Essay Urging Ratification

Since Maier wishes to recover as closely as possible the way ratification happened, she frames her history as a chronological narrative of the process, which began in November 1787 and lasted until the summer of 1788.

Although Pennsylvania began debating the Constitution at its ratifying convention on November 21, 1787, before any of the other states, its debates went on until December 15.

On June 25, Virginia ratified, 89 to 79, and proposed amendments.

On July 26, New York ratified by the close vote of 30 to 27, and proposed amendments along with circular letters to the other states calling for a convention to consider the amendments.

These editors, beginning with Merrill Jensen and continuing at present with John P. Saladino, and others, have put together one of the greatest collections of debates over the basic issues of politics and constitutionalism that the Western world possesses.

The political debates in fifth-century Athens or seventeenth-century England may have been richer and more wide-ranging, but we will never know, because the records of those earlier disputations are either lost or fragmentary.On June 21, a reassembled New Hampshire convention ratified, 57 to 47, the ninth state to do so; it also proposed amendments.Since Article VII of the Constitution declared that the Constitution would go into effect when nine states ratified, the Continental Congress on July 2 appointed a committee to plan the transition.Although historians will continue to write about ratification, it is unlikely that anyone will duplicate what Maier has done.Although she tells us about every state, she concentrates on the struggles in the big and important states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York.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.” Interest in the Constitution in Richmond, Virginia was equally intense.Gilbert Livingston, a delegate to the New York convention, believed that he was involved in the “greatest transaction of his life.” The little town of Oakham, Massachusetts echoed the feelings of many Americans when it told its delegates to the ratifying convention that their mission was of “the greatest Importance that ever came before any Class of Men on this Earth.” , in 1997, she analyzed the state and local “declarations” of independence that preceded and made possible the familiar Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.Her decades-long exploration of the local and popular foundations of politics in the Revolutionary era seems to have led her inevitably to this book on the people and the Constitution.On August 2, North Carolina proposed amendments but refused to approve the Constitution.In mid-September, the Congress set a date for the presidential elections and the meeting of the new chronological order, Maier takes us through this ratification process in full and rich detail.


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