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CON‑1.C (LO)

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hi this is Kim from Khan Academy and today I'm learning more about article seven of the US Constitution which is the provision that specified the conditions for the Constitution to become law it reads the ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution between the states so ratifying the same although this sounds simple it reminds us that when the framers finished drafting the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 it was by no means a done deal at least nine states had to ratify the Constitution in order to replace the existing government under the Articles of Confederation to learn more about the ratification process I sought out the help of two experts mark Graber is the Jacob a France professor of constitutionalism at the University of Maryland Frances King Carey School of Law Michael Rapaport is the darling foundation professor at the University of San Diego School of Law professor Graber can you tell us a little bit about the political context of ratification what was going on at this time as the framers tried to put a new constitution into the fabric of the United States well one central problem of the Articles of Confederation was the Articles required that all 13 states consent for any amendment and it turned out at this time Rhode Island was a great outlier so Rhode Island wasn't going to consent to much of anything and in fact Rhode Island did not even send delegates to the convention that drafted the Constitution so the framers knew that if you had the unanimous rule for ratification it would not work so instead they chose nine it's about two-thirds three-fourths in part to make sure Rhode Island and one outlier could not prevent adoption so let's remember there's two stages here and how the Constitution gets written and ratified so first it's written in what's called the drafting convention or the Philadelphia Convention which was held during the summer of 1787 and in that convention there was pretty much an agreeing that the federal government needed to be made stronger but that was just a proposal in order for the Constitution to be ratified it needed nine of the 13 states and so we went to the second stage and there things were and in some ways going to be more difficult because there was a variety of viewpoints in the different states and the main question that came up in state after state after state was was the federal government being given too much additional power under the previous regime of the Articles of Confederation the federal government had very limited powers and the Constitution was going to give the federal government more power they wanted a strategy that once the ball started rolling states that was slower we're going to be faced with a choice you could get in on the inside and maybe effect some changes early but if you were left out whatever happened would happen without you and a lot of states at the end were fearful of what being left out this strategy worked and as they went through in tough states as time went on so New Hampshire Virginia New York North Carolina Rhode Island in order to get ratification each time they promised will will have a bill of rights and those states added a list of amendments that they wanted added to the Constitution so was it controversial that the framers decided that only nine states would be necessary to ratify the Constitution very controversial one of these central points of anti-federalists was that this was illegal that the existing Constitution said all states and therefore only all states could change the Constitution so in that respect it was somewhat controversial another way in which it departed from the Articles so the article said you needed the state legislatures to approve the amendments and the US Constitution said no we want state conventions special bodies elected by the people to approve these things why did they say that because they feared that the state legislators who would be losing a lot of power under the Constitution would vote against it so they wanted sort of to go directly to the people in these conventions and bypass the state legislatures so we know that there were some opponents of this new constitution how close did they actually come to preventing its ratification well it was a very close fight we look back on it and eventually all 13 states were gonna ratify and it just looks like oh well that wasn't too much of a truck trouble but it was very close and things could have easily gone in the opposite direction one of the ways in which it was closed was that there were just very close votes Massachusetts was 187 to 168 New Hampshire was 57 47 New York was 30 27 so very close votes involved you know a couple of people changing their mind and that would have meant various states didn't ratify in addition to that some of the states actually did not ratify so the first thing that happened was Rhode Island early on in the process says we don't like your your horrible Constitution they all expected that we're not going to hold even a convention you want us to hold the convention we're not gonna hold a convention we're just gonna have a vote in state and that vote in the state 90% of the people voted against the Constitution so in a way Rhode Island actually voted against ratification although it didn't use the proper method North Carolina also they held a convention and they were very upset about there not being a bill of rights in the Constitution and they just didn't approve it they didn't disapprove it they just did nothing and they they waited so in a way two of the states voted against ratification North Carolina had not yet ratified when George Washington took office so in fact when George Washington took office there were only 11 states in the Union at the end of the day crucial people I think decided it was better to signed the Constitution and be in on the ground floor then stay out and see what happened interesting so who are some of the major players involved here and what were they arguing about there were the Federalists who were arguing in favor of ratifying the Constitution and the anti-federalists who were arguing against ratifying the Constitution so the Federalists the two of the very famous ones are familiar names Alexander Hamilton and James Madison those two people though were also particularly important because they decided Hamilton said we're gonna have a tough time getting ratification in New York we need to write some essays defending the Constitution and so Hamilton and Madison cooperated together and wrote what we now call the Federalist Papers which were simply essays written in the newspapers trying to urge the New York Convention to ratify the Constitution eventually those essays were sent to other states and became known and now we we come to revere those those essays as the Federalist Papers but they were originally just kind of advocacy pieces for ratifying the convention now there were also anti federalists the anti-federalists in part was simply people who opposed the Constitution and just as it's the case that say people opposed Obamacare from both the left and the right people who opposed the Constitution opposed it for many different reasons and one of their problems was they were not a United Bunch but in general these were people fearful of a very strong national government they believe states were sovereign they wanted to keep power of local and they were very fearful of what they perceived to be