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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut

V. The aftermath of ratification,   pp. 285-307

Page 286

some extraordinary consequences. Among them were two precedent-
setting decisions of the United States Supreme Court, an amendment
to the Constitution of the United States, and a political scandal over
land speculation that rocked the state and the nation.
The disputes which led to such consequences were rooted in the
years before ratification. Thus while such Georgians as Chief Jus-
tice Osborne welcomed the ban on paper money (Charge to the
Chatham County Grand Jury, 4 March 1788, V below), some Geor-
gians, like men in other states, worried about the prewar debts to
British creditors and about Loyalists who demanded the return of
confiscated property in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of
Peace of 1783. Among those concerned was "Tullius." He argued
that the Constitution would go into effect after nine states had rati-
fied, and that thereafter no state legislature would be justified in
interfering between debtors and creditors so as to "impair the obliga-
tion of contracts." Something should be done, he said, "to soften
the rigor of the rule which will be established by the new government
against debtors." "Tullius" proposed that the legislature meet at
once and pass a law providing for the payment of debts in install-
ments (5 June 1788, V below).
"A Planter" replied on 3 July 1788 that the Constitution would not
go into effect until after the new government began operations and
Georgia judges had taken an oath to support the Constitution. He
declared that the "supreme law" clause would eliminate Georgia
paper money and its trade laws, and that the "obligation of contracts"
clause would void an installment law because it would be in conflict
with the "supreme law," even if an installment law were passed be-
fore the Constitution became effective. "A Planter" was not con-
cerned with small debtors who should pay their debts "in the com-
mon way," but with large debtors. He proposed that the legislature
meet and adopt an "allotment" act authorizing the county courts to
"allot" a portion of a debtor's property to his creditor and absolve
the debtor from any further claims upon him. If this were not done,
debtors would be at the mercy of creditors "and the chain of bond-
age will soon be riveted" (V below).
The legislature did not meet to protect private debtors, and, within
a short time, the state itself was summoned to appear as a debtor be-
fore the Supreme Court of the United States. Suits had been initiated
by citizens of one state against the government of another state, and
by foreign creditors against a state, but the decision in the case of
Chisholm v. Georgia created a national uproar (2 Dall. [2 U.S.]
419 [1793]).

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