Elliot’s Debates: Volume 2

Convention of Massachusetts, February 6, 1788

Wednesday, February 6. [The Hon. Mr. ADAMS introduced some amendments, to be added to those reported by the committee; but, they not meeting the approbation of those gentlemen whose minds they were intended to ease, after they were debated a considerable time, the honorable gentleman withdrew them.]

Rev. Mr. STILLMAN. Mr. President, I rise, with deference to gentlemen of superior abilities, to give my opinion on the present all-important national question, and the reasons on which it is founded—an opinion, the result of the most serious deliberation.

Upon entering the Convention, it was my full determination to keep my mind cool and open to conviction, that so I might profit by the discussion of this interesting subject; and now, sir, return my sincere thanks to the gentlemen who have taken opposite sides in the course of the debates. From both I have received advantage—from one class in bringing forward a great variety of objections; from the other class in answering them. Whatever my previous opinion was, I now stand on firmer ground than ever respecting the proposed Constitution.

But my present situation, sir, is to me extremely affecting. To be called by the voice of my fellow-citizens to give my vote for or against a constitution of government that will involve the happiness or misery of millions of my countrymen, is of so solemn a nature as to have occasioned the most painful anxiety.

I have no interest to influence me to accept this Constitution of government, distinct from the interest of my countrymen at large. We are all embarked in one bottom and must sink or swim together.

Besides, sir, Heaven has fixed me in a line of duty that precludes every prospect of the honors and the emoluments of office. Let who will govern, I must obey. Nor would I exchange the pulpit for the highest honors my country can confer. I, too, have personal liberties to secure, as dear to me as to any gentlemen in the Convention, and as numerous a family, probably, to engage my attention; besides which, I stand here, with my very honorable colleagues, as a representative of the citizens of this great metropolis, who have been pleased to honor me with their confidence—an honor, in my view, unspeakably greater than a peerage or a pension.

The absolute deficiency of the Articles of Confederation is allowed by all. Nor have I seen any publication that places this subject in so convincing a point of View as a letter written by his excellency, Governor Randolph,* which has appeared in several of our newspapers; whom I the rather introduce, on this occasion, because he was a delegate in the late federal Convention, refused to sign the Constitution before us, and has been twice mentioned by gentlemen in the opposition. His candor, apparent in the letter referred to, does him honor, and merits the esteem of every candid mind. I declare, sir, I revere his character, while I differ from him in opinion.

[Note * See Vol. I. p. 482.]

“Before my departure for the (federal) Convention,” says he, “I believed that the Confederation was not so eminently defective as it had been supposed. But after I had entered into a free conversation with those who were best informed of the condition and interest of each state,—after I had compared the intelligence derived from them with the properties that ought to characterize the government of our Union,—I became persuaded that the Confederation was destitute of every energy which a constitution of the United States ought to possess.” And after he had, in the most masterly manner, proved its insufficiency, he adds, “But now, sir, permit me to declare that, in my humble judgment, the powers by which alone the blessings of a general government can be accomplished, cannot be interwoven in the Confederation, without a change of its very essence; or, in other words, that the Confederation must be thrown aside.” Having stated his objections to it, he proceeds thus: “My inference from these facts and principles is, that the new powers must be deposited in a new body, growing out of the consolidation of the Union, as far as the circumstances of the states would allow,” Thus fully and candidly does this gentleman insist on the absolute necessity of a new constitution of general government, at the very time that be objected to the present form; and concludes his letter with these memorable words, which I most heartily wish may make a deep impression on the mind of every gentleman in the opposition: “I hesitate not to say, that the most fervent prayer of my soul is, the establishment of a firm, energetic government; that the most inveterate curse that can befall us is a dissolution of the Union; and that the present moment, if suffered to pass unemployed, can NEVER be recalled. I shall therefore cling to the Union as the rock of our salvation, and urge Virginia to finish the salutary work which she hath begun. And if, after our best efforts for amendments, they cannot be obtained, I scruple not to declare (notwithstanding the advantage the declaration may give to the enemies of my proposal) that I will, as an individual citizen, accept the Constitution.”

I pause, sir, that every gentleman present may have time to, indulge those feelings which these excellent expressions must occasion. May that God who has the hearts of all men under his control, inspire every member of this Convention with a similar disposition! Then shall we lay aside every opposite interest, and unite, as a band of brothers, in the ratification of this Constitution of national government.

Then, sir, will your terms of conciliation be attended to with gratitude and candor. Your excellency, depressed with bodily infirmity, and exercised with severe pain, has stepped forth at the critical moment, and, from the benevolence of your heart, presented us with a number of proposed amendments, in order, if possible, to quiet the minds of the gentlemen in the opposition, and bring us together in amity and peace—amendments which you, sir, declare you do not think necessary, except for the sole purpose of uniting us in a common and most important cause.

But what has been the consequence of your excellency’s conciliatory propositions? Jealousy—jealousy, sir, that there was a snake in the grass, a secret intention to deceive. I shuddered at the ungenerous suggestion, nor will I dwell a moment longer on the distressing idea. Be banished forever the groundless suspicion of him whose name stands foremost in the list of American patriots! Let love trod harmony prevail!

The important hour is just arrived when the die will be cast, that will in a great measure determine the fate of this commonwealth, and have a mighty influence on the general interests of the Union; for, from the best information I have been able to collect from gentlemen of observation and of undoubted veracity, there is the greatest reason to fear that the rejection of this Constitution will be followed with anarchy and confusion.

The Convention, I doubt not, will bear with me while I take a general view of the Constitution before us.

From all that has been said on the subject of biennial elections, it is my decided opinion that two years in the general government will not be in proportion to one year in the local governments; because, in the former, the objects of government will be great, numerous, and extensive; in the latter, comparatively small and limited. The general government involves all the states now in the Union—all such as shall in future accede to it—all foreign nations with whom we are now, or hereafter shall be, in alliance—an extensive and growing commerce war and peace, &c.

