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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 32

32                                                INTRODUCTION
posing a convention and filled the newspapers with articles attacking
its supporters. This campaign was effective, and in late February
1779 the Assembly rescinded the resolutions calling for the referendum.
In March 1779 the Republicans organized the Republican Society
which denounced the constitution as a "monster," the Council of
Censors as a "jubilee of tyranny," and the oath to support the con-
stitution as an infringement of the rights of freemen to judge and
determine for themselves. They demanded a two-house legislature
and the appointment of judges during good behavior, rather than
election for limited terms.
Such Republican actions only strengthened the resolve of the
Constitutionalists, who stepped up their attacks upon Republican
leaders. Constitutionalists excoriated Robert Morris for alleged war-
time profiteering, and mobs threatened Republican merchants accused
of hoarding and price-gouging. In October 1779 a mob attacked some
Republican leaders at James Wilson's house in Philadelphia, and
several people were killed and wounded before order was restored.
On the national level, the Constitutionalist-controlled Assembly
ratified the Articles of Confederation, which guaranteed the sovereign-
ty of each state, in March 1778. The next month the Supreme Execu-
tive Council-presided over by its vice president, Constitutionalist
leader George Bryan-concurred in the Assembly's action. The Con-
stitutionalists also opposed Congress' efforts to encroach on the state's
sovereignty and resisted attempts of the Continental Army to extend
its authority in Pennsylvania.
These actions and policies aroused the opposition of Republicans.
They preferred a strong central government with a supreme legislature
such as the one John Dickinson proposed to Congress in July 1776,
and which James Wilson supported in the congressional debates in
1776 and 1777.
By 1780 military defeats, army mutinies, and runaway inflation
convinced the Republicans that the salvation of the state and of the
Union depended upon the revision of the state constitution and the
strengthening of the central government. Consequently, they strove
to gain control of the Assembly, and after partial successes in the elec-
tions of 1780 and 1781, they won majorities in 1782 and 1783.
Between 1781 and 1783 the Republicans-led by Robert Morris,
whom Congress appointed superintendent of finance in 1781-were
so actively engaged in trying to increase the power of the central
government that Pennsylvania became the center of a movement to
create what came to be called a "national government." The Re-
publicans supported and the Assembly adopted the principal acts by
which Congress sought to enhance its power. In April 1781 the As-


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