New Hampshire Constitution Day Essay

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Having for a long time been convinced that the Constitution is neither an invention nor an imitation, but almost exclusively a native product of slow and gradual growth, I have in this book undertaken to trace back, through previous American documents in colonial times, every material clause of it. If the writers on the sources of the Constitution had followed this plan there would, I think, be less disagreement among them, or at least not the extraordinary contradiction which we now find.

These documents are very numerous, and consist of twenty-nine colonial charters and constitutions, seventeen Revolutionary constitutions, and twenty-three plans of union, — in all, sixty-nine different forms of government which were either in actual or in attempted operation in America during a period of about two hundred years, from 1584 to 1787. The contradiction follows naturally enough from their method; for as soon as they leave the direct line of growth and begin to search for resemblances everywhere they will find plenty of them.

If I find on American soil the footprints of a man, and wish to discover whence he came, I surely ought not to assume at once that he is a foreigner and take the next steamer for England or Holland to see if I can find footprints over there that are like his.

Taking the Constitution as it was framed in 1787, they immediately look for something in Europe from which they assume it must have been copied, instead of tracing its origin backward from itself through the two hundred years of the colonial period.

New Hampshire Constitution, begun June 12, 1781; finished October 31, 1783; adopted June 2, 1784.46. Fortunately, the craze had passed away when the tribe of Modoc Indians became prominent soon after the Civil War, or we might have had it continued indefinitely.

Vermont Constitution, begun July 2, 1777; finished July 8, 1777.41. South Carolina Constitution, passed as an act of assembly March 19, 1778; went into effect November, 1778.43. Massachusetts Constitution, begun September 1, 1779; finished March 2, 1780.45. Remains of burial mounds and ancient customs were found, which the learned insisted were very like remains in Wales, and they heaped up the suggestions until they had what they thought was proof. North Carolina Constitution, begun November 12, 1776; finished December 18, 1776.38. He will put volcanoes under the water and raise islands, and then an ancient continent, until he has made history to suit him. Maryland Constitution, begun August 14, 1776; finished November 11, 1776.37. Daniel Coxe's Plan, in "A Description of the English Province of Carolina," 1722. Only let him find in Mexico or Yucatan a building or some pottery with an outline like something in Persia, and five thousand years and three thousand miles of ocean are nothing. In any event, I should follow back his track until it ends on the sea-shore, and after that search for him in other countries. It would be better, it seems to me, to start backward on his trail from the very spot where I find it; for it may be that he is a native, and I may be able to follow his tracks for hundreds of miles in this country, and, when I come to his house, find that he and his ancestors have been living there for many generations. They found many resemblances, and the one which impressed them most was that some of the Indians had cities of refuge like the Israelites. During the same period many people believed that all our Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Unfortunately, these learned gentlemen who trace the sources of the Constitution do not agree with one another. Campbell, in his "Puritan in Holland, England, and America," denies all English sources, and gives our institutions an origin in Holland. Soon after his assertion became generally known, dissent from it began to appear, here and there, in addresses and newspaper and magazine articles, and now there are whole books on the subject, all laboring to show that the Constitution was not "struck off at a given time," but that its source and lines of development stretch far back into the past. Campbell's notion that our American institutions, including the New England town system, are derived from Holland. Cooper satirized these people in his novel "Oak Openings," in which there is a character who proves the connection by the passage in the Psalms; "God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his wickedness." But these ancient fancies are hardly any worse than Mr.


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