On This Day In History: Rhode Island became last of the original 13 Colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution

On this date, May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the 13th state to enter the Union after ratifying the Constitution. Ironically, the new state’s late arrival came after the new federal government commenced on April 1, 1789, and the First Congress (1789–1791) had already passed 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution. Rhode Island was the only state not to send a representative to the Constitutional Convention, which approved the document on September 17, 1787. Nine states were needed to ratify the Constitution, and on June 21, 1788, the Constitution became the official governing document of the United States when New Hampshire ratified it.

The “Hope State” made 11 attempts to hold a constitutional ratifying convention and held unsuccessful state referendums. The first referendum rejected the Constitution by ten to one. At great length, Rhode Island finally approved the Constitution with provisional amendments.

On August 31, 1790, the state’s lone Representative, Benjamin Bourne, arrived in Philadelphia fashionably late to the First Congress.

* of note – Rhode Island was the first of the original Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from the British rule of King George III, declaring itself independent on May 4, 1776, a full two months before any other colony. The state was also the last of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the United States Constitution.

The states and the dates of ratification are listed here, in order of ratification:

  • Delaware: December 7, 1787
  • Pennsylvania: December 12, 1787
  • New Jersey: December 18, 1787
  • Georgia: January 2, 1788
  • Connecticut: January 9, 1788
  • Massachusetts: February 6, 1788
  • Maryland: April 28, 1788
  • South Carolina: May 23, 1788
  • New Hampshire: June 21, 1788 (With this state’s ratification, the Constitution became legal)
  • Virginia: June 25, 1788
  • New York: July 26, 1788
  • North Carolina: November 21, 1789
  • Rhode Island: May 29, 1790 (Rhode Island did not hold a Constitutional Convention)

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