm

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

The proceedings relative to calling the conventions of 1776 and 1790: the minutes of the convention that formed the present constitution of Pennsylvania, together with the charter to William Penn, the constitutions of 1776 and 1790, and a view of the proceedings of the Convention of 1776, and the Council of Censors, John S. Wiestling, 1825

Proceedings of the conventions of the province of Maryland, held at the city of Annapolis, in 1774, 1775, & 1776, J. Lucas & E. K. Deaver; Annapolis, J. Green, 1836.

Candler, Allen (ed) The Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. 1, Franklin-Turner Company, 1908.

Frothingham, Louis Adams, A Brief History of the Constitution and Government of Massachusetts, Harvard Univ., 1916.

Lincoln, Charles Z. The Constitutional History of New York from the Beginning of the Colonial Period to the Year 1905: showing the origin, development, and judicial construction of the constitution, Vol. 1, The Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co., 1906.

Nash, Frank The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 and its Makers, Univ. of North Carolina, 1912.

Schouler, James, Constitutional Studies, State and Federal, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1897.

Thorpe, Francis Newton The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the State, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, Comp. and Ed. under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906. (Vol 1-7) Govt. Print. Off, 1909.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Adams, Willi Paul The First American Constitutions: Republican Ideology and the Making of the State Constitutions in the Revolutionary EraRowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Broadwater, Jeff George Mason, Forgotten Founder, Univ. of NC Press, 2006

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Tarr, G. Allen Understanding State Constitutions, Princeton Univ. Press, 1998  (book recommendation of the week).

Ryerson, Richard Alan The Revolution Is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.


* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Episode 091: State Constitutions, Part 1




Prior to July 1776, none of the colonies had declared full and permanent independence from Britain. But most were not operating under their old royal charters either.  Provincial Congresses operated in the colonies, but under what authority and how they should be structured all seemed to be open questions.  Many colonies still had royal governors attempting to rule either just off shore in a navy ship, or in some cases still within the colony.

I think it useful to see how and when each colony made the move to an establish an independent government.

Local politicians developed their own new constitutions to create a structure for their state government, at least until the violence ended and British rule was restored under acceptable terms.  Even before independence though, most of these new constitutions were written with an eye toward setting up what would likely become permanent independent governments.

In case you are wondering, I’m looking at each colony in order of when they first implemented their own Constitution.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire was one of the first colonies to move to a Provincial Congress and the first to adopt a constitution.  When Royal Governor Wentworth dissolved the Royal Assembly in June 1774, the members simply continued to meet and discussed forming a convention.  The Governor and Sheriff had to go down to the legislature and kick them out of the hall.  The legislators met again in Exeter the following month to form the First Provincial Congress.  That would be the first of five provincial congresses to meet over the next year and a half to deal with issues on an occasional basis.  The first few meetings simply seemed to be members of the old royal assembly continuing to meet without the Governor's authority.  But local town meetings eventually began selecting representatives to attend later provincial congresses.

NH Provincial Congress
1775 call for Census
(from Library of Congress)
By late 1775, patriot leaders had decided they needed some more regular form of government that did not include the Royal Governor.  The fifth Provincial Congress met in Exeter to create a new constitution, which it adopted in January 1776.  They did not submit it to the people for a vote.  They simply implemented it on their own.

The new constitution established a bicameral legislature, just like under royal government. It created a House of Representatives and a council.  The Provincial Congress became the House, which then appointed 12 men to form the Council.  After one year, New Hampshire would hold elections for both the House and Council.  It did not create any court system or Chief executive.  This constitution would remain in place until after the end of the war.

South Carolina

South Carolina was another early state to move to self-government.  The Royal Colonial Governor already had quit the colony in 1773.  The colony would not receive his replacement William Campbell until 1775.  Lt. Gov. William Bull served as acting governor, but did very little to govern.  He would not call the assembly into session for fear they would do something treasonous.