It has been said that this is a stride towards septennial elections, or perpetuity in office. I answer, the Constitution itself is to be the rule: that declares that “representatives shall be chosen every second year by the people of the several states.” Elections, then, of representatives must be every second year; nor can they be otherwise, without a direct violation of the Constitution. The men who shall be wicked enough to do this, would not be restrained, had the elections been annual; it being equally easy to violate the Constitution in one case as in the other. Elections, indeed, ought to be so frequent as to make the representatives feel they are dependent on and amenable to the people. The difference, then, between annual and biennial elections is small, and, in either case, will answer the end just mentioned.

The powers that are granted to Congress by this instrument are great and extensive; but, sir, they are defined and limited, and, in my judgment, sufficiently checked; which I shall prove before I sit down. These powers have been the subject of long and ingenious debate. But the arguments that have been made use of against delegating these powers to the general government prove too much, being applicable to all delegated power; I mean the possible abuse of it. The very term government implies a supreme controlling power somewhere; a power to coerce, whenever coercion shall be necessary; of which necessity government must be the judge. This is admitted; if so, the power may be abused. Every gentleman must confess that we cannot give a power to do good, but it may be abused to do evil. If a merchant commits the care of a ship and cargo to the master, he may dispose of both, and appropriate the money to his own use. If we raise a body of men, and put arms into their hands for our defence, they may turn them against us and destroy us. All these things prove, however, that, in order to guard as much, as possible against the abuse of those powers we delegate to government, there ought to be sufficient cheeks on them; every precaution should be used to secure the liberties of the people on the one hand, and not render government inefficient on the other. I believe, sir, such security is provided in this Constitution: if not, no consideration shall induce me to give my voice in its favor. But the people are secured by the following circumstances:—

1st, All the offices in Congress are elective, not hereditary. The President and senators are to be chosen by the interposition of the legislatures of the several states, who are the representatives and guardians of the people, whose honor and interest will lead them, in all human probability, to have good men placed in the general government.

2d. The representatives in Congress are to be chosen, every second year, by the people of the several states. Consequently, it lies with the people them selves to say who shall represent them. It will, then, be their own fault if they do not choose the best men in the commonwealth.

Who are Congress, then? They are ourselves; the men of our own choice, in whom we can confide; whose interest is inseparably connected with our own. Why is it, then, that gentlemen speak of Congress as some foreign body, as a set of men who will seek every opportunity to enslave us? Such insinuations are repugnant to the spirit of the Constitution.

But a worthy gentleman from Middle borough has told us, that, though they may be good men when chosen, they may become corrupt. They may so; nor is it in the power of angels or men to prevent it; but should this be the case, the Constitution has made provisions for such an event. When it happens, we shall know what method to adopt, in order to bring them to punishment. In all governments where offices are elective, there ever has been, and there ever will be, a competition of interests. They who are in office wish to keep in, and they who are out, to get in; the probable consequences of which will be, that they who are already in place will be attentive to the rights of the people, because they know that they are dependent on them for a future election, which can be secured by good behavior only. Besides, they who are out of office will watch them who are in, with a most critical eye, in order to discover and expose their malconduct, if guilty of any, that so they may step into their places. Every gentleman knows the influence that a desire to obtain a place, or the fear of losing it, hath on mankind. Mr. Borgh tells us, that, towards the close of the seven years for which the representatives are chosen in the British Parliament, they become exceedingly polite to the people. Why? Because they know there is an approaching election depending. This competition of interest, therefore, between those persons who are in and those who are out of office, will ever form one important check to the abuse of power in our representatives.

3d. Every two years there will be a revolution in the general government in favor of the people. At the expiration of the first two years, there will be a new choice of representatives; at the expiration of the second two years, there will be a new choice of President and representatives; and at the expiration of the third term, making six years from the commencement of the Congress, there will be a new choice of senators and representatives. We all know, sir, that power thus frequently reverting to the people will prove a security to their liberties, and a most important check to the power of the general government.

4th. Congress can make no laws that will oppress the people, which will not equally involve themselves in the oppression.

What possible motive, then, can Congress have to abuse their power? Can any man suppose that they will be so lost to their own interest as to abuse their power, knowing, at the same time, that they equally involve themselves in the difficulty? It is a most improbable supposition. This would be like a man’s cutting off his nose to spite his face. I place this, sir, among the securities of the liberties of my fellow-citizens, and rejoice in it.

5th. Congress guaranty to every state in the Union a republican form of government, and engage to protect them against all foreign and domestic enemies; that is, as it hath been justly observed by the honorable gentleman [Mr. Adams] near me, of known and tried abilities as a politician, each state shall choose such republican form of government as they please, and Congress solemnly engage themselves to protect it from every kind of violence, whether of faction at home or enemies abroad. This is an admirable security of the people at large, as well as of the several governments of the states; consequently the general government cannot swallow up the local governments, as some gentlemen have suggested. Their existence is dependent on each other, and must stand or fall together. Should Congress ever attempt the destruction of the particular legislatures, they would be in the same predicament with Samson, who overthrew the house in which the Philistines were making sport at his expense; them he killed, indeed, but he buried himself in the ruins.

6th. Another check in favor of the people is this—that the Constitution provides for the impeachment, trial, and punishment of every officer in Congress, who shall be guilty of malconduct. With such a prospect, who will dare to abuse the powers vested in him by the people?

7th. Having thus considered several of the checks to the powers of Congress, which are interwoven with the Constitution, we will now suppose the worst that can take place in consequence of its adoption: I mean, that it shall be found in some of its parts oppressive to the people; still we have this dernier resort—it may be amended. It is not, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, immutable. The fifth article provides for amendments.

