As the ratification process turns to South Carolina, it is clear that the Federalists who run the State favor ratification. It was South Carolina, after all, that teamed up with James Wilson to cement the 3/5th’s compromise and stuck to the deal as the tides of anti-slavery climbed against it.
But it won’t be as simple as that. First, the State Legislature will do something that no other legislature has done – it will openly debate the Constitution “for the sake of informing the country’s members” of the reasons why the Constitution should be ratified.
Then there is a second issue. South Carolina. like Massachusetts, is concerned about the lack of religious tests for holding offices. As it turns out, South Carolina has an official religion, one that is traditional but quickly becoming an anachronism.
Lastly, Mr. Rawlins Lowndes rises in opposition to ratification. A Charleston lawyer, he takes upon himself the mantle of speaking for those “less accustomed to public speaking,” and he outlines the problems that many in South Carolina have with the overall tone of the Constitution. Which is, of course, the one thing that all of the Southern States, South Carolina most of all, fears the Constitution will do – end slavery.
There is a strong majority anti-Federalist sentiment in the State, and indeed, there are many in South Carolina who believe that the State should “go it alone” rather than remain joined to the Union. It is Charles Cotesworth Pickney who puts a final rest to that political heresy.
When South Carolina votes to ratify, it is over the objections and the will of the people of the State. but it is the eighth pillar to be raised in the new government…
Over the course of the Convention, Luther Martin (Maryland) had been a petulant opponent of the plan and an irritant to pretty much everybody there – even those who agreed with him. Now that his State, Maryland, is taking up ratification, he will continue to adamantly and vociferously oppose the Constitution. He is the very embodiment of the Anti-Federalists.
Pretty much nobody will listen to his ranting, and Maryland will easily vote to ratify.
It’s what happens after that is so fascinating to me. Because of our own historical myopia, we tend to only see the good and heroic sides of the Framers and Founders. We don’t relate to them as people just like us, facing difficulties and crises. Consequently, we don’t learn from their example of how to deal with and even overcome those difficulties.
The rest of Luther Martins’ life will be spent in various pursuits as a lawyer – including defending Aaron Burr against charges of treason – and in the bottle. But by 1807, he will be called, “The Federalist Bulldog,” by no less than Thomas Jefferson. What drives a man who is virulently anti-Federalist to change his mind? Was it the ultimate “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” Or did Luther Martin discover something about human nature in his later years?
After “impartial discussion & full consideration,” the Massachusetts delegates to their State ratifying Convention agreed to what became known as the “Massachusetts Compromise.” This allowed a number of anti-Federalists, including Samuel Adams, to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution. But it wasn’t a cut and dried, full-throated endorsement of the document. As the compromise agreed, many of the Anti-Federalist ideas worked their way into the ratification document as proposed amendments to the Constitution.
Many of their recommended amendments are easily recognized by us today, and some made their way into the proposed Bill of Rights when the 1st Congress finally convened. Some of the ideas were ultimately rejected, but there is one overriding idea that we must keep in mind when considering these ideas: all of them came from people who did not like the Constitution as proposed.
As intriguing as what the Massachusetts Convention recommended is what the did not include in their list of proposed amendments. Did they leave out some of the most treasured Rights because they assumed the States would and could protect them or did they presume that the proposed Federal Government would never try to stifle free speech or religion?