Academic journal article Journal of the Early Republic

All Politics Is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution

Academic journal article Journal of the Early Republic

All Politics Is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution

Article excerpt

All Politics is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution. By Christopher Collier. (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2003. Pp. xi, 224. Illustrations, maps. Cloth, $39.95.)

Christopher Collier has written a short, swiftly moving account of the role of Connecticut in shaping and ratifying the United States Constitution. He reminds us of two points that common sense suggests, but frequently the obvious is overlooked. First, the Constitution could not have been adopted if it had not been shaped to appeal to the local needs of the people of the several states. Cormecticuters wanted three things from the Constitution: equal trading rights so as not to be taxed to death by New York, preservation of the land claims of the Susquehannah Company in northern Pennsylvania and the Western Reserve now in Ohio, and considerable state autonomy. Thanks to the state's delegate, Roger Sherman, and to the famous Connecticut Compromise, which ensured a Senate with equal state representation would balance a House based on population, Connecticut got two out of three. On state autonomy, the nationalizing Federalists sold both Sherman and his Connecticut constituents a Brooklyn Bridge: only international affairs and matters concerning more than one state (a nebulous concept) would compromise what were otherwise sovereign states. As elsewhere, a handful of nationalists (Oliver Wolcott and William Samuel Johnson, Connecticut's two other delegates, fit this bill) catered their arguments to obtain ratification with the hopes that once established, the national government would become far more powerful than their rhetoric indicated.

Second, Collier shows that Connecticut delegates to the ratifying convention were not divided along class, regional, or other lines. Much like Forrest McDonald in We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution (1958), he insists that Federalists and anti-Federalists were pretty much the same sort of people. …

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