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Essex Junto

constitution opposed war massachusetts

In April 1778, a number of men gathered at Ipswich in Essex County, Massachusetts, to discuss the drafting of a new Massachusetts constitution. Composed of lawyers and merchants, the majority of the group were residents of Essex County, from which the assembly derived its name. Included among its members were politicians George Cabot and Timothy Pickering, and jurist THEOPHILUS PARSONS.

The Essex Junto began as a small, independent faction of prominent, educated men but developed into a strong section of the FEDERALIST PARTY, which exerted political influence for many years. It advocated the acceptance of the U.S. Constitution and the financial policies of ALEXANDER HAMILTON. The junto staunchly opposed the ideologies of President THOMAS JEFFERSON, and the EMBARGO ACT of 1807, which prohibited the exportation of American goods to France and England in an effort to compel those countries to ease their restrictions on U.S. trade. The opposition to this act was so vehement that it was repealed.

The Essex Junto was opposed to the WAR OF 1812. It convened, in secrecy, the Hartford Convention in 1814, which proved to be nothing but an airing of grievances without any serious solutions. The war ended shortly thereafter, and many of the junto members were ridiculed and threatened with TREASON for the closed-door tactics at the Hartford Convention. The junto soon lost much of its power with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which signified the end of the much-opposed War of 1812.

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almost 7 years ago

This article ignores two works by Henry Adams, the Documents in New England Federalism, which consists primarily of a previously unpublished account of the Essex Junto by John Quincy Adams; and his 2500 page History of the United States during the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison, now available from Library of America. The Law Library is probably based on Samuel Eliot Morison's attempt to revise Adams's assessment as a "myth." Since the issue is treason, lawyers ought to realize that the stakes are very high in this dispute, and not lightly embrace this article as authoritative. The Southern secessionists took the Hartford Convention very seriously and embroiled the country in civil war in 1861 on the Essex Junto doctrine, which took up the nullification teaching of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798 and turned that teaching against its authors, Jefferson and Madison.