an elite who would run the Constitution after ratification the names that people may know who were anti federalists were people like Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams so what were some of the major arguments made in favor of adopting this new constitution there were I think two types of arguments people felt that the articles were not working properly they had all kinds of problems and one of the strongest arguments that the Federalist Papers made was that if we don't fix this and make for a stronger union together what will happen is we'll break apart look at what happens when you have a bunch of states all next to one another in a land area we know what that looks like it's called Europe and what happens in Europe they fight wars with one another all the time and those wars are very problematic you have to have big armies standing armies now there were also the particular arguments about what powers were missing that the federal government had done the main arguments were made was the federal government did not have enough power so they didn't have for example the taxing power and they didn't have a way of enforcing treaties against the states very well and some of the states were putting tariffs up so interfering with trade within the country so states would set tariffs on out of state goods States wouldn't contribute to the national government second we needed to present a united front to foreign governments so we were very worried what would happen if South Carolina formed an alliance with England and North Carolina formed an alliance with France that would be good the country needed to speak with one voice so those are some of the arguments made for adopting the Constitution what were some of the arguments against adopting this new constitution well first argument was even though most anti-federalists admitted the Articles needed some repair they said it's not really urgent it's not like the house is going to fall down tomorrow that just you know the wind is coming through and we can figure it out we really want a better Constitution the other arguments were the Constitution put too much power in the national government it put too much power in elites the fear was if you had national elections only elites would win if you had local elections people the people actually knew would win so they thought a big national government would be too far away from the people to know what they really needed as opposed to state governments which they perceived as being sort of more personal closer to the needs of individuals so compare two kinds of Elections first how many people really know anyone who runs for Senator who runs for president that you're on a first-name basis with now compare you're in a school club chances are when someone runs for an officer of the school club you know who they are another type of argument was if you give the federal government this power and even if and the Federalists always argued that the power was limited that they were being given to the federal government and the anti-federalists came back and says well you say it's limited but what we know from historical experience is is that once a governments in power it tends to seize more power there's a lot of vague phrases in the Constitution and the federal government will use those vague phrases to assert greater and greater power what were some of the strategies that the framers used to entice some of the opponents of a strong central government to ratify the Constitution so the first thing that they did was to try to build up momentum so they knew there were certain states which were strongly in favor of ratification small states sometimes wanted ratification so the first state that comes in is Delaware and they vote 3204 the Constitution and a bunch of early states so let's say the first five states all vote for ratification by pretty lopsided margin so that builds up a kind of momentum all right we have five states we only need four more of course the the next ones that we're going to come we're going to be much more difficult and they then needed to change their strategy at that point you know they argued like crazy the Federalist Papers are a very famous example they indicated they Bo to amendment once the Constitution was ratified then again in Pennsylvania when anti-federalists boycotted the convention and the result is the convention didn't have a quorum they ordered the sergeant-at-arms to a tavern these swords and arms found some boycotting anti-federalists and physically put them in the building so they could count for a quorum doesn't get told in a hole Wow the framers could play rough-and-tumble politics with the best of them a lot of the things that pop up at the time of the framing I think we look back on today and imagine how would this work in today's era with you know 330 million Americans do you think the system under the Articles of Confederation with a smaller more local government could possibly work today well among other things the Articles had no great means of collecting taxes or gaining revenue given that modern government needs trillions of dollars the Articles if you've got a thousand dollars it was a miracle so the articles clearly don't work but the articles were inadequate for eighteenth-century government they were clearly inadequate or would be clearly inadequate for 21st century government now the Constitution appears to have been adequate for eighteenth-century government whether it is adequate for 21st century government is a fair question one of the interesting questions about the constitution is how democratic is the Constitution this debate about how democratic the Constitution is actually enters into the question about ratification on one level the Constitution was democratic because each state in these ratification conventions voted on whether to ratify by majority vote on the other hand at the federal level the ratification requirement required 9 out of 13 and the idea there would be we needed more buy-in we needed a limitation on simple majority rule in order to to make the system function well in order to produce a a constitution that would have support from from the whole country the interesting thing about that super majority rule and something that people don't often make the connection with is we probably owe our bill of rights to that supermajority rule because if only 7 of the 13 states that the mirror majority had been needed to ratify the Constitution then it's quite possible that the Federalists wouldn't have had to promise to put a bill of rights into the Constitution because they wouldn't have needed to and they were initially quite opposed to putting a bill of rights in the Constitution it was only the fact that they needed nine out of the thirteen states that that really forced their hand and forced them to promise that they would put the bill of rights in there so we see the in terms of the ratification that there's both sort of Democratic elements but also Republican or supermajority elements so we've learned that it wasn't easy to ratify the Constitution the framers bypassed state legislatures and went directly to the people in state conventions hoping that momentum and arguments for a stronger federal government would entice the opponents of the Constitution to ratify it it took until 1789 for 9 out of 13 states to ratify the Constitution and finally make it law to learn more about article 7 check out the National Constitution Center's interactive Constitution and Khan Academy's resources on US government and politics