Massachusetts, Georgia, and Connecticut were states in 1791 when the constitution and bill of rights became law.  But they did not officially consent until 1939.

It seems from USConstitution.net that they expressed no opposition in 1791.  What prompted all three to ratify it in the same six-week period so long after it was already law?

  • 3
    One might suppose that since only 75% of states are required to ratify an amendment for it to constitutional law, the three you mention become superfluous since there was more than 75% ratification. The 1939 ratifications were, apparently, a 150th anniversary tidying up, see prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2016/11/25/…
    – R Leonard
    May 8, 2022 at 13:31
  • The last 75% are superfluous now, but since those three existed before the constitution was ratified, I can imagine a lawyer arguing in 1792 that they had never agreed to the constitution and thus were not bound by it. After ratification, new states had to be subject to the constitution to be admitted. That said, your comment, along with the linked article, sounds like a proper answer
    – WGroleau
    May 9, 2022 at 18:18
  • 1
    Sort of like Mississippi ratifying the fourteenth in 1995.
    – WGroleau
    May 10, 2022 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


The Bill of Rights was approved by Congress in September 1789 and sent to the States for ratification, a year after the US constitution came into force.

150 years later, there was a sesquicentennial celebration of the Bill of Rights, and it was pointed out to the three states that they had still had not ratified. So they did so, principally in order to be part of the celebrations.

Massachusetts and Connecticut legislatures had essentially voted to ratify all or most of the articles originally (remember that there were initially twelve, of which only ten were ratified quickly) but different numbers of in each chamber, and had never bothered to reconcile this position since it made no practical difference after other states had ratified. Georgia had rejected the need for a Bill of Rights in principle in the 18th century (some argued that the Constitution should be limited to what the United States was explicitly positively allowed to do, and by including restrictions it gave the impression that the federal authorities could otherwise do anything which was not prohibited) but all those politicians were dead by the 20th century.

  • It was my understanding that the constitution came into force when ratified—and that was opposed until the ill of rights was added.
    – WGroleau
    May 10, 2022 at 18:23
  • @WGroleau - in some states, ratification of the Constitution was only accepted on the basis of a Bill of Rights. But the list of amendments could only be proposed after ratification of the Constitution, so it was a promise not a condition. Some amendments never made it through Congress (e.g. the explicit separation of powers), while some were changed in Congress (e.g. conscientious objection was dropped from what is now called the Second Amendment) and some were proposed by Congress but not ratified by the States (e.g. a limit on the size of the House of Representatives)
    – Henry
    May 10, 2022 at 18:29

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