January 9: Connecticut Joins the United States


Today in 1788, the delegates at the Connecticut state convention ratified the United States Constitution by a vote of 128 to 40, making Connecticut the fifth state to join the Union.   While certain states, most notably New York and Virginia, remained skeptical of the new Constitution and required lots of convincing in order to accept it, ratification was a relatively easy decision for Connecticans to make, especially if it meant replacing the deeply unpopular Articles of Confederation.

Map showing the dates of when the thirteen states voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution. (New-York Historical Society)

After declaring American independence in 1776,the Continental Congress had enacted a loose and largely non-binding document — the Articles of Confederation — that set up a very weak central government for the newly-formed United States.  When the thirteen States focused on the business of rebuilding their economies and settling war debts after the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the inherent flaws of the Articles of Confederation became more apparent than ever before. Without a strong central government, the Congress was unable to collect tax revenue and had little power to set national economic policy, which resulted in states imposing import taxes on each other.  Connecticut, as a smaller state that depended heavily on importing and exporting goods to other states, was hit especially hard by these interstate taxes.

Soon after the U.S. Constitution was sent to the states for ratification in September 1787, the Connecticut General Assembly issued a call for statewide delegates to gather in Hartford to discuss ratification.  In his speech to the Connecticut convention arguing in favor of ratification, Oliver Ellsworth noted that Connecticut payed tens of thousands of dollars to both New York and Massachusetts annually in the form of import taxes.  For most Connecticans, the promise of no more interstate import taxes was all the convincing they needed in order to support a new federal government.  Other, more politically-minded voters were confident that Connecticut’s interests would be properly represented in the new Congress, which would now be comprised of both a Senate and House of Representatives thanks to the “Connecticut Compromise” proposed by Connecticut’s original delegation to the Constitutional Convention.  On January 9, 1788, Connecticut’s delegates voted in favor of ratifying the new U.S. Constitution by one of the biggest majorities of any state: 128 to 40.   Before the summer of 1788 was over, eleven states would ratify the new document, and the Constitution would become the law of the land the following year.  A bold and confident vote in favor of a new government for the United States, made today in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Andrew Glass, “Connecticut Ratifies U.S. Constitution, Jan. 9, 1788,Politico

John Morrison, “The Connecticut Ratification Convention,” connecticuthistory.org

The Connecticut Convention Ratifies, 128 – 40,” TeachingAmericanHistory.org