Maryland the Seventh State

On the Stump

Alexander Contee Hanson expected the elections to the Ratification Convention to be "little more than a formality." That was far from the case in Baltimore, Harford, and Anne Arundel counties. In Anne Arundel, John Francis Mercer and Jeremiah Townley Chase circulated this handbill which appealed to the emotions of the voters. It achieved its desired effect. Mercer and Chase were elected. As Daniel Carroll explained to James Madison, "the people were alarm'd at [the] positive assertions, and I am afraid when they attended the polls, a wildness appeared in many which show'd they were rely frighend by what they had just heard."


    James Madison Papers, Library of Congress. Facsimile, Maryland State Archives, MdHR G 1796-A-152
The Seventh State to Ratify

The official proceedings of the Ratification Convention reflect nothing of the efforts of the minority to discuss amendments to the Constitution. Another clerk was hired by the Federalists to record the debates in great detail. A prospectus was even published in the newspapers, but because only the proponents of amendments spoke at any length, the project was deliberately sidetracked to prevent furthering the cause of the minority. On April 26, the question was called and 63 members cast their vote for ratification. A committee was then formed to consider amendments, but the majority again had second thoughts and decided to adjourn on April 28th without hearing the minority report.
We the Delegates . . . Having Fully Considered
In late November 1787, the Maryland Legislature set the first week in April 1788 as the time for elections to a convention in Annapolis charged with considering the Constitution.

As news of the proposed Constitution spread through the state, Maryland citizens began debating the merits of the new form of government. Through the winter of 1787-1788, the arguments grew more heated. By the time of the election, vehement handbills circulated deploring the Constitution's lack of a bill of rights. Despite Washington's fears to the contrary, Maryland proved a strong Federalist state. Only 12 out of 76 men elected to the ratifying convention could be called Anti-Federalist, and their principal goal was to amend the Constitution, not defeat it.

Maryland became the seventh state to ratify, giving a much needed boost to the movement for adoption of the Constitution.

Seventy-four delegates to Maryland's Ratification Convention met in the House of Delegates chamber of the State House (the front, left corner of the building as seen in this watercolor) from April 21-28, 1788.
  • This "Unite or Die" cartoon urging the Maryland Convention to ratify the Constitution was based on a segmented snake design used first by Benjamin Franklin in 1754.

    Enoch Pratt Free Library. Facsimile, Maryland State Archives MdHR G 1796-A-15

  • A number of newspapers carried this cartoon, adding a new pillar each time a state ratified the Constitution.

    Massachusetts Historical Society. Facsimile, Maryland State Archives, MdHR 1796-A-150
Newspapers Debate: 1787-1788

The newspaper debate pitted the "Federalist," those who favored adoption of the Constitution without amendment, against the "Anti-Federalists," those who were either opposed to ratification altogether or w=who favored immediate amendments. Articles were almost always signed with aliases such an Annapolitian, Countryman, Publius, Solon, a Farmer, An American, Valerus, Aristides, and even Tom Peep. Only Luther Martin chose to use his real name in a long series of articles against the ratification without amendment, Most of the other writers are unknown. An exception is Aristides, who was Alexander Contee Hanson, who articles in favor of the Constitution were also printed in the pamphlet advertised in the Maryland Gazette.
  • MARYLAND GAZETTE (ANNAPOLIS), January 31, 1788

  • Maryland State Law Library, MdHR G 1796-A-183
Undelivered Defense

Between January and March 1788, Charles Carroll of Carrollton confidently prepared a speech strongly supporting the constitution which he intended to give at the Maryland Ratification Convention. To his surprise, Carroll lost the election, and his arguments for "respectability abroad and security at home . . . " went unheard. As an undelivered defense of a winning cause, however, Carroll's remarks provide a succinct statement of the views of one of Maryland's richest and most conservative public figures.
The Joy of the People was Extreme

Across Maryland. citizens joined their neighbors to celebrate the ratification. Newspapers in Maryland and, later in other states, reported events in Annapolis, Baltimore City, and Cambridge, all of which included parades, illuminations or balls, a shared meal, and toasts of appreciation. Common to the theme of the reports was praise for the remarkable "unanimity of purpose" and good behavior of the participants. In Baltimore, over 3,000 men of every trade and profession marched through the city with floats and banners proclaiming their hopes for economic security under the new government. The centerpiece of the parade was the 15-foot ship of state, Federalist, with her seven sails symbolizing Maryland's position as the seventh state to ratify. The parade ended at newly-christened Federal Hill, where the marchers sat down to a feast of local foods and spirits.

Patriotism was the order of the day, as the people focused on the future. Behind them were war and dissension, ahead the promise of stability and prosperity.

'News of the ratification festivities in Baltimore was carried by papers from Massachusetts and South Carolina. The Maryland parades and ship of state inspired later celebrations as additional states ratified.

Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia), May 10, 1788

Facsimile, Maryland State Archives, MdHR G 1906-3

Massachusetts Centinel (Boston), May 24, 1788

Baltimore City Life Museum. Facsimile, Maryland State Archives, MdHR D 1974

Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Connecticut) May 26, 1788

Maryland State Archives, MdHR P 1262-7