Skip to Main Content
The South's Role in the Creation of the Bill of Rights

The South's Role in the Creation of the Bill of Rights

Edited by Robert J. Haws
Jack P. Greene
David Thomas Konig
Edward C. Papenfuse
Walter F. Pratt
James W. Ely
Peter Charles Hoffer
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The South's Role in the Creation of the Bill of Rights
    Book Description:

    The adoption of the Bill of Rights was the last step in defining the essential elements of American constitutionalism. The process began with the writing of the Constitution, continued through its ratification by the states, and culminated with the adoption of the Bill of Rights. In 1991 the bicentennial of the adoption of the Bill of Rights provided an occasion for examining the origins of this most important statement of individual rights in American history.

    Published on this anniversary,The South's Role in the Creation of the Bill of Rightssheds light on the paradoxical part the South played in the process of drafting and adopting this document. In cogent essays from the Chancellor's Symposium on Southern History held at the University of Mississippi in 1988 six noted experts in legal, constitutional, and southern history fill a gap in the literature of southern legal history for the period 1787-1791.

    The southern role is particularly important because political leaders in the South took the lead in promoting a bill of rights and at the same time vociferously defended the right to hold slaves. The essays in this book comprise a complete discussion of the writing and ratification of the Constitution and the adoption of the Bill of Rights in five southern seaboard states. They reveal the interplay of a desire to protect states' rights, a concern for the preservation of individual liberty, and a defensive attitude toward slavery that governed southern attitudes.

    These concerns dominated constitutional discourse until the Civil War. The South's peculiar "cultural constitutionalism" was first given definition in this period of American history, and as this book reveals, it initiated the process of setting the region apart from the rest of the United States. The events of these years were a necessary first step in establishing a southern regional identity.

    Robert J. Haws is Chair of the Department of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-076-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction: The South and the Origins of United States Constitutionalism, 1787–1791
    (pp. 3-8)

    The idea of region has animated a large share of American historical scholarship for the last century. Numerous scholars have argued that an understanding of divergent regional interests is essential to an understanding of national developments in the United States. For purposes of historical analysis, it is also clear that any definition of regional identity must encompass two principal themes. First of all, those living outside a region must perceive that such a region exists. Second, a sense common interest must exist among the inhabitants of a region to the extent that they perceive themselves to be part of a...

  4. The Constitution of 1787 and the Question of Southern Distinctiveness
    (pp. 9-32)

    Historians of the southern colonies and states during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can only welcome the devotion of several annual meetings of a major symposium on southern history to the origins of the South in the colonial and early national periods. Historians of the South, it seems to an outsider such as myself, have concentrated largely upon only a few major themes: the character and institutions of the Old South at the pinnacle—or the nadir—of its development between 1830 and 1860; the South’s gallant but unsuccessful defense of its way of life during the Civil War and,...

  5. Natural Rights, Bills of Rights, and the People’s Rights in Virginia Constitutional Discourse, 1787–1791
    (pp. 33-50)

    Perhaps it was appropriate that Virginians, who took the lead in propelling the colonies toward independence in 1776, would also take the lead in moving the newly independent states toward revolutionary political reform in 1787. Perhaps it was appropriate, too, that Virginians would reflect the national divisions over the Constitution by dividing sharply among and within themselves over the new plan. Caught in the welter of ambiguities that the Constitution exposed in their thinking between 1787 and 1791, Virginians found themselves in an agonizing struggle over the very meaning of government. So deep and tangled were the conflicting strands of...

  6. The “Amending Fathers” and the Constitution: Changing Perceptions of Home Rule and Who Should Rule at Home
    (pp. 51-76)

    In the last two decades of the 18th century, the purpose of representative government shifted from minimal services and a means of redressing grievances by petition to the legislature, to an ever-increasing involvement in public expenditure and regulation of the private world. The concept of who was represented changed from men of property to all white men who had a stake in whatever action government took. At the same time the perception of who should govern changed, although not as rapidly. As Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, those in power only reluctantly relinquished the notion that on balance parties were...

  7. Oral and Written Cultures: North Carolina and the Constitution, 1787–1791
    (pp. 77-100)

    Of all southern states, North Carolina had the least apparent impact on the formation of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights. The state’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention played at best a supporting, editorial role in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787.¹ The state’s ratification convention insured that the state would have no voice in the congressional debate on the Bill of Rights by refusing to approve the Constitution until amendments had been proposed.² Then, once Congress proposed amendments, North Carolina ratified the Constitution and approved the Bill of Rights in quick succession and with little controversy³—accepting...

  8. “The Good Old Cause”: The Ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in South Carolina
    (pp. 101-124)

    The history of South Carolina during the 1780s is primarily a story of recovery from the Revolutionary War. The Revolutionary struggle in the Palmetto State was particularly savage and destructive, leaving “the state impoverished with its treasury empty, its commerce nearly destroyed, and many of its citizens heavily in debt.”¹ When the British left Charleston late in 1782, Carolinians faced a bleak scene of ruined plantations and a disorganized slave labor force. The departing British stole some 25,000 slaves, about one fourth of the state’s work force.² Agriculture was crippled by this loss of labor. The closing of trade with...

  9. Constitutional Silences: Georgia, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—A Historical Test of Originalism
    (pp. 125-146)

    In these years of heavily publicized controversy over appointments to the United States Supreme Court, an historical essay on Georgia’s ratification of the federal Constitution may seem tame antiquarianism. In fact, the larger historical context of her acceptance of the federal system, stretching through the momentous test of will inChisholm v. Georgia,has much to tell us about the current debate over constitutional originalism. A short summary of the latter will serve as an introduction to the Georgia tale, which in turn teaches a lesson for modern jurists.

    The Senate hearings on the appointment of Robert Bork to the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 147-178)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 179-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-186)