THE RATIFICATION CAMPAIGN
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THE RATIFICATION CAMPAIGN Topic #6 Ratification = Consent • Remember (as the framers themselves certainly remem- bered during their deliberations) that the framers of the Constitution were only making a proposal --- a proposal that would later be accepted or rejected in a ratification process. – The framers, especially the most enthusiastic advocates a strong central government, certainly had considerations of “political feasibility” in mind. – For example, they realized that, if the convention proposed a Constitution with all the features of the VA Plan, such a constitution would likely be rejected in the ratification process, so central government enthusiasts ultimately preferred to put forward a more moderate proposal. • In terms of social contract theory, ratification is the decisive stage at which popular consent is given, or denied, to the proposed constitution. The Ratification Campaign • The ratification process set in motion the first national political campaign in U.S. politics. – It resembled a contemporary President nomination campaign (that takes place over an extended period as primary elections occur in different states at different times) more than a contemporary President election campaign. • The proponents of the Constitution realized that they faced a difficult task and that they need a coordinated strategy that exploited every possible political advantage available. Federalists vs. Antifederalists • Proponents of the Constitution called themselves Federalists, stealing a political label that (given the political terminology of the day) would have better fit those who wanted to keep the existing A. of C. – Calling themselves Nationalists would have been more fitting, but less politically expedient. • By default, the opponents of the Constitution became know as Antifederalists. The Antifederalists • These were the main Antifederalist “talking points.” – The convention violated its instructions, which called only for proposed amendments to the A. of C. – The proposed Constitution would create too strong a central government – the kind we threw off at great cost a few years ago. – The new National Executive looks too much like King George. – Popular government works best at the local and state level; good democrats want to keep the central government weak, because central government is inevitably oligarchic. – “We the people of the United States…”!!! How dare they say that? We are only “the people of Maryland,” “the people of Virginia,” etc. [Antifederalist were “localists,” not “nationalists.”] – They have proposed a “Godless Constitution.” – They created this strong central government but failed to include a Bill of Rights. • This last point turned out to be by far the most politically effective argument in the Antifederalist arsenal (which Hamilton tried to rebut in Federalist #84). Article VII of the Constitution • It had been expected that the proposals of the federal convention would take the form of amendments to the Articles of Confederation. No alteration may be made in the Articles of Confederation unless such alteration be agreed to [unanimously] in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State. • But instead the framers inserted Article VII into their proposed constitution. • The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same. • Two key differences: • Ratification is by conventions (of elected delegates) in each state, rather than by the legislatures of the states (as under the A. of C.) • Ratification by any nine states is sufficient for the new Constitution to go into effect, rather than ratification by all thirteen states (as under the A. of C. Article VII (cont.) • This was a strikingly bold (even “revolutionary”) move: the Federalists were claiming that their Constitution should be ratified according to a provision in their as yet unratified constitution, not under the provisions of the existing law of the land (the Articles of Confederation). • The particular provisions of Article VII were advan- tageous to the Federalist cause. – Ratification by conventions vs. state legislatures. • State legislatures up to now had exercised exclusive authority over the people of their states. • Under the proposed constitution, state legislatures would share this authority with the new central government. • So state legislatures had a significant institutional interest in opposing the new constitution. • Bypassing the state legislatures therefore advantaged the Federalists. • Moreover they could plausibly claim that their procedure was more popular/democratic that the A. of C. procedure. Article VII (cont.) • Ratification by nine states vs. thirteen. – It’s obviously easier to get the support of 9 states than 13, but the implica- tions of this difference are more subtle and profound than they may first appear. – Of course, under Article VII, only the states that ratify [consent to] the Constitution are bound by its terms. – But strategic analysis of Article VII implies that, not only do fewer state need to ratify the Constitution, but also that in the long run more states are likely to ratify it, than under unanimity rule. • Under the A. of C. rules, any state can preserve the existing union under the A.of C. (by rejecting the Constitution). • Under the Article VII rules, any state can stay out of the new union (by rejecting the Consitution), but it takes a coalition of five states to keep the A. of C. in effect. – Suppose, for example, that 11 states ratify the Constitution and 2 reject it (which is pretty much what actually happened initially). • Under the A. of C. rules, the Constitution is rejected and the A. of C. remains in effect. • Under the Article VII rules, the old confederal union disappears, a new federal union is formed among the 11 ratifying states, and the two non- ratying states are left out in the cold. It is likely that they will in due course change their minds, ratify the Constitution, and join the union. Other Strategic Considerations • While formal ratification by any nine states was sufficient to establish the Constitution, it was recognized by all that ratification by the biggest states (MA, NY, PA, and VA) was essential, because without them a new federal union would not be viable. – NY was considered to be the most important “battleground state” in the ratification campaign because • it was closely divided between Federalists and Antifederalists, and • a contiguous union could not be formed without it. • The Federalists were already organized; their basic strategy was to push for ratification by as many states as quickly as possible, – before the Antifederalists could get better organized, and – to get a “bandwagon” rolling. Other Strategic Considerations (cont.) • The proposed Constitution was in effect being considered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, – i.e., under a “closed rule” (with no amendments in order) – so the Federalists were exercising “agenda power.” • The fact that the only alternative to the Constitution was the A. of C. worked to the Federalists’ advantage, because the A. of C. were widely viewed as a failure. • The election of delegates to the state ratifying conventions became in effect popular referendums on the Constitution. – Most candidates ran on either a Federalist or Antifederalist “platform,” – though uncommitted delegates were elected in some states (most notably in Massachusetts). The Federalist Papers • Hamilton, Madison, and Jay teamed up to write what are now called the Federalist Papers. – These “op-ed” essays appeared in New York City newspapers. – They were intended to influence voters to elect pro-Federalist delegates to the NY (and other) ratifying conventions and to influence uncommitted delegates while the conventions were meeting. – The essays were published anonymously and signed Publius. – Antifederalist papers were also written and widely circulated. Ratification map and timeline 1. Delaware 2. Pennsylvania 3. N.J. 4. Conn. 5. Georgia 6. Mass. [Bill of Rights] 7. Md. 8. S.C. 9. N.H. <<< 9/13 10. Virginia 11. N.Y. =============== 12. N.C. 13. R.I.