Massachusetts: The Sixth Pillar of the Great Federal Superstructure


On 26 December 1787 Benjamin Russell of the Massachusetts Centinel used the metaphor of raised pillars in “a great FEDERAL SUPERSTRUCTURE” to describe the ratification of the Constitution by three states. On 16 January 1788—a week after the Massachusetts Convention assembled—Russell revived and extended this metaphor by printing an illustration in his Centinel. Headed “THE FEDERAL PILLARS” and preceded by two lines of verse, this illustration had five erect pillars, depicting the five ratifying states, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut, respectively. The illustration also included a sixth pillar labeled “MASS.,” which was in the process of being raised.

The Massachusetts Convention ratified the Constitution at 5:00 P.M., on 6 February, by which time the semiweekly Massachusetts Centinel’s issue of 6 February had been printed and distributed. Therefore, on 7 February the Independent Chronicle became the first newspaper to print an illustration showing the sixth pillar raised..

The Raising of the Sixth Pillar, Massachusetts Centinel, 16 January 1788

Pillar 1

The Sixth Pillar Raised, Independent Chronicle, 7 February 1788

Pillar 2

The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution Digital Edition, ed. John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, Richard Leffler, Charles H. Schoenleber and Margaret A. Hogan. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009. [accessed 14 Nov 2012]
Original source: Ratification by the States, Volume VII: Massachusetts, No. 4