Article 7 is a bit of a misnomer, its more of a conclusion (hence the title of this post. It merely states that a majority of 9 states out of the 13 then involved would be required to ratify it before it was made officially law. 9 is 2/3rds of the original 13 states, a standard that continues today with amendments needing to pass 2/3rds of the States. That is currently 33 states, since we now have a total of 50.
Of course, given that it is the constitution, it was prefered that all states would ratify it (which they eventually did) Otherwise some states may still have been under the governing of the Articles of Confederation, which would be very awkward when trying to make laws, or making governing decisions between states. It also was a political move to make the states ratify it early to be able to be on the decision-making team when it came to alterations (Amendments) and putting together the details that the constitution left vague.
The constitution is signed by the representatives that were there to witness the final version of the document. These include notable people such as George Washington (acting President), James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Morris. It was presented on September 17, 1787. It also claims to be 12 years after they had declared independence, but depending on what date you go by, it could be 13.
Delaware was the first state to ratify it on December 7, 1787, beating Pennsylvania by only 5 days (December 12, 1787). New Hampshire ended up being the needed 9th vote on the constitution, with New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island being the hold outs. Eventually all three would ratify it.
Rhode Island barely ratified it however, with a 34-32 vote in its state legislature in 1789 which was two years after the constitution was presented. They had in fact not even sent representatives to the convention that drafted the constitution. They didn’t like the idea that the federal government would be controlling commerce, and were critical of its compromise on slavery.
Most of the hesitation among states about ratification was that the constitution did not yet protect what they saw as important political rights, such as free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Massachusetts actually had a list of 19 alterations it wanted, New Hampshire asked for 12, Virginia for 20. South Carolina, probably one state known for its inability not to tell the Federal government what it thinks, had two. New York had perhaps the longest list, with 33.
However, after being reassured that those would be amended shortly after ratification, they ratified the document. Those amendments would become the “Bill of Rights” and first 10 of 27 amendments. Amendment 27 was also proposed as an amendment at this time, but wasn’t ratified till over 2 centuries later.
Some more interesting facts:
- The first presidential election was held over the course of one month, with election day being January 10, 1789. George Washington won the only known unanimous election, both in the electoral and popular votes. Ten states were eligible to vote in this election. North Carolina and Rhode Island hadn’t ratified the constitution yet, and New York didn’t elect electors in time for the electoral college vote.He wasn’t however inaugurated until April 30. John Adams was sworn in 9 days earlier as Vice President.
- The first Congress of the United States was convened on March 4, 1789 (228 years ago next week) in New York City. This was part of the reason George Washington was not inaugurated until April. They had to certify that he had won the election, which was done on April 6th. Frederick Muhlenberg (PA) was Speaker of the House and John Langdon (NH) was President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
- The first Supreme Court term commenced on February 2, 1790. The Chief Justice was John Jay, one of the founding Fathers and a former Ambassador for the US.
- Ratifications of the Amendments (The Bill of Rights) started on September 25, 1789. 12 articles were proposed, and 10 were passed as the Bill of Rights by 1791. Out of the other two, one is still pending before the states, and one was ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment.
- Rhode Island became the last of the original 13 states to ratify the constitution on May 29, 1790.
- Vermont was the first state to petition to become part of the United States after Ratification ended. It was also unique in that it was its own state (as in country) outside of the United States prior to the Constitution.
National Constitution Center – Article 7
Heritage Guide : Ratification
Teaching American History: Ratification Timetable
History.Com – US Constitution Ratified June 21
Wikipedia: United States Presidential Election – 1788-89
Wikipedia: Timeline of Drafting and Ratification of the United States Constitution
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