Within three days of its signing on September 17, 1787, the Constitution was submitted to the Congress of the Confederation, then sitting in New York City, the nation's temporary capital.The document, originally intended as a revision of the Articles of Confederation, instead introduced a completely new form of government. While members of Congress had the power to reject it, they voted unanimously on September 28 to forward the proposal to the thirteen states for their ratification. Under the process outlined in Article VII of the proposed Constitution, the state legislatures were tasked with organizing "Federal Conventions" to ratify the document. This process ignored the amendment provision of the Articles of Confederation which required unanimous approval of all the states. Instead, Article VII called for ratification by just nine of the 13 states—a two-thirds majority. Two factions soon emerged, one supporting the Constitution, the Federalists, and the other opposing it, the so-called Anti-Federalists. Over the ensuing months, the proposal was debated, criticized, and expounded upon clause by clause. In the state of New York, at the time a hotbed of anti-Federalism, three delegates from the Philadelphia Convention who were also members of the Congress—Hamilton, Madison, and Jay—published a series of commentaries, now known as The Federalist Papers, in support of ratification. Before year's end, three state legislatures voted in favor of ratification. Delaware was first, voting unanimously 30-0; Pennsylvania second, approving the measure 46-23; and New Jersey third, also recording a unanimous vote. As 1788 began, Connecticut and Georgia followed Delaware's lead with almost unanimous votes, but the outcome became less certain as leaders in key states such as Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts expressed concerns over the lack of protections for people's rights. Fearing the prospect of defeat, the Federalists relented, promising that if the Constitution was adopted, amendments would be added to secure individual liberties. With that, the anti-Federalists' position collapsed. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify. Three months later, on September 17, Congress adopted the Constitution as the law of the land. It then passed resolutions setting dates for choosing the first senators and representatives, the first Wednesday of January (January 7, 1789); electing the first president, the first Wednesday of February (February 4); and officially starting the new government, the first Wednesday of March (March 4), when the first Congress would convene. As its final act, the Congress of Confederation agreed to purchase 10 square miles from Maryland and Virginia for establishing a permanent capital. (Wikipedia)


Pauline Maier,

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788,

Simon and Schuster,

ISBN 978-0684868547

From the Publisher: "From the distinguished historian of Revolutionary-era America and author of the acclaimed American Scripture comes this fresh and surprising account of a pivotal moment in American history—the ratification of the Constitution. When the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, the new Constitution they had written was no more than a proposal. Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was reason to doubt whether that would happen. The document we revere today as the foundation of our country’s laws, the cornerstone of our legal system, was hotly disputed at the time. Some Americans denounced the Constitution for threatening the liberty that Americans had won at great cost in the Revolutionary War. One group of fiercely patriotic opponents even burned the document in a raucous public demonstration on the Fourth of July. In this splendid new history, Pauline Maier tells the dramatic story of the yearlong battle over ratification that brought such famous founders as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and Henry together with less well-known Americans who sometimes eloquently and always passionately expressed their hopes and fears for their new country. Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper stories advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and counties across the country people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation. Then the ratifying conventions chosen by “We the People” scrutinized and debated the Constitution clause by clause. Although many books have been written about the Constitutional Convention, this is the first major history of ratification. It draws on a vast new collection of documents and tells the story with masterful attention to detail in a dynamic narrative. Each state’s experience was different, and Maier gives each its due even as she focuses on the four critical states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, whose approval of the Constitution was crucial to its success. The New Yorker Gilbert Livingston called his participation in the ratification convention the greatest transaction of his life. The hundreds of delegates to the ratifying conventions took their responsibility seriously, and their careful inspection of the Constitution can tell us much today about a document whose meaning continues to be subject to interpretation. Ratification is the story of the founding drama of our nation, superbly told in a history that transports readers back more than two centuries to reveal the convictions and aspirations on which our country was built."

“The ratification of the Constitution was the most comprehensive and consequential political debate in American history. It is quite amazing that the story has never before been told with the knowledge and flair it deserves. Here Pauline Maier, one of the leading historians of the revolutionary era, at the peak of her powers, tells that story with style, wit, and incomparable mastery of the sources.”
--Joseph J. Ellis, author of First Family: Abigail and John Adams


Hamilton and Madison and Jay and Beeman,

The Federalist Papers,

Penguin Books; 1st edition (August 28, 2012),

ISBN 978-0143121978