The Constitution required ratification by nine states in order to come into effect. The fight for ratification was long and difficult. An important factor in ratifying the constitution was the fact the delegates to the Constitutional Convention required that ratification be done by special ratifying conventions, not by state legislature. Being interested in retaining state powers, the states would understandably have been resistant to ratifying a new, stronger central government.
Federalists versus Anti- FederalistsEdit
Those who favored ratification were known as Federalists,while those who opposed it were considered Anti- Federalists.
The Federalists attacked the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. They acknowledged that the Constitution was not perfect, but they said that it was much better than any other proposal then made.
Three Federalists- Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay- wrote a series of essays called The Federalist Papers. The essays explained the constitution and defended its provisions. The documents were intended for the state of New York, though people from across the country read them.
The Federalists defended the weakest point of the Constitution- a lack of a Bill of Rights- by suggesting that current protections were sufficient and that the Congress could always propose Amendments.
Anti- Federalists such as Patrick Henry attacked the Constitution, suggesting that it would lead to a dangerously powerful national government. The Anti- Federalist arguments relating to the Bill of Rights were especially powerful. However, many were convinced by the assurances provided by the Federalists.
Each state was to hold a convention to debate the Constitution and ratify or reject it. The Constitution was proposed in September, 1787. By the end of the year, some states that were in favor of the document ratified. Delaware's convention approved it by a vote of 30- 0; Pennsylvania's by a vote of 46- 23; New Jersey's by a vote of 38- 0. The next year, Georgia ratified by a vote of 26- 0 and Connecticut followed with a vote of 128- 40.
The Federalists were already more than halfway to the nine-state margin. However, the states that did not ratify the Constitution in that year included the extremely important states of Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia. Massachusetts ratified the document by a close margin (187- 168) in February, 1788. Maryland followed with a 63- 11 vote, and South Carolina did the same with a 149- 73 vote. Then, New Hampshire provided the all-important ninth ratification by a 57- 47 vote.
The United States was established under the new Constitution, but the important commercial state of New York and the populous state of Virginia, among others, still did not ratify. After tough battles, these states also ratified, Virginia by a 89- 79 margin and New York with 30- 27.
The Bill of Rights was then created under the new Constitution, leading to North Carolina's ratification by a vote of 194- 77. Seeing itself alone, Rhode Island finally agreed to ratify with a 34- 32 vote.
All thirteen colonies had ratified the Constitution by May, 1790.