We have just uploaded the record of debates on the ratification of the federal
constitution in the New York Convention, June-July 1788. The record is taken
from Jonathan Elliot's standard collection. Records of the other states are
The master menu for the Elliot collection is at the url below.
We started with New York because its debates are especially interesting for
the light they shed on constitutional construction. Ratification was, at that
point, a foregone conclusion. New Hampshire had just ratified, making the
ninth state necessary for the Constitution to go into effect, and New York did
not want to be left out of the Union. However, the delegates had strong
reservations, and their debate focused mainly on how the provisions of the
Constitution were to be constructed, and on amendments that would help insure
such a doctrine of construction. Some of these proposals were adopted as the
Bill of Rights. Others were not, but still stand as evidence of the
understanding of the Founders of what the clauses of the Constitution meant at
Included in the debate records are speeches by Alexander Hamilton and John
Jay, two the authors of the Federalist Papers, and Melancton Smith, a
prominent critic of the Constitution.
Essential reading for any student of constitutional history and law.
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