Ratification of the Constitution of the United States

by Natalie Bolton and Gordon Lloyd

Introduction

To assist teachers in teaching the Ratification of the Constitution, Professor Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine University has created a website in collaboration with the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University on the Ratification of the Constitution. Professor Lloyd organizes the content on the Ratification in various ways on the website. One lesson plan has been created to align with the content of the “in doors” conversations of ratification. There are four main component parts to the “in doors” coverage on the website. 1) A Commentary that breaks down the “in house” ratification into The Six Stages of the Ratification of the Constitution. 2) Elliot’s Debates is the major source for learning what took place at the various state ratifying conventions. 3) We have provided a day-by-day summary of each of the three ratifying conventions Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York. This summary highlights the particular clauses of the Constitution that were under consideration on that day along with a synopsis of the main points that were made by the delegates. Each of the three Day-by-Day Summaries is preceded by a brief overview of the entire ratifying convention. 4) A set of individual Maps along with a comprehensive map that shows the location of Federalist and Antifederalist strength throughout the thirteen states (Adapted from: www.teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/intro.html).

This lesson has been written as a Historical Scene Investigation.

The HSI instructional model consists of the following four steps:

  • Becoming a Detective
  • Investigating the Evidence
  • Searching for Clues
  • Cracking the Case

In the “Becoming a Detective” stage, students are introduced to the historical scene under investigation. Here background information and context are provided for the students. Students are then presented with an Engaging Question to guide their inquiry. Finally, students are presented with a task to help them answer the question – or crack the case.

From this point, students move on to the “Investigating the Evidence” section. Students are provided links to appropriate digital primary sources to help them crack the case. These documents might include text files, images, audio, or video clips.

In the “Searching for Clues” stage, students are provided with a set of questions for their Detective’s Log, guiding their analysis of the evidence. This can be very structured, or more open-ended, depending on the instructional goals. Often, these questions will be provided in the form of a printable handout from which students work.

Finally, in the “Cracking the Case” section, students present their answer, along with a rationale rooted in the evidence, to the initial question. Additionally, students are encouraged to enter new questions that have arisen during the process for future investigation.

For every case, there is a section for the teacher. This section will list particular objectives for the activity and will also provide additional contextual information and resources as well as instructional strategies that the teacher might find useful.

The model is intentionally standardized so that teachers can easily browse the activities without getting bogged down in unusual terminology. Ultimately, the hope is that teachers do what they do best – that is, download an activity and either use it “as is” or cut, rearrange or extend an activity for use within their particular classroom. (Description of HSI Model taken with permission from: web.wm.edu/hsi/model.html)

Guiding Question

What strategies did the Federalists use to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states? How successful were the Federalists in using these strategies and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students should be able to:

  1. Analyze and chart findings from multiple sources on the ratification of the United States Constitution by states.
  2. Cite evidence and explain: a) the strategy the Federalists used to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states and b) how successful the Federalists were in using this strategy and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges.

Background Information for the Teacher

The “In Doors” and “Out of Doors” Conversations

The years were 1787 and 1788. The places: a) “in doors” in the State Houses in the various states attracting over 1600 elected delegates who debated the merits of the Constitution and b) “out of doors” where the world witnessed the largest outpouring ever of pamphlets, newspapers, broadsides, and letters in favor and against the ratification of the Constitution. This is the story of a) the records of the debates of the official delegates that took place essentially between December 1787 and July 1788 and b) the public advocates who participated in the conversation over whether or not to ratify the newly proposed Constitution for the federal republic of the United States that took place mainly between October 1787 and July 1788.

We have provided a Timeline to assist the reader to follow the unfolding of the twofold ratification process. There are also brief Biographical Sketches of the leading delegates and principal authors. These include, but are not limited to, the 29 Framers of the Constitution in Philadelphia who participated in the ratification process.

There are two questions that have bothered scholars of ratification over the last two hundred years.

