Creating Republican Governments
Digital History ID 164
The United States was the first modern nation to self-consciously design systems of government reflecting certain fundamental philosophical principles. After the country declared independence in 1776, many states drew up new constitutions that embodied republican ideals.
A basic goal of the new state constitutions was to curb the kinds of abuses that provoked the Revolution. The British had lacked a written constitution; many Americans felt that a written constitution would be harder to violate. To keep state governments from abusing their power, the state constitutions included a bill of rights, which guaranteed certain elemental rights that government could not infringe, such as freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to trial by jury.
The new state constitutions also curbed executive power. Two states--Georgia and Pennsylvania--eliminated the position of governor altogether. The other states prohibited governors from vetoing laws, dissolving the state legislature, and granting land, and sharply limited their power to appoint government officials.
The new state constitutions gave the legislature the most governmental power precisely because legislative assemblies had actively resisted attempts by royal governors and the king's ministers to violate their rights. But because they feared giving too much power to any one governmental body, all the states except Georgia and Pennsylvania divided the state legislature into two branches.
As a symbol that the new state constitutions reflected the sovereignty of the people, the documents were typically drafted by special constitutional conventions rather than by state legislatures. The constitutions were then submitted to the people for approval.
Whereas by the tyrannical Administration of the Government of the King and Parliament of Great Britain, this State of New Hampshire with the other United States of America, have been necessitated to reject the British Government and Declare themselves Independent States; all of which is more largely set for the Continental Congress in their Resolution and Declaration of the fourth of July A.D. 1776.
And Whereas it is recommended by the said Continental Congress to each and every of the said United States to establish a form of government most conducive to he welfare thereof. We the Delegates of the said State of New Hampshire chosen for the purpose of forming a permanent plan of Government subject to the review of our Constitutions have composed the following Declaration of Rights, and Plan of Government, and recommend the same to our Constituents for the Approbation.
First, We declare that we the People of the State of New Hampshire are Free and Independent of the Crown of Great Britain.
Secondly. We the People of this State, are entitled to Life, Liberty, and Property; and all other Immunities and Privileges which we heretofore enjoyed.
Thirdly. The common and Statute Laws of England, adopted and used here, and the Law of this State (not inconsistent with the Declaration of Independence) now are, and shall be in force here for the Welfare and good Government of the State, unless the same shall be repealed or altered by the future Legislature thereof.
Fourthly. The whole and entire Power of Government of this States is vested in, and must be derived from the People whereof, and from no other Source whatsoever.
Fifthly. The future Legislature of this State, shall make no Laws to infringe the Rights of Conscience, or any other of the natural unalienable Rights of Men, or Contrary to the Laws of God, or against the Protestant Religion.
Sixthly. The Extent of Territory of this State is, and shall be the same which was under the Government of the late Governor John Wentworth, Esq. Governor of New Hampshire. Reserving nevertheless our claim to the New Hampshire Grants, to...the West of the Connecticut River [Vermont].
Seventhly, The Right of Trial by Jury in all Cases as heretofore used in this State, shall be preserved inviolate forever.
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: New Hampshire, A Declaration of Rights, and Plan of Government
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