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)

IV. The aftermath of ratification in Pennsylvania,   pp. [641]-645


Page 642

Introduction
Instead of subsiding, the public debate in Pennsylvania mounted in
quantity and intensity (and occasionally in scurrility) after the state
Convention voted to ratify the Constitution. The debate centered
around such issues as (1) the need for amendments to the Constitution;
(2) charges that the post office prevented the distribution of Anti-
federalist material through the mails; (3) charges that men such as
Robert Morris were corrupt and supported the Constitution in order
to escape paying the debts they owed the United States; and (4) the
publication of fake letters by Federalists and Antifederalists alike to
discredit their opponents.
The intensity of feeling generated by the public debate manifested
itself in several concrete ways. Almost immediately, Antifederalists
defended the minority of the Convention and praised its "Dissent"
which emphasized the need to protect the rights and liberties of the
people. Federalists countered by attacking the minority for noti accept-
ing the majority's will and for trying to foment a civil war.
One event which received national attention was a riot at Carlisle
in Cumberland County on the 26th of December when Antife deralists
used force to prevent a Federalist celebration of ratification. A second
and more important development was an Antifederalist petition cam-
paign. By the spring of 1788 several thousand signers of petilions re-
quested the Assembly to refuse to confirm the ratification of the Con-
stitution by the state Convention.
The debate over amendments to the Constitution had begua in the
fall of 1787, but it was given new impetus by the refusal of the Con-
vention to consider amendments and by the publication of the "Dis-
sent of the Minority" of the Convention. Some Federalists asserted
that a bill of rights was unnecessary in a democratic republic, and
they urged the people to trust their elected leaders to establish a
moderate government and to protect individual rights and liberties.
Other Federalists argued that if amendments were needed, the people
should wait until the new Congress recommended them. Above all,
a second constitutional convention, which many Antifederalists de-
manded, would not have the spirit of compromise that characterized
the Constitutional Convention, and might well destroy the new gov-
ernment.
642


Go up to Top of Page