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A Radical Patriot Urges "Common Sense and a Plain Understanding" in the Pennsylvania Constitution

In 1776 Pennsylvania organized a convention to write a new state constitution. James Cannon, a radical patriot leader, advised Pennsylvania militia members to be sure to select delegates to this convention who would respect the rights and authority of the people.

A government made for the common Good should be framed by Men who can have no Interest besides the common Interest of Mankind. It is the Happiness of America that there is no Rank above that of Freeman existing in it; and much of our future welfare and Tranquillity will depend on its remaining so forever; for this Reason, great and over-grown rich Men will be improper to be trusted, they will be too apt to be framing Distinctions in Society, because they will reap the Benefits of all such Distinctions. . . . Honesty, common Sense, and a plain Understanding, when unbiased by sinister Motives, are fully equal to the Task—Men of like Passions and Interests with ourselves are most likely to frame us a good Constitution. . . . Some who have been very backward in declaring you a free People, will be very forward in offering themselves to frame your Constitution; but trust them not, however well recommended.

Source | Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (1976).
Creator | James Cannon
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | James Cannon, “A Radical Patriot Urges "Common Sense and a Plain Understanding" in the Pennsylvania Constitution,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 7, 2023,

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