State Constitutions #2

The Federal Constitution was not the first constitution drafted and passed in the United States of America. In the spring before independence was declared by the colonies in 1776, the various states gathered in local assemblies to pass laws by which they would govern themselves. Connecticut and Rhode Island simply rewrote their old colonial charters, but the remaining states drafted entirely new constitutions.

When delegates arrived in Philadelphia for the national assembly in 1787, most were familiar with the various laws that had been created around the states. The Massachusetts constitution was created largely through the influence of John Adams. It mixed the various branches of government and made for a series of checks and balances between them—a system that was reproduced in the federal constitution.

The Pennsylvania Constitution was probably the most democratic. It provided suffrage for all freemen over the age of 21 and emphasized the legislative branch over the executive and judicial. In fact, there was no governor; instead a "presiding officer" would serve at the bidding of the legislature.

New Jersey's constitution allowed women the right to vote—a right that had more to do with property rights than a liberal attitude toward women. New Jersey would rescind this suffrage soon after the turn of the 19th century. A number of constitutions had bills of rights attached, including Virginia's, which was written primarily by George Mason. He was one of the leading opponents of the federal constitution, in part, because it lacked a bill of rights.

Source: State Constitutions #2
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