Pressing their Voices: The People, the Press, and the Growth of Participatory Politics in the State Ratifying Conventions for the U.S. Constitution, 1787-1788

Stephanie Hurter

Major Professor: Rosemarie Zagarri, PhD, Department of History and Art History

Committee Members: Jack Censer, Michael O'Malley, James P. Pfiffner

Johnson Center, Gold
May 25, 2010, 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM


This dissertation utilizes the state ratification conventions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York as case studies for analyzing how the public debate over ratification developed and what this meant for the emergence of participatory politics in the Early Republic. Rather than analyzing the specific political arguments that were at the center of this debate, this study focuses upon printed media Federalists and Antifederalists utilized in the ratification debates. It aims at discovering not just what was said, but how it was said. This project expands current historiography by examining the missing element of the public’s participation in and shaping of early American politics by their ownership of the conventions and their use of media to create spectacles that forced negotiations of power among competing groups. The battle over the ratification of the Constitution provided the American public with an extended period to articulate and refine their national goals.