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The Ratification Debates
Digital History ID 233

Author:   Walter Stewart


After Pennsylvania ratified the Constitution, critics inundated the state assembly with petitions demanding that the vote of the ratification convention be overturned. In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and several other towns, the Constitution's opponents staged riots, raising the specter of armed insurrection. Walter Stewart (1756?-1796), a Brigadier General in the Continental Army during the Revolution, discusses opposition to the Constitution in the state and notes that Massachusetts had ratified the Constitution two weeks earlier, in part because of promises that a Bill of Rights would be appended to the document.


Yesterday our Assembly were to meet and I suppose they will be able to make a House next week. It is expected by the Anti-Federal Party that very extensive Petitions will be laid before them against the new Constitution. I however think they have abated very much in their Warmth since they see Massachusetts have come into it.... And they at last say they think amendments will probably be made. I sincerely hope they will, as it would be a means of reconciling all Party's, and enable us to carry it through; Without them, the opposition will be so powerful as to clog its execution in too great a degree....

I much fear matters will be carried to great lengths against the people concern'd in the riot at Carlisle. I have spoken to many on the subject, some of whom think it would be best to bury the whole in oblivion, whilst others fear the people then might conceive it a want of ability in Government to punish the offenders thus letting the prosecution drop.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Walter Stewart to General William Irvine

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