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U.S. Constitution – Contemporary List of States with Ratification Dates and Votes
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[CONSTITUTION]. Manuscript Document, ca. July 1788-1790. List of the first thirteen states and dates of ratification with votes. 1 p., 4 x 7 in.

Inventory #24876       Price: $3,500

This intriguing document lists the ratification dates and votes. The first three states’ dates are slightly off. The last three states—New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island—are listed in the correct order, but without dates or votes. We can thus speculate that this was penned after the writer learned that Virginia had ratified and before news of New York’s ratification was received. That North Carolina would ratify soon after New York was assumed, while Rhode Island remained doubtful.

The absence of Connecticut made us consider whether this was prepared by someone in that state, but we believe that more likely to be an oversight. In any case, this was written before Vermont voted to ratify on January 10, 1791, by a vote of 105 to 4.

Complete Transcript [with missing information and corrected dates added in brackets]

Ratification of the Federal Constitution by ye following States         [actual date]

Deleware  Decr 3d 1787          unanimous      Majority          [12/07/1787]

Pensylvania  Dec 13 1787      46 to 23           23                    [12/12/1787]  

New Jersey  Decr 19               unanimous                              [12/18/1787]  

Georgia  Jany 2d 1788            unanimous

[Connecticut]                          [128-40]                                  [01/09/1788]  

Massachusetts  Feb 6th           187 to 168       19

Maryland  Apl 28                    63 to 12           51

S.Carolina  May 23                149 to 73         76

New Hamp.  June 21               57 to 46           11

Virginia  June 25                    89 to 79           10

New York                                [30 to 27]                                [07/26/1788]

North Carolina                       [194-77]                                  [11/21/1789]  

R Island                                   [34-32]                                                [5/29/1790]    


Note on Ratification Dates: the date of the votes, which we used above. But sources can vary, sometimes with reason. For instance, Georgia voted on December 31, 1787, but their ratification document was written and signed on January 2, 1788, as noted in

Historical Background
The Constitutional Convention met in the State House in Philadelphia from May 25 to September 17, 1787. Charged with revising the Articles of Confederation, many delegates realized that the Articles could not be sufficiently improved, and the young nation needed an entirely new structure. After months of secret deliberation over issues of trade, defense, taxation, representation, the election of a president, the slave trade, and other issues, the engrossed Constitution was signed by thirty-nine of the fifty-five delegates on September 17. George Washington, as president of the Convention, then submitted it to Arthur St. Clair, the President of the Congress of the Confederation in New York City. Congress read the proposed Constitution on the day it received it, September 20, and began debate on September 26.

The next day, Richard Henry Lee resolved that the Constitution be sent to the executives of each of the states. A Delaware representative quickly added “in order to be by them submitted to conventions of delegates to be chosen agreeably to the said resolutions of the convention.” Ten of the twelve states represented voted unanimously for the resolution. A majority of Virginia representatives and a minority of New York representatives also favored it. After adjourning, when Congress re-assembled on September 28, Federalists agreed to withhold all words of approval and Antifederalists agreed to a unanimous vote to send the proposed Constitution to the states with the resolutions of the convention, and George Washington’s cover letters.

Article VII provided that the “Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.” Delaware became the first to ratify, on December 7, 1787. Pennsylvania was next four days later. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify. News reached New York City on June 25, and a messenger left from there to Virginia forwarding the news an hour later. Newspapers published the information in NY the following day.

Virginia, which had not seen the news from NH yet, ratified on June 25. The same messenger that had gone to VA arrived back in NY on July 2 with news (published the next day) of VA’s ratification, A different messenger left shortly thereafter to take the news to Poughkeepsie, where the New York ratification convention met on July 25-26. Now aware that the Constitution already had the required number of states, New York ratified the Constitution on July 26, as recorded in the New-York Journal and Patriotic Register.

On July 3, 1788, a committee was established to make recommendations on the process of putting the new Constitution into operation. After it reported back, many amendments to the plan were offered. After debate, on September 13, 1788, the Congress of the Confederation certified that the Constitution had been ratified by more than the required number of states, and planned for the new government to convene “at the present seat of Congress” (New York). Efforts to move the capital failed to pass on August 6 (to Philadelphia); August 26 (to Wilmington, DE), September 2 (to Lancaster PA). 

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