It has been said, it will be difficult, after its ratification, to procure any alterations. By no means, sir, for this weighty reason—It is a general government, and, as such, will have a general influence; all states in the Union will feel the difficulty, and, feeling it, will readily concur in adopting the method provided by the Constitution. And having once made the trial, experience will teach us what amendments are necessary.

Viewing the Constitution in this light, I stand ready to give my vote for it, without any amendments at all. Yet, if the amendments proposed by your excellency will tend to conciliation, I readily admit them, not as a condition of acceptance, but as a matter of recommendation only; knowing that blessed are the peace-makers. I am ready, sir, to submit my life, my liberty, my family, my property, and, as far as my vote will go, the interest of my constituents, to this general government.

After all, if this Constitution was as perfect as the sacred volume is, it would not secure the liberties of the people, unless they watch their own liberties. Nothing written on paper will do this. It is therefore necessary that the people should keep a watchful, not an over-jealous, eye on their rulers; and that they should give all due encouragement to our colleges, schools of learning, &c., so that knowledge may be diffused through every part of our country. Ignorance and slavery, knowledge and freedom, are inseparably connected. While Americans remain in their present enlightened condition, and warmly attached to the cause of liberty, they cannot be enslaved. Should the general government become so lost to all sense of honor and the freedom of the people, as to attempt to enslave them, they who are the descendants of a race of men who have dethroned kings, would make an American Congress tremble, strip them of their public honors, and reduce them to the lowest state of degradation.

Afternoon.—Hon. Mr. TURNER. Mr. President, being advanced in life, and having endeavored, I hope, with a faithful attention, according to my ability, to assist my country in their trying difficulties and dangers for more than twenty years; and as, for three weeks past, my state of health has been such as to render me unable to speak in this assembly,—I trust I shall be heard with some indulgence, while I express a few sentiments at this solemn crisis. I have been averse to the reception of this Constitution, while it was considered merely in its original form; but since the honorable Convention have pleased to agree to the recommendation of certain amendments, I acknowledge my mind is reconciled. But even thus amended, I still see, or think I see, several imperfections in it, and some which give me pain. Indeed, I never expect to see a constitution free from imperfections; and, considering the great diversity of local interests, views, and habits,—considering the unparalleled variety of sentiments among the citizens of the United States,—I despair of obtaining a more perfect constitution than this, at present. And a constitution preferable to the Confederation must be obtained, and obtained soon, or we shall be an undone people. In my judgment, there is a rational probability, a moral certainty, that the proposed amendments will meet the approbation of the several states in the Union. If there is any respect due to the hoary head of Massachusetts, it will undoubtedly have its proper influence in this case. The minds of gentlemen, throughout the nation, must be impressed with such a sense of the necessity of all-important union, especially in our present circumstances, as must strongly operate in favor of a Concurrence. The proposed amendments are of such a liberal, such a generous, and such a catholic nature and complexion,—they are so congenial to the soul of every man who is possessed of patriotic regard to the preservation of the just rights and immunities of his country, as well as to the institution of a good and necessary government,—that I think they must, they will, be universally accepted. When, in connection with this confidence, I consider the deplorable state of our navigation and commerce, and various branches of business thereon dependent; the inglorious and provoking figure we make in the eyes of our European creditors; the degree in which the landed interest is burdened and depreciated; the tendency of depreciating paper, and tender acts, to destroy mutual confidence, faith, and credit, to prevent the circulation of specie, and to overspread the land with an inundation, a chaos of multiform injustice, oppression, and knavery; when I consider what want of efficiency there is in our government, as to obliging people seasonably to pay their dues to the public, instead of spending their money in support of luxury and extravagance, of consequence the inability of government to satisfy the just demands of its creditors, and to do it in season, so as to prevent their suffering amazingly by depreciation; in connection with my anxious desire that my ears may be no longer perstringed, nor my heart pained, with the cries of the injured widow and orphans; when I also consider that state of our finances which daily exposes us to become a prey to the despotic humor even of an impotent invader,—I find myself constrained to say, before this assembly, and before God, that I think it my duty to give my vote in favor of this Constitution, with the proposed amendments; and, unless some further light shall be thrown in my way to influence my opinion, I shall conduct accordingly. I know not whether this Convention will vote a ratification of this Constitution, or not. If they should do it, and have the concurrence of the other states, may that God, who has always, in a remarkable manner, watched over us and our fathers for good, in all difficulties, dangers, and distresses, be pleased to command his almighty blessing upon it, and make it instrumental of restoring justice, honor, safety, support, and salvation, to a sinking land! But I hope it will be considered, by persons of all orders, ranks, and ages, that, without the prevalence of Christian piety and morals, the best republican constitution can never save us from slavery and ruin. If vice is predominant, it is to be feared we shall have rulers whose grand Object will be (slyly evading the spirit of the Constitution) to enrich and aggrandize themselves and their connections, to the injury and oppression of the laborious part of the community; while it follows, from the moral constitution of the Deity; that prevalent iniquity must be the ruin of any people. The world of mankind have always, in general, been enslaved and miserable, and always will be, until them is a greater prevalence of Christian moral principles; nor have I any expectation of this, in any great degree, unless some superior mode of education shall be adopted. It is education which almost entirely forms the character, the freedom or slavery, the happiness or misery, of the world. And if this Constitution shall be adopted, I hope the Continental legislature will have the singular honor, the indelible glory, of making it one of their first acts, in their first session, most earnestly to recommend to the several states in the Union the institution of such means of education as shall be adequate to the divine, patriotic purpose of training up the children and youth at large in that solid learning, and in those pious and moral principles, which are the support, the life and soul, of republican government and liberty, of which a free constitution is the body; for, as the body, without the spirit, is dead, so a free form of government, without the animating principles of piety and virtue, is dead also, being alone. May religion, with sanctity of morals, prevail and increase, that the patriotic civilian and ruler may have the sublime, parental satisfaction of eagerly embracing every opportunity of mitigating the rigors of government, in proportion to that increase of morality which may render the people more capable of being a law to themselves! How much more blessed this than to be employed in fabricating constitutions of a higher tone, in obedience to necessity, arising from an increase of turbulent vice and injustice in society! I believe your excellency’s patience will not be further exercised by hearing the sound of my voice on the occasion, when I have said, May the United States of America live before God! May they be enlightened, pious, virtuous, free, and happy, to all generations!

