Essay Urging Ratification

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have published twenty-three volumes, and there are at least eight more to come.

These volumes contain every scrap of evidence the editors have been able to find relating to the debates over the ratification of the Constitution in 1787 - 1788.

In early January 1788, Connecticut approved the Constitution, 128 to 40.

After much debate, Massachusetts ratified in early February, 187 to 168, and proposed amendments.

At the end of February the New Hampshire convention adjourned without ratifying.

A month later the citizens of Rhode Island voted directly to reject the Constitution, 2,708 to 237.Since Maier wishes to recover as closely as possible the way ratification happened, she frames her history as a chronological narrative of the process, which began in November 1787 and lasted until the summer of 1788.Although Pennsylvania began debating the Constitution at its ratifying convention on November 21, 1787, before any of the other states, its debates went on until December 15.She records what the people in each state felt about what they had learned from previous ratifications, but never does she reach ahead to the outcome.She wants us to experience events the way people at the time did, with all the sense of contingency, fear, expectation, and hope that they felt, not knowing the future, not knowing whether the Constitution would be ratified or not.In the meantime Delaware met on December 3 and unanimously ratified the Constitution on December 7, becoming the first state to do so.New Jersey and Georgia quickly and unanimously ratified before the end of 1787.They are certainly not as complete as the records we have for the ratification of the Constitution.Rarely will we find a more profound or more comprehensive discussion of the problems of power, liberty, representation, federalism, rights, and all the other aspects of politics than we have in these volumes.Gilbert Livingston, a delegate to the New York convention, believed that he was involved in the “greatest transaction of his life.” The little town of Oakham, Massachusetts echoed the feelings of many Americans when it told its delegates to the ratifying convention that their mission was of “the greatest Importance that ever came before any Class of Men on this Earth.” , in 1997, she analyzed the state and local “declarations” of independence that preceded and made possible the familiar Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.Her decades-long exploration of the local and popular foundations of politics in the Revolutionary era seems to have led her inevitably to this book on the people and the Constitution.


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