Illustrations Appearing in Newspapers During the Ratification Debates

Throughout the ratification debate, Federalists and Antifederalists referred to the Constitution metaphorically. Timothy Pickering called it a “mansion,” Francis Hopkinson “The New Roof,” “Centinel” “the monster,” “Brutus” “the gilded pill,” and “Philadelphiensis” “the rivet of tyranny.” On 7 December 1787 the Massachusetts Gazette published a short piece describing “the disunited states of America” as “thirteen distinct, separate, independent, unsupported columns.” Later in December, a new metaphorical device was created by Benjamin Russell, printer of the Massachusetts Centinel. Russell introduced his reprint of the Delaware Convention’s form of ratification with the heading: “The first pillar of a great federal superstructure raised.” Thereafter, newspapers throughout the country published variations on this theme. Russell brought his metaphor to life on 16 January 1788 when he published a woodcut illustration entitled “the federal pillars.” It showed five state pillars erected with a sixth pillar labeled “Mass.” in the process of being raised by the hand of God. Russell updated his illustration as additional states ratified the Constitution.




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