Capt. SOUTHWORTH spoke short time against the adoption of the Constitution; but the worthy gentleman, from the indisposition of body, not being able to complete his speech, we cannot give it to the public.

Mr. SYMMES. Mr. President: I hope, sir, the Convention will indulge me with a few words, and I promise I will not detain them long. It may be known to your excellency, that I have heretofore had the honor to address the Convention in opposition to a certain paragraph in the Constitution. That fact is the sole occasion of my craving a turn to be heard again. Sir, it never was my opinion that we ought, entirely, to abandon this Constitution. I thought it had great defects; and I still think it by no means free from blemishes; but I ever expected the worst consequences to follow a total rejection of it. I always intended to urge amendments, and was in hopes that the wisdom of this assembly would devise a method to secure their adoption. Therefore, when your excellency came forward, as well became your high office, in the character of a mediator, a ray of hope shone in upon the gloom that overspread my heart—of hope that we should still be united in the grand decision.

Sir, a mortal hatred, a deadly opposition, can be deserved by no government but the tyranny of hell, and perhaps a few similar forms on earth. A government of that complexion, in the present enlightened age, could never enter the heart of man; and if it could, and impudence enough were found to propose it,—nay, if it should be accepted,—I affirm, sir, that in America it would never operate a moment. I should glory in debating on my grounds for this assertion; but who will dare to question the truth of it?

Mr. President, so ample have been the arguments drawn from our national distress, the weakness of the present Confederation, the danger of instant disunion, and perhaps some other topics not included in these, that a man must be obstinate indeed, to say, at this period, that a new government is needless. One is proposed. Shall we reject it totally, or shall we amend it? Let any man recollect or peruse the debates in this assembly, and I venture to say, he Shall not be a moment, if he loves his country, in making his election. He would contemplate the idea of rejection with horror and detestation. But, sir, it has been alleged that the necessary amendments cannot be obtained in the way your excellency has proposed. This matter has been largely debated. I beg a moment to consider it. Our committee, sir, were pretty well agreed to the amendments necessary to be made, and, in their report, it appears that these amendments are equally beneficial to all the citizens of America. There is nothing local in them. Shall we, then, totally reject the Constitution, because we are only morally certain that they will be adopted? Shall we choose certain misery in one way, when we have the best human prospect of enjoying our most sanguine wishes in another? God forbid!

But, sir, a great deal has been said about the amendments. Here again I refer to the debates. Such has been said to have been the past prevalence of the Northern States in Congress, the sameness of interest in a majority, of the states, and their necessary adhesion to each other, that I think there can be no reasonable doubt of the success of any amendments proposed by Massachusetts. Sir, we have, we do, and we shall, in a great measure, give birth to all events, and hold the balance among the United States.

The honorable gentleman, my respected friend from Scituate, has so fully entered into the expediency of ratifying the Constitution upon the basis of the report, and so ably stated the unanswerable reasons he finds for giving his sanction to it, notwithstanding his former different opinion, that I may decently waive a task I could not half so well perform.

Upon the whole, Mr. President, approving the amendments, and firmly believing that they will be adopted, I recall my former opposition, such as it was, to this Constitution, and shall—especially as the amendments are a standing instruction to our delegates until they are obtained—give it my unreserved assent.

In so doing, I stand acquitted to my own conscience; I hope and trust I shall to my constituents, and [laying his hand on his breast] I know I shall before God.

The time agreed upon for taking the question being arrived, and the same being called for from every quarter,—

JOHN HANCOCK, the PRESIDENT, rose, and addressed the honorable Convention as follows:—

Gentlemen, being now called upon to bring the subject under debate to a decision, by bringing forward the question, I beg your indulgence to close the business with a few words. I am happy that my health has been so far restored, that I am rendered able to meet my fellow-citizens as represented in this Convention. I should have considered it as one of the most distressing misfortunes of my life to be deprived of giving my aid and support to a system which, if amended (as I feel assured it will be) according to your proposals, cannot fail to give the people of the United States a greater degree of political freedom, and eventually as much national dignity, as falls to the lot of any nation on earth. I have not, since I had the honor to be in this place, said much on the important subject before us. All the ideas appertaining to the system, as well those which are against as for it, have been debated upon with so much learning and ability, that the subject is quite exhausted.

But you will permit me, gentlemen, to close the whole with one or two general observations. This I request, not expecting to throw any new light on the subject, but because it may possibly prevent uneasiness and discordance from taking place amongst us and amongst our constituents.

That a general system of government is indispensably necessary to save our country from ruin, is agreed upon all sides. That the one now to be decided upon has its defects, all agree; but when we consider the variety of interests, and the different habits of the men it is intended for, it would be very singular to have an entire union of sentiment respecting it. Were the people of the United States to delegate the powers proposed to be given, to men who were not dependent on them frequently for elections—to men whose interest, either from rank or title, would differ from that of their fellow-citizens in common—the task of delegating authority would be vastly more difficult; but, as the matter now stands, the powers reserved by the people render them secure, and, until they themselves become corrupt, they will always have upright and able rulers. I give my assent to the Constitution, in full confidence that the amendments proposed will soon become a part of the system. These amendments being in no wise local, but calculated to give security and ease alike to all the states, I think that all will agree to them.

