What It Says
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States
present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our
Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the
Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In
witness whereof We have here unto subscribed our Names,
George Washington, President and deputy from Virginia
Gunning Bedford Jr.
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer
James Madison Jr.
Richard Dobbs Spaight
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Attest: Abraham Baldwin
William Jackson, Secretary
Ratification of the new Constitution encountered stiff resistance from those who became known as the Anti-Federalists. For the most part, the Anti-Federalists thought that the states, not the national government, should be supreme. Most of the prominent Anti-Federalists, among them such distinguished veterans of the American Revolution as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry, had not participated in the Constitutional Convention because they did not want a stronger central government. Two of the Anti-Federalists, Edmund Randolph and George Mason, had been delegates to the convention but came away with strong reservations about the final document. Mason, in particular, raised an objection to the Constitution’s lack of a bill of rights.
Many of the Anti-Federalists felt that smaller governments would best preserve a truly “republican” form of government, in which the people would be represented by public officials they elected. They fretted over the emergence of a new “aristocracy” in the national leadership. Other Anti-Federalists were farmers who worried about the new government’s ability to tax the import of goods. Some expressed concern that the federal government would maintain a large standing army. They were also troubled by the creation of a national court system that could overrule state courts.
The Anti-Federalists published their complaints about the Constitution in various newspapers, and pressed their concerns in the state ratification conventions. Eventually, they lost their battle but they made their concerns clear enough that the First Congress responded with the ten amendments that became the Bill of Rights.
What It Means
Unlike the Articles of Confederation, which needed the unanimous consent of the thirteen states to make changes in the structure of the government, the Constitution required ratification by only nine of the states for the new government to go into effect. All of the original thirteen states, except Rhode Island, held conventions to ratify the Constitution. North Carolina’s convention adjourned without voting on the document. On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution, followed by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina. The ninth ratification, by New Hampshire, occurred on June 21, 1788. Virginia and New York ratified the Constitution shortly afterward. North Carolina and Rhode Island waited to ratify the Constitution until after Congress passed the Bill of Rights and sent it to the states for ratification.
Of the fifty-five delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention, thirty-nine signed the document. Some of the delegates who did not sign supported the new Constitution but were absent at the time of its signing. A few, however, raised objections to the Constitution and refused to sign it. William Jackson was not a delegate but served as the secretary for the convention and authenticated the signatures of the delegates.