University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
(1976)

Jensen, Merrill
Preface,   pp. 5-6


Page 5

Preface
Pennsylvania was the focus of national attention during the first
few weeks after the Constitutional Convention adjourned on 17
September 1787. The Constitution was read to the Pennsylvania
Assembly on 18 September, and eleven days later the Assembly voted
that delegates to a state convention would be elected on 6 November,
and that the Convention would meet in Philadelphia on 20 November.
The prompt action of the Pennsylvania legislature, and the force it
used to secure a quorum, was reported throughout the United States.
Pennsylvania also took the lead in the national debate over the
Constitution. Within days after the Constitutional Convention ad-
journed, Pennsylvanians began filling their newspapers, and pamph-
lets and broadsides, with arguments for and against the Constitution.
Pennsylvania publications circulated widely, and material from them
was reprinted throughout the United States before writers in most
states had begun to supply their own printers with more than oc-
casional pieces about the Constitution. As the debate got under way
in other states, the dependence on Pennsylvania material decreased,
although Federalist essays such as Tench Coxe's "An American Citi-
zen," and Antifederalist essays such as Samuel Bryan's "Centinel" con-
tinued to circulate as a vital part of the national debate.
The debate among Pennsylvanians did not cease with the ratification
of the Constitution by the state Convention on 12 December 1787.
The amount of material published after ratification was as great as
before, and it was characterized by ever-more bitter personal attacks
on political leaders. After a brief lull late in the spring of 1788, the
debate revived with the ratification of the Constitution by the ninth
and tenth states: New Hampshire on 21 June and Virginia on 25 June.
The debate thereafter concerned the election of Senators and
Representatives to the Congress of the United States, but all the
old arguments were reiterated, and they ranged all the way from the
issue of amendments to the Constitution to the alleged corruptness
of Robert Morris during the War for Independence. After the estab-
lishment of the new government under the Constitution, Pennsylvania
leaders continued to oppose one another on both the state and na-
tional level as they had before. On the national level most of the
Federalists of 1787 became Federalists, and most of the Antifederalists
of 1787 became Democratic Republicans.
The documents for the history of the ratification of the Constitu-
tion by Pennsylvania consist almost entirely of public records in the
5


Go up to Top of Page