Suffer me to add, that, let the question be decided as it may, there can be no triumph on the one side or chagrin on the other. Should there be a great division, every good man, every man who loves his country, will be so far from exhibiting extraordinary marks of joy, that he will sincerely lament the want of unanimity, and strenuously endeavor to cultivate a spirit of conciliation, both in Convention and at home. The people of this commonwealth are a people of great light—of great intelligence in public business. They know that we have none of us an interest separate from theirs; that it must be our happiness to conduce to theirs; and that we must all rise or fall together. They will never, therefore, forsake the first principle of society—that of being governed by the voice of the majority; and should it be that the proposed form of government should be rejected, they will zealously attempt another. Should it, by the vote now to be taken, be ratified, they will quietly acquiesce, and, where they see a want of perfection in it, endeavor, in a constitutional way, to have it amended.

The question now before you is such as no nation on earth, without the limits of America, has ever had the privilege of deciding upon. As the Supreme Ruler of the universe has seen fit to bestow upon us this glorious opportunity, let us decide upon it; appealing to him for the rectitude of our intentions, and in humble confidence that he will yet continue to bless and save our country.

The question being put, whether this Convention will accept of the report of the committee, as follows,—

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.

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 anew Constitution, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, 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 personality, 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 personality, 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.

The question was determined by yeas and nays, as follows:—

COUNTY OF SUFFOLK.
Boston— His Ex. John Hancock,
Hon. James Bowdoin,
Hon. Samuel Adams,
Hon. William Phillips,
Hon. Caleb Davis,
Charles Jarvis, Esq.,
John Coffin Jones, Esq.,
John Winthrop, Esq.,
Thomas Dawes, Jun.,
Rev. Samuel Stillman,
Thomas Russel, Esq.,
Christopher Gore, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Roxbury —Hon. William Heath,
Hon. Increase Sumner,
Yea.
Yea.
Dorchester— James Bowdoin, Jun.,
Ebenezer Wales, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Milton— Rev. Nathaniel Robbins, Yea.
Weymouth— Hon. Cotton Tufts, Yea.
Hingham— Hon. Benj. Lincoln,
Rev. Daniel Shute,
Yea.
Yea.
Braintree— Hon. Richard Cranch,
Rev. Anthony Wibird,
Yea.
Yea.
Brookline— Rev. Joseph Jackson, Yea.
Dedham— Rev. Thomas Thacher,
Fisher Ames, Esq
Yea.
Yea.
Needham— Col. William M’Intosh, Yea.
Medfield— John Baxter, Jun., Yea.
Stoughton— Hon. Elijah Dunbar,
Capt. Jedediah Southworth
Yea.
Nay.
Wrentham— Mr. Thomas Man,
Mr. Nathan Comstock,
Yea.
Nay.
Walpole— Mr. George Payson, Yea.
Sharon— Mr. Benjamin Randall, Nay.
Franklin —Hon. J. Fisher, Yea.
Medway— M. Richardson, Jun., Nay.
Bellingham— Rev. Noah Alden, Nay.
Chelsea —Rev. Phillips Payson, Yea.
Foxboro Mr. Ebenezer Warren, Yea.
Hull— Mr. Thomas Jones, Yea.
Yeas, 34. Nays, 5.
COUNTY OF ESSEX.
Salem— Richard Manning, Esq.,
Edward Pulling, Esq.,
Mr. William Gray, Jun.,
Mr. Francis Cabot,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Danvers— Hon. Is. Hutchinson, Nay.
Newbury— Hon. Tristam Dalton,
Enos Sawyer, Esq.,
E. March, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Newburyport— Hon. Rufus King,
Hon Benjamin Greenleaf,
Theophilus Parsons, Esq.,
Hon. Jonathan Titcomb,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Beverly— Hon. G. Cabot,
Mr. Joseph Wood,
Capt. Israel Thorndike,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Ipswich— Hon. Michael Farley,
J. Choate, Esq.,
Daniel Noyes, Esq.,
Col. Jonathan Cogswell,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Marblehead— Isaac Mansfield,
J. Glover, Esq.,
Hon. Azor Orne,
John Glover, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Gloucester— Daniel Rodgers, Esq.,
John Low, Esq.,
Capt. W. Pearson,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Lynn and Lynnfield— J. Carnes,
Capt. John Burnham,
Yea.
Yea.
Andover— Peter Osgood, Jun.,
Dr. Thomas Kittridge,
William Symmes, Jun.,
Nay.
Nay.
Yea.
Rowley— Capt. Thomas Mighill, Nay.
Haverhill— Bailey Bartlett, Esq.,
Capt. Nathaniel Marsh,
Yea.
Yea.
Topsfield— Mr. Israel Clark, Yea.
Salisbury— Dr. Samuel Nyre,
Mr. Enoch Jackman
Yea.
Yea.
Amesbury— Capt. Benj. Lurvey,
Mr. Willis Patten,
Yea.
Yea.
Boxford— Hon. Aaron Wood, Nay.
Bradford— Daniel Thruston, Esq., Yea.
Methuen— Capt. E. Carlton, Nay.
Wenham— Mr. Jacob Herrick, Yea.
Manchester— Mr. Simeon Miller, Yea.
