J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Great Ratification Giveaway

Simon & Schuster sent me an extra copy of Pauline Maier’s new book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, so I’m going to pass it on to a Boston 1775 reader. I’ve never done this sort of thing before, so I’m making up rules and hoping they work.

Below are three New England-based trivia questions about the complex process by which the U.S. of A. reshaped its government in 1787-1789. Answer all three Constitutional questions in a comment to this posting on this Blogspot/Blogger site.

I’ll screen all those Blogspot/Blogger comments so they’ll remain hidden until after Sunday at 9:00 P.M., Boston time. At that time, I’ll number all the comments that contain the correct answers and pick one winner randomly. After posting the answers here on Monday, I’ll contact that winner by email to get a surface-mail address where I’ll send the book. Sound like a plan?

(If you can’t sign in to Blogger, please add a name or pseudonym to your comment instead of remaining anonymous so I can identify you. If you comment on Facebook, your answers will be visible to some people—but to be honest I don’t understand how Facebook works.)

Here are the three questions:

1) Of South Carolina’s four delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, one lived in Boston for several months in 1769-70. Who was this man, and what was he doing in New England?

2) On 20 Jan 1788, federalist Rufus King (shown above, courtesy of Springfield Tech’s Shays Rebellion site) wrote to Horatio Gates that one prominent politician

has been confined to his Chamber ever since the Convention met [i.e., convened]—I have called on him several Times, and been indulged in common with every other person, to see him in his Chamber—he is not yet able to attend the Convention, but I hope he will improve in his Health as soon as a majority shews itself on either side of the convention—
Which convention was King writing about, and who might have been using illness to avoid committing himself until he knew which way the wind would blow?

3) After becoming President under the new Constitution, George Washington made a trip through the northern United States in late 1789. Of our six New England states, which did he not visit and why?

Good luck!


JQuig said...

1. Pierce Butler. He was in His Maj. 29th on Boston Common.

2. Elbridge Gerry (wild guess)

3. Maine. Maine was a part of Massachusetts at this time.

JQuig said...

oops, forgot. I think it was the state convention called because of Shay's Rebellion

pchippy said...

OK, so I did a quick Google search:

1. Pierce Butler was commissioned as a major in His Majesty's 29th Regiment, which was posted to Boston then. Incidentally, it was a group of soldiers from that regiment that was involved in the Boston Massacre.

2. John Hancock was the one who was indisposed.

3. Washington visited the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, with a quick day trip to Kittery, which was still part of Massachusetts at the time. He didn't go anywhere near Vermont, presumably because it hadn't yet joined the United States. His homeward route back through Massachusetts and Connecticut took him very close to the Rhode Island state line on November 7th 1789, but from quickly looking through his diary on Google Books and comparing that with the roads on Google Maps, I get the impression that his route from Douglas to Pomfret wouldn't have involved passing any closer than a half-mile or so from the Rhode Island state line. Maybe I'm wrong, but it appears to me that he thus visited only three New England states on that trip, or four if you count Maine.

pchippy said...

(Oh-- I should have added to my answer #2 that the concention in question was the Massachusetts Ratification Convention, which met from january 9th to February 5th, 1788.)

Liberty Atheist said...

Here are the answers to your Ratification Giveaway questions.

1. The South Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention in question is Pierce Butler. He was in the British Army at the time and was in Boston to quell protests of the Townshend Acts.

2. The convention mentioned in King's letter was Massachusetts's convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution. John Hancock was the person who's illness kept him from committing himself to a position.

3. The New England state that George Washington did not visit in 1789 was Rhode Island, which did not ratify the Constitution until 1790 and thus was not part of the United States at the time of the trip.

George Lovely said...

My best guesses:

1. In 1770 Pierce Butler was in Boston suppressing the locals for his Majesty.

2. George Washington was 'sick', i.e.,laying low during the Constitutional Convention deliberations.

3. Maine. It was still part of MA and didn’t 'exist' until 1820.

Vindex said...

