Concord Monitor – From the Archives: New Hampshire’s Honorable Position in National History


Ashley Miller shares this month’s story with ConcordTV. Watch the episode on YouTube.

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, making it the law of the land, but the Granite State’s approval was not guaranteed.

The state constitutional convention opened in Exeter on February 13 with about fifty members present. John Sullivan presided over the convention as president.

Samuel Livermore, John Taylor Gilman, and Benjamin West drafted rules to regulate the proceedings of the convention. The federalists, taking into account the worst-case scenario, introduced several agreements during the convention that allowed them to ensure that ratification would not fail.

The first was that individual names would not be linked to votes except in the case of adoption, allowing delegates who had instructions on how to vote to go unnoticed. The second agreement stated that a motion to adjourn would supersede any other motion. Finally, a new vote could not be taken unless the number of delegates present was equal to the number present on the first vote. This allowed federalists to avoid reconsideration of previous votes by simply leaving.

A section-by-section discussion of the Constitution followed. There were four issues that generated a lot of discussion. First, Antifederalists opposed the two- and six-year terms for Representatives and Senators, second, they believed that the powers granted to Congress in Article I had stripped state governments of their power, and third, the creation of a federal judiciary. and four, opposition to Article IV, which bans religious tests for public office.

Recognizing that ratification may not proceed, federalists voted to postpone the convention on February 22, by a narrow margin in the motion. The convention was scheduled to reconvene in Concord in mid-June.

Meanwhile, the federalists continued their newspaper campaigns and lobbied for the Constitution. They flooded the press with articles supporting ratification and attacking Anti-Federalists. In addition, they turned their eyes to local elections, trying to pad their numbers to gain an advantage.

When the New Hampshire convention reconvened on June 18, several new delegates had arrived. A committee was formed to compile proposed changes to the Constitution for consideration by Congress. This committee consisted of fifteen members, including John Langdon, Josiah Bartlett, Joshua Atherton, and John Sullivan.

The delegates proposed twelve amendments for consideration to “allay the fears and calm the concerns of many of the good people of this State and more effectively guard against improper administration of the Federal Government.” Among these twelve amendments were a number of now well-known concepts: not billeting a soldier, the right to trial by jury, that there should be one representative for every thirty thousand people, and freedom of religion. These ideas would be codified in the Bill of Rights a year later.

A motion was introduced on June 20, and passed on June 21, that the Constitution should be adopted and that the amendments reported by the committee should be recommended to Congress. Ratification narrowly passed 57-47 on June 21, 1788.

With the ninth ratification, the Constitution was officially in force. New Hampshire’s honorable place in national history is even enshrined in the State Archives address: 9 Ratification Way.

From the Archives is a monthly column highlighting the history and collection of the New Hampshire State Archives, written by New Hampshire State Archivist Ashley Miller. Miller studied history at Penn State University and has a master’s degree in history and a master’s degree in records management from Simmons College.