The Process of Ratification

The votes of the several states

In order for the Constitution to be ratified, nine states needed to pass it in their legislatures.

This was a point of controversy at the time for some states may have been forced to uphold the Constitution without a popular majority, but all thirteen states eventually accepted the Constitution during the long and arduous process of ratification. Ratification for the US Constitution was called the nation's first political controversy. For the first time in American history, people from the thirteen states debated and decided on the same issue:

                      Whether or not to ratify the Constitution.

The drafters of the Constitution had no authority to impose their document on the American people. Ratification led the people to look at America as one united nation, rather than thinking of each state as a sovereign entity. Intense debates and heated arguments over whether or not to ratify the constitution in each state eventually led to the Final ratification

Events During Ratification

 The Massachusetts Compromise

Ratification of the Constitution in Massachusetts was a huge point of controversy. As the state was dominated by Anti-Federalists, people only accepted the Constitution with the idea that a Bill of Rights may be added. As said by George Washington,   

"the Convention of Massachusetts adopted the Constitution in toto; but recommended a number of specific alterations and quieting explanations."   

Massachusetts, however, was not the only state to do so. States such as Virginia, New Hampshire, and New York all recommended adding a list of amendments to the Constitution. These states, along with much of the American public, believed that the Constitution did not give enough power to the people. The Bill of rights would be needed to even out this imbalance. 

George Washington's letter to the
Marquis de Lafayette concerning
the Massachusetts Compromise

New Hampshire: The Ninth State

A representation of the debates for ratification
  • New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution by a vote of 57-47, thus causing the document to be adopted on June 21, 1788,
  • The vote on whether or not to ratify to Constitution was seen thought to be a tie when going into New Hampshire's ratifying convention. However, the vote ended in favor of ratification
  • However, many in New Hampshire recommended a Bill of Rights to go along with the Constitution. Furthermore, five delegates had adopted the Massachusetts Compromise in New Hampshire three days after debate over ratification.
  • It was, once again, the compromise of a Bill of Rights that allowed for ratification.

The New York Debates

New York was at the center of the controversy surrounding ratification. The New York Journal had published many of the Anti-Federalist papers, and inhabitants of New York were said to be the best educated on the subject of ratification. 46 Anti-Federalists and 19 Federalists went to the ratifying convention in New York. 

In the middle of the New York debate for ratification, they learned that New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution and the final one needed. Shortly after, they received news that Virginia had ratified the Constitution as well. However, New York's debate continued. 

As seen from the chart at the top of the page, 30 votes had gone in favor to the Constitution, and 27 had gone against it. This is a huge difference compared to the number of Federalists and Anti-Federalists at the convention. Causes of this large shift in votes may be due to the fact that:
  • New Hampshire and Virginia had ratified the Constitution first.
  • It was ratified with the guarantee that a Bill of Rights and Amendments would soon follow. 
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