How the Federalists forced Pennsylvanians to ratify the 1787 US Constitution -
More from Terry Bouton's book - Taming Democracy: "The People," the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution, pp. 180-181
Link is here:
To get the Constitution enacted, however, Pennsylvania Federalists needed to get their barrier against democracy past a public that, by the Federalists' own admission, was dedicated to democracy. In Pennsylvania, the solution was to use the element of surprise and get the Constitution ratified with as little public debate as possible. They would call for a state ratification convention before any oppositon had a chance to organize.
How did they do it?
The first public reading of the new anti-democratic US Constitution - drafted in secret to supercede and replace the Articles of Confederation with a strong, centralized government, because burgeoning democratic, bottom-up policy-making across America was stifling European capitalists' investment in the speculative holdings of wealthy Americans - was Sept. 18, 1787.
Ten days later, on Sept. 28, Pennsylvania Legislator George Clymer called for ratification elections to be twelve days from that date,
barely enough time for a rider to get copies of the Constitution to the western counties, let alone for serious debate over such an important matter.
Representatives from central and western counties stormed out of the assembly in protest. Federalists sent a "posse" after the representatives, where they
"broke down the door of the boardinghouse where the representatives were staying, hauled them out of bed, and carried them through the streets to the statehouse...literally dumping these men in their seats..."
Then the Federalists went on to control communications about the proposed new Constitution.
In particular, the Federalists relied on the fact that they owned most of the state's newspapers - the only places people could get news beyond word of mouth...[they] also attempted to stifle the opposition. The few newspaper editors who came out against the Constitution received swift retribution: merchants pulled advertisements and Federalist readers "withdrew their subscriptions."
Federalists also owned most of the printing shops and taverns - unofficial post offices at the time, so they
turned the mail system into a weapon against the opposition. They "stopped and destroyed" Antifederalists' "Pamphlets and Newspapers..." and "broke" open letters and "selected & published" excerpts of people's mail in newspapers to embarrass them...
Pennsylvania vice-president at the time, David Redick, rightly concluded that all these efforts were
strong evidence that these people know [the Constitution] will not bear an examination and therefore wishes to adopt it first and consider it afterward.
The tactics worked. Although huge majorities opposed the new Constitution in the central and western counties, they had no time to organize themselves, turnout among eligible voters was very small, and the slim Federalist margin was enough to win ratification.
Not the end of the story, of course, nor the beginning. The backlash of the wealthy came in response to successful rabble resistance to oppression during the early 1780s, and the ratification vote was followed by a rabble-led campaign to organize to stop the ratification process from further moving forward.