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Young Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1830, when the republic was a little over 50 years old. As he traveled the country and studied American government at both the federal and state level, he was struck by what he observed.“The form of the federal government of the United States appeared last,” he later recorded in Democracy in America. “The great political principles that govern American society today were born and developed in the state…. It is therefore the state that one must know to have the key to all the rest.”
Essentially, Tocqueville explained, America grew from the bottom up. Before the U.S. Constitution ever articulated our principles of freedom, the concepts of self-government and representative assembly were being tested, tried, and practiced in America’s pre- Revolution colonial assemblies. When the colonies declared independence from Great Britain, these colonial assemblies became sovereign governments, responsible for raising troops, printing currency, and determining rules of commerce for their states. So by the time the Constitution was finally passed several years later, these colonial assemblies turned sovereign governments turned state legislatures had generations of experience.