DBQ: Ratifying the Constitution
Directions- Read all the documents answer all the questions and the essay on loose-leaf.
Historical Context: Today, over 200 years after it was written ad
ratified (approved), most Americans think of the US Constitution as something
almost sacred. We assume that this great document has always been honored and
looked up to. This is NOT true. When it was written in 1787 and submitted to
the states for ratification, it set off months of fierce and often bitter
debate. There were, of course, many who welcomed it as a stronger and more
effective national government which could successfully tie the 13 states
together into one nation. But others were afraid of this proposed powerful new
national government. Why should they now set up a new distant central
government which could threaten their liberties just as King George and
Parliament had? The debate went on in towns and villages across the country for
months. Some of the smaller states ratified the new Constitution quickly, but in
most states the debate continued. In February of 1788, the
Question: To what extent was the new constitution necessary?
This excerpt is from a newspaper, The
Let us look and [see] the [problems that exist] in every part of our country . . . the complaints of our farmers . . . the complaints of every class of [people who loan money] . . . the [sad] faces of our working people . . . our ships rotting in our harbors . . . the insults that are [made against America] in every court in Europe . . . View these things, fellow citizens, and then say that we do not require a new, a protecting, and efficient federal [national] government if you can.
This excerpt from "Observations on the New Federal Constitution and on the Federal and State Conventions," by Mercy Otis Warren. It originally appeared as a newspaper article in the spring of 1788.
There is no security in the system [under the proposed new U.S. Constitution] either for the rights of [people with different ideas] or the liberty of the press . . . The executive and the legislature are so dangerously [combined] that [it should cause people to be alarmed] . . . There is no [system] for [making sure that power does not stay] in the same hands for life.
These excerpts are adapted from a
letter written by George Washington to John Jay, dated
Your [opinion], that our [situation is quickly coming] to a crisis, [agree] with my own ... We have errors to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation (i.e. the Articles of Confederation) . . . thirteen [powerful], independent, disunited States are in the habit of . . . refusing [to obey our national Congress] . . . [I pray that we can act in time to prevent the bad things we fear may happen].
This excerpt is fro a speech by
Patrick Henry, a delegate to the Virginia State Constitutional Ratification
Convention, given in June 1788. (From Jonathan Elliot, ed., The
Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal
[The Constitution] is a [proposal] as [big a change] as [the document]
which separated us from