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

C. The petition campaign for legislative rejection of ratification, 2 January-29 March 1788,   pp. 709-[726]


Page 709

C. THE PETITION CAMPAIGN FOR
LEGISLATIVE REJECTION OF RATIFICATION
2 January-29 March 1788
John Nicholson, comptroller general of Pennsylvania, inaugurated
the campaign, possibly in cooperation with other Philadelphia op-
ponents of the Constitution. The petition requested (1) that the
Assembly censure the Pennsylvania delegates to the Constitutional
Convention for exceeding their authority; (2) that ratification of the
Constitution by the state Convention "not be confirmed"; and (3)
that the Pennsylvania delegates in the Confederation Congress be
instructed that the Constitution not be "adopted in the said United
States. . . ." Nicholson drafted the petition in late December 1787
or early January 1788, since a copy reached Lancaster County by 14
January.
Nicholson sent copies to opponents of the Constitution in at least
nine counties. It is possible that the petition was circulated as a
printed broadside, but no copy has been found. The first printed
version located is in the Carlisle Gazette on 30 January (Mfm:Pa. 381).
It was reprinted in three Antifederalist newspapers: Philadelphia In-
dependent Gazetteer, 19 February; New York Journal, 3 March; Boston
American Herald, 6 March. Only one manuscript copy, signed by
156 people in Franklin County, has been located (Mfm:Pa. 558).
Between 17 and 29 March petitions signed by 6,005 people in
Northampton, Dauphin, Bedford, Franklin, Cumberland, and West-
moreland counties were presented to the Assembly. In addition, at
least seven other petitions were signed in Northumberland County but
evidently did not reach the Assembly in time for them to be "tabled"
with the other petitions before the Assembly adjourned on 29 March.
According to a newspaper account, petitions were signed in Hunting-
don County but were destroyed by supporters of the Constitution.
Lancaster County was so strongly Federalist that opponents of the
Constitution decided not to circulate the petition. Only one petition
opposing the petition campaign is recorded. It was signed by thirty-one
men in Wayne Township, Cumberland County, and was presented to
the Assembly on 1 March.
Opponents of the Constitution did not give up after the legislature
adjourned. On 3 July, after news of ratification by the ninth and
tenth states reached Carlisle, Cumberland County Antifederalists sent
out a circular letter calling a convention to meet at Harrisburg in
September to nominate candidates for the United States House of
Representatives in the first federal elections and to draft amendments
to the Constitution (see Merrill Jensen and Robert A. Becker, eds.,
The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788-1790,
I [Madison, Wis., 1975], 240-41).
709


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