Yeas, 38. Nays, 6.
COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX.
Cambridge— Hon. Francis Dana,
Stephen Dana, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Charlestown— Hon. N. Gorham, Yea.
Watertown— Dr. Marshal Spring, Nay.
Woburn— Capt. Timothy Winn, Nay.
Concord— Hon. Joseph Hosmer, Yea.
Newtown— Hon. A. Fuller, Yea.
Reading— Mr. William Flint,
Mr. Peter Emerson
Nay.
Nay.
Marlborough— Mr. Jonas Morse,
Maj. Benjamin Sawin,
Nay.
Nay.
Billerica— Wm. Thompson, Esq., Nay.
Framingham— Capt. L. Buckminster, Yea.
Lerington— Benj. Browne, Esq., Yea.
Chelmsford— Maj. John Minot, Nay.
Sherburne— Daniel Whitney, Esq., Yea.
Sudbury— Capt. Asahel Wheeler, Yea.
Malden— Capt. Benjamin Blaney, Yea.
Weston— Capt. Abraham Bigelow, Yea.
Medford— Maj. Gen. John Brooks, Yea.
Hopkinton— Capt. Gilbert Dench, Yea.
Westford —Mr. Jonathan Keep, Nay.
Stow— Dr. Charles Whitman, Yea.
Groton— Dr. Benjamin Morse,
Joseph Sheple,
Nay.
Nay.
Shirley— Mr. Obadiah Sawtell, Nay.
Pepperell— Mr. Daniel Fisk, Nay.
Waltham— Leonard Williams, Esq., Yea.
Townsend— Capt. Daniel Adams, Nay.
Dracut— Hon. Joseph B. Varnum, Yea.
Bedford— Capt. John Webber, Nay.
Holliston— Capt. St. Chamberlain, Nay.
Acton and Carlisle— Mr. A. Parlin, Nay.
Dunstable— Hon. J. Pitts, Yea.
Lincoln— Hon. E. Brooks, Yea.
Wilmington— Capt. J. Harnden, Nay.
Tewksbury— Mr. Newman Scarlet, Nay.
Littleton— Mr. Samuel Reed, Nay.
Ashby— Mr. Benjamin Adams, Nay.
Natick— Maj. Hezekiah Broad, Nay.
Stoneham —Capt. Jonathan Green, Nay.
East Sudbury— Mr. Phi. Gleason, Nay.
Yeas, 17. Nays, 25.
COUNTY OF HAMPSHIRE.
Springfield —Wm. Pynchon, Esq., Yea.
West Springfield— Col. Benj. Ely,
Capt. John Williston,
Nay.
Nay.
Wilbraham —Capt. Phin. Stebbins, Nay.
Northampton and Easthampton— Hon. Caleb Strong,
Benjamin Sheldon,
Yea.
Yea.
Southampton— Capt. L. Pomeroy, Yea.
Hadley— Brig. Gen. Elisha Porter, Yea.
South Hadley— Hon. N. Goodman, Yea.
Amherst— Mr. Daniel Cooly, Nay.
Granby —Mr. Benjamin Eastman, Nay.
Hatfield— Hon. J. Hastings, Yea.
Whately— Mr. Josiah Allis, Nay.
Williamsburg —Mr. W. Bodman, Nay.
Westfield— John Ingersoll, Esq., Yea.
Deerfield— Mr. Samuel Field, Nay.
Greenfield— Mr. Moses Bascum, Nay.
Shelburne— Mr. Robert Wilson, Nay.
Conway— Capt. Consider Arms,
Mr. Malachi Maynard,
Nay.
Nay.
Sunderland— Capt. Z. Crocker, Nay.
Montague— Mr. M. Severance, Nay.
Northfield— Mr. Eben James, Yea.
Brimfield— Abner Morgan, Esq., Yea.
South Brimfield— Capt. A. Fisk, Nay.
Monson— Mr. Phineas Merrick, Nay.
Pelham— Mr. Adam Clark, Nay.
Greenwich— Capt. N. Whitcomb, Nay.
Blandford— Mr. Timothy Blair, Nay.
Palmer— Mr. Aaron Merrick, Nay.
Granville— Mr. John Hamilton,
Mr. Clark Cooley,
Nay.
Nay.
New Salem —Mr. J. Chamberlin, Nay.
Belchertown —Mr. Justus Dwight, Nay.
Coleraine— Mr. Samuel Eddy, Nay.
Ware— Mr. Isaac Pepper, Nay.
Warwick and Orange— Capt. John Goldsborough, Nay.
Chester— Capt. David Shepard, Yea.
Charlemont— Mr. Jesse Reed, Yea.
Ashfield— Mr. Ephraim Williams, Nay.
Worthington— Nahum Eager, Esq., Yea.
Shutesbury —Mr. Asa Powers, Nay.
Chesterfield— Col. Benj. Bonney, Yea.
Southwick —Capt. Silas Fowler, Nay.
Northwick —Maj. T. J. Doglass, Yea.
Ludlow —Mr. John Jennings, Nay.
Leverett— Mr. Jonathan Hubbard, Nay.
West Hampton —Mr. A. Fisher, Yea.
Cunningham and Plainfield —Mr. Edmund Lazell, Yea.
Buckland— Capt. T. Maxwell, Yea.
Long Meadows— Mr. E. Colton, Yea.
Yeas, 33. Nays, 19.
COUNTY OF PLYMOUTH.
Plymouth— Joshua Thomas, Esq.,
Thomas Davis
John Davis
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Scituate —Hon. William Cushing,
Hon. Nathan Cushing,
Hon. Charles Turner, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Marshfield— Rev. William Shaw, Yea.
Bridgewater— D. Howard, Esq.,
Mr. Hezekiah Hooper,
Capt. Elisha Mitchell,
Mr. Daniel Howard, Jun.,
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Yea.
Middleboro Rev. Isaac Backus,
Mr. Benjamin Thomas,
Isaac Thompson, Esq.,
Mr. Isaac Soule,
Yea.
Nay.
Yea.
Nay.
Duxbury— Hon. G. Partridge, Yea.
Rochester —Mr. N. Hammond,
Mr. Abraham Holmes,
Nay.
Nay.
Plympton— Capt. F. Shurtliff,
Mr. Elisha Bisbee, Jun.,
Nay.
Nay.
Pembroke —Capt. John Turner,
Mr. Josiah Smith
Yea.
Yea.
Kingston— W. Sever, Jun., Esq., Yea.
Hanover— Hon. Joseph Cushing, Yea.
Abington— Rev. Samuel Niles, Yea.
Halifax— Mr. F. Waterman, Yea.
Wareham— Col. Israel Fearing, Yea.
Yeas, 22. Nays, 6.
COUNTY OF BARNSTABLE.
Barnstable— Shear. Browne, Esq., Yea.
Sandwich —Dr. Thomas Smith,
Mr. Thomas Nye
Nay.
Nay.
Yarmouth— D. Thatcher, Esq.,
Capt. Jonathan Howes,
Yea.
Yea.
Harwich— Hon. Solomon Freeman,
Capt. Kimball Clark,
Yea.
Yea.
Wellfleet— Rev. Levi Whitman, Yea.
Falmouth —Capt. Joseph Palmer, Yea.
Yeas, 7. Nays, 2.
COUNTY OF BRISTOL.
Taunton— James Williams, Esq.,
Col. Nathaniel Leonard,
Mr. Aaron Pratt,
Yea.
Rehoboth— Capt. Phan. Bishop,
Maj. Frederick Brown,
