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IT is necessary to look at the political status of the
American colonies before the Revolution in order to fully comprehend the difficulties encountered by the framers of the Constitution. The colonies of New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and the Carolinas had provincial governments. The action of the authorities governing these colonies - the governor, council, and assembly — was subject to the direct super. vision of the crown. Any and all of their acts could be disapproved and annulled by the crown. They were as completely subordinate and subject to the king as if they were under the shadow of his palace.
Pennsylvania, , Delaware, and Maryland were. proprie. tary governments, which permitted more. freedom of action, but always enforcing the sovereignty of the mother country. In Maryland the liberty was so broad
that its laws were not subject to the direct control of the king
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were governed under charters granted by the crown. They were representative governments; most of the officers were elected by popular vote. It was only required that their laws, so far as possible, should conform to the laws of England.
Interference by Parliament with these vested rights in Massachusetts caused apprehension in all the colonies that they, too, would be curtailed of their privileges, and was one of the chief causes leading to the Revolution. This fear of coinplete subjection to England opened the eyes of the colonists to the necessity of some sort of union for mutual protection. Some, content with the freedom they enjoyed, and feeling secure in its continu. ance, were reluctantly brought to the suggestion of Franklin that a general congress be held, with represen. tatives from all the colonies; and "after full and soleinn assertion and declaration of their rights, to engage firinly with each other that they will never grant aids to the crown in any general war until those rights were recog. nized by the king and both houses of Parliament." This was on July 7, 1973. This was the germ from which the Continental Congress grew, and whose complete fruitage was the Constitution of the United States.
The Continental Congress was a mere temporary ex. pedient. No one thought of independence. All felt that a united protest and appeal to the crown would secure the redress of grievances; and then each colony would continue its separate and independent government. But the sword was thus sharpened which was to sever all ties which bound the colonies to the crown.
Iinmediately after the independence of the States had been established and recognized, the question of their future government commanded the earnest and anxious consideration of those who had suffered and sacrificed to rid themselves of foreign and oppressive rule. Some States, fearing to submit to any control or jurisdiction over them by any other than their own authorities, were unwilling to yield any of their autonomous power, pre. ferring to remain separate and absolutely independent. Others felt it to be imperatively necessary to form a Federal Union of the States, with a central national government as a protection against foreign aggression, as, also, to prevent strifes between the States. Out of these dissimilar views grew the first two political parties in our history - viz. : the Federal and the Anti-Federal.
The Federalists wished to form a strong central govern. ment. The Anti-Federalists contended that there was no necessity for a general government; that nothing was needed but a .continuation of the league between the States - each retaining its perfect independence. The weakness of this system was manifest; and when the cohesion of the war relaxed, it was seen to be worthless. It had no power to compel enlistments, to support an army, to regulate commerce, or to prevent or punish offences against its own laws. It was merely " a rope of sand."
But many who were opposed to the Federal plan be. lieved that it was the best then attainable, and advocated the adoption of the Constitution as presented, trusting to future amendments to perfect it. Still there was strong opposition, which was at last overcome by public discussion. The very able articles of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, all over the signature of “ Publius," and making the volume known as The Federalist, contributed very largely to the cause of convincing the people to favor the Con. stitution as prepared. Gerry of Massachusetts, a mem. ber of the convention,' refused to sign the Constitution. George Mason of Virginia opposed it, as did Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson. John Marshall,