The American States during and after the Revolution, 1775-1789

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview
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"On their late revolution," wrote Jefferson of the States when the war was safely over, "the changes which their new form of government rendered necessary were easily made. It was only necessary to say that the powers of legislation, the judiciary and the executive powers, hitherto exercised by persons of such and such descriptions, should henceforth be exercised by persons appointed in such and such a manner." This is not the exaggeration it may seem. Ile student of early State institutions is struck by the fact that almost all of them descend directly from Colonial institutions. From the national point of view a true revolution occurred between 1776 and 1789. That noble china vase, the British Empire, to use Franklin's image, was broken; and a new nation was established. But from the point of view of each separate State there was not so much a revolution as an evolution.

Governmentally the Colonies were a diverse family before they cut their mother's apron strings, and the new States showed the same diversity. In Pennsylvania the pre-Revolutionary government had only one legislative chamber, and so had the post-Revolutionary government. In Connecticut and Rhode Island the highly prized Charters of Colonial days were preserved to be used as Constitutions in independence, and the faults and merits of the olden time were transmitted side by side to the new. In South Carolina and Virginia there were glaring inequalities in the legislative representation of the different sections, and both States after 1783 presented these same inequalities. In Colonies where the King's Governor was weak, like North Carolina, as the people's Governor he was weaker than ever, and in one where he had been strong, New York, he retained a comparatively large part of his strength. Some inhabitants of New


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