Constitutional FAQ Answer #55 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #55

<<Previous Question |
Question Index |
Subject Index |
Constitutional Index |
Next Question>>

Q55. “I read that New Hampshire became the 9th
state to adopt an approval resolution on June 21, 1788 but that the
Constitution was not ratified until two years later. Why? And, what was the
specific date upon which the Constitution was ratified and by what act what
that accomplished?

A. The following is from The
National Archives Web site

Q. When did the United States government go into operation under
the Constitution?

A. The Constitution became binding upon nine States by the
ratification of the ninth State, New Hampshire, June 21, 1788. Notice of this
ratification was received by Congress on July 2, 1788. On September 13, 1788,
Congress adopted a resolution declaring that electors should be appointed in
the ratifying States on the first Wednesday in January, 1789; that the electors
vote for President on the first Wednesday in February, 1789; and that “the
first Wednesday in March next [March 4, 1789] be the time and the present seat
of Congress the place for commencing proceedings under the said constitution.”
The Convention had also suggested “that after such Publication the Electors
should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected.” The
Constitution left with the States the control over the election of congressmen,
and Congress said nothing about this in its resolution; but the States
proceeded to provide for it as well as for the appointment of electors. On
March 3, 1789, the old Confederation went out of existence and on March 4 the
new government of the United States began legally to function, according to a
decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (Owings v. Speed, 5 Wheat.
420); however, it had no practical existence until April 6, when first the
presence of quorums in both Houses permitted organization of Congress. On April
30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as President of the United States,
so on that date the executive branch of the government under the Constitution
became operative. But it was not until February 2, 1790, that the Supreme
Court, as head of the third branch of the government, organized and, held its
first session; so that is the date when our government under the Constitution
became fully operative.

So, these dates are important: The Constitution was accepted by the
Convention on September 17, 1787. It was officially ratified when New Hampshire
ratified it on June 21, 1788. The first Congress under the Constitution popped
into being on the 4th of March, 1789, and had its first quorum on April 6,
1789. The Executive was active on April 30, 1789. The Judiciary was active on
February 2, 1790. Perhaps the years between June 21, 1788 and February 2, 1790
is what they mean by two years? If they said that the Constitution was
“ratified” in 1790, that is definitely incorrect.

Last Modified: 9 Aug 2010

Valid HTML 4.0