Its Sources and Its Application
The course of the thirteen States in ratifying the new Constitution presents an interesting study:
In the ratifying convention of Massachusetts there was strong opposition to those clauses of the Constitution11, 61, 121 which made concessions to slavery. And there was dislike of the clause136 forbidding a religious test for the person holding office. While a bill of rights also was desired, Massachusetts set the good example of ratifying "in full confidence that the amendments proposed will soon become a part of the system," as they did.
On July 2 Congress received word that the ninth State had ratified. In September it fixed the first Wednesday in January, 1789, for the choice of electors, the first Wednesday in February for balloting for a President and a Vice President, and the first Wednesday in March (March 4, as it happened and as the date remained until 1933) for the commencement of the new government.
In addition to opposing a strong National government as against the dominance of the State, Virginians, led by Patrick Henry, objected to the clause 71 preventing a State from impairing the obligation of a contract. At that time Virginian planters owed to English merchants over ten million dollars and the legislature of Virginia had suspended their right to sue for their money in the courts of that State.
New York, in the port of which more than one half of the goods consumed in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, and western Massachusetts paid duties or other taxes, stubbornly opposed the Constitution because of the commerce clause.45 Opposition in the ratifying convention was led by Governor Clinton. In support of the Constitution the imperishable "Federalist" papers were written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. Chief Justice Morris and Chancellor Livingston aided in the struggle for the Constitution.
North Carolina did not enter the Union until after the new government was well on its way. The first convention (July, 1788) refused, by a vote of 184 to 84, to ratify the Constitution because of the lack of a Bill of Rights and in the fear that the strong National government would in time overbear State authority.
Rhode Island, which did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and which long refused to ratify, knocked at the door for admission after the new government began to deal with it as a foreign country and subjected it to taxes on its exports.
TO THE FEDERAL CONGRESS
December 12, 1787.
In the Name of the People of Pennsylvania
Be it Known unto all Men that We the Delegates of the People of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general Convention assembled Have assented to, and ratified, and by these presents Do in the Name and by the authority of the Same People, and for ourselves, assent to, and ratify the foregoing Constitution for the United States of America. Done in Convention at Philadelphia the twelfth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names.
The New Jersey State Archive has one of the two original copies of NJ's ratification. On four large sheets of parchment, it contains the text of the Constitution and the signatures of the state convention delegates approving it.
So far as is known there was no other transmittal letter. The minutes of the convention read:
"Resolved, That the Ratification of the Federal Constitution as agreed to, and signed by this Convention, be delivered by the President of this Convention [John Stevens] to the President of Congress in Congress assembled.", dated December 19, 1787.
In Convention of the Delegates of the People of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1788.
The Convention, having impartially discussed and fully considered the Constitution for the United States of America, reported to Congress by the Convention of delegates from the United States of America, and submitted to us by a resolution of the General Court of the said commonwealth, passed the twenty-fifth day of October last past; and acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Supreme Ruler of the universe in affording the people of the United States, in the course of his providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud or surprise, of entering into an explicit and solemn compact with each other, by assenting to and ratifying a new Constitution, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, DO, in the name and in behalf of the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, assent to and ratify the said Constitution for the United States of America.
And, as it is the opinion of this Convention, that certain amendments and alterations in the said Constitution would remove the fears and quiet the apprehensions of many of the good people of the commonwealth, and more effectually guard against an undue administration of the federal government, the Convention do therefore recommend that the following alterations and provisions be introduced into the said Constitution: -
First. That it be explicitly declared, that all powers not expressly delegated by the aforesaid Constitution are reserved to the several states, to be by them exercised.
Secondly. That there shall be one representative to every thirty thousand persons, according to the census mentioned in the Constitution, until the whole number of representatives amounts to two hundred.
Thirdly. That Congress do not exercise the powers vested in them by the 4th section of the 1st article, but in cases where a state shall neglect or refuse to make the regulations therein mentioned, or shall make regulations subversive of the rights of the people to a free and equal representation in Congress, agreeably to the Constitution.
Fourthly. That Congress do not lay direct taxes, but when the moneys arising from the impost and excise are insufficient for the public exigencies, nor then, until Congress shall have first made a requisition upon the states, to assess, levy, and pay their respective proportion of such requisitions, agreeably to the census fixed in the said Constitution, in such way and manner as the legislatures of the states shall think best, and, in such case, if any state shall neglect or refuse to pay its proportion, pursuant to such requisition, then Congress may assess and levy such state's proportion, together with interest thereon, at the rate of six per cent. per annum, from the time of payment prescribed in such requisitions.
Fifthly. That Congress erect no company with exclusive advantages of commerce.
