Today, the Constitution Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when many people in Carlisle, Pennsylvania protested against the proposed Federal set of laws on December 26, 1787.
From Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788 by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, published in 1888:
As you may perhaps have heard of an affray which happened in this town, I send you the particulars: —
On Wednesday the 26th of December last, a number of persons here, much in love with the new Constitution, formed a plan of rejoicing on account of its adoption by this State.
They kept their purpose a profound secret from the rest of the inhabitants (who they knew were of a different opinion) until near night, at which time a cannon was brought from the public magazine, placed in the centre of the square, a drum beat and the bell rung.
This collected a vast concourse of people, and a report having been propagated that whoever did not illuminate their windows would have them broke in pieces.
This alarmed the people very much, who asked the rejoicers what they intended, and why they placed a cannon there at that time. They answered, it was to express their approbation of the adoption of the federal Constitution. They were then asked why they attempted to do so without calling a town meeting, to take the sense of the people on the subject.
They replied that such as did not like it might let it alone — that they were determined, in spite of all opposition, to fire that cannon, and swearing most tremendously, if they would not clear the way, they would fire it through their bodies.
A smart altercation now took place between both parties, when a number of barrels which had been piled for the bonfire, were thrown down.
This provoked some of the most violent of the rejoicers to lay about them most unmercifully with such weapons as they were provided with, but the people defended themselves so well, and aimed their blows so successfully, that it soon converted the intended joy into mourning — the most forward of the rejoicing party were either carried off, or ran with the greatest precipitation, not caring longer to face the hardy cuffs of their enraged opponents, who they knew would pay no respect to their rank, nor make any allowance for their delicate constitutions.
I assure you it was laughable to see lawyers, doctors, colonels, captains, etc., etc., leave the scene of their rejoicing in such haste, and run some one way and some another, so that in about three minutes from the first commencement of the battle, there was not one of the rejoicing party to be seen on the ground, except a few who skulked in the dark, in order to collect what they could hear, with a view of appearing as evidences on a future day.
When the fray was over, the rejoicing took a new turn; the fragments of the broken barrels were collected, piled and set fire to; the new constitution was then produced and committed to the flames, by the hands of the executor of the law, amidst the loudest acclamations, then followed three cheers in honor of the dissenting minority of twenty-three in the State convention.
Immediately after this (the people having mostly dispersed) some fellows whom the rejoicers had employed to assist them in working the cannon (but who deserted their cause when they saw them defeated) went so far as to burn the carriage and every part of the cannon- mounting that would burn, contrary to the express prohibition of such of the people as were then present, but now too few to prevent the rabble, at the head of whom was one Ryan, a late wheelbarrow convict, whom the rejoicers had employed to work the cannon for them.
He swore (when desired to desist and not destroy the carriage) that first he would burn one side of the cannon, and then turn it like a po-ta-tee, for he was captain now.
Next day at noon the rejoicers collected a number of men with fire-arms and ammunition, in order (as they expressed it) to rejoice at the risk of their lives; they fired a few rounds, but on hearing the people’s drum beat to arms, they dispersed, appointing to meet at two o’clock, to finish their rejoicings.
This, however, they prudently declined.
Now in their turn the people met, and having dressed up the effigies of two of the most noted partisans and promoters of the new constitution, after carrying them in procession through the principal streets of the town, to the funeral pile which was burning in the square for their reception, committed them to the flames, with an indignation suitable to the opinion they entertained of men who could endeavor to undermine the liberties of their country.
From the first appearance of the effigies the dead bell tolled until they were totally consumed to ashes.
This ended the exercises of the day; however, the lawyers are like to make something by the matter. —
The rejoicers swear they will be avenged, they have summoned a long train of evidences before a justice who they think favors their party, and are endeavoring to injure a number of respectable characters among the people; who in their turn have it amply in their power to retaliate, but will only act agreeably to the laws of their country, the nod of the great not being yet the supreme law of the land.
One of the People.
The Constitution Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of the pass over the South Mountains from York Town to Carlisle, circa 1780s.