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)

II. The debate over the Constitution in Pennsylvania, 17 September-11 December 1787,   pp. [127]-129


Page 129

the Assembly elections were over, and there are records of meetings
to nominate candidates in several parts of the state. According to
two newspaper accounts, assemblymen who supported the Constitu-
tion deliberately chose not to run for Convention seats. In any event,
not a single "Federalist" assemblyman was elected to the Convention.
Furthermore, James Wilson was the only one of the eight delegates
to the Constitutional Convention who ran for and was elected to
the state Convention.
In contrast, four Antifederalist assemblymen from the 11th and 12th
assemblies, and five Antifederalist councillors from the immediately
preceding Supreme Executive Council and the then sitting Council
were elected to the Convention. All voted against ratification.
The election of Convention delegates on 6 November was a clear
victory for those who called themselves Federalists, a victory that was
widely recognized as deciding the outcome of the Convention before
it began. An indication of the heat of the campaign for Convention
seats was the election night riot in Philadelphia in which a mob
attacked Major Alexander Boyd's boarding house where many of the
western members of the Assembly lodged when the Assembly was in
session. The march of a mob on Boyd's house on 29 September and
the return of two seceding members to the Assembly by the mob was
publicized throughout the United States, but not a single Philadelphia
newspaper reported the riot on election night, 6 November.
In November, prior to the Convention, opponents of the Constitu-
tion in the new Assembly tried to establish the requirement that the
quorum in the Convention be two-thirds of the elected members, the
constitutionally required quorum for the Assembly. The attempt
failed, as did an effort to block adjournment of the Assembly while
the Convention was in session.
From the adjournment of the Constitutional Convention on 17
September to the meeting of the state Convention on 20 November,
the Constitution was debated from many points of view. However,
by mid-October a central issue was that of amendments to the Consti-
tution and, particularly, the need for or lack of a need for a bill of
rights. By the time the Convention met on 20 November, most of
the arguments that were to be used in the Convention debates had
been set forth repeatedly and at length. The newspaper debate con-
tinued after the Convention met, but there is no evidence that it
had any effect on either the debates or the decisions of the Conven-
tion. On the other hand, the decision of the Convention to ratify the
Constitution did not diminish the public debate, which continued
for months after the Convention adjourned on 15 December 1787.
129
INTRODUCTION


Go up to Top of Page