University of Wisconsin–Madison

Poetry and Songs during the Ratification of the Constitution

Often it is assumed that the Ratification process was exclusively the province of the well to do of American society. As the national debates enveloped the country, the discussions were not just confined within the halls of power. Pauline Maier has rightly noted in her book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 that, “the debate raged in newspapers, taverns, coffeehouses and over dinner tables as well as in the Confederation Congress, state legislatures and state ratifying conventions.” Many newspapers featured sections specifically devoted to poetry and frequently ran pieces relating to the Constitution and the ratification process. At times the offerings in these publications were not genteel. For a particularly insightful treatment of the rough and tumble nature of political verse of the Founding Period, see Louie M. Miner’s Our Rude Forefathers: American Political Verse, 1783-1788 (Cedar Rapids: The Torch Press, (1937). It follows then that we have a wide range of opinion in our selections. Click on a title to read the lyrics or poetry.

Songs during the Ratification Debates

Poetry and the Ratification of the Constitution