Every society needs a set of rules by which to operate. After the colonies declared independence from Great Britain, they had to write their own constitutions. Impassioned with the republican spirit of the Revolution, political leaders pointed their ideals toward crafting "enlightened" documents. The result was thirteen republican laboratories, each experimenting with new ways of realizing the goals of the Revolution. In addition, representatives from all the colonies worked together to craft the Articles of Confederation, which itself provided the nascent nation with invaluable experience.
The state constitutions had much in common with each other. Fearful of a strong monarch, the states were reluctant to grant sweeping powers to a new government. Most governors were kept purposefully weak to deter an individual from aspiring to regal status or power. The legislative and judicial branches were elected regularly, so voters could hold them regularly accountable for their actions. Most states granted their people a Bill of Rights to protect treasured liberties from the threat of future despotism. Property requirements were still maintained, but in many cases they were lowered. Although the wealthy maintained a disproportionately large percentage of legislative seats, their influence was diminished. This is reflected in the post-Revolutionary transfer of state capitals from wealthy seaboard towns to the interior. At least seven states moved their centers of government. The most notable changes occurred in Pennsylvania, which moved its capital from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, and in New York, which transferred its governing seat from New York City to Albany.
Massachusetts developed an idea that would soon be implemented by the entire nation. They made any changes to their constitution possible only by constitutional convention. This inspired the nation's leaders to ratify changes in the Articles of Confederation the same way. Truly political ideals of equality were set into place in the states before the war even came to a close.