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Archive for the tag “constitution ratification”

Term Limits: Senate – George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

16 June 1788Papers 3: 1079

The senators are chosen for six years. They are not recallable for those six years, and are re-eligible at the end of the six years. It stands on a very different ground from the confederation. By that system they were only elected for one year, might be recalled, and were incapable of reelection. But in the new constitution, instead of being elected for one, they are chosen for six years. They cannot be recalled in all that time for any misconduct, and at the end of that long term may again be elected. What will be the operation of this? Is it not probable, that those gentlemen who will be elected senators will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of our state? They will purchase a good seat in or near the town, and become inhabitants of that place. Will it not be then in the power of the senate to worry the house of representatives into any thing? They will be a continually existing body. They will exercise those machinations and contrivances, which the many have always to fear from the few. The house of representatives is the only check on the senate, with their enormous powers. But by that clause you give them the power of worrying the house of representatives into a compliance with any measure. The senators living at the spot will feel no inconvenience from long sessions, as they will vote themselves handsome pay, without incurring any additional expences. Your representatives are on a different ground, from their shorter continuance in office. The gentlemen from Georgia are six or seven hundred miles from home, and wish to go home. The senate taking advantage of this, by stopping the other house from adjourning, may worry them into any thing. These are my doubts, and I think the provision not consistent with the usual parliamentary modes.

The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. Edited by Robert A. Rutland. 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.

Richard Henry Lee: Objections to the Constitution

Lee’s Objections to the Constitution

Richard Henry Lee

October 16, 1787

LETTER FROM THE HON. RICHARD HENRY LEE, ESQ.,
ONE OF THE DELEGATES IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA,
TO HIS EXCELLENCY, EDMUND RANDOLPH, ESQ.,
GOVERNOR OF SAID STATE.

New York,

It has hitherto been supposed a fundamental maxim, that, in governments rightly balanced, the different branches of legislature should be unconnected, and that the legislative and executive powers should be separate. In the new Constitution, the President and Senate have all the executive, and two thirds of the legislative power. In some weighty instances, (as making all kinds of treaties, which are to be the laws of the land,) they have the whole legislative and executive powers. They, jointly, appoint all officers, civil and military; and they (the Senate) try all impeachments, either of their own members or of the officers appointed by themselves.

Is there not a most formidable combination of power thus created in a few? and can the most critic eye, if a candid one, discover responsibility in this potent corps? or will any sensible man say that great power, without responsibility, can be given to rulers with safety to liberty? It is most clear that the parade of impeachment is nothing to them, or any of them: as little restraint is to be found, I presume, from the fear of offending constituents. The President is for four years’ duration; and Virginia (for example) has one vote of thirteen in the choice of him, and this thirteenth vote not of the people, but electors, two removes from the people. The Senate is a body of six years’ duration, and, as in the choice of President, the largest state has but a thirteenth vote, so is it in the choice of senators. This latter statement is adduced to show that responsibility is as little to be apprehended from amenability to constituents, as from the terror of impeachment. You are, therefore, sir, well warranted in saying, either a monarchy or aristocracy will be generated: perhaps the most grievous system of government may arise.

It cannot be denied, with truth, that this new Constitution is, in its first principles, highly and dangerously oligarchic; and it is a point agreed, that a government of the few is, of all governments, the worst.

