Democracy, Liberty, and Property: The State Constitutional Conventions of the 1820s

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Constitutional conventions are one of the great inventions of American political practice. They provide a means for the populace to debate fundamental issues of government and to craft-or recraft-a political structure that advances the people's ideals of democracy and liberty. The federal constitution left many key points of governance to the states, including the structure of their own governments, as long as they were republican in nature. Experimentation continued in the early nineteenth century by means of constitutional conventions both in states newly admitted to the union and in existing states that wished to correct constitutional flaws that had become apparent in the years following the Revolution.

Democracy, Liberty, and Property covers the constitutional conventions convened in New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia in the 1820s to address fundamental policy issues, such as suffrage, legislative apportionment and representation, governmental structures, and freedom of religion. The clash between democracy, liberty, and property is conspicuous in the debates reprinted here. These particular state conventions are significant for their influence over neighboring states' constitutions and for their forceful debates among such leading statesmen as John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Marshall, and among less celebrated founders of state constitutions.

The debates focus on enduring issues of liberty and are in many respects as relevant today as they were during the establishment of these states' constitutions. Modern students and scholars of U.S. history, as well as those interested in the connection between federalism and liberty, will benefit from this collection of original documents and the editor's introductory essays that provide context for each convention.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865977891
  • Publisher: Liberty Fund, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 444
  • Sales rank: 1,272,383
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Liberty Fund Edition, with Suggested Further Reading G. Alan Tarr Tarr, G. Alan

General Introduction

Selected Bibliography

Editor's Note

I The Massachusetts Convention of 1820-1821

Introduction 3

Chronology 17

1 The Test Oath 19

2 The Third Article 30

3 The "Poll Parish" 45

4 Tax Exemption 49

5 The Suffrage 55

6 The Basis of Representation 62

7 Joseph Story on Representation 71

8 Daniel Webster on Representation 83

9 "Address to the People" 97


1.1 The Massachusetts Counties in Relation to Legislative Representation 107

1.2 The Division of the Vote by Counties on Two Questions in the Massachusetts Convention 108

10 Statement of the Votes for and against the Articles of Amendment, in the Several Counties 110

II The New York Convention of 1821

Introduction 115

Chronology 131

11 The Council of Revision and the Veto Power 133

12 The Term of the Governor 149

13 The Appointive Power 157

14 The Senate and the Suffrage 169

15 The Negro and the Suffrage 192

16 Blasphemy and Libel 208

17 Reform of the Judiciary 222


2.1 The Vote by Districts on the Convention Bill, Suffrage, and Judicial Reform, and the Revised Constitution, in the New York Convention 238

2.2 The Vote of Radicals and Conservatives on Selected Questions in the New York Convention 239

III The Virginia Convention of 1829-1830

Introduction 243

Chronology 257


18 Cooke on Democratic Representation 259

19 Upshur on Majorities and Minorities 275

20 Doddridge in Rebuttal 295

21 Leigh on Power and Property 300

22 Randolph on the Federal Issue 312

23 Marshall on Compromise 320

24 Summers on the Gordon Plan 324

25 Gordon on the Gordon Plan 330

The Suffrage

26 The Non-Freeholders' Memorial 336

27 The Freehold Suffrage Defended 344

28 The Reformers' Rebuttal 351

Structure and Change

29 The Executive 363

30 The Country Courts 373

31 The Amendment Article 383

32 The Question of Ratification 388


3.1 Population and Representation in Virginia by Districts, 1820-1830, and the Vote on Ratification of the Constitution of 1830 393

3.2 The Sectional Division on Selected Questions in the Virginia Convention 394

Index 397

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