Imagini ale paginilor

tion (or ratification) by “nine States, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same."

ACCEPTANCE OF THE NEW CONSTITUTION When the various State governments received copies of the Constitution, they took official action, calling upon the people of their States to send delegates to State conventions to study the new Constitution and to vote “Yes” or "No" on it.

Delaware acted first. Its State Convention met in December 1787, only a few weeks after the Constitutional Convention finished its work in Philadelphia, and ratified without a single vote of "No." Pennsylvania ratified 5 days later by a vote of 46 to 23. Then New Jersey and Georgia each approved the new Constitution without a dissenting vote; and before the month of January 1788 was far advanced, the Connecticut Convention voted 128 to 40 in favor of ratification. Massachusetts had a bitter contest in its Convention, but those who favored the new Constitution won by a vote of 187 to 168. The ratifying resolution thanked God for the “opportunity deliberately and peacefully without fraud or surprise of entering into an explicit and solemn compact with each other by assenting to and ratifying the new Constitution”; but suggested that certain fears of the good people of Massachusetts could be removed by amendments which they hoped would soon be adopted.

In the spring and early summer of 1788, Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire ratified without serious disagreement. This completed the favorable vote of nine States, so the Constitution could be put into effect without further delay. But the great States of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York and the small State of Rhode Island were missing and left great gaps in the territory of the new Nation.

The people of Virginia, the biggest State with the largest population, were sharply divided about the new Constitution. Only three of the six Virginia delegates had signed it-George Washington, James Madison, and John Blair. The great name of Washington was a strong influence in its favor, but the fiery orator, Patrick Henry, argued long and brilliantly against it. Finally a favorable vote of 89 to 79 was taken. In ratifying, the Virginia convention declared that the powers granted under the Constitution were only such as were willingly given by the people of the United States, and that liberty of conscience and of the press

could not be taken away from the people by any authority in the United States.

Then came New York, and here a great struggle took place. New York was a big State, standing like a wedge in the center of the seacoast, with the best harbor of all, and could completely cut off New England from the other States. If New York voted against the Constitution and stayed outside the Union, it would separate the new Nation into two unconnected parts. So it seemed important that the advantages of the Constitution should be explained more fully to New York. With this in mind, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote and circulated 85 articles in which they set out the reasons why the Constitution should be adopted. Their strong arguments were published later in a book called “The Federalist”-a book which is still very valuable as a study of our government. The articles seem to have convinced just enough members of the New York State Convention, for on July 26, 1788, New York ratified the Constitution by the close vote of 30 to 27.

At last, success was won. North Carolina, the twelfth State to ratify, did not accept the Constitution until 7 months after the first President had been chosen. Rhode Island, the one State which had not sent any delegate to the Philadelphia Convention, refused to have anything to do with the new government until May 1790. By that time she had discovered that she was being treated like a foreign nation and that she was too weak to stand out alone. So she finally consented to ratify and thus to become one of the United States. (See Figure 14.)


EIGHTH ARTICLE: "The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be suf

ficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same."


Date of Ratification

Signatures 1. Delaware.. December 7, 1787....- George Read and others. 2. Pennsylvania.-- December 12, 1787.. Benjamin Franklin and others. 3. New Jersey-- December 18, 1787. Wm. Livingston and others. 4. Georgia... January 2, 1788 Wm. Few and others. -5. Connecticut. January 9, 1788. Wm. Johnson and others. 6. Massachusetts ---- February 6, 1788 Rufus King and others. 7. Maryland... April 28, 1788. James McHenry and others. 8. South Carolina.... May 23, 1788. John Rutledge and others. 9. New Hampshire-- June 21, 1788. John Langdon and others. 10. Virginia.--- June 26, 1788

George Washington and others, 11. New York.. July 26, 1788.

Alexander Hamilton and others. 12. North Carolina... November 21, 1789..--- William Blount and others. 13. Rhode Island... May 29, 1790..

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Within seven months from the date of ratification by the first State, nine States had voted to approve the Constitution. However, the new government could not have gotten along very well without the approval of the two large States, Virginia and New York. After New York had approved the Constitution, the city of New York was chosen as the temporary seat of the National Government. It was there that George Washington was inaugurated as President on April 30, 1789.

Figure 14

Ratification of the National Constitution

Even after the Constitution had been ratified, many persons were still disturbed about this new and strange union to which they belonged. Others accepted it eagerly and believed that it would in time make the United States one of the greatest nations on earth.


After the new Constitution had been ratified by the States, the next thing to do was to choose the men who were to represent the people in the new government. First a Congress was elected. The people elected their Representatives and the State assemblies elected their Senators, as provided in the Constitution. Then the people of the States selected well-known citizens to serve as electors and to choose a President. These electors chose George Washington as President and John Adams as Vice President. New York became the temporary Capital of the Nation, and it was there that George Washington was sworn in as President on April 30, 1789.

No wonder there was rejoicing on the part of the leaders who had worked so hard to form a new plan of government. Certainly they had done something to be proud of in after years, for they had set up a Constitution which was to become one of the most famous in the world.

[ocr errors]



As the Constitution brought together into a single government group 13 State governments and about 4 million people, it will be interesting to see whether this great charter provides all the basic factors which we have found in other important groups. The Fathers of the Constitution were not thinking of any set of basic factors while they were at work in Philadelphia, but were simply trying to make a government plan which would be better than they had had before, either under the Confederation or under Great Britain. Yet, in order to get what they wanted, we

shall see that they happened upon all the basic factors of

group life.

1. The Constitution provides for an authority strong enough and broad enough for a great nation. The final authority belongs to the people themselves. The different branches of the Government receive their authority as it is delegated (passed on) to them by the people, who can increase or decrease the power of the Government if they want to. The Constitution gives to the central government of the Nation the authority to make laws on almost all subjects which are of common interest to all the people, and the power to put those laws into effect and make both the State governments and the people respect and obey them. National laws are the “last word” on national questions, but State laws are the “last word” on State questions, because the people have delegated part of their authority to the National Government and part to the State governments.

2. The Constitution makes clear the objectives of our national government group. The opening sentence of the Constitution (which is called its Preamble) explains the purpose of the States in adopting this important agreement. It says that the people wanted to form a "more

. perfect union” in order to (1) establish justice, (2) insure domestic tranquillity, (3) provide for the common defense, (4) promote the general welfare, and (5) secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their families forever. In chapter 19 of this book you will find a full explanation of each of these objectives. In Figure 15 you can read the Preamble of the Constitution in the very words in which James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and the other “Fathers” wrote it.

3. The Constitution provides for the organization of the government group. It sets up a Federal System of government. The word “Federal” is very like the word “Confederation” and means “by agreement of equals.” The National Government is organized by the agreement of equally powerful States, which agree that a central au

« ÎnapoiContinuă »