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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 6 February 2013
On this day in 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth colony to ratify the Constitution. The Massachusetts convention met in January 1788 to debate ratification. Massachusetts had the largest convention with 364 delegates and heated debate from both sides. Governor John Hancock suggested that several amendments be proposed, including a Bill of Rights, which Samuel Adams called a “conciliatory proposition.” This was enough to sway the vote in favor of ratification, 187 to 168.
Before the vote, John Hancock addressed the delegates: “That a general system of government is indispensably necessary to save our country from ruin, is agreed upon all sides. That the one now to be decided upon has its defects, all agree; but when we consider the variety of interests, and the different habits of the men it is intended for, it would be very singular to have an entire union of sentiment respecting it. Were the people of the United States to delegate the powers proposed to be given, to men who were no dependent on them frequently for elections — to men whose interest, either from rank or title, would differ from that of their fellow-citizens in common — the task of delegating authority would be vastly more difficult; but, as the matter now stands, the powers reserve by the people render them secure, and, until they themselves become corrupt, they will always have upright and able rulers. I give my assent to the Constitution, in full confidence that the amendments proposed will soon become a part of the system. These amendments being in no wise local, but calculated to give security and ease alike to all the states, I think that all will agree to them.” 1
One notable birthday on this day in history in 1756, that of Aaron Burr. Burr was born in New Jersey and studied at what is now Princeton, originally studying theology but changing to law. Burr volunteered for military service in 1775, serving under Benedict Arnold and later George Washington and General Putnam before being commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of Malcolm’s Regiment in 1777. Burr later returned to law and was a successful attorney, sharing a practice with Alexander Hamilton. New York Governor George Clinton appointed Burr Attorney General in 1789 and he was elected senator two years later. Burr helped organize the Democratic Party in New York City. Jefferson and Burr both received 73 electoral votes in the election and Hamilton threw his weight behind Jefferson, thereby leaving Burr to be Jefferson’s vice president. In 1804, Burr and Hamilton dueled, with Burr fatally wounding Hamilton. Burr was charged with treason for conspiring to form a republic in the Southwest but he was acquitted. Burr then traveled to Europe to garner support for a revolution in Mexico but was ordered to leave the country, so he traveled Europe until he was penniless. When he finally returned to the U.S., he resumed his law practice in New York until his death. 2
1 “The Ratification of the U.S. Constitution in Massachusetts,” The Massachusetts Historical Society, masshist.org/objects/cabinet/february2003/february2003.htm; “Debates in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution,” www.constitution.org/rc/rat_ma.txt
2 “Who Served Here? Aaron Burr,” Historic Valley Forge, www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/burr.html; “Burr, Aaron,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=b001133