Virginia Ratifying Convention
The Virginia Ratifying Convention (also historically referred to as the "Virginia Federal Convention") was a convention of 168 delegates from Virginia who met in 1788 to ratify or reject the United States Constitution, which had been drafted at the Philadelphia Convention the previous year.
The Convention met and deliberated from June 2 through June 27 in Richmond at the Richmond Theatre, presently the site of Monumental Church. Judge Edmund Pendleton, Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention, served as the convention's president by unanimous consent.
Delegates in favor of ratification (two types of Federalists - those desiring to preserve and protect the Constitution of a limited government and those who felt the Constitution could be changed by each administration The proposed Constitution was debated, close by close, with President Pendleton stepping down to lead the debate for the Constitution, while Vice-President George Wythe presided. Patrick Henry led the debate for the opposition, with George Mason assisting. The term used and explained by Patrick Henry (The Danger of the Most Dangerous Kind to a Free Country, with a type of tyranny, detected in the mid-170's could lead to an abject addition if declaratory/restrictive clauses cannot be added and sent back to the States, including those which had already ratified it, along with statements for a Declaration of Rights, similar to the one that Virginia had prepared in May 1776 prior to approving the first Constitution for a State Government and used as a pattern in other States in 1776-77. All but one of the proposed amendments prepared at this Convention were among the 14 selected by the First Congress, which combined four proposed statements into two amendments and sending 12 back to the States to be ratified individually, not as a Bill of Rights, which most delegates on both sides did no want the government to prepare. James Madison, who had been a driving force behind the federalist papers, was given the responsibility to handle the Virginia amendments in the First Congress. Other notable delegates pushing for ratification Pendleton, George Wythe, chair of the Rules Committee at the Constitutional Convention, William Overton Callis and John Marshall. Though George Washington did not attend the Convention, he was a prolific letter writer during this time, and messengers carried his communications to Richmond. As a delegate from Virginia to the Philadelphia Convention, Edmund Randolph refused to sign the proposed constitution, and wrote about his anti-federalist objections but by the time of the Richmond meeting, he argued that the need for union outweighed any defects.
Opposing them were Patrick Henry, George Mason, William Grayson, James Monroe, John Taylor of Caroline, Benjamin Harrison V and other Anti-Federalists, who believed that the Constitution created a central government that was too powerful. Henry, the leader of this faction, opposed allowing the new central government to directly tax citizens of the various states, and he feared that the newly created office of President of the United States would become far too powerful. He pointedly made references to a potential future Oliver Cromwell.
A major issue during the Virginia Ratification Convention was the question of individual rights. Many delegates who were generally in favor of the Constitution were concerned that it did not contain a list of guaranteed rights akin to the celebrated Virginia Declaration of Rights. George Mason argued for the addition of a bill of rights, among other modifications.
On June 25, the convention ratified the Constitution by a narrow vote of 89 to 79.
Many of the ideas presented during this convention were later incorporated into the United States Bill of Rights. James Madison, elected to Congress from his home district was a floor leader in the first session of the First Congress. Madison rewrote the various state proposals into twelve proposals from Congress as amended, sent to the States for ratification by three-fourths of them.
Virginia was the tenth state to ratify the new Constitution. New York followed a month later on July 26, 1788. The new government began operating with eleven states on March 4, 1789.
Henry's hostility to the government under the Constitution was so strong that he subsequently refused to join it, turning down offers to serve as United States Secretary of State and as a justice of the United States Supreme Court. His control of the Virginia legislature enabled his partisans to elect the only two Anti-Federalist U.S. Senators in the First Congress.
List of delegates and votes on ratification
The following list is of the delegates to the Virginia ratifying convention and their vote on ratification. A total of 170 delegates were elected. Of these, 168 voted on ratification: 89 for, 79 against. The delegates included representatives from modern-day Kentucky and West Virginia, which were part of Virginia at the time.
