The Story of R.I. and the Constitution

Article excerpt

"THE DOCUMENTARY HISTORY Of THE RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION: Ratification of the Constitution by the States. Rhode Island, vol. 2,"

edited by John P. Kaminski et al.

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

334 pages. $95.

Since the bicentennial in 1976, the Wisconsin Historical Society has been publishing volumes chronicling the ratification history of the Constitution. Historian John P. Kaminski has headed the project for several decades, spearheading the publication of dozens of volumes. The project was heavily used by historian Pauline Maier in her magisterial, "Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788" (2010).

The editorial staff uncovered a vast amount of material on Rhode Island in the late 1780s and early 1790s and, as a consequence, decided to devote three volumes to the contentious public and private debates. The volumes are an excellent source for students of the state's history. Rhode Island Historian Laureate Patrick T. Conley, the author of a detailed 1977 study on Rhode Island's constitutional development, serves as consulting editor.

Volume one, which was published earlier this year, included material on the General Assembly's refusal to send delegates to the Philadelphia Convention and the March 1788 statewide plebiscite on the Constitution (voted down by a margin of 11-1). Opposition to the Constitution came from a considerable segment of the population who were opposed to the protections for slavery and the slave trade embedded in the document, along with those that favored paper money, an issue championed by the powerful Country Party headed by Jonathan Hazard of South Kingstown. …