Teach PA History
Abolish the Office of Governor
Background Information for Teachers

The American Revolution was as radical as any revolution in modern history, for it replaced monarchical authority with representative government. In addition to the revolution emerging in what would become the United States of America, there was an "internal revolution" among residents of Pennsylvania. Here, Pennsylvanians transformed a hierarchical colonial society entrenched in the proprietary rule of the Penn family (with its ties to British monarchy) to a freer, more egalitarian one in which they vested political authority in the people, themselves. In the same year that Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense and Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, the people of Pennsylvania overthrew the existing colonial government (operating under the 1701 Charter of Privileges in accord with British rule) and declared itself an independent state, governed by the "radical" Constitution of 1776.
Rejecting the once-revered British model of a balanced government, the new state government provided for an all-powerful unicameral legislature and replaced the governor with a veto-less plural executive elected by the people. To ensure that legislators would be accountable to the people, the new constitution provided for annual elections, the rotation of office-holders, legislative proceedings that were open to the public, and the election, every seven years, of a Council of Censors that would determine violations of the constitution. In yet another bold move, unprecedented in English history, the legislature dispensed with property qualifications for office holding, and awarded suffrage to all men over the age of twenty-one who paid taxes. This new constitution was the most radical of any in the colonies. Caught up to the revolutionary spirit sweeping the colonies, Pennsylvania surpassed them in its enactment of republican ideals into law.
The document closed with the following statement, "This constitution was framed by a convention (called in accordance with the expressed wish of the Continental Congress) which assembled at Philadelphia July 15 1776 and completed its labors September 28 1776. It was not submitted to the people for ratification." (Additional information can be found in the American Revolution story and Revolutionary Politics substory).

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