The first can be put in the form of the following question posed by the historian Jackson Turner Main: “Since the Federalists were a minority in at least six and probably seven states, they ought surely to have been defeated. Yet they came from behind to win.” Why? We will explore, and challenge one of the leading answers: that the aristocratic Federalists manipulated the electoral system, the media, and the use of personal prestige to unjustly defeat the Antifederalist opposition. Why, continues the critique, the Federalists even stole the name from the “true” Federalists and bestowed on them the appellation Antifederalist. We invite readers to immerse themselves in the debates and to grapple with what it means to engage in democratic republican political conversation. In particular, we need to examine the role of political compromise in the ratification process. And did the Antifederalists really lose if their ideas on the Bill of Rights and the enumeration of the powers of the federal government were incorporated into the Constitution?

Main is bothered by the fact that “at least sixty delegates, perhaps as many as seventy-five, who were chosen as Antifederalists, ended by voting for ratification.” He seems to be suggesting that they abandoned their principles. And who are these people? They “came from the regions near the coast and from the upper socio-economic stratum of society.” But what if these “converts” were actually motivated by political considerations?

The second question turns on the issue: how enduring and educative, over against how immediate and propagandistic, is the pamphlet war that took place in the press and letters between 1787 and 1789? Aren’t The Federalist and Antifederalist essays “tracts for their time,” and self serving ones at that? To be sure, there are a lot of outrageous claims and exaggerated rhetoric being made by both sides, but that too is the stuff of democratic republican political conversation. It is a vital part of being politically free that one can distinguish between the demagogic and the democratic, between hope and fear, and between the high appeal to liberty and responsibility and the low urge to anarchy and paternalism.

The “In Doors” Coverage

There are four main component parts to the “in doors” coverage on the website. 1) A Commentary that breaks down the “in house” ratification into The Six Stages of the Ratification of the Constitution. 2) Elliot’s Debates is the major source for learning what took place at the various state ratifying conventions. Unfortunately, Elliot’s Debates does not provide a full and complete account of every ratifying convention because of the unavailability of extant records and, in the case of Pennsylvania, the convention recorder only summarized what the proponents said. Only a fragment is available from the second and decisive New Hampshire ratifying convention. Furthermore, Elliot includes only the first North Carolina ratifying convention rather than the decisive ratifying convention in 1789. But in the case of the three critical states-Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York-the coverage is sufficiently full and fair to provide readers with a reasonably accurate portrayal of the conversation. Accordingly, we have separated out Elliot’s Debates for these ratifying conventions while at the same time making the entire five volume set available for readers who wish to explore Elliot’s contribution to the study of the American Founding. 3) We have provided a Day-by-Day Summary of each of these three ratifying conventions. This summary highlights the particular clauses of the Constitution that were under consideration on that day along with a synopsis of the main points that were made by the delegates. Each of the three Day-by-Day Summaries is preceded by a brief overview of the entire ratifying convention. 4) A set of individual Maps along with a comprehensive map that shows the location of Federalist and Antifederalist strength throughout the thirteen states.

The maps owe much to the entrepreneurial work of Colleen Garot and are based on Orin Grant Libby’s original black and white 1894 study called The Geographical Distribution of the Vote of the Thirteen States on the Federal Constitution, 1787-8. Libby relied on the maps to validate his thesis that insufficient attention had been given to an economic and social interpretation of the founding. He wanted to go behind the “mere utterances” of delegates in order to capture what was really going on. He thought that his geographical work would counteract the “firmly rooted” misconception that “the fate of the Constitution was determined exclusively, or at least predominantly, by discussions in convention on the various provisions of that instrument, from the point of view of the political scientist, or of the statesman.” And Progressive historians Jackson Turner Main and Charles Beard build on Libby to bolster their claim that what was “really” driving the discussions were paper money, the impost, debt issues, and status in the community. Contrary to Libby and the Progressives, however, the maps actually reinforce the argument that the Founding is primarily a political rather than an economic and social phenomenon.

