This Day (Ratification Edition)

Published:June 25, 2013 by Brendan Wolfe

Painting by Louis S. Glanzman; commissioned by Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey State Societies Daughters of the American Revolution Independence National Historical Park Collection, 1987

On this day in 1788, and after intense debate among the delegates to the Virginia Convention, the United States Constitution is ratified by an 89 to 79 vote—due in part to a promise by the Federalists to consider amendments after ratification.

George Mason and Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution, worrying that the central government was too strong and that it lacked a bill of rights. According to one of Henry’s fellow delegates, the irate losers met to discuss “a plan of resistance to the operation of the Federal Government” and invited Henry “to take the chair.”

And here you’ve got to hand it to Old Pat. For an anti-Federalist, he nevertheless seemed to care—already!—about the Union. He reminded his friends that he had already “done his duty strenuously … in the proper place” where “[t]he question had been fully discussed and settled.” Now, Henry concluded, “as true and faithful republicans, they had all better go home!”

Also on this day, in 1864, members of the 48th Pennsylvania, miners led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, begin digging a long tunnel to the Confederate lines in front of Petersburg. Stay tuned for the results. Bang bang!

IMAGE: Painting by Louis S. Glanzman; commissioned by Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey State Societies Daughters of the American Revolution Independence National Historical Park Collection, 1987