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Kaminski, John P.; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Reid, Jonathan M.; Flamingo, Margaret R.; Lannér-Cusin, Johanna E.; Fields, David P.; Conley, Patrick T.; Moore, Timothy D. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Rhode Island (3)
(2013)

VI. The debate over the Constitution in Rhode Island, 20 January-29 May 1790,   pp. 711-897


Page 712

VI. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
For some time, Rhode Island Federalists had asked Congress to pres-
sure the state's Antifederalist majority more aggressively. On 28 April
the U.S. Senate began to consider whether to enact a bill to subject
Rhode Island's trade to draconian sanctions if it remained outside of
the Union. The Senate passed the bill on 18 May. The House of Rep-
resentatives was considering the bill as the second session of the Rhode
Island Convention met. On 24 May, the first day of the second session,
a special town meeting was convened in Providence. Fearing that the
Convention might again refuse to ratify the Constitution, freemen con-
templated the separation of Providence, Newport, and other Federalist
seaport towns from Rhode Island.
In the eleven weeks between the first and second sessions of the
Rhode Island Convention, the number of Federalist essays appearing in
newspapers increased significantly. The state legislature, meeting in early
May, took no action on the Constitution. Speculation was rife, inside
and outside of the state, about whether the Convention would finally
ratify the Constitution when it met in Newport on 24 May. (See VIII,
below, for the Convention's second session.)
The Public Debate on the Constitution
All four Rhode Island newspapers published items on the Constitu-
tion between 20 January and 29 May. The Newport Herald published
seventeen essays, six editorial commentaries, two news items, and a
poem. The Federalist position was represented by ten of the essays ("A
Friend to the State of Rhode-Island," 18 February; "A Freeholder," 18,
25 February; "Agricola," 11 March, 1 April; "Spectator," 25 March;
"X.," 8 April; "Buccinator," 15 April; "Friends to the Coalition of Par-
ties," 15 April; "One of the Freemen of the State of Rhode-Island," 15
April), all six editorial commentaries (20 January, 4, 18 February, 11
March [2], 8 April), and a poem (25 February). Seven essays were
Antifederalist or Antifederalist leaning ("Greenwichiensis," 25 Febru-
ary, 18 March, 8 April; Nos. I-III, 18, 25 March, 1 April; and anony-
mous, 15 April). The Newport Mercury printed only three items on the
Constitution: two Federalist editorial commentaries (20 January and 15
February) and a Federalist essay by "A Friend to Justice and good Gov-
ernment" (15 March).
The two Providence newspapers printed three Federalist essays signed
"Solon, junior" (David Howell?): United States Chronicle, 25 February, 4
March; and Providence Gazette, 27 February. The Chronicle printed five
Federalist letters from New York City and the Gazette two, all but one
from members of Congress. Items related to the 21 April annual election
appeared in the Gazette (Daniel Owen's address, 3 April; Newport and
Providence Committee to Arthur Fenner, 27 March; and election tick-
ets, 10 April) and in the Chronicle (Fenner's response, 1 April; and the
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