Financial History of the United States: Fiscal, Monetary, Banking, and Tariff, Including Financial Administration and State and Local Finance

By Paul Studenski; Herman E. Krooss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4: FROM COLONIAL ORGANIZATION TO STATEHOOD AND FEDERALISM

The Revolution established on a broader and firmer foundation the political and fiscal organizations developed by the colonists out of their own experience. It also gave birth to new political and fiscal arrangements borrowed from British practice or suggested by the political philosophers of the age--Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Harrington, and others. These existing as well as new patterns first became embodied in the constitutions of the individual states. They were then carried over into the Articles of Confederation and finally, in a much more vigorous form, into the Constitution of the United States.

The post-Revolutionary period marked the beginning of the interchange of institutional experiments between the states and the Federal government, which has been one of the most significant features of American political development. The equally dynamic interchange of experiments between the local and the state governments which had its roots in the colonial development continued even more vigorously than before. Leading statesmen of the time moved freely between the government of the town in which they resided and the government of the state and the nation. In moving from one level of government to another, they brought with them a wealth of experience plus an ability to transplant the innovations successfully achieved at each level. It was thus that the ideas of popular sovereignty, elective office, separation of powers, bicameralism, and checks and balances, which were first developed in the state constitutions, were carried over into the Federal Constitution. Vice versa, the idea of a centralized executive who possessed the power of appointment and veto, was first fully developed on the Federal level and later seeped through into the revisions of state constitutions.

The Character of State Constitutions . Eight states framed and adopted constitutions for their own government in 1776. Three adopted constitutions in 1777, and one in 1780. Two states--Connecticut and Rhode Island --found their existing colonial charters so satisfactory that they simply declared them to be constitutions of independent states and did not replace them with new constitutions until twenty or more years later.

Because of the disturbances of war and the need for haste, all except two 1 of the constitutions were framed by legislative bodies and, contrary

____________________
1
Massachusetts in 1780 and New Hampshire's second constitution in 1784.

-33-

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