University of Wisconsin–Madison

Themes of the Ratification Period

While it is important to note that every one of the thirteen ratification stories is unique, when looking at the time period from a larger perspective, some notable concepts emerge. Each of the items below will take you to primary sources designed to give you a sense, at a regional and national level, of the complexity and intensity of this unique period of American History.

  • George Washington and the Constitution

    The role of George Washington in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution was crucial. His assessment of the work of the Philadelphia Convention was the subject of much speculation. Washington’s views served as a litmus test on the proposed Constitution. Although publicly silent on the matter, Washington’s letters revealed his enthusiastic approval of the new plan. See George Washington and the Constitution.

  • Newspapers during the Ratification Debates

    Over 90 newspapers comprised the information network by which Americans kept abreast of the events of the Ratification process. Antifederalist publishers found it difficult to stem the tide of favorable treatment the Constitution was receiving in print. The overwhelming majority of publishers were Federalists. The Press and the Constitution will take you to some selections and an essay that highlight the debates surrounding the partiality of the newspaper men during ratification. Also, we have organized a list of all the newspapers circulating during 1787-1788 by state, some materials that highlight the specifics of newspapers within each state, and some additional information on the major newspapers that had a wide circulation. See American Newspapers during Ratification, 1787-1788.