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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 2200

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: The old Congress.]

During the session of the convention in Philadelphia Congress had continued to sit in New York, and the Northwest Ordinance was passed at this time (§ 52). On Sept. 13, 1788 Congress voted that the Constitution had been ratified, and that elections should proceed for the officers of the new government, which was to go into operation the first Wednesday in March, 1789.

[Sidenote: Seat of government.]

[Sidenote: Congress expires.]

Since Congress and the President must meet somewhere, it became the duty of the old Congress to fix, at least temporarily, the seat of government, Trenton, Lancaster, Princeton, and New York were suggested. Baltimore was voted; then, with its usual inconsistency, two days later Congress voted for New York. An attempt was made to settle the accounts of Congress; but all that could be ascertained was that they were in great confusion, and that vouchers had not yet been turned in for the expenditure of large sums. On October 23 is the last official record: "Two States attended." During the next five months the only evide

nces of national life were the perfunctory service of a few executive officers, the feeble movements of the army, now reduced to about six hundred men, and the steady accumulation of unpaid interest.

[Sidenote: Rhode Island and North Carolina.]

What, meantime, was the situation of the two States, Rhode Island and North Carolina, which had not ratified the Constitution, and which were, therefore, not entitled to take part in the elections? They had in 1781 entered into a constitution which was to be amended only by unanimous consent; their consent was refused; legally they had a right to insist on the continuance of the old Congress. The new Constitution was, strictly speaking, unconstitutional; it had been ratified by a process unknown to law. The situation was felt to be delicate, and the States were for the time being left to themselves. North Carolina came into the Union by a ratification of Nov. 21, 1789. It was suggested that the trade of States which did not recognize Congress should be cut off, and Rhode Island yielded. May 19, 1790, her ratification completed the Union.

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