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Ratification of the Constitution Essay

When the new Constitution was proposed in the year 1787, many arguments arose that opposed its ratification. When the framers of the Constitution met on the 17th of September that year, they asked every state to call a special convention that would take into consideration the ratification of the new constitution. This was all for the purpose of a new government for the thirteen United States of America. All of the major arguments that surfaced in opposition to the new constitution did have reason behind them, but there were still many reasons to justify the ratification of the new Constitution that would create a new US government. At the time, Americans felt that their loyalty to the state governments would keep them from ratifying the new Constitution. As spoken about in Document A, such a vast territory, as the 13 colonies were, can’t be governed by one government only but need several small state governments instead. If it were to be governed fully by one government it would no dubitably become a dictatorship. And according to Document B, ‘A very expensive territory cannot be governed on the principles of freedom, otherwise then by a confederation of republics, posing all the powers of internal government; but united in the management of their general, and foreign concerns.’

This means that one government for all the 13 states would not be sufficient to properly govern on the principles of freedom without help from a confederation of republics. Those who opposed the Constitution also feared the strong central government it would come to create. In Document A, Patrick Henry said in his speech to the Virginia ratifying convention on June 9 of the year 1788, ‘In the British government there are real balances and checks: in this system there are only ideal balances. Till I am convinced that there are actual efficient checks, I will not give my assent to its establishment.’ By this, Henry meant that until the lines are clear that there are real balances and checks in this new system, he will not support the ratification of this new constitution. Document D shows George Clinton’s words ‘In Opposition to Destruction of States’ Rights’. Clinton has said ‘The premises which the new form of government is erected, declares a consolidation or union of all thirteen parts, or states, into one great whole, under the firm of the United States…’

Here he means that The result of one government over all nations will end as a house divided against itself. And in Document G, James Madison states that ‘…the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican then of democratic government;… Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motivate exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.’ Madison pointed out that a main central government over the thirteen states would not function properly if the states did not all share a common motive, and if they did, there would still be struggles in acting in unison together.

These three main arguments that rose up in opposition to the new constitution that was proposed in 1787 all have fair reasoning behind them. The new government for the thirteen United States of America was meant to unify the country as a whole and set up a way for it to function as one nation. The framers of the Constitution clearly supported it’s ratification while the states debated whether or not to support it. When in July, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the constitution, the Federalists soon proposed a Bill of Rights to be added. After approved by the states, 10 of the 12 amendments became the Bill of Rights and with this, the ratification of the Constitution was complete. The thirteen United States of America now had a new government

Document A

Source: Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia ratifying convention, June 9, 1788 I am persuaded of what the honorable gentleman says, that separate confederacies will ruin us. In my judgment, they are evils never to be thought of till a people are driven by necessity. When he asks my opinion of consolidation, of one power to reign over America with a strong hand, I will tell him I am persuaded of the rectitude of my honorable friend’s opinion, (Mr. Mason,) that one government cannot reign over so extensive a country as this is, without absolute despotism.

Compared to such a consolidation, small confederacies are little evils; though they ought to be recurred to but in case of necessity….In the British government there are real balances and checks: in this system there are only ideal balances. Till I am convinced that there are actual efficient checks, I will not give my assent to its establishment. The President and senators have nothing to lose. They have not that interest in the preservation of the government that the king and lords have in England. They will, therefore, be regardless of the interests of the people.

Document B

Source: The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania to their Constituents, December 12, 1787 We dissent, first, because it is the opinion of the most celebrated writers on government, and confirmed experience, that a very extensive territory cannot be governed on the principles of freedom, otherwise than by a confederation of republics, possessing all the powers of internal government; but united in the management of their general, and foreign concerns….The first consideration that this review suggests, is the omission of a BILL of RIGHTS, ascertaining and fundamentally establishing those unalienable and personal rights of men, without the full, free, and secure enjoyment of which there can be no liberty, and over which it is not necessary for a good government to have the control.

The principal of which are the rights of conscience, personal liberty by the clear and unequivocal establishment of the writ of habeas corpus, jury trial in criminal and civil cases, by an impartial jury of the vicinage or county, with the common law proceedings, for the safety of the accused in criminal prosecutions, and the liberty of the press, that scourge of tyrants, and the grand bulwark of every other liberty and privilege; the stipulations heretofore made in favor of them in the state constitutions, are entirely superceded by this constitution.

Document C

Source: The Debates In the Convention of the State of New York, On the adoption of the Federal Constitution, June 17, 1788. He would now proceed to state his objections to the clause just read, (section 2, of article 1, clause 3.) His objections were comprised under three heads: 1st, the rule of apportionment is unjust; 2d, there is no precise number fixed on, below which the house shall not be reduced; 3d, it is inadequate. In the first place, the rule of apportionment of the representatives is to be according to the whole number of the white inhabitants, with three fifths of all others; that is, in plain English, each state is to send representatives in proportion to the number of freemen, and three fifths of the slaves it contains. He could not see any rule by which slaves were to be included in the ratio of representation.

The principle of a representation being that every free agent should be concerned in governing himself, it was absurd in giving that power to a man who could not exercise it. Slaves have no will of their own. The very operation of it was to give certain privileges to those people who were so wicked as to keep slaves. He knew it would be admitted that this rule of apportionment was founded on unjust principles, but that it was the result of accommodation; which, he supposed, we should be under the necessity of admitting, if we meant to be in union with the Southern States, though utterly repugnant to his feelings.

Document D

Source: George Clinton, “In Opposition to Destruction of States’ Rights” The… premises on which the new form of government is erected, declares a consolidation or union of all thirteen parts, or states, into one great whole, under the firm of the United States… But whoever seriously considers the immense extent of territory comprehended within the limits of the United States, together with the variety of its climates, productions, and commerce, the difference of extent, and number of inhabitants in all; the dissimilitude of interests, morals, and politics in almost every one, will receive it as an intuitive truth, that a consolidated republican form of government therein, can never form a perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to you and your posterity, for to these objects it must be directed: this unkindred legislature therefore, composed of interests opposite and dissimilar in nature, will in its exercise, emphatically be like a house divided against itself…

Document E

Source: “Brutus,” New York Journal, January 10, 1788

The power to raise armies, is indefinite and unlimited, and authorises the raising forces, as well in peace as in war. Whether the clause which impowers the Congress to pass all laws which are proper and necessary, to carry this into execution, will not authorise them to impress men for the army, is a question well worthy consideration? If the general legislature deem it for the general welfare to raise a body of troops, and they cannot be procured by voluntary enlistments, it seems evident, that it will be proper and necessary to effect it, that men be impressed from the militia to make up the deficien

cy. Document F

Source: Noah Webster, “An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Constitution” October 10, 1787 “Congress likewise are to have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, but have no other command of them, except when in actual service. Nor are they at liberty to call out the militia at pleasure—but only, to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasions. For these purposes, government must always be armed with a military force, if the occasion should require it; otherwise laws are nugatory, and life and property insecure.”

Document G

Source: James Madison, Federalist No. 10, November 22, 1787 “…the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.”

Document H

Source: U.S. Congress, Preamble to the Bill of Rights, March 4, 1789 “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution. RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz. ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.”


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