The “Out of Doors” Coverage

The “out of doors” literature is rich, varied, and immense. On the pro-Constitution side, of course, are the eighty-five essays collectively known as The Federalist. They have acquired an authoritative status virtually equal to the Constitution itself. But these essays were not the only, or even the most influential, of the pro-Constitution essays. The “Other Federalists” include such heavyweights as James Wilson, Rufus King, Oliver Ellsworth, Roger Sherman, Timothy Pickering, John Marshall, and John Dickinson. The opponents’ variously described as Anti-Federalists, Antifederalists, and our preferred usage, Antifederalists also wrote a vast and varied literature. Accordingly, this website must be selective in its coverage lest in its efforts to be comprehensive it turns people away because of the enormity of the writing. (Taken from: www.teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/intro.html).

Preparing to Teach this Lesson

Prior to teaching this lesson the teacher should cover content related to the Constitutional Convention. Gordon Lloyd has presented the content of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a Four Act Drama and can be used as a resource for the teacher. Lesson plans on each Act can be found at: www.teachingamericanhistory.org/lessonplans/ and can be used with students prior to implementing this lesson. This lesson uses a Historical Scene Investigation model to study the “in doors conversations” of the Ratification of the Constitution. The teacher should familiarize him/herself with all lesson resources prior to implementing lesson.

Three activities are outlined below and should be implemented in order.

Activity 1: Becoming a Detective

Students are introduced to the historical scene under investigation. Here background information and context are provided for the students on the Ratification of the Constitution. Students are then presented with an engaging question to guide their inquiry. The engaging question for the lesson is, “What strategies did the Federalists use to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states? How successful were the Federalists in using these strategies and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges? Finally, students are presented with a task to help them answer the question – or crack the case.

Activity 2: Investigating the Evidence

Students are provided links to appropriate digital primary sources using the Ratification of the Constitution website to help them crack the case. These evidence artifacts might include text files, images, maps, political cartoons, etc.

Activity 3: Searching for Clues

Students are provided with a set of questions for their Detective’s Log, guiding their analysis of the evidence. Students are provided a printable handout, Detective Log, to work from.

Analyzing Primary Sources

If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on “Making Sense of Maps” and “Making Sense of Oral History” which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

Suggested Activities

Introduction to the Case

In this case, students explore a series of artifacts using the Ratification of the Constitution website. The artifacts serve as evidence taken from the “in door” conversations of various State Houses that attracted over 1600 elected delegates who debated the merits of the United States Constitution. As students explore the artifacts/evidence, they will work through a “detective’s log” to help them analyze and chart findings from the sources. In the end, students are asked to write an essay answering the following question: What strategies did the Federalists use to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states? How successful were the Federalists in using these strategies and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges? Additionally, students will be asked to indicate whether they were satisfied with the evidence and to list any additional questions that have been left unanswered through the investigation.

Activity 1: Becoming a Detective

Time required for activity: In class activity 20 minutes.

Students are introduced to the historical scene under investigation. Here background information and context are provided for the students on the Ratification of the Constitution. As students read background information, they will complete the concept ladder resource, developing a question for each rung of the concept ladder based on their prior knowledge of American history and reading of the Ratification of the Constitution introduction. Students’ questions should represent what they expect to be answered in their investigation of the ratification process. Students are then presented with an engaging question to guide their inquiry. The engaging question for the lesson is, “What strategies did the Federalists use to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states? How successful were the Federalists in using these strategies and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges? Finally, students are presented with the task to help them answer the question – or crack the case. Teachers should share the Detective Log handout at this time.

Activity 2 and 3: Investigating the Evidence and Searching for Clues

Time required for activity: In class activity, two 60 minute class periods.

Students are provided links to appropriate digital primary sources using the Ratification of the Constitution website to help them crack the case. These documents might include text files, images, maps, political cartoons, etc. For this HIS, students will read the content within each Stage of Ratification and use the State-by-State Ratification Table to assist them.

