Wednesday, July 06, 2011

"The Goviner of the universe"

I've been reading Pauline Maier's fine Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 slowly and savoring it. I've also been reading it mostly backwards. I started at the beginning, but then skipped forward to New York, followed by Virginia, back to Pennsylvania, then forward to Connecticut and Massachusetts, which is where I am now.

Don't know what to make of this, however. Prof. Maier reports that the Massachusetts town of Ashfield, considering back in 1776 the form of government that the state should adopt, came up with a somewhat "unconventional" answer:
Massachusetts townsmen also had a proven capacity to think in unconventional ways. In 1776, for example, the people of Ashfield in western Massachusetts said they wanted no "Goviner but the Goviner of the universe and under him a States Ginaral to Consult with the wrest of the united States for the Good of the whole" . . ..
The lesson that Prof. Maier draws is that not all people in western Massachusetts - the neighborhood of Daniel Shays' Rebellion - were "die hard localists. Some, at least, had a powerful sense of national identity."

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