|County/City||Name||Vote on Ratification|
|Albemarle||Wilson Cary Nicolas||Yes|
|Amherst||Samuel Jordan Cabell||No|
|Berkeley||William Darke (or Dark)||Yes|
|Botetourt||Martin M'Ferran (or McFerran)||Yes|
|Bourbon||Henry Lee (of Bourbon)||No|
|Bourbon||Notley Conn||Did not vote|
|Caroline||Hon. Edmund Pendleton||Yes|
|Caroline||James Taylor (of Caroline)||Yes|
|Charlotte||Hon. Paul Carrington||Yes|
|Charles City||Benjamin Harrison V||No|
|Charles City||Hon. John Tyler, Sr.||No|
|Chesterfield||Stephen Pankey, Jr.||No|
|Cumberland||Thomas H. Drew||No|
|Elizabeth City||Miles King||Yes|
|Elizabeth City||Worlich Westwood||Yes|
|Essex||James Upshaw (or Upshur)||No|
|Frederick||John Sheaman Woodcock||Yes|
|Franklin||Thomas Arthur (or Arthurs)||No|
|Greenbrier||John Stuart (or Stewart)||Yes|
|Hanover||John Carter Littlepage||No|
|Henrico||Governor Edmund Randolph||Yes|
|Isle of Wight||Thomas Pierce|
|Isle of Wight||James Johnson||Yes|
|James City||Nathaniel Burwell||Yes|
|James City||Robert Andrews||Yes|
|King and Queen||William Fleet||Yes|
|King and Queen||John Roane|
|King George||Burdet Ashton||Yes|
|King George||William Thornton||Yes|
|King William||Holt Richeson||No|
|King William||Benjamin Temple||No|
|Lancaster||James Gordon (of Lancaster)||Yes|
|Loudoun||Stevens Thomson Mason||No|
|Louisa||William Overton Callis||Yes|
|Mecklenburg||Samuel Hopkins, Jr.||No|
|Middlesex||Ralph Wormley, Jr.||Yes|
|New Kent||William Clayton||Yes|
|New Kent||Burwell Bassett||Yes|
|Norfolk||James Taylor (of Norfolk)||Yes|
|Orange||James Madison, Jr.||Yes|
|Orange||James Gordon (of Orange)||Yes|
|Pittsylvania||John Wilson (of Pittsylvania)||No|
|Powhatan||William Ronald (or Roland)||Yes|
|Powhatan||Thomas Turpin, Jr.||No|
|Prince Edward||Patrick Henry||No|
|Prince Edward||Robert Lawson||No|
|Prince George||Theodorick Bland (or Theodoric Bland)||No|
|Prince George||Edmund Ruffin||No|
|Prince William||William Grayson||No|
|Prince William||Cuthbert Bullitt||No|
|Princess Anne||Anthony Walke||Yes|
|Princess Anne||Thomas Walke||Yes|
|Randolph||John Wilson (of Randolph)||Yes|
|Russell||Henry Dickenson (or Dickinson)||No|
|Southampton||Benjamin Blout (or Blunt)||Yes|
|Southampton||Samuel Killo (or Kello)||Yes|
|Surry||John Hartwell Cocke||Yes|
|Sussex||John Howell Briggs||No|
|Warwick||Hon. Richard Cary||No|
|Westmoreland||Henry Lee III (of Westmoreland)||Yes|
|York||Hon. John Blair||Yes|
|York||Hon. George Wythe||Yes|
|Norfolk Borough||Thomas Mathews (or Matthews)||Yes|
- Chevalier Quesnay's "New Academy" had failed in 1786. It was renamed "The Theatre Square" at the time of the Ratification Convention. The wooden structure was torn down, and a masonry "Richmond Theater" erected in 1810. It burned in 1811, and a memorial Church built in memoriam to the 72 victims. Southern Democrats nominated Breckinridge in 1860 at the 1817 "New Richmond Theatre" at another site. The plaque's location is in Richmond's West Hospital. The original building, a converted theater, is gone.
- "Delegates to the Constitutional Convention: Virginia". University of Missouri-Kansas City. Retrieved 06/11/2011. Check date values in:
- "Virginia ratification" Avalon Law Project, Yale University. Viewed November 11, 2011.
- Delegates Returned to Serve in Convention of March 1788, in Hugh Blair Grigsby, The History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788: With Some Account of Eminent Virginians of that Era who Were Members of the Body.
- David L. Pulliam, The Constitutional Conventions of Virginia from the Foundation of the Commonwealth to the Present Time (1901), pp. 38-39, 46-47.
- Lowell H. Harrison & James C. Klotter, A New History of Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 1997): "The convention ratified the Constitutuion on June 25, 1788, by a vote of 89-79, with ten of the fourteen Kentucky delegates voting in the negative. Humphrey Marshall, Robert Breckinridge, and Rice Bullock favored acceptance; for some reason, delegate Notley Conn did not vote.)
- Labunski, Richard E. James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
- Elliot, Jonathan. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution..., vol. 3. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1891.
- Grigsby, Hugh Blair. The History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788.... Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Historical Society, 1891. Has short biographical sketches of five future U.S. office holders J. Marshall, J. Madison, J. Monroe, John Tyler, B. Harrison. Five famous "old men of the Convention" are outlined, P. Henry, G. Mason, G. Wythe, E. Randolph, Henry Lee and E. Pendleton, as well as lesser-knowns.
- Maier, Pauline. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (2010) pp 235–319; the standard scholarly study
- Shepard, E. Lee, comp. Reluctant Ratifiers: Virginia Considers the Federal Constitution. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1988. ISBN 0-945015-01-1.
- Thomas, Robert E. "The Virginia Convention of 1788: A Criticism of Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution", The Journal of Southern History 19, no. 1 (Feb., 1953), pp. 63–72.
- Kaminski, John P. and Gaspare J. Saladino, eds. Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, vols 8–10. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1988–1993.
- "Patrick Henry, Virginia Ratifying Convention, 5-16 June 1788"
- "George Mason and the Constitution"
- Text of the debates
- Text of the ratification