The only check to be found in favor of the democratic principle, in this system, is the House of Representatives; which, I believe, may justly be called a mere shred or rag of representation; it being obvious to the least examination, that smallness of number, and great comparative disparity of power, render that house of little effect, to promote good or restrain bad government. But what is the power given to this ill-constructed body? To judge of what may be for the general welfare; and such judgments, when made the acts of Congress, become the supreme laws of the land. This seems a power coëxtensive with every possible object of human legislation. Yet there is no restraint, in form of a bill of rights, to secure (what Doctor Blackstone calls) that residuum of human rights which is not intended to be given up to society, and which, indeed, is not necessary to be given for any social purpose. The rights of conscience, the freedom of the press, and the trial by jury, are at mercy. It is there stated that, in criminal cases, the trial shall be by jury. But how? In the state. What, then, becomes of the jury of the vicinage, or at least from the county, in the first instance—the states being from fifty to seven hundred miles in extent? This mode of trial, even in criminal cases, may be greatly impaired; and, in civil cases, the inference is strong that it may be altogether omitted; as the Constitution positively assumes it in criminal, and is silent about it in civil causes. Nay, it is more strongly discountenanced in civil cases, by giving the Supreme Courts, in appeals, jurisdiction both as to law and fact.

Judge Blackstone, in his learned Commentaries, art. Jury Trial, says, “It is the most transcendent privilege, which any subject can enjoy or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbors and equals—a constitution that, I may venture to affirm, has, under Providence, secured the just liberties of this nation for a long succession of ages. The impartial administration of justice, which secures both our persons and our properties, is the great end of civil society. But if that be entirely intrusted to the magistracy,—a select body of men, and those generally selected, by the prince, of such as enjoy the highest offices of the state,—these decisions, in spite of their own natural integrity, will have frequently an involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity. It is not to be expected from human nature, that the few should always be attentive to the good of the many.” The learned judge further says, that “every tribunal, selected for the decision of facts, is a step towards establishing aristocracy—the most oppressive of all governments.”

The answer to these objections is, that the new legislature may provide remedies! But as they may, so they may not; and if they did, a succeeding assembly may repeal the provisions. The evil is found resting upon constitutional bottom; and the remedy, upon the mutable ground of legislation, revocable at any annual meeting. It is the more unfortunate that this great security of human rights—the trial by jury—should be weakened by this system, as power is unnecessarily given in the second section of the third article, to call people from their own country, in all cases of controversy about property between citizens of different states, to be tried in a distant court, where the Congress may sit; for although inferior congressional courts may, for the above purposes, be instituted in the different states, yet this is a matter altogether in the pleasure of the new legislature; so that, if they please not to institute them, or if they do not regulate the right of appeal reasonably, the people will be exposed to endless oppression, and the necessity of submitting, in multitudes of cases, to pay unjust demands, rather than follow suitors, through great expense, to far-distant tribunals, and to be determined upon there, as it may be, without a jury.

In this congressional legislature, a bare majority of votes can enact commercial laws; so that the representatives of the seven Northern States, as they will have a majority, can, by law, create the most oppressive monopoly upon the five Southern States, whose circumstances and productions are essentially different from those of theirs, although not a single man of these voters are the representatives of, or amenable to, the people of the Southern States. Can such a set of men be, with the least color of truth, called a representative of those they make laws for? It is supposed that the policy of the Northern States will prevent such abuses. But how feeble, sir, is policy, when opposed to interest, among trading people! and what is the restraint arising from policy? Why, that we may be forced, by abuse, to become ship-builders! But how long will it be before a people of agriculture can produce ships sufficient to export such bulky commodities as ours, and of such extent? and if we had the ships, from whence are the seamen to come?—4,000 of whom, at least, will be necessary in Virginia. In questions so liable to abuse, why was not the necessary vote put to two thirds of the members of the legislature?

With the Constitution came, from the Convention, so many members of that body to Congress, and of those, too, who were among the most fiery zealots for their system, that the votes of three states being of them, two states divided by them, and many others mixed with them, it is easy to see that Congress could have little opinion upon the subject.

Some denied our right to make amendments; whilst others, more moderate, agreed to the right, but denied the expediency of amending; but it was plain that a majority was ready to send it on, in terms of approbation. My judgment and conscience forbade the last; and therefore I moved the amendments that I have the honor to send you enclosed herewith, and demanded the yeas and nays, that they might appear on the Journal.

