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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

I. The debate over the Constitution in Virginia, 3 September 1787-31 March 1788,   pp. 3-524

Page 4

Public Commentaries on the Constitution
Ten weekly newspapers were printed in Virginia, at one time or
another, from September 1787 through July 1788. Many issues of
these newspapers are no longer extant, causing considerable uncer-
tainty about how much and what actually appeared in them. Almost
complete files exist for the Virginia Independent Chronicle and Win-
chester Virginia Gazette. The least complete files are for the Richmond
Virginia Gazette and Independent Chronicle and Petersburg Virginia Ga-
zette, which have only five and seven extant issues, respectively.
The Constitution was quickly made available to the people. Between
26 September and 3 November, it appeared in at least six newspapers,
twice as a broadside, and twice as a pamphlet. One of the two pamphlet
versions was printed by the state printer on order of the House of
Delegates for distribution throughout the state.
A significant majority of the extant essays on the Constitution ad-
vocate its ratification. The critics of the Constitution, however, are well
represented, particularly in the Virginia Independent Chronicle and Win-
chester Virginia Gazette.
Virginia newspapers printed the proceedings of public meetings-
meetings both in Virginia and in other states that advocated the rat-
ification of the Constitution. They published the congressional reso-
lution of 28 September transmitting the Constitution to the states;
reports on the calling of state conventions to consider the Constitution;
items speculating on the prospects of ratification by Virginia and other
states; favorable comments on the Constitution from abroad; selections
from the proceedings and debates of the Pennsylvania, Massachusetts,
and New Hampshire conventions (including the recommendatory
amendments that John Hancock presented to the Massachusetts Con-
vention on 31 January); and announcements of ratification by the states.
The most important items published originally in Virginia were state-
ments by George Mason, Edmund Randolph, and Richard Henry Lee,
explaining their reasons for opposing the Constitution. Mason and
Randolph had refused to sign the Constitution in the Constitutional
Convention, and Lee was one of its principal opponents in Congress.
Mason's and Lee's statements circulated widely in manuscript for sev-
eral weeks, before they and Randolph's explanation were printed in
newspapers, broadsides, and pamphlets. The most important Federalist
responses to these items were: "Brutus" (Tobias Lear), 6 December;
"An Independent Freeholder" (Alexander White?), 18, 25 January;
"Valerius," 23 January; "Civis Rusticus," 30 January; and "A State
Soldier" III (George Nicholas?), 12 March. Federalists were not un-
happy with Randolph's explanation because, despite his objections, he

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