William Windsor, Esq.,
Nay.
Nay.
Nay.
Swansey— Mr. Christopher Mason,
Mr. David Brown,
Nay.
Nay.
Dartmouth— Hon. Hol’r Slocum,
Mr. Melatiah Hathaway,
Nay.
Nay.
Norton— Hon. Abraham White, Nay.
Attleboro Hon. Elisha May,
Capt. Moses Wilmarth,
Yea.
Yea.
Dighton —Col. Sylvester Richmond,
Hon. William Baylies,
Yea.
Yea.
Freetown— Hon. Thomas Durfee,
Israel Washburn, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Easton —Capt. Eben Tisdell, Nay.
Mansfield— Capt. John Pratt, Nay.
New Bedford— Hon. W. Spooner,
Rev. Samuel West,
Yea.
Yea.
Westport— Mr. William Almy, Yea.
Yeas, 10. Nays, 12.
COUNTY OF YORK.
York— Capt. Esaias Preble,
Nathaniel Barrell, Esq.,
Nay.
Yea.
Kittery— Mr. Mark Adams,
Mr. James Neal,
Nay.
Nay.
Wells— Rev. Mr. Hemmenway,
Hon. Nathaniel Wells,
Yea.
Yea.
Berwick —Dr. Nathaniel Low,
Mr. Richard F. Cutts,
Mr. Elijah Hays,
Nay.
Nay.
Nay
Pepperelboro T. Cutts, Esq., Yea.
Lebanon— Mr. T. M. Wentworth, Nay.
Sanford —Maj. Samuel Nason, Nay.
Buxton— Jacob Bradbury, Esq., Yea.
Fryeburg— Mr. Moses Ames, Nay.
Coxhall— Capt. John Low, Yea.
Shapleigh— Mr. Jeremiah Emery, Nay.
Waterboro Rev. Pel. Tingley, Nay.
Yeas, 6. Nays, 11.
COUNTY OF DUKES.
Edgartown— Mr. Wm Mayhew, Yea.
Tisbury— Mr. C. Dunham, Yea.
Yeas, 2.
COUNTY OF WORCESTER.
Worcester —Mr. David Bigelow, Nay.
Lancaster —Hon. John Sprague, Yea.
Mendon —Ed. Thompson, Esq., Nay.
Brookfield— Mr. Daniel Forbes,
Mr. N. Jenks,
Nay.
Nay.
Oxford— Capt. Jeremiah Learned, Nay.
Charlton— Mr. Caleb Curtiss,
Mr. Ezra M’Intier,
Nay.
Nay.
Sutton— Mr. David Harwood,
Hon. Amos Singletary,
Nay.
Nay.
Leicester —Col. Samuel Denny, Nay.
Spencer— Mr. James Hathun, Nay.
Rutland— Mr. Asaph Sherman, Nay.
Paxton— Mr. Abraham Smith, Nay.
Oakham— Capt. Jonathan Bullard, Nay.
Barre— Capt. John Black, Nay.
Hubbardston —Capt. J. Woods, Nay.
New Braintree —Capt. B. Joslyn, Nay.
Southboro —Capt. Seth Newton, Yea.
Westboro Capt. S. Maynard, Nay.
Northboro Mr. Art. Brigham, Nay.
Shrewsbury— Capt. I. Harrington, Nay.
Lunenburg —Capt. John Fuller, Nay.
Fitchburg— Mr. Daniel Putman, Nay.
Uxbridge —Dr. Samuel Willard, Nay.
Harvard —Joshua Whitney, Esq., Nay.
Dudley— Mr. Jonathan Day, Nay.
Bolton —Hon. Samuel Baker, Yea.
Upton— Capt. T. M. Baker, Nay.
Sturbridge— Capt. Timothy Parker, Nay.
Leominster —Maj. D. Wilder, Yea.
Hardwick— Maj. M. Kinsley, Nay.
Holden —Rev. Joseph Davi, Nay.
Western— Mr. Mat. Patrick, Yea.
Douglass— Hon. John Taylor, Nay.
Grafton— Dr. Joseph Wood, Nay.
Petersham— Jonathan Grout, Esq.,
Capt. Samuel Peckham,
Nay.
Nay.
Royalston— John Frye, Esq., Nay.
Westminster— Mr. Stephen Holden, Nay.
Templeton— Capt. J. Fletcher, Nay.
Princeton —Mr. Timothy Fuller, Nay.
Ashburnham —Mr. Jacob Willard, Nay.
Winchendon— Mr. Moses Hale, Nay.
Northbridge— Capt. J. Wood, Nay.
Ward— Mr. Joseph Stone, Nay.
Athol— Mr. Josiah Goddard, Yea.
Milford— Mr. David Stearns, Nay.
Sterling —Mr. Ephraim Wilder, Yea.
Boylston— Mr. Jonas Temple, Nay.
Yeas, 8. Nays, 43.
COUNTY OF CUMBERLAND.
Falmouth— Daniel Isley, Esq.,
John K. Smith
Nay.
Yea.
Portland— Mr. John Fox,
Capt. Joseph M’Lellen
Yea.
Yea.
North Yarmouth— D. Mitchell,
Samuel Merrill, Esq.,
Yea.
Yea.
Scarboro —W. Thompson, Esq., Yea.
Brunswick— Capt. John Dunlap, Yea.
Harpswell— Capt. Isaac Snow, Yea.
Cape Elizabeth— Mr. Joshua Dyer, Yea.
Gorham— Mr. S. Longfellow, Jun., Nay.
New Gloucester— Mr. Widgery, Nay.
Gray— Rev. Samuel Perley, Yea.
Yeas, 10. Nays, 3.
COUNTY OF LINCOLN.
Pownalboro Thomas Rice, Esq.,
Mr. David Sylvester,
Yea.
Yea.
Georgetown— Mr. N. Wyman, Yea.
Newcastle —Mr. David Murray, Nay.
Woolwich— Mr. David Gilmore, Yea.
Topsham— Hon. S. Thompson, Nay.
Winslow— Mr. Jonah Crosby, Nay.
Bowdoinham —Mr. Zach. Beal, Nay.
Boothbay— William M’Cobb, Esq., Yea.
Bristol —William Jones, Esq., Nay.
Vassalboro —Capt. Samuel Grant, Yea.
Edgecomb— Moses Davis, Esq., Yea.
Hallowell— Capt. James Carr, Nay.
Thomaston —David Fayles, Esq., Yea.
Bath— Dummer Sewall, Esq., Yea.
Winthrop —Mr. Joshua Bean, Nay.
Yeas, 9. Nays, 7.
COUNTY OF BERKSHIRE.
Sheffield and Mount Washington —John Ashley, Jun., Esq., Yea.
Great Barrington —Hon. E. Dwight, Yea.
Stockbridge— Hon. T. Sedgwick, Yea.
Pittsfield— Mr. Val. Rathburn, Nay.
Richmond —Mr. Comstock Betts, Nay.
Lenox— Mr. Lemuel Collins, Nay.
Lanesboro —Hon. Jona. Smith, Nay.
Williamstown— Hon. T. J. Skinner, Yea.
Adams— Capt. J. Pleroe, Nay.
Egremont —Ephraim Fitch, Esq., Nay.
Becket— Mr. Elisha Carpenter, Yea.
West Stockbridge— Maj. T. Lusk, Nay.
Alford— Mr. John Hulbert, Nay.
New Marlborough —D. Taylor, Yea.
Tyringham— Capt. E. Herrick, Nay.
Loudon— Mr. Joshua Lawton, Nay.
Windsor —Mr. Timothy Mason, Nay.
Partridgefield —Peirce, Esq., Nay.
Hancock— Mr. David Vaughan, Nay.
Lee— Capt. Jesse Bradley, Nay.
Washington —Mr. Zenas Noble, Nay.
Sandisfield— Mr. J. Picket, Jun., Nay.
Yeas, 6. Nays, 16.
Total.—Yeas, 187. Nays, 168.

