225th Anniversary of the First Congress: We’ll be posting documents and stories highlighting the establishment of the new government under the Constitution through March 2016.
Rhode Island’s path to ratifying the Constitution was a bumpy one. After rejecting the Constitution numerous times, the United Sates gave Rhode Island a deadline of January 15, 1790 to either call a new ratifying convention or have it’s exports to the U.S. taxed as foreign goods.
On September 26, 1789, President George Washington forwarded this message from Rhode Island’s Governor John Collins explaining Rhode Island’s hesitancy over ratifying the Constitution. The January deadline was postponed after Congress received a second letter which outlined plans for a ratifying convention in March 1790. The convention adjourned without taking a ratification vote, and Congress again considered legislation to treat Rhode Island as a foreign state.
On May 29, Rhode Island finally ratified the Constitution. They included with their ratification a list of 18 human rights and 21 proposed amendments. Most of the 21 amendments were included in the Bill of Rights passed by Congress and sent to the states for adoption. On June 30, Rhode Island passed all 12 of the proposed amendments, though only amendments 3 through 12 would be adopted as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
Message from President George Washington Enclosing a Letter from Rhode Island Governor John Collins, 9/26/1789, Sen 1A-E2, Records of the U.S. Senate