The People Who Adopted it (4 of 20)

There were more votes cast in Salt Lake County in the general election in November 1944 than were cast in favor of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America in all of the 13 sovereign states in 1787 and 1788.

The Constitution was adopted by conventions called in the 13 sates, and approximately 160,000 male persons participated int eh selection of delegates to these conventions. About 100,000 voted for delegates who would adopt and support the then revolutionary document, and 60,000 ballots were cast for delegates against the new political theory. There were about 105,000 votes cast in Salt Lake County for the two gubernatorial candidates in the last general election.

The right to vote was strictly curtailed. Property qualifications were in effect in all the colonies and it is estimated that less than one-fifth of the adult males were eligible to use the franchise. The white population was less than two and a half million.

The Continental Congress had called upon the state legislatures to send delegates to Philadelphia to “revise the Articles of Confederation.” The delegates had discarded their instructions and assumed the right to create an entirely new document based on a theory of government anew in the annals of history.

They were fully aware of the steps they were taking and the effect the document they had written would have upon many of the people of the colonies. Hence when they came to the point of selecting a method of having the document submitted for approval they saw the necessity for circumventing the state legislatures whose instructions they had violated.

The system of having the people in the several states choose delegates to special conventions which would be called for the purpose of ratifying or rejecting the new Constitution seemed the one most likely to succeed. This method was accordingly chosen and it was provided in the document itself that the ratification of the conventions in nine of the states would be sufficient to establish the Constitution between the states so ratifying.

The document was presented to the Continental Congress. The states were requested to call conventions to consider it. Among a small portion of the people vigorous debates ensued on each of the various provisions. However the document was never widely understood nor discussed. Only 400 copies were ordered printed in New Hampshire, and the assembly in Maryland directed the printing of only 2000 copies. It has been estimated that outside of the delegates to the legislatures and conventions not one per cent of the population of the colonies had ever so much as read the Constitution prior to its adoption. (Shades of modern America!)

The conventions were elected and called to meet at various times in the several states. Of the persons who could meet the property qualifications to vote, few actually exercised their privilege. maryland had 25,000 qualified voters; only 6000 voted. and two-thirds of these were from the populated portions of the state.

In most of the state conventions the final votes of approval were close. In Massachusetts the delegates voted 187 for to 168 against. In Virginia it was 89 for and 79 against. A change of 6 votes would have kept Virginia out of the new Union although her delegates had been some of the most active and eminent in the Constitutional Convention. The New Hampshire convention met in February of 1788, and as it was apparent that sentiment was against the new form of government, an adjournment was engineered until June. When the convention reconvened, there had been a change in personnel and the vote was 57 for ratification and 47 against.

The New York convention did not convene until June of 1788 and the initial sentiment was against ratification. News of the New Hampshire and Virginia ratifications arrived during the early sessions and the New York delegates seeing their state facing isolation out of the new Union finally ratified by a margin of three votes, a vote of 30 to 27. Before taking this vote, however, the New York Convention had unanimously passed a resolution calling for a second constitutional conventions to draft a second and more acceptable document.

Rhode Island sentiment was about 10 to one against ratification, and she and North Carolina did not come into the Union at this time. Rhode Island had not even bothered to be represented in the Constitutional Convention. It is said that 8 of the states which did ratify the Constitution, did so only because of an understanding the a Bill of Rights would be added by amendment.

But now, by the skin of their respective teeth, as it were, 11 states had ratified, and the new government was established. Early in 1789, 13 years after the Declaration of Independence, the newest and most basically sound nation on earth elected George Washington to be her first president.

This Article was serialized in 20 segments
which appeared on the editorial page (page 4) of
The Deseret News, 19 March 1945 through 10 April 1945.

Show your support for the constitution, sign the Constitution Pledge.