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Examining the Constitution: Article VII

Hierarchy established by Constitution remains
Hierarchy established by Constitution remains
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Article VII of the United States Constitution is the final part of the original document, as it pertains to the actual legal content therein. It is also quite short, containing only one sentence. It reads, "The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same." That one sentence held a great deal of importance and set forth the limitations by which the document could be ratified.

The United States Constitution was adopted under what was then a curious formula. Each of the territories affected by the document, now called states, would have what were called conventions. These conventions would result in the state offering a ratification of the document or a refusal to ratify. There was no single body speaking for the entire country. This was important, as the different states had very different needs at the time, which was a problem seen throughout the American Revolution and well into the 19th century.

Article VII states that nine of the conventions must conclude by ratifying the Constitution in order for it to be adopted into law. That means only four can refuse to ratify and it was a close call. The Constitution lacked a lot of things that would later be addressed in the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. Many individuals would have liked to see them in the original document. Moreover, there was a common disdain for powerful central government at the time, so there were those who were loathe to give too much power to the federal government. Of course, in the end, and after ten months, nine states did ratify and the Constitution was adopted.

The first 10 Amendments were not long in coming after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. In many ways, they are just as important culturally, politically and socially. They are not what establishes the rights of the government, but the rights of the people, which was as important then as it is now.