This seemed to alarm; and, to prevent such appearance on the Journal, it was agreed to transmit the Constitution without a syllable of approbation or disapprobation; so that the term “unanimously” only applied to the transmission, as you will observe by attending to the terms of the resolve for transmitting. Upon the whole, sir, my opinion is, that, as this Constitution abounds with useful regulations, at the same time that it is liable to strong and fundamental objections, the plan for us to pursue will be to propose the necessary amendments, and express our willingness to adopt it with the amendments, and to suggest the calling a new convention for the purpose of considering them. To this I see no well-founded objection, but great safety and much good to be the probable result. I am perfectly satisfied that you make such use of this letter as you shall think to be for the public good; and now, after begging your pardon for so great a trespass on your patience, and presenting my best respects to your lady, I will conclude with assuring you that I am, with the sincerest esteem and regard, dear sir, your most affectionate and obedient, humble servant,

RICHARD H. LEE.

Elbridge Gerry Writes To Massachusetts General Court Explaining Why He Did Not Sign Constitution

Elbridge Gerry

Elbridge Gerry to President of Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives of Massachusetts (October 18, 1787)

New York, Oct. 18, 1787.

Gentlemen : I have the honor to enclose, pursuant to my commission, the Constitution proposed by the Federal Convention.

To this system I gave my dissent, and shall submit my objections to the honorable legislature.

It was painful for me, on a subject of such national importance, to differ from the respectable members who signed the Constitution; but conceiving, as I did, that the liberties of America were not secured by the system, it was my duty to oppose it.

My principal objections to the plan are, that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people; that they have no security for the right of election; that some of the powers of the legislature are ambiguous, and others indefinite and dangerous; that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influence over, the legislature; that the judicial department will be oppressive; that treaties of the highest importance may be formed by the President, with the advice of two thirds of a quorum of the Senate; and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights . These are objections which are not local, but apply equally to all the states.

As the Convention was called for “the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions as shall render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union,” I did not conceive that these powers extend to the formation of the plan proposed; but the Convention being of a different opinion, I acquiesced in it, being fully convinced that, to preserve the Union, an efficient government was indispensably necessary, and that it would be difficult to make proper amendments to the Articles of Confederation.

The Constitution proposed has few, if any, federal features, but is rather a system of national government. Nevertheless, in many respects, I think it has great merit, and, by proper amendments, may be adapted to the “exigencies of government, and preservation of liberty.”

The question on this plan involves others of the highest importance: 1. Whether there shall be a dissolution of the federal government; 2. Whether the several state governments shall be so altered as in effect to be dissolved; 3. Whether, in lieu of the federal and state governments, the national Constitution now proposed shall be substituted without amendment. Never, perhaps, were a people called on to decide a question of greater magnitude. Should the citizens of America adopt the plan as it now stands, their liberties may be lost; or should they reject it altogether, anarchy may ensue. It is evident, therefore, that they should not be precipitate in their decisions; that the subject should be well understood;–lest they should refuse to support the government after having hastily accepted it.

If those who are in favor of the Constitution, as well as those who are against it, should preserve moderation, their discussions may afford much information, and finally direct to a happy issue.

It may be urged by some, that an implicit confidence should be placed in the Convention; but, however respectable the members may be who signed the Constitution, it must be admitted that a free people are the proper guardians of their rights and liberties; that the greatest men may err, and that their errors are sometimes of the greatest magnitude.

Others may suppose that the Constitution may be safely adopted, because therein provision is made to amend it. But cannot this object be better attained before a ratification than after it? And should a free people adopt a form of government under conviction that it wants amendment?

And some may conceive that, if the plan is not accepted by the people, they will not unite in another. But surely, while they have the power to amend, they are not under the necessity of rejecting it.

I have been detained here longer than I expected, but shall leave this place in a day or two for Massachusetts, and on my arrival shall submit the reasons (if required by the legislature) on which my objections are grounded.