A REAP graphic organizer is provided to assist students who may need additional support as the read and analyze the digital primary sources. This graphic organizer asks students to :

R – Read the text. Write down the stage of ratification, title of text, and what the evidence is about.
E – Encode the text by putting the main ideas in your own words. Include the timeline of the evidence.
A – Annotate the text by writing a statement that summarizes the important points explaining the significance of the evidence in relation to ratification.
P – Ponder the text by thinking about what you learned. Ask yourself “How does the evidence support the Federalists or Anti-Federalists? How successful were the Federalists in using strategy to ratify the Constitution and what adjustments were made to support the Antifederalists? Connect this text to your own prior knowledge or to other documents you have read.

Students are provided with a set of questions for their Detective’s Log (see Handout Detective Log), guiding their analysis of the evidence. Students are provided a printable handout to work from.

Note: The teacher may decide to group students to investigate the evidence or have students work independently.

Assessment: Cracking the Case

Time required for assessment: Two 60 minute class periods.

Students will be completing a document based question. The assessment consists of two parts.

Directions: Based on your analysis of the six documents of evidence, answer the following questions based on the accompanying artifacts (1- 8). Some of these artifacts have been edited for the purposes of these exercises. This question is designed to test your ability to work with historic artifacts. As you analyze the artifacts, take into account both the sources of the document and the author’s point of view. Be sure to review the scoring criteria prior to answering questions.

Note: Some text has been highlighted to assist students in answering document questions.

Scoring Criteria:

Credit will be fully rewarded if the response:

  • thoroughly addresses all aspects of the task by accurately interpreting the documents plus incorporates outside information related to the documents.
  • discusses all aspects of the task and supports with accurate facts, examples and details.
  • weighs the importance, reliability and validity of the evidence.
  • analyzes conflicting perspectives presented in the documents and weaves the documents into the body of the essay.
  • includes a strong introduction and conclusion.

Credit will be reduced if the response:

  • does not recognize the reliability, validity, or perspectives of the documents.
  • reiterates the content of the documents with little or no use of outside information.
  • discusses the documents in a descriptive rather than analytic manner.
  • shows little recognition of the tasks, lacked an introduction or conclusion

Historic Context

The ratification of the United States Constitution, which followed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, had a great impact on sustaining democracy in the United States. One of the most vocal groups to speak out to support ratification was the Federalists.

Question: What strategies did the Federalists use to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states? How successful were the Federalists in using these strategies and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges?


After reading the documents, complete part A

Part A: Short answer

Document 1

[James Madison, Vices of the Political System of the United States Vices, April, 1787]

In some of the States, the Confederation is recognized by, and forms a part of the Constitution. In others however, it has received no other sanction than that of the Legislative authority. From this defect two evils result: 1. Whenever a law of a State happens to be repugnant to an act of Congress, particularly when the latter is of posterior date to the former, it will be at least questionable whether the latter must not prevail; and as the question must be decided by the Tribunals of the State, they will be most likely to lean on the side of the State. 2. As far as the Union of the States is to be regarded as a league of sovereign powers, and not as a political Constitution by virtue of which they are become one sovereign power, so far it seems to follow from the doctrine of compacts, that a breach of any of the articles of the confederation by any of the parties to it, absolves the other parties from their respective obligations, and gives them a right if they choose to exert it, of dissolving the Union altogether.

Article VII United States Constitution

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.


Document Questions

  1. Using the two sources above, what defect did Madison point out in the Articles of Confederation and how did Article VII remedy that defect?
  2. How do state conventions reflect consent of the governed?
  3. How did Article VII support consent of the governed and contribute to establishing a strategy for the Federalists to ratify the Constitution?

Document 2

[State House Speech, Philadelphia, October 6, 1787]

James Wilson, a leading Federalist supporter—I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it, which, if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But, when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation applies likewise to every state) has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that anything nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, it should be remembered, that the seeds of reformation are sown in the work itself, and the concurrence of two thirds of the congress may at any time introduce alterations and amendments. Regarding it, then, in every point of view, with a candid and disinterested mind, I am bold to assert, that it is the BEST FORM OF GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS EVER BEEN OFFERED TO THE WORLD.


