Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Constitution Was Established On This Day In 1788

Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17, the day in 1787 when the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. But did you know that the Constitution became effective 228 years ago today, on June 21, 1788? That is the day it was ratified by New Hampshire, the ninth state to do so and the deciding vote needed to make it effective. Thus today is the day we should actually recognize the Constitution, because its ratification was by no means assured. 

The Constitution grew out of efforts to revise the Articles of Confederation, which had serious defects and created a weak confederation of what George Washington described as “[t]hirteen Sovereignties pulling against each other. . . .” The need for unanimity to amend the Articles was one of its defects, so the Framers avoided the need for ratification by all the States. In order for the Constitution to become effective, Article VII provided that “[t]he Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.” 

Ratification was no easy task. During the ratification period a series of amendments that we know as the Bill of Rights were promised to win over several States. In addition, the celebrated Federalist Papers were actually a series of essays promoting ratification published in New York newspapers. New Hampshire’s ratification put pressure on the remaining four States, but the vote was very close in New York, and North Carolina and Rhode Island did not ratify until after the new government commenced operations in March 1789. But eventually all thirteen States ratified. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.