University of Wisconsin–Madison

Images from The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution

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 cartoon entitled “the federal pillars.” The cartoon showed five state pillars erected with a sixth pillar labeled “Mass.” in the process of being raised. Russell updated his cartoon as additional states ratified the Constitution.