Royal Gov. William Campbell
(from Wikimedia)
In July 1774, leading colonists, simply got together to decide what to do.  They had no elections or any formal appointment.  Interested leading citizens of the colony met among themselves to choose delegates to the First Continental Congress and to create the “Committee of 99” to run the colony.

Later that year the Committee called for elections to what would become the First Provincial Congress, meeting in January 1775.  The Congress met and performed all sorts of government activities, such as raising a colonial army, printing colonial currency, and appointing delegates to the Second Continental Congress.  When Governor Campbell arrived in June 1775, he refused to recognize the Provincial Congress and called a Colonial Assembly into session.  After seeing that the Assembly was full of patriots too, the Governor soon dissolved that Assembly, but still could not stop the Provincial congress from running the colony.

In November 1775, the colony held elections for a Second Provincial Congress.  When that Congress met in January 1776, it began drafting a constitution, which took effect in March, again with no popular ratification.  In March the Provincial Congress simply dissolved itself, and then reconvened as the First General Assembly of South Carolina - no new elections, the old representatives became representatives in the new Assembly.

The Assembly elected a Council to serve as an upper chamber.  It also elected a President and Vice President, the first President being John Rutledge.  The Assembly also appointed all judges, sheriffs, and other judicial officers.  It allowed all property owning males to vote.  There was no restriction by race, although I’m not sure if there were any free black men who could meet the property requirements.

The 1776 Constitution only remained in place for two years, until the State created a more detailed Constitution in 1778.

Virginia

Virginia chose to govern through a series of conventions.  As in other colonies, the Royal Governor Lord Dunmore dissolved the House of Burgesses whenever the colonists voted on anything he considered disloyal to the King and Parliament.  Local representative then often met informally to decide what they would do anyway.  In August 1774, the representatives met in the First Virginia Convention, allowing counties and boroughs to elect representatives.  The First Convention selected delegates to the First Continental Congress and approved a series of trade restrictions to go along with the boycotts of British goods that patriots were pushing all over the continent.  The First Convention only lasted six days.

The Second Convention met in March 1775, divided between those who still wanted compromise with Parliament, and those ready to go to war.  Patrick Henry gave his famous Give me Liberty or Give me Death speech at this convention.  The radicals won the debate and passed resolutions to raise volunteer regiments to arm themselves and prepare to defend their rights.

Patrick Henry at the Convention (from Awesome Stories)
The Third Convention met in July 1775, after the battles at Lexington and Bunker Hill.  Radicals had only gained in power.  Instead of passing resolutions, the Convention now began to pass ordinances that they would enforce with the power of law.  It raised two regiments of Virginia Regulars to participate in the defense of their rights.  This Convention was focused more on creating a real government for the colony, and lasted over a month.

By the time of the Fourth Convention, in December 1775, Governor Dunmore had declared martial law and was in open battle with the Virginia Regulars and militia.  The Convention raised an even larger army and created a Committee of Safety to make decisions while the Convention was out of session, an early form of an executive branch.  During this Convention, the leaders received word that their army had defeated the Governor at the Battle of Great Bridge, and learned that the Governor had burned Norfolk, events I discussed in more detail back in Episode 77.

When the Fifth Convention met in May 1776, independence was clearly on the agenda.  The Convention instructed its delegates at the Continental Congress to call for a declaration of independence for all 13 colonies.  The Convention also began work on a Declaration of Rights and a new State Constitution.

Now the Virginia Declaration of Rights is a pretty important document, so I want to discuss it in detail.  George Mason, primarily authored the what became the Virginia Bill of Rights though it went through weeks of debate at the Convention.

We see many of the concepts in the Bill repeated in the Declaration of Independence in July.  As well as in the US Bill of Rights more than a decade later. It consisted of 16 points which I think are important enough to read verbatim.

Virginia Declaration of Rights

1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from the people; that Magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

George Mason
(from Wikimedia)
3. That government is or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of Magistrate, Legislator, or Judge to be hereditary.

