As the Constitution was debated by each state’s ratification committee, both those who favored and opposed its approval presented their case. Federalists supported a limited, but strong central government. Anti-Federalists supported strengthening the Articles of Confederation, giving the Congress of the Confederation more ability to enforce the powers authorized by the document.
Both sides wrote essays for the newspapers of the day to advocate their positions. Both have been compiled into volumes that are still used to understand the debate surrounding the adaption of the Constitution as the law of the land. The Federalist Papers are one of the most often used resources when determining what the framers of the Constitution envisioned as the role of the federal government. The Anti-Federalist Papers were a collection of essays that voiced the concerns of those who opposed a central government. We can use both series to gain a substantial understanding of what the role of the federal government was to be in the operations of this nation.
Delaware became the first State to ratify the Constitution. Only the support of nine of the thirteen states was needed to make the Constitution the supreme law of the land. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became that ninth State, when its State legislature ratified the Constitution. The last of the original thirteen states to ratify the US Constitution was Rhode Island on May 29, 1790. Several states made their ratification provisional, requiring a Bill of Rights to be included in order for their vote to adapt the Constitution. That obligation was met in December of 1791, when the first ten amendments to the Constitution were adapted.
If you have been following this series, you have seen how, in less than fifty years, this country changed from thirteen independent colonies to a nation governed by the Constitution. You have seen that the colonies were reluctant to give up their hard fought independence to any form of central government, that the initial power granted to that government was weak and unenforceable, and that many of the leaders of the day wanted a stronger role for a national government. You have learned that there are written records of the views held by both advocates and opponents of the Constitution becoming the document which defines the structure of our federal government. You have seen that we are able to use those records to discover the intentions of the founding fathers when drafting the Constitution.
In an upcoming series, we are going to use this information to examine various parts of the Constitution.
This is the fourth and final article in this series. It has been designed to give you a working knowledge of how the governance of this nation evolved from 1750 until 1790. To read the previous three articles, click 1, 2, or 3. For a more in-depth explanation of the events in this series, be sure to visit my blog.