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Constitution of 1793

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The Constitution of 1793, also known as the Lafayette Constitution, was a constitution for the State of Jefferson produced at the Lafayette Convention. The basic structure of the constitution derived from the ideas of James Madison of Virginia, who was influenced by John Adams of Massachusetts, though the final details were the result of a series of compromises worked out by the delegates of the Lafayette Convention.

Under the constitution, the government of the State of Jefferson was divided into three branches: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The legislative branch was divided into two chambers, the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. The Chamber of Representatives was composed of 42 men elected to two-year terms by all free male voters owning more than £5 in property. The Senate was composed of 15 men chosen for five-year terms by the Chamber of Representatives. The executive brach consisted of three Governors chosen for five-year terms by the Senate. The Governors would be members of one or the other of the legislative chambers, and the votes of two would be necessary for decisions. It was expected that one of the Governors would be from New England, while the other two would be southerners. Finally, the judicial branch consisted of a High Court of seven men nominated by the Governors and confirmed by two-thirds of the Senators. Legislation would be initiated by the Chamber of Representatives, passed by the Senate, and affirmed by the Governors.

The Constitution of 1793 pleased no one completely and yet was acceptable to all. Article VII, Section II enumerated the powers of the government, while Article XIV, Section IV gave the government the power to "consider all problems relating to the general safety and good of the state." Since the Constitution did not refer to slavery, slaveowners interpreted that to mean that the government had no power over slavery, while abolitionists interpreted Article XIV, Section IV to mean that it did.

Following the adjournment of the Lafayette Convention, Madison published a pamphlet called Government and the Proper Concern advocating for the adoption of the Constitution of 1793. Alexander Hamilton did the same with a pamphlet called Government and the Nature of Man. The Constitution was ratified by a vote of the settlers of Jefferson on October 15, 1793.

Sobel makes no further mention of the Jeffersonian Senate after 1793, and all later references to the Jeffersonian legislature simply mention the Chamber of Representatives. This suggests that the Jeffersonians found their bicameral legislature too cumbersome, and dispensed with the Senate, so that the three Governors were chosen directly by the Chamber.

When delegates from Jefferson and the Republic of Mexico met at the Mexico City Convention of 1819 to draft a constitution for their newly-united nation, the Constitution of 1793 was used as a model. After Jefferson's incorporation into the United States of Mexico under the Mexico City Constitution, no further mention is made of the state having multiple governors, so presumably the Constitution of 1793 was modified or replaced at that point.


Sobel's sources for the Constitution of 1793 include Corby Street's Compromise and Conciliation as Factors in the Jeffersonian Constitution of 1793 (Mexico City, 1936), Martha Lamb's The Resolution of Conflict: Constitutional Case Studies (Canberra, 1956), Robert Wymess' Prelude to Greatness: The Jeffersonian Constitution of 1793 (Mexico City, 1970), Max O'Connor's The Men of Lafayette (New York, 1960), Winston Thompson's The Flawed Design: Problems at Lafayette (London, 1967), Martin Greene's The Britannic Design and the Lafayette Constitution of 1793: Comparisons and Constrasts (New York, 1968), and Conrad Tracy's Our Fathers Who Art in Lafayette (Mexico City, 1959).

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