Document Question

What was James Wilson’s attitude toward ratifying the Constitution? How did this attitude support or not support the Federalist’s strategy to ratify the Constitution?


Document 3

[Convention of Massachusetts, February 5, 1788]

Fisher Ames, a leading Federalist supporter-If it is insisted that the Constitution is admitted to be imperfect, let those objectors consider the nature of their own argument. Do they expect a perfect constitution?… Whatever opinion may be formed of it by others, Mr. Ames professed to think it comparatively perfect. There was not any government which he knew to subsist, or which he had ever heard of, that would bear a comparison with the new Constitution….

Very few among us now deny that a federal government is necessary to save us from ruin; that the Confederation is not that government; and that the proposed Constitution, connected with the amendments, is worthy of being adopted. The question recurs, Will the amendments prevail, and become part of the system? In order to obtain such a system as the Constitution and the amendments, there are but three ways of proceeding – to reject the whole, and begin anew; to adopt this plan upon condition that the amendments be inserted into it; or to adopt his excellency’s [John Hancock, President of the Massachusetts ratifying convention] proposition.

[Convention of Massachusetts, February 6, 1788]

John Hancock, President of the Massachusetts ratifying convention proposes amendments-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… alterations and provisions be introduced into the said Constitution:–

…On the motion for ratifying being declared in the affirmative, by a majority of nineteen, the Hon. Mr. WHITE [One of several Antifederalists who voted against ratification] rose, and said that, notwithstanding he had opposed the adoption of the Constitution, upon the idea that it would endanger the liberties of his country, yet, as a majority had seen fit to adopt it, he should use his utmost exertions to induce his constituents to live in peace under and cheerfully submit to it.


Document Questions

  1. In reviewing the Massachusetts Convention notes, why would Ames suggest that the delegates of Massachusetts ratify the Constitution now but also recommend alterations and provisions?
  2. Were these “alterations and provisions” to the Constitution mandatory/conditional /required OR suggested/recommended/optional?
  3. How did these “alterations and provisions” contribute to supporting the strategy of the Federalists and accommodating the Antifederalists?

Document 4

[Maryland ratifying convention, April 24 - April 26, 1788]

Mr. Paca, a leading Antifederalist supporter-Informed the president that he had great objections to the Constitution proposed, in its present form, and meant to propose a variety of amendments, not to prevent, but to accompany the ratification…. On Friday, at the meeting of the house, Mr. Paca rose, and informed the president, that, in consequence of the permission of the house, given him the preceding evening, he had prepared certain amendments, which he would read in his place, and then lay on the table; when he was interrupted [by several delegates who] arose in their places, and declared, for themselves and their colleagues, “that they were elected and instructed, by the people they represented, to ratify the proposed Constitution, and that as speedily as possible, and to do no other act; that, after the ratification, their power ceased, and they did not consider themselves as authorized by their constituents to consider any amendments.” After this, Mr. Paca was not permitted even to read his amendments. The opponents continued to make their objections to the Constitution until Saturday noon. The advocates of the government, although repeatedly called on, and earnestly requested, to answer the objections, if not just, remained inflexibly silent, and called for the question, that “the Convention assent to and ratify the proposed plan of federal government for the United States;” which was carried in the affirmative, by sixty-three to eleven.

[South Carolina ratifying convention May 23, 1788]

The Convention… assent to and ratify the said Constitution.

…Resolved that it be a standing instruction to all such delegates as may hereafter be elected to represent this State in the general Government to exert their utmost abilities and influence to effect an Alteration of the Constitution conformably to the foregoing Resolutions.


Document Question

Compare the strategy used by the Federalists and Antifederalists at the Maryland and South Carolina ratifying conventions.