Sixthly. That no person shall be tried for any crime, by which he may incur an infamous punishment, or loss of life, until he be first indicted by a grand jury, except in such cases as may arise in the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
Seventhly. The Supreme Judicial Federal Court shall have no jurisdiction of causes between citizens of different states, unless the matter in dispute, whether it concern the realty or personalty, be of the value of three thousand dollars at the least; nor shall the federal judicial powers extend to any action between citizens of different states, where the matter in dispute, whether it concern the realty or personalty, is not of the value of fifteen hundred dollars at the least.
Eighthly. In civil actions between citizens of different states, every issue of fact, arising in actions at common law, shall be tried by a jury, if the parties, or either of them, request it.
Ninthly. Congress shall at no time consent that any person holding an office of trust or profit, under the United States, shall accept of a title of nobility, or any other title or office, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
And the Convention do, in the name and in the behalf of the people of this commonwealth, enjoin it upon their representatives in Congress, at all times, until the alterations and provisions aforesaid have been considered, agreeably to the 5th article of the said Constitution, to exert all their influence, and use all reasonable and legal methods, to obtain a ratification of the said alterations and provisions, in such manner as is provided in the said article.
And, that the United States, in Congress assembled, may have due notice of the assent and ratification of the said Constitution by this Convention, it is
Resolved, That the assent and ratification aforesaid be engrossed on parchment, together with the recommendation and injunction aforesaid, and with this resolution; and that his excellency, JOHN HANCOCK, President, and the Hon. WILLIAM CUSHING, Esq., Vice-President of this Convention, transmit the same, countersigned by the Secretary of the Convention, under their hands and seals, to the United States in Congress assembled.
thereby forever establishing the union of States as a Constitutional Republic
New Hampshire's Ratification Document: Transcription:
STATE OF NEW-HAMPSHIRE
IN CONVENTION of the Delegates of the PEOPLE of the STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE June 21st. 1788
The Convention haveing impartially discussed & fully considered the Constitution for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, reported to Congress by the Convention of Delegates from the United States of America and submitted to us by a Resolution of the General Court of said State, passed the fourteenth Day of December last past & acknowledging with grateful Hearts the goodness of the Supreme ruler of the Universe in affording the People of the UNITED STATES in the course of his Providence an Opportunity deliberately & peaceably without fraud or Surprize of entering into an explicit & solemn compact with each other by assenting to and ratifying a new Constitution, in Order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestick tranquility, provide for the common defence promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty to themselves & their Posterity. DO IN THE NAME, & behalf of the People of the STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE assent to & ratify the said Constitution for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA & as it is the Opinion of this Convention that certain amendments & alterations in the said Constitution would remove the fears and Quiet the apprehensions of many of the good People of this State, and more effectually guard against an undue Administration of the federal Government. The Convention do therefore recommend that the following Alterations & provisions be introduced into the said Constitution.
AND THE CONVENTION DO, in the name & behalf of the People of this State enjoin it upon their REPRESENTATIVES in Congress at all Times untill the alterations & provisions aforesaid have been considered agreeably to the fifth Article of the said Constitution to exert all their influence & use all reasonable & legal methods to obtain a Ratification of the sd alterations & provisions in such manner as is provided in the said Article. And that the United States in Congress Assembled may have due notice of the assent & Ratification of the sd Constitution by this Convention. IT IS RESOLVED That the assent & Ratification aforesaid be engrossed on Parchment together with the recommendation & Injunction aforesaid & with this Resolution & that John Sullivan Esqr. President of Convention & John Langdon Esqr. President of the State Transmit the same Countersigned by the Secretary of Convention & the Secretary of the State under their hands & Seals to the United States in Congress Assembled.
s/ Jno Sullivan presidt of Convention
One parchment original of this document is maintained by the Secretary of State at the Division of Records Management and Archives, Concord, NH. A second original parchment, probably that sent to the Confederation Congress in New York, is maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.
Properly titled "The Virginia Ratification of the Constitution of the United States"
Virginia, to wit:
We the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the general assembly, and now met in convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, Do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power nor granted thereby, remains with them and at their will; and therefore no right, of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridges, restrained or modified by the congress, by the senate or house of representatives acting in any capacity, by the president or any department, or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the constitution for those purposes; and that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States.
With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the Searcher of Hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction that whatsoever imperfections may exist in the constitution ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments, previous to the ratification:
We the said delegates, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, do by these presents assent to and ratify the constitution recommended on the 17th day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, by the Federal Convention, for the government of the United States; hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said constitution is binding upon the said people, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed.
Site Navigation To Research Articles