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New York Ratification of the Bill of Rights
Throughout the summer of 1789, the first U.S. Congress engaged
in intense debate about amending the Constitution of the United States. On
September 25, by joint resolution, Congress passed 12 proposed articles
protecting citizens' individual rights, enlarging the House of
Representatives, and limiting the ability of members of Congress to alter
their salaries. On October 2, at the request of Congress, President George
Washington forwarded parchment copies to all of the state executives,
including the states of Rhode Island and North Carolina even though they had
not yet ratified the Constitution and therefore could not act on this
The states began the process of ratifying these 12 articles.
Ratification of any article by at least three quarters of the states meant
acceptance of that article as an amendment to the Constitution.
On January 11, 1790, the New York legislature convened in
New York City. Two days later, Governor George Clinton sent the proposed
amendments to them. The legislature ratified 11 of the 12 articles on February
24. Three days later, the state Council of Revision approved the act, making
it law. The legislature then requested that Governor Clinton have an
exemplification of the act (official copy of the ratification) made to send to
the Federal Government. The document was prepared, and on March 27 Governor
Clinton signed it and had the Great Seal of State affixed to it. Clinton sent
the document to President Washington in New York City on April 2. Three days
later, Washington forwarded New York's ratification to Congress.
On December 15, 1791, when the final votes from all the
states were counted, the last 10 of the 12 articles were ratified. They became
the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the
of Rights. The first two articles were not ratified
by the required three-quarters majority of states. Article I, which New York
did ratify, would have enlarged the House of Representatives in increments
from the original body of 65 to 100 and then to 200, after which Congress
would regulate the size of the House with no more than one representative for
each 50,000 people in a state. The second article, which New York did not
ratify at the time, regulated the ability of Congress to alter its members'
salaries. This article was eventually ratified on May 7, 1992, as the 27th
Amendment to the Constitution.
The New York Ratification of the Bill of Rights is part of
the chain of evidence in the stewardship of the National Archives that
documents our rights as citizens.