Document 5

[New Hampshire ratifying convention June 21, 1788]

By consensus of the New Hampshire ratifying convention-The Convention do therefore recommend 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 until the[se] alterations and provisions… have been Considered agreeably to the fifth Article of the said Constitution to exert all their Influence & use a reasonable & Legal methods to obtain a ratification of the said 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 said 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.

[Virginia ratifying convention June 27, 1788]

Mr. WYTHE a leading Federalist supporter-Reported, from the committee appointed, such amendments to the proposed Constitution of government for the United States as were by them deemed necessary to be recommended to the consideration of the Congress which shall first assemble under the said Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the 5th article thereof; and he read the same in his place, and afterwards delivered them in at the clerk’s table, where the same were again read, and are as follows:–

And the Convention do, in the name and behalf of the people of this commonwealth, enjoin it upon their representatives in Congress to exert all their influence, and use all reasonable and legal methods, to obtain a ratification of the foregoing alterations and provisions, in the manner provided by the 5th article of the said Constitution; and, in all congressional laws to be passed in the mean time, to conform to the spirit of these amendments, as far as the said Constitution will admit.

[New York ratifying convention July 15, 16, 19 and 23 1788]

Tuesday, July 15, 1788. –Mr. SMITH moved: Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the Constitution under consideration ought to be ratified by this Convention upon condition.

Wednesday, July 16, 1788. –Mr. DUANE then brought forward a plan of ratification, with certain explanations, and with a list of amendments to be recommended. This was rejected. Mr. SMITH’S proposition was then resumed, and debated till

Saturday, July 19, 1788. –Mr. LANSING moved to postpone the several propositions before the house, in order to take into consideration a draft of a conditional ratification, with a bill of rights prefixed, and amendments subjoined. Debates arose on the motion, and it was carried. The committee then proceeded to consider separately the amendments proposed in this plan of ratification.

Wednesday, July 23, 1788. –Mr. JONES moved, that the words on condition, in the form of the ratification, should be obliterated, and that the words in full confidence should be substituted – which was carried.

The committee continued the consideration of the amendments till Thursday; when Mr. LANSING moved to adopt a resolution, that there should be reserved to the state of New York a right to withdraw herself from the Union after a certain number of years, unless the amendments proposed should previously be submitted to a general convention.

This motion was negatived.

[Circulation Letter, to the governors of the several states in the Union, New York ratifying convention, July 28, 1788]

We, the members of the Convention of this state, have deliberately and maturely considered the Constitution proposed for the United States. Several articles in it appear so exceptionable to a majority of us, that nothing but the fullest confidence of obtaining a revision of them by a general convention, and an invincible reluctance to separating from our sister states, could have prevailed upon a sufficient number to ratify it, without stipulating for previous amendments. We all unite in opinion, that such a revision will be necessary to recommend it to the approbation and support of a numerous body of our constituents.

We observe that amendments have been proposed, and are anxiously desired, by several of the states, as well as by this; and we think it of great importance that effectual measures be immediately taken for calling a convention, to meet at a period not far remote; for we are convinced that the apprehensions and discontents, which those articles occasion, cannot be removed or allayed, unless an act to provide for it be among the first that shall be passed by the new Congress.


Document Question

How did these “alterations and provisions” contribute to supporting the strategy of the Federalists and accommodating the Antifederalists in New Hampshire, Virginia and New York?


Document 6

[North Carolina ratifying convention November 21, 1788]

Resolved, That a Declaration of Rights, asserting and securing from encroachment the great Principles of civil and religious Liberty, and the unalienable Rights of the People, together with Amendments to the most ambiguous and exceptional Parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought to be laid before Congress, and the Convention of the States that shall or may be called for the Purpose of Amending the said Constitution, for their consideration, previous to the Ratification of the Constitution aforesaid, on the part of the State of North Carolina….

Resolved, that this Convention in behalf of the freemen, citizens and inhabitants of the State of North Carolina, do adopt and ratify the said Constitution and form of Government.