I shall only add that, as the welfare of the Union requires a better Constitution than the Confederation, I shall think it my duty, as a citizen of Massachusetts, to support that which shall be finally adopted, sincerely hoping it will secure the liberty and happiness of America.

I have the honor to be, gentlemen, with the highest respect for the honorable legislature and yourselves, your most obedient and very humble servant,

E. GERRY.

To the Hon . Samuel Adams , Esq., President of the Senate, and the Hon . James Warren , Esq., Speaker of the House of Representatives, of Massachusetts.

COL. MASON: Right to Reform, Alter or Abolish

Public Schools: Marxist Indoctrination Centers

A new 8th Grade requirement in Social Studies was handed out to students at LaCreole Middle School in Dallas, Oregon.  Students are required to perform 12 hours of Community Service per Semester.

While promoting Community Service would normally be a good thing, it is not in this instance.  It is not the Government’s Job.

A very troubling section of the assignment is the Scoring Rubric.

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Very Strange Grading System.

If a student completes less than five hours, they receive an assessment of “Menace to Society”.  Between Five and Eight Hours, a student would receive the grade of “Apathetic Bystander”.  A student would receive an Assessment of “Good Citizen” if the complete nine to eleven hours.  And if you complete 12 hours or more, a student is a “Civil Servant”. Sounds like promoting service to the State.

But the piece de resistance is the required content for the essay a student is required to write.

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WAIT…What??

“What Purpose of Government (In BOLD)(As stated in the Preamble) did your service help to accomplish?”

Ah…the real objective.  The Collective.  Marxism.

I know exactly what part of the Preamble it means. Progressives, Liberals, Marxists or whatever other name they want use, have been using the terms in the Preamble “promote the general Welfare” to argue for increasing the scope of the Federal Government. But it is nothing more than  social engineering and redistribution of wealth. Two very key concepts of Marxism.

What does this “promote the general Welfare” mean? I will defer to James Madison himself.

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” James Madison, “Letter to Edmund Pendleton,” -James Madison, January 21, 1792, in The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, Robert A Rutland et. al., ed (Charlottesvile: University Press of Virginia,1984).

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, elaborated upon this limitation in a letter to James Robertson: “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

Madison’s words speak for themselves.

This is the Full Assignment:

8th GRADE STUDIES-0Image

Col. George Mason: Confederation v. Consolidated Government

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George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

Mr. Chairman–Whether the Constitution be good or bad, the present clause clearly discovers, that it is a National Government, and no longer a confederation. I mean that clause which gives the first hint of the General Government laying direct taxes. The assumption of this power of laying direct taxes, does of itself, entirely change the confederation of the States into one consolidated Government. This power being at discretion, unconfined, and without any kind of controul, must carry every thing before it. The very idea of converting what was formerly a confederation, to a consolidated Government, is totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the State Governments. Will the people of this great community submit to be individually taxed by two different and distinct powers? Will they suffer themselves to be doubly harrassed? These two concurrent powers cannot exist long together; the one will destroy the other: The General Government being paramount to, and in every respect more powerful than, the State governments, the latter must give way to the former. Is it to be supposed that one National Government will suit so extensive a country, embracing so many climates, and containing inhabitants so very different in manners, habits, and customs? It is ascertained by history, that there never was a Government, over a very extensive country, without destroying the liberties of the people: History also, supported by the opinions of the best writers, shew us, that monarchy may suit a large territory, and despotic Governments over so extensive a country; but that popular Governments can only exist in small territories. Is there a single example, on the face of the earth, to support a contrary opinion? Where is there one exception to this general rule? Was there ever an instance of a general National Government extending over so extensive a country, abounding in such a variety of climates, &c. where the people retained their liberty? I solemnly declare, that no man is a greater friend to a firm Union of the American States than I am: But, Sir, if this great end can be obtained without hazarding the rights of the people, why should we recur to such dangerous principles?

