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1765-1786: We win a hard-fought Revolution and seize its promise of liberty

March 2, 1780
Now each state is writing its own constitution

Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

“The Constitution should be the avowed act of the people at large. It should be the first and fundamental law of the state, and should prescribe the limits of all delegated power.”
—Thomas Tudor Tucker,
South Carolina politician and pamphleteer

For the last four years, states have been drawing up plans for new governments. Each state works on its own, experimenting to find the best structure for its government.

In fact, they’ve invented something new: the written constitution. It spells out the government’s powers and citizens’ rights in a single document, for all to see.

The writers want to make sure these new constitutions—not any arm of government—will have the final word. They want constitutions to outrank ordinary law. But how?

Massachusetts points the way. They’ve called a special convention to write the constitution. And today, it’s being submitted to the people, not the legislature, to ratify.

Friday, June 16, 1780

The votes are in. The people of Massachusetts have adopted a constitution. It’s not just a law, but a “solemn compact.”

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