Constitution Thursday – Pennsylvania
In late 1788, Pennsylvania was, without a doubt, the most culturally, religiously and politically diverse State in the Union. It was also the one State that managed to spend most of the preceding decade disenfranchising most of its own citizens as a small powerful, anti-British, anti-Quaker minority ruled the State politically and used that power to maintain its base. It was only in 1786 that laws had been repealed that allowed the ouster of the political minority from power.
Now, just two years later, the State delegates meet in the same room where the Constitution had been forged to debate whether or not Pennsylvania would follow Delaware’s lead and ratify the document. Unlike Delaware, in this room sat men who adamantly opposed the Constitution, and interestingly enough, had recently been removed from power in the State.
Over the few weeks of debate, the fight in Pennsylvania moved out of the State Hall, and into the media of the day – newspapers and pamphlets. And whoever won that, would win the ratification debate.
Our story today begins in the office of a prominent Wilkes-Barre citizen, who supports ratification of the Constitution. On his desk, given to him by another, perhaps more prominent citizen of the city, are pamphlets that present a Federalist, pro-constitution view of the matter, with instructions to distribute the pamphlets throughout the city. But Ebenezer doesn’t like the fact that the pamphlets contain rebuttals to arguments against the Constitution. He fears that if the good people of Wilkes-Barre read these, they will discover that there are cogent arguments against the Constitution. And so, he hits upon an idea…