Massachusetts Considers Ratifying the U. S. Constitution


The following web presentations of selections from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) relate to the debate about the ratification of the U. S. Constitution in Massachusetts (including the District of Maine).  These materials have been assembled for a workshop, Ratification! The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

Printed Versions of U. S. Constitution with Annotations by Elbridge Gerry

These copies of the first and second printings of the United States Constitution show the evolution of the text as it was amended during the debates in the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.  The notes are in the hand of Elbridge Gerry, a delegate from Massachusetts to the convention who refused to sign the completed Constitution.  His primary complaint was that there was no federal bill of rights. 

U. S. Constitution (first printing) with annotations by Elbridge Gerry
Printed document with handwrritten annotations

U. S. Constitution (second printing) with annotations by Elbridge Gerry
Printed document with handwrritten annotations

Some Individuals Involved with the Ratification Debate

Here are a few portraits of some individuals from Massachusetts who were involved with the ratification debate in Massachusetts.  Included are engravings of John Hancock and Sam Adams who were instrumental in saving the U. S. Constitution from likely defeat by recommending amendments to the First Congress. 

His Excellency Samuel Adams Esqr. L.L.D. & A.A.S. Governor and Commander in ...
Mezzotint engraving by H.B. Hall after portrait by Johnston, 19th century

Elbridge Gerry
Engraving copy by J.B. Longacre, after Vonderlyn

John Hancock
Engraving by Thomas Illman and Edward Pilbrow, 19th century

Mercy Otis Warren
Line engraving by unidentified artist, after the portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1763

Selected Newspapers

The Massachusetts Centinel
Newspaper, Volume 8, Number 19, 21 November 1787

The Massachusetts Centinel
Newspaper, Volume 8, Number 20, 24 November 1787

The Massachusetts Gazette
Newspaper, Volume 7, Number 398, 8 January 1788

The Boston Gazette, and the Country Journal
Newspaper, Number 1750, 11 February 1788


List of yeas and nays on the question of Massachusetts ratifying the Constitution ...
Manuscript list assembled by G. R. Minot, 6 February 1788

Locations Relating to the Ratification Debate in Massachusetts

View of the Presbyterian Meeting House, formerly standing in Federal Street, ...
Engraving by unidentified engraver, from the drawing by Warrell.

  A Plan of Boston, from actual Survey; by Osgood Carleton. 1796
Map by Osgood Carleton, engraved by Samuel Hill

The State of Massachusetts from the best Information
Map by John Reid

Map of the District of Maine, Massachusetts; Compiled from Actual Surveys made ...
Map by Osgood Carleton; engraved by J. Callender and S. Hill

How did Massachusetts Towns Vote?

See two maps that have been enhanced with color-coding indicating how various towns voted during the debate about ratification.

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