It’s Great Being First!

Happy Delaware Day!

As you may already know, Delaware is known as the First State because it was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. What you may not know is that the ratification took place on this date, December 7th, in 1787 by a unanimous vote.

Following the Revolutionary War the Articles of Confederation, officially ratified by the 13 founding states in 1781, established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states. Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that the new government was much too weak and for the emerging nation. Political unrest, interstate conflict, a troubled currency, and uprisings like Shay’s Rebellion all pointed to the need for a stronger centralized government.

 The Constitutional Convention took place in Philadelphia from May-September, 1787 with the aim of revising the Articles of Confederation. Many participants realized, however, that an entirely new government was needed to replace the one created by the Articles of Confederation. The result was the Constitution, which was signed by a majority of the delegates of the convention on September 17th, 1787. Congress called for nine states to ratify the Constitution for it to go into effect.

James Latimer served as the president of Delaware’s ratifying convention. Other signers of the ratification included Gunning Bedford, Sr., Gunning Bedford, Jr., Thomas Duff, and Nicholas Ridgely. The vote was 30-0 in favor of the new Constitution, and the convention’s vote thwarted Pennsylvania’s hopes of being the first to ratify. The vote would send the Constitution on its (not altogether uncontested) way to national adoption.

You can experience history in person by viewing a copy of Delaware’s history-making ratification document, held in our library’s manuscript collections. Or, visit the library to learn more about the signers who helped Delaware become the First State.


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