[Rhode Island ratifying convention May 29, 1790]

We the Delegates of the People of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantations, duly elected and met in Convention, having maturely considered the Constitution for the United States of America, agreed to on the seventeenth day of September, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, by the Convention then assembled at Philadelphia, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (a Copy whereof precedes these presents) and having also seriously and deliberately considered the present situation of this State, do declare and make known [certain alterations and provisions]….

Under these impressions, and declaring, that the rights aforesaid cannot be abridged or violated, and that the explanations aforesaid, are consistent with the said constitution, and in confidence that the amendments hereafter mentioned, will receive early and mature consideration, and conformably to the fifth article of said constitution, speedily become a part thereof; We the said delegates, in the name, and in the behalf of the People, of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence-Plantations, do by these Presents, assent to, and ratify the said Constitution. In full confidence nevertheless, that until the amendments hereafter proposed and under mentioned shall be agreed to and ratified pursuant to the aforesaid fifth article [there will be limitations on the impact of Congress on the state of Rhode Island]….

And the Convention, do in the name and behalf of the People of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, enjoin it upon their Senators and Representative or Representatives, which may be elected to represent this State in Congress, to exert all their influence, and use all reasonable means to obtain a ratification of the following Amendments to the said Constitution, in the manner prescribed therein, and in all laws to be passed by the Congress in the mean time, to conform to the spirit of the said amendments, as far as the constitution will admit…


Document Question

How did these “alterations and provisions” contribute to supporting the strategy of the Federalists and accommodating the Antifederalists in North Carolina and Rhode Island?


Document 7

[Federal Pillars, The Massachusetts Centinel, 1788-1790]

This is the final woodcut, printed on August 2, 1788, showing a hand placing the North Carolina column into position next to the text “Rise it will.” To the right of the crumbling Rhode Island column is the notation, “The foundation good – it may yet be SAVED.”

Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-45591 (b&w film copy neg).


Document Question

How do the cartoons, beginning with the Massachusetts ratifying convention, reflect the critical stages of the ratification process?


Document 8

[State by State Ratification Table, 1787-1790]

State Dates of State
Ratifying Convention
Expected
Vote
Final Vote
Delaware 12/4/1787 to 12/7/1787 30-0 30-0
Pennsylvania 11/20/1787 to 12/12/1787 46-23 46-23
New Jersey 12/11/1787 to 12/18/1787 38-0 38-0
Georgia 12/25/1787 to 12/31/1787 26-0 26-0
Connecticut 1/3/1788 to 1/9/1788 128-40 128-40
Massachusetts 1/9/1788 to 2/6/1788 177-178 187-168
Maryland 4/21/1788 to 4/26/1788 64-12 63-11
South Carolina 5/12/1788 to 5/23/1788 149-73 149-73
New Hampshire 6/18/1788 to 6/21/1788 52-52 57-47
Virginia 6/2/1788 to 6/25/1788 84-84 89-79
New York 6/17/1788 to 7/26/1788 19-46 30-27
North Carolina 11/16/1789 to 11/21/1789 194-77 194-77
Rhode Island 5/26/1790 to 5/29/1790 34-32 34-32

Document Question

How do the expected and final votes by the Federalists and Antifederalists in each state demonstrate strategy with accommodations?


Part B: Essay Response

Write an essay that discusses: What strategies did the Federalists use to ratify the Constitution by the people of the several states? How successful were the Federalists in using these strategies and what adjustments did they make in response to Antifederalist challenges?

Essay response should be well organized with an introductory paragraph that states your position on the question. Develop your position in the next paragraphs and write a conclusion. In your essay, include specific historical details and refer to the specific documents you analyzed in Part A. You may include additional information from your knowledge of American History.


Extending the Lesson

Extension 1: Using the Ratification of the Constitution website research the following: Did the Antifederalists really lose if their ideas on the Bill of Rights and the enumeration of the powers of the federal government were incorporated into the Constitution?

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