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The Law of American State Constitutions$
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Robert F. Williams

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195343083

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195343083.001.0001

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The Pre-federal State Constitutions

The Pre-federal State Constitutions

The Founding Decade

The Law of American State Constitutions

Robert F. Williams

Oxford University Press

Most of the American states adopted constitutions in the decade prior to the federal constitutional convention. There were two major “waves” of state constitution-making. The first wave was hasty, generally not based on elected constitutional conventions, and the constitutions had little in the way of checks and balances. The chapter uses the Pennsylvania constitution to illustrate this wave. The second wave was more deliberate, often utilized elected constitutional conventions, and developed constitutions with more in the way of checks and balances. The Massachusetts constitution is used to illustrate this wave. Early constitution-making in each of the states is briefly reviewed, in light of these differing philosophies. Finally, the chapter reviews the influences of this “founding decade” of state constitution-making on the development of the federal Constitution, concluding that the Pennsylvania example was rejected and in Massachusetts example was adopted.

Keywords:   founding decade, Pennsylvania constitution, Massachusetts constitution, state constitution-making, checks and balances, federal Constitution, constitutional conventions, federal constitutional convention

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