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The fledgling state capital had trouble accommodating not only the 170 delegates to the ratifying convention, but also what one observer called the “prodigious number of People from all parts of the Country” who wanted to witness the debates.
On June 25, Virginia ratified, 89 to 79, and proposed amendments.
On July 26, New York ratified by the close vote of 30 to 27, and proposed amendments along with circular letters to the other states calling for a convention to consider the amendments.
Since Maier wishes to recover as closely as possible the way ratification happened, she frames her history as a chronological narrative of the process, which began in November 1787 and lasted until the summer of 1788.
Although Pennsylvania began debating the Constitution at its ratifying convention on November 21, 1787, before any of the other states, its debates went on until December 15.
The breadth and depth of popular interest in the Constitution was extraordinary.
The towns of Massachusetts elected 370 delegates to the state’s ratifying convention, of whom 364 attended.At the end of February the New Hampshire convention adjourned without ratifying.A month later the citizens of Rhode Island voted directly to reject the Constitution, 2,708 to 237.On August 2, North Carolina proposed amendments but refused to approve the Constitution.In mid-September, the Congress set a date for the presidential elections and the meeting of the new chronological order, Maier takes us through this ratification process in full and rich detail.In Pennsylvania, the supporters of the Constitution—the Federalists, as they called themselves—sensed that time was not on their side and attempted to rush the process of ratification, using ham-handed techniques to prevent critics of the Constitution from being heard.The initial publication of the debates in the state’s ratifying convention printed only the speeches of the Federalists, as if there were no opposition whatsoever.This record is not only a national treasure, it is a world treasure.Pauline Maier, in her magisterial book on ratification, knows only too well the value of this documentary trove.It took six days for the delegates from Bath, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) to make their way across rivers and through snow to Boston.The town of Richmond in the far west of Massachusetts held four meetings in December 1787 at four different times and places to discuss the Constitution, and on Christmas Eve finally voted that it was “not proper to adopt the Constitution as it now stands.” Interest in the Constitution in Richmond, Virginia was equally intense.