Fears of centralized power following the Revolutionary War spawned the Articles of Confederation. As the nation’s new government, the Articles worked well for things such as annexing new territories, but in general they created a weak national government. The Confederation Congress, for example, had no power to regulate interstate trade, which resulted in tariff wars among the states. After several years of difficulty and disunion, the Articles were replaced by the Constitution.
At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, despite problems caused by the Articles, fears persisted about the powers of a new national government. When Congress sent the Constitution to the states, which initiated the ratification process, state conventions were held and delegates from different towns in each state were elected. In New Hampshire, like elsewhere in America, some were federalists, in support of the Constitution, and others were antifederalists.
Approval from nine of thirteen states was needed to adopt the new law of the land, and New Hampshire became the 9th state. While it could therefore be said that the Granite State gave birth to the Constitution, ratification was not quickly accomplished in New Hampshire. When, in February 1788, it became evident that delegates were not going to vote in favor of ratification, “friends of the Union” motioned for a recess. The state convention ultimately reconvened four months later, moved from Exeter to Concord, and voted 57 to 47 in favor of the Constitution.
About the Map
The map shows votes within New Hampshire, for and against adoption of the federal Constitution. The map was created by compiling votes and delegate information found in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New Hampshire Which Adopted the Federal Constitution, 1788. Towns in favor of the Constitution appear in yellow, those opposed appear in red, and towns that did not vote are shown in blue. Each delegate is listed by the town which they represented. Larger towns (Portsmouth and Londenderry) had more than one delegate, and many smaller towns were grouped together under a single delegate. The towns were placed on the map using zip-coding in order to match geographic locations. Overall, the map shows there was more federalist support in the merchant towns along the coast and along the Connecticut River bordering Vermont, while antifederalist support characterized the agricultural interior. This pattern matched voting habits in other states, including nearby Massachusetts, which can be seen in these maps from the Massachusetts Historical Society: Massachusetts and Maine (which was part of Massachusetts until 1820.) It is from this widespread merchant-farmer division that the first political parties emerged in the 1790s: Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Party represented the merchant and commercial classes, while Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic Republican Party had support of farmers.
About the Project
In May 2015, following the Advanced Placement U.S. History Exam, students in the class turned their attention to research, which began by learning how to analyze primary source documents using a form of text analysis. We watched a few short videos on text mining and used serendip-o-matic.org to better understand how text analysis worked. Each student then ran an analysis of two volumes of the State and Provincial Papers of New Hampshire, using an online word-frequency tool. After studying words and phrases from the analyses, we brainstormed potential research topics and evaluated each other’s ideas. The class decided to investigate New Hampshire’s ratification of the Constitution because it seemed to have the most potential for developing original research findings. The idea of the map emerged after observing that there seemed to be no such map of New Hampshire showing individual ratification of the Constitution for each town. The class then examined the records of each town’s vote. After the voting and delegate data were inputted into a shared Google spreadsheet, which was edited and double-checked for accuracy, our teacher, Mr. Palin, uploaded it into a Google map. This website was also put together by Mr. Palin. The writing on these pages was the work of the students, who also helped edit the final language. The class’ main goal, when beginning this project, was to make available an additional piece of online history pertaining to New Hampshire. We hope that this small contribution is useful for those researching the topic in the future.
About the Students
Nick St. Laurent
The graphs illustrate the voting habits of regions within New Hampshire regarding ratification of the federal Constitution in 1788. While New Hampshire as a whole voted 57-47 in favor of ratification, the ratio of votes for/against within different regions was not uniform. In fact, when examining the interior of the state, the majority even shifted from federalist to antifederalist. While this pattern is visible in our Google Map, which shows town-by-town voting, it became increasingly clear when we grouped delegates within 10 miles of the coast and within ten miles of the Connecticut River (on New Hampshire’s western border). Both graphs, which are interactive, were created using Google Sheets and Plot.ly, a web-based scientific graphing tool. The mileage data was obtained by using an online distance calculator, which allows for finding the linear distance between two points. Conor made the bar graph and Abigail made the line graph.