The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, Volume IV, Ratification of the Constitution by the States: Massachusetts, No. 1

By John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino (Editors); Senior Associate Editor: Richard Leffler; Associate Editor: Charles H. Schoenleber

Hardcover: $95.00

ISBN: 978-0-87020-292-6

560 pages, 6 x 9"


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"The most important editorial project in the nation." -Leonard W. Levy, constitutional historian

In 1787, an effort to revise the Articles of Confederation turned into a constitutional convention that dramatically altered the way that the young United States of America would be governed. On October 25, 1787, Massachusetts called a convention to debate the new constitution, and five months later on February 6, 1788 the Massachusetts convention adopted the Constitution. Four volumes of "The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution" are devoted to the public and private debate surrounding ratification of this state which played a key role in the acceptance of the Constitution. These four volumes encompass over 1,800 pages of legislative and executive records, personal accounts by convention participants and observers, newspaper extracts, pamphlets and broadsides, as well as convention sources housed in the Massachusetts State Archives. The Massachusetts volumes chart the dialogue beginning in early September, 1787 before the Constitution was signed by the delegates in Philadelphia, and continue to cover the aftermath of ratification in Massachusetts.

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John P. Kaminski is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of the American Constitution in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A professor emeritus from the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is the author or editor of twenty-five other books on early American history.

The following text is excerpted from an article by Gordon S. Wood in “The New Republic” on December 24, 2010. To see the full article, please click this link.

At the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, one of the greatest editorial projects in American history has been under way for nearly thirty-five years. Since 1976, the successive editors of the "Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution" have published twenty-three volumes, and there are at least eight more to come. These volumes contain every scrap of evidence the editors have been able to find relating to the debates over the ratification of the Constitution in 1787 - 1788. These editors, beginning with Merrill Jensen and continuing at present with John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, have put together one of the greatest collections of debates over the basic issues of politics and constitutionalism that the Western world possesses. The political debates in fifth-century Athens or seventeenth-century England may have been richer and more wide-ranging, but we will never know, because the records of those earlier disputations are either lost or fragmentary. They are certainly not as complete as the records we have for the ratification of the Constitution. Rarely will we find a more profound or more comprehensive discussion of the problems of power, liberty, representation, federalism, rights, and all the other aspects of politics than we have in these volumes. This record is not only a national treasure, it is a world treasure.