Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Conditional Ratification V

To recap, on Saturday July 19, 1788, the federalists at the New York State Ratification Convention were on the ropes. The anti-federalists that day passed a motion endorsing conditional ratification. Alexander Hamilton was so desperate that he was trying to convince himself that conditional ratification might be acceptable. In his July 20 letter to Hamilton, however, James Madison told him unequivocally that conditional ratification was no ratification. Hamilton must fight on.

Somehow, between that Saturday and Wednesday July 23, 1788, Hamilton and the federalists turned the tide – although just barely. Unfortunately, our principal source for the debates at the state Conventions, Elliot’s Debates, sheds no light on how they did so. It reports only that on July 23, “Mr. [Samuel] JONES moved, that the words on condition, in the form of the ratification, should be obliterated, and the words in full confidence should be substituted.”

Jones’s motion was carried by a margin of exactly two votes – 31 to 29. Among the affirmatives was none other than Melancton Smith, who just a week earlier had offered a motion that endorsed a species of conditional ratification.

The antifederalists did not give up, however. The next day, Thursday July 24, 1788, John Lansing moved to re-substitute conditional ratification:
Mr. LANSING moved to adopt a resolution, that there should be reserved to the state of New York a right to withdraw herself from the Union after a certain number of years, unless the amendments proposed should previously be submitted to a general convention.

The federalists managed to beat back this maneuver as well. Elliot’s Debates does not provide vote totals for this vote, but the margin was almost certainly razor thin.

Finally, on Friday and Saturday July 25 and 26, 1788, the federalists’ efforts reached fruition. Elliot laconically reports as follows:
The committee [of the whole] proceeded in the consideration of the amendments till

FRIDAY, July 25, 1788; when, the whole being gone through and amended, the question was put, whether the committee did agree to the same, which was carried in the affirmative.

The committee then rose, and reported.

The report of the committee being considered, the President put the question, whether the Convention did agree to the said report, which was carried in the affirmative.
The Convention then resolved, unanimously, that a circular letter be prepared to be laid before the different legislatures of the United States, recommending a general Convention.

SATURDAY, July 26, 1788. — The Convention having met, the bill of rights, and form of the ratification of the Constitution, with the amendments, were read, when the question being put, whether the same should pass, as agreed to and ratified by the Convention, it was carried in the affirmative.

The final vote was 30-27.

In the next post, we’ll consider how Hamilton and the federalists turned the tide and scraped by to victory.

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