1. Pierce Butler – Butler was an officer in the British Army stationed with the 29th Regiment of Foot. The 29th was sent to Boston in 1768 along with the 14th to quiet the dissent stemming from the Townshend Acts. One of their band was among the men who fired shots during the Boston Massacre. Following the Massacre the regiment was removed to Castle William Island. They eventually sailed first for Florida then for Britain. Butler parted ways with the regiment before they left for England but details surrounding his resignation seem sketchy at best.
2. It was the Constitutional Convention and King was referring to John Hancock. Of the many founders whose reputations have been “buffed” few have received treatment as kind as Hancock who among his contemporaries was known to be quite full of himself. His famous signature is evidence of that, though even it has borne a generous mythology of its own.
3. Washington toured the Northern States in October/November, 1989. He avoided Rhode Island because it had yet to ratify the Constitution it would not do so until May 29, 1790.

Charles Bahne said...

The internet makes this one so easy to research! (Although only one of J. L.'s questions had me really stumped.)

1) Pierce Butler, who was born in Ireland in 1744, was a Major in His Majesty's 29th Regiment, which was posted in Boston in 1768. In 1771 he married a woman from South Carolina; he later resigned his military commission and settled as a planter near Charleston, South Carolina. Active in South Carolina politics during the Revolution, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

2) Mr. King is writing about the Massachusetts convention to ratify the Federal Constitution, which was held in Boston, in the "Church in Long Lane". After this prominent event, Long Lane was renamed Federal Street. The church stood on the present site of the Bank of America building at 100 Federal Street. The parish later relocated to the Back Bay and is now known as the Arlington Street Church.

The absent politician was John Hancock, then Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At this stage of his life, Hancock was perennially plagued by gout, and he seems to have used his ailment as an excuse to avoid public and social occasions that he did not wish to attend for other reasons. Connecting this question with the following question, Gov. Hancock's failure to visit President Washington, during the latter's visit to Boston in October 1789, was also blamed on an attack of gout, but was widely seen as a breach of protocol and a snub.

3) Washington visited three New England states in October and November of 1789: Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. He also briefly visited Kittery, in the Province of Maine, which was then part of Massachusetts. (Maine didn't become a separate state until 1820.) The President did not visit Rhode Island, because it had not yet ratified the Constitution -- it was the last of the original 13 states to ratify, and did not do so until May 1790. (At the time of Washington's trip, North Carolina was the only other state that had not yet ratified, but it did so on November 21, 1789, just over a week after the President's return to New York City.) Washington also did not visit Vermont on this trip, because Vermont considered itself to be an independent nation. It had declared independence in 1777 and did not join the United States until 1791, as the 14th state. During British rule, Vermont was claimed by both New Hampshire and New York, and did not exist as a separate political entity.

Michael Lynch said...

1. I'm a little unsure on this one--Pierce Butler was in Boston around that time as one of the Redcoats sent to keep the colonists in line. I think it's him.

2. The reference is to John Hancock, keeping a low profile during the Massachusetts ratifying convention.

3. Washington skipped Rhode Island because it hadn't ratified the Constitution. He also didn't visit Maine or Vermont, neither of which existed at that point.

I cheated on the first two with a little online research. I hope we were allowed to use lifelines.


Liberty Atheist said...

I need to make a correction to my comment for "The Great Ratification Giveaway"

For question number 3, I forgot the question asked about current New England states because the comment page didn't include the post's text. Rereading your original article, I realize that I have to fix my answer. (I've also discovered that there a link at the top that will put the blog text up, but I didn't notice it until I started looking for one now)

So my answer for question 3 is there were two current New England states, Rhode Island and Vermont that Washington didn't visit in the fall of 1789.

Washington didn't visit Rhode Island because it didn't ratify the Constitution until 1790, and thus wasn't part of the United States yet.

Vermont wasn't admitted as a state (and was barred from attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia) until 1791 because of land claims on it's territory by the state of New York.

(Maine also wasn't a state yet but Washington visited Kittery, Maine on Nov. 2nd.)

Todd Andrlik said...

This was tough. I only had time for 10 minutes of Google research, so no time for proofing my work. Anxious to hear the answers, because I'm doubting my answers to Nos. 2 and 3.

1. Pierce Butler was a major in the 29th Regiment and posted to Boston during that time in order to help quell disturbances

2. John Dickinson

3. Maine, because it was not a state yet

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks to everyone who gave these questions a shot! As we see, responses tended to coalesce around particular answers, and it’s reassuring to note that those were the right answers. I’ll make an official announcement on Monday morning.