University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
2 (1976)

The ratification of the Constitution by Pennsylvania,   pp. [29]-[52]

Page 30

The debate over the ratification of the Constitution in Pennsylvania
was in part a continuation of the debate between two political parties
which began with the writing of the Pennsylvania constitution of
1776. By the end of the War for Independence the parties were com-
monly known as Constitutionalists and Republicans. The Constitu-
tionalists supported the constitution of 1776 and the federal system
of the Articles of Confederation, while the Republicans sought to
supplant both.
Most of Pennsylvania's colonial leaders opposed independence,
either openly or covertly, and lost control of the state in the summer
of 1776. New men, with far more radical ideas, seized power and
wrote a state conStitution that promised, in principle and in specific
provisions, a political revolution within Pennsylvania.
The Declaration of Rights prefacing the constitution proclaimed
that "all power being originally inherent in, and consequently derived
from, the people; therefore all officers of government, whether legis-
lative or executive, are their trustees and servants, and at all times
accountable to them." This principle was enumerated in one specific
provision after another. The constitution abolished property qualifi-
cations for voting and gave all taxpayers and non-taxpaying sons of
freeholders the right to vote. The old grievance of inadequate repre-
sentation for the back country counties was more than redressed. In
1775 the three eastern counties and Philadelphia had twenty-six rep-
resentatives in the Assembly; the eight western counties, with about
half the population of the colony, had but fifteen. The constitution
provided that representation should be according to the number of
taxable inhabitants; but that until a census could be taken, each
county and Philadelphia would have six representatives, thus giving
the "West" forty-eight and the "East" twenty-four seats in the
The constitution retained the single-house legislature of colonial
times but replaced the governor with a Supreme Executive Council
consisting of a delegate from each county and from the city of
Philadelphia. The Council, elected for three-year terms, had certain
appointive and administrative powers but no veto power or legis-
lative authority.

Go up to Top of Page