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The Civic ConstitutionCivic Visions and Struggles in the Path toward Constitutional Democracy$
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Elizabeth Beaumont

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199940066

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199940066.001.0001

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“We, the Quarreling People” and the Unfinished Constitution

“We, the Quarreling People” and the Unfinished Constitution

Contentions of Antislavery Activists, Shaysites, and Antifederalists in the Dynamics of Constitutional Creation

(p.72) 3 “We, the Quarreling People” and the Unfinished Constitution
The Civic Constitution

Elizabeth Beaumont

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 reinterprets the eighteenth-century founding by focusing attention on the complex and dynamic interaction of elite and civic voices that shaped the drafting, ratification, and amendment of the National Constitution. The first section considers how the backdrop of revolutionary era public sentiment and two new waves of popular constitutionalism—that of antislavery societies and rebellious “Shaysites”—shaped and constrained framers’ debates and decisions at the Philadelphia Convention. The second section focuses on the constitutional arguments and activities of citizens and groups that participated in the “great national debate” over ratification as well as famous antifederalist criticisms. Popular involvement in ratification politics contributed to widespread beliefs that the proposed constitution was at once necessary and imperfect. The deep conflicts over competing constitutional ideals that shaped drafting and ratification rendered the Constitution a central site of ongoing public disagreement and aspiration.

Keywords:   Shays’s rebellion, antislavery societies, Philadelphia Convention, Constitutional Convention, framers, James madison, antifederalists, federalists, ratification, Bill of Rights

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