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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Constitutional documents and records, 1776-1787

Jensen, Merrill
Introduction and acknowledgments,   pp. 25-29

Page 25

Introduction and Acknowledgments
The editing of The Documentary History of the Ratification of
the Constitution involves tasks of a different order of magnitude than
those involved in editing the papers of a person or a family. One task
arises from the number of individuals involved. The thirteen state
legislatures that called conventions to consider the Constitution con-
tained a total of almost 1,700 members. In the state conventions,
1,071 men voted to ratify the Constitution and 577 voted to reject it
-a total of 1,648 men. In addition to these men, there was an even
greater number of local officials, and of influential men who held
no public office but who, directly or indirectly, influenced the politi-
cal decisions of the time. The great majority of these men did not
leave letters or diaries, but enough of them did to provide a rich, if
often perplexing, variety of facts and opinions.
A second task arises from the great variety of materials, in addition
to personal letters and diaries, that relate to the ratification of the
Constitution. There are three bodies of official material. The first
consists of the Journals and other papers of the Confederation Con-
gress which played an essential role in the establishment of the Con-
stitution: on 21 February 1787 it called the Constitutional Conven-
tion; on 26-28 September 1787 it debated the Constitution and trans-
mitted it to the states; and on 13 September 1788 it set the time for
the election of the President, and the time and place for the meeting
of the new government under the Constitution. The second body of
official material consists of the journals, papers, and sometimes the
debates of the thirteen state legislatures which considered the Con-
stitution and called conventions to reject or ratify it. The third body
of official material consists of the documents relating to the election
of delegates to the state conventions and the journals, papers, and
debates of those conventions.
Finally, there are the contemporary printed materials in the form
of newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides, which bulk larger than
all other documents relating to ratification combined. The accumu-
lation of nearly 40,000 items from newspapers alone illustrates the
interest of contemporaries in and the intensity of the debate about
the Constitution.

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