Hillsborough Convention Fails to Ratify Constitution

Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1788. Image from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library.

Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1788. Image from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library

On July 21, 1788, 270 delegates convened in Hillsborough for what would become a two-week debate on ratifying the national Constitution that had been drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. The Anti-Federalist delegates outnumbered their Federalist colleagues by a margin of two-to-one.

The Federalists wanted to strengthen the powers of the federal government to help the country keep from dissolving. They argued that the powers granted to the federal government in the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient. On the other side, the Anti-Federalists were suspicious of the federal government, and did not want self-rule to come under fire from a government that could intrude on state and individual rights.

Knowing that they would likely lose, members of the Federalist minority brought a stenographer to the convention to record their arguments for publication in hopes of changing public opinion in the future. The debate resulted in the delegates voting 184 to 84 to neither ratify nor reject the Constitution, and North Carolina was not part of the Union until the 1789 Fayetteville Convention. One of the major reasons why North Carolina didn’t ratify the Constitution was the lack of a Bill of Rights.

For more, check out North Carolina Votes on the Constitution: A Roster of Delegates to the State Ratification Conventions of 1788 and 1789  from N.C. Historical Publications.

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