Article VII

NOTE: Because the framers had spent the entire summer of 1787 writing the new Constitution, and because they believed that its adoption was essential to the nation’s survival, they wanted to make certain as best they could that it would be ratified and thus take effect.

For the reasons noted above, the framers carefully spelled out the ratification procedure. Article VII reveals their strategy. First, the proposed new Constitution was not sent to the Congress of the Articles of Confederation for its approval. The framers understood that the Confederation Congress was not likely to approve a document that greatly increased the power of the national government by reducing the power of the states. Second, the proposed new Constitution was to be ratified by special state conventions in the states, not by the state legislatures. Third, for the Constitution to be adopted and thus take effect, ratification by the special state conventions of only nine states was required, rather than ratification by all thirteen states.

NOTE: It was generally understood, however, that ratification by the special state conventions of two states – Virginia and New York—was essential to the success of the endeavor. It was also true that opposition to the new Constitution was particularly strong in both of those states. The special state conventions in those two states did ratify the new Constitution, but the vote in both was very close.

NOTE: The framers’ strategy in sending the proposed new Constitution to special state conventions, rather than to the state legislatures, was also smart because it meant that some of the framers could themselves then be elected as delegates to their state conventions and advocate for its adoption. For example, this was true in Virginia where James Madison, often called “the Father of the Constitution,” was chosen as a delegate to the Virginia ratifying convention where he played a leading role in arguing for the adoption of the Constitution he had helped write.