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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 31

31
INTRODUCTION
The votes and proceedings of the Assembly were to be published
weekly. All proposed laws were to be printed for the "consideration
of the people," and except in case of "sudden necessity," no law could
be enacted in the same session of the Assembly in which it was in-
troduced. Furthermore, the public was free to attend all sessions of
the Assembly "except only when the welfare of this state may require
the doors to be shut."
The distrust of men in power and the fear of power seekers, so
characteristic of the political thought of the age, were reflected by
requiring rotation in office. The purpose, declared in the constitution,
was to train men for public business, "and moreover the danger of
establishing an inconvenient aristocracy will be effectually prevented."
Assemblymen could not serve more than four years in seven; members
of the Council and county sheriffs no more than three years in seven;
and Pennsylvania delegates in Congress who served two consecutive
years could not be reelected for three years thereafter.
To safeguard the constitution, the framers made its amendment
difficult. The legislature could not alter the constitution or propose
amendments. Only the Council of Censors, elected by the people
every seven years, could do so. The Council, composed of two dele-
gates from each county and from the city of Philadelphia, could pro-
pose amendments, and by a two-thirds vote, it could summon a
convention to consider them. But even if the Censors did call a
convention, proposed changes had to be published for the public's
consideration at least six months before the people elected and in-
structed delegates to a convention.
Early in September the convention published a draft of the consti-
tution for public consideration. The convention adopted many of
the changes suggested, made revisions of its own, and adopted the
constitution on 28 September. The constitution aroused the intense
opposition of political leaders in eastern Pennsylvania, and within
a month they met in Philadelphia and adopted thirty-two resolutions
condemning it. They also tried to prevent the new government from
functioning. Some delegates to the Assembly, elected in November
1776, boycotted that body, thereby preventing a quorum. Opponents
of the constitution also refused to accept local offices, refused to
take the oath to support the constitution, and delayed the opening
of county courts.
The Republicans began a campaign for a new constitution at once,
but not until November 1778 were they able to persuade the Assembly
to adopt resolutions providing for a popular referendum on the issue
of calling a constitutional convention. The Constitutionalists struck
back. Early in 1779 they inundated the Assembly with petitions op-


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