On the motion for ratifying being declared in the affirmative, by a majority of nineteen, the

Hon. Mr. WHITE 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.

He was followed by Mr. WIDGERY, who said, that he should return to his constituents, and inform them that he had opposed the adoption of this Constitution; but that he had been overruled, and that it had been carried by a majority of wise and understanding men; that he should endeavor to sow the seeds of union and peace among the people he represented; and that he hoped, and believed, that no person would wish for, or suggest, the measure of a PROTEST; for, said he, we must consider that this body is as full a representation of the people as can be convened.—After expressing his thanks for the civility which the inhabitants of this town have shown to the Convention, and declaring, as his opinion, that they had not in the least influenced the decision, he concluded by saying, that he should support, as much as in him lay, the Constitution, and that he believed, as this state had adopted it, that not only nine, but the whole thirteen, would come into the measure.

Mr. WHITNEY said that, though he had been opposed to the Constitution, he should support it as much as if he had voted for it.

Mr. COOLEY (Amherst) said, that he endeavored to govern himself by the principles of reason; that he was directed to vote against the adoption of the Constitution, and that, in so doing, he had not only complied with his directions, but had acted according to the dictates of his own conscience; and that, as it had been agreed to by a majority, he should endeavor to convince his constituents of the propriety of its adoption.

Dr. TAYLOR also said, he had uniformly opposed the Constitution; that he found himself fairly beaten, and expressed his determination to go home and endeavor to infuse a spirit of harmony and love among the people.

Other gentlemen expressed their inclination to speak; but, it growing late, the Convention adjourned to the next morning.

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Contents

General Overview

In 1787 and 1788, following the Constitutional Convention, a great debate took place throughout America over the Constitution that had been proposed.

In-Doors Debate

View in-depth studies of the Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York state ratifying conventions.

The Federal Pillars

View drawings of the federal pillars rising published by the Massachusetts Centinel during the ratification debate.

View Feature

The Stages of Ratification: An Interactive Timeline

View the six stages of the ratification of the Constitution with links to many other features on this site.

View Feature

Interactive Ratification Map

View interactive maps showing the breakdown of Federalist-Antifederalist strength at the state level during the Ratification debate.

View Interactive

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