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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Fight to Ratify the U. S. Constitution

[A shorter version of this letter appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on October 5, 2000.]

The Founding Fathers distrusted both direct (or pure) democracy and monarchy. James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, said that direct democracies were "short in their lives" and "violent in their deaths." That is why a republic was established, in which power is exercised by the people's representatives.

New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify (June 21,1788), enabling the Constitution to take effect. But the four remaining states included New York and Virginia, leaving gaping holes in the Union.

Though Alexander Hamilton had generally disagreed with the other delegates at the Philadelphia constitutional convention, he led the fight for ratification in New York.

A series of unsigned newspaper articles was published, mainly to build support in New York for the Constitution. Hamilton wrote many of these articles, Madison several, and John Jay a few. Published later as a book, The Federalist, the articles stand today among history's highest achievements in political thinking.

In Virginia, Madison faced the sparkling oratory of Patrick Henry, the leading opponent of the Constitution. (James Monroe, the future president, also opposed ratification.) Delivering his carefully-reasoned arguments with a quiet eloquence, the five-foot-four Madison managed to carry the day. The vote for ratification was 89-79 (June 25, 1788).

On July 26, 1788, New York voted 30-27 for ratification.

Clyde Magee [letter of September 24, 2000] says the South got a bad deal from the Constitution. Fact: eight of our first 12 presidents were Southerners!

Magee contends that a constitutional provision for the abolition of slavery would have prevented the War Between the States. True! Since the slave states would have refused to ratify the Constitution, there would have been no Union for them to secede from.


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