5. That the Legislative and Executive powers of the State should be separate and distinct from the Judiciary; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burthens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in which all, or any part of the former members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws shall direct.

6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in Assembly, ought to be free; and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented for the public good.

7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and ought not to be exercised.

8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.

9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

10. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.

11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.

12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

13. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

14. That the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore, that no government separate from, or independent of, the government of Virginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

15. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.

After adopting the Bill of Rights on June 12, the Convention then turned to its Constitution.  Now I’m not going to read the whole Constitution here, but it is well worth a read. It begins with a list of abuses by the King, similar to what we see in the Declaration of Independence a few weeks later.  It the explicitly states that the Royal Government in Virginia is “totally dissolved” and replaced with this new Constitution.

It divides government into three separate powers of legislative, executive, and judicial.  It divides the legislative branch into a House and Senate with the House elected as two members from each county, and one representative from the largest boroughs in the state.  The Senate would come from 24 special districts created for that purpose.  It says right to vote shall remain the same as it was under colonial rule, meaning white male property owners.

The legislature chooses the Governor annually, with a term limit of three sequential years.  The legislature would also choose judges for most courts and a Privy Council to assist the Governor.  The Governor and Privy Council appoint lower officials.

In short, the legislature pretty much ran the show, controlling who would serve as Governor and on the courts.  The Convention approved the constitution on June 29, and had it go into effect without submitting it to the people for ratification.

New Jersey

New Jersey with its relatively strong Tory faction got off to a late start with its Provincial Congress.  The Royal Governor and Colonial Assembly stayed in power through December 1775.  The New Jersey Provincial Congress had come into being in May 1775 while the Royal legislature still met.  Patriot committees in each county sent representatives to a Provincial Congress that met in Trenton.  Again, they did not have any legal or electoral authority.  These were simply prominent patriots who had the support of local committees.  The Congress met in three short sessions in 1775, then a longer session in January-March 1776.  The Provincial Congress voted for a tax to pay for a patriot army in the state.

Since the Colonial Assembly and Provincial Congress were both operating, they were competing for authority over the people of New Jersey.  Even though there remained a strong Tory segment in the population, the Provincials gradually took power.

Royal Gov. William Franklin
(from Wikimedia)
When Governor William Franklin attempted to convene the Assembly in May 1776, the Provincial Congress ordered his arrest and had him shipped to Connecticut.  The Assembly never met again.  The Provincial Congress met for its final session in June 1776, at which time it produced a constitution in a mere five days and ratified the document two days later.  The Congress submitted the Constitution to the Continental Congress for approval and began operation under its terms by the end of August, again without any vote by the people.

The Constitution, like those before it, created a two part legislature, an Assembly and Council.  Unlike other States, the people would elect the members of both houses, three representative from each county in the Assembly and one from each County to the Council.  The legislature selected a governor for a one year term.  The legislature would also appoint judges and military officers above the rank of captain.

One of the more radical articles allowed voting for all inhabitants with an estate worth at least £50.  This included blacks and women who did vote, though few met the property requirement (married women’s property belonged to their husbands).  The Constitution also guaranteed freedom of religion and prohibited the establishment of a state religion.

Despite the fact that the legislators threw together the Constitution rather quickly, it remained in effect for 65 years, though the right of blacks and women to vote only remained in effect for 30 years before the legislature changed the law and ignored the constitutional guarantee.

Delaware

Delaware was concerned not only about independence from Britain, but also independence from Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania colony considered Delaware to be part of Pennsylvania, though it had allowed Delaware to have its own legislature.  Delaware wanted to use this moment to make sure it would be entirely independent of Pennsylvania.

Neither Delaware nor Pennsylvania had a royal governor.  William Penn and his descendants owned the colony and served as governor without royal appointment or election.  Delaware’s elected assembly remained in power throughout the colonial period.  It had no need to overthrow a governor or make any fundamental changes to the way its government worked.  The elected Assembly took on a patriotic bent as the people of Delaware themselves moved in that direction.

