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The Ratification of the Constitution

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 8 months ago


 Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution [1787-1788]

The ratification debate, waged in the newspapers, through pamphlets, and on the floor of the
state conventions, led to heated arguments
about our new government's structure and function.



Historical Context


On September 17, 1787, after four months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention.


September 17, 1787  The Pennsylvania Packet prints the first public copies of the proposed United States Constitution.




"There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of the American Revolution with those of the late American war. The American war is over but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of this great drama is closed." 


Benjamin Rush writing in 1787



 "As to the history of the Revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular, but what do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the Revolution."  "It was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington." 



John Adams and he's writing to Thomas Jefferson in 1815




The Product -  A New Federal Constitution (a document for the people)

The framers of the Constitution believed that the government is based on a contract between people and ruler, and worried about a central government that might become too powerful. To limit government power, they separated the central government into branches and built in checks and balances. Congress, the legislative branch, makes laws. The executive branch, headed by the president, enforces the laws. Courts make up the judicial branch which interprets the laws. The framers left many important powers to the states. Sharing of powers between a national government and states is called federalism.  


The Architecture of the New Federal Constitution


The Preamble

Article I - The Legislative Branch (a Bicameral Congress)

Article II - The Executive Branch (The President)

Article III - The Judicial Branch (The Courts)

Article IV - The States

Article V - Amendments

Article VI - Debts, Supremacy, Oaths.

Article VII - Ratification


The Process - Ratification of the New Federal Constitution - For the Constitution to become law, 9 of the 13 states had to ratify, or approve, it


Federalists who supported the Constitution feared that without a strong government there would be chaos. (Remember Shays?)  Opponents feared a strong government could take away individual liberties.




The First Wave [December 7, 1787 – January 1788]

Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession and and in all of them the vote was unanimous (Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia) or lopsided (Pennsylvania, Connecticut). Clearly, the well-organized Federalists began the contest in strong shape as they rapidly secured five of the nine states needed to make the Constitution law. The Constitution seemed to have easy, broad, and popular support.







Ratification and Statehood


September 27, 1787  First Anti-Federalist letter by "Cato" is published 



June 21, 1788 - New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify the Constitution (57–47). Having been ratified by nine of the thirteen states, the Constitution is officially established.




The breadth and depth of popular interest in the Constitution was extraordinary. The towns of Massachusetts elected 370 delegates to the state’s ratifying convention, of whom 364 attended. It took six days for the delegates from Bath, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) to make their way across rivers and through snow to Boston. The town of Richmond in the far west of Massachusetts held four meetings in December 1787 at four different times and places to discuss the Constitution, and on Christmas Eve finally voted that it was “not proper to adopt the Constitution as it now stands.”





What is the difference between a faction and a political party


The Federalist Faction   led by Alexander Hamilton

Well educated and propertied class. Most lived in settled areas along the seaboard.   The Federalist Papers




The Anti-Federalist Faction   led by Thomas Jefferson

Anti-Federalist were backcountry farmers, the ill-educated and illiterate, debtors and paper-money advocates who supported states' rights. In general, the poorer classes of society.


GOVT 2305 Government Anti-federalist Concerns Chart

Source link: Anti-Federalists Concerns





June 25, 1788 Virginia becomes the tenth state to ratify the Constitution (89–79).


July 26, 1788 New York becomes the eleventh state to ratify the Constitution (30–27).





September 25, 1791  Constitutional amendments proposed By Congress  - Twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution are approved by the Senate, having been passed by the House on the preceding day, both without recorded vote, and sent to the states for ratification.


Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution December 15, 1791, and are collectively known as the Bill of Rights.








The Federalists Papers












Discussion Points

Kentucky and the Mississippi

Ratification and Statehood




A new government FOUR the people








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