Newspapers played a critical—perhaps a determinative—role in ratifying the Constitution. Between 1787 and 1790 ninety-five newspapers were printed throughout the United States—sixty-nine in Northern states and twenty-six in Southern states. Additionally four monthly magazines were …
In Article I, section 3, the Constitution provides that U.S. Senators were to be chosen by their state legislature. The legislatures had to decide exactly how they would elect their Senators. Under the Articles …
One of the most important parts of the debate over the ratification of the Constitution occurred on 22 March 1788 when the first thirty-six essays in The Federalist series were published as a separate volume. …
Fifty-five of the most prominent men in America met in Philadelphia in the spring and summer of 1787 to correct the problems with the Articles of Confederation. Instead of amending the Articles, as they were instructed to do by the Confederation Congress and by their state legislatures, the delegates drafted a completely new form of government that they submitted to the American people to ratify. For a variety of reasons, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention chose to meet in secret. Consequently, as a self-contained body receiving no assistance from outside, the Convention served as a classroom in the science of government with some of the most learned instructors in the country. Much of this instruction was utilized by delegates during the year-long debate over the ratification of the Constitution.
As the Constitutional Convention neared the end of its proceedings, most Americans were encouraged to accept whatever might be proposed. Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris, however, warned his fellow delegates that the process of ratification should be hurried because opposition to the Constitution would steadily increase. Two other delegates—George Washington and Alexander Hamilton— took a more positive approach and encouraged states and private individuals not to oppose the Constitution merely because some of its provisions did not favor them.
One of the most difficult tasks facing the Constitutional Convention was the creation of a strong national executive. Recent experience under the Articles of Confederation without a separate federal executive and the expectation that George Washington would be the first President encouraged the formation of a strong executive. In fact, during the ratification debate, Thomas Jefferson in France, and Antifederalists “Federal Farmer” and Hugh Ledlie of Connecticut suggested that Washington was the most dangerous man in America because the Constitutional Convention had given too much power to the President expecting that Washington would fill that office. Although everyone felt confident that Washington would not abuse those powers, Jefferson, Ledlie, and “Federal Farmer” worried about subsequent administrations under a President Slushington.
Eighty-two years ago in 1939, three states belatedly ratified the U.S. Bill of Rights in a symbolic action commemorating Congress’ proposal of the amendments 150 years earlier in September 1789. In December 1789, Georgia was the only state that rejected all twelve of the amendments proposed by Congress, stating that the amendments were premature. Connecticut and Massachusetts also failed to ratify in 1789–1791 because their bicameral legislatures disagreed on how many of the twelve amendments should be ratified and neither state submitted an exemplification of what they had adopted.
A quarter century before the landmark decision of Marbury v. Madison enunciated the concept of judicial review, the Confederation Congress advocated the authority of courts to rule unconstitutional acts to be null and void. It was part of the process of making the Articles of Confederation into a viable uniquely-American parliamentary system of government.
Americans looked upon the Constitutional Convention with great anticipation. They hoped for much; but, with such high expectations, they feared the consequences of a lost opportunity. In two excerpts, written before and after the Convention sat, James Madison and James Wilson, two of the most important delegates, described what the Convention saw as its goal. According to Wilson: “The magnitude of the object before us filled our minds with awe and apprehension.”
The procedure established in ratifying the proposed new Constitution of 1787 was critical. Previous attempts to amend the Articles of Confederation had failed because of the requirement in the Articles for the unanimous approval of the state legislatures. Without an alternative method of ratification, it was unlikely the Convention’s proposal would be adopted. Consequently, politically astute alternatives were proposed and utilized in ratifying the new Constitution.