Col. George Mason And Why He Refused To Sign The Constitution

George Mason was an Anti- Federalist. Conservatives would serve themselves well in getting to know him, his writings and speeches. He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights prior to the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is a precursor to the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights. All three of these documents draw their ideas from the Declaration of Rights.

Mason was a major player in the Constitutional Convention as he was the Leader of the Anti-Federalists. He spoke out on many occasions against a Central Government. The Convention was not suppose to write a new document but modify the Articles of Confederation. Mason warned of giving to much power to the new government would cause the States to lose power and eventually become irrelevant. Mason refused to sign the Constitution and spoke out on many occasions against the new Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention.

Conservatives really need to become intimately familiar with Col. George Mason. It is his words and deeds that really built the foundations of the ideas and principles of conservatism.

George Mason

October 1787

OBJECTIONS OF THE HON. GEORGE MASON,
ONE OF THE DELEGATES FROM VIRGINIA IN THE LATE CONTINENTAL CONVENTION,
TO THE PROPOSED FEDERAL CONSTITUTION;
ASSIGNED AS HIS REASONS FOR NOT SIGNING THE SAME.

There is no declaration of rights; and, the laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitutions of the several states, the declarations of rights in the separate states are no security. Nor are the people secured even in the enjoyment of the benefit of the common law, which stands here upon no other foundation than its having been adopted by the respective acts forming the constitutions of the several states.

In the House of Representatives there is not the substance, but the shadow only, of representation, which can never produce proper information in the legislature, or inspire confidence in the people. The laws will, therefore, be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with, their effects and consequences.

The Senate have the power of altering all money bills, and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the President of the United States, although they are not the representatives of the people, or amenable to them. These, with their other great powers, (viz., their powers in the appointment of ambassadors, and all public officers, in making treaties, and in trying all impeachments;) their influence upon, and connection with, the supreme executive from these causes; their duration of office; and their being a constant existing body, almost continually sitting, joined with their being one complete branch of the legislature, — will destroy any balance in the government, and enable them to accomplish what usurpations they please upon the rights and liberties of the people.

The judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several states; thereby rendering laws as tedious, intricate, and expensive, and justice as unattainable, by a great part of the community, as in England; and enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor.

The President of the United States has no constitutional council, (a thing unknown in any safe and regular government.) He will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will generally be directed by minions and favorites; or he will become a tool to the Senate; or a council of state will grow out of the principal officers of the great departments — the worst and most dangerous of all ingredients for such a council, in a free country; for they may be induced to join in any dangerous or oppressive measures, to shelter themselves, and prevent an inquiry into their own misconduct in office. Whereas, had a constitutional council been formed (as was proposed) of six members, viz., two from the Eastern, two from the Middle, and two from the Southern States, to be appointed by vote of the states in the House of Representatives, with the same duration and rotation of office as the Senate, the executive would always have had safe and proper information and advice: the president of such a council might have acted as Vice-President of the United States, pro tempore, upon any vacancy or disability of the chief magistrate; and long-continued sessions of the Senate would in a great measure have been prevented. From this fatal defect of a constitutional council has arisen the improper power of the Senate in the appointment of the public officers, and the alarming dependence and connection between that branch of the legislature and the supreme executive. Hence, also, sprang that unnecessary officer, the Vice-President, who, for want of other employment, is made president of the Senate; thereby dangerously blending the executive and legislative powers, besides always giving to some one of the states an unnecessary and unjust preminence over the others.

The President of the United States has the unrestrained power of granting pardon for treason; which may be sometimes exercised to screen from punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt. By declaring all treaties supreme laws of the land, the executive and the Senate have, in many cases, an exclusive power of legislation, which might have been avoided, by proper distinctions with respect to treaties, and requiring the assent of the House of Representatives, where it could be done with safety.

