Category Archives: Ratification Debates
As James Madison leaves New York City to stand for election to the Virginia Ratification Convention, he is troubled. Overall, the nation is moving towards Ratification, but major hurdles remain, including New York, Maryland and of course, his home State of Virginia. If Virginia and New York reject ratification, the entire enterprise could be placed in doubt.
In Virginia, he finds the distasteful process of just getting elected to the Convention an annoyance. And if he gets elected, he will face off against the man who many believe is the greatest orator of all time, Patrick Henry.
Henry has made it clear that he will not support ratification. Or maybe he will? This is the real issue in Virginia, the three positions taken by the various partisan sides.
First are the Federalists, led by Madison. They support ratification as is. Next come the slightly-anti-Federalists, led by such men as Randolph and Mason, who will support ratification IF, and that is a big IF, they can get amendments included which they believe will safeguard individual rights.
Thirdly, there is Kentucky. Currently, it is part of Virginia. Madison has been fighting a losing battle in Congress for the last two years to make her a State in her own right, but the inertial resistance has led many in Kentucky and around the South, in general, to believe that the proposed Constitution is little more than a Northern power grab.
And overarching it all is Patrick Henry. There are rumors that he has his own ideas about what Virginia should do. Nobody is certain, but the evidence seems to lead to the conclusion that he would not be displeased if Virginia fails to ratify. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Madison has to find a way to extinguish Henry’s opposition…
As the debates rolled on, the nation considered many elements of the proposed Constitution. In Rhode Island, there was grave concern over the idea that the State would not be able to print its own paper currency. In Virginia, the Kentucky Counties worried about the navigational rights on the Mississippi River. But nearly everyone agreed on one issue – the idea that if the nation went to war, it would be stronger united than not.
On April 6, 1917, Congress gathered to vote on whether or not the United States should declare war on Imperial Germany. Four days earlier President Woodrow Wilson had made it clear that the United States was needed and ready for the fight against an evil and depraved monarchy that chose war over peace and threatened the entire world. But, he made he clear, that it would not be, it could not be, his decision alone to send the US into World War I.
Despite the changes in the world since 1787, one thing remained the same. It was that one thing that the Framers had in their prescience foreseen: that no one person should ever be allowed to take the US to war.
One of the things that I believe we (corporately, not you specifically) have lost connection with our history, is that our Framers and Founders were people, not demigods (Thomas Jefferson notwithstanding). In 1865, George Washington will be featured in a painting that is hung in the dome of the US Capitol, visible through the oculus of the dome. The painting portrays Washington being elevated to the status of a deity. The idea of portraying Washington as a god really does not offend most Americans.
On occasion, it’s worth our time to talk about and recall the realities of these men and women. They lived, they loved, they got mad, they had joys. They traveled and they discussed. They argued and they liked and disliked each other. They wrote copious letters to each other in a flowery language that both complemented and occasionally berated each other. They saw things differently. Some favored one way, others favored another.
On March 30, 1788, six of the necessary nine States have ratified the Constitution. The debate is leaning towards Ratification in Maryland, and in South Carolina, the resistance of the country folk is being dealt with. In New Hampshire, the efforts to manipulate things by the Federalists are being indefatigably resisted by the anti-Federalists in Convention. New York has not gathered in convention as yet, but already more than seventy letters have been published as “The Federalist Papers” arguing for the ratification. Likewise, dozens of anti-ratification letters have been published. The debate, while hopeful, is still in doubt. There are many who believe that there will be a new United States that will not have all of the original States as a part.
In Bath, England, Abigail Adams begins her trip home to The United States after three years in Paris and London.
Over the past six months, a couple from Alexandria, John and Elizabeth O’Conner, have been corresponding and even in early February, visiting the Washington’s. Mr. O’Conner is a “barrister,” from Ireland, who plans to write a topographical and geographical description of The United States. Elizabeth has opened a small school for girls in Alexandria.
At Mt. Vernon, George Washington sends a letter to Mr. O’Conner, thanking him for his kind words and invitation to a speech. A presentation on eloquence by Mr. O’Conner which Washington clearly had no intention of attending. Probably because he knows what the O’Conner’s are really (probably) up to…