Even so, in June 1776, the General Assembly suspended “government under the Crown” which also effectively ended any control from Pennsylvania.  After the Declaration of Independence, the Assembly called for a constitutional convention in August with ten representatives from each of the three counties.  The Convention met on August 27 and had a constitution ready to go into effect by September 20.  Again, they saw no need to submit the new constitution to the people for a vote.

Under the new Constitution, the government remained similar to what existed in the colonial government.  A general assembly would be elected annually by all freeholders (meaning landowners) with seven representatives from each county.  They would also elect an executive council with three members from each county serving three year terms.

Both houses would elect a president who would serve as chair of the executive council and was term limited to three years.  The President would also have a four member Privy Council with two members selected by the Assembly and two by the Legislative Council.

The President and General Assembly would jointly elect judges for various courts.  The President also sat on a seven person panel (the other appointed by the Assembly and Council) to hear appeals from Supreme Court decision.

The Constitution also prohibited the importation of any slaves, the establishment of any state religion, and barred clergy from holding any public office.

- - -

Next  Episode 92: State Constitution, Part 2

Previous Episode 90: The Battle of the Cedars



Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy


Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!



Further Reading:
Resources to learn more about today’s topic.

Websites: 

Constitution of New Hampshire - 1776: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/nh09.asp

The Provincial & State Government in South Carolina During the American Revolution:
http://www.carolana.com/SC/Revolution/sc_revolution_provincial_government.html

Constitution of South Carolina - 1776 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/sc01.asp

Dunaway, W.F. Jr. "The Virginia Conventions of the Revolution" The Virginia Law Register Vol. 10, No. 7 (Nov., 1904), pp. 567-586 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1100650 (free download)

Virginia Bill of Rights and Constitution: http://www.nhinet.org/ccs/docs/va-1776.htm

New Jersey Constitution: http://www.state.nj.us/njfacts/njdoc10a.htm

Constitution of Delaware; 1776 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/de02.asp

Webster, William C. "Comparative Study of the State Constitutions of the American Revolution"
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 9 (May,
1897), pp. 64-104: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1009670

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey, 1775-1776 Naar, Day & Naar, 1879.

Journal of the Votes & Proceedings of the Convention of New Jersey: begun at Burlington the tenth of June 1776; to which is annexed, sundry ordinances and the Constitution, Joseph Justice, 1831 (Reprint of the 1776 ed., printed and sold by Isaac Collins, Burlington).

Proceedings Of The Convention Of The Delaware State Held at New-Castle on Tuesday the Twenty-Seventh of August 1776, James Adams, 1776 (reprint Star Publishing, 1927).

Dealey, James Q. Growth of American State Constitutions from 1776 to the end of the year 1914, Ginn & Co. 1915.

Elmer, Lucius Q.C. The Constitution and Government of the Province and State of New Jersey: with biographical sketches of the governors from 1776 to 1845 and reminiscences of the bench and bar during more than half a century, Martin R. Dennis and Co. 1872.

Schouler, James, Constitutional Studies, State and Federal, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1897.

Thorpe, Francis Newton The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the State, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, Comp. and Ed. under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906. (Vol 1-7) Govt. Print. Off, 1909.

Walker, Joseph New Hampshire's Five Provincial Congresses, July 21, 1774-January 5, 1776, New Hampshire Historical Society, 1905.

Washington, Henry A. The Virginia Constitution of 1776. A Discourse Delivered Before the Virginia Historical Society, at their Annual Meeting, Macfarlane & Fergusson, 1852


Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Adams, Willi Paul The First American Constitutions: Republican Ideology and the Making of the State Constitutions in the Revolutionary Era, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001 (book recommendation of the week).

Broadwater, Jeff George Mason, Forgotten Founder, Univ. of NC Press, 2006

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Tarr, G. Allen Understanding State Constitutions, Princeton Univ. Press, 1998


* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.