Today we continue with our 2020 Program called ‘Important Speeches & Documents of the American Founding,’ with our 6th Presentation entitled Ratification of The US Constitution.
As we have discussed in the previous presentations, this new program will include one presentation in each month of 2020. Each program will focus on major figures, such as George Washington, The Father of our Country, or Abraham Lincoln, The Father of our 2nd Founding; or a major event, such as the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Ratification of the Constitution, or Slavery.
In each of these presentations we will discuss some of the important Speeches and Documents produced by the principal player(s) in conjunction with or in the furtherance of the significant events of that period. It is also relevant to understand the environment under which the principal players produced those important speeches & documents – the surrounding conditions, the dangers, the stakes!?! By so focusing our presentations, we will be better able to know the significant events, and understand the courage it took to speak or write, and take their actions, and how they influenced those events, and more importantly, to understand why those events were important then and are still important today.
This is how we American Citizens become American Patriots or better American Patriots. First, let us understand a ‘Patriot’ is a person who loves one’s country. James Wilson, an important Founder who signed both the Declaration and Constitution, and later became a Justice on the 1st U.S. Supreme Court, famously said words to the effect – before something can become an object of your heart, it must first become an object of your head. In other words, one must truly know something before he can truly love it.
The vast majority of us Americans are rational & open-minded, and when we are able to better know the amazing Founding Heritage our Founding Fathers gave us, when that Heritage becomes a prominent object of our mind, it will, without fail, become a prominent object of our heart, and we will become a true American Patriot. Another important benefit of this knowledge & understanding of our Founding Heritage, most eloquently spoken by James Madison, our 4th President, and most famously known as the Father of our Constitution, goes like this – ‘A well-instructed people alone, can be permanently a free people.’ Do not we all want to be a ‘permanently free people!?!’ Of Course we do!!!
The 7th Presentation in this Program of Important Speeches & Documents of the American Founding is focused on the important step in our Founding of Ratifying our Constitution, and in particular the important work done by James Madison to earn the title of ‘The Father of our Constitution!’ Not only being the main force behind the composition of the document, but also in ensuring its ratification! The Ratification part included ensuring the Congress sent it out to the States for ratification, without first reviewing and commenting or amending it, with the instructions George Washington described in his official Transmittal Letter to Congress, as the President of the Constitutional Convention, husbanding the proposed Constitution through the Four Essential States. Madison helped write, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, the Federalist Papers, aimed mostly at ratification in NY, but positively felt in many, if not all, of the other states. Then fulfilling his promise to include as amendments the Bill of Rights, which entailed his getting himself elected to the 1st US Congress, and then husbanding the bill through Congress and its ratification by the individual states.
This 7th Presentation involves The Important Phases listed below:
a. Getting the proposed Constitution through the Congress without their reviewing, commenting, or modifying it before sending it to the States for their Ratification. This was mainly due to Madison’s proceeding to the Congress immediately after the Convention composing and signing the document. Also getting the Congress to send the ratifying instructions to the States that the Convention sent to them. The States should have the peoples select a body of citizens to review and ratify the Constitution. This was due to Washington’s influence.
b. Even with the Congress’ acquiescence to the Convention’s wishes, Ratification was certainly not a given at the start of the process. The Framers knew the odds of getting 11 or even 9 of the 13 States to ratify were heavily against them, so they – Madison, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton –
developed a strategy to overcome these odd. They first identified the critical (Essential) States – PA, MA, VA, NY – then they crafted their strategy – ‘Win Big, Win Early, & Gain Momentum!’
c. They worked their strategy well in the first Essential State of PA, and those surrounding it. Although DE beat PA in becoming the 1st State to ratify the Constitution, PA was right behind it, with much credit going to Framer James Wilson’s amazing speech on the grounds of Independence Hall on 6 Oct 1787. His speech was the 1st Speech given in support of Ratifying the Constitution and it was also very influential to many of the other States. Before the end of 1787, 3 States – DE, PA, NJ – had ratified the Constitution. Then quickly came GA & CT, and by January 1788, there were five! The Constitution
d. The next Essential State was MA. Theirs was the biggest ratification convention, with 370 elected delegates. It also initially looked like theirs would also take the longest. But after a long month of debating and deliberating, both sides – led by John Hancock, Fisher Ames, Samuel Adams – came together fashioning a unique agreement to speed up the process, basically described as ‘ratify now and amend later!’ This became known as the MA Compromise! Not only did it help MA get their ratification done quickly, but many other of the remaining States used it to help facilitate and accelerate their ratification process.
e. NH was next in line to hold a Ratifying Convention, but after some heated deliberations, they decided to call a break and meet again later. The Conventions of MD & SC started next, and quickly ratified the Constitution, and before the end of May, there were 8 States that had ratified the Constitution! NH reconvened in June and by using The MA Compromise, ratified the Constitution in 3 days, on 21 Jun. Thus NH became the 9th State to ratify, and by the provisions of Article VII, The Constitution was official!
f. Next came the two Essential States of VA and NY. VA deliberated for most of June before they decided to employ The MA Compromise and then ratifying on 25 Jun; Madison played a key role as a delegate to the VA Convention. The NY Convention started off by reviewing and debating the Constitution passage by passage, but in the 2nd week they heard of NH’s ratification, and at the end of Jun, they heard of VA’s ratification. In early Jul, they tried & failed to use The MA Compromise, but on 26 Jul, they tried to use it again and this time it worked, NY ratified the Constitution. Hamilton was influential in the Convention’s ratification.
g. Madison was successful in getting elected to the Congress, and true to his word, in the very first session of the very first Congress, he proposed that Congress endorse the incorporation of a Bill of Rights into the Constitution. NC had said they would not ratify the Constitution without a Bill of Rights, but when they learned of Madison’s proposal and Congress’ endorsement, NC’s Convention ratified the Constitution on 21 Nov 1789. The Senate had to threaten the last holdout State, RI to ‘Join of Die! RI ratified on 29 May 1790.
1. Maier, Pauline. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, Simon & Schuster, NYC, 2010.
2. Goldwin, Robert. From Parchment to Power: How James Madison Used the Bill of Rights to Save the Constitution, The AIE Press, 1997.
3. Levy, Leonard Williams. Origins of the Bill of Rights, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1999.