The States Decide

When the Constitution was sent to the states, each state government was responsible for calling a specially elected convention that would decide whether or not to ratify the Constitution. Five states ratified quickly: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. In Delaware, New Jersey, and Georgia, the vote to ratify the Constitution was unanimous. The situation was very different, though, in Pennsylvania, where the debate surrounding the Constitution revealed deep divisions within Pennsylvania's ethnically and religiously diverse population. In New Hampshire and Virginia, the Constitution was eventually ratified with a majority of only ten votes in the state conventions. In New York, the Constitution was approved by a margin of only three votes.

What made some states embrace the Constitution immediately, while others, like Rhode Island and North Carolina, initially rejected the Constitution? Each state's internal politics, economic orientation, and relationship to the other states in the union deeply influenced the debates surrounding the Constitution. Understanding the economic and political situation of each state on the eve of the ratification conventions can help us to better understand why the debates played out as they did.

In order of ratification:

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