By requiring only a majority to make all commercial and navigation laws, the five Southern States (whose produce and circumstances are totally different from those of the eight Northern and Eastern States) will be ruined; for such rigid and premature regulations may be made, as will enable the merchants of the Northern and Eastern States not only to demand an exorbitant freight, but to monopolize the purchase of the commodities, at their own price, for many years, to the great injury of the landed interest, and the impoverishment of the people; and the danger is the greater, as the gain on one side will be in proportion to the loss on the other. Whereas, requiring two thirds of the members present in both houses, would have produced mutual moderation, promoted the general interest, and removed an insuperable objection to the adoption of the government.

Under their own construction of the general clause at the end of the enumerated powers, the Congress may grant monopolies in trade and commerce, constitute new crimes, inflict unusual and severe punishments, and extend their power as far as they shall think proper; so that the state legislatures have no security for the powers now presumed to remain to them, or the people for their rights. There is no declaration of any kind for preserving the liberty of the press, the trial by jury in civil cases, nor against the danger of standing armies in time of peace.

The state legislatures are restrained from laying export duties on their own produce; the general legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of slaves for twenty-odd years, though such importations render the United States weaker, more vulnerable, and less capable of defence. Both the general legislature and the state legislatures are expressly prohibited making ex post facto laws, though there never was, nor can be, a legislature but must and will make such laws, when necessity and the public safety require them, which will hereafter be a breach of all the constitutions in the Union, and afford precedents for other innovations.

This government will commence in a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other.

GEO. MASON.

The Contentious Constitution: Part 1

In school, we were all taught the Constitution was ratified unanimously but this is not the case. Rhode Island opposed the Constitution out right and never sent a delegation to the Constitutional Convention. When the Constitutional Convention voted on September 15, 1787 to send the new Constitution to the states, all voted Aye as each state had but one vote.

However, among the delegates it was not unanimous. Rhode Island refused to send a delegation. Thirteen delegates walked out of the Convention and did not sign. The remaining three refused to sign: Edmund Randolph of Virginia, George Mason of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. George Mason demanded a Bill of Rights. Of the 55 delegates, only 39 signed the Constitution.

Rhode Island was the last to ratify the Constitution. In May of 1790, Rhode Island finally voted and it was ratified by a very narrow margin of 34-32. They were not the only state in which the Constitution ratification was contentious.

To truly understand the objections to the new Constitution, it is important to read the Anti-Federalist papers. They were a series articles published in Colonial papers opposing the Constitution. The Anti-Federalists were fearful of Central Government.e  They fought for the Rights of States and the Individual.

Five states voted to ratify the new Constitution in the winter of 1787 – 1788. Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia voted unanimously while Pennsylvania passed 2 -1 and Connecticut passed 4 -1. The other states would not be so easy.

Massachusetts sat their convention in the beginning of 1788. The Ratification of the new Constitution failed on the first vote, 170 yay, 190 nay. At this point, events take a turn.

“One of the leading authorities on the Massachusetts Convention, John J. Fox, deems the entire experience to be undemocratic: “If the people of the commonwealth had been allowed to vote directly, they would have determined against ratification; so would a majority of delegates if they had been asked to cast their votes in the early days of the convention.” He sees the Federalists as “cunning.” Similarly, Jackson Turner Main notes that “The Federalists employed unethical means”.”

After nearly a month of debate, the leaders of the two parties, Federalists and Anti-Federalists, met to discuss the stalemate. Two noted Anti-Federalists, John Hancock and John Adams, worked to come up with the “Massachusetts Compromise”, ratify now with an expectation that in the First Congress amendments would be proposed to alter the Constitution.

The delegates took another vote on February 6, 1788. This time it passed 187 – 168. A record of the actual vote has been lost to history.

In the Spring of 1788, two states to ratify the new Constitution, Maryland 64 – 12 and South Carolina 149–73.

Only one more state was needed to adopt the new Constitution but the next three states conventions to meet in July 1788 would be the most difficult: Virginia, New York and New Hampshire.

The American Founding Documents
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/founding/

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