In 1788, Fishkill, New York, was a well known and important city, having once served as the Capitol of New York State. It was also the home of the largest supply depot of the Continental Army. And Fishkill had its own newspaper, The New York Packet, later known as Louden’s New York Packet.
It was this newspaper, on Tuesday, February 19, 1788, that published another in a series of essays which were rapidly taking the country by storm. The essays were anonymous and while there was much speculation as to the authorship, only four or five people (not counting the writers themselves) in the entire nation could say with any certainty that they knew who the author – or authors – was. Even George Washington pretended to not know as he praised the essays and proclaimed, “Who is the author?” In fact, he had been directly told by the authors that they were in fact, the authors. Read the rest of this entry
As momentum builds for ratification, the two biggest States, New York and Virginia are hesitating.
New York is seemingly against ratification, but as the pillars of the needed nine States continue to fall, the debate intensifies. With their convention not scheduled to begin for several weeks, the debate moves into the Social Media of the day – the newspapers.
First, New York papers take up the Anti-Federalist cause by publishing the DeWitt Letters, the Letters from a Federal Farmer, the Cato and Brutus letters, but they also begin to pick up a series of equally anonymous letters written specifically to the people of New York and signed simply, Publius.
These particular letters will become known as “The Federalist Papers,” and they are not – despite common misconception – a “commentary on the Constitution.” They are in fact, a reasoned and direct defense of the Constitution as written and a statement of what the Federalists believed would be the benefits of ratification of the Constitution.
But the really amazing thing to think about when we consider all of these letters is how the people of New York (and the rest of the country) consumed them. It’s quite an odd foreshadowing of a more modern phenomena with which we ourselves are very familiar, #socialmedia…
In early 1788, a Weston, Massachusetts newspaper reported that, “Little else, among us, is thought or or talked of, but the new Constitution.” The debate seemed to engross the attention of all classes of people, including women, who normally would be excluded from politics. .
But as Massachusetts debates, the fate of the Constitution is as yet, undetermined.
If Massachusetts ratifies, it is likely that the Constitution will be adopted. But if not, it seems that New York, Virginia will most likely follow their example.
The debate’s have consumed Americans of all political and social divisions. for the first and perhaps only time in her history, the level of political engagement is nearly one hundred percent. Even former Loyalists have and interest in the Constitution being ratified, as it would mean they would finally receive their long ago promised compensation.
But no longer will States simply approve the Constitution in quick and easy conventions. In Massachusetts, where the Revolution really began, the life or death of the Constitution will face it’s first real test among the States.