On this day in 1788, the Massachusetts Centinel published a circular letter by New York Governor George Clinton laying out the state’s conditions for ratifying the Constitution.
“Several articles . . . appear so exceptionable to a majority of us, that nothing but the fullest confidence of obtaining a revision of them by a General Convention . . . could have prevailed upon a sufficient number to ratify it . . .”
New York was the third-to-last state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, doing so only after New Hampshire’s ratification, as the ninth state, made the document law on June 21, 1788. However, without Virginia or New York, the success of the fledgling government was in jeopardy. Virginia finally ratified on June 25, and knowing the Old Dominion was on board, the Empire State followed the next day.
Nevertheless, New York ratified with significant conditions and declarations enumerating what it was not giving up by joining the federal union. While approving ratification, the state convention listed two dozen conditions and Governor Clinton sent this circular letter to the other states calling for a second convention to discuss amendments and a bill of rights. Less than a year later, James Madison would rise in the House of Representatives to propose the amendments that would eventually become the federal Bill of Rights.
Read this letter, published 224 years ago today . . .