Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Christopher Gore, 8 August 1791

To Christopher Gore

Philadelphia Aug. 8. 1791.


Having understood that the legislature of Massachusets some time ago ratified some of the amendments proposed by Congress to the Constitution, I am now to beg the favour of you to procure me an authentic copy of their proceedings therein, certified under the great seal of the state, letting me know at the same time the office charges for the copy, seal &c. which shall be remitted you. The legislature of Massachusets having been the 10th. state which has ratified, makes up the threefourth of the legislatures whose ratification was to suffice. Consequently so much as they have approved, has become law, and it is proper that we should have it duly promulgated for the information of the judges, legislators, and citizens generally. I will thank you if this can be done without delay, as I am to leave this place about three weeks hence to be absent for some time. I have the honour to be with great regard Sir Your most obedient & most humble servt.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Christopher Gore esq. Boston.” FC (DNA: RG 360, DL).

It must have been about this time that TJ drew up in tabular form a record of votes by states on Amendments I through xii as proposed by Congress in 1789. Between 20 Nov. 1789 and 7 June 1790 New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—in that order—had ratified Articles iii through xii. On Amendment I, which prescribed the ratio of representation to population in the House of Representatives and which failed of adoption when the vote fell one state short of the three-fourths required, TJ’s chart showed Delaware in the negative column as “silent.” On Amendment ii, which provided that no law varying the compensation of members of Congress should be effective until after an intervening election of Representatives and which also failed of adoption, his chart showed New Hampshire as opposed and Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as “silent.” The chart recorded no actions for Massachusetts and Connecticut (Tabular MS, undated, in DLC: TJ Papers, 234: 31910). TJ was mistaken in thinking that Massachusetts had ratified the Amendments. No act had passed the General Court of the Commonwealth because, as Gore informed TJ in responding to the above letter, the Senate had agreed to Amendments iii through xii while rejecting i and ii, the House had concurred except with respect to the Senate’s approval of Amendment xii, and the resultant conference committee had not reported a bill (Gore to TJ, 18 Aug. 1791; RC in DNA: RG 11, Certificates of Ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, M-338/1; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Aug. 1791 and so recorded in SJL). Ratifications by Vermont and Virginia followed on 3 Nov. 1791 and 15 Dec. 1791. TJ reported adoption of the last ten of the proposed twelve Amendments in his circular letter to governors of the states of 1 Mch. 1792, accompanied by the first printing of the Bill of Rights (see note to that circular). Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia did not ratify the first ten Amendments until 1939 (Certificates of Ratification and correspondence between the governors of these states and Secretary of State Cordell Hull in same).

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